It was a chilling day-the day Christ died-not so much because of a cool temperature, but because it would prove to be the most sobering event in the history of mankind.
On that day the sky darkened, the earth shook and the great, thick curtain separating the temple’s most holy section from its outer compartment suddenly ripped apart from the top down. This miraculous event symbolically indicated that, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, direct access to God the Father was now available to mankind (Luke 23:44-45 Luke 23:44-45 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the middle.
American King James Version×; Hebrews 9:1-12 Hebrews 9:1-12 1 Then truly the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the show bread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
American King James Version×). This remarkable day and the unique events surrounding it changed the course of history.
In the final hours of Jesus’ life, He shared some remarkable revelations with His disciples. He spoke freely about their sharing with Him a personal commitment to peace (John 14:27 John 14:27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
American King James Version×) and the help they would continue to receive from Him through the Holy Spirit (John 16:7 John 16:7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.
American King James Version×). Finally Jesus, His body wracked with pain and knowing the end was near, said that His mission on earth as a human being had been completed (John 19:30 John 19:30When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
American King James Version×).
Most Christians assume they understand the significance of Jesus’ death and His shed blood. But do they?
A life of sacrifice for others
For the previous 3 ½ years Jesus had walked the dusty roads of Judea teaching the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and rebuking evil spirits (Luke 4:14-44 Luke 4:14-44 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say to them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
22 And all bore him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?
23 And he said to them, You will surely say to me this proverb, Physician, heal yourself: whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your country.
24 And he said, Truly I say to you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
26 But to none of them was Elias sent, save to Sarepta, a city of Sidon, to a woman that was a widow.
27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill where on their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
30 But he passing through the middle of them went his way,
31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth? are you come to destroy us? I know you who you are; the Holy One of God.
35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold your peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the middle, he came out of him, and hurt him not.
36 And they were all amazed, and spoke among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.
37 And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.
38 And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they sought him for her.
39 And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered to them.
40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.
41 And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, You are Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came to him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.
43 And he said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
44 And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
American King James Version×). Even as a youth Jesus was thoroughly knowledgeable of Scripture: “And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast [of Passover and Unleavened Bread]. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem … Now so it was that after three days [His parents] found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:42-47 Luke 2:42-47 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
American King James Version×).
Jesus’ life on earth was one of total self-sacrifice. He never sinned, ever (1 Peter 2:22 1 Peter 2:22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
American King James Version×). Yet Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, “[bearing] our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24 1 Peter 2:24Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed.
American King James Version×).
In the last moments of His crucifixion, Jesus was left completely alone to bear the sins of mankind (Matthew 27:46 Matthew 27:46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
American King James Version×). He never failed His duty for He knew the joy beyond it—our justification, our reconciliation. “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11 Isaiah 53:11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
American King James Version×).
The book of Hebrews tells us that “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame …” (Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×). This joy over what lay ahead helped Jesus bear the deep anguish, the suffering and pain. He knew that God, though Him, was beginning the process of creating His own divine family.
Hebrews 2:9-11 Hebrews 2:9-11 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11 For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
American King James Version×explains this: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory , it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (New International Version, emphasis added throughout).
The salvation of humanity, with the opportunity for us to enter God’s very family, motivated Jesus in His great hour of unconditional sacrifice. This vision supplied Him with the hope, joy and vision He needed to keep His mind focused on the purpose of His death—and subsequent resurrection.
Jesus’ blood justifies and reconciles
Christians rightly believe that Jesus died for our sins. But very few understand the meanings or concepts of such important spiritual principles as justification and reconciliation-or even what sin is.
Sin is the transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×)—which amounts to living contrary to God’s way of life, a way of outflowing love and concern for others. God’s law is so important that He has decreed the penalty of eternal death for its violation.
All humanity must eventually be justified (have their guilt blotted out through forgiveness) or die. Our holy God says that any “righteousness” we can muster on our own is still tainted with sin; we are still spiritually unclean: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 Isaiah 64:6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
American King James Version×, Revised Standard Version).
God’s perfect justice demands that the penalty for sin be paid. It is vital that the seriousness of the matter be made that clear. And yet God is supremely merciful—so it was determined that God the Father would give up His only Son (who would Himself lay down His own life) in sacrifice to atone for the sins of all mankind—those who would rightly accept it. The Father, it should be understood, had actually created mankind through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9 Ephesians 3:9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×; John 1:1-3 John 1:1-3 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
American King James Version×). Thus, as our Creator and God, His life was worth more than that of all humanity. When He died for us, the penalty for all human sin was more than paid.
