Death and the Work of the Messiah

Death and the Work of the Messiah

Yesterday we began a discussion about the biblical view/meaning of death.[1] Today we shall look at death with respect to the work of the Messiah. Two things need to be discussed: the two types of resurrections, and the kind of death that Yeshua (Jesus) died.

The Two Types of Resurrections

When the Bible speaks of resurrection from the dead, one must distinguish between two types of resurrections.

1.  Restoration Back to Physical Life

The first type is only a restoration back to natural physical life. What this means is that later the person will die again physically. This restoration-type resurrection occurred twice in the Old Testament (2 Kg. 4:32‑37, 13:20‑21) and at least four times in the New Testament (Mat. 9:18‑26; Mk. 5:21‑24, 35‑43; Lk. 8:40‑42, 49‑56; Lk. 7:11‑17; Jn. 11:1‑44; Mat. 27:52‑53). In all of these resurrections, each person died again later.

2.  True Resurrection Life

The second type of resurrection from the dead is the type that means resurrection life, in which one is no longer subject to death (Rom. 6:9). True resurrection life means a person is no longer capable of dying physically, because there was a change in the nature of the body that has been resurrected. So far, Jesus is the only one who has been resurrected in this way. That is why Yeshua is called the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23; Col. 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5). Critics have often felt that this statement is contradictory, for how could Jesus be called the firstfruits of the resurrection since there were others who had been resurrected before Him. But all the others who were resurrected before Yeshua underwent the first type of resurrection, which was merely a restoration back to natural life

The Kinds of Deaths the Messiah Died

What kind of death/s did Yeshua the Messiah die? Two types (see yesterday’s study):

1. Spiritual Death

First, He died a spiritual death. During the second three hours upon the cross when the whole world was enveloped in darkness, those three hours of darkness marked the three hours in which He was separated from God the Father. At that point, the sins of the world were placed upon Yeshua the Messiah, and at that point, God the Father turned away. There was a separation between the Father and the Son, Jesus the perfect man. For three hours, Yeshua was spiritually dead.

We must remember that the Messiah was the God-Man, meaning that He was only one Person, but with two distinct natures: divine and human. As for His divine nature, there was never any separation between the Father and the Son; that is, there was always an unending, uninterrupted fellowship with God the Father. However, as for His human nature, there was a three-hour separation as Jesus died spiritually on the cross. It must be emphasized that this was a separation in His humanity, not in His deity.

2. Physical Death

At the end of those three hours, He cried: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Yeshua died spiritually and was resurrected spiritually (Matt 27:45‑46; Mark 15:33‑34; Luke 23:44) before He died physically (Matt 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30).

Jesus died two types of death on the cross. First of all, He died a spiritual death; and, secondly, a physical death. It is the physical death that was necessary for the Atonement. The spiritual death was not necessary for the Atonement, but it was necessary for Him to become a sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 2:17‑18). Because of the kind of deaths that Yeshua died on the cross, He changed the whole nature of death for the believer.


[1] This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.