The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt1
(These articles are copied from Truth & Tidings.com, the following is a series of articles on the Person of Christ by David McAllister)
Every true Christian agrees that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ is a momentous event. It is the focal point of history; it is the supreme demonstration of the love of God; it is the means of our salvation; it is the message we bring to a lost world; it will be our theme eternally. It is all that, and much, much more.
Anyone attempting to write about it must be deeply conscious that he cannot even begin to do justice to it. None can plumb its unfathomable depths or scale the heights to which it should raise our hearts. Writings on it could fill huge volumes, as indeed they have done. That is not the purpose of these articles, and we must limit ourselves to a broad overview of basic, fundamental truths. Our earnest prayer is that readers who are already grounded in these things will be encouraged; that those young in the faith will be instructed; and that all our hearts will be stimulated to greater love and worship of the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us.
We will consider this precious subject under three headings this month, and in the months ahead:
The Cause of His Death
The Character of His Death
The Consequences of His Death.
As we ask the question, “Why did Christ die?” we need not detain ourselves with the empty notions of the proud theorists of this world, who, if they are openly hostile to the Lord Jesus, will proffer answers that are deeply offensive to godly souls. If, however, they claim to be sympathetic to Him, they will give explanations that, at best, paint Him as no more than a good man Who stood up for what He believed in, and died as a martyr, as have many others over the years.
We turn, with relief, from the idle speculations of men to the unerring Word of God, where we see the roles of different people in the death of the Lord Jesus, and we are given an insight into their reasons for delivering Him up to be crucified. We are told repeatedly of the desire of the leaders of the nation to put Him to death, and their motive is concisely stated in Matthew 27:18: “He (Pilate) knew that for envy they had delivered Him.” As well as that general motive, a more specific motive was indicated by the chief of that hypocritical bunch, Caiaphas, the high priest, who advocated that He be killed to preserve the nation from being destroyed by the Romans (John 11:46-53).
As well as the rulers, Judas Iscariot played his part in the delivering up of the Lord, and his reasons were, at least in part, financial: “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, ‘What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?’ And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver” (Matt 26:14,15). Many have suggested further, hidden motives, about which we cannot be sure.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, who passed the death sentence, also had his reasons for his part in the death of the Lord Jesus – a fear of civil disorder and his being put out of favor with Caesar: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it'” (Matt 27:24).
While these factors, (hatred, the desire for self-preservation, financial motives, and fear), are all true, they do not take us to the real reason for the death of the Lord Jesus. We must move from the seen world to the unseen world. We are told that Satan was working behind the scenes. We read, for example, that Judas began his treacherous activities consequent upon Satan entering into him (Luke 22:3-6), and the Lord pointedly told those arresting Him that “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).
Yet, to find the cause of the death of the Lord Jesus, we must go still further. While evil men, and their evil master, had their motives and methods, the true reason was not the machinations of people, but the counsels of God; and the source of the plan was not satanic, but divine. It was not simply a plot hatched out in earth’s history, but a plan that was determined before the foundation of the world. Peter’s summary at Pentecost cannot be surpassed: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
Why did God determine that His Son must die? Doubtless every reader knows the answer, yet let not our familiarity with it desensitize us to the gloriousness of it: “Once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb 9:26); “Christ died for our sins” (1Cor 15:3); “Christ died for the ungodly … while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6,8); “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1Peter 3:18).
It was because His death was the only means by which God – Who is holy and righteous, yet loving and gracious – could save lost sinners, destined to perish eternally. All other causes of His death are subsumed within that great overarching cause. He “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom 8:32). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That is the reason why Christ died.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt2
Having considered the cause of the death of the Lord Jesus, we began last month to look at the character of His death, and we saw that it was voluntary. This month, we will remind ourselves that it was:
A Violent Death
This fact is well known, even by people who never open a Bible. From Gethsemane to Golgotha, the Scriptures depict the cruelty shown to our blessed Lord and Savior.
We can ponder the physical violence against Him in the hours leading up to the cross. They came to take Him in the garden, threateningly, “with swords and staves” (Matt 26:47). In the high priest’s palace, they blindfolded Him (Luke 22:64), spat upon His face, and struck Him on the face with their hands (Matt 26:67). Pilate scourged Him (Matt 27:26). When He was condemned to be crucified, the soldiers did all manner of degrading deeds against Him (Matt 27:27-30). He bore His cross (John 19:17), and, finally, they crucified Him, with all that that entailed, both at that time and during the ensuing hours.
Then we can think of the verbal maltreatment that He received. He was insulted in Caiaphas’ house (Matt 26:68) and by Herod and his men (Luke 23:11). He was cruelly mocked by the soldiers when Pilate had sentenced Him (Matt 27:29, 31). Much verbal abuse was directed at Him when He was on the cross – by the soldiers (Luke 23:36-37), those passing by (Matt 27:39- 40), the religious leaders (Matt 27:41-43), and the thieves crucified with Him (Matt 27:44).
