Why Did Christ Die Brutally?

Why was it so necessary for Christ to die such a brutal and violent death? Surely God could have planned an easier death for His Son? The answer, I believe, is this: only a violent death could have exposed sin in the way it so sorely needed revealing. One preacher said, “Could Jesus have exposed sin in all of its foul horror if He had died in His bed, or by accident, or by disease?” It is one of the tragedies of human life that we fail to recognize the sinfulness of sin. God’s plan was for Christ to die as a substitute for all those who would put their faith in Christ’s death as their own death, thereby showing the sinfulness of sin and the just punishment placed upon it. Out of God’s love for man, He came in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to take man’s place and bestow mercy and grace upon us. Another example of this kind of substitutionary legality is found in history:

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another.[1]

In the viewpoint of God, when Christ died, He died as a substitute to release you from the legal claims that Satan had against you because of your sin. Christ died for you and as you. God sees Christ as taking your place just as the one man went to war in another’s place.  When Christ died, God sees you as having died too:

20Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules (Colossians 2:20).

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-3).

The Lord Jesus, through His death, burial and resurrection came to give us His life. We received physical life from our forefather, Adam, but Christ came to give us the life of God, and this life is imparted to us when we wholeheartedly put our faith and trust in Him. When we believe, our sins are washed away and the Spirit of God baptizes us into the spiritual organism of the Body of Christ. The life of God flows into each of us that are connected to Him by faith. God loves you and wants to invite you to abandon your sin and walk the rest of your life in freedom from the bondage of sin. Will you give Him your life? Pray a simple prayer from your heart asking Him to forgive your sin and come into your life. Receive the gift of God—salvation in Christ.

Keith Thomas

[1] 1500 illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green, Printed by Baker Book House, Page 360.

My Father’s House Has Many Rooms

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

It was the night of the Last Supper, before Jesus was to be crucified. Jesus had just told his followers that He was going to be leaving them through the door of death. As Christ looked around the table at His disciples, His heart went out to them. When our hearts are troubled, stressed, fearful and uncertain, when it seems as if our world is caving in—we are to remember what Jesus said here in this passage: “my Father’s house has many rooms” (John 14:2). No matter what is going on in your mind and heart, no matter how broken you are, no matter what you are going through, there is a place in the Father’s house for you. He’s saying it to Peter and the disciples, but He is also saying it to us.  Deep down within the very soul of each person born into this world is a yearning for a better place:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It is said that Professor T. H. Huxley, the famous agnostic (who, by the way, invented the term “agnostic” and applied it to himself), reversed his views prior to his death and came to believe in God and a future life. As he lay dying (so his nurse reported), he raised himself on his elbows and gazed into the distance as if surveying some invisible scene, then dropped back on his pillow and murmured: “So it was true! So it was true!”[1]

Yes, it is true. In the Father’s house there are many rooms. Perhaps you have read the King James Version, which translates the Greek word monai as mansions, but the term really means dwelling places or rooms. The picture is that we will live with God in His house—that His house has many rooms for us to abide with Him. For those of you that have lived with the insecurity of moving from place to place, and in dismal circumstances, take hope! We are talking about having an eternal house in the heavens where we will be at home with God forever! When Jesus said; “I am going to prepare a place for you, we should not think in terms of Jesus the carpenter building each of us a physical home. The Greek word that is translated ‘prepare’ is hetoimazō, the word that is used of an oriental custom of sending a person before kings on their journeys to level the roads and make them passable. The word was also used to describe the disciples going to prepare the Upper Room for the Passover feast (Luke 22:9, 12). The sad departure of Christ was for the way to be prepared for the disciples and us to follow Him to the Father’s house. He went ahead of us to make the way to God “passable” for us.

So that we get a picture of what heaven will be like, the scriptures tell us of a time when a heavenly city will come down from heaven to earth—a city that is prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Notice who we will be living with:

 1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

 How wonderful it will be to live with God—the pain of this world will be dried from our eyes by the gentle touch of the Lord Himself. I think He has purposely not told us much about heaven, because many of us would want out of this world before our time. In another place Paul the apostle tells us:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

In our wildest dreams and imaginations of heaven we cannot imagine how good it will be for those of us who walk with Christ on this earth. If your heart is troubled by the way this world is, and what you are going through, let your mind and heart be fortified with the fact that you will one day be with God Himself in His holy house. How that must have encouraged Peter, especially after he had denied Christ, that there was room for even him after he had denied his Lord. Will you be in that place with Christ? You can be! Ask Christ to come into your life and forgive your sin—receive the free gift of life—I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

If you would like to read more on this topic, this meditation was taken from the study, found on this page under the Book of John studies, John 14:1-14—Jesus the Way

Keith Thomas

[1]  Every Day With Jesus, May-June 1996 edition, Crusade for World Revival.

