"Emmanuel: God With Us"


28 Crucifixion

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Luke 23:33

The purpose and focus of the everlasting covenant of God is the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. God had prepared for these events before the creation of the world. After Adam and Eve sinned, the plan moved to the second stage of implementation, when God presented His covenant to the human family. In the third stage, Jesus’ lived a sinless life as a human being on earth, took the sins of humankind on Himself, and paid the penalty through His willing sacrifice on the cross. He is now completing the purpose of the covenant by His priestly intercession in the heavenly sanctuary.

The resurrection proved the victory of Jesus Christ in the great controversy between Him and Satan. This was a victory gained in many small steps and in many daily victories in Jesus’ confrontations with Satan. The victory over Satan in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the pledge to humanity of eternal life, and the pledge of the restoration of all that was lost in Eden.

There is deep pathos in Jesus’ gift to humanity. There is a challenge to human beings to have faith in Jesus and to consent to the work of grace in their life. This brings joy everlasting, praise to God, and a deep love for God forever and ever.


He Took Our Sins

It was in Gethsemane that Christ took the sins of the world upon Himself. It was there that He challenged the powers of darkness and chose to endure humiliation and torture. It was there that His disciples forsook Him, and that His Father apparently abandoned Him, turning His face away (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; Ps. 22:1). It was there that He looked into “an horror of great darkness,” as if He were looking into eternity without God and without life.

While making the final decision that He would do the will of the Father, He sweat “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44) and fell dying to the ground. The mighty angel, who stands where Satan stood in the presence of God, came to Jesus’ side. He did not come to take away the cup of sorrow, but to strengthen Jesus to drink it. Christ’s agony did not cease, but His depression lifted, and He came forth calm and serene. He had tasted the sufferings of “death for every man” (Heb. 2:9; cf. Gen. 15:12).1 Heavenly peace was now His throughout His several trials and crucifixion.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a ministry of the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. He continued His first apartment ministry when He ascended to heaven to be our High Priest. In 1844, the antitypical Day of Atonement and the cleansing of the sanctuary began.2 This was the beginning of Christ’s second apartment ministry. The completeness of the atonement made at the cross also included the application of His blood in the heavenly sanctuary.

The time will come when Christ will have finished His intercession in heaven, and there will be no more sins presented for forgiveness.3 This closes the period of probation.4 At that time, He will throw down His priestly censer, change into His kingly robes, and come to deliver His people.


A Willing Sacrifice

Some believed that the trial and crucifixion of Jesus represented the failure of Jesus’ ministry. Others have accused the Jews of being “Christ killers,” ignoring the fact that the early Christian church was a Jewish church.5 Jesus Himself gives His defense:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17, 18)

How do we know that Jesus willingly made the sacrifice on the cross? How do we know that this was the culmination of His mission, His victory over Satan, and the proven success of the purpose of God?

John declared Jesus to be the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; cf. John 1:29, 36). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in council, laid out the plan of salvation. It was an audacious plan, difficult even in the making. It became urgently more difficult when Adam and Eve sinned, and the plan, of necessity, was put into effect. In Gethsemane, it was a crisis when Jesus, as a human being, faced the powers of darkness alone.6

God knew that people would choose to do wrong. However, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit covenanted to support their creation and win it back again through God’s loving nature. Intelligent beings would not be forced to obey but would be persuaded by truth and love. God would show that He founded His government on mercy and justice.


When the Father Turned His Face Away

During the trial, Jesus was careful to not defend Himself. He suffered in silence the illegality of the night trials, the contradictions of the witnesses, and the high priest’s dependence on Jesus’ testimony to arrive at a verdict. In spite of the illegality, the Sanhedrin declared Him guilty--guilty of blasphemy. The Jewish leaders manipulated Pilate through his fears of losing his position. “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar” (John 19:12). The Jews falsely accused Jesus of sedition. It was only under this pressure that Pilate consented to His crucifixion.

The crucifixion took place about the third hour (9:00 a.m.). At the sixth hour, darkness fell over the land. At the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.), Jesus “cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46)?

Did God forsake Him? Does God ever abandon those who are His? Would God forsake a faithful believer at the time of death? No, He would not! Why then did Jesus say, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Remember the struggle Jesus faced in Gethsemane. In those dark hours, Jesus took the sins of the whole world upon His shoulders. He knew that sin is offensive to God. He felt the separation from God that the lost sinner will feel in the judgment. Would the sins of the world, taken vicariously by Jesus, separate Him from the Father?

The gross unfairness and the vicious abuse He suffered during the trial accentuated His burden. The surging, angry, abusive crowds at the crucifixion made His suffering worse. There were only glimmers of hope, only glimmers of the good in humanity: the thief on the cross, His mother Mary and His disciple John, grief-stricken, near the cross, the thoughtful soldier who offering Him something to drink. These gave Him a shred of courage. Still, He went to the cross as a human being. He could not see through His approaching death, and could not know but that His burial would be permanent.

He had only His faith and the memory of His Father’s words”-This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). God reassured Him with these words at His baptism and again at the transfiguration. He remembered the hours of prayer and fellowship with the Father. He remembered the throngs of people, not those who were now abusive, but those who so much needed and appreciated Him. This memory bolstered His faith.


