We all long for things such as love and belonging, peace, joy, to make an impact, and even to live forever. The blunt person might say this is a good description of heaven. But to be with God in heaven requires two things according to Christianity: sacrifice for our sin and relationship with Him while we live — in that order. Sacrifice for wrongdoing is a common theme running through every ancient culture and still permeating our own.
Since we have all done wrong, we can only offer a sacrifice for our own individual sin; my sacrifice for my sin and you for yours. But once I sacrifice myself for my sin, I cannot live and be in relationship with God, which is the second requirement. This is the classic catch-22, like what we see in “The Gift of the Magi”. There is not enough money for a gift, so the giver sells the thing most precious to them to obtain the gift. Only after do they find out that the complement to the gift was destroyed in the process. It’s like selling all the salt to gain only the pepper.
If a sacrifice must be given first and the relationship formed second, then the solution seems logical. If a perfect human — perfect in the ultimate sense: perfect inception, perfect qualities, and perfect life — were to offer themself as a sacrifice, an imperfect human would benefit.
If this human were actually more than a human — eternal instead of temporal, all-powerful instead of weak — then their sacrifice would extend not just to one human, but to all of imperfect humanity. The acceptable sacrifice of one perfect human would be an umbrella of mercy covering every person who has ever lived.
No wonder that, amidst a chapter about the sacrifice of Jesus on the crucifixion tree, the speaker exclaims, “His banner over me was love” (Song 2:1–4).
Through Jesus the demand for justice is fully satisfied so that we may embark on being fully satisfied in relationship with God.
When we look now at the two requirements to be with God in heaven, it seems it was all a ruse. God did what we could not do in order to give us what we wanted all along: heaven. God the Son took on our debt of sacrifice so we could take on the joy of relationship.