It's time to derive your worldview from the Bible

Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”

by Charles Clough
How the New Testament presents the Cross of Christ. Christ was in charge of His unique death and was both priest and sacrifice. The Cross has cosmic effects, changing the basis for condemnation. The Cross of Christ had angelic implications. God’s timing and the Cross of Christ. Questions and answers.
Series:Chapter 4 – The Death of the King
Duration:1 hr 22 mins 53 secs

© Charles A. Clough 1999

Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003

Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 4: The Death of the King

Lesson 134 – Old Testament Views of the Cross, Effects of Christ’s Work (Cross) on the Universe

18 Nov 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD

Just to review to James 4, we’ve talked about some of the basic promises, we’ve talked about Hebrews 11:3, that “by faith we understand that the ages were framed by the word of God,” and this is one of those passage, it’s a very practical application of the idea or the truths that God planned that stands behind all language and all thought and provides meaning for every area. In James 4:13 there’s a sandwich, verse 14 is in between, then there’s verse 15. Verse 13 and 15 are opposite; they discuss the same issue but from an opposite viewpoint and in between verse 13 and 15, verse 14 tells you why. Let’s read this again because all of us are occupied with this every day, it keeps coming up, so this is a way of disciplining us in our soul and our thinking of responding to what life throws at us here.

Verse 13, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ ” It’s a business plan, it’s what everybody does that’s going to be successful; they have a plan. The Scripture argues that it’s fine to have plans but not phrased exactly the way verse 13 is phrased, because verse 13 says today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city, we are going to spend a year there, we are going to engage business, and we are going to make a profit. See all the verbs, all of them dependent upon us, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this, we’re going to that.

Verse 14 chops our legs off if that’s the way we think, because verse 14 cuts across and says but “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” We therefore have to come to acknowledge that there’s a greater plan, there’s a greater purpose. The Christian thinks God’s thoughts after Him; God thinks the thought first, God plans the history first, God has a plan from all eternity first, and after that we experience the derivatives of that. So verse 14 is a warning, it simply says remember you’re creature hood, remember the Creator/creature distinction. You’re not God, you’re not sovereign, you’re not omniscient, you’re not omnipresent, so since you lack divine attributes don’t act like you think you do. Verse 13 is the plan that the gods would conceive, and it’s a warning that we’re not God and we can’t think of ourselves and our planning and everything else like we are God, because we’re not.

Verse 15 is the proper way. It’s important to remember that verse 15 reiterates verse 13. When people hasten through the first part of verse 15, never noticing the second part, they always say well, if the Lord wills we’ll do this, and then they become kind of like a religious idiot and walk around and don’t plan anything, and if it’s the Lord’s will, the Lord’s will, the Lord’s will, the Lord’s will. That’s not what verse 15 is talking about because verse 15 ends, “if the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that,” it’s saying go ahead and make your plans, just say that up front I acknowledge that I am a creature, I’m not the Creator, I’m a finite person, I’m not God, therefore my plans are conditioned. All verse 15 says is, “Make the plans contingent upon God’s thoughts.” That’s the whole point; it’s not saying, “Don’t plan.”

That’s one of those promises that you have to keep in reserve, it’s a great promise, James 4:13-15; it’s a nice one to memorize and to use. That’s just a practical illustration of thinking in a biblical way.

Tonight we’re going to be in the section of the notes beginning on page 78 where we’re talking about the New Testament presents the cross of Christ. So far we have said that whenever we view anything … and actually this is an example of what we just got through saying about James. In James case it was a plan, we had this plan. The problem is, the plan has to be set in some sort of a context, and what the Scriptures are saying is that when we make our plans we have to envelop those plans with biblical thought, with biblical reason or we’re not walking by faith, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. So we have to have that plan ensconced with the Word of God. That’s the idea.

That’s true of any other part of Scripture; we’re talking now about the death of Jesus Christ and we’re looking at how the New Testament presents the death of Christ. It can be presented as a historical fact. The article we talked about in U.S. News & World Report (see text at the end of the transcript for Lesson #132), a lot of the guys that wrote that article believed there was a crucifixion, they believed that Jesus was crucified, and that’s great because at least they acknowledge history, which is more than a lot of people do. But what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to look at the cross in light of the Old Testament and the New Testament context. How is the cross presented? In the Old Testament we’ve already prepared the way by saying that the Old Testament looked forward, on the basis of the justice of God, to the substitutionary atonement, that man has to make restitution for that which he has ruined. The problem is man doesn’t have assets and merits to do the restituting work. So it has to come from outside. Where’s the source from outside?

All the way from the Garden of Eden forward, God has point after point after point looked forward in time to the cross of Christ and had in the garden an animal sacrifice, skin, and Adam and Eve have to wear the skin, the leather tunic. Every time they put their clothes on, they had to acknow­ledge that they’re covered by the grace of God. Of course it was finesse, because God is a God of finesse; what had they tried to do when they sinned? They tried to make garments for themselves. So it’s very interesting that the way God taught them out of that, out of works, was you take your clothes off and I’m going to give you the proper clothes and you’re going to put My clothes on, you’re not going to put your clothes on. It’s a very simple lesson, and it’s as close as their body. Day after day after day after day they had to put the leather tunic on, they had to be reminded of the animal sacrifice for them. Here’s the two first members of the human race had to learn the lesson that restitution came from the death of somebody outside of themselves.

