The Dynamics of the
Everlasting Gospel

By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 5 – The Cross of Christ

The cross of Christ was the very heart of the New Testament message (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). The apostle Paul summed up the Good News of the gospel in the message of the cross: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Yet there is much confusion and ignorance among God’s people today on this vital subject. The devil is quite happy when we decorate our churches with crosses, print crosses on our books, tattoo them on our bodies, hang them around our necks, and even preach about the cross, as long as we remain ignorant about the truth of the cross.

The cross is the supreme manifestation of God’s agape love; it is where the just demand of the law on behalf of the human race was met and it demonstrated the power of God in Christ Jesus that defeated the devil and sin. Satan does not want the truth of the cross made available to us, and for this reason he has enshrouded this truth in darkness, and, as a result, the Christian church has lost much of its power.

But the truth of the cross must and will be restored, and before the end comes the light flowing from it in the hearts of the believers will lighten this earth with the glory of God: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:31-32).

In order to get the full benefit from this study on the cross of Christ, I have divided this subject into three sections, each unfolding an important truth crucial to our salvation and Christian living. May God open our eyes that we may not only see, but rejoice and glory in Christ and Him crucified.

1. The Cross of Christ and the Great Controversy

At the cross Satan, the antichrist, “that old serpent ... which deceiveth the whole world,” was totally defeated, judged, and condemned. Here is a truth that all Christians must clearly see and understand. The great controversy which began in heaven between Lucifer and Christ (Rev. 12:7, 8) met its determining end at the cross; for here Satan, the great deceiver, was fully exposed so that the whole universe saw him as he really was, a liar and a murderer. It is only as we too see Satan in the light of the cross that we will know him as he really is.

In heaven, Lucifer had the highest position among the angels, but iniquity (self-exaltation) entered his mind (Ezek. 28:14, 15), and he coveted the place of Christ who was one with the Father (Isa. 14:12-14). Unknown to the other angels, Lucifer, having now become Satan, desired in his mind to get rid of or murder the Son of God so that he might have His place of honor. Having deceived one third of the angels, he waged war on Christ and His angels. However, he and his angels were defeated and cast out of their heavenly home (Rev. 12:7-9).

Following this, Satan unlawfully took dominion of this earth from Adam and Eve and using fallen man as his slave and tool, developed this world into a kingdom of his very own based on the principle of self-love. We saw all this in our study of “The Sin Problem,” Chapter 1.

For over four thousand years after the fall of Adam, Satan kept secret in his mind that inner desire he cherished in heaven, to murder the Son of God. But one silent night on the hills of Bethlehem, while shepherds were watching their flocks, Satan and his angels heard some strange singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” God who so loved the world had sent His only beloved Son to be the Saviour of fallen humanity (John 3:16).

This news came to Satan as a wonderful opportunity to satisfy his long cherished desire. Now he could fulfill that which he wanted to do in heaven—murder the Son of God. After all, the whole world was under his control (1 John 5:19); what better opportunity could have fallen into his wicked hands than this? Here in his world, Christ, his bitter enemy, had risked His life to come as a helpless babe to redeem that which he (Satan) had unlawfully taken. What could he do to this hated Foe who had defeated him in heaven and cast him out of his heavenly home?

Satan lost no time. Using Herod the Great as his agent, orders were sent to kill every male child under two years old in Bethlehem, in an attempt to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:1-16). This scheme, however, failed—Christ’s hour had not yet come (John 7:30; 8:20). Although the Bible is almost silent about the childhood and early manhood years of Christ, undoubtedly many attempts must have been made by Satan to fulfill his evil desire, which will be disclosed in the judgment.

Then came the ministry of Christ, and Scripture records many attempts on His life, each one prompted by Satan himself. The following are two examples:

But all attempts on the life of Christ failed because of one reason: “for His hour was not yet come.” God was protecting His Son and this made it impossible for Satan to fulfill his desire.

