Victory over death

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (Jn. 19:30)

Apr 16, 2014

By David A. DePra
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (Jn. 19:30)

The words, “It is finished,” are central to the story of Jesus’ death on the Cross. But what is finished? What was Jesus referring to by the word “it?”

Death is Finished
Foremost among those things included in the word “IT” is death.When Jesus said, “It is finished” He meant death is finished. Death was finished because sin was finished. Jesus was bearing sin on the Cross. And He would conquer death through the resurrection. Death had never before been conquered. Sure, there had been those whom Jesus had raised from the dead -- Lazarus was raised shortly before Jesus was crucified. But all who had ever been raised from the dead died again. Their resurrection, as wonderful as it was, had not conquered death itself. But not so with the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus was raised from the dead, it wasn’t temporary. It was eternal.

Death had not merely been postponed. It had been fully conquered. How could death be conquered?

Think about it. Death cannot be conquered unless death is met head-on and defeated. You cannot conquer death by avoiding the issue. You have to meet it and overcome it.

Jesus did this, not merely by dying, and not merely through the resurrection. Those were the end products and sealed the victory over death. But He was able to conquer death by His resurrection because of what led up to it: His perfect life.

Jesus was able to bear the sin of the world because He had no sin. He was able to be the Lamb of God without blemish because He was sinless. That is what made it possible for Jesus to conquer death. He entered into death with nothing in Himself which death could hold.

Lazarus and everyone else had sinned. Death had a hold on them. They were born spiritually dead in Adam, and therefore, were subject to death. Thus, they died again. But not so with Christ.

Christ lived a perfect life. So when He died, there was nothing in Him which death could hold.

The Bible states this:
Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. (Acts 2:24)

Note the phrase, “It was not possible that He should be held by death.” Not possible? Why? Because there was no sin found in Him. And since the wages of sin IS death, where there is no sin, there is no death. Death could therefore find no place in Jesus Christ by which He could be held.

But wait. If Christ lived a perfect life, with nothing death could hold, then how could He die on the Cross?

Jesus could die on the Cross because He was bearing our sin. He was bearing everything which death could hold on our behalf. He took that upon Himself down into death. Otherwise there was nothing in Jesus Christ which would otherwise merit death.

Thus, we see why the death of Christ was real. He was, on the Cross, bearing the fullness of sin. All of it. The sin nature and the acts of sin. That is why He died. Despite having nothing in Himself which death could hold, He bore everything which death could hold, i.e. sin itself.

But then what was raised? Surely not sin. Surely, when Christ was raised, He didn’t bring with Him all the sin which He had borne on the Cross, did He?

No. Jesus died on the Cross bearing the sin of the world -- our “body of sin,” i.e., the sin nature. Romans says this quite clearly. It says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed.” So our “body of sin” was destroyed through the death of Christ. Thus, it was not raised in Him. It was left in death. It died. That is why we are free from sin: “He who has died is freed from sin.”

Yet Christ was raised -- not with a different body -- but with the same body which died on the Cross. There is no question about this. He even showed His disciples the scars in His hands. But there was something which was now different. The body which emerged from the tomb had passed through death. It had, in fact, conquered death. What emerged was not the old life, but what the Bible calls “newness of life.”

You cannot have newness of life unless old things are passed away. You cannot. So what this means is that the “body of sin,” our old man in Adam, was dead. “He” had to be dead. For unless He was dead, there is no newness. There would just be “oldness” with a upgrade. So we see that Christ, as the Lamb of God, bore the old man of sin on the Cross and died. But because He had been the sinless Lamb of God leading up to His death, He was able to pass through death, leaving behind the old man of sin, and able to be raised up to newness of life. That is victory. Death is conquered through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is now new life.

This is vital to see. Freedom from sin, victory over death, and new life in Jesus Christ, all depend on the fact that what emerged from the tomb was new. What was raised was free from sin and alive to God. Old things are passed away. All things are become new through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Him
We often speak about what Jesus did for us. And that is appropriate. But what Jesus did was not merely “for us” in the sense that we are uninvolved spectators. When Jesus died and was raised, thus conquering death, the effects of His victory are not only for us -- but in us.

The Bible speaks much about “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (see Col. 1:27) But it also speaks much about us being In Christ. In fact, the phrase “being in Christ” is quite indicative of exactly how we share in His finished victory.

Paul says it best in Romans. He says:
Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live in Him. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He lives, He lives unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 6:4-11)

The words “planted together” literally mean “to cause to grow together.” They picture an “engrafting.” Thus, to be “in Christ” means to be part of Him — and thus — to share in everything He did with regard to life and death. Just as the branches share the life processes of the Vine.

What this means is what the Bible says in many other places: His victory is our victory. Death may take our body, but it cannot touch the rest of us. And even that body will be raised anew on the day appointed by the Father.

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