In the Old Testament this topic was married to the idea of the Messiah. Both of these were tied together, though in all honesty in the Old Testament they weren’t perfectly brought together, they’re still incomplete. But now we come to the New Testament and last time we developed the first point about how the New Testament presents the cross of Christ, and that first way is it uses Old Testament criminal law. We went back to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 to show the method of execution. Under criminal law the person whose body was hung until evening was cursed by God, so this person who was cursed by God became sin. The New Testament authors, under the authorship of the Holy Spirit, pick up the criminal law code out of Deuteronomy, and use that criminal law code as the key to say when Jesus Christ hung on the cross He became sin for us, He was cursed of God on the cross just like the person who was executed. This is a very, very radical statement. You really have to sit and think about it quite a long time before it grabs you, but you’ve got to think through this law code and remember what the apostles in the New Testament were saying. They were saying that the Messiah became cursed. What they’re also saying is that He became cursed not because He sinned. He became cursed for another reason, a stunning reason, that He took our sins upon Himself and that’s why He became cursed. There’s a substitution going on.

That was the first thing, Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and where that truth comes across in the New Testament is Galatians 3:13. There’s the New Testament connection with the Old Testament, using Old Testa­ment background to understand the cross of Christ. We want to be careful that we do under­stand the cross of Christ, because when we started, we already had done two things with Christ’s life, we saw His birth and we saw His life, and now we’re working on His death. But when we were dealing with His birth, what were the doctrinal issues, the truth that we went over and over. It was that He is God and He is man. We quoted a summary of the Chalcedon Creed, that He is undiminished deity, not diminished deity, undiminished deity combined with true humanity, not a fake humanity. He is undiminished deity on the hand; He is true humanity on the other, combined in one person, without confusion, so the Creator/creature distinction is preserved, forever.

All that was to show who this person is who lived and is going to die. The cross of Christ cannot be understood apart from the hypostatic union, because it’s the hypostatic union that tells us who it is that’s dying. Contrast this to this quote. This is a book that I’ve had for years, written about different cults, that is, the so-called Christian cult who claim to be Christians that really aren’t, they’re heretics. In this case, Russellism, which you know as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Listen to what they say about the cross of Christ. This is one of the signals. Satan has to erase the gospel, and he does it many ways. One of the quickest ways of doing it is to get rid of the truth about who Christ is. That’s one way. Another way is to so confuse what is going on on the cross, that everybody winds up totally blind to the gospel. Listen to this, this is what they say happened; they’re talking about the cross. It says:

“In this ransom work, Jesus was assisted by the 144,000,” in the “ransom work” He was assisted by the 144,000. That’s interesting, it’s not Christ alone on the cross, He’s assisted by the 144,000. “We teach that according to Isaiah 5:32 the mystical body of Christ consists of Jesus as the head and of the 144,000 as His body. Like Jesus, these 144,000 sacrificed their right to live in this world earned through their perfect obedience to Jehovah’s theocracy, and like Jesus and these alone will receive the immortality of the soul.” We could spend hours on each sentence here, but the thing that should stand out here is that “like Jesus they earned through their perfect obedience to Jehovah’s theocracy,” excuse me but no member of the fallen race has ever had perfect obedience to God’s theocracy. No one! That’s the doctrine of total depravity. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So Jesus Christ is the only one who can die like this, and it’s dependent on who He is that is doing the dying.

Contrast that kind of unbelief with another statement; this is from one of the most famous books on missions in the 20th century. It was in the area of missions that heresy in the church first erupted into an explosion in this country. The reason for the fundamentalist/modern debate, that started in New York City in 1922 one Sunday morning and wound up in Philadelphia the next Sunday morning when Clarence McCartney gave an attack back on Harry Emerson Fosdick, had to do and was largely surrounded by the issue of missions, of all things. There was a bunch of liberals who combined making a famous book about missions, called Rethinking (that’s always a nice thought) Rethinking Missions. It was written in 1932. Did you ever hear of the roaring 20s in American history? It was a roaring time all right, but it wasn’t roaring because they were dancing a certain way and had a certain kind of clothes. It was roaring because that was the time in this country when modernism took over. What we call fundamentalism was dead by the depression. When Wall Street collapsed in 1929, there had been 10–15 years of progressive heresy taking over every major denomination. It’s very interesting that that preceded the depression and that preceded World War II.

Rethinking Missions: a layman’s inquiry after a hundred years. Here’s what they say: “The original objective of the mission might be stated as the conquest of the world by Christianity. There used to be one way of salvation and one only, one name and one atonement.” [Do you] know the verse? Acts 4:12, “there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” They’re right. These guys know their stuff. “There used to be one way of salvation and one only, one name and one atonement, this plan with this particular historical center in the career of Jesus Christ must become the point of regard for every human soul. “That” says the book, “is passé.” 1932! “That is passé. Christianity must now recognize that it has no monopoly on truth, it is therefore clearly not the duty of the Christian missionary to attack the non-Christian systems of religion. Rather he must pool his resources with other religions, not protesting it if Buddhists and Muslims incorporate Christian ideas without becoming Christians. We desire the triumph of that final truth; we need not prescribe the route.” 1932!

What we’re talking about here is the birth, life, and death of Christ. And what these guys are saying is that He didn’t have to die, this cross is not necessary. If I can get to Heaven and if I can come into a relationship with God without the cross of Christ, doesn’t it say this is unnecessary? That’s logic. So the issue now, when we come to the death of Christ, and we listen to the New Testament text, what we’re listening for is an explanation of why that is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. That’s what we should be listening for. As we come to this section, we’ve gone through number one; number one is that the New Testament explains the cross in terms of Old Testament criminal law code, and says that the cross is a place where Jesus Christ was cursed and became sin.

Let’s move on to a second point of the New Testament and to do that we’ll prepare by turning in the Old Testament to Ecclesiastes 8. Ecclesiastes is one of the most interesting books of the Old Testament in that every major idea of man, every great idea of man was explored by a man who made Leonardo DaVinci look like an amateur. Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, and he was what we would call a renaissance man. This guy invented, he was a botanist, he was a biologist, he was a zoologist, he was a military strategist, he was a business man, he was an expert in foreign relations, he was a philosopher, he was a poet, he probably wrote music, he was the one who established the temple and the temple worship, inherited and amplified from his father, an amazing man. Ecclesiastes is the Holy Spirit speaking through Solomon about life in general, proving that apart from a relationship with God life is just smoke.

