1) From the human viewpoint, Jesus' death was just another miscarriage of justice, which often happens in human courts everywhere, and is not worth getting excited over. Why is it that "Christ crucified" has received so much attention? Could it be that we are over-doing and over-emphasizing it?
Answer: Not at all. It is not possible to overdo or overemphasize "Christ crucified".
There is only danger in failing to emphasize this subject, which is vital to every man's eternal destiny. It may be truly said that millions of souls will go to ruin because they failed to pay attention to Jesus Christ. All should marvel how, in order to save these perishing souls, the Creator of heaven and earth willingly stepped down from His throne in heaven and came to this dark world to suffer untold pain. Since God regards the salvation of mankind a matter of prime importance, we too should make it the supreme pursuit in our lives. "Christ crucified" will be the song and science of the saved through all eternity.
2) Yes! Now the Bible passages we have been reading, and the comments we've made, sound strange to many who have never heard the Gospel or read the Bible. There is need for further explanation in order to relieve all doubts. For instance, you have said that Christ suffered the second death for us. Will you please speak further on this topic?
Answer: Yes, this is a topic in need of further study. Please note that apart from the Bible, no other religion or philosophy knows of a second death. The Bible is God's inspired source of truth and prophecy of the second death.
The death of Jesus is directly related to the sin of our progenitor Adam. Romans 5:12 says, "Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Romans 5:15 says, "by the one man's offense many died, ..." This refers to Adam, who sinned and brought calamity to all mankind. Because the human race has been denied access to the tree of life, so all Adam's descendants are doomed to die. Thus the first death is the result of Adam's sin. We are all doomed, not because we are responsible for his sin, but because he has transmitted to us his frail mortal nature. We may compare it to a sea captain who rammed his ship on the rocks and caused all his passengers to suffer shipwreck. This is a case of mankind failing under the first probation, causing all later generations to return to dust.
Now if God simply left all to die, we may well blame Adam for causing our ruin. But we are glad to note that on the day Adam sinned, God announced the plan of salvation, giving man a second probation. The "Seed of the woman" Jesus Christ is like a second captain bringing a rescue ship, calling all who would be saved to get on board. The condition of this second probation is the same as the first: Obey and live; disobey and die. In this case, to obey means to accept the salvation Christ offers and follow Him in all things.
3) It is wonderful that God gives us a second probation, and Christ has come with a rescue boat. But why did He have to be crucified? Would it not do for God to announce that all who repent and sin no more may be forgiven? Was it necessary for Christ to suffer and die?
Answer: It was absolutely necessary for Christ to suffer and die. For the God of love is also a God of justice. On the one hand He wants to forgive the sinner, but on the other hand He must uphold the dignity of His law. If He forgives sinners unconditionally, that would be tantamount to abolishing the law. In other words, His forgiveness must be legal.
For example, the law demands the death of a murderer. If the judge loves the criminal, can he simply forgive him and set him free? No. But if his son is willing to die in the criminal's stead, then the judge can legally set him free.
So the death of Christ reveals the love of God on the one hand and upholds the dignity of the law on the other. At the same time the sinless life of Jesus proved that the law of God can be kept by the descendants of Adam. For Jesus was also a descendant of Adam, and overcame sin by employing the means available to all the children of Adam, which are: obedience to every word of God written in the Bible, and watching constantly unto prayer. Thus we see that Jesus' life and death are closely related to God's plan of redemption.
4) Please explain from Adam's angle how Christ's death made it possible for him to have another probation.
Answer: After Adam failed in his first probation, God did not let him die right away. For Christ the Seed of the woman offered to die for him, thus giving him a second probation. But as he came under the second probation, he had already experienced sin and its curse, and an initial defeat under Satan. His major disadvantage was that he had already yielded to temptation by believing Satan's lie, and had become a fallen sinner. His relation with God had turned from love to fear. See Gen. 3:10. Romans 8:7 says, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." Under such circumstances, if he wished to be restored to loving relationship with God, he must experience a conversion described in the words of Christ, "You must be born again." John 3:7.
Thus, as a man faces the second probation, the original image of God in his soul has been defaced, so if he wants to pass the second probation, he must be born again. Man's rebirth is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, causing people to look to Christ and be drawn by His love.
As the Holy Spirit leads one to see and hate his own ugliness, he confesses and repents of his sins, and becomes a new man. This is a substantial change of heart, preparing him to pass the second probation. The challenge God has to meet is to take a sinner who fears and hates Him, does not know Him and is not subject to His law, and make him into a saint who loves to obey Him because he knows Him. Such a person can pray, "I delight to do Your will, O God, and Your law is within my heart." Ps. 40:8. This process of change is called "being reconciled to God." Please read 2 Cor. 5:19-21.
5) "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." This is a very unusual way to put it, "we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."
Answer: Yes. People often mistake God to be an arbitrary despot, always ready to pick on our faults, so that we must offer a sacrifice or present gifts to appease His wrath. This is a great misconception. The Bible opens with the scene of a heavenly Father searching for a sinner, calling to Adam, saying, "Where are you?" Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son, who, "when he was still a great way off, the father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry." (Luke 15:20-24)
6) What relation does this bear to the first and second deaths?
Answer: It bears a direct relation to the first and second deaths. After Adam and Eve violated God's first command, they could no longer eat of the tree of life. For if there should be a never-dying sinner, the universe would be forever polluted by sin. Therefore Adam and his descendants must be born again and reconciled to God, and feed regularly on the word of God, thereby becoming "partakers of the divine nature" as stated in 2 Peter 1:4, to regain the right to exist. Jesus likens Bible study to eating His flesh and drinking His blood, saying, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:54.
John 5:29 calls this the "resurrection of life". Rev. 20:6 calls it the first resurrection, saying, "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power."
