Easter: The Rest of the Story

What is the Gospel Bible

Easter is a time when sincere Christians meditate on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In our discussions, many seem to consider that the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, ending with His dying on the cross, is what produced forgiveness for the sins of mankind. The whole consideration goes no further than His physical suffering on the cross. You may have imagined what it would have been like to be there, you may have watched the movie The Passion, emotionally stirred by the depictions of His brutal execution. But is there more to it than that? Does the Bible go beyond this?

The answer is: Yes.

To be very simple and direct, without splitting theological hairs, it is necessary to make a distinction between the process of dying and the actual presence of being in death.

Did the Son of God go into death, a state and place where the ultimate agony occurs, or did He just die on the cross, and then rest peacefully in the tomb until the resurrection?

According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, He was made to be sin for us.1 He became all of what our own sins caused us to be like, and took these sins to certain death. He took our place in death. He became what our sins made us into. The only result and consequence of sin is death — not dying, but death — the state and place of being after having died. Death is the only place to deal with sin. Dying is the transition; death is the destination.

How do we know this? Yahshua2 spoke to His disciples about this place in His parable about the rich man and Lazarus, and in His description, He spoke of a place where there was both consciousness and torment. There could even be comfort for some there.

In Luke 16:22 we see that both men died.3 If merely dying were the effective part in dealing with sin, then the story would have ended there. They both died, their sins were dealt with — end of story. But that was not the case.

Yahshua went on to say that something further happened. From verse 23 on, there is action and interaction. This is obviously not in the physical realm, since both their bodies were disposed of in whatever were the burial customs of the day. The rest of the story takes place in another realm — the spiritual realm — death. In that realm there are clearly emotions, consciousness, sensation, will, and intellect.

The rich man was in torment, and this is after him dying. Whatever he died of, and however he suffered in the process, it was not sufficient to deal with his sins. Now, in the place of death — the place of departed spirits — he began to experience what his choices against the promptings of his conscience had brought upon him. It was excruciating, agonizing torment.

Lazarus, the poor man, experienced something entirely different in death. The choices he made, in spite of his terrible circumstances in life, brought him to the place in death where he found comfort after dying.

Yahshua Became Sin

Yahshua became the sin of all of us, and having become the sin of the entire world, experienced no comfort in death. He even experienced what every murderer, liar, or filthy and unjust person would experience in death for eternity. His soul experienced total agony in that place of torment called death.4

What will all who love and practice lying, those who become cowards, unbelievers, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, and idolaters, experience after dying, going to the first death, and then judgment? There will be a horrendous second death.5 Yahshua experienced that as one of them. Having become those exact sins and more, He experienced to the fullest what all mankind deserves to experience, from the least to the greatest, from the best to the worst.

His physical suffering lasted around twelve hours, but His deepest agony in death lasted some seventy-two hours. No play, movie, or Easter story could ever adequately communicate the reality of that suffering. The spiritual is far greater than the physical.

To emphasize the physical torture and suffering only, without understanding what took place beyond that, is to miss the whole point and purpose of His death, burial, and resurrection. Many who grew up hearing the stories of His crucifixion are left with an indelible mark in their psyche concerning His physical suffering. In many there might be an unsettling desire to do something — to respond somehow. But what do you do? How do you respond? Where do you go from here?

When one understands that the sufferings of the Son of God went far beyond the physical, then it becomes clear that the spirit of man will never find peace, or forgiveness, until a fitting response is made… one that corresponds to the enormity of the sacrifice made by the Son of God.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Many take that verse to mean that the physical beating and the flow of His blood are what effected, or brought into reality, the forgiveness of sin. It says in Hebrews 7:22 that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. They take that to mean that the blood flow itself was what produced the forgiveness. It seems that most people view the sufferings of the Son of God from this perspective.

It is true that His physical sufferings were tremendous. Yet many people suffer unimaginable tortures in other parts of the world and die as a result. In His physical suffering, the Son of God didn’t experience worse pain than thousands of other victims of man’s inhumanity to man throughout history. So what makes the difference?