But now comes Gethsemane, and Jesus is arrested by a devil-controlled mob. And He responds, “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me, but this is your hour, and the power of darkness [Satan]” (Lk. 22:53). The moment had arrived in the history of the universe when Satan must be exposed. All heaven and earth must see him for what he is. Jesus said to the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth” (John 8:44). Whom did he (the devil) murder in the beginning? Physically no one, but in his heart (mind) he lusted or desired to murder the Son of God when in heaven, as Lucifer, iniquity entered his mind and he wanted the place of God. (Please note: murder to God does not have to be an act; it begins, like all sin, with a cherished desire; Matt. 5:21-28).

At the cross Satan was given full control of Christ, to do with Him as he pleased. Thus only could that evil hidden desire, cherished for so long, come out into the open. Now the whole universe would understand what sin really is and what it will end up doing, if given the chance. Sin is hatred against God; sin is rebelling against Him and His law of love, which if allowed to have its own way will end up murdering God. This is what the cross of Christ exposed about sin and the devil, the originator of sin.

In John 15:18 Jesus declared: “If the world hate you [His disciples], ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” Why should the world hate Christ who went about doing good? Because “the whole world lieth in the wicked one” (1 John 5:19), and the wicked one, who is Satan, hates Christ. It is therefore not surprising that the Jews, under the control of the devil, cried out with one accord, “Away with him, away with him” (John 19:6, 15). At the cross Satan revealed his hatred for God.

With Christ in his control, there was only one direction Satan could go with Him—put Him to public shame, inflict untold suffering upon Him, and finally murder Him. Thus only could the inner desire of the devil be satisfied. Using the world as his tool, all three were heaped upon Christ at the cross—shame, suffering, and death. Note the following texts:

Dying on a Roman cross, besides being a most shameful death, reserved only for the worst criminals and runaway slaves (Isa. 53:12), was also a most painful form of death. Roman crucifixion was preceded by flogging which caused much suffering. This was followed by the criminal forced to drag his cross to the place of death; and finally the crucifixion itself produced untold suffering beyond description. Yet Christ endured all this to fulfill the will of God (Lk. 24:26, 46; Acts 3:18; 1 Peter 2:21).

It is of utmost importance that we realize that the shame and suffering inflicted upon Christ at His crucifixion by cruel men did not come from God, but was prompted by the devil. God, of course, allowed it so that the true character of Satan might be exposed, but He was not responsible for it. We must therefore never equate the physical suffering and shame Christ endured on the cross as the supreme sacrifice that saves us. We must never confuse what Satan did to Christ on the cross with what God did to His Son. God and Satan were not partners at the cross.

Our next section will deal with what God did to His Son on the cross, and that which constitutes the supreme sacrifice which saves us. But the devil, who was solely responsible for the physical suffering of Christ, has somehow deceived the Christian church into believing that the physical suffering on the cross instituted the supreme sacrifice of Christ which has contributed towards our salvation. No! For if we believe so, then the devil has actually helped towards our salvation and this can never be so in the light of the great controversy.

So then, at the cross of Christ the true character of Satan was revealed and this forever has brought his downfall in the eyes of God’s angels and the unfallen worlds. But not only to them, the cross must also unveil the true character of Satan to us; for as Christians we are Christ’s representatives on earth, and therefore “the offence of the cross” which Christ endured for our sake must also become ours (Galatians 5:11).

As Christians we have said goodbye to our position in the world (John 15:19; 17:16) and have been crucified to it (Galatians 6:14), and have become one with Christ. Therefore, we have become enemies of Satan and his world. Consequently, that which Satan, working through the world, did to Christ on the cross he will do to us. This is "the offence of the cross” which all true believers must endure.

The fact that the world does not hate us or put us to shame today is simply because we are so carnal in behavior that the world does not see Christ in us. But let Christ through the power of the gospel be revealed in our lives, and immediately the world will turn against us. It will hate us (see John 7:7; 17:14; 1 John 3:13), put us to shame (Acts 5:41), and persecute us (see John 16:33; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Tim. 3:12).

