The Cross

List of Studies

1. Introduction

Mere words are utterly inadequate to convey the full meaning of the Cross - the redeemed will spend eternity searching the depths of God's plan of salvation.  Until then however, we must be content with mere words.

For centuries, the earthly High Priests ministered in the earthly Sanctuary, performing animal sacrifices to remit the sin of Israel (see studies: ‘The Sanctuary on Earth’ and ‘The Day of Atonement’). This was a figure deemed sufficient for the time, but could not actually take away sin.  

Thus, the time had to come when a sacrifice that could take away sin was needed to remit the sin of mankind for all eternity.  Here we address the means by which this was accomplished: the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross - the most momentous event in human history.

Note.  When we discuss the Cross, we mean the event, not the wooden instrument upon which the event took place. This is an important distinction because many venerate a wooden cross, endowing it with spiritual significance - far better to venerate the Bible, God's living Word, which is the living Christ.

2. The Cross: the sacrifice of Christ

Every sacrifice for sin, from the fall of man to the Cross, prefigured the sacrifice of Christ, the true Sacrifice for sin.  The animals that were sacrificed did not shed their blood by choice, but Christ chose to be the sacrifice for sin, laying down His own life (Mt 20:28; Jn 10:15,17), shedding His own blood.  

Christ was ‘God with us’ (Mt 1:23, see study ‘Christ - His status and authority’,2.1) - thus His death was the complete sacrifice for sin, and consequently needed to be done once only.

The Cross proves that the Law of God could not be changed to accommodate sin.  It also proves that God has done everything possible to save mankind (Is 5:4).

2.1 Christ and the price of sin

The consequence of sin is death (Ge 2:17).  Death is a ‘wage’ justly earned by the sinner:

Ro 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Death here is the opposite of eternal life; thus it must be eternal death, which scripture calls the second death (see study: ‘The end of sin and sinners’).

Christ had to die the second, eternal, death, so that the redeemed could escape it.  The second death is eternal separation from God, forsaken by Him.  That is why, at the point of His death on the Cross, Christ was forsaken by His Father (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).  Even the sun ‘turned its face’ from Him (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44).  

As taught by Christ, the unfaithful must suffer punishment:

Lk 12:47  And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 

To save mankind, therefore, Christ must also bear their punishment:

Isa 53:5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 

1Pe 2:24  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 

The finally unrepentant bring upon themselves first punishment for sin, which is God’s justice, then eternal death, which is the natural consequence of sin.

For the repentant to escape what they have justly earned, Christ had to bear for them both their punishment and their eternal death.

The Cross demonstrates all that those who stubbornly refuse Grace must suffer if they remain unrepentant.

Note. Punishment and eternal death are addressed in study: ‘The end of sin and sinners: punishment and eternal death’.

2.2 Christ and the shedding of blood

he remission of sin requires the shedding of blood:

He 9:22  And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 

Thus, to remit sin, Christ’s blood had to be shed:

Mt 26:28  For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 

Christ’s blood was shed for us upon the Cross to cleanse us from all sin:

1Jn 1:7  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 cleanseth us from all sin. 

See also section 2.3 under the sub heading 'Christ's blood shed'.

2.3 The Lamb of God

The Passover commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, brought about by the death of the firstborn in houses that did not have the blood of a sacrificial lamb smeared on the doorpost.  The Angel of the Lord ‘passed over’ the houses that did have lamb’s blood smeared on the doorpost  (Ex 12:13).  This event was celebrated every year on the Feast of Passover (see study: ‘The seven feasts of the Hebrew year’,2.1). 

The passover lamb was sacrificed to secure the deliverance of Israel.

Christ had to be sacrificed on the Feast of Passover because He is our Passover (1Co 5:7) - Christ is the sacrificial Lamb of God (Jn 1:29,36) that takes away the sin of the world. 

The passover lamb was given as a sacrifice for the deliverance of Israel.  Christ gave Himself a sacrifice for the deliverance of the whole world:

Lk 22:19  And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Note.  The Communion Service is addressed in section 3.

