Christ’s Death was Spiritual and Physical
Tod Kennedy, January, 2006
I. The Death of Christ
1. Read 1 Corinthians 11 passage to set the scene. This was delivered to Paul by the Lord. The church age communion ritual was based upon the Passover as Christ celebrated with his disciples before his arrest, trials, and death. It pictures Jesus Christ, who he is and what he did in order to be our Passover sacrificed for us as 1 Corinthians 5:7 tells us.
2. Who was Jesus Christ? He was God and Man.
a. He was the unique person—Undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever (Romans 1:3-4; John 1:14).
b. He was God (John 1; Colossians 1; Hebrews 1).
c. He was man (Luke 1:26-35, 44; John 1:14; John 20:26-28).
3. What kind of death did Jesus Christ die in order to redeem mankind from sin? Whatever death he died would have to substitute for the death mankind all experienced when Adam and Eve sinned. They died spiritually first and then later they experience physical death.
4. Adam and Eve and then all mankind experienced spiritual death or separation from God due to sin (Genesis 2.16-17; Genesis 3.7-8; Ephesians 2.1, 5; Colossians 2.13; John 3.3). Adam and Eve’s spiritual death was demonstrated in the garden when they fell: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3.7). They were very much alive physically.
a. Jesus recognized both spiritual and physical death in Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60. Lazarus died physically (John 11:11-14).
b. Paul, In Ephesians 1:20-23, wrote to believers in Asia and said that they were spiritually dead before they became Christians by faith in Christ: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Paul was well acquainted with physical death and had much to say about it in such passages as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 1 Corinthians 15:6, and Philippians 1:20-23.
c. Furthermore, Paul knew that physical death resulted from spiritual death. In order for Christ to substitute as our sin bearer, he had to die spiritually and then die physically.
d. Jesus himself died spiritually and then physically when he was crucified for our sins (John 19:30).
5. Jesus died a spiritual death when he was judged in our place for our sins.
a. The Bible says that God the Father judged his Son, Jesus the Christ, while his Son was on the cross. Christ was on the cross for six hours. The last three hours were the bad ones—he took the judgment for mankind's sins; at the end of that period of time he voluntarily died physically. Jesus was crucified at 9:00 AM (Mark 15.25). The land was darkened from noon until 3:00 PM (Matthew 27.45; Mark 15.33; Luke 23.44). Matthew wrote, “Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.” (Matthew 27.45).
b. Why the darkness for the second three hours on the cross? The judgment was so catastrophic that the Father broke fellowship with the Son while he was bearing our sins and the sun was darkened during this time to indicate the terrible judgment and separation. Jesus voiced this terrible separation from God the Father when he cried out to him while in darkness and on the cross: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27.46. Also Mark 15.34).
c. To what did Jesus, still physically alive, refer when he said “It is finished!” in John 19:30? He meant that God the Father had finished judging him for the sins of the world.
6. Jesus also died a physical death at the conclusion of his crucifixion.
a. At the end of this terrible judgment, Jesus voluntarily gave up his life in physical death: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50. Also Luke 23.46). John was very precise when he recorded Jesus’ physical death: “When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30. Also Matthew 27.50 and Luke 23.46). He suffered physical death which led to physical resurrection. He would be the “first fruits of them who slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), and the returning head of the church (1 Corinthians 11:26) and King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16)
b. Note, also, that the soldiers offered Jesus a sedating drink at the beginning of his ordeal on the cross. He refused it (Matthew 27.34; Mark 15.23; Luke 23.36). Why? Because Jesus wanted to be in full control of his mind and senses; he had a world changing job to do: he had to be judged for sin.
c. At the end of the ordeal he requested a drink and was given one (Matthew 27.48; Mark 15.36; John 19.28-30). Why did he take a drink at this time? Because he had completed the agonizing work.
d. Christ’s physical death was the judgment that came because he was truly human. It demonstrated the completeness of his work as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and prepared him for his physical resurrection and future rule as the resurrected God and Man.
7. In summary, we again ask the question: what kind of death did he die?
a. The Bible indicates that Jesus went through two stages or two kinds of death. The first was the three hours of darkness and separation from the Father while he was being judged for our sins: it was dark during the day; he was alone; he was under the agonizing pain of our sins and the physical crucifixion. This separation from fellowship with the Father due to judgment for sin was a spiritual suffering or a spiritual death. The second stage or kind of death was a separation from his physical body or physical death.
b. Which does the Bible emphasize as the most important and terrible part? The Bible emphasizes both. But, though the physical torture on the cross was excruciating, the three hours on the cross during which he substituted for our sins were the reality pictured by the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
c. The second stage or kind of death, physical death, was the judgment that came because he was truly human. It demonstrated the completeness of his work as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and prepared him for his physical resurrection and future rule as the resurrected God and Man.
II. The Bread and the Cup
1. The “bread” and the “cup” represent Jesus the Christ and his death for mankind’s sins. The bread in the communion ritual represents Christ’s physical body or the humanness of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:24).
a. Hebrews 10:1-10 relates the need for the true humanity—physical body, human soul, and human spirit. Jesus had to become true humanity in order to bear our sins. As the animal only temporarily stood as the sacrifice, Christ came as true humanity to permanently substitute for our sins.
b. In order to be the mediator between God and man he had to be God and also true humanity without a sinful nature and without imputed sin and without personal sin (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 2:24).
2. The cup, and what is in the cup, represents Christ’s death for our sins. Blood in the Bible often stands for violent death and for then is used for the sacrificial death of Christ (Matthew 23:35; 26:28; 27:25; Luke 11:50; John 6:54; Acts 22:20; Romans 3:15; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19).
a. The blood of the cup represents the death of Christ for mankind’s sins. The spiritual death of Christ was the judgment for our sins. Physical death was the judgment that came because he was truly human. Jesus spoke John 19:30, “It is finished!” before he deliberately died physically.
III. Application or So What?
1. The application for us in the communion service:
a. Jesus became true humanity for us. He was like us in every way, yet without sin. Read Philippians 2:6-11, Hebrews 2:14-18, and 4:15-16.
b. When he died on the cross, it was not just another terrible crucifixion. He was voluntarily substituting himself for us and taking our judgment upon himself (Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 8:9; 1 Peter 2:24).
c. This should impress upon us the reality of our sin and then the reality of God’s love for us (John 3:16; 1 John 3:1-3)
d. Thankfulness, reverence, service, obedience to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ought to be the application of each one of us every day (2 Corinthians 9:15; Romans 6:17; 7:25).