The Death Benefits
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, February 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. - Isaiah 53:10-12
When parents die, their children usually expect to receive an inheritance. In fact, the Bible instructs parents to store up wealth for their children. But, for various reasons, some parents fail to give any death benefits to their children.
When the servant in Isaiah 53 died, he left a large estate for his children. We are the beneficiaries of the death of Jesus Christ! Of course, only those who repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone are his children. As heirs, they receive the benefits of Christ's death.
The Original Text
The first nine verses of Isaiah 53 speak about the silent suffering of the servant. His suffering was completely unjust; the Righteous One was crucified for our sins. Now, in verses 10-12, Isaiah reveals the hidden reasons for Christ's silent suffering.
Before we examine these verses, we want to make certain changes to text as found in the NIV. Translating from the Hebrew, the text reads:
Verse 10: "Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and after his soul makes a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
Verse 11: "After the suffering of his soul, he will see and be satisfied." In the Dead Sea Scrolls, verse 11 says, "He will see light," meaning light of life. The Septuagint also uses "He will see light." The NIV follows the Dead Sea Scrolls here and says, "He will see the light of life and be satisfied." But in the Masoretic text it reads, "He will see and be satisfied." "By his knowledge my servant, the Righteous One, will bring righteousness to many, for he will bear their iniquities.
Verse 12: "Therefore I will apportion him the many and he will divide the strong as spoils because he poured out his life unto death and let himself be numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors."
The Will of the Father
The first reason for the silent suffering of the servant is given in verse 10, which begins, "Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer." The Hebrew word indicates it was God's intense desire, great purpose, eternal counsel and plan, for Jesus Christ to suffer and die a terrible death. It was the Lord's will from all eternity to crush his Son.
Verse 10 ends, "And the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand." What is this will of God that shall prosper so? That "by his knowledge my servant, the Righteous One, will justify many" (v. 11, author's translation), "for he bore the sin of many" (v. 12), "and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (v. 6). The will of God the Father was for his Son to suffer for the sins of his people .
Ephesians 1:3-5 speaks about this will of God that was behind the suffering of Jesus Christ: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him," that is, in Jesus Christ, "before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." Nobody forced God the Father to crush his Son; he did it in accordance with his own purpose and will.
This eternal purpose, this intense longing, of God the Father is behind creation and the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So in 2 Timothy 1:8-9 Paul says, "But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." In Romans 8:28 he tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Peter preached in Acts 2:23: "This man" - meaning Jesus Christ, who died and was raised and ascended into the heavens and is now made Prince and Lord - "was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge."
What is the will of the Father? The salvation of elect sinners. We are told in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." God's purpose is to save us. But he cannot accomplish that salvation without the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ.
The Will of the Son
The will of God the Father was also the will of the servant, Jesus Christ. The eternal Son, pictured in the Bible as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, fully delighted in his Father's will to crush him and bring about the salvation of sinners. His unswerving commitment to submit to his Father's will is displayed in Isaiah 50:7: "Therefore have I set my face like flint."
Psalm 40 also speaks about the incarnational purpose of Jesus. Beginning with verse 6 it says, "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require." The blood of bulls and goats cannot atone for sin. All the animal sacrifices pointed forward to the supreme, atoning sacrifice of the suffering servant, the Messiah, who said, "'Then I said, 'Here I am, I have come.'" This is speaking about his incarnation. "It is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
It was the Father's will to crush the Son to bring about our salvation; it was the Son's will to embrace the Father's will and be crushed. Thus Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). On Gethsemane Jesus prayed to his Father, "Not my will but thine be done." What was that will? To crush him for the redemption of the many, the elect sinners.
Jesus always delighted in the will of his Father. In John 4:34 he told his disciples, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work," and from the cross he triumphantly declared, "It is finished." He taught his disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," and practiced that prayer by doing his Father's will. The will of the Father was that his Son keep his laws, which we transgress. The Son showed his delight in that will by embracing God's law and keeping it. He kept it positively, for no one could convict him of sin, and negatively, by dying in place of sinners. The law pronounced death for those who violated it: "The wages of sin is death." The righteous servant died in place of sinners.
In his suffering and death, the servant subjectively endured the objective will of God the Father. He did so voluntarily. Jesus said in John 10:18, "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again." Ephesians 5:25 tells us, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Who are the beneficiaries of this atoning death of the servant? In this last servant passage, which begins with Isaiah 52:13 and goes through 53:12, the word rabim, meaning "many," is used several times: "There were many who were appalled at him" (52:14); "So will he sprinkle many nations" (52:15); "By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many" (53:11); and, according to my translation, "Therefore I will apportion to him the many" (53:12), where the word "the great," means "the many." So "the many" are the inheritance of the suffering servant. Christ's atoning death does not benefit all, but the many.
