Did God die on the cross?

Jesus is God. Jesus died on the cross. Did God die on the cross? At times pastors, theologians and the average Christian all say that God died on the cross. This statement is both entirely accurate and entirely inaccurate. In one sense it can be said that God died on the cross. In another, equally important sense, God did not die on the cross.

Understanding what happened on the cross requires an understanding of the Trinity and the hypostatic union. The Bible teaches that God is one God who is Three. God the Father is God. God the Son is God. God the Spirit is God. These three are distinct but not separate. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, became fully human without giving up any part of His deity. Jesus is fully God and fully man. When Jesus died on the cross the God-man died.

Saying God died on the cross becomes a kind of short hand for saying, Jesus, God the Son, died on the cross. When understood this way the statement “God died on the cross” is a helpful way to describe the magnitude of God’s sacrifice for our salvation.

In several important ways God did not die on the cross. Because God is a Trinity and because of the unique nature of the incarnation God the Son endured things that the Father and Spirit did not. God the Father did not hang on the cross. God the Spirit was not buried in a tomb. Only God the Son suffered these things. If the phrase means anything more than God the Son died on the cross it is inaccurate. God did not die on the cross.

If death is a cessation of existence, a loss of ability, or a conclusion of consciousness, then God did not die on the cross. Not only did God the Father and God the Spirit not cease to exist on the cross, neither did God the Son. The Divine portion of the second person of the Trinity did not stop functioning on the cross. No member of the Godhead can cease existing. God the Son is as eternal as the Father and the Spirit. His eternal essence did not dissolve on the cross. He remained fully God and His deity did not cease with the end of His physical life.

This does not mean that Jesus’ death on the cross was purely physical or a solely human act. Jesus died as the God-man. Thus His eternal nature was involved in the suffering and death on the cross. Jesus Christ the Son of God died on the cross. He truly suffered all that death entails, physically and spiritually. God the Son did not cease to exist, even for a brief time, but God the Son endured death for the salvation of men.

Where was Jesus between His death and His resurrection?

The dead body of Jesus was taken off the cross and laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. What happened to His soul? One of the more popular answers to this question is based on a cryptic statement in the book of 1 Peter.

1 Peter 3:18-20 says of Jesus, “Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” (1 Peter 3:18-20) These words have led many to conclude that Jesus’ spirit went into hell while His body was in the tomb. Unfortunately, what this verse is talking about is not at all clear. One author has said there are over 180 different interpretations of 1 Peter 3:19. A clear consensus about the meaning of the phrase “preached unto the spirits in prison” will probably never be reached on this earth.

The words of the Apostles Creed (not actually written by the apostles) imply that Jesus’ spirit went into hell.  “I believe in Jesus Christ  . . .  (He) was crucified, died and was buried, He descended to hell.” The apostles creed is believed to have been written 50 years after the death of the last apostle, but the earliest existing copies of this creed do not contain the phrase, “descended into hell”, leading many to conclude it was not originally in the apostles creed. Whether this phrase is original or not, it cannot be traced back to a direct teaching of the apostles.

A strong case can be made that Jesus went into heaven on the day of His crucifixion. At His death He said, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Knowing that Jesus is God’s beloved Son who pleased the Father in all things we can reasonably assume that at death He was taken directly into the presence of the Father. This is confirmed by Jesus’ promise to the believing thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Either Jesus was with the thief in heaven that very day or He erred in His promise. Since Jesus is God who cannot lie, the latter option is not possible. After His death Jesus went into heaven.  Being the Son of God His spirit was in no way restricted to heaven.

If Jesus did go into hell, though I don’t believe He did, He did not go for the purpose of paying for salvation. Jesus death on the cross did everything necessary to purchase our salvation. His work was finished and the payment fully paid before He died. This is why Jesus said, “It is finished”. Teaching that Jesus had to go to hell to finish the payment for sin diminishes the value of the cross and denies Jesus’ own words.

We don’t know exactly what Jesus’ spirit was doing in the days between His death and resurrection. What we do know is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification. He is alive now and forever to give salvation to those who turn to Him for forgiveness.

