When we speak of the key elements of the Gospel account what are we signifying? I mean what are the essentials?
Do we believe that Christ’s death on the cross was salvific for all mankind? After all, did not Jesus proclaim “Teltelestai;”. . . “It is finished”?
The second part of verse 30 tells that “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” Obviously that means Jesus’ body died, but was that all?
Let’s consider this more closely.
The cross was a horrendous way to die—it was designed to be. Consider that while Jesus was on the cross; as bad as the torturous pain and anguish were, especially with the torture of having to try to pull yourself up to breath and then sliding back down the coarse surface of the beam—there was something much, much, much worse going on.
That was the Father’s Wrath. Jesus was suffering ultimate torment for each person’s sin that ever lived or ever will live. He was suffering the Father turning his back on Jesus until this terrible task was completed; until every sin was “paid in full” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; NASB).
Though Jesus’ dying was a necessary condition for our atonement, his death in itself was not sufficient to cover our sins. The Catholic Church’s crucifix still has Christ hanging on the cross. Jesus has not even been buried!
Although it was a necessary condition that Jesus dies for every man who ever lived or whoever will live, it was not a sufficient condition for the salvation of all men.
In other words, though Jesus death was necessary for you to be saved. Nevertheless it was not sufficient to save you until you make the choice[i] to fully trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Thus when Jesus cried out it is finished he declared that our sins had been paid for. Our debt was paid in full! Think of it like a gift card. However you cannot obtain the free gift until you redeem the card.
But is that the full package? No, there’s more.
The narratives in the Gospels tell us Christ is risen. In Matthew’s account we read,
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you (vv 5-7).
John gives us the first promise of the resurrection of Christ’s Church:
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3).
Although Jesus’ death provided a way of salvation for mankind, death had not been conquered. Jesus’ resurrection, however, conquered death. Because death could not keep Jesus in the grave, the grave also cannot ultimately hold those who have trusted in Christ alone as Savor and Lord (John 14:6).
It is the case then that the Bible also promises that because Christ was resurrected, we too will be resurrected to be with Him. When Jesus Christ returns for His Church scriptures proclaim we will be taken up to be with Jesus in our glorified bodies.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:53-55). See also Acts 2:24; Romans 5:10, 21; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; Heb. 2:14.
Paul is actually quoting from the Old Testament passage in Isaiah 12:8 where it state that God “will swallow up death for all time.”
In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica he again affirms this:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; see also 1 Tim. 6:13-15).
This makes it very clear that those that have died and those who still are alive when Christ takes His Church home will be resurrected (or raptured), because Jesus Christ was first resurrected. This is The Blessed Hope (Titus 2:11-14).
If that is not enough Christ tells us in Revelation 20:6
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
As Christians we celebrate the advent of God coming to dwell with man at Christmas. Our second High Holy Day is what most people call Easter.[ii] I prefer Resurrection Day; the day Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
Good Friday is the day Christ was crucified and is celebrated by some churches.
“That greatest of all events, really, in the life of our Lord, the culminating event, the triumphant finale to His life on earth is probably the most neglected event in the life of Christ.”[iii]
Jesus alluded to his ascending back to the Father right after his resurrection. When Mary recognized Jesus at the tomb “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God (Jn 20:17).’”
The actual event is recorded by Mark and also by Dr. Luke:
“So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).” “And He [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:50-51).”
The Ascension marked the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly work. When Jesus departed he opened the door for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit couldn’t fully come until Jesus left. Furthermore “the ascension really is an incredibly important event, the culminating reality of His entire life and ministry. . . . He is the one and the only one who having accomplished our redemption was received back into heaven. This is the final divine affirmation, stamp of approval on His ministry.”[iv]
When Jesus ascended to heaven His divine attributes and glory were restored fully. He was no longer confined to His corporeal nature or limitations; Christ was again fully glorified.
In his High Priestly Prayer in John 17:4-5 Jesus prayed “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
The Base Ball Analogy
The earth is our Home Base. Satan threw Jesus a curve (he thought) which he smacked hard off the wall, but it was not an over-the-wall homer.
When Jesus died on the cross, Satan’s team thought they had won. But Jesus was just rounding first base.
The resurrection was second base, but Jesus wasn’t done yet. He hung around for forty days, putting the final touches on the foundation of what would be His Church. He was driving for third base.
Then Jesus ascended back into heaven; to the Father. That was third base, but Jesus didn’t stop at third, he rounded third driving for Home Base. That will be the “New Heaven and a New Earth (Rev. 21:1).
[i] Theologically it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit that calls and draws each person to Christ. There is nothing, nothing, we can do on our own to reach God.
[ii] The word “Easter” most probably comes from the pagan name Ishtar, the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.
[iii] John MacArthur, “What the Ascension Accomplished,” https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-411/what-the-ascension-accomplished