The Raising of Lazarus

38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:38-44).

Jesus commanded the disciples and those gathered there to roll back the stone from the entrance. Martha, still unbelieving, complained that the smell of death would be very strong since Lazarus had been dead for four days. I wonder if there was an odor coming from the tomb? There couldn’t have been an airtight seal on the door; it was only a rock-hewn door. We must ask ourselves at what point did the miracle take place? As they moved back the stone, it is highly likely that there was still the stench of death coming from the tomb. After Lazarus had come back to life, we are told that many of the Jews who were there to witness this miracle, put their faith in Him. The Lord looked up to heaven and prayed to His Father, before calling out to Lazarus with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (verse 43). If He did not refer to Lazarus by name, those Jews may have witnessed all those who were dead in the vicinity coming out of the graves, back from the dead!

Can you imagine looking at the crowd around the tomb at that moment? As we look at the faces of those who heard the commanding words of Jesus, what do you think they were thinking? It’s easy for us because we know the details. We already know the end of this story. But for them, when they heard the command of Jesus, I’m sure there were plenty who smelled death and scoffed at the thought of Lazarus coming out of that tomb. One thing is sure, when Lazarus stood at the door there were gasps of astonishment, and screams of delight. Death had been conquered! We have a Savior that conquers death and the grave!

It would have been difficult for Lazarus to stand, let alone walk due to the bandage-like wrappings that were around him. The Israelites at the time were not practitioners of Egyptian embalming techniques; the bodies were allowed to decompose. What they did do, however, was to wrap the body in aromatic spices. Merrill Tenney, in his book, The Reality of the Resurrection, tells us about the customary procedure for the burial:

The body was usually washed and straightened, and then bandaged tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips of linen about a foot wide. Aromatic spices, often of a gummy consistency, were placed between the wrappings or folds. They served partially as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering. When the body was thus encased, a square piece of cloth was wrapped around the head and tied under the chin to keep the lower jaw from sagging.[1]

Afterwards, I wish John had told us more about the celebration back at Martha’s. Instead of reminiscing about the life of Lazarus, they are avidly listening to his experience of dying and being with the Lord in heaven. I wish that I could have been a “fly on the wall” at that party! I would have loved to hear their conversation, see the relief and delight of the sisters as they wept and embraced their brother, recounting the whole episode from the time they thought they had lost him for good, to the time when he came forth at Jesus’ command. I’m sure there was quite a praise party to the Lord. It will be the same for us at the resurrection of the saints, we will look upon the face of Jesus, when we too are raised from the dead. What a day that will be! I hope you are living for that day! Keith Thomas

[1] Merril C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection (New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963, Page 117.

Does the Bible teach Soul Sleep?

imagesSome believe that when a Christian dies, his soul sleeps and that he is unconscious until Jesus comes for him at the end of this evil age that we are in. The Bible does have a few passages where Jesus talked about death for a Christian as “sleep.” When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, for instance, He deliberately waited another two days before He even left for the tomb (John 11:6). Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited before starting the journey to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus? The Jews had a tradition that the soul of a person could hang around the body anything up to three days afterward. Jesus deliberately waited so that He could prove to the skeptics that He had authority over death, Lazarus was not sleeping in the tomb, he was dead. John the apostle explained this to us:

11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep (John 11:11-13).

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

The Lord also talked about death as sleeping when He brought back Jairus’ daughter from the dead:

49While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.” 50Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened (Luke 8:49-56, Emphasis mine).

The believer in Christ is never dead; he is separated from his body, a state that Jesus calls ‘sleep.’ When Jesus took the little girl’s hand and told her to get up, her spirit returned. Where had the little girl been? Her body was dead and laying on the bed, but the real person, her spirit, was somewhere else. Wouldn’t you like to have known what she experienced before Jesus called her back into the earthly home of her body? A person is only dead, according to the scriptures, when he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5). In the Old Testament, 1 Kings 17:17, we find another story about a little boy who was also raised from the dead. He was the son of a woman who had helped the prophet Elijah. She was a widow, and this was her only son. Her son had been getting worse and worse, and finally, stopped breathing. (NIV translation). In the Hebrew, it literally says that his soul (Heb “nephesh”) had left. In verse 22 of the same passage we are told that the boy’s life returned to him after Elijah prayed for the boy. The Hebrew word used here is “nephesh,” which literally means that the boy’s soul returned!