Who are the many? The answer can be found in chapter 6 of John's gospel. In verse 37 Jesus says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me." They are the Father's donation to the Son. The Father gives a certain number of people to the Son that he may redeem them by his life and death. Everyone is not going to believe in Jesus; the Scripture says only those that the Father gives to the Son will come. But notice the promise the Son makes in verse 37: "And whoever comes to me I will never drive away," which means "I will save them." In verse 39 Jesus says, "This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me."
John 17:6 also speaks about this donation of people by the Father to the Son. Jesus said, "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world." There are two types of people in the world, pictured as concentric circles. In the outer circle are most of the people in the world; in the inner circle there are only certain people, the elect sinners whom the Father gave to the Son to redeem. God purposed before the creation of the world that they be saved. The verse continues, "They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word." The true people of God, the elect sinners whom Christ saved, will obey God's word. They desire holiness.
Jesus continues in John 17:9, "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours." When he says, "I am not praying for the world," he is saying, "I am not praying for the rest of the people, those in the outer circle, but for the many, for those God loved from all eternity." God so loved those people that he gave up his Son to redeem them. We should rejoice greatly that we are beneficiaries of Christ's death and resurrection.
So "the many" that Isaiah mentions in this passage are the elect sinners chosen before the foundation of the world in Jesus Christ to be holy and blameless before him. They constitute the church of God, the people of God, whom Christ loved and gave himself for. The many are those who are foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. The many are the Father's gift to the Son. The many are those who repent and believe in Christ. The many are those whose sin he bore and whom he justified with his unimpeachable, divine, perfect righteousness.
The many are the seed, the offspring of the servant, the fruit of his atoning death. Isaiah 53:10 says that after his death, "he will see his offspring." This is speaking about the resurrection of Christ. Isaiah 53:11 says, "He will see and be satisfied." What will he see? Elect people coming to know him. Every person God the Father gave to Jesus Christ to redeem will come to know him. This gives Christ great joy.
How do you know if you are a beneficiary of Christ's death? How do you know Christ bore your sins? When you repent truly, and savingly trust in Jesus Christ, you prove that you are a beneficiary of God's love and Christ's atoning death.
The Benefits from the Death of Christ
What, then, are the death benefits for a child of God?
To appreciate the benefits that come to us through Christ's death, we must first understand that we are born sinners who practice sin daily. Paul tells us, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
As sinners, we lack the righteousness of God and are incapable of keeping his law. The problem is, the law of God condemns all lawbreakers to eternal death. How, then, can we be accepted into fellowship with a holy God? Isaiah reveals how the necessary righteousness is obtained. First, he says, "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness" (51:1). We do not have it yet; we are still pursuing it. Then the good news comes: "My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way" (51:5). Then we learn that God's righteousness can be ours only through the substitutionary death of the servant of the Lord. So we read, "By his knowledge my servant, the Righteous One, will bring righteousness to many" (53:11).
"By his knowledge" must be interpreted as an objective genitive, i.e., "by knowing him." So verse 11 is properly interpreted, "By knowing him, my righteous servant will justify many." Christ will justify us by our knowing his person and work personally through faith. Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, his righteousness is extended to us; it becomes ours when we trust in him. That trust is personal knowledge of him and relationship with him. It is union with Christ. As we entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ now and forevermore, we receive the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.
So the righteousness we lack is a death benefit we must receive from Jesus Christ, who is righteousness, sanctification and redemption. He is without any sin. God the Father calls him "my servant, my Righteous One." And Isaiah tells us this righteous servant will cause many to be righteous. But we receive this benefit only by coming to him. There is no other way to be righteous. That is why all other religions and philosophies are false. Neither technology nor science nor psychology nor anything else can make us righteous. Only through the death of Jesus Christ can we receive the benefit of righteousness.
So we find in Isaiah 53:10-12 a double transaction taking place that involves two parties: the One, who is the righteous, sinless servant, and the many, who are the unrighteous, guilty sinners. First, the righteous servant takes the crushing burden of guilt off the shoulders of the many sinners and puts it on himself. Thus, the One is punished for the guilt of the many. How does he take our guilt away? Verse 10 tells us, "And after his soul makes a guilt offering . . . ." There must be a guilt offering, but not of an animal, for an animal offering cannot deal with our sin. Only the sacrifice of the sinless suffering servant, the perfect God/man, can accomplish complete satisfaction for the sins of the many. God is satisfied because his justice is upheld by a substitute dying an atoning death. "The wages of sin is death," and Christ died. And our need is also satisfied. He paid our penalty; therefore, our sins are forgiven.