This would have been unspeakably cruel, even if those carrying it out had felt that the victim deserved it. However, the record of the Scriptures is that they did it knowing He was not guilty. At the initial hearing in the high priest’s house, false witnesses testified against Him (Matt 26:59-61). They falsely accused Him before Pilate (Luke 23:2, 5) and before Herod (Luke 23:10). Pilate sentenced Him to death, even while protesting His innocence several times (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22).
It was a great enough travesty of justice that this was done against One innocent of the crimes of which He was accused – that He was not only innocent, but totally sinless, makes the crime all the greater. Peter succinctly expresses it when writing of His sufferings at the hands of men: “Who did no sin” (1Peter 2:22).
Nor was He without the means to avoid this mistreatment. At His arrest, while willingly submitting to being taken, His words to those arresting Him, “I Am,” caused them to go backward, and fall to the ground (John 18:6), showing very clearly where the true power lay. When Peter tried to defend Him with the sword, the Lord told him that, at that very time He could pray to the Father, Who would give Him “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt 26:51-53). When Pilate boasted of his power to crucify or release Him, the Lord calmly replied, “Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:10-11). Yet He allowed men to do it all. The commentary, written years later by the one who had used the sword in the garden to try to defend Him, is beautiful: “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1Peter 2:23).
Why, in this article, have we taken the time to go over these things, which we know so well? There are at least four reasons.
First, many of us would admit that we do not appreciate as we should what the Lord went through in those hours. We need to remind ourselves of it. While we know that our salvation was not brought about by what men did to Him, we should remember that it was part of God’s plan to bring it about. And, as we call to mind what He was willing to undergo that we might be saved, our response should be greater thankfulness to Him, and greater love for Him.
Second, when we think of the cruelty that was meted out to Him, we are given a salutary lesson as to the true nature of “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). If we are ever tempted to think that the heart of man is not really all that wicked, or that this world is not all that hostile to God, His Son, and His people, then a read through what was done to the Lord Jesus, in any or all of the four gospels, will soon disabuse us of any such notion. The world that did that to Him has not changed in its character, and we are not part of it.
Third, while consideration of what men did to Him brings into sharp focus the attitude of men toward God and His Son, it also brings forcibly to us the attitude of God and His Son toward men – their great love for mankind. That God was willing to give His Son, to suffer such ill-treatment at the hands of those whom He had made, and that the Lord Jesus allowed them to do it, shows the great love of divine Persons towards us. Mrs. Gilbert put it well in her lovely hymn: “What was it, O our God, led Thee to give Thy Son …? … What led the Son of God to leave His throne on high …? … ‘Twas love, unbounded love to us…”.
Fourth, how He responded when He suffered at the hands of men is the supreme example for us to follow, in any suffering we may endure on account of godly living. To quote from 1 Peter 2 one last time: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (v21). It is of immense practical relevance to us today.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt3
We have seen that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was both voluntary and violent. This month, we will consider that it was:
A Vicarious Death
According to one dictionary, the word “vicarious” means “acting or done for another.” It is in this sense that we use the word to describe the death of the Lord Jesus. He did not undergo death for Himself, but for others.
This raises an obvious question. Who are those “others” for whom He died? Certainly, He died for believers. We do not need to go outside Paul’s writings to find ample testimony to this. As an individual, he writes of “the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Writing to believers collectively, he says that He “gave Himself for us” (Titus 2:14), and “gave Himself for our sins” (Gal 1:4). Of “the Church, which is His body,” composed of every true believer in the present age, he writes, “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph 5:25). Yes, undoubtedly He died for us, Christians, and it is a most precious truth.
He died for us, but His death was not for us alone. Many Scriptures show, to those prepared to accept that the Bible says what it means and means what it says, that He died for everyone. We cannot give all the references in an article of this length, so we will quote only a few.
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul writes that God “will have all men to be saved” (v4) and that “Christ Jesus … gave Himself a ransom for all” (vv5-6). That the “all” is not limited to believers is clear from the context – the phrase “all men” in verse 4 is repeated from verse 1, where it includes kings and others in authority, who generally are not saved people. Thus, Paul is showing that God desires the salvation of all, and that He has acted upon this desire by providing His Son to die for all.
John writes of Jesus Christ that “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:2). There could hardly be a clearer statement of the fact that Christ’s propitiatory work was for all. Some who disagree point out (rightly) that, in the phrase “the sins of the whole world,” the words “the sins of” are not in the original, but are supplied by the translators. However, propitiation in the Scriptures is always dealing with sins, and we can reasonably ask them this question: “If He is not the propitiation for their sins, then in what sense is He the propitiation for them?” There is no satisfactory answer to this question. Others use a different tack, saying that “the world” means not everyone in the world, but “the world of believers,” and that “ours” refers to the sins of a certain group of believers (some say it is the apostles, others that it is those from a Jewish background). However, all believers are in view in verse 1, and it is totally artificial to argue that John is switching to speak only of apostles or of Jewish Christians at the beginning of verse 2, and then reverting to speaking of all Christians at the end of that verse. The straightforward way to understand verse 2 is that “our” refers to all believers, and “the whole world” refers to everyone in the world, whether they are believers or not.