Without dying there is no death. Without death there is no dying.

Most of us can relate in some way to dying. You can see it; you can empathize with someone going through the process. Some have even experienced it to a certain degree, and lived to talk about it.

Death is the frightening reality — the unknown factor. You know it’s there, but you can’t see or experience it ahead of time. Everyone knows instinctively that it’s there, waiting for the dying to be over. Even though some have dared to deny its existence, it hasn’t served to erase the instinctive knowing that every man has.

You watch Him expire on the cross. The minutes, the hours, then days pass. What’s happening? Where is He? What was going on?

The stripes and blood alone didn’t deal with the sin of the whole world. Sin is a spiritual reality with physical manifestations. It must be dealt with spiritually.6

The brutal dying of the Son of God stopped His body from functioning, so that His soul — the very essence of Him — could go into the ultimate horrors of death to experience what every human being must otherwise experience in order to pay for their own sin. This is what Isaiah prophesied, that His soul, not merely His body, would be an offering for sin, experiencing anguish in death on our behalf:

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

The Apostle Peter emphasized repeatedly in Acts 2:24, 27, and 31 the distinction between Messiah’s body that was in the grave and His soul that was suffering agony in Hades, the realm of the dead, until He had paid the full wages of our sin. Everything humanity must suffer to pay for their sin, to the ultimate extreme, the Son of God suffered. His whole purpose for being born was to do this, so that we wouldn’t have to go through that horror.7 There was no resistance in Him, which is why He was able to pay for the infinite guilt of the sins of all mankind in a finite amount of time.8

After accomplishing His work in death, the Son of God went through another spiritual and physical phenomenon. His soul — the essence of Him — was re-united with His physical body. Then the breath of life was breathed into that body that He might live for all eternity. Because He was innocent, death could not hold Him.9 Sin was dealt with forever.10

So He’s alive and somewhere in heaven.11 How do we handle all that? What was He expecting? What is God expecting? What should we do?

If what we now know can penetrate our heart, it causes us to love the One who went through so much for our sake. That love comes from understanding that He sacrificed His whole life for us, and it causes us to want to do the same for Him.12

Those who understood and were pierced to their hearts, not just in their emotions, in Jerusalem, did what all true disciples do.13 Their response corresponded to the sacrifice of the Son of God —a life for a life.

Please contact us to know more about those who are daily giving the proper response to the sacrifice that was made for the sin of all mankind. You are warmly invited to visit us at any of our communities around the world…

Andrew’s Lamb – a Passover Story

Passover Lamb for Sacrifice

It was a hot, sunny day as Andrew walked along the dusty road toward Jerusalem for the Passover. A few steps ahead of him walked his father, head gray with age yet still very strong. It seemed a bit strange to Andrew that it was only he and his father making the journey this year, for in years past, all his brothers and sisters had accompanied them. But they were all grown now and had families of their own to care for, and soon even Andrew himself would probably be leaving home. At Andrew’s heels, following obediently, was his most beautiful young lamb. This was a special lamb, for this lamb was the whole reason for their long trip to Jerusalem. He was also very special to Andrew personally because he loved that lamb more than any other that had ever been born into his family’s small flock.

Andrew’s family were not shepherds as were many of their neighbors, but were fishermen by trade. Yet they did keep a small flock of sheep from which they were able to get enough wool for their clothing, plus provide for other needs. Ever since Andrew had been quite young he had been the one in his family who cared for the sheep, taking them often from one pasture to another, caring faithfully for them. Sometimes he would go out fishing with his older brothers, especially with Simon who was next to him in age, and with whom he was very close. But most of the time he was left home to watch after the sheep and other things there.

Andrew was a good shepherd to the sheep, and loved them all, but this young lamb, which today followed so obediently in his steps, was very close to Andrew’s heart. He glanced back at the lamb as they walked along the road, remembering so clearly the night of its birth. It had been a cool, spring evening and Andrew had taken the flock down into a sheltered valley quite a distance from their house. He realized that it was a bit far to go with them, but he knew that it would be a nice place for them to spend the night. He also knew that one of the sheep was due to have a lamb soon, but he certainly didn’t expect it that night.