Let us therefore not be deceived when the world is good to us and speaks well of us. Said Jesus, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak will of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Lk. 6:26).

At the cross, the world under Satan had to make a choice between Christ (in whom Pilate the judge could find no fault), and Barabbas (the worst criminal that could be found in the jail). The world without hesitation chose to release Barabbas, for he was one of their own, and to crucify Christ. The world today is still under Satan, and this is the choice it will make if it has to choose between one of its own and the most insignificant but genuine believer. This, dear believer, is the cost of discipleship.

Again, at the time of the cross, the world was divided within itself. There were the Jews who were against the Romans, and the Pharisees against the Sadducees. But Christ was their common enemy and against Him they were united. So also today the world is divided into many factions, but let the character of Christ be reproduced in the church and the world will unite against the saints. This will be the time of great tribulation that will come at the end of time when the church will finally demonstrate the power of the gospel.

At the cross Satan and Christ met again and this time Satan was confident of victory; but his victory was turned into defeat and from this defeat Satan will never recover. Praise the Lord for such a Saviour!

2. The Cross of Christ and the Atonement

In the last section we saw what Satan did to Christ on the cross—put Him to open shame, inflicted untold suffering on Him, and finally placed Him on the cross to die a terrible death. God allowed all this to happen to His only beloved Son, and Christ in turn, willingly submitted to this cruel treatment, so that Satan would be fully and completely exposed before the eyes of the universe.

But far more than this happened at the cross. For God took this opportunity of what humanly speaking looked like defeat for Him, and made it a means by which the whole fallen human race could be saved. In other words, He turned defeat into victory. “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called [saved], both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

In this section of our study of the cross we will look beyond the physical suffering of Christ, inflicted upon Him by cruel men and which played no part in the atonement, to the real suffering of Christ, which constitutes the supreme sacrifice and which is the means by which sinful men are reconciled to a holy and righteous God.

We must realize that not only was Satan’s character fully revealed at the cross, but much more, God’s character was also fully revealed. And the just demands of the law were also fully met at the cross. The apostle John declared: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and Paul wrote to the Roman Christians: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).

Again we read: “[Christ] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 3:24-25; 4:25). It was at the cross that the glory of God (His self-sacrificing love, see Desire of Ages, p. 20) was fully displayed, and we too, like the disciples, must behold His glory if we are to grow in the fulness of Him. “But we all, with open face beholding as in the glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Against the dark background of sin and Satan the glory of God was manifested at the cross in all its brilliancy. What this glory was we must now investigate. All human barriers such as preconceived ideas or traditions must be put aside, so that we may behold the truth as it is in Christ and Him crucified.

In order for us to appreciate the true significance of the cross of Christ, in the light of the atonement (a word that means God and sinful man have been reconciled, or brought to at-one-ment), we must realize that sin is something that has separated us from God (Isa. 59:2) and made us His enemies (Romans 5:10). Hence, in order for sinful man to be saved, he needs to be reconciled to God. According to Scripture, Christ has reconciled us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:17) and this reconciliation was realized at the cross (Ephesians 2:16; Romans 5:10). How is this so? In other words, how was it possible for the death of Christ to reconcile us to God? This indeed is a most important question, and one that will open our eyes to the true nature of Christ’s death, the supreme sacrifice that revealed God's glory or self-sacrificing love.

Again, we must realize that sin, besides being something that God hates and will not tolerate, is “the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). And God has made it absolutely clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Gen. 2:16,17; Ezk. 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23). Christ’s death on the cross was “unto sin” (Romans 6:10). This simply means that on the cross as our substitute and representative, Christ experienced the death which is described in the Bible as the wages of sin, or as Hebrews 2:9 puts it, He “by the grace of God should taste death for every man."