The second part of the transaction is this: the righteous servant now extends his righteousness to the many whose sins he bore. The many are now declared by Jesus Christ to be righteous. They are saved and acceptable to God.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, consider this: How much of your sin did Christ take away? All of it! So, positionally, we now possess no sin in the sight of God. Christ suffered and died for all our sins; not one remains to be paid for. All our sin has been covered by Jesus Christ.
This is the double transaction. Jesus Christ took all our sins upon himself, suffering and dying in our behalf; and now he gives us his perfect, unimpeachable righteousness. This double transaction can never be reversed, undone, or made null and void. This is eternal redemption. (PGM) Our need was for righteousness, and we found it as a death benefit of the death of Christ, but we possess it only by faith in Jesus Christ. So Paul tells us in Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."
The second death benefit is forgiveness of sin. Isaiah 52:15 says of the suffering servant, "So will he sprinkle many nations." The idea of sprinkling means to cleanse from sin. We believers are the many, and Christ has sprinkled us by his blood, making us clean. We find this idea of being cleansed of our sins elsewhere in Isaiah (43:25, 44:22, 55:7), as well as in Micah 7:18 and 1 John 1:9. All our sins are taken by Christ, who paid for them by his death; therefore, we receive complete forgiveness.
The third death benefit is the resurrection, not only of the servant, but also of us. Had Isaiah spoken only of the servant's substitutionary death, we would be unable to rejoice. But Isaiah also speaks of the resurrection: "See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted (52:13). Because the servant acts wisely in his perfect obedience to God, he will be raised up-that is the resurrection; lifted up-that is the ascension; and highly exalted-that is the glorification.
Isaiah 53:10 tells us, "After his soul makes a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days." That is speaking about his resurrection. Isaiah 53:11 says, "After the suffering of his soul, he will see and be satisfied," or "he will see the light of life and be satisfied." This too is speaking about resurrection. After Christ is raised from the dead, he will see and be satisfied. What will he see? You and me being saved. The church. The many. And as he looks at us, he receives great satisfaction. It is like a mother who, having suffered the pain of giving birth, forgets all the pain and rejoices when she sees her child.
Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Isaiah says he will see the result, the fruit of his death and be delighted with it. Jesus Christ delights to see each elect sinner repent and believe in him. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." As a result of his resurrection, we are raised up spiritually now and will be raised up physically after we die, because we are his. We are united by faith with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. As Jesus said, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19).
Spiritual resurrection, which is the basis of our salvation, is otherwise known as "new birth." If you examine the foundation of the faith of many "Christians" today, you will find the following claims: "I decided." "I raised my hand." "I went forward." "I was brought up in the church." "I was baptized." None of these are sufficient for salvation. We must experience spiritual resurrection, the supernatural miracle that God alone can perform. We must be born again.
I hope you will examine your foundations. If you have been born again, you will have a new nature with which you love God, his word, and his ways without any problem. If you have trouble doing these things, it may be that your foundation is not right. You see, to fall in love with a girl or a boy does not need any supernatural intervention. But to fall in love with God requires the work of the Holy Spirit, because no one can love God without experiencing this tremendous miracle of regeneration. So your pastor may have told you that you are a Christian simply because you raised your hand or wept. Some pastors do not worry about foundations. But on the last day, it will matter what your foundation is. No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born again.
Christ died and rose again, and so he raises us up from the dead, spiritually. As a result, we are given the gift of repentance. Repentance is not natural; like saving faith, it is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit. True repentance can not be humanly manufactured or contrived. Only when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person can that person repent and say, "I have sinned. Not my mother, not my father, not Pastor, not the church, not anybody else-I have sinned against God; have mercy upon me!"
As a result of Christ's death and resurrection, every elect sinner will be saved. No one can block this Redeemer from saving his people.
The gospels tell of a man living in the Decapolis who was possessed by a legion of demons. Naked and uncontrollable, whenever he was bound with chains, he would break them by the power of the demons within him. But he was an elect sinner, so one day Jesus came all the way to Gerasa on the east side of the Sea of Galilee to save this man.
That is what I mean when I say every elect sinner will be saved. You can come to the church filled with anger and malice, and still be saved. My father once went to a prayer meeting, intending to beat up the people because they were evangelicals. The only son of a rich man, he came from an orthodox family and did not like evangelicals who believed in the Bible. But as he listened to the worship, he was converted. Or look at Saul of Tarsus. Breathing out slaughter and threatenings, he went about like a wild beast, bent on destroying the church. But on the way to Damascus, he was arrested by Christ himself. He fell to the ground and asked, "Who are you, Lord? And what do you want me to do?" We spoke about the word rabim, the many, the inner circle. If you are in that number from all eternity, you will be saved. That is a benefit of Christ's death and resurrection.