Did Jesus Die the Second Death?

Some say that Jesus died for sinners the “second death,” mentioned in Revelation 2:11; 20:5, 14; 21:8. Every human being who dies, sleeps the sleep of death until Jesus comes again. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). It would not be sufficient for Jesus to simply “sleep.” When He died on the cross, He saved us from the second death, and only by dying the second death could the atonement be made. The problem is that Jesus’ resurrection on the third day was a resurrection that is not possible from the second death.

A great metaphor of Jesus’ experience occurred in God’s covenant ceremony, when “a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him” (Gen. 15:12). Nothing more is said to explain this phenomena, but in a “great darkness” Abram felt that which Christ would suffer during the crucifixion, when Jesus would look into an eternity without life and without God.

There is no explicit statement in the Bible that Jesus died the second death. However, the Bible does depict His beginning to feel the weight of sin in Gethsemane and His suffering the sting of rejection and the pain of abuse during His trials and crucifixion. Knowing that sin is offensive to the Father, Jesus felt the “horror of great darkness”; He bore that which no human being could ever bear, for He was to taste death for every human being (Heb. 2:9). There is no pain in death itself. Pain comes only in the approach to death.

In His humanity, Jesus could not see beyond the tomb. He shrank from the separation from the Father that His becoming sin for us would cause. In the horror of the cross, He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Then His faith revived. He remembered His Father’s words, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). These words had sustained Jesus in the forty days in the wilderness, and they strengthened Him again now. The “faith of Jesus” is to hold onto God’s promises when there seems no reason to hope. Just before Jesus bowed His head in death, He cried out to the Father, “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit.” His victory of faith on the cross is for each one of us.


What Was Finished?

When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30)

And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus; he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. (Luke 23:45-47; see also Matt. 27:54)

God is the Creator and the source and sustainer of all life. “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God is not contained within His creation; rather, He works through His creation on a continual basis. Without His sustaining power, life would cease. Thus, God could say, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

God delighted in the gifts He gave the human family. He loved His new creation. He would support His creation without using force or acting arbitrarily. Otherwise, He would violate the principles on which He bases His government. He had to show mercy and justice, and act with love and persuasion.

To refuse God, to rebel against Him, is to cut off the source of life. The Redeemer Himself paid the price and held in check this result of the sin of humanity. Only the Lawgiver can pay the cost of breaking the law and live beyond it. God conceived this plan before the foundation of the world. Jesus offered Himself, the Father offered His only begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit sustained Him on this earth.

Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, became a human being. He lived in every way as humans do. Yet, He lived a sinless life under severe provocation. This life He gave freely to pay for our sins. The trial and crucifixion of Jesus was much worse than what even Jesus expected. Yet, He did not flinch. He followed the will of the Father even unto death.

Satan failed to induce Jesus, even by a thought, to sin. Jesus’ sinless life He willingly offered for us as He “became sin for us” with its burden of disapproval from the Father. Because of His sinless life, He also came forth a victor on the third day. The reign of sin would now end. Jesus accomplished the work He came to do. He atoned for the sins of humankind and confirmed the covenant of redemption. His sacrifice on the cross confirmed the faith of sinners who, during Old Testament times, sacrificed animals for their sins (Heb. 9:15), and faith in Jesus’ shed blood has continued to provide grace to overcome sin in the succeeding centuries.

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection; and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus saw the earthquake, and those things that were done they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. (Matt. 27:50-54)

“It is finished,” Jesus declared. What was finished? He had made a complete atonement. The covenant was now confirmed and ratified. In His sacrifice on the cross, He took the penalty for our sin. The centuries of animal sacrifices were now made effective in the offering of the real sacrifice, Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:15). The sacrifices and rituals pointing forward to His death were fulfilled, and their significance had come to an end.

The sacrifices for sin and trespass describe the sinner as confessing his sin on the head of the sacrificial animal. The priest then took the blood into the sanctuary or placed it on the horns of the altar to “make an atonement for him “| and it shall be forgiven him” (Lev. 4:26; see also Lev. 4:31, 35; 5:5, 10, 16, 18). The action of the priest was a necessary part of the sacrifice, which involved the shedding of blood and the application of the blood. Jesus, our High Priest, is now applying His blood in the heavenly sanctuary to pardon the sins of His people. Another necessary step is described in Leviticus 16 where sins were removed from the sanctuary and the sanctuary was cleansed.


Endnotes

1. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1940), pp. 693, 694.

2. Some complain that the sanctuary in heaven does not need cleansing or purifying. However, Scripture declares that it does. “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Heb. 9:23, emphasis supplied). While it is true that this is describing the inauguration of the heavenly sanctuary at Jesus’ ascension, it sets up the expectation that the heavenly sanctuary should follow the pattern of the earthly one in a final cleansing.

3. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28, emphasis supplied).

4. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:11, 12).

5. For more on the influence of the Jerusalem church in the church of the east, see Benjamin George Wilkinson, PhD, Truth Triumphant (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1944; Ringgold, GA: TEACH Services, Inc., 2005) pp. 21-26, 34-44.

6. See chapter 26, “Gethsemane.”