2.4 The sacrifice of Christ

Because Christ is our Passover He had to be sacrificed on Passover at the moment of the sacrifice of the temple lamb.  We need therefore to confirm the day and time of His crucifixion, as follows.

In study: ‘The seven feasts of the Hebrew year’,2.1 we see that the Passover lamb was slain on the afternoon of the Feast of the Passover, then eaten after sunset (the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread).  Thus for Christ to be the Passover Lamb He had to die on the afternoon of Passover.  The Gospel of John confirms that He did.

First, the event that we call the Last Supper occurred before Passover:

Jn 13:1,2  Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 

2  And supper being ended…

This was confirmed when Christ sent Judas to betray Him.  Some of the other disciples thought Judas had been sent to buy what they needed for Passover, confirming that the Last Supper was before Passover:

Jn 13:27-29  And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 

28  Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 

29  For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 

Second, after the Last Supper Christ was arrested in Gethsemane.  That night Christ stood trial before the Sanhedrin, then early in the morning they sent Christ to Pilate.  The Sanhedrin however, did not enter Pilate’s judgment hall because they would be defiled and then could not celebrate Passover.  Passover therefore had not yet been celebrated:  

Jn 18:28  Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. 

Thus Christ appeared before Pilate in the early morning of Passover, before the events of Passover took place.

Christ was then whipped and led out to crucifixion.

We now have Scripture proof that Christ was nailed to the Cross on the morning of the Feast of Passover.

On the day of the Feast of the Passover, the Passover lamb was sacrificed, in keeping with Ex 12:6, at the ninth hour (the start of evening, 3.00 pm in our reckoning),  and it was eaten after sunset, which was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see study: ‘The seven feasts of the Hebrew year’, 2.2).

It was at the ninth hour that Christ died on the Cross (Mt 27:46,50; Mk 15:34,37; Lk 24:44,46).  Christ, the true Passover Lamb, was sacrificed in the place of the temple lamb (the symbol of Christ, the true sacrificial Lamb).

Only the shedding of blood is sufficient to remit sin (see section 2.2).

The blood of the Passover lamb prefigured the 'passing over' of Israel's sin. Christ's blood was shed that the sin of all mankind may be 'passed over'.

Lk 22:20  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you [Strong's G5216, you]. 

Note. In Lk 22:20, 'you' is in the Genitive case indicating ownership (see study: 'Christ - His status and authority',3), and is also in the plural.  Thus all sinners may 'own' redemption, and in turn be 'owned' by Christ - He purchased them with His own blood (Ac 20:28).

The shedding carried out

The shedding of Christ’s blood was accomplished in a visible manner when a soldier thrust a spear into Christ’s side:

Jn 19:34  But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 

There are those who claim that Christ was not dead but badly injured, and then He later recovered (in so saying, they attempt to do away with the Atonement for sin).

However, Christ was indeed dead because the soldiers, in fulfilment of prophecy (Ex 12:46; Nu 9:12; Ps 34:20), did not need to hasten His death by breaking His legs (Jn 19:32,33), which was the customary method of hastening the death of the crucified when required.  

Thus the Roman soldiers, who were well practiced in crucifixion, proved that Christ was really dead.

The fact that Christ was already dead confirms that Christ Himself gave up His life (Lk 23.46) - it was not taken from Him.

The water that came from Christ’s side was bodily fluid that had accumulated in His thorax because of His injuries.  Today, medical science confirms that this indicated that Christ was indeed truly dead.

Christ had no sin of His own (He 4:15) for which he had to die the temporal death. Thus the death that Christ died must have been the second death (see section 2.1).

Therefore Christ died, not for Himself, but for guilty mankind.

3. Commemorating the sacrifice of Christ

3.1 The Christian Communion service

The eating of the Passover lamb foreshadowed the Christian Communion instituted by Christ prior to His death (see 1Co 11:23-26).  In v24 the Greek word translated 'eat' (Strong's G5315) is in the imperative plural form - it is a command to all.

Those who do not participate in Communion do not participate in Christ's Atonement:

Jn 6:53  Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat [Strong's G5315] the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 

In this verse, 'eat' is in a form that means without regard for time - thus it is to be a continual ordinance until Christ comes the second time (see study: 'The Second Advent of Christ').