This brings us to a most important consideration, for in the Scriptures two kinds of death are mentioned. There is the first death referred to in the Bible as sleep (John 11:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thes.4:14). This is the common experience of all men, both saved and lost. Then there is the second death, which is an eternal death (good-bye to life forever), and which will be experienced by the lost at the end of the millennium (1,000 years after the second advent (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).

The first death, terrible as it may seem to us, is not the wages of sin, but only its consequence. Hence all who die this death will experience a resurrection—the saved to eternal life, and the lost to face the second death, the wages of sin. It is the second death that is the wages of sin, for it is in this death that God, the source of all life, abandons the unrepentant to his own choice of unbelief, leaving him without any hope whatsoever.

Therefore, “blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power” (Rev. 20:6). Why is it that those who have accepted by faith their position in Christ, and who will be raised in the first resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:16), will escape the second death? Christ as their sin bearer has already “tasted” the second death for them (Hebrews 2:9). Here is a truth that the carnal mind cannot understand, for it is foolishness to him, but to us who are saved it is the power of God unto salvation. The cross of Christ thus understood becomes to the believer the power of the gospel that is able to deliver us from the guilt and punishment of sin, as well as from its power.

It is of utmost importance, both to our salvation and our Christian experience, that all believers recognize that on the cross Christ actually tasted the second death on behalf of fallen humanity, and that this death constitutes the supreme sacrifice. By deceiving the Christian church into believing a lie—that man possesses an immortal soul—the devil has enshrouded this glorious truth of the cross in darkness. For you see, if man possesses an immortal soul, then death simply becomes a separation of the soul from the body, in which case the second death (good-bye to life forever) becomes impossible. For this reason the church has had to interpret the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross in terms of His physical sufferings which were inflicted on Him by cruel men and which were no different from the kind of death many humans have suffered. For this reason too, the idea that the lost will be eternally tortured or burn in fire throughout eternity had to be introduced as the wages of sin. Neither of these teachings is founded on Scripture.

Futhermore, by directing the church to look at the cross from the Roman perspective, Satan has also hidden the true meaning of the cross in darkness, with regards to the real sacrifice of Christ. It is only when we look at the cross from the Jewish point of view, as did the New Testiment writers, that we can realize its full significance.

It is true that the Roman cross was the most painful and shameful instrument of execution ever practiced by men. It was first invented by the Phoenicians approximately 600 B.C., then adopted by the Egyptians who in turn passed it on to the Romans, who refined it and used it to execute run-away slaves and their worst criminals. But the cross ment something very different to the Jews, and only as we see the cross from their perspective can we realise what was really implicated in it.

According to John 19:5-7, the Jews demanded that Christ be crucified, because He had committed the sin of blasphemy, since “he made himself the Son of God.” However, when we examine the law of blasphemy in the Old Testament, we discover that this law stipulated death by stoning and not crucifixion (Lev. 24:16). Were not the Jews aware of this? They certainly were, for when Christ declared, “I and my father are one,” the Jews “took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:30, 31). Why then did they insist that Pilate crucify Him, especially when one realizes that crucifixion was not practiced by the Jews?

The answer is that they had more in mind than just having Christ put to death. The Jews of Christ’s day equated crucifixtion with hanging on a tree, which to them was equavilant to the irrevocable curse of God (Deut. 21:23). This was equvalent to the second death, or good-bye to life for ever (we must remember that the Jews did not believe in the immortality of the human soul, which was a pagan Greek concept).

A good example of how hanging on a tree represented the curse of God is found in the book of Joshua. God had told Abraham that He would give the Amorites (an ancient term for the Canaanites) four hundred years probationary period in which to accept the true God of heaven, while his decendents, the Jews, would be slaves in Egypt (Gen. 15:13-16). When Joshua was leading the Jews into Canaan in the Exodus, five kings joined together to attack the Gibeonites who had joined hands with Joshua. God gave Joshua’s army the victory, and when the five enemy kings were captured and brought to Joshua, he slew them and then had them all hanged on five trees as evidence of God’s curse, or what happens when one knowingly and deliberately rejects the God of heaven (Josh. 10:25-27).

