In the Bible, the word “ransom” means a price paid to obtain the freedom of slaves or captives of war. Jesus’ death was the ransom or price which was paid to free humans who were slaves and captives of sin, lawlessness, God’s judgment and Satan. One view suggests the ransom of Jesus’ death was paid by God to Satan. The other view says this ransom was paid by God to His own holiness and justice. Note the following key points in relation to this dispute:
· There is not one place in the Bible which specifically says God desired a ransom to be paid to Satan.
· Under the Old Covenant, all ransoms were always paid to God through His priests (see Exodus 13:11-16, 30:11-16, 34:19-20, Leviticus 27:14-15, 27:19-20, 27:26-28, 27:30-33, Numbers 3:46-51 and 18:14-17) or to some other human. These ransoms were paid for the freeing of slaves (see Exodus 21:7-8, Leviticus 19:20 and 25:47-55), for regaining previously sold land or houses (see Leviticus 28:25-26 and 25:29-34) and for avoiding a death sentence if your bull killed a man or a woman under certain circumstances (see Exodus 21:28-30). All of these God-given laws were expression of His holiness and justice.
There were no ransoms ever paid to Satan or demons or to sin under the Old Covenant. Note Hebrews 10:1 says: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.” This verse partly infers the ransoming or redeeming that occurred under the Law of Moses was a symbol or shadow of the real ransom that was paid when Jesus Christ died on the cross.
· God and not Satan was the one who pronounced the death penalty for human sin (see Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 1:32, 6:21, 6:23 and James 1:14-15). God’s perfect holiness and justice was offended by sin. One expression of God’s holiness and justice is the Law of Moses. Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 pronounced terrible curses of sickness, death and other punishments against anyone who disobeyed any of God’s commands found in the Mosaic Law.
Galatians 3:13 shows Christ’s death redeemed us from the curses of the Law: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’)” In the original Greek, the word “redeemed” here is a form of the word “exagorazo” which means “buy, buy up something, redeem (literally ‘buy back’), deliver someone”.  Galatians 3:13 shows Jesus’ death has ransomed us from the curse or penalty imposed by God’s perfect holiness and justice, as partly expressed in the Mosaic Law.
The association between God’s Law (as one expression of His perfect justice and holiness), sin and the penalty of death is seen in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law…” But note verse 55 is a quote from Hosea 13:14 which also refers to being ransomed or redeemed from death. Hosea 13:14 says: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death…”
By taking 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 and Hosea 13:14 together we see Jesus’ death ransomed sinners from the death penalty imposed by God’s perfect holiness and justice expressed partly in His Law.
Fallen humans were still owned by God their Creator
The Biblical concept of Jesus’ death being a ransom which purchased humans from slavery or bondage can only in some ways be compared to the purchasing or ransoming of slaves from their human masters in ancient Israel, Rome and Greece. This is because God purchased humans who were in bondage not just to one but to many slave masters – sin, lawlessness, guilt, eternal punishment and Satan. In Titus 2:14, Paul says we were redeemed from lawlessness. Also, Satan became the master of sinful humans only in the sense He had “stolen” them from their original Master – God – by tempting them into running away from serving God into serving sin and lawlessness.
In one sense, all humans were still owned by God their Creator even after the human race fell into sin through Adam and Eve. The human race illegally ran away from love slavery to its original real Owner and Master – God – and was caught by Satan as his slaves. But note God’s original ownership of them still applied in the sense that He never sold them to any other master. Because He never sold them, they were runaway slaves who were still owned by Him but had illegally become the slaves of other masters.
Because God was still all fallen humans’ real Master and Owner, He had the right to punish them in whatever way He chose. Also, Satan himself is a runaway slave from his Master – God. So Satan could never legally in terms of God’s perfect justice, purchase the human race from God.
God, the perfectly good Master originally owned all humans as His exclusive possession. But the first humans chose illegally to leave His service for the alluring enticements of their wicked new master – sin. God allowed them to choose this course of action after He had previously warned them of its consequences (see Genesis 2:16-17).
