#38 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S DEATH

The significance of Christ’s death goes back deep into human history. But how deep and significant we understand it to be depends largely on our worldview.

For an atheist, Christ’s death is just another human death, with no spiritual or saving significance. The atheistic worldview excludes the concepts of sin, of judgement, existence beyond death, and hell, making everything Christians say about Christ dying for our sins quite meaningless.

If we are Christian, but believe God used evolution as his method of creation, we will encounter difficulties when trying to explain the significance of the death of Christ. Any evolutionary world view, including theistic evolution, assumes the existence of incredibly long ages of suffering and death, not only prior to the existence of humans but also as an essential part of the gradual process that resulted in the existence of humans.

And here is the dilemma:

Theistic evolution sees human life as the result of the process of evolution – a process utilizing suffering and death. In other words, suffering and death are here as the result of God’s decision. If death was always part of God’s plan, then it is illogical to see our redemption from death as the purpose of Christ’s death.

But Genesis 3 reveals that suffering and death are the result of a human decision.

The human decision that catapulted the world into suffering and death was the decision to disbelieve God’s word and disobey God’s command given in Genesis 2:17: ‘but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ And that is what happened. As we read through Genesis 3 we find death and suffering entering at several levels:

Personal inner peace was replaced with a destructive self-awareness [Genesis 3:7, compare 2:25].

Perfect peace with God was replaced with guilt and self-justification [Genesis 3:8-12].

The relationship between humans became divided and dysfunctional [Genesis 3:12, 16b].

Physical survival became painful and precarious [Genesis 3:16-19].

Eternal life was prohibited [Genesis 3:22-24].

According the Genesis 3, suffering and death are not here because God chose to create via millions of years of suffering and death, but because we, in our common ancestors, said ‘yes’ to suffering and death in our choice to disbelieve and disobey God’s word. God himself, in that word in 2:17, had actually said ‘no’ to death and suffering.

But we said ‘yes’. In rejecting God, who is life, we chose death. Death, and all that leads to death, is here because of our choice. God created us for life: we chose death.

Paul refers to this entrance of death and suffering as the result of this original and ultimate human sin of rejecting God:

‘...sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men ...’ [Romans 5:12].

‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ [Romans 8:19-23].

Christ came to undo and reverse the impact of sin right here at its origin. The spiritual death that began here is already replaced by spiritual life for all who believe in him: we are reconnected to God the source of life; our relationship with God has been completely healed and restored. As Peter states:

‘... by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ [2:24,25].

With spiritual death and suffering reversed already, some other aspects of death and suffering are in the process of renewal: our relationships with ourselves and with others are being healed. When Christ returns the final and complete reversal of Genesis 3 will be instantly accomplished:

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ [Revelation 21:4].

What Christ did in micro, temporary form in his miracles will then be done totally and permanently. In the meantime suffering and death continue in the world as God in his patience and grace gives humans time to believe in Christ and be saved before that final removal of all that entered the world in Genesis 3. [Read 2Peter 3.]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018