All who retain a nature that is carnally minded and at enmity with God, will rise in the resurrection of condemnation, and then die the second death. So we see that the two deaths are related to the two natures. After Adam and Eve sinned, they became at enmity with God and carnally minded. To save them, God implemented His plan of salvation to convert them into spiritually minded persons in love with God. Jesus once rebuked disciple Peter, saying, Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Matt. 16:23. This reveals that an initial new birth does not guarantee permanent results throughout one's lifetime. If a Christian does not watch, pray and strengthen his spiritual defenses, he still stands in danger of backsliding and stumbling like Peter.
7) Oh! Then can we say that the first death is the result of Adam's failure to pass the first probation, and the second death is the result of people failing to pass the second probation? Only those who pass the second probation will not suffer the second death. Am I right?
Answer: Yes. Note how God made provision for Adam and Eve and their descendants to pass the second probation. After Satan tempted them, God intervened to keep Satan from gaining full mastery. Adam and Eve had believed in Satan's lie and broken God's command, becoming at enmity with God, but God said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Gen. 3:15. These words forebode intense struggle. The serpent had used the woman to break through God's defenses, causing man to be at enmity with God. Now God plans to vanquish Satan through the Seed of the woman. "'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel', which is translated, 'God with us'" Matt. 1:23. Enjoying God's presence, we may be born again by the Holy Spirit, no longer becoming at enmity with God, but rather, be at enmity with Satan, thus overcoming sin and avoiding the second death.
8) People have asked, It may be good to let the righteous rise again to eternal life, but since the wicked are already dead, why should they be resurrected to die again?
Answer: John 5:29 says, "All who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth---those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." Lev. 24:17-20 says, "Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal. If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him--fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth." According to this just standard, there must be many dead people with unsettled accounts. For instance, the war criminals who perpetrated the massacre of Nanjing, must suffer for the death of 300,000 lives. God must resurrect the wicked to make them suffer for the suffering they caused to other souls.
9) There's another question related to this, that is, it is reasonable for Christ to die for one sinner. How can He die for all sinners?
Answer: Jesus is the "Son of Man" , and also God. John 1:1-3. 14 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Heb. 1:1-3 says, "God . . .has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power."
Heb. 2:9-14 says, "We see Jesus, . . 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. "
As God, Christ cannot die. Therefore he took human nature that He might taste death for everyone. And since He is the infinite Source of life, while the number of human beings is a finite number, therefore He could very well die for all sinners and still have an infinite remainder of life.
10) These texts bring out deep mysteries of truth, revealing that Christ is truly God and truly man, and as man He by dying destroyed the devil, and at the same time suffered the second death for everyone. You stated earlier that the life of Jesus set for us an example of obedience. But there is another question you must explain: Since Christ died the second death for everyone, He should not have risen from the dead. Since He rose again, may it be said that He did not die after all?
Answer: What we have just said about the infinite source of life in Jesus and the finite lives of men, serves to explain this question as well. Furthermore, the words, "suffering of death" and "taste death for everyone" treats the matter in terms of suffering. We should note the finite capacity of humans, as contrasted with Christ's infinite capacity for suffering. Let us examine the experience of Christ when He prayed in Gethsemane. Please read Matt. 26:36-39.
11) "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, 'Sit here while I go and pray over there.' And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, Stay here and watch with Me.' He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'"
Comment: This unique experience of Jesus calls for close attention. In the life of Jesus as recorded in the Bible, this is the only place where Christ says, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death." Luke 22:34 says, "Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." According to the history of medicine, the exuding of blood through the sweat glands is a rare symptom of extreme mental anguish. Considering the strong will power evinced by Jesus throughout His life, we conclude that He had a great capacity for suffering. The "cup" which He prayed to pass from Him doubtless embraced the trials of the crucifixion, but His sweating drops of blood and His need for strength from an angel, indicate that the weight of the sins of the whole world was already crushing out His life, as foretold in Isa. 53:12, "He bore the sin of many." And in the light of Christ's words when the mob closed in on Him: "This is your hour, and the power of darkness," we perceive that Christ had begun to drain the "cup" in Gethsemane. If the angel had not strengthened Him, He doubtless would have died in the garden under the burden of sin.
12) You have said that as the Lord of life, Christ has an infinite source of life, while the life of all humanity is a finite quantity. So when the Bible says that Christ tasted death for everyone, it means that during His struggle under the power of darkness, including the hours on the cross, the suffering endured by Christ exceeded the sum total of pain suffered by lost humanity in the second death. Am I right? Now please explain why Christ could rise again after He had tasted death for everyone.
Answer: When Christ tasted death for everyone, that "everyone" took in all humanity. It is a pity that many would not accept His grace, causing His blood to be shed in vain for them. Yet there are those who gladly receive Him. Isa. 53:11 says, "He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities."
As to why, after suffering the second death for all men, Jesus could rise from the dead, this can be answered with His infinite capacity for suffering. As the Son of God, Christ's suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary already exceeded the sum total of the sufferings of all men in the second death.
We have said that in forgiving sin, God must do it legally. Now we note that Jesus' resurrection must also be legal. After He had suffered for all the sins of men, He had more than paid their debts in full, and even an excess of suffering beyond the suffering of all men in the second death, so He could legally reclaim His life and rise from the dead.
Says Jesus, "My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes 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 command I have received from My Father." John 10:17,18.
13) There's another question people ask. The Bible says that we must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God, and in order to be born again, we must gaze on the cross of Christ. But there are many who have never heard the gospel, nor read the Bible. Would they all be lost?
Answer: That is a valid question. The answer is in the Bible. We will study it in our next talk. The truth we must keep in mind today is, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. We pray that all our friends will be moved by the love of God, and obey Christ now with all your hearts. Amen!