As they settled in, he noticed that that certain sheep was behaving strangely. As the night wore on it became obvious that she would soon be having her lamb. This troubled Andrew, for he had never been alone with the sheep when one was having its lamb, especially this far from home. Andrew’s father knew a lot about helping the mother in case she began to have trouble during the delivery. Andrew began praying to the God of his father for a safe delivery.

The dark hours of that night passed very slowly for Andrew. The mother sheep began crying out in distress. Something was wrong. Andrew felt helpless and totally without the wisdom he needed to help her. She continued to bellow in pain, and looked pleadingly toward Andrew for relief. “What should I do?” His heart was breaking as he sat listening to her groans. His mind suddenly flashed back to something his father had been talking about at the table that morning. His father had spoken of how their God would not continue to delay long if he heard the cries of His people for justice and deliverance. His father always talked of such things, but that morning he was speaking with great conviction, and it had struck Andrew to the heart.

Now Andrew felt himself to be in a similar condition. Could he just sit by and let his sheep suffer without even attempting to help? No! He jumped to his feet, breathing a prayer to God for wisdom. Andrew’s hands moved carefully to free the entrapped lamb from its mother’s womb. In just a few minutes it was all over and the lamb lay cuddled at Andrew’s side, as if he knew it was Andrew who had saved his life.

As Andrew looked down at the new lamb, he was immediately struck by its beauty and perfection. The lamb’s soft eyes gazed up at him with a look of seeming gratitude. That night a bit of pain had pierced Andrew’s heart as he watched the first clumsy movements of this spotless male lamb, for he knew what the perfection of this little creature would mean. Though he hated to even think about it, he knew that this lamb would serve a great purpose.

Once a year it was Andrew’s job, since he was the shepherd in the family, to pick out the very best of their young male lambs for Passover. He knew all the sheep well so was able to pick the most perfect and precious of them all. It was always difficult to make this decision because Andrew loved all of the sheep and because each and every one of them was valuable to the livelihood of Andrew’s not so wealthy family. The lamb which he chose was to be given up to their God as a sacrifice. And for Andrew and his family it truly was a sacrifice.

A sacrifice was necessary each year to the God of Israel for the forgiveness of their sins. When Andrew was younger he had not fully understood what this sacrifice was all about, but now he was beginning to see his own sins all too well. Andrew’s father had explained to him many times about their God and about how in the beginning when God first created man, man had sinned. From that sin, death came into the world and only through the shedding of blood could man’s sins be forgiven and he could be saved from eternal death. His father had also explained that it was true mercy that their God had made a way so that they could be forgiven and would not have to die as their sins deserved. God’s way was that they would shed the blood of a lamb. This was their sacrifice. Andrew knew that for it to truly be a sacrifice it must hurt. This was why his family had always been careful to give the most perfect and spotless of their flock to God as He had commanded, giving the one which hurt the most to give.

Passover Lamb for SacrificeSo this year, as he had every year, Andrew had gone out to the hillside to choose the lamb which they would take to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the back of his mind he already knew which one it must be, but he tried to ignore that voice of his conscience, looking at the different male lambs of the flock, examining each one. “Maybe it should be this one. No, maybe that one…” He was trying to overlook that special lamb which was so close to his heart. Then he felt a tug on the back of his tunic. It was his favorite lamb nibbling at the leather pouch that hung at his side to see if it contained a special treat. Andrew had often brought treats with him just for the purpose of giving them to his favorite of the flock. Looking down at him, Andrew cringed. “How can I try to deceive myself or our God?” he thought. He knew which one was their most precious and perfect passover lamb, and the only one which he could honestly call their “sacrifice.”