By sinfully partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and this resulting in them becoming self-reliant, self-ruled beings, Adam and Eve also brought themselves under another master – Satan. Satan rules over all spiritual beings who choose to be ruled by self.
So when Adam and Eve became self-ruled, they automatically became slaves of this king of sin and disobedience to God. Ephesians 2:1-3 relates to this: “…were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
So these evil masters of sin, lawlessness and Satan usurped the ownership of humans who were not really theirs. So according to His own perfect justice, God did not have to pay Satan for obtaining His slaves back. It would be unjust for a rightful master to have to pay other masters for slaves who were his in the first place and whom he had never sold. These slaves had run away illegally.
God created Adam and Eve as His love-slaves and children. At first, they chose to remain in this state of love-slavery towards Him. God had revealed Himself as being their Lord or Master by His Name “the Lord God” (see Genesis 2:16 and 18-19).
Like all slaves, Adam, Eve and their descendants had no legal right to leave their master to go to another. Slaves can only leave their master if they are legally freed, are legally sold by their master to another or leave illegally. If they leave illegally, they are still legally the property of their original master.
In Ezekiel 18:4, God declares He still owns all humans, including those who are ruled by sin: “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine…” Therefore, it is little wonder the Scriptures do not say God sold or was willing to sell the human race to Satan, or that Satan paid any price to Him for them.
Even inferring God would be willing to sell the human race to Satan is to accuse God of terrible wickedness. Also, there was nothing in Satan’s possession that God would have accepted as a price for billions of humans whom God loves and treasures. Because God never sold the human race to Satan, He did not have to pay Satan anything to buy them back.
Every sin incurs a debt to God’s justice and holiness
To understand why the ransom of Jesus’ death was paid to God’s justice and holiness, we need to see that God’s holiness and justice are related to defining sin, declaring guilt and sentencing to punishments. God’s justice and holiness define what is right and wrong (see Isaiah 45:19, Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Deuteronomy 32:4). His holiness and justice pronounce that anyone who does wrong or sins is guilty. Wrong or sin are any specific instance of lack of perfect love towards God and other people. His justice and holiness condemn every person who sins, or does even one wrong, to the punishment of physical death and eternal spiritual death in Hell.
In Matthew 6:12 and Luke 7:41-50, Jesus calls sins “debts”. By this, He meant every sin incurs a debt to God’s justice. The debt of every sin is death (see Romans 6:23). This debt is the ransom price our perfect innocent substitute – Jesus Christ – had to pay to free us from bondage to sin, lawlessness, guilt, eternal punishment and Satan. By being freed from these first four masters, we are automatically freed from the last – Satan – without any ransom being paid to him.
Colossians 2:13-15 reveals that because Jesus’ death wiped away the requirements of God’s Law (in relation to sin, lawlessness, guilt and punishment), this disarmed the Satanic principalities and powers’ rule over believers: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the hand-writing of the requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Because unsaved humans are in bondage or slavery to sin, lawlessness, guilt and eternal punishment, they are also, in one sense, in bondage to the demands and sentences of God’s justice. In one sense, Jesus’ death can be viewed as a payment by God, inspired by His own perfectly loving, gracious and merciful character, to the demands and sentences of His own perfect justice and holiness.
Galatians 4:5-7 and 4:21-31 refer to humans being in bondage to the Law. The Law is one expression of the demands and sentences of God’s holiness and perfect justice. Galatians 4:4-5 speaks of God sending Jesus Christ to redeem or ransom humans who are in bondage to these demands and sentences of punishment found in His Law.
Exodus 21:29-32 proves that ransoms are paid to the person who has had an injustice done to them by another person.
Sin and not Satan is unbelievers’ primary master
If we say the ransom had to be paid to Satan, then we must also say the ransom had to be paid to sin. This is because Romans 6:6, 16, 17, 19 and 20 say we were slaves to sin as unbelievers. Sin was our first and primary master enslaving us. Satan was only able to become our master in a secondary sense because sin had become our master beforehand.