We are told that at this moment, in heaven, are the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23), and in another place, that when Christ returns for His church: “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Their bodies were in the grave but they themselves, the unseen part of our nature, our spirit and soul, were with the Lord. They are very much alive, but in a different realm, a different life. Paul the apostle wrote: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). He also writes to the church at Philippi about his desire to die and be with Christ:

22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:22-24).

Note that Paul is not expecting to be unconscious in sleep when he dies; he fully expects to be very much alive. He calls it better by far! The word, “depart” in verse 23 above is translated from the Greek word that was used for the loosing of an anchor. A.T. Robertson translates it, “To weigh anchor and put out to sea.” What a beautiful picture! It reminds me of the scene in the movie “Lord of The Rings,” when Bilbo Baggins departs the Grey Havens and puts out to sea to start a new adventure! It is a wonderful analogy of what some perceive as an end, is really a new beginning. If Paul was readying himself to go to sleep for two thousand years, I don’t see how that could be called “better by far.” No, Paul was getting ready to go to another place, a place that was “better by far!” A place where; “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him!” (1 Corinthians 2:14.)

Just imagine if a butterfly were to try to explain to a caterpillar what his new life would become! The caterpillar would have no frame of reference to comprehend what it would be like to fly, in a glorious new body, not bound to the earth. If the caterpillar were able to comprehend this, would it choose not to go into its pupa state and be transformed? During our time out of our body, we will have fellowship with the Lord in a spiritual place. The only reason that spiritual things are not as real to us now, is that we are bound to this earth, and only able to function on one level, one realm. But a day is coming when we will experience full life. Jesus calls it abundant, eternal life. Our purpose in this life, is to be prepared for this most excellent adventure into a realm which is described as: BETTER BY FAR!

Taken from the series called Insights into Eternity which you can find in the middle column. Scroll down the middle column and click on the first study called “What Lies Beyond Death’s Door?”

Keith Thomas

The Tent We Live in

1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

When Paul the apostle writes to the church at Corinth, he compares the earthly body that we live in to a tent, a short-term, impermanent home. What he is saying is that the real you, your spirit, is clothed with your fleshly body for the fifty to seventy years that you live on Earth. He says that when this “earthy tent” is destroyed, we have something much more permanent in heaven, a building from God, a home that is eternal, a body that is not built by human hands (v.1), a heavenly dwelling (v.2). As we get older, we become more and more aware of our mortality—we groan and are burdened and become more and more convinced that there has to be more to this life than what we see with our physical senses. If only we could see this truth—that we are created for eternity and not just for this world, that we are just passing through. It would change everything for us if we truly believed it. Paul goes on to say that we are fashioned for this very purpose and that what is beyond death is the true life. The Holy Spirit living in us is a guarantee of what is beyond the veil of death:

5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:5).

A Christian enters heaven without a break in consciousness. Back on earth our friends bury our body, but they do not bury us! Personhood survives the death of the body. In the Bible, the Book of Acts, there is the story of a man of God named Stephen. As he was dying, he said, “Lord, receive my spirit.” He did not say, “Receive my body.” There was no break in consciousness for him—the Lord was standing up from His normal seated position at the right hand of the Father to receive him (Acts 7:59). We would live very different lives if we truly believed that our life on earth is just transitory. If we believed that when we put off the tent of this body, we enter into true life (I’m presuming that you have received the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus), we would invest our time, energy, gifts and resources into more things that will last after we get rid of our earthly tent. What would God have us invest ourselves in this side of heaven? He would have us invest in what is important to Him—people. Seeking to help as many as we can to know God and be saved from the penalty of sin.

Sometimes as people are dying, their spirit often drifts between earth and heaven where they can see both worlds. A few hours before Dwight L. Moody, the great American evangelist died, he caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from a sleep, he said: “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go!”  His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no father, you are dreaming.”  “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again: “This is my triumph; this my coronation day!  It is glorious!”

My prayer is that you would ask the Lord to give you the free gift of eternal life that Jesus has bought for you in dying in your place. My prayer is that we will see Mr. Moody together and rejoice in the finished work of our Savior on our behalf.

Keith Thomas