The Death of Christ

John Jefferson Davis writes, “The death of Christ on the cross for sinners is an objective fact of history.”[1] Though the death of Christ is real, it is not an unexpected and unplanned event caused by the words and actions of Jesus alone. Instead, the physical torture and termination of the life of Christ is the divine unfolding of God’s will, predicated and predicted in scripture, necessary for salvation, and significant in meaning.

Predicted in Scripture

The death of Christ is predicted in Scripture through both imagery and prophecy, not excluding Jesus ‘own prediction of dying. God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son tested Abraham’s faith initially (Genesis 22:1-2). In dramatic fashion, God then provides a suitable “substitute” for Isaac, providing a ram caught in a thicket (Genesis 22:11-13). In addition, Exodus 12:3 recounts God’s command to Moses and Israel to sacrifice a lamb for every household (Exodus 12:3). This blood would then be a sign for God to “pass over” the people of Israel and no plague would befall those whose houses were painted with the blood of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:13). John the Baptist draws a parallel to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and the apostle Paul boldly declares, “Christ our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Old Testament prophecy also predicts the death of Jesus in numerous passages including Isaiah’s famous suffering servant depiction of he who was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Merely a few verses later we read of this same suffering servant who “poured out himself to death” (Isaiah 53:12). Daniel 9:25 refers to the “anointed one cut off” who will “put an end to sacrifice and offering” (Daniel 9:27). Jesus’ death on the cross abolishes the atoning sacrifices of the Old Testament (Hebrews 10:1-9). The gospel of Matthew gives an explicit description of Christ recounting his own suffering and death (Matthew 16:21), and Jesus explains how his body, the temple, will be destroyed and then raised again in three days by his own power (John 2:19-21).

Necessary for Salvation

The necessity of Christ’s death emerges from scripture’s elicit depiction of sin as an inexcusable transgression due a just penalty (Hebrews 2:2). As Paul writes, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23) and this consequential death is foretold even in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). In order for mankind to be saved from this penalty, God requires a propitiation or substitute. 1 John 4:10 declares, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but hat He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This substitute is further defined as acceptable through a violent death by blood. The requirement for blood exists because the “blood is the life” of the substitute (Deuteronomy 12:23). Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled prophecy that declared the necessity of a bloody, human sacrifice. Matthew wrote, “How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:54).

Significant in Meaning

The meaning of the death of Christ is significant because Christ experienced both a physical and spiritual death. It is the separation of the soul from the body that we see when Christ breathes his final breath saying, “It is finished” (John 19:30). However, the separation of the soul from God is displayed best when Jesus cries out saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). Significance of these two texts illustrates the fulfillment of Christ’s sacrifice “to be sin on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:21) separated from the Father, and receiving the full penalty of sin.

[1] Davis, Handbook of Basic Bible Texts, 85.

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