How do you know someone died? Jenny and I were with my mom when she died. We identified my dad at the mortuary. We did the same for Jenny’s dad at the hospital and we did it for her mom at the police mortuary. These people were dead. How do we know they were dead? They were lifeless. We saw it, we witnessed it … they were dead. In such cases, seeing is believing. Each of them were cremated. They were dead. It was no different when Jesus breathed His last on the Cross. Many saw Him hanging there and believed Him to be dead … but was He?
1) Dead and buried.
(1) The testimony of the soldiers.
Jn 19:32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
They only break the legs of the living to prevent them from breathing to hurry death. The fact that one thrust a spear in Jesus’ side and did not break His legs proves He was dead.
(2) The testimony of the Apostle John. John, amongst others was an eye-witness to Jesus’ death.
Jn 19:35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.
He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.
(3) The testimony of Scripture. Prophecy says Messiah would die and that his legs would not be broken, rather a spear would be thrust into His side.
Jn 19:36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
One commentator puts it like this:
Jesus was already dead as the executioners broke the legs of the criminals crucified alongside (in order to speed their deaths). Instead, we read that a soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. Where on his side? The word chosen by John suggests the ribs, and if the soldier intended to make Jesus’ death certain, a wound to the heart was the obvious choice. From the wound came a flow of “blood and water.” This is consistent with the spear blow to the heart (especially from the right side, the traditional site of the wound). Rupturing the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) released a flow of watery serum, followed by blood as the heart was pierced.
(4) The testimony of Joseph of Arimathea. Like Nicodemus, Joseph was a secret disciple, and for good reason.
Jn 19:38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Together these two men, forgetting their secrecy of association, obtained permission from Pilate, removed Jesus’ body and laid it in a newly cut tomb, believed to belong to Joseph. They gave Jesus a proper Jewish burial … using 75 pounds (34.1 kilograms) of myrrh and aloes. The intent of the spices was to counter the smell as dead bodies rot, decay and stink. Yet another proof Jesus was dead. Jesus prophesied that He would die and rise again on the third day. Even if this was believed, they would have had to put the body somewhere until the Sunday. Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus in Joseph’s new (unused) tomb.
2) There are many theories saying that Jesus did not die.
(1) Swoon Theory. This proposes that Jesus did not die on the Cross … he merely fell into an unconscious state (swooned) and would later be revived in the same mortal body.
(2) Hallucination Theory. This proposes that the followers of Jesus hallucinated and believed Jesus died, but He did not.
(3) No Body Theory. The tomb was empty. This means no one can prove death because there is no body.
(4) The Lie Theory. Jesus’ disciples lied about His death to develop a story for the resurrection.
Looking at the Biblical evidence one can easily see that these and any other theories are just that … theories. Like the animal to be slaughtered, Jesus was slaughtered. Like the animal died as in dead, so Jesus’ life was taken in death. Like the final remains of the slaughtered animal were discarded outside the city walls, so Jesus body was “disposed” of reverently in a tomb (burial). Death and burial were all part of the Rescue Plan of God. Remove one ingredient and you lose the Gospel Message.
3) He descended into hell. This is the most controversial part of the Creed and although it seems to have been part of the Creed from its inception and recited for many years (more than 1500 years), nowhere in the Bible do we find these actual words. Did Jesus descend into hell? There are strong arguments against His going to hell because of
Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The thief on the cross died and went to be with Jesus in paradise! For this reason, many Confessional Churches have removed this phrase from the Creed. For a better and deeper understanding of this, please see:
This is why the Bible must always be your first companion to examine whatever a Church teaches or even in our case, what this great Creed has to teach us. The slightest error can change a doctrine and could affect your eternal destination. This is why we have to examine everything against the Bible.
Jn 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
The Creed’s intent is to teach Truth yet examined against the Truth of Scripture, the Creed is lacking.
Father, protect us from error by helping us to know, understand and obey Your Word. Amen.