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explorer’s journal


The journal is the essential companion—containing short readings and the module outline—to help you get the most out of Long Story Short. Download it here!

 

Explorer's Journal—Death

 

questions

Welcome to the FAQ for module 9—death. The following questions include video and/or written answers and are also included in the guide for your leader. You may like to raise these questions during your group time, and we also place them here for you to explore and re-explore at your leisure.

Q 1. Why is Jesus’ death so important?

Short answer:
Because the death of Jesus is the very centrepiece of the Christian faith.

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Discussion:
Jesus’ death is the centrepiece of the story of the Bible. Everything moves towards it and proceeds from it. If we don’t understand what the Bible communicates to us about the death of Jesus, then we haven’t understood the Bible or Christianity at all! It’s that central!

An early Christian author put it this way when writing to other Christians: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).

In short, then, the message about Jesus’ death is “of first importance”!

 

Q 2. Why did God plan Jesus’ death before the world began?

Short answer:
God’s plan of Jesus’ death before the world began shows two things:

1. Jesus’ death was no accident; it was central to God’s eternal plan. It was not an afterthought (as if it were God’s ‘fix-up-quick’ idea).

2. God loves us so much, he planned the way to save us from sin before we even sinned (see Q 3 below).

 

Q 3. Does God really love sinful people?

Short answer:
Yes—and not reluctantly or hesitatingly! God is an enthusiastic, generous lover of sinners! We can see God’s love for sinners because before we had ever sinned (before we had even thought of sinning!), God knew we would sin and loved us so much he planned our rescue before he ever created the world!

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Discussion:
God’s love for sinners is demonstrated so powerfully by the death of Jesus. John 3:16 makes this wonderfully crisp and clear: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” And God’s giving his Son for us was not in a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ way—he deliberately calculated the gift of his Son before the world began. This is quite difficult to imagine—God knew we would be sinners, yet he decided to relentlessly love us and pursue before we had even been born! It was while we were in the depths of our sinfulness that “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There can be no doubt that God’s love for sinners is real. The reason God loves everyone is because everyone is made in the image of God.

 

Q 4. How could a loving God plan to punish his innocent Son with crucifixion?

 

Short answer:
The question assumes that the Bible’s story involves three separate entities: a Holy God, a world of rebellious sinners and an innocent Jesus. The answer to the question is found in the mystery of the Trinity.

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Discussion:
It’s an important question. Sometimes, because of the way the Christian story is told sometimes, people could easily get the idea that God the Father is a bit like a ‘heavenly bully’ who exploited his Son Jesus (the innocent bystander), forcing him into an agonising, torturous execution for the crimes of a no-good, rebellious world to enable the Father to achieve his secret agenda. But this seriously misrepresents the biblical story in three ways:

1. It is not a drama of three separate entities—only two are involved: God and sinful humans. The Father is God and Jesus is God—two persons but one entity. God is not grabbing a ‘third party’ outside himself to suffer the penalty. In fact, God is actually inflicting the penalty on himself! 2 Corinthians 5:19 says: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…”

2. God did not exploit Jesus—“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). This means God is perfect and sinless and he is incapable of exploiting but, apart from that, Jesus himself never indicates he was exploited.

3. Jesus was not a disinterested bystander—Jesus was (and had always been) a wholehearted and willing participant in the crucifixion (Hebrews 10:5–9). Jesus ‘joyfully’ fulfilled his Father’s plans (see John 15:10–11) and laid down his life voluntarily, not under any sense of pressure (John 10:17–18). Jesus himself says in John 10:17–18, “I lay down my life in order to take it back again. No one is taking it from me; I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again” (ISV). As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus not only perfectly understood the plan of salvation—he was perfectly committed to it.

 

Q 5. What was the ransom price that Jesus paid?

 

Short answer:
The Bible talks about three kinds of death that come as a result of sin: spiritual, physical and eternal death. Jesus suffered all three kinds of death on the cross when he paid the ransom price for sin.