In their visits to the Temple, it had often bothered Andrew when he would see people bringing in animals which were puny and sick. He knew that wasn’t right and he couldn’t understand why the priests would just receive them as if they didn’t even notice their flaws. Andrew’s father saw this happening, too, but he had never slacked up on his standard for their own sacrifice. Andrew greatly respected his father for that. His father also never gave the slightest ear to the offers of the men with stands set up in the Temple court, who were selling inferior animals for sacrificing. He knew what was a proper sacrifice that would please their God. All this greatly grieved his father, and Andrew, too, now that he was getting old enough to realize what was going on. It seemed as if the people didn’t think that their God could see their deception. His family knew that God always judged men by their hearts, so they always wanted to give their best. And this little lamb, which today accompanied them on their long journey, was truly their best.

The sun was rising high in the sky now as they walked, making the heat nearly unbearable. Andrew’s father eyed a shady spot up ahead and decided to rest awhile. They sat down in the tall grass under a large tree. Andrew’s father lay back in the grass, sighed, and then began talking as he so often did, especially on this yearly journey to the temple. During these times he would speak about a better day when God would once again speak to His people. He spoke of their people’s need to hear the voice of the prophets in their land. And he spoke of the hope which was nearest his heart, that of the coming of the Messiah. He was old now and his life would soon be over, but he wanted to be sure that this hope burned in the hearts of his sons as it did in his own. Andrew loved to hear his father talk like this, and he had grown to love the God of his father.

As they talked, the little lamb frolicked playfully in the tall grass, eating his fill. Andrew watched him with pleasure, thinking that this was truly the loveliest lamb they had ever had in their small flock. His eyes filled with tears, seeing that young lamb so full of life. He skipped to Andrew’s side and lay down as if sensing his grief. Andrew burst out in tears. “Why, why, father, must he die for my sins? I should be the one to die … I hate my sin. Why am I such a slave to this evil heart of mine?”

His father put his compassionate arm over Andrew’s shoulders, saying, “Son, we need a Savior. We need salvation. Were it not for the mercy of our God, you would have to die for your sins. This is His provision, my son, for death to passover you. And in this there is a greater purpose.”

Andrew continued to sob, thinking of the fact that soon the knife of the priest would be piercing the throat of his precious lamb, draining all of its blood. Looking down at the passover lamb, he said, “Your blood for my sins! I am guilty and you are innocent.”

His father, wiping the tears from his own eyes, being touched himself by the anguish his son expressed, said, “The life is in the blood and without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness for our sins.” He, too, hated their plight as fallen men. “All we can do is pray, crying out to our God for the consolation of Israel.”

They sat together silently for a while and then Andrew’s father motioned for them to continue on their journey. The lamb followed submissively without even a command, oblivious to his fate.

As they neared the village of Bethany, they heard the sound of many voices in the distance. They wondered what it could be. Turning aside from the main road, they headed toward the river from where the sound seemed to be coming. As they rounded the top of the hill overlooking the Jordan, they were amazed at what they beheld. In the river stood an unusual-looking man. He was calling out in a loud voice to the crowd that had gathered. He was also baptizing some of the people as they walked out into the river to him. Andrew’s father recognized those being baptized as his fellow Jews.

“What?” he exclaimed, “Is this man baptizing Israel? Only the heathen have ever needed to be baptized. Can this be a prophet of our Holy God, calling His own people to baptism?

They walked quickly down the hill toward the crowd. In the midst of the group, some of the priests and Levites from Jerusalem appeared very disturbed at this man preaching from the water. They yelled to him, “Who are you?” Andrew was glad they had asked that question for that was just what he was wondering. Some people in the crowd answered the question, “He is John the Baptist, sent to us from the God of Israel.” The Levites hushed the crowd, advising them to let the man answer himself.

“I am not the Anointed One,” replied the man they had called John.

“What then, are you Elijah?”

“I am not,” he responded.

“Are you the prophet?”

“No!” he called back.

“Who are you then, so we may give answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

“I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness. ‘Make straight the way of our God,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

As Andrew heard these words from John, his heart leaped. He pressed through the crowd to draw nearer to John. The priests and Levites continued their interrogation, “Why, then, are you baptizing if you are not the Anointed One, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

John answered, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

After that he refused to respond to any more questions.