Why is the resurrection so important?

Christianity stands unique among all the religions of the world. Only Christianity claims that it’s God became human, died and then returned to life. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is one celebrated and remembered every Sunday of the year by Christian churches all across the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all human history. The resurrection of Jesus is the seminal moment in all Christianity. That event changed everything. The New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus died and then rose again. The resurrection is explained in all four gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus’ resurrection is expressly taught in many of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. The resurrection of Jesus is a crucial truth on which Biblical Christianity is built. Without the resurrection there is no Biblical Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the resurrection there is no eternal life. Without the resurrection, God is a liar, Jesus is a fraud and every gospel preacher is a charlatan.

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the gospel is a lie. “And if Christ be not dead, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian life is pointless and worthless. “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian has no hope of eternal life. “And if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)

The resurrection is important because it is the ultimate display of the power of God that is now at work in the believer. (“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” Ephesians 1:19-20)

The resurrection is important because it is the evidence that Jesus is God the Son and Savior just as He claimed and as the Bible declares. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-22)

The resurrection is important because it is the powerful declaration that Jesus is God. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:3-4)

The resurrection is important because if it is untrue, God’s Word is a lie. “We are false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:15)

The resurrection is the lynchpin on which all the gospel hangs, the certification that all the gospel promises are true and the certainty that God is true. Rejoice every Sunday in the remembrance of the risen Savior.

What would the world be like if Jesus was never born?

Imagining history without certain major figures can be an entertaining exercise. What would the world be like if Buddha, Ghandi, Socrates, Einstein or Newton had never lived? Would things be better off? Would someone else have come along to make similar contributions to history? These kinds of questions are ultimately impossible to answer, but attempting to answer them provides insight into the real significance of historical figures

A reasonable argument can be made that the accomplishments of great men and women likely would have been made by others. The philosophy of Buddha was not just the product of his own mind. Buddhism grew out of the philosophy of others and was added to by those who followed Buddha. His ideas are likely to have risen, maybe in a slightly different form, from the mind of another. The genius of Einstein was not limited to Einstein. His discoveries probably would have been made by others. However, Jesus stands alone in history as totally irreplaceable.

Jesus is not another great philosopher like Aristotle or another influential teacher like Ghandi. Jesus is the Son of God who became human. His contribution to history is more than being a great example of compassion or of founding a religion. In His thirty-three years of life Jesus changed the world. By His death on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for sin. All those who trust Jesus for salvation are forgiven, made new in Christ and given the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus was crucified and rose again, God began to make His name known to the world in a new way. For much of recorded history before Jesus’ birth God was working in the world through the nation of Israel. God called the world to come to Israel and see His glory. Because of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus God sends Christians out into the world to tell all mankind of Him.

Because Jesus died, rose again and returned to heaven He sent God the Spirit to reside in all believers. The Holy Spirit transformed the disciples from a group of terrified men into a bold force that proclaimed the gospel in the face of intense persecution. The gospel they preached spread across the world.

Jesus transformed Saul of Tarsus. Now known by his Greek name Paul of Tarsus traveled the Roman Empire preaching the gospel. The apostle Paul could have been replaced by many other men. Only Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and the promised Messiah, could transform and enable Paul to preach as he did. The history of the western world has been shaped by the gospel of Jesus.

Jesus is not done shaping history. As God He is actively working now to bring history to His intended conclusion. The final thousand years of history will take place after Jesus’ conquers the wicked nations of the world and establishes a worldwide, righteous empire. He will bring history to its God designed conclusion.

Jesus is not another great religious leader. Buddhism would have probably found its entrance into he world, but without Christ there is no Christianity. Other Christ’s rose in Judea before and after Jesus, but none were the true Messiah. They faded off the scene and have left little impact on history. Jesus is the true Messiah, the promised Savior and Son of God, who transforms history. The work Jesus did in bringing salvation to the world cannot be duplicated.

Was Jesus born on December 25?

December 25th. A day remembered throughout America by nearly everyone. Even those who deny the historicity of Jesus, question the worth of His life, reject Christianity or call the Christmas season the “winter holidays” recognize that December 25 is the traditional date of Jesus’ birth. Is that true? Does the Bible tell us when Jesus was born?