There are many references to the love of God for “the world” (e.g. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, John 3:16); to Christ as the Savior of “the world” (e.g., “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world,” 1John 4:14); and to His death being for “the world” (e.g., “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” John 1:29). Those who deny that Christ’s death was for all, counter with the assertion that, when “the world” is used in Scripture, it does not always mean “all the people in the world.” That is true, and we heartily agree that any term must always be interpreted according to its context. However, in the above quoted examples, and in many others, there is nothing in the context to suggest any limitation. The conclusion, unless one is seeking to deny it, is that God’s love extends to all, He has provided a Savior for all, and Christ’s death is for all.
In Hebrews 2:9, we read that He came to “taste death for every man.” In many translations the word translated “every man,” is here rendered “everyone.” Darby’s translation has “everything.” Even if this is the true sense, it does nothing to limit the provision. On the contrary, it shows that His death was not only for all people, but for the whole of the creation; a fact corroborated by other Scriptures.
Finally (not for lack of material, but because the word count is getting to the limit!) a couple of quotes from 2 Peter. Writing of people who most certainly are not believers, Peter says that they will deny “the Lord that bought them” (2:1). This shows that the price paid by the Lord Jesus extends to those who will not be saved, as well as those who will. Then we read: “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (3:9). That could only be true if the provision He has made is for all, which indeed it is.
If, then, Christ died for all, does that mean that everyone will be saved? And if not, why not? That will be our consideration next month, in His will.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt4
Last month we sought to show that the death of the Lord Jesus was for everyone. We closed with the following questions, to be considered this month: “If, then, Christ died for all, does that mean that everyone will be saved? And if not, why not?”
The Scriptures teach that not everyone will be saved, and the reason is that, in order to be saved, one must repent of one’s sins, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The testimony of the Word on this is so plentiful that we need only give a few sample quotes: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19); “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16); “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36); “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
These two facts – that Christ died for all, and that not all will be saved – are seen, by some, as a contradiction. “How,” they ask, “can anyone for whom Christ died be lost?” Some question the justice of such a situation: “Surely it is unjust for a sinner to be punished for sins for which Christ has already died,” they might say.
To some, the solution is to deny one or the other of the two facts. On one hand, there are those who reject the teaching that anyone will be lost, leading to “universalism,” whose adherents contradict the teachings in the Bible that show many will perish eternally. On the other hand, others, recognizing that the Bible does teach the reality of eternal punishment, deny that Christ died for all, and so they hold to “limited atonement,” teaching that Christ’s death was only for a particular group of people, and that they, and they alone, will be saved.
While these two doctrines are different, their proponents have certain things in common. Both deny what Scripture plainly teaches, and they go to great lengths trying to explain away Bible passages that are contrary to their theories. Also, they both stem from a wrong understanding of what the Lord Jesus actually did when He died on the cross.
The basic problem is the false notion that it can be viewed as a mathematical equation, as if there is a measurable total of suffering for sin, and that (looking at it from the “universalist” viewpoint) if Christ bore it all, then there is nothing left for the sinner to suffer. They conclude there is no reason for anyone to be punished eternally; or, that (from the “limited atonement” standpoint) since some sinners will suffer eternally, this must mean that Christ did not suffer for them.
Some view it as a financial transaction. Christ, on the cross, was paying the sinner’s debt, and so (it is argued), it would be unjust for the sinner to have to pay what Christ has already paid for him; or else there are some whose debt He did not pay.
However, Scripture never presents Christ’s work in this way. God did not take a pre-selected group of people, count up all their sins, measure the total amount of punishment due for that, and lay it upon His Son, Who continued to suffer until that cumulative total of sins (and these alone) had been fully atoned for. Even to say that God took the sins of the whole population of the world (past, present and future), counted them all up, and laid them all on His Son, does not do justice to the work of Calvary. Rather, the Son of God offered Himself as a sacrifice, to provide redemption, the price of which was His “precious blood” (1Peter 1:19), that which is beyond human valuation; a sacrifice of infinite worth. By His death, the whole issue of sin was dealt with, and Christ satisfied the Father, irrespective of how many people there would be in the world, or how many sins they would commit. The provision was of immeasurable worth, sufficient for all the people of the world, and all their sins, independent of numbers. What took place at Calvary did not involve a mathematical computation.
