“Jesus Died the Death We Deserved”
Now, I need to be careful here. How this is phrased is very important. I am not denying that Jesus’ death (and resurrection) is what saves all who believe in Him. I am not denying that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for us and that He turns away the wrath of God. I am not denying anything that Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
But here’s the thing; Christians still die. Not only that, but they die terrible deaths, including crucifixion! Think about the apostle Peter (who according to church tradition was crucified and requested it be upside down so he wouldn’t look like the Lord). Jesus certainly didn’t take His place on the cross, since Peter himself took it! Did Jesus not die for him? Of course He did. It isn’t merely physical death that Jesus saves us from.
Now, Jesus certainly did not suffer any sort of eternal punishment – after all, He was resurrected and is now at the right hand of God, reigning as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now, most who would read this know I am an annihilationist/conditionalist (for more on that, check out my website http://3-ringbinder.weebly.com/ – I’ve written extensively about it). But in no sense did He suffer what the damned suffer. He wasn’t snuffed out of existence, nor is He in Hell being tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Now of course, it was for our sins that He suffered and died. He was perfect and righteous and did not deserve any suffering. As the scripture predicted “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (NIV, Isaiah 53:5). He died for our sins. However, He didn’t ostensibly suffer the punishment we would have suffered without Him.
Now, it is possible that one could say that, since He was in His nature God, an eternal being, that Him suffering a temporal death was philosophically the equivalent of eternal death. Of course, that doesn’t bode well for the traditional doctrine of eternal torment (unless one makes the claim that Jesus spent his time dead suffering in “Hell,” an idea that runs into all sorts of problems), nor is it necessarily the case. And even if it is the case, that idea isn’t apparent, especially to a skeptical unbeliever, when one says “Jesus died the Death We Deserved” (or alternatively, “Jesus died in our place”). If this is actually what is meant when someone says it (which I doubt is the case every time), it at the very least needs the explanation. Otherwise, it just sounds like we’re not even thinking about what we believe, since, with exception of those around on the last day, even the children of God do die – though only for a while.
(Originally published 09/06/2010:http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2010/09/more-common-christian-sayings-that-i.html. Immaterial changes have been made).