Andrew didn’t like the way the priests were speaking to this man. It seemed strange, because Andrew had always greatly respected and admired the priests and Levites when he had seen them each year at the Temple in Jerusalem. But now they seemed so different. He was puzzled as to why they were treating this man of God with such disdain. To Andrew, it was obvious that this man had been sent from God, and he wanted to hear more from John. Andrew was pleased at the way John was not intimidated by the hostile spirit of the priests and Levites.

Andrew had become so wrapped up in listening to John speak that he had totally forgotten about his father and the whole purpose for their trip. But soon he felt the warm hand of his father rest upon his shoulder. Andrew turned and looked into the eyes of his father, conveying in that one look more than a thousand words could have said. Andrew’s father seemed to be equally as touched by John’s words. Without a word spoken, they turned and walked arm and arm into the cool waters of the Jordan.

“May Israel see the meaning of this baptism!” Andrew’s father shouted as John was baptizing him.

A few moments later, Andrew and his father stood together, dripping wet at the edge of the water. John finished speaking and began walking away. Andrew’s father motioned for his son to come along with him to continue their trip to Jerusalem. Andrew hesitated, glancing in the direction John was walking. His father caught his son’s hesitation and turned, looking him straight in the eyes, saying, “Go, Andrew. Go and do what your heart is telling you to do.” He spoke in a voice torn with emotion. His father embraced him warmly and turned to leave, not looking back. Andrew stooped to pet his passover lamb for the last time.

“May I fulfill the purpose for which I was created as you are fulfilling yours, our sacrificial lamb. There is hope for Israel now, for God has sent us a prophet. Perhaps our redemption comes soon for he speaks of the Anointed One. Oh,” said Andrew, rising to his feet, “I wish you could understand.” He directed the lamb to follow his father.

Andrew watched as his father walked off through the crowd. Andrew knew that the tears that he had seen in his father’s eyes had not been tears of sorrow, but rather of joy. It was a joy coming from deep within, as he realized that what he had desired fervently all his life would soon be coming to pass — perhaps even before his death. His father and the lamb vanished in the crowd and Andrew turned to follow the hope of Israel.

The next day, Andrew stood once again at John’s side as John cried out to the people of Israel of their need for baptism in order to be prepared in their hearts to receive their Anointed One. Then, suddenly, John stood in awe as he gazed upon a certain man who had just approached the crowd. John raised his arm, pointing toward that man and exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Andrew’s heart stopped as he heard these words. His mind went immediately to his own lamb, which was probably at that very moment being slain on the altar for his own sins. “Why did John call this man the lamb of God? Is this God’s own lamb? Did God search heaven for the most perfect, spotless, and precious of His own flock? A lamb that would take away the sins of the whole world? What can this mean?”

The man to whom John was pointing walked into the water, coming to him to be baptized. At first John refused, saying that he was not worthy to do that, but that it should rather be that this man would baptize him. The man insisted, saying, “Please, do it at this time, for all righteousness must be fulfilled.” John then baptized him.

Andrew’s mind was bursting with questions, not fully understanding all that was happening.

Andrew's Lamb Passover BaptismAs this man came up out of the water, John suddenly called out. “This is He whom I spoke of, saying, ‘After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him before, but He who sent me to baptize in water said, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and now tell you certainly that this is the son of God!”

“The Son of God?!” Andrew didn’t understand much, but he surely knew what it meant when John said, “The Son of God.” As Andrew was pondering these things, the man who was just baptized disappeared into the crowd.

Andrew’s mind was in a turmoil. “Who is this man? Is He God’s Lamb and God’s Son? Is God’s own son the only lamb that can satisfy His standard of perfection? Is this the only sacrifice that God can make which will take away the sin of the whole world? This will surely be the ultimate sacrifice. Is He God’s Passover Lamb sent to Israel for us?” Andrew found no rest for his questioning mind.

“Behold, the Lamb of God!” Those words thundered through Andrew’s mind, piercing his heart, “God’s Lamb… God’s Lamb, the Lamb of God!”

Andrew walked quickly from the water to follow that man of whom John had spoken. Andrew knew in his heart what that meant… the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God…