For as long as I can remember, I have always wondered how Jesus could suffer, bearing the sins of everyone in the world, and redeem us in just six hours. How could our redemption be so quick when Jesus took on the sins of the entire world? It’s not that I didn’t believe it. I just wanted to understand how that could work. Jesus took on the sins of everyone, past, present and future. That amounts to billions of people, maybe trillions—everyone that ever lived and will live.
The Lord answered that question for me when I had a paper to write for my Essential Christian Doctrine class. In the book, Pierced For Our Transgressions by Jeffery, Ovey and Sach, this very doctrine of penal substitution is explained in great depth. (By the way, I recommend reading it.)
The authors answer this question by explaining that, “Just as the heinousness of a sin is determined in part by the dignity of the person sinned against, so also the severity of a punishment is determined in part by the one punished.” In other words, since Christ is deity, his blood is of infinite worth. Jeffery, Ovey and Sach continue that,
“Christ alone ought to be estimated at a higher value than all men together. The dignity of an infinite person swallows up all the infinities of punishment due to us. Thus Christ’s suffering, though it lasted only a finite time was infinite in value because He is infinitely worthy.”
You see, Christ is infinite and when we sin against an infinite God, it requires infinite punishment. But our finite minds struggle to comprehend infinity. The infinite debt of one person is the same as the infinite debt of two or more people, because the debt is still infinity. The Bible tells us that Christ’s infinite payment is sufficient.
This is explained in 1 Peter 1:18-19 Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. Here Peter contrasts Christ’s infinite blood with perishable things like silver and gold, making the sacrifice sufficient.
Hebrews 10:14 tells us that, For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. The author of Hebrews is attesting to the eternal effects of a finite duration.
Even though the punishment we deserve is infinite and Christ’s suffering was finite, there is no question that it wasn’t enough.