In Ecclesiastes 8:8, notice what he says about how people die. This is the norm and this is the standard for death. “No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the time of war, and evil will not deliver those who practice it.” He’s making a series of statements about life, and notice one of the statements is that no man has the “authority over the day of death.” You don’t and I don’t. We think we do, the idea suicide, I can choose the day. That’s not really true. You can try to kill yourself and do a botched job. So no person has authority over the day of death, Solomon says. You don’t have any control over that. The day of your dying is set up from eternity past in the councils of God and He and He alone decide the question. That’s all. So you can get killed by a bullet, a car, cancer or whatever, that isn’t under our control because again, we have to salute and say “Yes Sir, You are sovereign.”

Ecclesiastes makes this point. However, when you come to the New Testament, let’s see what Jesus says about Himself. Turn to John 10:17, the New Testament is consistent in witnessing about a strange aspect of this cross. Keep in mind Eccl. 8:8 and here comes Jesus and what does He say, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. [18] No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Isn’t this a strange one? Here, in contrast to every other member of the human race, Jesus Christ says that He has control of the moment of His death. He is in charge. It is not the Romans who are going to kill Jesus Christ on the cross. This is one of those neat little features that for years I lost, when I came to the Scripture I just never saw this. But it’s one of the fascinating features of the day that Christ died, and how He died on the cross, that He chose the moment of His own death.

Turn to John 19:30 where it actually happened, and look carefully at the language John uses to describe what happened. “When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’” His work on the cross was finished. “And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.” Who’s in charge here? The Romans? The Jews? Or Jesus? Jesus chose the exact moment to die on the cross. He did not die what we would call a natural death. That’s not true. He chose, the instant that that work was done, the instant that He had paid for the sins of the world, all of your sins, all of mine, that was the instant when He knew that work was finished, was accepted by His Father, He said that’s it, I check out. So He displays in the way He dies a strange sovereignty unknown among men. That’s picked up by another person standing there right near the cross.

Turn to Matthew 27:54. Here you have the cross, in verse 50, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” See the language, “He yielded up His Spirit.” Now in verse 51 things begin to happen in the physical environment, just as soon as that happened, “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,” and by the way, that wasn’t a sheet, if you read Josephus that thing was about 2-3 inches thick, that was one massive rug hanging down there, and all of a sudden it just got ripped from top to bottom, not from bottom up. It wasn’t a person that did that, some angelic presence was in there and they said let’s shred this one, we’ll take care of this problem right now, rip. So the barrier between God and man, that God had put there… that God had put there, was now torn. “And the earth shook; and the rocks were split.” These are aspects of the crucifixion, it was a geophysical disturbance, it wasn’t just the simple cross and Calvary. There were astronomical phenomena, darkness going on here, just like it had been in Egypt. Then we’re talking about an earthquake, and now we’re talking about rocks breaking. Rocks, not little pebbles, rocks were breaking.

Verse 52, “And the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,” all of a sudden a rumble in the cemetery here. [53] “And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” Now in the middle of that, notice the report in verse 54, “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus,” they’re there at the foot of the cross. Do you suppose these guys have seen crucifixions before? These guys are the pros, this was their thing, the detail centurion. He’s a senior officer in charge of this detail, so he’s basically the guy in charge. This is the manager of the operation, verse 54. “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’ ” So it was all these physical disturbances that were triggered by verse 50. Who triggered them? Who was in charge, not only of His death but who was in charge of all these things in the environment that suddenly let loose? Talking about shaking the furniture, this all happened because Jesus Christ chose to die the moment He did.

Out of this observation, number two in our study of how the New Testament shows the cross of Christ, out of all this, what’s the theological and spiritual point of this, Jesus choosing His moment of death? We find it in Hebrews 7:27, there’s a clause at the end of verse 27; I want you to watch it very carefully. Look at the noun and look at the verb, and look at the object of the verb. It says, “He once for all when He offered up Himself.” Who did the offering of the offerings in the Old Testament? It was the priest. What was it that was offered? It was the sacrifice. What Hebrews is telling us here, by that structure, “He offered Himself,” is that Jesus Christ is both what and what? If He is the one who is the subject of the verb to offer, He must be the priest. But if the object of the verb is the sacrifice, He’s the sacrifice. So one of the interesting things beside the fact that He becomes cursed, is the fact that He is both the priest and the sacrifice. He is in control of the whole situation, and yet that which He is in control of is His own sacrificial work. He lays down His life as a sacrifice, so He takes the role of the Old Testament lamb that was slain, but then He also takes the role of the Old Testament priest who did the slaying. Interesting!

So the second feature about how the New Testament pictures the cross of Christ is that it pictures Him as in charge, therefore executing a unique death, and as both the priest and as the sacrifice.

Now we move to a third area of the cross. Number one, He becomes the curse. Number two, He is both priest and sacrifice. It is a unique death, never before witnessed in the human race, that someone who is in charge of His own moment of death. Number three, the cross has a cosmic effect. It is not just for those who become believers in the family of God. The cross had wide-ranging ramifications. To see one of those, turn to John 3:36. We’re going to look at two areas where the cross of Christ extends out beyond the domain of the saved. We know that it applies to those who trust in Christ. That’s known, but what we’re doing now is to show the extent of this atoning work of Christ and the implications it has for the rest of the universe.

