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A Ransom for All

Now, I will continue with my exegesis of the Fifth Surah of the Koran. I will talk about Koran 5:36,37 here. People have a problem. They all die and they all sin. We all need forgiveness from our Creator and transformation. We cannot purchase the redemption of our own souls. We cannot purchase immortality. Eternal damnation will always be eternal damnation. Once we are consigned to the flames of Gehenna, that becomes our permanent residence. However, we have a Savior to deliver us from such a fate.

The passage I am discussing is Koran 5:36,37. Here is Pickthall’s translation.

As for those who disbelieve, lo! if all that is in the earth were theirs, and as much again therewith, to ransom them from the doom on the Day of Resurrection, it would not be accepted from them. Theirs will be a painful doom. They will wish to come forth from the Fire, but they will not come forth from it. Theirs will be a lasting doom. (Koran 5:36,37, Pickthall)

The Koran confirms the Bible. It does not contradict it or seek to replace it. One must always remember that in order to properly understand any passage of the Koran. Rejecting the Bible results in one “wandering far astray.” (Koran 4:136) Those who do so are in effect rejecting the “straight path” for which they pray in the Fatihah. (Koran 1:5-7)

The Koran teaches that no amount of possessions or wealth can ransom one from Gehenna — the final destination of the wicked after they have been resurrected on the last day. The Bible teaches the same thing.

6 They that trust in their strength, and boast themselves in the multitude of their wealth — 7 A brother does not redeem, shall a man redeem? he shall not give to God a ransom for himself, 8 or the price of the redemption of his soul, though he labour for ever, 9 and live to the end, so that he should not see corruption. (Psalm 48:6-9, LXX; Psalm 49:6-9, Hebrew)

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:24-27, NKJV)

I remember the words of a song written by Pat Terry in the 1970s. “Everything I own will still belong to Him.” Because everything we own still belongs to God, we can never really  give God anything He does not already have. Therefore, we cannot buy our way out of Gehenna. In the Bible, it says:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and all that dwell in it. (Psalm 23:1, LXX; Psalm 24:1, Hebrew)

The Koran confirms this teaching in several places. Here are a few.

And they say: Allah hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth is His. All are subservient unto Him. (Koran 2:116, Pickthall)

Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. And We charged those who received the Scripture before you, and (We charge) you, that ye keep your duty toward Allah. And if ye disbelieve, lo! unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, and Allah is ever Absolute, Owner of Praise. (Koran 4:131, Pickthall)

Unto Him belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and the earth. All are obedient unto Him. (Koran 30:26, Pickthall)

I did not want to discuss this in detail since I have already written about it in other previous blogs, but when the Koran says “And they say: Allah hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay..”, it is talking about the Adoptionist heresy taught by the Paulinianists and the Nestorians. [The Koran acknowledges that not all Christians in the seventh century were in doctrinal agreement. “The sects among them differ.” (Korah 19:37, Pickthall)] God does not have any divine partners. There is only one God, who exists in three distinct hypostases: Father, Son (or Word), and Holy Spirit. Jesus who is the Son, or Word of God, has an origin, but, like the Father, no beginning. Jesus never claimed to be a distinct deity separate from God the Father. He claimed to by the I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. (See John 8:58 and Exodus 3:13,14.) He said, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30) He never said, “I and My Father are two separate Gods.” The divine nature of Jesus is uncreated and has always existed. (John 1:1-4) The human nature, that is, His soul and His body, are created. However, Jesus is still one Person who has two natures. These two natures are joined together without separation, division, change, or mixture.

Even the Koran acknowledges that Jesus is the Word of Allah. In this passage from the Fourth Surah, the heresy of Tritheism is rejected. (Tritheism was taught by John Philiponus and two deposed Orthodox Christian bishops, Eugenius of Seleucia and Conon of Tarsus, during the time of Muhammad.)

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One God. (Koran 4:171, Pickthall)

This verse acknowledges that Jesus is both divine and human. He is human. He is “only a messenger of Allah.” He is a human “spirit from Him.” (See Zechariah 12:1 and Hebrews 12:9.) He is also divine. He is the Word of Allah which He conveyed (literally, cast) to Mary. (See John 1:1-4,14.) So, Jesus is both human and divine, but one Person. The Koran tells the Tritheists to stop saying that there are three Gods. There is only one God. Jesus is not a distinct God from Allah. He is a distinct hypostasis from Allah the Father.