Nor was it like a financial transaction, whereby the Lord Jesus “paid the sinner’s debt.” Even in the parables about debtors (Matt 18:27; Luke 7:42) the debt was not paid by anyone; rather, the debtor, who had “nothing to pay,” was forgiven, freed from any obligation. And it is so as far as the work of the cross is concerned. It is not that the sinner’s debt there was paid, but that the work done there enables God to forgive the sinner.
We need to see Christ’s death as it really was, a judicial act, whereby He made propitiation for sins, fully satisfying God, declaring His righteousness, and enabling Him to be “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-26). It did not automatically give me forgiveness, or justification, or redemption, or any of the other blessings that I now have. What it did was to provide the basis on which God could give me these blessings. It removed the legal barrier that stood between God and sinners, and enabled Him, on righteous grounds, to come out in mercy and in grace to save them.
And what is the means by which individuals come into the benefit of the provision made at Calvary? It is by repentance and faith in Christ. Only at that point – the moment of conversion – is the work of Golgotha made good to the individual sinner. While Christ’s death is sufficient for everyone, it becomes efficient only to those who trust Him for salvation.
The Bible teaches both that Christ died for all, and that not all will be saved. There is no inconsistency. The fact that many will not be saved is not a result of any limitation in Christ’s work, but it is because they have not accepted the unlimited provision that has been made.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt5
We have seen that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was voluntary, violent, and vicarious. This month, we will consider the fact that it was
A Victorious Death
How we love that glorious hymn with the words, “Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er his foes!” We do indeed exult in the triumph of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet we must not forget that, not just in His resurrection, but in His death too, the Lord Jesus wrought a mighty conquest. His was a victorious death.
Ever since the day when the serpent entered Eden, earth has been the focal point of the ongoing war between God and His arch-enemy, Satan. Of course, it is a contest whose conclusion has never been in doubt, but that has not prevented the enemy from waging, down through the years of history, his futile onslaught against God, and all that is of God.
At that time, God not only indicated that there would be this long-running conflict, but the imagery He used, when denouncing the serpent, showed Who would be victorious: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his Heel” (Gen 3:15). The “seed of the woman,”undoubtedly Christ, would strike a mortal blow to Satan, but, in doing so, He would suffer at the hands of Satan. Here, right at the start of human history, there is an allusion to the victory of Calvary and its results.
During His ministry here on earth, the Lord Jesus healed people, and delivered many who were possessed by evil spirits, thus demonstrating His compassion toward those so oppressed. But there was undoubtedly a deeper reason: to demonstrate that He is stronger than Satan, and in anticipation of the victory that He would gain over Satan at the cross. When critics saw Him cast out demons, and blasphemously responded that He was doing so through the power of Satan, He, as part of His reply, said, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils” (Luke 11:21, 22). Satan had power in which people were held; but now One stronger had come, and was releasing people from it. This, glorious as it was, was but the picture of a much greater release from the power of Satan, which He would bring about through the work of the cross.
Just hours before going to Calvary, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” We are not left to guess as to the meaning, for the next verse says, “This He said, signifying what death He should die” (John 12:31-33). By being lifted up upon the cross He would inflict a huge and irreversible defeat on Satan.
There is no doubt that the events leading up to and at the cross constituted an onslaught on the part of Satan and his forces. The Lord told those who came to arrest Him, “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). And, praise God, there is no uncertainty as to the outcome. The words of Hebrews 2:14 and 15 make that clear: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Satan was not annihilated, but the Lord, in overcoming Satan, provided the means through which people could be delivered from Satan’s bondage. By Christ’s death, Satan’s power over countless numbers of people has been disannulled.
Not only has Satan himself been defeated, but all his forces have also been routed: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:13-15). It is evident that Paul is borrowing a figure from the battles, when a victorious general would take the weapons from his enemies, and parade his foes in a triumphal public procession, thus emphatically showing the fullness of his victory over them. Such was the completeness of the triumph wrought at Calvary. And while the language of verse 15 can be taken as referring to the resurrection and ascension, it is clear that the victory thus celebrated was won at “His cross.”
Well could the Savior, at the end of it all, say, “It is finished,” bow His head, and dismiss His spirit (John 19:30). Not for Him the gradual ebbing away of life; the inability even to whisper a word; the last gasp; and the drooping head. No! Here was the forceful declaration of triumph; the deliberate, active bowing of the head; and the voluntary and victorious dismissing of His spirit into the hands of His Father (Luke 23:46).