In John 3:36 it says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Combine that with verse 18, “He that believes on Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” We have Jesus Christ as a divider of men, and the basis for condemnation in verse 18 and 36 is men who are unbelievers are condemned on the basis, not just of sin, but of their rejection of the cross. So the basis of condem­nation has now changed. So one of the cosmic effects toward the unbeliever is that now the unbeliever is condemned because of his unbelief, not because his sins separate him from God. They do, but God has already provided a solution to it. So now because they are rejecting the solution to it, they wind up judged. It changes the basis of condemnation. God has already provided; people do not go to hell because there’s no way out. People are not judged eternally for their sin because that’s the only thing that can happen; people are judged eternally for their sin because God provided a means around it and it has been rejected, so now the cross separates. This is the offense of the cross; now it separates. It becomes, ironically, the strange thing, Jesus becomes cursed, He is in active charge of the work, and now it transforms the basis of accusation against unbelief. Now the basis of accusation is that I have disbelieved in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is essentially that He has died for my sins. When I reject that, that’s the reason why I’m judged.

Something’s been added here. If Christ hadn’t have died on the cross, what’s the basis of condemnation? It would be our sin. Now that Christ has died on the cross, we’re sinners; moreover on top of that we’ve rejected the one solution to the whole problem.

There’s another aspect to the cross of Christ and that concerns not the unbelievers of the human race, but it includes the angels. The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ appears to have had an implication in the angelic realm. Turn to 1 Peter 3:19, this is a very difficult passage in the New Testament. It’s been the source of controversy for many years because it’s strange. It really is a strange passage, and it challenges us to think outside of the box a little bit. It challenges us to think about the rest of the universe around us and the other parts of God’s creation. Verse 18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, [19] in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,” now the interesting thing, “made proclamation” is not really the gospel here, it’s an announcement.

I’m warning you, this is theological speculation embedded on some truthful verses, but godly scholars have put this together to mean that the Lord Jesus Christ, after He died, He went into… the Apostle’s Creed, He descended into hell, on the third day He rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures. Where did Jesus Christ go when He went to hell? He went to the place of incarcerated angels, a place called Tartarus, known in Greek mythology by the way, as the place where the evil angels are imprisoned. In verse 19 He goes to this place and He makes proclamation to these spirits. Who are the spirits? Verse 20, the spirits “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”

Going back to the flood, we pointed out the big struggle in the antediluvian world was between the sons of God and the daughters of men. There was strange stuff going on. If we went back to the planet prior to the flood, I don’t think we’d recognize the planet, geographically or socially. A strange set of things were going on. It appears the human race was ruled by angelic beings; that at one point angelic beings somehow decided they were going to fornicate with human beings and raise a mixed race of nephilim. Talk about genetic engineering—this was going on. And it’s been thought that they had a good reason for doing it; the reason was if they could destroy humanity, they could stop the virgin birth, because you would have destroyed true humanity and without true humanity you couldn’t get the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether this was some big plot or what, these spirits that are being addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ are being told in Tartarus that I made it to the cross, it’s over; the whole thing’s gone, you guys lost, you tried to stop Me and I beat you, it’s all over for you people forever. And that’s the kind of announcement the Lord Jesus Christ made.

We have added confirmation in several other passages in the New Testament. Colossians 2:15, the angels are very much involved legally in the cross of Christ. Who says the Bible is dull? Talking again about the cross of Christ and what was happening on that cross. Verse 14, “having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. [15] When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” The principalities and powers is a reference to the angelic principalities and powers of Ephesians 6, so the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross wrecked the legal claim, whatever they had, of Satan and his hordes upon the human race. He took out the legal basis. They understood that, He understood that, the human race may not understand it or even appreciate it, but there’s another aspect to the cross in the invisible realm around us. It did something and it did something very, very real and very, very important. It basically destroyed the foundational claim that the bad angelic powers have over the human race, the god of this world, Satan and his hordes.

Another passage, we’re skipping all over the place because these verses are all over the place. In Hebrews 2:14 the Lord Jesus Christ is said, by the author of Hebrews, interpreting this work on the cross, “…He Himself likewise also partook of the same” nature, flesh and blood, true humanity, there’s the hypostatic union that’s always involved with the cross, you can’t separate the cross from the hypostatic union. That’s why we studied the birth of Christ before the death of Christ. “…partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; [15] and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. [16] For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the seed of Abraham.” The cross of Jesus Christ does something in the angelic realm, does something to deal with the evil in the invisible realm.

The cross has more than just the personal effect, as wonderful as that is, for believers, but it does more than that behind the scenes. On the notes on page 79 I quote Leon Morris who is referencing how the early church looked on these truths. I didn’t make this up, this is not some Clough speculation. This goes back many, many centuries in church history. Look at how the early Christians thought about this. This is a great quote from Leon Morris:

“[This triumph over evil powers] was prized in the early church, as we see from the exuberance with which it was used and the picturesque, even grotesque, imagery that was employed” by those people in the early church “to express it. Thus Satan was pictured as caught in a fish-hook, and as snared in a mouse-trap …. For the first Christians the victory that Christ had won for them mattered intensely. They were mostly from the depressed classes with little to hope for in this world. And they pictured a host of demons as dominating life anyway. It came as a welcome relief to have assurance that the last word was not with their oppressors, human or supernatural. So the note of victory was sounded with joyous confidence. And we in our day need it no less than they.” [There are] powerful, powerful truths that surround the cross of Christ. Implications for cosmic history, not just little religious things here and there, this is talking about physical matter, it’s talking about the angels that run the universe behind the physical processes of the universe, the cross of Christ hammers away at that whole realm.