The Bible gives little specific information about the time of the birth of Jesus. Contrary to the popular Christmas carols, we don’t even know for certain if Jesus was born at night or in the middle of the day (though does seem more likely since the angels appeared to the shepherds at night). We don’t know the year in which Jesus was born, much less the month or day of His birth. The Bible does give a couple clues as to the time of His birth. Some have surmised that because the shepherds were in the fields fields at night when the angels appeared, Jesus probably wasn’t born in the cold winter months. We know from Luke 1 that Mary conceived sometime around the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Because John the Baptist’s father was a Levite and the Levites served in the temple according to a fixed rotation, a rotation that history has preserved for us, we can make other surmises about the date of Christ’s birth. Luke tells us that John the Baptist was conceived after his father’s time of service in the temple, which would probably have been sometime around the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Adding everything together, Jesus’ birth would have been about 15 months after John the Baptist conception. After some juggling of the calendars to correct for differences between our 365 day year and the calendar of the Jews, some have concluded Jesus was most likely born in May or June. Despite diligent research and careful calculation, every consideration still assumes a lot of details that the Bible just doesn’t provide. In the end, any fixing of a day, month or season of the year for Jesus’ birth is speculative. We just don’t know when Jesus was born.

The precise date of His birth is not at all significant. What is significant is that Jesus is the promised Savior who was born just as God had promised and did all that God determined for Him to do. Jesus’ birth is the entrance of Deity into humanity, the robing of God in the flesh of man so that God the Son would become mankind’s substitute and suffer the infinite penalty of sin instead of men. Jesus’ birth is not the climax of history. His birth is just the beginning of a long dark road that led inexorably to Calvary and redemption for men.

What does “Jesus” mean?

In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus we are given some insight into the man who would become his father. When Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy he decided to put her away because of her immorality. While Joseph was thinking about the situation the angel of the Lord came to him and explained that Mary was not unfaithful. She was pregnant through the power of God. The angel said to Joseph, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

What does the name Jesus have to do with saving people from sin? Someone without a Biblical background would not read the name of Jesus and think about salvation. The explanation of what seems to us to be a cryptic statement is found in the process of transliteration.

Transliteration is the bringing of a word from one language into another. Often a transliterated word is changed a little bit to be more easily pronounced or read in the second language. Taco Bell commercials do not use transliteration. They insert Spanish into the English text and dialog. News programs frequently utilize transliteration. Most reports about Islamic terrorists require transliteration of names and places. Arabic letters are unreadable to most Americans. The producers of news programs write the Arabic names in English and spell them with a close phonetic approximation to the original name. The end result is what we read is a little bit like how the word sounds in its original language However, with every transliteration there is usually a slight change of pronunciation. The word we city we call Moscow is pronounced Moskva in Russian

All of this applies to Jesus’ name because the familiar English word is a transliteration of a transliteration. In Hebrew the name the angel declared was Yeshua or Yehushua. That Hebrew name was transliterated into the Greek as Iesous. The Greek name was then transliterated into English as Jesus.

The angel announced to Joseph “thou shalt call His name Yeshua” and like most names today names in Biblical times had meanings. Most definitions of names were rarely thought of in day to day life (when was the last time you told someone the meaning of your name?). Jesus’ name carries significant meaning.

Yehushua means “Jehovah saves”. The angel told Joseph they would name the child “God saves” because the baby being carried by Mary was the one who would save His people. The baby in Mary’s womb was the Savior promised by God to bring deliverance to His people. The angels message to Joseph is just one of the many reminders of the great importance of the entrance of Jesus into this world.

How can I find out more about the people in the Bible?

The Bible leaves out a lot of personal details. Peter was married but did he have any kids? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Were any of the other apostles married? Did they have families? God’s Word is mostly silent on these things. How can we find out more about the lives of the people in the Bible?