If sin had not become our slave-master first, Satan would have no claim over us. This is reflected in Jesus’ words in John 14:30 when He spoke of His own sinlessness and Satan’s resulting lack of any rule over him: “…for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the ransom of Jesus’ death was paid to sin – our first and primary master. But if we say the ransom was paid to Satan, we must also say even more emphatically it was offered to sin also.
The sacrifices were offered to God and not to Satan or sin
All the animal sacrifices on the altars of the Tabernacle and the Temple of the Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant were offered to God’s holiness and justice, not to Satan or sin. Hebrews 9:11-10:18 reveals these sacrifices were symbolic of Jesus’ later death. Ephesians 5:2 and Hebrews 9:14 show Jesus was offered as a sacrifice to God, not to Satan or sin. Ephesians 5:2 states: “…Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
The Biblical concept of offerings and sacrifices is different from the teaching of redemption and ransom. But they are also closely connected in a number of ways. This can be seen in the fact Exodus 30:12-15 refers to the ransom as an offering. Also these concepts are mingled together in Hebrews 9:9-15. 
The sacrifices of the burnt, sin, guilt and peace offerings occurred under the Mosaic Law as symbolic representations of the fact atonement was necessary for humans. Atonement had to be made because of fallen humans’ sin, guilt and the sentence of eternal condemnation declared against them by God in His perfect holiness and justice.
The Biblical concepts of redemption and ransom refer to buying humans who are slaves to sin, lawlessness, guilt, eternal condemnation and Satan. But remember, as shown previously, all such bondage is, in one sense, directly or indirectly linked to bondage to the demands and sentences of God’s perfect holiness and justice. Also note the close association between the concepts of atonement and ransom in the following points.
Two associated facts which show Jesus’ death was a ransom to God’s offended justice and holiness, and not to Satan or sin, are that the Hebrew word for “ransom” is derived from the Hebrew word for “make atonement” and the atonement money was paid to God and not to Satan. In Hebrew, the word for “make atonement” is “kapar”  and “ransom” is “koper”. “Kapar” or “make atonement” is used in verses such as Exodus 30:10 (twice), 30:15, 30:16 (twice) and Leviticus 1:4. It is also used 15 times in Leviticus Chapter 16 in relation to the annual Day of Atonement. Hebrews Chapters 9:1-10:10 reveal Jesus’ death was a fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, which symbolised the removal of the guilt of, penalty for and God’s anger against sin.
The Hebrew word “koper” is used in Exodus 30:12, Job 33:24, Psalm 49:7 and Isaiah 43:3 and means “the price of a life, ransom”.  In Exodus 30:11-16, God commands the payment of a ransom for the life of every Israelite male.  But note in these verses, God links the payment of the ransom price with making atonement for their sin.
Psalm 49:7-8 shows God does not teach that our sins can be atoned for by paying money. Instead, in Exodus 30:11-16, He symbolically indicates a ransom price has to be paid to His justice and holiness for our lives because of our sin. Exodus 30:16 calls this ransom “the atonement money” which made atonement for their lives. Note verses 12, 13, 14 and 15 say this ransom or atonement money was to be paid to the Lord. It was not paid to Satan or demons or to sin.
Psalm 49:7-8 says ransoms are paid to God
Psalm 49:7-8 shows no ordinary human can afford the ransom price that God would require for the life of another: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever.” Only the perfectly innocent and priceless Jesus Christ could be an adequate ransom to pay the price owing to God’s justice and holiness for the sins of the whole human race. Also, observe verse 7 above states the ransom price for the lives of others is paid to God.
Deuteronomy 7:8, 13:5, 15:15 and 24:18 record that God redeemed (purchased) or ransomed the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Exodus 12:1-13 and 12:21-23 reveal the ransom price for the Israelites being saved from having their first-born sons die, and being delivered from their Egyptian slavemasters, was the death of the passover lamb or young goat.
