The late, great Curtis Cates once described redemption as “the center and circumference of the Bible.” Indeed the entire Bible revolves around what we often refer to as the “scheme of redemption.” While the English word, “scheme,” often denotes something nefarious, it is simply synonymous with the word “plan.”
When the first man and woman sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating the forbidden fruit, God gave them a glimpse into His plan for redemption (Gen. 3:15). However, subsequent Bible passages inform us that God had formulated this plan even before Creation (Eph. 1:3-7; Rev. 13:8).
The English word “redemption” and its root word “redeem” are from a Latin word meaning to “buy back.” This writer is old enough to remember taking empty soda bottles to the grocery store where they could be redeemed for money or a discount on more soda. The same concept applies if one were to take a possession to a pawn shop for money. The pawn broker gives the customer a certain amount of money for the item and the customer has a certain amount of time to redeem or buy back the item for the amount that he received plus the interest that has accrued. If he fails to do so in the allotted time, the pawnbroker becomes the owner of the possession and can sell it for whatever he wishes.
In the Old Testament, the concept of redemption was applied to land that was lost. If land was lost to cover a debt, there was a provision in the Old Testament whereby the original owner could redeem or buy back the land or a “kinsman redeemer” could also purchase the land. Boaz is perhaps the most prominent Old Testament example of the “kinsman redeemer,” who redeemed the land that Naomi had sold and also married Ruth in conjunction with the Levirate marriage law (Ruth 4:1-12).
God required redemption for the firstborn. He claimed the firstborn of man and beast. In exchange for the firstborn, God claimed the Levities for His service (Num. 3:45). When the firstborn outnumbered the Levites by 273, those remaining had to pay five shekels to the priesthood, Aaron and his sons, for their redemption (v. 47).
According to Vine’s, the Hebrew words padah and gaal, are “both used of deliverance from adverse circumstances: padah of deliverance from adversity itself [and] gaal of deliverance from oppression and violence.” Both words also speak of deliverance from captivity as well as from death.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “redemption” is lutrow (and other forms of it), and is used to convey redemption in both a physical and spiritual sense. Most first century Jews believed the Messiah’s objective was to liberate or redeem them from Roman oppression (Luke 24:21). However, Jesus plainly told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), indicating this redemption was of a spiritual nature as confirmed by Paul when he reminded Titus that Jesus, “gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Tit. 2:14).
We may compare this spiritual redemption of all of mankind with the physical redemption of the fledgling nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage. In both cases, we see that something of value was lost. The family of Jacob went to Egypt where, at first, they enjoyed favor as a result of the high esteem that Pharoah held Jacob’s son, Joseph. However, over time as this family experienced amazing growth, the Egyptians came to fear them and eventually a new Pharoah assumed the throne who had no regard for the contributions that Joseph and his family had made to the Egyptian economy (Ex. 1:8), and they moved to enslave them. Hundreds of years before this, the first couple, Adam and Eve, fell from grace in the Garden of Eden through disobedience and their innocence and perfect fellowship with God was lost (Gen. 3:1-24). Next, we see also that there was a price that had to be paid. For Israel, God required a year-old unblemished lamb to be slain and eaten and its blood sprinkled on their doorposts (Ex. 12:1-13). Peter wrote that the price of our spiritual redemption was “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Finally, we note that there is a power to be overcome. For Israel, it was the mighty nation of Egypt, whom God humbled through a series of plagues, culminating with the devastating death of all of the firstborn (Ex. 12:29-30). Our redemption was sealed when Christ arose from the grave on the third day after His crucifixion, crushing the head of the devil (cf. Gen. 3:15). The Hebrews writer declared that Christ, “through death…might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14-15). Praise God for our marvelous redemption!