Satan is still very much in existence, and active (2Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2). Yet his ultimate defeat and sentence are sure (Rev 20:10). And the decisive battle, which guarantees that conclusion, took place at Golgotha’s center cross.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt6
A Verified Death
The Lord Jesus really did die, at the time, at the place, and in the manner that the Scriptures present. Some readers may be thinking, “Is that not obvious? Is there really any need to take a whole article to discuss it?” It is submitted that it is important to give it due consideration, because the fact of the Lord’s death is under attack. For one thing, there is a major world religion whose teaching is that He Himself did not die, that another person was made to look like Him, and was crucified instead. Then there are the sceptics, whose overriding goal is to discredit the Bible. They know that the death and resurrection of Christ are the center of its message, and they correctly reason that, if they can discredit the accounts of what took place over those three days, then they will have destroyed the credibility of the whole book, and hence Christianity in its entirety. Most efforts have centered on the resurrection, and trying to disprove that. Others, at least some of whom can see that the attempts to disprove the resurrection have failed miserably, try a different line of attack, and have sought to argue that He did not die; or, at least, they deny the Biblical account of when, where and how He died.
So, let us remind ourselves of the evidence for the reality of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no possibility that the person nailed to the center cross was anyone other than the Son of God. All four gospel writers not only give detailed accounts of the crucifixion, but each explicitly states, “They crucified Him” (Matt 27:35; Mark 15:25; Luke 23:33; John 19:18). At His grave, the angel described Him as “Jesus, which was crucified.” Peter, speaking to the people of Jerusalem, called Him “Jesus, whom ye have crucified” (Acts 2:36; 4:10). Years after, Paul wrote: “We preach Christ crucified” (1Cor 1:23) and also of those who “crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor 2:8). And in the final book of the Bible, we read of the city “where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8).
Moreover, the Scriptures are equally clear that He really did die. He did not merely become unconscious, and then “come round” after some time. We read: “Christ died” (Rom 5:6,8; 8:34; 14:9,15; 1Cor 8:11; 15:3); “He died (Rom 6:10; 2Cor 5:15); “Jesus died” (1Thes 4:14); and “our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us“ (1Thes 5:9-10). The gospels record unambiguously the actual point at which He died: “Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (Matt 27:50); “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost” (Mark 15:39); “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46); “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30).
John gives conclusive evidence in chapter 19 of his gospel. When the soldiers approached to break the legs of those crucified, thus hastening death, and avoiding their bodies remaining on the crosses on the Sabbath (v31), they found that “He was dead already” (v33). These men were not easily fooled – execution was their job, and they knew a dead man when they saw one. In addition, if they had allowed a crucified man to live, they would pay with their own lives. It was certainly in their own interest to ensure that He really was dead. And they did indeed make sure of this; one of them “with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (v34), a clear demonstration that death had indeed occurred. Can we depend on this testimony? We surely can. In the following verse (v35), John tells us so: “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.” The one who was writing (John the apostle) was actually there, and observed it all taking place. He was giving an accurate, first-hand, account of these events.
We read further helpful details in Mark chapter 15. When Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for the Lord’s body, Pilate was also surprised at how soon He had died: “Pilate marvelled if He were already dead” (v44), and he called the centurion, who verified that He really was dead (vv44-45). As with the soldiers, it was more than this man’s life was worth to make a mistake on this issue, and the fact that Pilate was querying the matter himself, and personally mandating him to confirm the death, would only have served to make him all the more careful.
While we can depend only on the Word of God, and not on the testimony of “secular historians,” it is interesting to note that there are both Jewish and Roman writers, who certainly had no sympathy towards the Lord Jesus, or to the message of the gospel, who make references to His death as an historic event. They do not raise any doubts as to the fact of it.
So, we know, on the solid basis of the infallible testimony of God’s holy Word, that the Lord Jesus Christ did die. Having looked at the Causes of His Death and the Character of His Death, we will go on next month, Lord Willing, to consider the Consequences of His Death.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt7
The Consequences of His Death(01)
In recent months, we have looked together at the Cause and the Character of our Lord’s death. We will now look at the Consequences of His death.
The consequences are, of course, many and exceedingly wide-ranging. Indeed, human history since, and the ages to come, are all affected by what took place at the cross. To attempt to list all the consequences, let alone discuss or describe them, would be a massive undertaking, and nothing that would be written could ever do justice to the results of the work of Calvary. Over the next few months, in the will of the Lord, we will do little more than mention, with minimal discussion, some consequences of the death of Christ.
This month, we will think a little about what His death meant to God the Father. We do not need to go very deep to see that it was well pleasing to Him. Paul wrote: “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph 5:2). Paul is doubtless linking His sacrifice to the “sweet savour” sacrifices of old. Such a description is given of the burnt offerings Noah made following the flood (Gen 8:20-21), and also of some of the offerings that became such an important part of the rituals associated with tabernacle worship (see especially the first few chapters of Leviticus). These offerings were well pleasing to God, not only because the offering of them indicated His people’s obedience to Him, but, more pertinently, because they pointed forward to the ultimate, final offering, that of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. We can be sure that, when such offerings were made down through the centuries of time, it gave God pleasure to look forward to the time when they would find their fulfilment in the death of His Son.