We’re going to go to a fourth thing, and that is the cross of Christ, because it involved two acts, not one, has a problem with the Old Testament calendar. What’s the problem here? The Old Testament feast of Passover commemorates the Exodus. To get background, turn to Luke 9:31, because the Lord Jesus Christ describes His work in terms of the Exodus. This is Him speaking, not even the apostles, but the Lord Jesus Christ. He intends that we understand His work as He did, and He understood His work as related to the Exodus. Luke 9:31 says, “who, appearing in glory,” because this is on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah talking to Him, “who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His exodus [departure] which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” That word is picked out for a reason, there’s a connotation to that word. Jesus described His coming death on the cross as His exodus. And the Exodus was commemorated in Jewish homes by the Passover.

So in the afternoon you have Passover meal at sunset, 6:00 p.m. But you have the slaying of the lamb prior to that. We said that the Lord Jesus Christ was both priest and the sacrifice. Critics of the Bible, and you even find them in the Bible department of Christian colleges, these guys will say there’s a contradiction in the Bible, and they love to bring it up. In Genesis 1 and 2, they say there’s a contradiction, two stories of creation, any time any place they can figure up a contradiction… it’d be wonderful to take their own writings and show how many times their own writings contradict their own writings. But the Bible seems to have a conflict. If you look in John 18:28, hold the place in Luke and turn to John. This is an example of an apparent contradiction, which when studied, yields a surprising truth. [blank spot] John 18:28 says “They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium; and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.”

So they haven’t eaten Passover yet, but Jesus is already on trial. Now turn to John 19:14, “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover,” and He’s being crucified. So in terms of this picture, Jesus Christ is being crucified before Passover meal is eaten. Now turn back to Luke 22:7-8, “Then came the [first] day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. [8] And He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it’.” This is the day before. So now we’re talking about this day, sunset the day before, twenty-four hours prior, and what is Jesus doing on this day? He’s apparently eating the Passover. Aha say the critics; we’ve got a conflict in the Bible. The Synoptic Gospels, which are Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are reporting Jesus to have eaten the Passover with His disciples on this day, and then He’s crucified, but John, the fourth Gospel reports that the Passover was eaten that day. So this is another one of these little things that are always brought up to try to break your faith.

There’s a lesson here. Before you buy into these things, before you get your liver in a quiver and all upset about seeing a contradiction in Scripture, the best thing to do is give God a little credit. He probably thought this through, and if the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, there’s probably going to be a reason for this. The Holy Spirit is not an idiot; the Holy Spirit actually knows more than some of these professors do. So we might pay attention to the text and start thinking in terms of the fact that there just might be something in the text that these guys haven’t thought about.

In the notes on page 80 I quote the results of a study by Dr. Harold Hoehner at Dallas Seminary, I think he still teaches there. And he did a study, it took him several years. I believe Dr. Hoehner got his PhD at Cambridge and I think this might have been his PhD dissertation, I’m not sure of that. He found after he dug around a little bit, and this makes sense because if you think about John, look at John 18:15, just to place John in this so-called contradiction. What do we know about John? What does it say about John here relative to the people that ran the city of Jerusalem? A very interesting note. “And Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple” this other disciple “was known to” whom? “the high priest,” now isn’t that a little interesting feature of the Apostle John. So this guy knows the high priest, and what Hoehner discovered was that if you studied the text carefully, you discover that the Gospel of John is written very much related to what’s going on in Jerusalem. In fact, if you go through the chapters of the Gospel of John you find most of them have not to do with Galilee, but have to do with the city of Jerusalem.

If you read Matthew, Mark and Luke, where are all those actions taking place? In Galilee and round about, yes, some in Jerusalem, too, but not as centered. So Matthew, Mark and Luke are writing from a Galilean perspective. The amazing thing that Hoehner discovered was there were two calendars going on, simultaneously in the Jewish community, as to holidays. So let’s follow the quote on page 80.

“The Galileans used a different method of reckoning the Passover than the Judeans.” See, these people were different, we think of them all as Jews. But they didn’t think of them just as Jews. In fact, if you go to Israel today there’s the Sephardic Jews, there’s the Eastern European Jews, they don’t all get along, there’s the Orthodox Jews, there’s the liberal Jews, there’s the secular Jews, there’s the Reformed Jews, and they’re not all Jews, they all are different. So in Jesus day the Galileans and the Judeans were two distinct cultures. “The Galileans and Pharisees used the sunrise-to-sunrise reckoning whereas the Judeans and the Sadducees used the sunset-to-sunset reckoning. Thus, according to the Snyoptics [the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called by scholars the ‘synoptic gospels whose viewpoints do not center upon Jerusalem as does the Gospel of John] the last supper was a Passover meal. Since the day was to be reckoned from sunrise, the Galileans, and with them Jesus and His disciples, had the Paschal lamb slaughtered in the late afternoon of Thursday, Nisan 14, and later that evening they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread. On the other hand, the Judean Jews who reckoned from sunset to sunset would slay the lamb on Friday afternoon which marked the end of Nisan 14 and would eat the Passover Lamb with the unleavened bread that night which became Nisan 15. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal [Galilean reckoning reported by the Synoptics] when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover, arrested Him.”

Let’s take this one step further. You could say well isn’t that kind of cute, we got away with that one, but that’s kind of cheap, there’s a calendar deal here, that doesn’t look like how God does it. Let’s back up a moment. What did we say about number two? That the Lord Jesus Christ was the priest, and He was the Passover, He was the sacrifice. Do you know why there were two calendars there? Because God is sovereign in history, and it was because God is sovereign in history and superintended this calendar mess that was going on, He worked it out so that Jesus Christ could install Passover, the new communion, while He still was this side of the cross. If you didn’t have the calendar difference this couldn’t have happened this way. He could not have installed the New Covenant on the Passover meal when the Passover meal by definition would have had to have been eaten after He died. The Lord Jesus Christ had business to do after He died, He had three days and three nights in the grave, He had to go visit Tartarus, He had a lot of work to do. So the work before then was that He would install the New Covenant, “This is My body which is shed for you,” this is the new wine of the New Covenant, He ate the Passover with His disciples the day before, acting there as the installer of the New Covenant, the priest that would superintend the New Covenant, then He continued His priestly work by bringing Himself to the cross, choosing the moment of His death, and then after that in Judea, the so-called official calendar, now they could eat the sacrifice because the Paschal lamb had been killed. It’s the official calendar of the Judaic, the Jerusalem-centered Jews, that could reflect the Passover based on the lamb that had been slain from the foundation of the world.

