What If Jesus Had Died Of Natural Causes?

Oh well, he would have died in vain. He might as well not have come down from heaven! But we seem to be jumping ahead of ourselves, let’s back up a little.

The primary problem Jesus came to solve was the problem of sin. How do you secure release from sin for mankind? How do you deal with the consequences of sin, the guilt associated with it, and it’s psychological trauma? How do you take care of the punishment prescribed for sin? Those were the issues behind atonement. We tend to imagine sin as a mere moral issue but it’s actually a judicial issue. Concerning the legal challenge sin was, Paul wrote, “He (God) made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 AMP) So we see that sin and righteousness are legal, not just moral issues. The legal term for state of acquittal from sin is righteousness. It’s a very technical phrase. It has constitutional implications. Borders on God’s sovereignty. The sacrifice of Jesus was a very radical and risky solution to the sin problem. That was God’s greatest risk. There was that possibility something could go wrong, the plan abandoned and Jesus left to rot in hell. (Psalm 16:10) We cannot also discount the fact that the people Jesus died for are not very appreciative. They tend to spit in God’s face, despising the sacrifice.

Sin is a capital offence. As such life must be sacrificed. The evidence of sacrifice is blood. Blood is spiritual currency. In order to buy seasonal reprieve, animals were sacrificed under the Old Testament. But animal blood had a foreign exchange problem. It’s highly devalued. The blood of animals was a very poor currency relative to human life. And so the blood of animals could never fully atone for sin. It could buy reprieve, say for a year but it’s a poor currency. Suffers massive depreciation yearly. The blood of animals could not keep up with the inflationary rate of sin. Blood is however needed for atonement: “…the life of an animal is in the blood. I have provided the blood for you to make atonement for your lives on the Altar; it is the blood, the life, that makes atonement.”(Leviticus 17:10-12 MSG) “In fact under the Law almost everything is cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness [neither release from sin and its guilt, nor cancellation of the merited punishment]. (Hebrews 9:22 AMP)

Because the blood of animals could only discharge man’s sin maximum of one year, they kept sacrificing animals year after year in the Old Testament. (Hebrews 10:1) “The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. (Hebrews 10:1-2 NLT) There was discharge but no acquittal. In jurisprudence, there’s a difference between “discharge” and “acquittal.” What Jesus was interested in was acquittal. With acquittal the law of double jeopardy kicks in. You cannot be tried for the same offence twice.

There were two roles Jesus had to fit into. First, he had to be designated livestock – a Lamb of God, to take care of the incidences of animal sacrifice under the Law. That way he’d acquit those who lived under the Law. “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before her shearers, so He did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 AMP) It was because of his Ovis genus designation he did not defend himself of the charges levelled against him by the Jewish religious leaders, why he refused to defend himself before Plate and Herod. He was fulfilling a typology. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

The second role Jesus had to fill was the role of an “Adam” – he is the Last Adam. An Adam is a representative and source code of humankind. Jesus took on the political title of “Last Adam.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) We got death through the first Adam, we got life through the Last Adam.

Closely allied to the sin problem was the problem of death. Sin and death are umbilical. In dealing with sin Jesus dealt with death. It’s why Jesus referred to himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) In making that statement he designated himself the antithesis of Death, not just the phenomenon of death. In scriptures Death is considered a political enemy of God. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be eliminated is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26-27 AMP) As the antithesis of death Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)

Sin was not originally man’s problem. It was an angelic problem. Satan revolted against constituted authority in Heaven. (Revelation 12:-13) And so the first ever sin was the sin of rebellion. It remains the primary sin. When the Serpent deceived Eve Adam was not deceived. He sinned wilfully. (1 Timothy 2:14) In sinning he unleashed unimaginable trauma on the human race, he being a source code. Sin is a doorway. “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” (Romans 5:12 NLT) You can’t separate death from sin. It’s why God told Adam that the day he sinned he would die. (Genesis 2:16-17) He disobeyed God’s command. And so we have the definition of sin from Genesis 2:16. Sin is violation of God’s sovereign command and moral law.

But why didn’t Adam fall to the ground immediately he disobeyed God? Why didn’t he die immediately as we ordinarily know death? The primary definition of death in the Bible is separation from God: “You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in — first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone… So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses.” (Romans 5:12-14 MSG) The consequence of Adam’s separation from God was the cut off from life source. Consequently, his body started decaying. It was a matter of time before he dropped dead physically. And because he’s our genetic source code we suffer similar fate.

And so the basic problem of man is sin. It’s what Jesus came to tackle. We tend to underestimate sin. We tend to view sin through the prism of “mere morality”, some sort of violation of conscience, or at best civil disobedience. But that’s not the position of the Bible. Sin is a felonious criminality, not a civil infraction. It’s why it carries death penalty. If Jesus was going to pay for sin, he has to pay the ultimate penalty. And he has to die a criminal’s death. He cannot die naturally. The ultimate criminal punishment under Roman law was death by crucifixion. The criminal nature of sin is why Prophet Isaiah prophesied: “Because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.” (Isaiah 53:12 NET) This harps back to the original sin, the sin of rebellion. It is because of the criminal nature of sin that Jesus was crucified with two robbers: “Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left.” (Mark 15:28 MSG) It is for this reason that doing good cannot give us salvation. That is akin to someone accused of murder who insists on being absolved of guilt because he gave alms to the poor. It’s ridiculous. Sin is a criminal offence not a civil infraction. Doing good cannot atone for sin.

If Jesus had died of natural causes he wouldn’t have fulfilled his mission. He needed to be crushed, whipped, because those acts bore spiritual symbolism. “He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain first-hand… But the fact is, it was our pains he carried — our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him — our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed… And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. (Isaiah 53:2-6 MSG) If Jesus died of natural causes there will be no atonement for you and I.

If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me Father. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.

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