We also read: “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law” (Heb 10:8). That this statement includes the “sweet savour” offerings, and not only the sin offerings, is evident from the fact that burnt offerings are explicitly mentioned. Is the Bible contradicting itself by indicating that the offerings were acceptable to God, and then saying that He did not have pleasure in them? Of course not! They did bring pleasure to God as far as they went – they were typical and preparatory; but the point being made by the writer to the Hebrews is that those offerings did not have any inherent efficacy. Thus, in and of themselves, they could never bring full pleasure to the heart of God.
What could bring full pleasure to God’s heart? That is what the writer to the Hebrews is bringing before us: “A body hast Thou prepared Me” (10:5). God’s blessed Son came, saying, “I come to do Thy will, O God” (10:9). And He carried out that will by His death, as verse 10 shows: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Here, in this once-for-all sacrifice, and in it alone, was total pleasure brought to the heart of God.
The Lord Jesus said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17). This may appear, at first sight, to be a puzzling statement. Did not the Father already love the Son long before He came to earth to die? He surely did. The love between Divine Persons is eternal. Is the Lord saying that the Father loves Him only on account of His laying down His life? Certainly not! The Father has always had innumerable grounds for loving the Son, but it is true that His willingness to die, and to take up His life again, is one of the reasons for God’s love – and a weighty one at that.
We note that the Lord said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me” (present tense); not “Therefore shall my Father love Me” (future tense). He was stating something that was already true, while He was speaking. The Father was not waiting until the day of His Son’s death to bestow this love upon Him; this love was already His. When did the Lord Jesus begin to be willing to come and to die? There was no time when He began to be willing. He Who is eternal was ever devoted to the will of the Father, and always anticipating His coming to die. And, just as surely as this disposition had no beginning, there was no time when the Father started to love Him for this willingness – He always has. It is all bound up in His eternal love for His Son.
Everything that the Lord Jesus did while on earth was according to the will of His Father (John 6:38), and it was all well pleasing to Him (Matt 3:17; 17:5), yet it was continually before the Lord that it was all with a goal in view. Doing the Father’s will would take Him to the cross. This is particularly brought before us in John’s gospel: “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (4:34; see also 5:36; 17:4). We can scarcely even begin to comprehend what pleasure it must have given to the heart of the Father to hear Him finally declare, “It is finished” (19:30); pleasure that He could never have received from countless numbers of animal sacrifices, even though they had been instituted by Him, and were offered to him by many pious saints down through the centuries.
How fitting for Isaiah to write, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt 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” (53:10).
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt8
The Consequences of His Death(02)
As we saw last month, the death of the Lord Jesus brought great delight to the heart of God. There are many reasons for this, but we will consider one that is given great prominence in the epistle to the Romans, especially in chapter 3. It is in the death of Christ that God’s righteousness is declared.
That man is unrighteous is abundantly plain in the Scriptures, particularly in Romans: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (3:10). That God is righteous is also clearly stated; indeed, in the same chapter (v5) His righteousness is contrasted with man’s unrighteousness: “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say?” God is intrinsically righteous, even if mankind had never existed, but, juxtaposed against our unrighteousness, His righteousness stands out in glorious relief. While the context of the passage is His faithfulness, contrasted with man’s unfaithfulness, the wider reality is still unmistakeably seen. God is righteous, and we are not.
This is a very serious matter, for we read that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (1:18), and of “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (2:5). God must judge sinners, and He will certainly do it on a righteous basis, without respect of persons (2:11).
Yet, amidst this bleak picture, there is a sharp change. Having declared, categorically, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (3:23), Paul speaks, in the very next verse, of “being justified freely by His grace.” How can this be? How can a righteous God, Who “will by no means clear the guilty” (Exo 34:7), declare sinners righteous, without compromising His own righteousness?
The answer, of course, is in the death of Christ, or as Paul states, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation,” which is explicitly said to be “in His blood,” showing without doubt that it is through His death that this comes about (Rom 3:24-25).
The word here translated “propitiation” occurs only one other time in the New Testament – in Hebrews 9:5, where it is rendered “mercyseat,” referring to the covering of the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle. However, a word very closely related to it (the difference being that one is neuter and the other masculine) is also translated “propitiation” in 1 John: “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2), and “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10). The related verb is rendered “be merciful” in the prayer of the penitent tax collector: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
While a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this article, the above references give us a clear picture of what is meant when the Lord Jesus is called a “propitiation.” In His death, His sacrifice upon the cross, “in His blood,” as Paul states it, He fully satisfied Divine justice, allowing God to come out in mercy to sinners, and declare them righteous in His sight. This, as is stated in the verse in 1 John 2, quoted above, is for “the whole world,” yet not all benefit from it, for it is “through faith” (Rom 3:25). Justification is only experienced by “him which believeth in Jesus” (v26).
