In Hebrews 9:26 Jesus came “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself,” a sacrifice needed just “once to take away the sins of many people,” verse 28.
According to Scripture, then, if Jesus had not been crucified we’d all still be stuck with sin – sin being defined by Paul in Ephesians 2:3 as “doing whatever suits the wishes of our own bodies and minds,” Adam and Eve being the first to get that ball rolling, and none of us since being able to stop it (Romans 3:23).
The results of that can be seen clearly in the Old Testament, in relentless and groaning detail in the lives of the Israelites. No matter what God did to bless them or warn them, they were incapable of resisting the wishes of their bodies and minds.
All the Israelites were not like that, though. They had good people among them, like King David, and even good times too, like the reign of Solomon when the nation prospered and was held in high regard by others. And we in the West have experienced several decades of relative peace too, with some of our nations being a huge help to others. And when crises strike many good people surface to do all they can to help.
But it’s one crisis after another, isn’t it? Just when a pandemic looks like it’s over, thanks to many good people trying their very best to help the weak or prevent people getting ill in the first place, another crisis opens up, like the war between Russia and Ukraine. And all this is happening AFTER Jesus was crucified too, so how much worse would it have been had he NOT “triumphed” over evil “by the cross” (Colossians 2:15)?
Well, God told us how bad it would be in Deuteronomy 31. He knew exactly what would happen. People would follow the same rut Adam and Eve trod, of trusting evil rather than God. And the Israelites would fall for it too. After the good man Moses died, God knew the Israelites would “soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they’re entering,” verse 16. God would then “become angry with them,” verse 17, resulting in “many disasters and difficulties coming on them,” and the people crying out, “Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?”
And for the next 1,300 years or so that’s exactly what happened, including the entire kingdom of Judah being destroyed in 587 B.C. by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. The temple in Jerusalem was looted and burnt down, the city walls flattened, and most of the Jewish people deported to several sites around the Babylonian Empire. It was a monumental disaster.
And that dreadful threefold cycle of Israel abandoning God, God becoming angry, and disasters taking a massive toll, would have continued all the way up to “the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed,” Romans 2:5. God’s wrath would also have remained unassuaged and unabated on anyone else who put their wishes of mind and body and the gods of this world before God too (Romans 1:18). This, then, would have been our world if Jesus had not been crucified.
And there was nothing we could do about it either. God in his anger would have “given (us all) over to the sinful desires of our hearts,” Romans 1:24, and even his law would be powerless against our sinful nature (8:3). We’d be dead in the water with no help in sight.
But can we leave the story there? Yes, and why not, when scripture tells us clearly what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t been crucified. We were all “objects of God’s wrath headed for destruction,” Romans 9:22. Or put another way, we were all on an unstoppable train thundering through the darkness heading for a cliff (Romans 6:21).