Easter is a time when sincere Christians meditate on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our discussions, many seem to consider that the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, ending with His dying on the cross, is what produced forgiveness for the sins of mankind. The whole consideration goes no further than His physical suffering on the cross. You may have imagined what it would have been like to be there, you may have watched the movie The Passion, emotionally stirred by the depictions of His brutal execution. But is there more to it than that? Does the Bible go beyond this?
The answer is: Yes.
To be very simple and direct, without splitting theological hairs, it is necessary to make a distinction between the process of dying and the actual presence of being in death.
Did the Son of God go into death, a state and place where the ultimate agony occurs, or did He just die on the cross, and then rest peacefully in the tomb until the resurrection?
According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, He was made to be sin for us.1 He became all of what our own sins caused us to be like, and took these sins to certain death. He took our place in death. He became what our sins made us into. The only result and consequence of sin is death — not dying, but death — the state and place of being after having died. Death is the only place to deal with sin. Dying is the transition; death is the destination.
How do we know this? Yahshua2 spoke to His disciples about this place in His parable about the rich man and Lazarus, and in His description, He spoke of a place where there was both consciousness and torment. There could even be comfort for some there.
In Luke 16:22 we see that both men died.3 If merely dying were the effective part in dealing with sin, then the story would have ended there. They both died, their sins were dealt with — end of story. But that was not the case.
Yahshua went on to say that something further happened. From verse 23 on, there is action and interaction. This is obviously not in the physical realm, since both their bodies were disposed of in whatever were the burial customs of the day. The rest of the story takes place in another realm — the spiritual realm — death. In that realm there are clearly emotions, consciousness, sensation, will, and intellect.
The rich man was in torment, and this is after him dying. Whatever he died of, and however he suffered in the process, it was not sufficient to deal with his sins. Now, in the place of death — the place of departed spirits — he began to experience what his choices against the promptings of his conscience had brought upon him. It was excruciating, agonizing torment.
Lazarus, the poor man, experienced something entirely different in death. The choices he made, in spite of his terrible circumstances in life, brought him to the place in death where he found comfort after dying.
Yahshua Became Sin
Yahshua became the sin of all of us, and having become the sin of the entire world, experienced no comfort in death. He even experienced what every murderer, liar, or filthy and unjust person would experience in death for eternity. His soul experienced total agony in that place of torment called death.4
What will all who love and practice lying, those who become cowards, unbelievers, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, and idolaters, experience after dying, going to the first death, and then judgment? There will be a horrendous second death.5 Yahshua experienced that as one of them. Having become those exact sins and more, He experienced to the fullest what all mankind deserves to experience, from the least to the greatest, from the best to the worst.
His physical suffering lasted around twelve hours, but His deepest agony in death lasted some seventy-two hours. No play, movie, or Easter story could ever adequately communicate the reality of that suffering. The spiritual is far greater than the physical.
To emphasize the physical torture and suffering only, without understanding what took place beyond that, is to miss the whole point and purpose of His death, burial, and resurrection. Many who grew up hearing the stories of His crucifixion are left with an indelible mark in their psyche concerning His physical suffering. In many there might be an unsettling desire to do something — to respond somehow. But what do you do? How do you respond? Where do you go from here?
When one understands that the sufferings of the Son of God went far beyond the physical, then it becomes clear that the spirit of man will never find peace, or forgiveness, until a fitting response is made… one that corresponds to the enormity of the sacrifice made by the Son of God.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Many take that verse to mean that the physical beating and the flow of His blood are what effected, or brought into reality, the forgiveness of sin. It says in Hebrews 7:22 that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. They take that to mean that the blood flow itself was what produced the forgiveness. It seems that most people view the sufferings of the Son of God from this perspective.
It is true that His physical sufferings were tremendous. Yet many people suffer unimaginable tortures in other parts of the world and die as a result. In His physical suffering, the Son of God didn’t experience worse pain than thousands of other victims of man’s inhumanity to man throughout history. So what makes the difference?
Without dying there is no death. Without death there is no dying.
Most of us can relate in some way to dying. You can see it; you can empathize with someone going through the process. Some have even experienced it to a certain degree, and lived to talk about it.
Death is the frightening reality — the unknown factor. You know it’s there, but you can’t see or experience it ahead of time. Everyone knows instinctively that it’s there, waiting for the dying to be over. Even though some have dared to deny its existence, it hasn’t served to erase the instinctive knowing that every man has.
You watch Him expire on the cross. The minutes, the hours, then days pass. What’s happening? Where is He? What was going on?
The stripes and blood alone didn’t deal with the sin of the whole world. Sin is a spiritual reality with physical manifestations. It must be dealt with spiritually.6
The brutal dying of the Son of God stopped His body from functioning, so that His soul — the very essence of Him — could go into the ultimate horrors of death to experience what every human being must otherwise experience in order to pay for their own sin. This is what Isaiah prophesied, that His soul, not merely His body, would be an offering for sin, experiencing anguish in death on our behalf:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)
The Apostle Peter emphasized repeatedly in Acts 2:24, 27, and 31 the distinction between Messiah’s body that was in the grave and His soul that was suffering agony in Hades, the realm of the dead, until He had paid the full wages of our sin. Everything humanity must suffer to pay for their sin, to the ultimate extreme, the Son of God suffered. His whole purpose for being born was to do this, so that we wouldn’t have to go through that horror.7 There was no resistance in Him, which is why He was able to pay for the infinite guilt of the sins of all mankind in a finite amount of time.8
After accomplishing His work in death, the Son of God went through another spiritual and physical phenomenon. His soul — the essence of Him — was re-united with His physical body. Then the breath of life was breathed into that body that He might live for all eternity. Because He was innocent, death could not hold Him.9 Sin was dealt with forever.10
So He’s alive and somewhere in heaven.11 How do we handle all that? What was He expecting? What is God expecting? What should we do?
If what we now know can penetrate our heart, it causes us to love the One who went through so much for our sake. That love comes from understanding that He sacrificed His whole life for us, and it causes us to want to do the same for Him.12
Those who understood and were pierced to their hearts, not just in their emotions, in Jerusalem, did what all true disciples do.13 Their response corresponded to the sacrifice of the Son of God —a life for a life.
Please contact us to know more about those who are daily giving the proper response to the sacrifice that was made for the sin of all mankind. You are warmly invited to visit us at any of our communities around the world…
- For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21 [ESV2001])
- Yahshua is the Hebrew name of the Son of God; see “What’s in a Name?” for more about this name.
- The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,(Luke 16:22 [ESV2001])
- God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.(Acts 2:24 [ESV2001]) God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.(Acts 2:24 [ESV2001]) For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.(Psalms 16:10 [ESV2001])
- And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,(Hebrews 9:27 [ESV2001]) But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation of John 21:8 [ESV2001])
- And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 [ESV2001]) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21 [ESV2001])
- For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10 [ESV2001]) Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour(John 12:27 [ESV2001])
- God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24 [ESV2001])
- On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld. Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe. Thomas answered him, My Lord and my God! Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31 [ESV2001]
- But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, (Hebrews 10:12 [ESV2001]
- In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. So when they had come together, they asked him, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. (Acts 1:1-11 [ESV2001])
- For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (II Corinthians 5:14-15 [ESV2001]
- So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33 [ESV2001]So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:41-45 [ESV2001]Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35 [ESV2001]