“As for you, you were dead in our transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is no at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2
The death that Jesus died was far more than loss of physical life. The Scriptures say that “he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). To understand more fully the death that Jesus experienced for us, we need to understand the death in which we live because of the power of sin, and the “death” we would experience when we die apart from salvation in Christ.
None of us have escaped the power of sin and the fatal effect that it has in our life (Romans 3:23). It separates us from a relationship with God, and it keeps us from restoring that relationship on our own. Henry and Melvin Blackaby describe the five things sin does in our lives in their book Experiencing the Resurrection.
1. It makes you unrighteous and separates you from God.
2. It keeps you from understanding God.
3. It keeps you from seeking God.
4. It causes you to turn to other things, leaving you worthless, setting you on the road to depravity.
5. It ultimately causes you to lose the fear of God. And when you lose that, there’s no deterrent to the destructive powers of sin. You can’t stop your downward plunge away from God.
However, the worst consequence of sin is that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But the death the Scriptures speak of is not just when bodily activity ceases. Jesus often used the term “sleep” referring to physical death. But he reserved the word death to express an experience infinitely worse. And if we’re going to fully appreciate the life Christ has given us, we need a clearer understanding of the death from which he saved us.
When the Scriptures say that “Christ died” (Romans 5:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 2:21), it means more than “sleep,” more than the cessation of physical life. He died in the eternal sense of the word.
So what did Jesus experience when he “died”? The sin of the world was being placed on his shoulders. He was dying the death for our sins. As he hung on the cross, he cried out “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” That was true death—even before the termination of his physical life. He entered a situation he had never experienced before—absence from the presence of God.
For the first time in his eternal existence, he was experiencing spiritual darkness. He suffered the wages of sin, an agonizing separation from a holy God, separation from all that is good, abandoned by God into utter darkness.
That’s the state of every soul apart from Christ when their life on earth is finished. If we choose to neglect Christ and his death for our sin, and live our lives without Christ, we will die that death. But Christ has experienced our death for our sins for us so we could experience eternal life in paradise with him.