How glorious are Paul’s words in verse 26: “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” The words “righteousness,” “just” and “justifier” are all from the same root: “righteousness” is a noun, “just” (“righteous”) an adjective, and “justifier” verbal (a present participle – He is the One Who declares people righteous). We marvel at the greatness of the truth expressed here. On the grounds of the propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, God can declare sinners righteous, yet remain righteous Himself; and, far from compromising His righteousness, in declaring sinners righteous, His own righteousness is being demonstrated!
However, a difficulty could be raised. It is all very well for a sinner who, post-Calvary, hears the gospel, and “believeth in Jesus.” He receives the forgiveness of sins and is declared righteous before God. But what of those who lived and died before the death of Christ?
Paul answers that question. God has set Him forth, “to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (v25). There were many people, before Christ came, who exercised faith in God, and they were reckoned righteous before Him on that basis. Indeed, in the next chapter, Paul names two examples of this: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3), and, “David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works” (4:6). But was God righteous in doing so, although Christ had not yet died to provide the basis for such action? He certainly was, but the demonstration of it had not yet taken place. At that momentous day, when Christ died, it was abundantly manifest that God had indeed been righteous in the “forbearance” He had shown toward those whom we now call “Old Testament saints,” by justifying them in anticipation of what His Son would do at Calvary. His actions over all the ages that preceded the death of His Son were fully vindicated by that death.
We can only begin to enter into the joy that filled the heart of God, when His only well-beloved Son laid down His life, and, in so doing, demonstrated God’s righteousness in granting forgiveness to sinners, in the centuries that had gone before, and in the centuries that would follow. Well could Paul write concerning the gospel: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed” (1:17).
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt8
The Consequences of His Death(03)
Over the past couple of months, we have been looking at some consequences of the death of Christ as far as God is concerned. We acknowledge that we are only skimming the surface of this vast subject, and, while much more could be written, we will now consider some of the consequences of His death to those who have trusted Him for salvation. Here again, there is an abundance of material; indeed, all that we have flows from His death. We must confine ourselves to a brief treatment of some of the benefits we have received that are directly attributed, in Scripture, to His death. We will begin by thinking of blessings we came into at conversion, and will consider three – Redemption (this month), Righteousness, and Reconciliation in future months, Lord willing.
There are two main verbs translated “to redeem” in our New Testament. W. E. Vine explains:
Exagorazo – a strengthened form of agorazo, “to buy,” denotes “to buy out” (ex for ek), especially of purchasing a slave with a view to his freedom.
Lutroo – “to release on receipt of ransom” (akin to lutron, “a ransom”) … signifying “to release by paying a ransom price, to redeem.”
While both words are translated “to redeem,” exagorazo does not signify the actual “redemption,” but the price paid with a view to it. Lutroo signifies the actual “deliverance,” the setting at liberty (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words).
Thus, we observe that the two words are closely related in meaning, but, as far as our redemption is concerned, the first (exagorazo, and its related words) refers to the cause (Christ’s death), while the second (lutroo, and related words) refers to the effect (our being set free).
Redemption is one of the great blessings that we came into the moment we trusted Him: “In Whom we have redemption (apolutrosis) through His blood” (Eph 1:7). That the ransom price was the death of the Lord Jesus is clear from the statement that the redemption is “through His blood.” And so the writer to the Hebrews can state that “By His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption (lutrosis) for us” (Heb 9:12).
So, the price paid for our redemption was the blood of Christ. But from what were we released? The first verse quoted tells us: “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph 1:7). In this verse, and Colossians 1:14, the second phrase is explanatory of the first: the redemption consists of “the forgiveness of sins.” Vine states that the word “forgiveness” denotes “a dismissal, release,” and, speaking of the corresponding verb, says that it, “like its corresponding noun, firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offence; such remission is based upon the vicarious and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ.”
This glorious truth has many aspects, one of which is how He dealt with our condemnation by the Law. “Christ hath redeemed (exagorazo) us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ”(Gal 3:13-14). That it was Israel that was “under the law” is true, but the use of “for us” here (believers predominately of a Gentile background), and the explicit reference to “the Gentiles,” along with other passages, such as Romans 3:19 – “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” – shows that the Law demonstrates the guilt of the whole of humanity, not just of the Jew, and thus condemns everyone. In His death, the Lord Jesus fully dealt with that reality, and Paul graphically illustrates it in Colossians 2:14. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.”
Another aspect of our redemption is brought before us by Peter: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed (lutroo) with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Peter 1:18-19). Whether, in referring to the “vain conversation” (the empty, fruitless manner of living before salvation), Peter is speaking of the man-made traditions of the Jews, or of the idolatrous culture of the Gentiles, or both, the fact is that all of us have those things in our history, which we inherit, and which are, at best, worthless. We have been redeemed from them, not by earthly currency, but “with the precious blood of Christ.” We ought never to forget that from which we have been delivered. Paul writes of Him: “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal 1:4).
