Side note: Was Jesus Really Dead?

In The Most Important Web Page, I emphasized strongly that Jesus was really and truly dead when he was placed in His tomb. I did that for a very important reason; there are untrue teachings that have been around for a long time that indicate that Jesus was not truly "dead", but merely unconscious or possibly in some sort of coma when He was buried, thus it was no miracle that He "rose" several days later... if that is so, then all He did was wake up! That isn't in any way a new idea; people have argued for centuries that Jesus wasn't dead. But if you believe that the Bible is accurate, then you have to believe that Jesus truly died. For one thing, all four Gospel accounts (the accounts of Jesus' life on Earth) say that He died on the cross. (Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:30) The Roman guards who were supposed to check to see if He was dead were convinced... and this is something these men did for a living, so they ought to have known if He were still alive! (John 19:31-33, Mark 15:43-45) When Jesus was buried, a heavy stone was rolled across the entrance of His tomb; (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:46) when some women came to put perfume on His body, the stone was moved and Jesus was gone! (Mark 16:1-4) This isn't the act of someone who woke up out of a coma, after spending three days wrapped up like a mummy inside a sealed cave! If Jesus was unconscious for three days, then He woke up and tried to move the stone from the front of his tomb (a stone which the women wondered if they would be able to move themselves), the effort would certainly have killed Him.

A brother in Christ who read the article pointed out to me, though, that though Jesus was dead, He was not latent! Try to keep in mind that dying is absolutely not like going to sleep and never waking up. When the body dies, it becomes inactive; the spirit of man, however, is eternal. When you die, you will leave your useless body, but the real you will go somewhere else. When Jesus died, He died physically and He also died spiritually; Romans 6:23 says that the proper reward for sin is death. Sin is a spiritual act; the "wages" you earn through sin are spiritual wages... spiritual death. In order to take that punishment on Himself, Jesus had to receive those spiritual wages: spiritual death. But when Jesus left His mortal body on the cross, He had some work to do! Ephesians 4:9-10 says that before Jesus "ascended" (which happened after His resurrection), he "descended" into the Earth. I Peter 3:18-19 says that when Jesus died, he "preached to the spirits in prison"... a phrase that is often taken to mean that Jesus went to the place where people who died before He came to the Earth were ("in prison") and gave them the chance to recieve the Gospel about Himself. Going back to Ephesians, verse 8 of that same passage (which quotes Psalm 68:18) indicates that some of those "captives" followed Jesus out of their "prison" when He was resurrected! That might explain the incidents recorded in Matthew 27:52-53 right after Jesus' death.

The passages I have just shared with you have sometimes been the subject of controversy. Study the Scriptures yourself and make up your own mind about what happened between Jesus' last breath on the cross, and the first time someone saw Him alive again. But the most important things to understand are that Jesus rose from the dead as God's "firstborn"; (Colossians 1:18, Revelation 1:4-5) we are able to rise again to spiritual life from our sinful, spiritually dead state, because Jesus did so! And in order for Him to rise from the dead, He had to have been dead in the first place.

Thanks again, Dr. Kinnear, for pointing out this weakness in my essay!
written February 19, 1997
©Copyright 1997 by Michael Jones
All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations drawn from The Bible Gateway at Gospel Communications Network.

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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