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
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
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.
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
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:
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)
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?
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
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
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)?
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
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?
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).
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
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
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
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
Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages
(Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1940), pp.
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
“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).
“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.”