Answer: Yes, Yeshua did die spiritually on the cross.
By “spiritual death” we mean separation from God the Father. This would be a natural result of the wrath of God. For the second three hours on the cross, during the time of darkness, Yeshua suffered the wrath of God for our sins; and for those three hours, He was separated from God the Father. In that sense, He was spiritually dead for those three hours.
At the end of the three hours, He cried out: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the only time He addressed God by the term “My God.” He called Him “Father” 170 times and “My Father” 21 times. The only time He called Him “My God” is at the end of the three hours of suffering God’s wrath because at this point He no longer had a paternal relationship, but a judicial relationship.
The cry is also a quotation of Psalm 22:1, which, in context, is a cry for help. After having been separated from His Father for three hours, He cried for help, and this cry was answered in that Yeshua was resurrected spiritually before He died physically. His final statement from the cross, just before His physical death, was, “Father, into your hands I commend My spirit.” The fact that He calls Him “Father” again shows that the paternal relationship had been restored so that before He died physically, He was already resurrected spiritually. Again, He both died spiritually and was resurrected spiritually before He died physically.
Because He was spiritually alive when He died physically, He did not descend into hell, but into Abraham’s bosom or paradise. When He spoke to the thief who has been crucified next to Him, He said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise,” showing that Yeshua did not go to hell, but to paradise.
Yeshua’s spiritual death and resurrection before His physical death shows that He suffered the wrath of God while He was on the cross and not thereafter. Hence, His spiritual death does not bring into question His perfect redemption on the cross.
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Arnold Answers is a bi-weekly Q & A with founder and director of Ariel Ministries, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.