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Discussion:

1. The penalty for sin includes spiritual, physical and eternal death.

a. Spiritual death. When Adam and Eve sinned they experienced ‘spiritual separation’ from God—that’s why they were afraid of God (Genesis 3:10) and why they hid from God (Genesis 3:8). God highlighted that spiritual separation by asking (for the very first time), “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

b. Physical death. Adam and Eve would return to dust (Genesis 3:19; 5:5).

c. Eternal death. Our sin against an infinitely holy God means that he is infinitely offended. Because he is infinitely offended, we incur an infinite punishment. We are finite creatures (we are not God) so the only way we can pay an infinite penalty is to pay the penalty for an infinite amount of time. To experience physical death without first fixing the problem of ‘spiritual death’, results in separation from God forever, i.e. eternal death (Matthew 25:41, 46; Revelation 20:14; 21:8). There is no recovery from eternal death.

2. Jesus suffered spiritual, physical and eternal death when he paid the ransom price for sin.

a. Jesus suffered ‘spiritual death’ (separation from God) on the cross. He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus’ question reveals two things:

i. Jesus was experiencing separation from God. He uses the word ‘forsaken’, which means ‘abandoned’. Any other time in his life, he addressed God as “Father”, or “My Father” or “Abba Father” (such terms are used 191 times in the Gospels). At the beginning of his suffering on the cross, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34) and, at the end of his suffering on the cross, Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). But here, at the most intense moment, Jesus (fully conscious) cries out to God because he cannot sense the Father’s loving presence—only the harsh justice of God.

ii. Jesus did not deserve that separation. That’s why Jesus asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” He is personally innocent of any sin that would rightfully incur such a judgement (John 8:46). He knew he was the Father’s well-beloved Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). He knew God would not reject a good man—so he asks the question ‘Why?’

b. Jesus suffered ‘physical death’ (separation of body and spirit) on the cross as a result of his spiritual death (see above). Jesus died physically—they certified death (John 19:33) and buried his body (Matthew 27:57–66; 1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Physical death occurs when the human spirit is separated from the human body (James 2:26). In a deliberate act of dying, Jesus committed his spirit into his Father’s hands (Luke 23:46) and then “breathed his last”. Jesus’ physical death was the result of his spirit leaving his body.

c. Jesus suffered ‘eternal death’ (eternal separation from God) on the cross. An infinite being can experience an infinite punishment even though the suffering occurs in a finite amount of time (the time on the cross). Jesus was an infinite being (he was God) and so he suffered this infinite punishment (eternal death) on the cross.

 

Q 6. Did Jesus really pay the ransom price for all sin, for all people, for all time?

 

Short answer:
Yes!

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Discussion:

1. Jesus paid the ransom price for all sin.

a. Jesus paid the penalty for sin in full. After Jesus experienced the agonising separation from the Father that made him cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he then said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The term was used in the Greek business world for officially cancelling a debt that had been paid in full (i.e. for the whole amount). Upon full payment, the Greek word tetelestai (meaning ‘it is finished’) was written across the invoice.

b. Christians have all their sins forgiven. If all their sins are forgiven, it can be so only because Jesus paid for “all our sins” (Colossians 2:13).

c. Christians “have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

2. Jesus paid the ransom price for all people. Had Jesus died for only one person, he would not have had to suffer one bit less than he did. However, in dying for the sins of every single person in the world, Jesus did not have to suffer one bit more than he did. Jesus’ sacrifice for sin was the perfect payment for every person.

There are many precise statements in the Bible that say Jesus’ one-time death was sufficient to remove all the sins of all people for all time. These include:

a. Hebrews 2:9. “… [Jesus] suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone [i.e. for all people]”.

b. Hebrews 9:26. Jesus “has appeared once for all [i.e. once for all sin, for all time and once for all people] at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself”.

c. 1 John 2:2. Writing to those who were already Christians, John said… “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world [i.e. once for all sin, for all time and for all people]”.

d. John 1:29. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world [i.e. all people]!”

e. 1 Peter 3:18. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous [i.e. all people because all people are unrighteous], to bring you to God.

f. 1 Timothy 4:10. “God, who is the Savior of all people”.