To the Jews, Christ crucified meant more than physical death; it meant that God was placing His curse on Him, the equivalent of the second death (Isa. 53:6, 10). This God did, not because of blasphemy, as the Jews accused Him of, but because “He . . . spared not His own Son but delivered Him up [to the full wages of sin] for us all.” Hence, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). It is for this reason that the New Testament writers who viewed the cross from the Jewish perspective identified the crucifixtion of Christ with hanging on a tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; 1 Peter 2:24).

No doubt many will raise the question in their minds: “How could Christ possibly experience the second death, seeing He was divine, predict His resurrection, and actually rise from the dead?” The first question can be dismissed easily since the divinity of Christ did not die on the cross, but Christ as a man and as our Substitute died (i.e., our corporate human life which He assumed at the incarnation and which stood condemned, died). Divinity is immortal and therefore cannot die either the first or second death. The other two questions can be cleared up only in the light of the self-emptying of Christ that took place at the Incarnation.

What was involved in the Incarnation when Christ, the second person of the Godhead, was made flesh and became the Son of man? According to Philippians 2:6, 7, Christ “emptied Himself” or “made Himself of no reputation,” in order to represent the humanity He came to redeem. What did this actually involve? Clearly, in order to be our Savour, Christ placed His entire being along with every divine prerogative or power, entirely into the hands of His Father. The Father, in turn, took Christ, who had now willingly and voluntarily made Himself a slave to the Father, and through the Holy Spirit placed Him in the womb of Mary (Lk. 1:26-35).

This meant that Christ, while still retaining His divinity, gave up the independent use of that divinity while living on this earth as our substitute and representative. Consequently we are told in Scripture that the child Jesus grew in wisdom (Lk. 2:40, 52), something not possible had Christ retained His divine prerogatives, and as a man He Himself declared that apart from the Father He could do nothing (John 5:19, 30; 6:57). This meant He had to live on this earth as men have to live—totally dependant on God, that is, by faith alone.

Note the following comparison between Christ as God and Christ as man:

CHRIST AS GOD  CHRIST AS MAN
Immortal. John 1:4; 5:26. Mortal. Romans 10:5; 5:6; 1 Corinthians 15:3.
Creator. John 1:3; Colossians 1:16. Made human. Matt. 2:1; Hebrews 2:9; 10:5.
Knows all things. John 2:24-25; 16:30. Must acquire knowledge. Lk. 2:40, 52.
Independent. John 10:18. Dependent. John 5:19, 30; 6:57; 8:28.

As God, all that is true of God is true of Christ. Likewise, as a man, all that is true of men was true of Christ (Hebrews 2:14-17). Therefore for Christ as God to become like us men, Christ had to empty Himself completely of all His divine prerogatives. Only then could He be made in all points like unto us and qualify to be our Savour and substitute.

All this throws important light on His death on the cross. For not only was Christ as the Son of man totally dependant on the Father for His every need, but even when it came to the resurrection, Christ (who even though He possessed His own uncreated, unborrowed, divine life) could not raise Himself from the dead without the authority and direction of the Father. It is for this reason that Scripture clearly teaches that Christ was raised up from the dead by the glorious power of the Father (Romans 6:4; Acts 2:24, 32; Ephesians 1:20).

In the light of this truth we must now evaluate the death of Christ on the cross. We have already seen what Satan through the world did to Christ on the cross. Now, besides this and apart from it, God also did something to His beloved Son on the cross. The prophet Isaiah tells us that He laid upon Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6). By this is meant that the wrath of God against all sin was heaped upon Christ our sin-bearer as He hung on the cross. For this reason the Bible declares that God spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all (Isa. 53:4, 10; Romans 4:25; 8:32).