Pickthall and other English translators of the Koran have unfortunately mistranslated the next sentence of this verse. The Arabic text says:

Sub’ḥānahu an yakūna lahu waladun.

Glory be to Him that He should be for Him a begotten Child. That is, “Glory be to Jesus Christ that He should be for God the Father a begotten Son.”

The rest of the verse is:

His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. (Koran 4:171, Pickthall)

Jesus said:

All things that the Father has are Mine. (John 16:15, NKJV)

In His prayer the night before He was crucified, He prayed:

And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:10, NKJV)

After His resurrection from the dead, He said to His disciples:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 20:18, NKJV)

So, everything in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Jesus (who is Allah the Son) and to Allah the Father. (Everything also belongs to Allah the Holy Spirit. The Three are one God, sharing the same essence, but existing as three distinct hypostases.)

In the 69th Surah, it says:

It is a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. And if he had invented false sayings concerning Us, We assuredly had taken him by the right hand and then severed his life-artery, and not one of you could have held Us off from him. (Koran 69:43-47, Pickthall)

Here, we can clearly see that Allah is one God. He is the “Lord of the Worlds.” He also is a plurality of Persons. Notice that Allah uses the words, “Us” and “We”, when speaking of Himself. If Muhammad had invented false sayings concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity (who is one God, not three) would have taken Muhammad’s life before he could finish his ministry. There is only one Lord of the Worlds who exists as three distinct hypostases. That is what this passage teaches.

Twice in the Koran, it says that Jesus died.

(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering Thee (that is, in death) and causing Thee to ascend unto Me. (Koran 3:55, Pickthall)

I (Jesus) was a Witness of them (the disciples) while I dwelt among them, and when Thou (Allah the Father) tookest Me (in death) Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things. (Koran 5:117, Pickthall)

The verbs translated “gathering Thee” in verse 3:55 and “tookest Me” in verse 5:117 are used in reference to the soul being taken from the body in other places in the Koran. I have already illustrated this point in my blog, The Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah in the Koran. If the Koran does not teach that Jesus died, then it does not confirm the Gospel, but since it does teach that, it does confirm the Gospel. (Koran 3:3,4; 5:47,48; 10:38; 41:43)

Twice in the Koran, it says that Jesus ascended into Heaven.

(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering Thee [i.e., taking Thee in death] and causing Thee to ascend unto Me. (Koran 3:55, Pickthall)

But Allah took Him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. (Koran 4:158, Pickthall)

The verb translated “causing to ascend” in verse 3:55 and “took up” in verse 4:158 is the verb that Pickthall translated “raised” in this passage from the 19th Surah.

And make mention in the Scripture of Idris. Lo! he was a saint, a prophet; and We raised him to a high station. (Koran 19:56, 57, Pickthall)

Idris is the Arabic name for Enoch. Enoch ascended into heaven without ever dying. (Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5) So, the Koran teaches in verses 3:55 and 5:117 that Jesus died and in verses 3:55 and 4:158 that He ascended into heaven. The resurrection of Jesus is implied in the Koran which tells Muslims to accept the four Gospels along with the other Scriptures. (Koran 2:136; 4:136, 150-152; 29:46)

In only one place in the Koran, the resurrection of Jesus is clearly mentioned.

Peace on Me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! (Koran 19:33, Sahih International)

I mention here the death and resurrection of Jesus, because Jesus did something very important for us. He destroyed death by His death. This is the teaching of the Church Fathers.