Christ’s blood, if we both repent and believe, justifies us (cancels our guilt) by washing away our filthy sins—our record of lawbreaking (Revelation 1:5 Revelation 1:5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
American King James Version×; 7:14). At the same time, Jesus’ blood also reconciles us to (brings us into a right relationship with) God the Father (Colossians 1:19-20 Colossians 1:19-20 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
American King James Version×). Before Jesus’ death, mankind had lost its path to God. Our sins blocked the way to Him, cutting us off from Him (Isaiah 59:2 Isaiah 59:2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×).
God is a holy God and those who would draw near to Him must be spiritually cleansed. With faith in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins, His shed blood cleanses us and makes us acceptable to the Father through grace—the gift of God’s favor.
But this gift is not without conditions. Although always available, His grace is applied to us individually only if we are called of God, repent from dead works and have faith in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. This faith must be accompanied by a change of heart that is committed to turning from sin and toward wholeheartedly obeying God, a condition rejected by many “just-as-I-am” Christians and Christian teachers.
God tells us that only those who have His Spirit and are led by it are His true children (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×, 14), and that He gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32 Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him.
American King James Version×)-not to those who continue to defy Him. Only God can empower a person to exercise the level of faith needed to believe from the heart all that He expects from us and has promised to give us.
Many Christians have been incorrectly taught that God sets no conditions for His forgiveness. They have been taught, also incorrectly, that they can come to God and Jesus Christ as and when they desire, with or without God’s calling or invitation. But Jesus clearly said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×, 65). We must have God’s help even to want to repent so that Christ’s sacrifice can be applied to us. Acting alone, without God’s extra help, we cannot even properly understand, much less come to, real repentance.
Jesus commands us to obey Him just as He obeyed the Father (John 15:10 John 15:10If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
American King James Version×). He rebukes those who teach that keeping God’s commandments is no longer necessary: “ Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19 Matthew 5:17-19 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×).
The apostle John, the same one who regularly taught about godly love, boldly labels all those who profess that they love God and Christ but don’t keep the commandments as liars (1 John 2:4 1 John 2:4He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
American King James Version×). After all, Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins. To continue in a life of sin is therefore an affront to God’s grace.
Those who teach and practice disobedience bring a curse on themselves: “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16 Titus 1:16They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.
American King James Version×). Paul adds this: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 Romans 6:16Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?
American King James Version×).
Obedience is clearly a requirement for those whom God calls or draws. Though no amount of works can justify us, a repentant, willing heart that is committed to obedience is certainly a prerequisite for those whom God grants the forgiveness needed for salvation (Acts 2:38-42 Acts 2:38-42 38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
American King James Version×). Also, “We are what God made. In Christ Jesus we have been created for doing good deeds . God prepared these good deeds long ago, so that we could live by them” (Ephesians 2:10 Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×, Simple English Translation). These good deeds are the result of living a way of life based on the Ten Commandments (1 John 2:3-5 1 John 2:3-5 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
American King James Version×).
Eternal life is a gift of God that no one can earn. But neither is it freely given to those who rebel against God’s commands. A true Christian must live a life committed to good works based on the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:16-19 Matthew 19:16-19 16 And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
American King James Version×; James 2:14-26 James 2:14-26 14 What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
American King James Version×). God requires obedience to His law as an integral part of the Christian life.
Again, Jesus’ shed, sinless blood covers our “sins that were previously committed” (Romans 3:25 Romans 3:25Whom God has 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;
American King James Version×). It does not sanction continued disobedience. His blood only justifies us, making us clean, and because of this, reconciles us to the Father (Romans 5:9-10 Romans 5:9-10 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×). Without the effects of Jesus’ shed blood we would have no direct access to God the Father and He would never hear our prayers for forgiveness (Matthew 6:6 Matthew 6:6But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.
American King James Version×, 8-9, 12; John 14:13-15 John 14:13-15 13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If you love me, keep my commandments.
American King James Version×). And if a Christian occasionally commits sin after true conversion, God has also made provision for his or her forgiveness through that same cleansing blood of Christ (see 1 John 1:7-9 1 John 1:7-9 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×; 2:1-2).
More to the story
Do you believe that Jesus Christ’s blood alone saves you—that that is the end of the story? If you don’t understand the ongoing work of the resurrected Christ and His expectations of us, you need to. The apostle Paul counters that idea, saying, “… If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17 1 Corinthians 15:17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.
American King James Version×).
The fact that Christ has been resurrected from the dead is vital to our salvation. Now that you know the details of why Christ died, there is another important question. Do you know how important it is to us that He now lives-that He is our living High Priest?
Be sure to read the accompanying article, “Do You Know Why Christ Lives? “