“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet 3:18).
The first three chapters of the Bible teach that God created man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. As creatures made in the image of God, man and woman enjoyed a unique relationship which included intimate fellowship with their Creator. God told them that this close relationship would continue as long as they remained obedient to His command not to eat from a certain tree in the garden. If they disobeyed, they would surely die. However, rather than remaining obedient to God, man and woman chose to rebel against His authority. Death came as a result. Immediately, they experienced spiritual death. They knew that they were no longer at peace with God and, for that reason, hid from His presence. Physical death also entered their experience. God killed a lesser creature and made clothing out of the skins. This was the first indication that God would accept the death of one to cover the sins of another. Adam and Eve’s own physical life would also surely come to an end at a later date.
Later in biblical history, God commanded a man named Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, to offer his son as a sacrifice in order to test the loyalty of his love. Abraham obeyed, but before the knife was plunged into the boy’s chest, God provided a ram to be offered as a sacrifice in place of Isaac (Gen. 22).
During the time of Moses, God delivered His people from Egyptian bondage. Before the tenth plague was brought upon the nation, God instructed His people that each household should kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of the house. Where no blood was seen by the Angel of Death, the firstborn in that house would die. However, if the Angel saw blood, he would pass over the house, leaving the firstborn alive. Thus Israel was saved through the sacrifice of a lamb. Later, in the wilderness, God established the sacrificial system with its tabernacle, so that His people’s sins could be forgiven based on the death of an animal (Exod. 12:25–27).
All of this helps us to understand and appreciate the full implications of John the Baptist’s announcement upon seeing Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” because He was sent by God to be the ultimate sacrifice for sin, to give His life for sin so that men and women could live. As He hung upon the cross, Jesus took the penalty of our sin upon Himself, thus becoming our sacrifice and our Savior. His death now brings us life.