[Excerpt from IS JESUS “GOD”? Copyright © 2017 Edward K. Watson. All rights reserved. Section 6.6.]
The biblical model for salvation is simple to understand when one avoids imposing theological constraints on the text:
- God had a plan before the universe was made that somehow involved his Son, Jesus, and other entities who became known as humans.
- God created man and gave him free will.
- Man commits sin and deserves punishment.
- God (Jesus) became man to:
- a. Conjoin the God and Human natures [Incarnation]
- b. Pay the price of man’s sin [Atonement]
- c. Endow the human nature with the ability to become immortal [Resurrection]
- d. Have human followers share or participate in the divine nature of the Father and Son by Grace [Glorification]
- All humans will become immortal and permanently have material bodies.
- Some humans will be saved from the consequences of sin and receive eternal life as the “Children of God.”
The question is how.
Q: How did God connect the God and Human natures?
A: By Jesus becoming human flesh. This allowed an intermixing of the two natures. All that makes God “God” and all that makes man “Man” were in the physical body of Jesus Christ. It is as if the dog and cat natures were mixed into a chimera or hybrid that had complete copies of both dog and cat DNA.
Q: How did God pay the price of man’s sin?
A: The Bible doesn’t explain the mechanics of how this substitution occurred, only that it happened on the cross (and also apparently started in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion) and is associated with Jesus’ blood. If we follow him, it allows us to escape the punishment we deserve.
Somehow, Jesus took upon himself the consequences of man’s sins—all punishment, all pain, all guilt, all despair, and all misery that humans will collectively experience. This was to give us the opportunity of avoiding the results of our sinful choices. It was an infinite atonement and covered every sin and pain collective humanity will ever experience. Jesus received first-hand knowledge and experience of our pain and hurt and is strong enough to absorb them into himself for those who surrender them, and themselves, to him.
Q: How did God make men immortal?
A: When Jesus resurrected and permanently fused the God nature with man’s flesh in immortal form, he opened the door to having all humans become immortal. Somehow, his resurrection, through a process we do not understand, enabled humans to reanimate into having immortal physical bodies at some point in the future, irrespective of their morality and religion or lack thereof. The righteous will participate in the “Resurrection of the just” while the wicked will take part in the “Resurrection of the unjust.”
The resurrection is described as death itself – the counterpart of physical life – being destroyed. While these immortal bodies are described as “Spiritual bodies,” they are to be comprised of matter like Jesus Christ’s immortal material body, which could be touched, eat, and so forth, otherwise the resurrection is meaningless. A spiritual body simply means a perfected and immortal physical body that can never die.
Q: How did God empower some humans to share his divine nature?
A: By Jesus becoming human flesh, a bridge was established between the God and Man natures, allowing an intermixing of both natures. A select group of those with the “Man” nature will be able to participate in the “God” nature that the Father and Son innately have, but by “adoption” due to Jesus Christ’s grace. This sharing of a common God-Man nature was also described by the imagery of Christ as a head and church as a body; Christ as a groom and church as a bride; Christ as a vine and believers as its branches, and believers are in Christ and he is in them, just as the Father is in Christ and Christ is in the Father. All the imagery implies an equality, commonality, and intimacy vastly beyond what one would expect from incompatible natures (see Section 4.14).
 The Greek text of Luke 22:44 implies something happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, and it wasn’t just dread or fear of his coming execution, but an actual external force that was so overwhelming that it caused Jesus to bleed out of his skin from the pressure while he was still in the garden.
Some religious groups, like the Mormons, believe that was when he took upon himself the consequences of collective mankind’s sins, with his death on the cross as the culmination of his Atonement. These two events were the bookmarks of the Atonement, where his blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins.
If this is indeed the case, then it would’ve only been his nature as God that allowed him to completely withstand the force of the Atonement until completely defeating the consequences of sin.