The Bible is silent on many personal details because it’s purpose is not historical or biographical but theological. Any details provided are incidental to the truth being communicated. Biographical details always serve the purpose of teaching greater theological truths. God is not interested in satisfying our curiosity about the home life of the Biblical characters. He is communicating that which is necessary for people to come to salvation and for Christian’s to live lives pleasing to Him.

Unfortunately historical details about the people of the Bible are almost impossible to find. Some particulars can be found in the writings of the early church Fathers. Some of these men lived in the first hundred years after the apostles and a couple were personally acquainted with the apostles themselves.

Ancient church historians, like Eusebius, provide additional details about the lives of the apostles. The Works of Josephus provide a generally reliable historical perspective of events in Israel around the time of the beginning of the church. Some church traditions probably give truthful accounts of what happened to the apostles. The best resource is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which tells of the death of the apostles and other ancient Christians.

Care needs to be taken when looking for more information about the people in the Bible. The things passed down through history and tradition are not necessarily accurate. Because a book talks about the apostles or Biblical people does not mean the book is accurate. Hold loosely to any extra-Biblical facts about Biblical characters.

Be especially suspicious of the books known as the gnostic gospels. Some of them claim to be first hand accounts of the early life of Jesus but they are, at best, questionable sources of information. They were written several generations after Jesus and have the definite agenda of promoting the false teaching of gnosticism.

Be careful of modern “scholarly” books offering to give new information about Jesus or the disciples. Many modern books that talk about Bible history are written by people who have already decided the Bible is not true. The goal of many of these books is not to search out the truth, but to convince the reader of the author’s opinion. Whether they be written by popular fiction authors or by degreed professors, be careful to not confuse propaganda with truth.

In the end, we only have one source that is certain and accurate about Jesus and His followers. That source is the Bible. The biographical details of the people in the Bible are interesting but not vital to rightly understanding the truth of God’s word. Learn more of the history, traditions and culture of Bible times and people that you may better understand the great truths taught in Scriptures.

Why is Jesus called the only begotten Son of God?

This article is a follow up to the recent article regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses. A reader submitted a comment defending the Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christians. I did not approve the comment but want to respond to an objection raised in the comment. Before doing so I want to interject some comments about commenting on this blog.

I filter every comment. I will only approve comments which further legitimate discussion about the topic at hand. Comments which ignore the substance of the article, which raise questions already addressed in other posts or which regurgitate the long standing assertions with little regard to the Bible are going to be rejected. Comments which ask vaild questions or raise pertinent points that are profitable for discussion will be approved. This is not a debate blog. This is not a forum for everyone to spout their opinions- Mark Zuckerberg invented a place for that. This blog is an intentional teaching and evangelizing tool that answers questions about the Bible and Biblical Christianity. I am unapologetically the supreme dictator of the comment section and will only approve comments which in my sole discretion I consider as furthering worthwhile conversation.

I did not approve the comment about Jehovah’s Witnesses but do want to respond to one statement. The commenter said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . do not deny the words of God Who does not tell lies and declares Jesus to be His only begotten son.” If Jesus is eternally God and equal with the Father in essence, nature and power then why does the Bible call him the Son of God? Why is Jesus presented as begotten of God if He has always existed as God?

The title of Son of God is used of Jesus in reference to His incarnation. In other words, Jesus was the Son of God in His birth as a human by the working of God. Jesus is the begotten of God because the supernatural power of God worked through miraculous means for His birth. Mary gave birth to a baby boy by the working of God without the usual biological means of becoming pregnant. Jesus is the only begotten because He is the only One born of woman without a human father.

The gospel of Luke calls Adam the son of God. Jesus is far greater than Adam but this comparison is helpful in understanding why Jesus is called the Son of God. Adam was the son of God in the sense that he came into existence without parents because God created him. Similarly, Jesus became a man because of the direct working of God. Jesus was born fully human, while remaining fully Divine, because of the supernatural working of God in Mary’s body.

Jesus is not the Son of God because at some point in eternity past God the Father brought the Son into existence. Jesus is the Son of God becaus He came into the world, becoming human through the miraculous working of the Father and the Spirit.

“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

What is the Battle of Armageddon?

