The mistaken doctrinal focus at Eastertime of the sacrificial death of our Christ is on His death by crucifixion nailed to a raised wooden cross. But the focus should be on the death He died in our stead – the Second Death (death of the soul). The horror of such a death will not be known to us since He bore it in our place. He sweated as it were -drops of blood- not because He feared crucifixion – but because He knew the depths of darkness/desolation/evil to which He would descend and suffer.
Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of the Lamb ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his
righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Romans 3:25.” Oh my…where do I start to search the depths of sacrifice, of setting forth, of propitiation, of faith, of blood, of righteousness, of sins past, of forbearance of God? I begin by searching His incredible gift of going to Death in my place.
Amidst varied Christian doctrines and traditons…we agree that Christ suffered to redeem us from death to Life. But I contend that Christian tradition has focused narrowly on how He died with little mention of the agony He experienced during Death. I contend that Christian tradition has made the three-fold cord into a two-fold cord representing crucifixion and resurrection only. The three days of death are seldom considered. What happened to Christ while He was ‘in the heart of the earth’ for three days?(Matt 12:49).
As a child, I knew His sacrificial suffering was intensely more…deeper…than the insufficient words used to describe the events of crucifixion, entombment, and resurrection. But not until recent years did I understand through divine revelation …and that in small measure…the horrors suffered by both God and Christ as they accomplished redemption for those who will receive it. Crucifixion was the least of it!!
When the time came for the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Christ knew what He would experience during Death. God would assign the vile sin of man to the pure and righteous soul of the Son. Christ would die, not as the Son of God, but as wicked man. He would make His grave with the rich and wicked ( Isa 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.’).
In Gethsemane (Luke 22: 42-44), Christ’s spirit agonized extensively knowing the desolation, the vileness, the deadness, the evil His sacrificial fallen soul was going to experience for three days and nights in Death. Be clear! When I say ‘death’, I am speaking only what scripture has revealed. I am speaking of Jonah’s revelation, of Isaiah’s, and of Christ’s own Word about His sacrificial death in our stead. Death of the soul is unspeakable in its vileness. Death is the place of no Light – a place void of even the flicker of a candle – a place of blindness where there is not even the hope of life ever again since life requires Light. Death is a place void of Life …Eden’s opposite. Death separates the soul from Light and Life in God. Within its confines, death reeks of suicidal desolation and hopelessness. Even Legion preferred dwelling within swine over being sent back to the dry place of Death.
Knowing the depths of Death, Christ’s heart agonized before the Father. ‘ And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ Matt 26:39. The horror of it was such that Christ sweated so extensively that what little water was left in His body became mingled with blood. Weakness from dehydration was extensive but angels came and ministered to Him…sustained Him….loved Him. Christ points us to Jonah for a better understanding of Death, Burial, and Resurrection. .
God appointed Jonah to carry the gospel to Nineveh (wicked world). But first…God would teach Jonah about death, burial, and resurrection. He would teach Jonah of desolation, of being cast out of God’s sight, and of redemption. Aboard the ship of idol worshippers bound for Tarshish (Jonah chapter one), Jonah willing gave himself to death so the power of God would be manifested to the lost souls on board the ship. His sacrifice calmed the storm and the heathen acknowledged the God of Jonah. Drowned in the raging water a great fish..sent from God..swallowed Jonah. Physically dead, Jonah’s soul cries out to God about the horror of death…of being cast out of God’s sight…and of faith in the giver of Life.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me 4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. ‘
For Jonah, death was from drowning as he gave himself to save those on board; burial was entombment in the great fish prepared by God which carried him deepest parts of the physical earth; resurrected to the land of the living…to dry land. Now He understood desolation, bondage, and the power of God to redeem from death. . Jonah carried the God empowered message to Nineveh. They heard and repented!! Jonah’s journey to ‘the bottom of the mountains’ was only a type of the ‘center of the earth’ journey ordained for the soul of Christ….as His body lay uncorrupted in the tomb.
Christ spoke of Jonah, , ‘ Matt 12:39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” WOW! WOW!! Be clear! By Christ’s own mouth, Jonah’s death, burial, and resurrection is a type which points to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Jonah’s sacrificial death is a type of Christ’s death. Jonah died willingly by drowning. Christ died willingly by crucifixion. Jonah was entombed in a great fish. Christ was entombed in a large rock. Jonah’s soul was cast out of God’s sight and suffered saying ‘ I am cast out of thy sight.’ Christ affirmed a deeper horror by saying ‘My God…why hast thou forsaken me?’ God brought Jonah from the belly of hell’ to Life. Isaiah 53:9 affirms, And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.’ ‘Crucifixion (physical death) is the least of it! Death ( grave with the wicked and rich) is the horror of it. Resurrection (seated again at the right hand of the Father) is the finishing of it.
I insist that Christ would not have sweated ‘as it were drops of blood’ and required sustenance from ministering angels…if He anticipated merely a physical death. What agony could there be in knowing the earthly visit was nearing completion after which He would again be glorified….returned to the Father? And if nothing happened during the three days…if Christ lay dead within the tomb…why did Isaiah 53:9 say he ‘made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death?’ If He did make his grave with the wicked and the rich….Luke 16: 22-24 clearly describes the grave of the rich as hell. If Christ did not suffer a horror worthy of His agony in the Garden, why did Paul refer to David’s prophecy in Acts 2:27 …’Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption?’ …corruption meaning Christ’s physical body would not decay and return to dust. David’s words prophesied about Christ. Read Acts 2:25-37 which refers to David’s prophecy in Psalms 16:10. And Christ clearly told us to see the death, entombment, and resurrection of Jonah as a type of His own(Jonah 2:1). Subsequently, how can we know of the desolate, outcast, and hellish plight of Jonah and insist that Christ, the true Lamb of God, did not suffer horrors during the three days and nights in Death?
By the sustaining power of God, Christ endured as large iron spikes were driven between bones in his hands and feet since flesh would rip and not hold the body weight. The spikes would plug the wounds and prevent blood loss and death would come slowly….usually by dehydration since the large spikes plugged the wound to prevent blood loss and to extend suffering. To affirm the foreknowledge of God ..Christ died before the executioners came back to complete their task by breaking the bones of the condemned to carry out death. (Joh 19:36 ‘For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken). Too, Christ’s blood was not shed until after He ‘made his grave with the wicked and the rich’ and after He poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors..Isa 53:12. Christ was already physically dead and experiencing the agony of spiritual death when the executioners returned …pierced His side..and watched blood and water flow from the empty earthen vessel that had housed the Son of God. John 19:34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water..
The two large crossed beams and the method of execution (crucifixion) has been made the focus of Christ’s suffering. And we have not acknowledged the depths and agony of His sacrifice…giving His pure and perfect soul to the vileness of death… in our stead. We have not heard His loud and agonizing cry ‘ Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
Knowing I am bought with the price of Christ’s soul…woe is promised me if I ‘neglect so great a salvation.