In an earlier article (on His victorious death) we also saw that, through His death, we have been delivered from the fear of death: “That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14,15).
Thus, there are many wondrous aspects to “the redemption (apolutrosis) that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). We have been set free from the guilt of sin, and its penalty; the curse of the law, our former manner of life, this present evil age, and the fear of death. But we have more, as we shall see next month, in His will.
The Person of Christ (08): His Unquestioned Death Pt9
The Consequences of His Death(04)
We have begun to look at some consequences of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for us His people, beginning with blessings we received the moment we trusted Him. Last month, we looked at redemption. This month, we will consider righteousness.
In Romans 5:9 we read that, “being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The phrase “by His blood,” makes it clear that it is His death that has brought about our “being justified.” But what does “being justified” mean?
Whether we think of a noun (such as “justification”), a verb (such as “justify”), or an adjective (such as “just”), each involves the thought of righteousness; indeed, to “be just” means to “be righteous.” For example, the adjective dikaios is translated “righteous” 41 times and “just” 33 times in the New Testament, in the KJV.
Thus, in 1 Peter 3:18 we read these words: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” In the phrase “the Just for the unjust” there are no definite articles, and it could be rendered “righteous for unrighteous.” That is He, the righteous One, suffered for us, the unrighteous ones.
That the purpose of this was to “bring us to God” is clear from the verse, as we will see next month, in His will. But this month, we will see that it was also so that we might have a righteous standing before God. That is what Paul is stating in the verse (Rom 5:9) already quoted at the start of this article. We, who are now believers, who were unrighteous in the sight of God, and who, even yet, have nothing of our own to give us a righteous standing before Him, have been declared righteous by God, on the ground of the death of His Son.
In the latter part of Romans chapter 5 (vv12-21), Paul explains this in glorious detail, comparing and contrasting Adam and Christ. Adam is referred to as “the figure of Him that was to come” (v14). The element of comparison is seen in the recurrence of the word “one” throughout the passage, both of Adam and Christ (vv12, 15-19), and in the repeated use of “as … so…” (vv12, 15, 18-19, 21). However, as we shall see, what is more striking than the similarity is the distinction between Adam and Christ. Adam is indeed a figure, or type, of Christ, but it is by way of contrast, more than by way of comparison.
Paul speaks of “one man” (v12), identified as “Adam” (v14); and of “one man” (v15), identified as “Jesus Christ” (v15). He also brings before his readers one significant action that each took. In verse 18, Adam’s is described as “one trespass” and Christ’s as “one act of righteousness” (both RV). Adam’s act was what he did at the Fall, in Eden, also described as “Adam’s transgression” (v14), and Paul writes of him as “one that sinned” (v16). Christ’s one act is His death, which Paul has referred to repeatedly in verses 6 to 11. Adam’s was an act of “disobedience” (v19), while Christ’s was one of “obedience” (v19).
Paul is not writing these things merely to draw a contrast between their actions. His purpose is to show the far-reaching effects of each action – seen in the use of the words “all” (vv12, 18) and “many” (vv15-16, 19). In each case, what one man did, on one occasion, had ramifications for countless people. Adam’s act of disobedience resulted in “judgment” (v16), whereas Christ’s act of obedience resulted in a “free gift” (vv15-16). The judgment ensuing from Adam’s act was “condemnation” (vv16, 18); the free gift flowing from Christ’s was “righteousness” (v17), or “justification” (v18). Stating it another way, Paul says that Adam’s one act of disobedience had the consequence that “many were made sinners” (v19), whereas that great act of obedience by Christ means that many shall be made righteous (v19).
Adam’s sin meant that “death reigned” (v14) down through history, even before the Law came in. But now something glorious has been brought in by the work of Christ. Just as “sin hath reigned unto death,” due to Adam, now “might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (v21). Not only do we see grace reigning, but those who come into the good of it shall “reign in life” (v17).
So, that immense problem that came in for mankind as a result of Adam’s unrighteous act has been answered in the great righteous act, “the death of His Son” (v10), when He “died for the ungodly” (v6); “died for us” (v8). It is not just that He solved the problem, as if there was merely an equivalence, and nothing more. No, five times in this chapter (vv9-10, 15, 17, 20), Paul uses the phrase “much more” to show that what He has done far surpasses anything that Adam has done. As Paul says in verse 20, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Those who trust Christ receive much more from His act of obedience than they lost by the disobedience of Adam.
How do they get it? For the answer to that we go right back to the first verse of the chapter: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is “by faith” that a person is declared righteous, on the basis of that one righteous act, done by the righteous One, when He died for us.
This verse also tells us that another consequence is that “we have peace with God.” That leads us on to another subject, reconciliation, which we will consider next month, Lord Willing.