3.2 The union of Christ and the penitent sinner

The ingesting of the symbols of the Body and Blood of Christ indicates the complete union of the (penitent) sinner and the Saviour. 

This union was prefigured in the Day of Atonement in the earthly Sanctuary (see study: ‘the Day of Atonement’, 3.7) when the blood of the sacrifice for the High Priest was mixed with the blood of the sacrifice for the people and smeared seven times (indicating perfection) on the horns of the golden alter of incense that stood before the veil separating the Most Holy from the Holy. 

The blood (i.e. the life, see Le 17:11,14) of the penitent sinner and the blood (the life) of our High Priest (Christ) are joined before God in perfect union and redemption.

4. Christ’s Atonement

In order that the redeemed can enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ had to make full atonement for mankind.  To do so He had to suffer everything that all fallen mankind would have to suffer if there were no Saviour, i.e. punishment for sins committed, followed by eternal death (see study: ‘The end of sin and sinners’). 

In His Atonement, Christ took upon Himself the sins committed by all mankind, that all who believe and repent have their penalty paid in full (Jn 3:16,17).

In His suffering, Christ bore the punishment for sin. In His death, Christ bore the consequence of sin: eternal death.

4.1 “It is finished”

Immediately prior to His death, Christ uttered the words ‘it is finished’:

Jn 19:30  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 

‘It is finished’ indicates that at the moment of His death Christ made the one-time eternal sacrifice for sin (He 7:27;9:28;10:12), and that the need for continual sacrifices was ‘finished’.

This was manifested in the rending of the temple veil from top to bottom:

Mt 27:51  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

The veil was so huge this could be done only by the hand of God.

The rending of the temple veil indicated that Christ, by His sacrifice, removed the barrier between man and God. 

Indeed, Christ’s flesh was the veil (He 10:20), and also He was made to be sin itself for us (2Co 5:21) - on the Cross Christ was both the temple veil and sin. Thus the temple veil represented sin, which separated from God (Is 59:2), but in Christ it does so no longer (the true nature of sin is discussed in study: ‘Sin’,6).  

Before the Cross, the way to God was closed because of mankind’s sin.  The Cross, because by it sin was conquered, opened the way to God for mankind.

4.2 Proof of the Atonement

Upon Christ’s death, the graves of many of the saints who were asleep were opened, and they were resurrected after Christ was resurrected on the third day:

Mt 27:52,53  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 

53  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 

Even though their graves were opened, the saints could not be restored to life until Christ had conquered death at His resurrection, which completed His Atonement.  They were raised with Christ, and went about showing themselves as a testimony to the Atonement.

The risen saints were also proof to Christ that His Atoning sacrifice was acceptable to The Father (He did not ascend to Heaven immediately after the Cross - Jn 20:17).

By this proof, we may be confident that Christ’s Atonement is wholly acceptable to God, and thus by His Atonement we may be saved.

5. The cross in the plan of salvation

The Cross is the most important event in human history, yet it was not the end of God’s plan for dealing with sin.  The resurrection of Christ on the third day after the Cross set the seal upon the Atonement made on the Cross. 

However, the power of sin will not be removed until Christ returns at His second advent.  Sin itself will not be wholly obliterated until God destroys those who choose to remain in sin, together with Satan, the originator of sin, and the evil angels who chose to follow him.

These momentous events are discussed in studies: ‘Resurrection’, ‘The second Advent of Christ: scripture overview’, and ‘The end of sin and sinners: judgment and eternal death’.

6. Summary

The sacrifice of the Cross was the culmination of the sacrificial system that for centuries had, in symbol, atoned for Israel's sin, and was accepted for the time.

Christ our Saviour sacrificed Himself upon the Cross for us.  The Cross is the one and only true sacrifice - by it full atonement for sin is made, and is acceptable for all time.  

The Cross was the turning point in the history of this sinful world.  By the blood of the Cross, countless numbers from among mankind will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, fully restored to the Righteousness of God.  

List of Studies