When we look at the subject of death, it tends to me from a worldly perspective, not a biblical perspective. Wikipedia says of “death,” it is “the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a particular living organism….” but in doing so, provides only part of the insight we need when studying the Bible.
Spiritual death, on the other hand, is a concept from Christian theology, and as Wikipedia says, is simply “separation from God…”
Wikipedia goes on to say, “Spiritual death is related to but distinct from physical death and the second (eternal) death. [….] thereby spiritually dead, being separated from God. Christians believe that because Christ defeated sin and death, those who have faith in him are made spiritually alive. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. For most Christians, physical death means the beginning of eternal life in the presence of God. For the unbeliever, however, physical death is followed by the second death (eternal death and suffering).”
When we look at the death of Jesus at Golgotha, we need to look at it in the broadest terms in order to achieve some sense of the magnitude and the awesomeness of the event. The death of Jesus was not just a physical act, but a spiritual act also.
The first death of Jesus was when he was separated from God:
Matthew 27:46 “And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?‘ That is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?‘”
It is hard for us to imagine the feelings which Jesus felt at that time; feeling Himself truly alone, for the first time ever. However, there is a parallel for us which gives us a partial glimpse into the magnitude of His situation, for as quoted above, “for the unbeliever …. physical death is followed by the second death (eternal death and suffering).” This is explained in Matthew 25:41 where Jesus says, “then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” Revelation 20:14 builds on this saying, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
To fully understand the description of the second death, the lake of fire which Revelation 20:14 describes, it needs to be read in conjunction with Mark 9:43-48 (emphasis added),
“43b … And if your hand offends you, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than to have two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched 44 where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
45 And if your foot offends you, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life lame than to have two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched 46 where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
47 And if your eye offends you, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes to be cast into hell fire 48 where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.”
Everything in the bible is important, so when something is repeated three times in successive verses, it is a something which we must understand and never forget. Our spirits are eternal and as such, their “death” is not like the death of our bodies, a permanent cessation of physical function. Death for our spirit, means separation from God in a fire which will burn continually, but not consume, while at the same time, worms will forever eat of it, but yet never consume it.
Though we can scarcely imagine such a thing, I believe the first death which Jesus suffered, was on a par with this.
The second death of Jesus was when He gave up His Spirit,
Luke 23:46 “And crying with a loud voice, Jesus said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ And when He had said this, He breathed out the spirit.”
From the time of his baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), Jesus has been completely filled with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it may be argued that from time of his baptism, the Holy Spirit dwelt completely and solely within Jesus.
In John 3:5 Jesus said to Nicodemus “Truly, truly, I say to you. Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” The implication for us being, that unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are not truly alive, for, as John 3:15 says, “whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 1 John 3:14 confirm this idea saying that those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and “be called children of God” (1 John 3:1) “… have passed from death to life…”
Then as Matthew 27:50 says, “… crying again with a loud voice, Jesus released His spirit.” The implication and understanding here is that this was an intentional and voluntary act by Jesus. Jesus breathed out His Holy Spirit and released it back to His father. Jesus chose to give up His Spirit and return it to His father. In doing so, He chose death.
The third death of Jesus was when His own spirit of man left Him,
Mark 15:37 “And letting out a loud voice, Jesus expired.”
As 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, mankind comprises three elements, body, soul and spirit. Luke 2:40 confirms the same was true of Jesus, saying of Him “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom….”
Thus, on the cross, His work accomplished, Jesus at last died the same death as any man born of woman, and His spirit left His body and soul. Jesus then experienced, as Wikipedia says, a “permanent cessation of all biological functions.”
As I came to a broader and deeper understanding of death, and of the death which Jesus suffered, it helped me come to terms with the descriptions of Jesus from Isaiah 53:3-5,
“He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as it were a hiding of faces from Him, He being despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on Him; and with His stripes we ourselves are healed.”
I also refer you to an associated article entitled “Jesus Feels the Pain of His Bride” which deal with related issues as the Holy Spirit gave me an insight into the unimaginable suffering of Jesus – that which He felt, and that which He feels today and tomorrow, for mankind and for His Bride.
The graphic video clip, below, realistically portrays what the LORD JESUS CHRIST – perfect and sinless – suffered in order to pay the penalty of our sin – so we would need not perish, but rather have everlasting life.