3. Jesus paid the ransom price for all time. Jesus died for all people in the past, present and future. No sin has been left out. That’s why when someone becomes a Christian, they never need to fear again that the charge of sin will be brought against them (Romans 8:33–34)—even though Christians will commit many more sins in the future. According to Romans 8:38–39, nothing in the present and nothing in the future (including the sins of the present and the sins of the future) can ever condemn or separate a Christian from God’s love. Every single sin, even the future ones that haven’t yet been thought of, have been paid for by the death of Jesus.

 

Q 7. If Jesus died for every single person, does that mean that every single person is saved?

Short answer:
It’s a wonderful reality that God loves each individual person so much that he gave his Son Jesus to die for them. Such love has never been heard of before!

But the sobering reality is that each person must individually and personally embrace what Jesus has done for them.

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Discussion:
The Bible is clear that Jesus died for every single person who has or who will ever live. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Question: Who are sinners? Answer: Everyone!

We might think that since Jesus paid the ransom price for everyone, everyone is automatically saved. But the Bible makes it clear that God saves only those who receive him (e.g. John 3:16). How can we explain this?

Perhaps this illustration may help. Imagine someone has committed a crime and has been found guilty by a court. They are required to pay the fine, but if they cannot pay, they will need to serve time in jail. The criminal cannot pay so ends up in a jail cell. But a merciful person sees his friend in jail and opts to pay the fine himself. What great news for the criminal! His debt to society has been paid in full; he’s free to go. The jail door swings open. He can walk free!

But instead, he decides to stay there—in his lonely jail cell. What a tragedy! His crime had been paid for; he was free to go—but stayed in his cell.

This is like Jesus’ ransom payment for our sin. He has fully paid for all our sins and given us a ‘get out of jail card free’. It’s simply incredible! But we must act on it; we must walk out of the jail cell. Those who disregard this sacrifice and disbelieve will tragically come into the judgement of eternal death (Revelation 21:8).

What we must do is personally embrace Jesus’ sacrifice and rely completely on it. This will be thoroughly explained in module 11—jump.

Conclusion:
Jesus really did die in the place of every person. But the benefits of his death (eternal life and forgiveness of all of our sins) only apply to those who believe this wonderful message. This is what the Bible means when it says “God… is the Savior of all people [because Jesus’ death is sufficient for everyone], and especially of those who believe [for whom Jesus’ death is actually efficient (takes effect)]” (1 Timothy 4:10).

 

Q 8. Why did Jesus speak of his death as a ransom payment?

Short answer:
Because Jesus came to fix the problem of sin, and sin had a price tag attached to it—‘death’.

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Discussion:
God had been ‘straight up’ with Adam and Eve—sin was a serious crime that carried the death penalty (Genesis 2:17). Nothing but the payment of that penalty would fix the sin problem. No amount of reasoning, regretting, repenting, reforming or ‘turning over new leaves’… would ever remove the sin problem. It could be paid for only in death. God is infinitely holy and always just. There are no compromises. When Jesus said he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), he was saying he had come to fix the sin problem by paying the price God had set on sin. He had come to die in the place of sinful mankind.

 

Q 9. To whom did Jesus pay the ransom?

Short answer:
To God.

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Discussion:
Some have suggested that Jesus paid the ransom to Satan. But Satan never set the price of sin, God did (Genesis 2:17). It was God’s holiness and justice that had to be satisfied. Therefore, Jesus offered himself to God in death as a payment for human sin.

 

Additional Information

Q: Can the weather presenter predict the future? Part 2

In the previous module we looked at some prophesies (predictions) that the Bible made about the Messiah’s life. In this module, we look at some prophesies about his suffering and death.