Isaiah 53:12 says, "I will apportion him the many." The elect are given to Jesus as his inheritance, and it is his responsibility to save them, as we showed from John 17. It is the will of God the Father to redeem every elect sinner through the substitutionary death of Christ. Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth to save us, and the will of God will prosper in his hand. No power can block him from saving sinners; he will save all that the Father gives him. He is the King of kings, lifted up and highly exalted, and all the kings of the earth will shut their mouths before him. Wherever the cross is preached, the seed of Christ will be found; wherever the cross is not preached, no sinner will be saved.
The next benefit is becoming a member of the family of Christ. When a sinner is saved, he is brought into the family of God. We are children of God the Father and offspring of Christ. In verse 10 we read, "He will see his seed and prolong his days." We are the seed of the servant; we are the people of God.
As brothers and sisters, we love each other and belong eternally to each other; we are not Lone-Ranger Christians. When godly counsel comes to us, we do not say, "Who do they think they are to tell me how to live?" If we do, we must question whether we have truly been born again into the family of God. Christians are not autonomous beings. We once were, but we are not any longer. So Jesus Christ sees his family, the fruit of his suffering, and we are told he is satisfied.
Several other passages in Isaiah speak about this new family. Isaiah 49:21 says, "Then you will say in your heart, 'Who bore me these?'" What is the answer? Jesus Christ bore these ones. In Isaiah 54:1 we read, "Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." Isaiah 54:13 says, "All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace." Here we see a new community; yet no one can explain where these people come from. These verses are not speaking about a remnant returning from Babylon but about the people of God, the offspring of Christ, who are a direct result of his death and resurrection.
Jesus himself spoke about the family of God in John 12:23-24: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," meaning to die. "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." This was Jesus' response after some Greeks had come, saying, "We want to see Jesus." This portrays the whole idea of the gospel going to the Greeks. Jesus was saying, "Yes, the gospel will come to you, but first I must die. Then a whole community of people, the family of God, will rise up as a result of my death and resurrection."
A similar picture is given in Revelation 7:9-10. John writes, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." A large multitude of people that no one can number, from all tribes and languages - the offspring of Christ, the family of God, born spiritually by the Holy Spirit.
The sixth death benefit is fellowship with the Father. Our sin drove us from the presence of God, but when Christ gave his life as a guilt offering, the justice of God was satisfied, our sins were atoned for, and we were forgiven. Clothed in the robes of Christ's righteousness, we can now come into the very presence of God and have fellowship with him. There is no more condemnation. Romans 5:1 puts it this way: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." God has become our heavenly Father. We can now call him, "Our Father who art in heaven." Christ came to our hell that he might bring us into God's heaven, into the very presence of God.
A final benefit of Christ's death is that he is our mediator and intercessor. Jesus Christ is our high priest who makes intercession for us, as stated in the last line of our text: "For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
Christ died for our sins. Now, as the risen Lord, he takes us with him into the very presence of God. During the high priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus said, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory" (v. 24). You see, that is God's great purpose, which Jesus Christ is accomplishing. He has come to our hell as our mediator and intercessor and he is taking us all the way to heaven to see his glory. And the wonderful thing about his intercession is that it is always effectual. He who saved us will also keep us.
What about You?
The question is, are you a beneficiary of Christ? Have you received his death benefits? Are you an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ?
If you have repented of your sins and trusted savingly in Jesus Christ, then you are Christ's beneficiary and can rejoice with exceeding joy. What an amazing truth this is! God's purpose, plan, and intense longing, was to save you, so he sent his Son into the world and crushed him. The Son himself, embracing the will of God without reserve, lived a perfect life, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. In time, someone preached the gospel to you, and you repented and believed in Christ. The Bible says that when even one sinner repents, heaven rejoices. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit rejoice because they see their offspring, their heavenly family. The Son sees the fruit of his labor and is satisfied.
But if you have not yet repented and trusted in Christ, do not put your hope in such claims as "I was born in a Christian home," or "I was baptized," or "I pay money to the church." None of these can make you a Christian. The truth is, if you are born of God, then you will truly repent and savingly trust in Jesus Christ, and delight in serving him all of your life.
If you have not repented and trusted in Christ, let me tell you one more thing: In spite of all your claims, you are still in your sins, the wrath of God is abiding upon you, and you are on your way to an eternity away from the presence of God. I plead with you to repent of your sins and trust in Christ, the only Savior, and become a beneficiary of Christ's death. Amen.
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Copyright © 2004, P. G. Mathew
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