So it’s not just a cheap calendar trick. The calendars came out of sequence under God’s sovereignty in history to allow for this moment. The lesson that we get out of this is that God’s timing is to the day… to the day, Jesus died exactly at the right day, the right afternoon, at the right time, to satisfy all of the promises of Scripture. We’ll study later on when He rose from the dead; He rose from the dead on exactly the right day that would confirm the Feast of First Fruits. Do you know what else that tells us? That tells us when the Second Coming occurs, the Lord Jesus Christ will set foot on this earth on a certain day, and that the Jewish nation on a Jewish day in the fall of the year, because the Jewish fall calendar has never been fulfilled, it’s only the Jewish spring calendar, Passover, the next one was First Fruits fulfilled by the resurrection, this is all in April, March, spring, and after that there was another Jewish holiday which we’ll study later, who came down from heaven on the day of Pentecost? The Holy Spirit. Did He come the day before Pentecost? No He didn’t, He came on the day of Pentecost, perfect timing on the calendar.

That’s the spring, what about the fall calendar? Jews have holidays in the fall. What’s going to happen? Just think about what those Jewish holidays are depicting? What’s one of the great Jewish calendar days in the fall? Yom Kippur. What is Yom Kippur? The day, “Yom,” the day of redemption, Day of Atonement. What do you suppose is going to happen? Do you know what one of the passages that has been tradition in Jewish circles in Yom Kippur? Isaiah 53. What do you suppose in the future is going to happen, in some fall on Yom Kippur? If God fulfills His calendar exactly to the day that will be the day that Israel will acknowledge their crucified Savior, they will suddenly realize that this Messiah, this Christian Messiah is more than a Christian Messiah, He’s a Jewish carpenter, a priest and King.

After Yom Kippur there’s another Jewish holiday, the Feast of Tabernacles, the coming of the Kingdom. That’s a celebration of the fact that Christ, that day, in the fall of the year, will establish the Messianic Kingdom. Exactly that day, I’ve no doubt about it. Why? Because in the spring calendar cycle, He fulfilled everything to the day. Why can’t He fulfill it in the fall? It’s not fulfilled yet, and it still speaks to us. So this is the fantastic plan of God and how he works all the details out, and it should encourage us that in our lives, here He is in charge of all this calendar deal, and it probably caused all kinds of problems between the Galileans and Judeans, you can see the debates in the newspaper, talk shows, you know, what’s the right calendar, you guys got the wrong one… and over and above all that God was just simply setting up the mechanism for the redemption to play out just how He planned it.

Question asked, something about 1 Peter 3, my version says He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who disobeyed…this version gives me the impression that it was the spirits of people who died that were disobedient: Clough replies: That’s one of the interpretations down through church history for that passage, that the spirits in 1 Peter 3:19 are spirits of people. But there’s been a strong tradition in the church that something else happened when Christ went down there, to Tartarus, and I guess it’s said from nouns like “Tartarus” that are used for angelic places, and for the fact that the vocabulary that’s used there, spirits, Tartarus, etc. if you look in the extra-biblical literature of the time were all being used by the person on the street, that’s the meaning that they gave, they didn’t even connote just human beings, it was richer than that. So you’re faced with a dilemma then, how do you define the meaning of the word “spirit.” That’s the key in that verse.

Question asked: Clough replies: Yeah, and it’s not the euangelian of the Greek that He preached as the gospel, you can look it up in a concordance and you’ll see it’s just preached in the sense of announced, it’s not the word that’s used elsewhere in the Bible for preaching the gospel. There’s no salvation connotation to that word “preached” in that particular case. I’m not making it a test of orthodoxy, it’s just I wanted to introduce you to the fact that down through church history there have been very strong elements of the church that have argued that there’s more to the cross than just what we sometimes think when we only think of salvation. There’s wide ramifications going on, and it does have an impact, whether we take angels in 1 Peter 3:19 to be the spirits or not, you’ve still got Colossians 2 and Hebrews 2, that the angels were somehow involved, both as witnesses to the cross and the evil angels that are aligned with Satan have had their legal, whatever legal claim they had, have had it pulled out from under them.

Why that’s important, which we won’t get into right now because it sort of gets into the church later, this has tremendous implications for missionary work in dark heathen lands. There in the dark heathen areas where you have entrenched evil structures, of course we’re becoming a dark heathen nation so we can’t sit here and say ha-ha, but where you have the gospel confront thick heathenism, you have occasional burst forth of supernatural, you have the demonic manifestations, and you have these scary things that go on. Missionaries tend not to want to share those things because they think the average person in the pew in America, we laugh at them or would think they were nuts. So if you really get close to missionaries who are in those situations, and they can trust you enough to be accepted, they tend to share these experiences, where they’ve seen this demonic manifestation. The things that you see in the book of Acts where there’s the demonic powers are so fearful of the cross that they show themselves in unusual ways. After Missionaries see that, they realize that well, the cross, it’s very well understood by the principalities and powers, they don’t have a problem with the theology of the cross, they know its implications and it’s just that it’s something that when you’re scared and you feel overwhelmed by the powers of evil, then you think through it.