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The Prophecy Old Testament Prophecy New Testament Fulfilment
The Messiah will be violently killed “‘Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 13:7) This was fulfilled by Jesus’ violent death by crucifixion (‘sword’ here is a metaphor for death).
The Messiah will be pierced “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced”. (Zechariah 12:10) “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’” (John 19:31–37)
The Messiah (“Anointed One”) will be executed (“put to death”) “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death”. (Daniel 9:26) “And they crucified him.” (Mark 15:24) “… he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
The Messiah will be abandoned by God “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm 22:1) “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).” (Matthew 27:46)
The Messiah would be despised “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.” (Psalm 22:6) “The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.” (Mark 15:16–19)
The Messiah would be mocked and insulted “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the LORD,’ they say, ‘let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’” (Psalm 22:7–8) “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”’ In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Matthew 27:39–44)
The Messiah’s bones would be dislocated “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” (Psalm 22:14) After the victim was nailed to a cross while on the ground, the cross would be raised in a vertical position and dropped into a hole in the ground. When this occurred, the severe jolt would place incredible strain on the crucified victim’s body, resulting in multiple dislocations.
The Messiah would experience thirst as he was dying “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”. (Psalm 22:15) “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.” (John 19:28–29)
The Messiah would die “… you lay me in the dust of death”. (Psalm 22:15) “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
The Messiah’s enemies would pierce his hands and feet “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.” (Psalm 22:16) “And they crucified him.” (Mark 15:24)
The Messiah’s bones would be exposed “All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.” (Psalm 22:17) This was fulfilled when Jesus was whipped (John 19:1). The whip had glass and stone embedded into it, which would tear off strips of flesh from the victim’s body, exposing the bone. Many people who experienced this Roman whip died. “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” (John 19:1)
The Messiah’s clothes would be gambled away “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” (Psalm 22:18) “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, ‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.’ So this is what the soldiers did.” (John 19:23–24)

The following prophecy from Isaiah 52:13–53:12 contains many precise predictions about the suffering and death of the Messiah, but because it is a long passage, it is not quoted here. Instead some of the more important verses have been selected. You may like to look up the entire passage yourself and read it through as a whole.

Isaiah’s Prophecy New Testament Fulfilment
The Messiah’s appearance will be so disfigured as a result of his suffering that he will barely look human (52:14). This was fulfilled when “Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged” (John 19:1). The whip used by the Romans had nails or glass embedded into it, and this whip would tear off flesh from the victim’s body. Cruelly, many people that suffered from a Roman whip did not survive.
That this disfigured individual is actually the Messiah, the God-man (Isaiah 9:6), is too much for Israel to comprehend (53:1). As a result they (as a whole nation, but not every individual Israelite) will not believe that this suffering individual is the Messiah. This was fulfilled when the Jewish leaders mocked Jesus as a messianic ‘pretender’. Note their sarcasm: “In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.’” (Matthew 27:41–42). Paul, an early Christian writer, also commented on the unbelief of most of Israel when he wrote, “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’” (Romans 10:16).
The Messiah would die a substitutionary death (see 53:4–6, 8–10). A substitute is, very simply, someone who takes the place of another (like when one member of a sport team is substituted for another player on the field). Jesus, by dying a ‘substitutionary’ death, takes our place so that he dies a death (a physical, spiritual and eternal death) that we should have paid, but now do not need to. This substitutionary death is indicated by the words “he took up our pain”, “bore our suffering”, “pierced for our transgressions”, “crushed for our iniquities”, etc.
The Messiah would be silent during his suffering (53:7). This was fulfilled when Jesus was silent during a part of his trial: “When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor” (Matthew 27:12–14; see also Matthew 26:63 and Luke 23:9).
The Messiah would be taken away forcefully and unjustly (53:8). This was fulfilled when Jesus was taken by military force (Matthew 26:47–56) and condemned unjustly (Luke 23:13–15).
The Messiah would suffer an execution (“cut off” is a Jewish figure of speech which means ‘execution’) (53:8). This was fulfilled when Jesus was sentenced to death under Roman authority (John 19:1–18) and died because of crucifixion (John 19:28–30).
The Messiah was assigned a criminal’s grave but ended up in a rich man’s grave (53:9). This was fulfilled when a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, used his own tomb to bury Jesus (Matthew 27:57–60).
The Messiah would be considered a criminal (53:12). This was fulfilled when Jesus suffered a criminal’s death (crucifixion) with two other criminals (Luke 23:39–41).

Ha-MashiachFor further reading:
Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ha-Mashiach: The Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures, rev. ed. (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2014). (Previously titled Messianic Christology.)

We don’t need to let the title of the book put us off—“Ha-Mashiach” is simply Hebrew for “the Messiah”—but the book is written in English, not Hebrew!

This book explains the prophecies of the Messiah’s life, death and resurrection in easy-to-understand language.