The Son sojourned in the world, having of the Virgin received flesh, which He filled with the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of us all; and having given up the flesh to death, He destroyed death through the resurrection that had in view the resurrection of us all; and He ascended to heaven, exalting and glorifying men in Himself; and He comes the second time to bring us again eternal life. (A Sectional Confession of Faith, Article XVIII, by St. Gregory the Wonderworker, vol. 6, p. 45, Ante-Nicene Fathers)

Now if by the sign of the Cross, and by faith in Christ, death is trampled down, it must be evident before the tribunal of truth that it is none other than Christ Himself that has displayed trophies and triumphs over death, and made him lose all his strength. 2. And if, while previously death was strong, and for that reason terrible, now after the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and resurrection of His body it is despised, it must be evident that death has been brought to nought and conquered by the very Christ that ascended the Cross. 3. For as, if after night-time the sun rises, and the whole region of earth is illumined by him, it is at any rate not open to doubt that it is the sun who has revealed his light everywhere, that has also driven away the dark and given light to all things; so, now that death has come into contempt, and been  trodden under foot, from the time when the Saviour’s saving manifestation in the flesh and His death on the Cross took place, it must be quite plain that it is the very Saviour that also appeared in the body, Who has brought death to nought, and Who displays the signs of victory over him day by day in His own disciples. (On the Incarnation of the Word, section 29, by St. Athanasius the Great, vol. 4, pp. 50-51, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series)

For Christ also likewise, when it was possible for him to abide in His own honour and deity, not only so far emptied Himself as to take the form of a slave, but also endured the cross, despising the shame, that He might by His own sufferings destroy sin, and by death slay death. (Oration VII, by St. Gregory the Theologian, vol. 7, p. 246, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series)

The strong one is bound by his own chains, and every device of the evil one recoils on his own head. When the prince of the world is bound, all that he held in captivity is released. (Luke 11:21,21) Our nature cleansed from its old contagion regains its honourable estate, death is destroyed by death, nativity is restored by nativity: since at one and the same time redemption does away with slavery, regeneration changes our origin, and faith justifies the sinner. (Sermon XXII: On the Feast of the Nativity, II, by St. Leo the Great, vol. 12, part I, p. 131, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series)

In the Koran, it says:

So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters. (Koran 10:94, Sahih International)

One way that Muslims can learn what Orthodox Christians believed and taught is to read the Church Fathers. Jesus said that the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church.

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, NKJV)

There were heretical offshoots of the Church during the days of Muhammad, but the true Church that remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles still existed, too.

In the Koran, it speaks of the prophet John who preceded Jesus in his ministry.

When he was standing during prayer in his place of worship, the angels called him saying, “God gives you the glad news of the birth of your son, John who will be a confirmation of (Jesus) the Word of God. He will become a chaste, noble leader and one of the righteous Prophets. (Koran 3:39, Muhammad Sarwar)

In St. John the Theologian’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist (who was spoken of in Koran 3:39) said this about Jesus.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29, NKJV)

Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus said:

27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:27,28, NKJV)

44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:44,45, NKJV)

St. Paul wrote in his First Epistle to St. Timothy:

3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (I Timothy 2:3-6, NKJV)

Jesus gave His life as a ransom for us. No one took His life away from Him. His death was voluntary.

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17,18, NKJV)

In the second century, Clement of Alexandria wrote:

For him alone who does so He owns to be the good shepherd. Generous, therefore, is He who gives for us the greatest of all gifts, His own life; and beneficent exceedingly, and loving to men, in that, when He might have been Lord, He wished to be a brother man; and so good was He that He died for us. (The Instructor, Book I, chapter 9, by Clement of Alexandria, vol. 2, p. 231, Ante-Nicene Fathers)

St. John Chrysostom wrote the following commentary on those verses from I Timothy.