That’s why Leon Morris has that quote that the early Christians give us a model that when they were afraid of the powers of darkness they took their confidence by going back and thinking this through and saying, wait a minute, what claim do the powers of darkness have now, this side of the cross. They’ve been whipped. It’s clean up time. We respect them, we’re not supposed to speak evil of the principalities and powers, but it’s a bluff game, because if Christ has really paid the price and He’s liberated the legal structures from principalities and powers, what have they got left but a rear guard action. They’re not totally in control any more. They would like us to think they’re totally in control, but they’re not, because who has now the keys to the kingdom of heaven and hell. It’s in the hands of a man now. The very fact that they were given into the hands of Jesus in that passage in Colossians where it says He took away their power, etc., the idea there is that they did have the power. Prior to the cross of Christ it was all promissory, they were going to be defeated, that wasn’t an issue, they were going to be defeated, but when the cross came about a spiritual transform happens such that they are defeated. And there’s a confidence borne of a deep reflection of the cross that if you read biographies of the missionaries, Hudson Taylor and the guys that really were out there in the front lines, you realize that they had a very profound grasp of this. They preached the gospel, the cross saves, but they also knew the cross did other things. It opened doors for them, and that finished work of the cross was so powerful that it was very well understood by the principalities and powers.

Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good point, the idea that beginning right in Genesis 3 the conflict is between God and Satan. Adam and Eve are there, and Adam and Eve become a centerpiece for God’s grace, it’s not because they’re a centerpiece but because in the plan of God man becomes a critical point, but you can tell it’s a head-on between her seed and you, and God is speaking not to the woman and he’s not speaking to Adam at that point, He’s addressing it directly to Satan. So Satan and God had this conversation, they know each other. It’s like there’s fire going on overhead, the war’s bigger than just the humans, and it’s bigger than just our personal temptations and trials that we face. We face a lot of personal trials and tribulations, but we have to realize when we think of Scripture that we’re islands in this sea of conflict that’s going on. The power, the evil … when I show the slide about good and evil, it’s far bigger than just us involved. That means that before God can bring about peace, real peace and splendor of His kingdom, there’s a lot of work to be done in the principalities and powers, in this invisible realm, because that’s where evil attacks or is launched from that background.

Next year when we get into the issue of the Church and the filling of the Holy Spirit and what does it mean when it talks about “in Christ” and He’s at the Father’s right hand, we have blessings “in Him” and all that, that’s positional truth in Christ. I believe that we’re premillennialists and we believe that Christ has to come to set up His kingdom, and we have gotten a bad rap in church history by being accused of being a pessimist, and we’re really passive. I don’t think that at all, I think the way to answer that is that we premillennialists are the realists; that the Kingdom of God cannot come until the church is finished being built. Why do you suppose that the Kingdom cannot come in history until the Church is finished and developed? Obviously, because the Church has a function in ruling in that Kingdom. Why?

Maybe we have a hint from the fact that before Noah, who ruled over man? The angelic powers and they blew it. There was corruption in the kingdom. The overlords of the human race were corrupt and fallen, remembered in Greek mythology and other mythologies, the story of the fallen gods and goddesses. But the kingdom of man, when it’s redeemed, the Kingdom of God with man in it, is going to be ruled by people who will never fall again. This is the company of the redeemed. And the Church basically bumps the fallen angels off the planet, they’re erased, they’re eliminated, they’re put in jail for a thousand years. Who then reigns? Christ with His saints.

So I don’t believe that being a premillennialist makes you passive, I think that every time a person is won to Jesus Christ, when you witness to someone and you lead them to Jesus Christ, or you’re an encourager or a minister of the Word of God, and you helped somebody spiritually triumph in their lives in their trial, you have advanced ground, not just in that person, I think there are ripples going out into the unseen world that when someone becomes a Christian and you’ve led someone to Christ, there’s been a defection, there’s one less person trapped in the powers of darkness, one less person that they can depend on. They’ve lost, there’s a casualty for them. Every person that is won to Christ is a casualty to Satan. They’ve been translated from the kingdom of darkness, the Scripture uses the term translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. So evangelism becomes a tremendously potent thing because apparently history is waiting for this to take place. The Church has got to be built, there has to be people won to Christ, so that there are people ready to rule in the Kingdom.

So premillennialism doesn’t connote a sort of passive, you know we’re just sitting here being passive to this kingdom that’s just going to kind of come by itself. We’re part of the reason that the kingdom is going to come. Every time we minister we’re advancing the kingdom. Yes, we’re not advancing it in an earthly political way, necessarily, but strategically we’re undercutting. You can eat away at the foundation, and for a long time it doesn’t look like you’re doing a thing, but one day the foundation topples, and that’s why we have to see our mission, and that’s why we have to stick to the Scriptures and make sure we’re oriented to the Word of God and not get deflected on secondary and tertiary issues. Always and always it’s the Scripture.

Question asked: Clough replies: Do you mean was the work finished prior to His actual dying? [Can’t hear reply] The question here is when you hear the word “it is finished,” then Jesus chooses to die, if there is a two or three second interval there where the work was all finished and then He had to die, or is the dying also part of the work, and I think we have to say that the dying is also part of the work, and that the perfect tense, “It is finished,” it has become finished is an anticipatory perfect, in other words, now I will finish it. He knew that whatever this dark work was, because there was this horrible dark work that was done on the cross, and we don’t know what that was, to this day we don’t know what happened. There was this mysterious darkness that hid Him and everybody around the cross remembers this darkness that happened. What was going on in the darkness? We don’t know what was going on in the darkness, but the darkness is given in Scripture as God in His judgment and His wrath, whatever He did it’s almost like He pulled the curtain down so nobody could see what was going on there. Then whenever that part of the work was done, Jesus Christ said okay, now I’m going to finish it.