Despite the fascination Armageddon holds for many people it is only mentioned by this name once in the Bible, Revelation 16:16. “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” The book of Joel calls this same pace “the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14) because it is where God begins His final judgment on living humanity for their continual rebellion against Him.

The Battle of Armageddon is the great final battle between rebellious humanity and Jesus. The stage is set for the Battle of Armageddon by the rebellion of rulers in the antichrists empire who gather together in war against the him. The armies of the antchrist and the armies of the rebel kings end up Palestine. The Bible specifically says God orchestrated world events to draw all these forces together in the valley of Megiddo as the place where He would execute His judgment upon them. As these two great armies (probably the majority of the fighting forces in the world) face off, Jesus descends from Heaven to the Mt. of Olives. The armies of the world turn against Jesus, allying themselves together in their great hatred for Jesus. The armies of mankind meet the armies of God in battle at the valley of Megiddo.

The Battle of Armageddon does not appear to be a protracted war. It is the end a brief war between the antichrist and other nations of the world. The slaughter during the battle will be great but all one sided. The armies of rebellious mankind will be completely destroyed. Jesus will send a flesh eating plague on the armies attacking him. Those not killed by the plague will be confused by the Lord and will begin to fight and kill their own comrades. The antichrist and the false prophet will be captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire. The remaining enemy combatants will be killed by the word of Jesus ending the battle of Armageddon and establishing Jesus’ worldwide kingdom.

Though it comes at the end of a world war, the Battle of Armageddon is a not a great world war in which the armies of men gather together against one another and wreak havoc upon the earth. This battle of Armageddon is the final act of rebellion by men who have completely reject Jesus as God and Savior. The men in this battle will be given over to their rebellion against God and even the sight of Jesus returning to earth in His glory accompanied by a massive army of saints will not sway their hearts to believe.

Why do the gospels have different accounts of Jesus’ life?

Some skeptical about the truth of the Bible claim the four gospels are filled with contradictions. These apparent contradictions are offered as proof the Bible is unreliable. The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each present an account of the life of Jesus. If all four gospels are true accounts why do they offer differing versions of the same events in Jesus life. Examples of these differences can be found in the number of demoniacs healed in Gederah- Mark and Luke say there was 1 but Matthew says there were 2; the order of events at the crucifixion; the people Jesus stood before in His trial- John says Annas and Caiaphas, the other gospels just say Caiaphas. The gospels offer a wide selection of these kinds of differences. Why do the gospels at times present events in different ways?

To answer this question several things need to be remembered. The gospels are not biographies. This does not mean the gospels are fictional accounts, but the purpose of the writing of the gospels was not tell the life story of Jesus. The gospels are presentations of doctrinal truths about Jesus. The events contained in the gospels are not given for biographical but theological purposes. The gospel are not laid out in a precise chronological fashion. Though all four gospels move from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to His death, none of them attempt to present an exact timeline of the events in Jesus’ ministry. This is why the gospels present the events in different orders. The miracles, teachings and significant events are arranged in thematic fashion which seeks to drive home a particular doctrinal point without entirely disregarding the broad chronology of Jesus’ life.

The gospels are not histories. The authors are not interested in detailing a precise historical formulation of Jesus. Generally a historian would seek to arrange things in a very orderly and sequential fashion and to include as many details as possible. The gospel writers are presenting the message of salvation to their readers. Historical details are the means of communicating rich gospel truths. The records of Jesus’ travels from place to place are not a description of the way of life of first century Palestinians, but the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God who came to bring salvation. Critiquing the gospels for their failure to be biographies or histories is to misunderstand the goals of the authors.

All other considerations aside, the reality is none of the supposed contradictions are actually contradictory. Some portions of the gospel may require more effort to correlate together, but in all cases no account excludes the information contained in another account. They offer additional details to the record. When Mark says there was a demon possessed man living in the tombs, he does not exclude the existence of another. The purposes of the narrower account is served with the discussion of the deliverance of the one man. The details of the gospels simply do not contradict one another. The gospels are complementary accounts that present the wonderful truth that Jesus God made flesh, the promised Messiah, who died and was raised to life for the salvation of men.