Exodus 12:12-13 says it was God who was going to pass over and not judge them because of the blood sacrifice: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement: I am the Lord. ‘Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” These verses do not say this ransom price was paid to the Israelites’ slave masters – the Egyptians and their Pharoah. Nor do these verses say the ransom was paid to God’s destroying angel. Exodus 12:21-23 are similar verses. 
The ransom of the blood of the passover lamb in Exodus Chapter 12 was paid to God’s holiness and justice to save the Israelites from the judgement they deserved from God because of their sin. This is similar to Jesus’ death. 1 Corinthians 5:7 calls Jesus our “Passover Lamb”. Jesus’ death was a ransom to God’s perfect holiness and justice and not to Satan or sin.
In 1 Corinthians 10:19-21, Paul emphasises that the only sacrifices offered to demons occur on pagan altars: “…But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.” Satan is the chief of demons. God’s altar was at Calvary. Jesus was offered on God’s altar as a ransom. God’s altar has never been used for sacrifices to Satan.
Was the ransom paid to no-one?
One author argues, “But we hesitate to speak of paying a ‘ransom’ to God the Father, because it was not he who held us in bondage but Satan and our own sins. Therefore at this point the idea of a ransom payment cannot be pressed in every detail. It is sufficient to note that a price was paid (the death of Christ) and the result was that we were ‘redeemed’ from bondage.”
It is true the concepts of ransom and redemption only provide a limited explanation of the death of Jesus Christ. But it is right to think of Jesus’ death as being a ransom paid by God, in His own perfect love, mercy and grace, to His own perfect holiness and justice.
The above quoted author has failed to understand we were also in bondage to guilt and eternal condemnation – two things resulting from God’s perfect holiness and justice – and that, as previously explained, our bondage to sin and Satan was in one sense linked to God’s holiness and justice. Also, we would not know what sin is except for how God defines it in relation to His perfectly holy and righteous nature.
The ransom of Christ's death was paid to the demands of God’s holiness. God’s holiness refers to His total separation from all wickedness, the absence of any evil in His nature and His own infinite purity. As seen earlier in Chapter “God’s Perfect Righteousness”, His holiness expresses itself partly in the establishment of right or just commands or standards for humans and angels and the punishment of those who disobey these. Romans 7:12 and 2 Peter 2:21 refer to God’s commands as being holy. Revelation 6:10 links God’s holiness to His punishment of sin.
Someone may argue that the Biblical concepts of ransom and redemption are based more on the foundation of God’s covenants than on His justice and holiness. Ransom and redemption are closely linked to God’s covenants. But note His covenants are basically expressions of His love, grace, mercy, justice, holiness and some other aspects of His character combined. His covenants are founded on these things and not vice-versa. God’s character is behind His covenants.
Bible Study Questions
1. Under the Mosaic Covenant, who were ransoms paid to – God or Satan?
2. What does Galatians 3:13 reveal we were purchased from by the ransom of Jesus’ death?
3. From which slave masters did God purchase us?
4. Did God originally sell humans as slaves to God?
5. Did the human race illegally run away from love slavery to God, their original real Owner and Master?
6. Why is Satan one of the masters of unbelievers even though God did not sell them to him?
7. When in Matthew 6:12 and Luke 7:41-50 Jesus said sins are “debts”, what did he mean?
8. What is the debt which humans owe because of their sin?
9. What does Colossians 2:13-15 reveal about what Jesus’ death achieved?
10. Was the ransom price of Jesus’ death paid to the master of sin?
11. What does the latter part of John 14:30 reveal?
12. Does Hebrews 9:14 and Ephesians 5:2 show Jesus was offered as a sacrifice to God or to Satan or to sin?
13. What does Psalm 49:7-8 teach about ransoms?
14. On pagan altars, are sacrifices offered to God or demons?
15. What is wrong with saying that the ransom of Jesus’ death was paid to no-one?
 Bauer, page 271.
 Hebrews 9:12-15 says: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
 Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 452.
 Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 497.
 Exodus 30:11-16 states: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying: When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves. And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”
 Exodus 12:21-23 states: “Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.’”