By the power of self-sacrificing love, Jesus conquered sin and death on our behalf. His resurrection is proof of that victory
The Death of Christ
In our pervious study we discovered that there are two categories of death. The first death is the common physical death all human beings die. When a person dies the first death, they rest in an unconscious sleep-like state. From the first death all human beings will be resurrected, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29). The righteous, having been restored to innocence and love by God’s saving grace, will enter into eternal fellowship with God. The wicked will stand before God accountable for their lives and will die the second death – not because God wants them to, but because what they have become through identification with evil places them fundamentally out of sync with God’s love and, therefore, renders them incapable of living for others. The second death is not merely the death of the body, but the destruction of the body and the soul (Psyche): Matthew 10:28). The second death involves complete moral accountability before God, in which each individual conscience will bear its own guilt.
With this background understanding of the difference between the first death and the second death, we are now prepared to explore the death of Jesus and be blown away by the astounding magnitude and beauty of His self-sacrificing love.
Carefully read Matthew 26:36-39, Isaiah chapter 53; and II Corinthians 5:21, Especially notice each usage of the word “soul” and discus the psychological aspect of the suffering Jesus endured. Also talk about the repeated reference to Jesus bearing, carrying and becoming identified with our sin. Answering these questions will help:
Before any physical torture was inflicted on His body, Jesus told His disciples that he was dying at the “soul” (psyche) level of His being. If not by physical causes, by what lethal force was he dying according to the above scriptures? __________________________________________________________________________________________________
Paul says Jesus “became sin for us” and Isaiah says “He was numbered with the transgressors.” Discuss what it must have been like for Jesus to feel in His own conscience as if He were guilty for our sins. What words come to mind to describe those emotion?__________________________________________________________________________________________________
Bearing the agonizing weight of our sin upon His conscience, Jesus cried out on the cross: “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Bring John 1:18 and John 10:30 into the picture which tells us that Jesus had always been in the closest possible oneness with the Father.
Through the Father was right there suffering with Him, Jesus could not feel His presence. Instead, He felt completely crushed by our guilt as if it were His own. Discuss what it must have been like for Jesus to enter into the total mental and emotional darkness of separation from the Father.
This brings us to the most astounding reality imaginable. Follow the logic of this next point carefully.
While Jesus had previously spoken confidently of His resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23), now, as He hung on the cross bearing he crushing weight of our sins upon His conscience, He was enshrouded in mental darkness and felt completely separated from the Father. Resurrection for Himself now faded from view. Psalm 88 is a messianic prophecy that describes just how keep and mental darkness was into which Jesus was plunged:
“For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave. I am counted with those who go down to the pit: I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and who are cut off from Your hand. You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah. . . . I am shut up, and I cannot get out . . . . Shall the dead arise and praise You? Selah. Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of the forgetfulness? (verses 3-12).
Wow! Jesus felt as though He was being “shut up” in a death from which He would not “get out,” as though he was dying a death from which thee would be no resurrection. For a sustained period of time the separation from His Father was so complete that He could not see life for Himself beyond the grave.
And yet – Don’t miss this – Jesus suffered all of this voluntarily. When Peter tried to defend Him with violence, Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). On another occasion He told the disciples, “No one takes it (My life) from Me, but I law it down of Myself” (John 10:18). He did not have to die, He chose to give His life for us. He was not trapped with no way out. At any point in the process of that monumental self-sacrifice He could have abandoned us to same Himself. But He would not let us go, simply and profoundly because he literally loves each of us more than His own existence. In the midst of that dark separation from His Father, He had to decide whether He valued our eternal life above His own, and He chose us. Jesus demonstrated that He was willing to die forever and never see the light of day again in order to save us. Such is the magnitude of God’s love for us. Paul called it “love that “passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). It soars beyond mere intellectual computation and must be received into the heart in order to be comprehended.
And Yet, while Jesus experienced the full, horrific reality of the second death on our behalf, He could not be held by it.
The Resurrection of Christ
Scripture declare of Jesus:
“God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24 NIV).
The question is, Why was it impossible for death to hold Him? To discover the answer, we need to understand that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between sin and death:
“The Wages of ________ is _____________” Romans 6:23.
“For to be carnally minded is _____________” Romans 8:6.
“Sin, when it is full-grown, __________ __________ __________” James 1:15.
Discuss Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Paul speaks of “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” in contrast to “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Sin is law, a cause and effect principle that destroys, not an arbitrary category of behaviors forbidden by a controlling God. Sin itself is intrinsically destructive because sin itself is intrinsically contrary to love, which means that sin is contrary to the fundamental operations of life as God designed it to function. As such, sin ultimately leads to death – the second death! – if allowed to run its course.
This is where Jesus enters the picture as our Savior. Paul explains that Jesus “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). He conquered sin by having nothing to do with it, by continuing in faithful love for us at any cost to Himself. Thus, He triumphed over death by rendering sin inoperable and powerless in His experience. He lived a sinless life and died a sinless death, uncorrupted by selfishness. Sin never owned Him because He never yielded to it. As our Substitute, Jesus suffered the full weight of our guilt while Himself remaining guiltless, thus neutralizing the power of sin and death. His resurrection is proof of that victory.
Read and discuss the following scriptures: Hebrews 2:9, 14-15; II Timothy 1:10; Revelation 1:18; revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2: 9, 14, 15.
But has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. II Timothy 1:10
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Revelation 1:18
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:11
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Revelation 20:6
What did Jesus “taste (experience) for everyone?” _________
What effect did the death of Jesus have on death itself? ___________________
Who now holds “the key of hell and of death” and what do “keys” imply? ______________________________________
By virtue of the victory of Jesus, how much “power” does “the second death” now have to “hurt” us? ___________________
Death is a defeated foe! Jesus is Victor, and it is our privilege to receive the incredible benefits of His conquest.
When Jesus died on the cross He demonstrated the astounding truth that god loves each of us more than His own existence, and by the power of that love He conquered sin and death on our behalf.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection and eternal life of all His followers is assured: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will wound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when the corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:51-54). Imagine what an incredible thing it will be when all who have ever died in God’s love are resurrected and clothed with immortality. Nothing this world has to offer can in any way compare to that great and glorious day!
In the light of God’s self-sacrificing love for me, I choose to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and I choose to live in connection with Him both now and forever.
To think that god values my life more than His own is absolutely amazing. In response to His great love for me, it is my desire to love Him in return. I want to experience what John describes in I John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.” It is clear from this text that accepting His love for me will generate love in my heart for him. Dear God, I ask You to sharpen my vision of Your love and empower me to love You in return.