This truth was revealed of old through the sanctuary service, when the sacrificial lamb, which represented Christ, had to be consumed by divine fire at the brazen altar (Lev. 9:24), which fire represented the wrath of God against sin (Hebrews 12:29). Likewise this same truth was implied by our Lord at that first communion in the upper room when Christ instituted the Lord's supper. He took the cup and said: “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). Later, in the garden of Gethsemane, we hear Him pray three times in agony: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39-44).

What exactly did He mean by the cup? The answer can be found in the three angels’ message of Revelation 14. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation” (Rev. 14:9, 10). The cup is clearly the irrevocable curse of God, which is the second death.

All His life on this earth Christ had lived by faith, totally depending upon His Father; and as we have already seen, apart from the Father Christ could do nothing. This was part of the price He had to pay in order to be the second Adam and Saviour of the world. But now at the cross, something terrible happened to Him. The Father forsook Him (Matthew 27:46); this meant that Christ was left without hope—without the hope of resurrection and without the hope of seeing His Father again.

The eternal life that Christ possessed and which He had placed in charge of the Father at the Incarnation, was now being taking away from Him in order that God might give it to the fallen human race. In turn, the second death which rightfully belonged to us was now being experienced by our Lord (Hebrews 2:9). In the ultimate sense, this is what Paul meant when he declared, “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This was the supreme sacrifice that Christ had to make in order that He might save us. Christ the Shepherd was laying down His life for His sheep; not for three days, but for eternity (John 10:11, 15). It is only in this context that we can understand what Christ meant when He said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave [not lent] his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This the disciples, who were Jews, clearly saw, and it completely transformed them from a group of greedy men to truly converted disciples, ready to turn the world upside down with the gospel (Acts 17:6). The same transformation will take place in our lives when we fully realise the true meaning of the cross (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).

Unseen by the human eye, Satan was watching the whole scene, fully aware of the issue involved. But while he was responsible for putting Christ there on the cross, at the same time he did not want to see the human race saved nor did he want God to display and demonstrate His matchless unconditional agape love. So while Christ was suffering untold mental anguish under the wrath of God, the devil, once again using the world as his agent comes to the Savour with fierce temptations that can never be fully understood by mortal men: “He saved others, let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God . . . If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself” (Lk. 23:35-37).

Who can understand such superhuman temptations? Surely, from the human point of view, Christ had every reason to save Himself and let the ungrateful rebellious world be lost. But no! Christ’s love for the sinful fallen race was greater than the love He had for Himself: “Hereby perceive we the love [agape] of God, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

At the cross Christ had to make a most important choice or decision, upon which the destiny of the whole human race rested: shall He come down from the cross and save Himself (using His own divine power) against the will of the Father (He could have done so), or shall He save the world by submitting to the just wages of sin by the total and eternal sacrifice of Himself? This was the real issue Christ faced. He could not save Himself and the world at the same time; it had to be one or the other.

The choice Christ made was, “I will say good-bye to My eternal life that the human race may have it, and in exchange I will accept the second death, the just payment for sin, which they deserve.” The divine life of Christ did not come to an end at the cross but it was laid down for the human race in exchange for the second death that rightfully belongs to us.

This means that, at the cross Christ chose to say good-bye to His eternal life forever, not just for three days, in order that we night have this eternal life. This constitutes the supreme sacrifice of the cross — the glory of God shining in the face of Christ. This was the bitter cup Christ had to drink, which produced great drops of blood at Gethsemane, when He in His humanity pleaded with the Father.

Having made this self-sacrificing choice on the cross, that He as the second Adam would accept the second death for every man, Christ cried out, “it is finished,” and, bowing His head, He died (John 19:30). What was finished at the cross? The sacrifice of the atonement, the price for every sin was once and for all fully paid (Romans 6:10).

Thus, while we were yet sinners and enemies of God, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Romans 5:8, 10). The just and righteous Father who was in Christ “reconciling the world unto Himself,” was perfectly satisfied that His Son had met the just demands of His holy law. In the light of this truth the prophet Isaiah could prophesy: “He shall see the travail of his soul [Christ’s mental anguish on the cross as He experienced the second death)] and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge [of the cross] shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11; please note that the context of Isaiah 53 is the cross of Christ).