Ver. 5. “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men.”
He had before said, “to come to the knowledge of the truth,” implying that the world is not in the truth. Now he says, “that there is one God,” that is, not as some say, many, and that He has sent His Son as Mediator, thus giving proof that He will have all men to be saved. But is not the Son God? Most truly He is; why then does he say, “One God”? In contradistinction to the idols; not to the Son. For he is discoursing about truth and error. Now a mediator ought to have communion with both parties, between whom he is to mediate. For this is the property of a mediator, to be in close communion with each of those whose mediator he is. For he would be no longer a mediator, if he were connected with one but separated from the other. If therefore He partakes not of the nature of the Father, He is not a Mediator, but is separated. For as He is partaker of the nature of men, because He came to men, so is He partaker of the nature of God, because He came from God. Because He was to mediate between two natures, He must approximate to the two natures; for as the place situated between two others is joined to each place, so must that between natures be joined to either nature. As therefore He became Man, so was He also God. A man could not have become a mediator, because he must also plead with God. God could not have been mediator, since those could not receive Him, toward whom He should have mediated. And as elsewhere he says, “There is one God the Father, … and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6); so also here “One” God, and “One” Mediator; he does not say two; for he would not have that number wrested to Polytheism, of which he was speaking. So he wrote “One” and “One.” You see how accurate are the expressions of Scripture! For though one and one are two, we are not to say this, though reason suggests it. And here thou sayest not one and one are two, and yet thou sayest what reason does not suggest. “If He begat He also suffered.” “For there is one God,” he says, “and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
Ver. 6. “Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Was Christ then a ransom for the Heathen? Undoubtedly Christ died even for Heathen; and you cannot bear to pray for them. Why then, you ask, did they not believe? Because they would not: but His part was done. His suffering was a “Testimony,” he says; for He came, it is meant, “to bear witness to the truth” of the Father, and was slain. Thus not only the Father bore witness to Him, but He to the Father. “For I came,” He saith, “in My Father’s name.” (John 5:43.) And again, “No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18.) And again, “That they might know Thee, the only true God.” (John 17:3.) And, “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24.) And He bore witness even to the death. But this, “in due time,” means, In the fittest time. (Homily VII, Homilies on the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, by St. John Chrysostom, vol. 13, pp. 430-431, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series)

Jesus suffered and died in His humanity but not in His divinity. The divine nature is incapable of death and suffering. Because His mortal human nature was joined inseparably to His divine nature, He could not remain dead. The divine nature of Jesus destroyed death in His human nature rendering His human nature forever immortal. Jesus offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins. Our sins are, therefore, forgiven for Jesus’ sake.

In verse 5:37 of the Koran, it says that eternal punishment is eternal.

They will wish to come forth from the Fire, but they will not come forth from it. Theirs will be a lasting doom. (Koran 5:37, Pickthall)

The Bible teaches the same thing.

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:44-46, NKJV)

The passage from the Gospel speaks about sins of omission. There are also the sins of commission which, if not forgiven, will result in one spending eternity in Gehenna. In the Orthodox Christian tradition, Hell is viewed as a self-inflicted state. By refusing to reform our lives and repent, we essentially damn our own souls into Hell. We become trapped in our own passions.

The Koran, likewise, teaches that our eternal damnation is our own doing.

The likeness of that which they spend in this life of the world is as the likeness of a biting, icy wind which smiteth the harvest of a people who have wronged themselves, and devastateth it. Allah wronged them not, but they do wrong themselves. (Koran 3:117, Pickthall)

Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves. (Koran 10:44, Pickthall)

We wronged them not, but they did wrong themselves; and their gods on whom they call beside Allah availed them naught when came thy Lord’s command; they added to them naught save ruin. (Koran 11:101, Pickthall)

Do the (ungodly) wait until the angels come to them, or there comes the Command of thy Lord (for their doom)? So did those who went before them. But Allah wronged them not: nay, they wronged their own souls. (Koran 16:33, Yusuf Ali)

And the Book is placed, and thou seest the guilty fearful of that which is therein, and they say: What kind of a Book is this that leaveth not a small thing nor a great thing but hath counted it! And they find all that they did confronting them, and thy Lord wrongeth no-one. (Koran 18:49, Pickthall)

We wronged them not, but they it was who did the wrong. (Koran 43:76, Pickthall)

And whoso transgresseth Allah’s limits, he verily wrongeth his soul. (Koran 65:1, Pickthall)

These words of St. John the Theologian express the warning conveyed in Koran 5:36,37.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (I John 2:15-17, NKJV)

One cannot love the things of this life and love God, too. The Koran, likewise, expresses this notion in another Surah.

Whoso desireth the life of the world and its pomp, We shall repay them their deeds herein, and therein they will not be wronged. (Koran 11:15, Pickthall)

We must use this world as long as we live in it, but we cannot allow the love of this world to replace our love for God. We cannot ransom our souls from Gehenna. Everything that we own still belongs to God. Jesus is the ransom for us. He destroyed death by His death and was the sacrifice for our sins. Although our sins can be forgiven through Christ, we still must beware of becoming trapped by our own passions. Hell is a self-inflicted state. We wrong ourselves when we sin. God wrongs no one. We must beware of loving this world instead of God.

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