Vol.XVII No.X Pg.7
December 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

When Jesus died on the cross did he die a spiritual death, as well as a physical death? T.T.


Isaiah says: "He was wounded for our transgressions..." "bruised" received "chastisement... stripes" that were due us. He was "cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due." Clearly, his death was a substitutionary offering; the substance of that which had been foretyped and shadowed in animal sacrifice. "Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin..." "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied .... and he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:4-11).

"The soul that sinneth it shall die!" This is a principle established from the time of Adam; see Ex. 32:33, Ezek. 18:3,20. I sinned, I should die. But the Savior died in my stead, so that I might live; so that God can remain Just, though he justifies (or pronounces "free of guilt") those sinners who trust in Christ (Rom. 3:26).

Paul wrote, "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). I believe, with a great majority of commentators, that the thought is "he was made to be the sin offering" — i.e., he died as though he had sinned. Hebrews 10: says we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus — and the context clearly establishes this as his death on the cross, comparable to the animal sacrifice types. We are "justified by his blood" (Rom. 5:9), and all like passages point to the physical death of Christ.

Matthew and Mark record Christ as crying from the cross, "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me!" This is supposed to be proof positive that Christ died spiritually; but after that cry he drank vinegar, cried out again, and died. Luke 23:46 records his last words as "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"—- hardly the words of a lost soul. Of course it is difficult to arrange these many events chronologically. However, for those who seem so positive about his spiritual death, we might ask "When did he regain spiritual life; and did His physical death atone for His burden of sin (our sins which he took)??

The whole matter is filled with unknowns. It is confused by semantics — exactly what is meant by spiritual death? Dead in sin? And how can we be so positive that the antitype must have certain characteristics, when we do not clearly understand the original concept of sin-offering? Who hath known the mind of God, or who hath been His counselor? (Rom. 11:34)

I have heard some high-flung sermons on this — emotional, oratorical masterpieces. Some stressed the awfulness of sin, that could demand such a sacrifice; others wandered far a-field, with unfounded theological imagination. Perhaps this preacher is just not smart enough to see it all; but that seems reason enough to stick to what I can see in God's word.