We must bear in mind that the supreme sacrifice of the cross was made by a sinless Christ; that is to say, in no way did Christ ever yield to sin while He tabernacled in our humanity. In view of this, Christ did not deserve Himself to be punished by the second death. Even though He did experience the second death on behalf of the human race, God was perfectly just in returning to Christ His divine life which He had laid down for sinful man.

However, it must be noted that no longer was this returned life the sole property of Christ alone, for through the sacrifice on the cross the eternal life of Christ has become a shared life — a truth of vital importance to all humanity. For this reason, after the cross, Christ is no longer referred to as the only begotten Son of God, but “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29; Rev. 1:5). This is true of Christ in reference to Him being the head of a new redeemed humanity, He being the first-fruits or first-born of all who are in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). Likewise, in the resurrection Christ who sanctifies and the believers who are sanctified “are all of one,” i.e., they share the same life (Hebrews 2:11).

Before the cross, Christ is referred to in Scripture as “the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14; the Greek word translated begotten actually means somebody very special). After the cross and in the resurrection Christ becomes “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5). These terms “only begotten” and “first begotten” have important distinctions. The term “only begotten” can only apply to an only child, but the expression “first begotten” refers to the first child among many children. This is the difference the cross of Christ has made in the life of God and man. Before the cross God had only one beloved Son, but now, through the supreme sacrifice God has many beloved sons and daughters, of whom Christ is the first (1 John 3:1-2; 1 Peter 1:3-4). What a wonderful God and Savour we have!

Not only has He delivered us from the condemnation of sin and death but, much more, He has raised us up and made us to be the very sons and daughters of God, so that one day we will share His very throne in heaven and in the earth made new (Rev. 20:6; 22:5). No wonder Paul was lost for words when he declared: “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Are you beginning to understand, dear reader, why the great apostle Paul could glory in nothing else but Christ and Him crucified? May God open our eyes too, that we who are living in these last days may behold the glory of God shining in the face of our Saviour crucified; and may the love of Christ constrain us so that for us to live is to live for Christ alone, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

3. The Cross of Christ and the Human Race

Having seen the true significance of the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we must now turn out attention to our third study on the cross. In this section we will consider the human race, to which each one of us belongs, in the light of the cross of Christ. Here is yet another truth of which many seem to be ignorant, and yet it too is of vital importance to our salvation from sin.

In our study on the Two Adams (Chapter 4), we saw that “in Adam all die,” while in Christ “shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). We should have no misgivings about the fact that the death brought upon us by Adam's one sin is the second or eternal death. Since all have sinned in Adam (Romans 5:12), then all must ultimately die the wages of sin in Adam, which is the second death. The life we all were born with originated in Adam. It is a life that has sinned in Adam and therefore it is a life that is forfeited by the law. The just demand of the law is always eternal death, for “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20). What this all means is that apart from a Saviour every child born of Adam is born on death row. The eternal life, offered to us as a free gift in Christ is always in contrast to the eternal death we inherit from Adam. Thus, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish [say goodbye to life forever], but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

We must be absolutely clear in our minds that Christ did not come to change the death sentence that hangs over the human race; but He did come to fulfill that death sentence and make a way of escape for lost humanity. For Christ to change the death sentence would mean He had break His own law or make it null and void; and this can never be for the law is a revelation of His just and righteous character which character never changes (Hebrews 13:8).

Since all have sinned in Adam, die the first death we must, but Christ came that we may be made alive in Him. To understand this, we must go back and take another look at 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47. In these two verses, Adam is referred to as the first Adam and the first man, while Christ is called the last Adam and the second man. According to verse 45, Adam is the first head of the human race, while Christ is the last (or second) head of the same human race. And, in verse 47, Adam is the head of the first or old human race, while Christ is the head of the second or new human race.

