Since we are all spiritual criminals (sinners), is it possible to escape the death penalty that our offenses impose? Thankfully, the answer is yes. The Bible reveals that God is merciful and that He loves us. Because of this, He devised a way for us to not only escape the penalty of eternal death, but to also live forever with Him in Heaven.
God's solution to our problem
God has always had a plan to forgive us of our sins. He began to enact His plan after Adam and Eve sinned and continued to slowly reveal it in the centuries leading up to the time of Jesus. We learn in the Bible that there can be no forgiveness of our sins unless blood is shed. The book of Hebrews says that, "without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). Our death is the penalty for the sins we commit (Romans 6:23). Before Jesus came, God accepted the death of an animal as a symbolic substitutionary sacrifice to stand in for the death of the person who had sinned. The basic idea was the death of an innocent substitute to provide life for the guilty. They spilled the blood of sacrificial animals to make up for the sins of the one offering the animal.
Animal sacrifices were insufficient
The Bible teaches us that while the blood of animals could bring about the forgiveness of sins, it could never take away sin (Hebrews 10:1-4). There is a big difference between pardoning (forgiving) sins and erasing them. The words "forgive" and "pardon" carry the idea of canceling a debt, giving up a claim against someone or being released from a penalty. When someone offered an animal sacrifice, God released them from the penalty of eternal death, but the animal's blood did not take away their sins. The sins were still there but they were "covered up by the blood", so to speak. This form of reconciliation was only temporary; the people had to continually sacrifice animals throughout their lifetime to make amends for thier sins. God didn't want the sins of the people merely covered, He wanted them to be taken away as if they had never happened. This meant the animal sacrifices were lacking and a perfect sacrifice was needed.
A perfect sacrifice
A perfect sacrifice would require the death of someone who had never sinned. Since no human has ever lived a sinless life, no one but God could provide a perfect sacrifice. Therefore God sent His son, Jesus, to Earth to be born as a human and live among humans for the ultimate purpose of being killed as a sacrifice. God loved the world so much that He was willing to allow His son to serve as a sacrifice for us. Because Jesus wasn't merely human, but also Divine, He could offer a perfect sacrifice. This meant that Jesus' sacrifice could not only bring about the forgiveness of sins, but also take them away! They would be gone as if the sins had never been committed. In addition, Jesus' perfect sacrifice could take away the sins of all people once and for all. There would be no need for Jesus to be continually sacrificed over and over again as the people used to do when animal sacrifices were performed. Jesus' sacrifice was so perfect, it was enough for Him to die only once.
Jesus was put to death on a cross. During the times when Jesus was on the Earth, crucifixion was a method of capital punishment for criminals. It is ironic that the only person who ever lived on this planet without sinning was put to death as if He were a criminal.
God raised Jesus from the dead
After Jesus died, he was removed from the cross and placed in a burial chamber. After three days, God raised Him from the dead and Jesus spent time with His followers for the next 40 days. After this time, He ascended back into Heaven from where He originally came. The Bible teaches us that He now sits at the right hand of God interceding for those who are His followers (Romans 8:34). You can read about His birth, life, death and resurrection from the dead in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Jesus' blood takes away the sins of those who follow Him
The benefits of Jesus' sacrifice are available to all who are willing to take advantage of it. What good news it is that God, through His son Jesus, has made provisions for our sins to be not only forgiven, but actually erased! Those who follow Jesus will have their sins taken away by His blood. If we are willing to become a follower of Jesus, endeavoring to live our lives in accordance with His wishes, we can also one day be resurrected from the dead to live eternally with Him in Heaven.