Our response to this question is crucial to how we view the being we call God, and the place of organized religion in our world.
When humankind in Adam fell short of God’s glory through disobedience by eating from the fruit of the prohibited tree in the garden of Eden, God’s relationship with her was severed. Adam (a corporate identity of the whole human race) could no longer be in the presence of God. To the modern reader, this idea of Adam eating a piece of fruit and God expelling him from the garden is very pithy, and almost a bizarre way of ending a relationship. It’s like someone divorcing their spouse for burning their toast, or squeezing a tooth paste from the middle. It’s like God was setting Adam up, knowing that he/she would disregard this injunction not to eat from the fruit of the prohibited tree. But is it what God intended? Was it God’s intention to perpetually keep Adam from eating of the fruit of this tree? I would save this for another time, but suffice to say that Adam’s expulsion from the garden was so that not only Adam, but also the entire human race could get back in. One of my favorite professor’s in Seminary Dr. Hugenberbger in his teaching on this subject of the Fall once said, “you have to get out to get in.”
To return to the question at issue, “Why did Jesus die,” let’s look at the Old Testament sacrificial system. Leviticus is one of the least read books of the Bible because of its content. Interestingly enough, it is one of my favorites because it helps us understand and appreciate the atoning death of Christ. But the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was put in place by Yahweh for His chosen people. The sacrificial system was to temporarily mitigate (cover) the inadvertent sins committed by God’s chosen people Israel. But how about other nations in far distance shores, who did not embrace Israel’s sacrificial system? How about other nations that indeed worshipped Israel’s sacrificial elements?
Moses in response to Pharaoh’s counter offer to his request to free the Israelites: “Go sacrifice to your god within the land” (Exodus 8:25) says, “It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the Lord our God what is an abominations to the Egyptians.” How then were these other nations reconciled to God if the sacrificial system was not an option? This brings us to the Hebrew word “shv” to turn, “to return” “to be returned,” “to bring back” This word is misleadingly rendered in Psalm 23:6, in the Psalmist’s pledge to return to Yahweh’s presence: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The word translated “dwell” is the Hebrew word “shv.” I don’t want you to be discouraged by my use of the Hebrew language as is the custom of some. I utilize Hebrew to help the reader understand what the Holy Spirit inspired the author’s to say to God’s people. It could be argued in Hebrew that one did not really comprehend a word until one has total grasp of its roots, and explored its relationship to other words with the same root. This is what biblical theology is all about: discerning the authorial intent. How were other nations reconciled to God? Please stay tuned!