As the last (or second) Adam Christ gathered unto Himself the whole Adamic race and on the cross died the wages of sin (the second or eternal death) which is what we all deserved in the first Adam. And by His death on the cross, Christ in the resurrection rose up from the dead as the second man, the head of a new humanity who are altogether found in Him. Hence, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It was at the cross that old things, or the old humanity, passed away; and it is in the resurrection that “all things are become new.”

At the cross not only did Christ die the second death, but much more, we, too, died in Him. And, thus, we were delivered forever from our position in Adam and this doomed world, which position was under the condemnation of the law. Through the resurrection we were made alive in Him, born anew to a “lively hope,” which is entirely under grace and which is in Christ, the second man, the head of a new humanity. Therefore, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

This, in fact, is the truth all of us submitted to, or should have submitted to, when we were baptized into Christ (see Romans 6:3-6). For baptism, as we shall study later on, is simply our surrender or submission to what God did to us in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Further, note how the apostle Paul illustrates this same truth of the cross in Romans 7:4, “Wherefore, by brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another [husband], even to him who is raised from the dead that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”

In Adam we were married, as it were, to the law, that is to say, the law (like a husband) had dominion or authority over us as long as we lived (see Romans 7:1).  But being incorporated or united to the body of Christ (the last Adam), by the act of God, we died to the law on the cross of Christ and thus were delivered from its dominion and authority (Galatians 4:4-5), freed from our position in Adam.  And in the resurrection we were born anew, married or Christ (the second man) and became one with Him, possessing His life and living under His dominion and authority. For this reason Scripture defines the church as the body of Christ, and Christ as the Head of the church (Ephesians 5:23).

Through the cross of Christ we have said good-bye forever to the life we inherited in Adam, and in exchange we have received the life of Christ. It is this truth, above any other truth, that will determine whether we remain carnal Christians living like ordinary men (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) or become spiritual Christians bearing the fruit of Christ’s life (John 15:4-8). This matter will be discussed in detail when we come to the study on the subjective aspect of the gospel, or salvation as a personal experience.

So then, the third important truth of the cross of Christ we must all know is that the whole human race which originated in the first Adam died in Christ the last Adam. Let it be clear that this was absolutely necessary, for without doing away with us in Adam Christ could not introduce the new human race to which we Christians belong and to which we have been born again to a “lively hope.” Having stated this fact clearly, we must now back this truth up with the clear teaching of the Bible. The following statements have been taken from Good News for Modern Man, a New Testament translation in today’s English, so that the words of Scripture may become more meaningful to the modern reader:

These texts which have been quoted for our benefit make it unmistakably clear that the cross of Christ was a corporate cross on which the whole human race died in Christ, in order that we might be set free from the rule of sin and the devil, and made alive unto God. Dear reader, unless you have seen Christ bearing not only your sins on the cross, but also you, you will never know in your experience the full power of the gospel, which power is to be found in the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).

In concluding our study on the cross of Christ we may summarize the three great truths as follows:

  1. Satan’s true character along with the true character of the world and the true nature of sin were all revealed or manifested on the cross of Christ when the Son of God was put to open shame, inflicted with untold suffering and brutally crucified.

  2. In contrast, the love and justice of God were fully displayed at the cross when Christ bore the full guilt and penalty of sin on behalf of the whole human race and thus experienced the second or eternal death for every man, “the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18).

  3. The whole human race was included in Christ, the last Adam, so that all men died in Him on the cross, the penalty required by the law; so that we were forever delivered from our position in Adam, which position was under the power and condemnation of sin.
Thus, the cross of Christ becomes a means by which (a) we are given a true knowledge of sin and the devil, (b) we receive forgiveness of our sins, because Christ bore the guilt and penalty of all sins, and (c) we experience the power of God over sin, because He has struck a death blow to our life of sin, and in exchange given us the very life of Christ which has conquered sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3).

Therefore, “far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen!


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