Question asked or statement made, something about Jesus was experiencing the wrath of God and was there some evidence to Him that God had poured out all of His wrath and Jesus had experienced all of God’s wrath at that point: Clough replies: There must be some realization on His part because He could say to Himself that there’s a finite work here, and it’s not going to go forever. And you remember what was said in the gospels about His death. The two thieves next to Him weren’t dead, and remember in U.S. News & World Report the article said the horrible … can you imagine being nailed to a cross and having some guy come up and bam, smash your legs off, and all the weight, here you are, your feet are like this and someone comes along and breaks your legs. Gosh, I can’t imagine the pain that’s going on, but these two guys that were crucified next to the Lord Jesus Christ were alive, the soldiers had to break their legs to kill them, in a nice agonizing way, but they came to Christ and He was finished, so He died, from their perspective it was quick, because they didn’t expect somebody to die that fast. But when He died, it’s clear that the Scripture reported … you know, everything breaks loose, so it’s very clear when that Centurion soldier says hey, wait a minute, this guy is different.

To get insight, maybe a little bit, into what Jesus perceived that He was doing while He was doing it, remember you’ve got one of those great prophetic Psalms in Scripture, Psalm 22, and when you read it, it starts “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me.” And what we want to remember is that in the Hebrew there’s no Psalm titles, the way they labeled the Psalms was the first verse, so if I were a Jewish scholar and in Jesus day, and we had a Bible memory course here, and say we were all in the class together and somebody here is the teacher, and she’d get up and say I want you to recite “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me.” She wouldn’t say recite Psalm 22 because it wasn’t known as Psalm 22, so she’d just say “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me,” and then we’d all, if we remembered the text, we’d recite it, and go through all the Hebrew of Psalm 22.

So in the New Testament text, when it observes that the Lord Jesus Christ says “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me,” though He literally said that, He probably said the whole Psalm. The Gospel writers are just simply saying to you that He said that one, He said “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me” Psalm. When you start to read it, listen to what it says. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. [2] O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer, and by night, but I have no rest.” See, this is a separation, [3] “Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel. [4] In Thee our fathers trusted,” and this tells you a little bit more about what psychologically was going on in the human mind of Jesus while He was doing this work for us. He says “In Thee our fathers trusted; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. [5] To Thee they cried out, and were delivered; in Thee they trusted, and were not disappointed. [6] But I am a worm, and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised by the people. [7] All who see me sneer at me;” see, He’s naked on the cross here, “they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, [8] Commit thyself to the LORD: let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”

And here comes the confidence that He has. After the lament part of that Psalm, watch what he does in verse 9, “Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother’s breast. [10] Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother’s womb. [11] Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.” Then He goes on, verse 14, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like was, it is melted within me. [15] My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and Thou dose lay me in the dust of death. [16] For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers have encompassed me, they pierced my hands and my feet.

[17] I can count all my bones, they look they stare at me; [18] They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. [19] But Thou, O LORD, be not far off; O Thou my help, hasten to my assistance. [20] Deliver my soul from the sword,” so He’s praying. What this tells us is that while the Lord Jesus was doing this and separated from God He was praying. In verse 22, here’s the confidence, He knew while He was praying that God would answer the prayer even though for a while God wasn’t answering the prayer, because how else do you explain this verse. “I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee. [23] You who fear the LORD,” now He’s paying His vows, so it’s clear from Psalm 22, if Psalm 22 is a prophetic expose of the mind of Christ while He’s dying on the cross, it tells us where His focus was. His focus ultimately was still trusting the Lord.

Talk about a trial of darkness … what’s exciting about the Gospels is that what you’ve got there is a model. And what you have is a guy who pushed the envelope far further than we ever get close to doing. In His humanity Jesus pushed the envelope a thousand miles beyond anything we’ll ever so. So it works. It’s like He’s the pioneer. Remember Hebrews, He’s the pioneer of our faith. What does that mean? He was the test pilot, He pushed that aircraft all the way, He had the steel to the wall on that sucker, as far as the Christian life goes, He got through the cross and if He can get through the cross with Psalm 22, we ought to be able to get through life’s struggles.

It’s amazing stuff, lots we don’t know about, we’ll spend all eternity before the throne of grace I’m sure, getting God’s … revealing something new for the next billion years about what went on on the cross. We’re just introduced to it in this life. But we’re going to spend eternity learning more about it. And we’ll be down to praise, there’s depth in the cross that we haven’t even fathomed yet. And when we do God will pull out this one. Heaven’s not going to be boring, we’re going to learn some more things. Oh, wow, You did that for me! That’s the neat thing about it, it’s never ending truth, it’s the well that never runs dry. That’s empowering.

Next time I’m going to try to quickly go through the conflict point of why it is that the cross is denied by every cult known to man, and why every religion on earth apart from Christianity denies the cross. What we’re going to say is they have to, in order to be themselves they’ve got to deny the cross. They’re built on it, that’s the point, they’re built on a denial of the cross, and what we want to master here is a little technique, because in our day we live in a multi-plural society and we’re going to be increasingly looked on as the bigots, we’re the only people that believe in “the way, the truth, and the life,” and they’ve got the truth and nobody else’s got the truth, and what’s the matter with you people? What we have to do is turn it right around, why do you hate the cross of Christ so much, you know, talk about hate crimes, that’s the hate crime of the century and you still do it. What’s your problem with the cross of Christ? We’ve got to start accusing them of the problem; they’re the ones that are causing the problems, not us. If a person walks in the room and they don’t see the light, they’re blind; it’s not the light bulb’s problem. That’s what we have to kind of readjust here and it’s going to require some prayerful thought, how to do that graciously but with courage.