Jesus Died Spiritually: What Happened On The Cross

Jesus Died Spiritually?

By Thomas Taylor

What Happened On The Cross

Gen 2:16, 17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

The death that occurred for man was both natural and spiritual. Spiritual death means permanent separation from God which is far worse than physical death. So if Adam died spiritually and naturally, God had to redeem him spiritually and naturally through spiritual and natural resurrections.

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

It could not mean physical death only here in Romans because we all die physically but those in Hell are separated spiritually, in their spirit, from God. The eternal life He is talking about is concerning our spirits thus the death spoken of here is also concerning our spirits. The Bible never teaches Hell is the penalty for our sins but rather death is the penalty. Hell is simply the holding place of the dead. Death is separation from God. If we are dead spiritually, Jesus had to become like us to come save us!

Isa 54:7, 8 For a small moment have I forsaken thee ; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment ; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

The above verses are talking about God withdrawing His presence from sinful Israel. However, it also is a prophetic passage talking about Jesus and how He took our punishment. This is a glimpse into the New Covenant and how it would be ratified through Jesus Christ. Just as Israel , God’s people, were abandoned because of sin, so was Jesus. Notice how it reads in the English Standard Version:

Isa 54:7, 8 (ESV) For a brief moment I deserted you , but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you , but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

We see here that God deserted Jesus and Israel. Why? Because of sin. Of course Jesus never sinned but He voluntarily took our sins upon Himself. God the Father is a holy God and cannot look upon sin. His face is a representation of His presence which is why it says “I hid My face from you.” It had to be withdrawn because that is the penalty for sin – a separation from God’s presence. If you understand that, you would have no problem believing that Jesus died spiritually. We know II Cor 5:21 says Jesus was made “to be sin for us” so He had to die spiritually.

Mat 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mar 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This is when God the Father forsook His Son Jesus. It was on that cross when Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future. Let’s look at other versions of the Bible that might make it even clearer that God withdrew His presence from His Son:

(ALT) But about the ninth hour [i.e., 3:00 p.m.] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying [in Aramaic], “‘Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?'” this is, “‘My God, My God, why did You abandon Me? ‘” [Psalm 22:1]

(CEV) Then about that time Jesus shouted, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”

(GW) About three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

(MRC) And about the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a great voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” That is, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned Me?”

(MSG) Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Jesus was deserted, abandoned, and forsaken by God the Father. THIS IS the definition of spiritual death. How people cannot see that in their Bible just amazes me. I believe they are trying be spiritual and defend God but they don’t know that they are being ignorant. You would have to purposely ignore these clearly stated Scriptures in Matthew and Mark which say in a most direct way that Jesus did experience spiritual death (or they just don’t know what spiritual death is).

Thank God for Mel Gibson’s Passion movie but that is not even the half of what Jesus went through for us! Jesus was not praying in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane about the crucifixion and beatings by man. That has been done many times before and since to many men. No, the most horrible agony that He was facing was spiritual death – where God the Father would have to turn His back on His Son. We cannot understand such a thing because we have not existed forever in perfect fellowship with God, but Jesus did. To be separated from Him for a moment would be so unbearable that it could not be put into words. Many saints were martyrs and died with great joy on their faces for they were in God’s presence. Jesus on the cross endured terrible pain and agony because He was separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is a proof that what happened on the cross was Jesus’ spiritual death.

Do you see the dilemma? God, because He is so holy, had to turn His back on His own Son. For Him to not do so would violate His very nature of “holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8)! As much as He loves His Son, a love that we cannot possibly fully comprehend, He had to withdraw His presence so that the judgment could be complete.  That time on the cross is something that all the words for all of eternity could try to explain but it still would not be sufficient. Yet, we will celebrate that victory forever with Him. God truly is worthy of all glory and honor and praise forever!

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus , who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man .

Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

Jesus’ deaths, physical and spiritual, destroyed the power of the devil. Hallelujah! Death has no more hold on me because of Jesus! I am alive spiritually forever because I am born-again. Sure, I am going to die physically one day, the LORD tarry, but that is not permanent. Glory to God, I’m coming out of that grave because He has purchased me back spirit, soul, and body by His own precious blood! Praise God!

Isa 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death ; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

In the original Hebrew, the word “death” there is plural. That signifies more than one death took place. The Jameison, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says the following:

“in his death “” Hebrew, “deaths.” “The plural, “deaths,” intensifies the force; as Adam by sin “dying died” ( Gen_2:17 , Margin ); that is, incurred death, physical and spiritual. So Messiah, His substitute, endured death in both senses; spiritual, during His temporary abandonment by the Father; physical, when He gave up the ghost.”

Jesus was the sacrifice for sin causing His spiritual death:

2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

God the Father had to abandon Jesus when He became the sacrifice for sin based on the following verses:

Hab 1:13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:

Lev 22:3 Say unto them, Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.

Jer 23:39 Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence:

Jer 52:3 For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon .

2Th 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

Jud 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

The Father turned His face from His Son because His Son took upon Himself the sins of the world both physically and spiritually. He never sinned so His righteousness became ours and our sins became His. He died for the sins of the entire world, however only those that put their faith in Him will be reconciled.

Spiritual Victory on the Cross

Luk 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit : and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

This proves that when Jesus died physically, which happened after His spiritual death, His spirit was back into the Father’s hand – He was back in perfect fellowship with the Father again. He was spiritually alive again! Therein is our victory for that is the true resurrection! But also notice the verse before this:

Luk 23:45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

The tearing of the veil of the temple represents the Old Covenant being fulfilled. The exact moment Jesus’ spirit left His body was the exact moment the Old Testament was fullfilled. This is why He said, “It is finished” here instead of after He rose from physical death (Joh 19: 30).

I believe the spiritual victory over the sin-nature was completed on the cross for that is when the curse was upon Him – not in Hell. Gal 3:13 “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Jesus Tortured in Hell?

Many believe that Jesus was tortured in Hell by Satan and his minions. However, the verse Luke 23:46 proved that at Jesus’ physical death was when His spirit was commended back to the Father. Not to mention, torture by Satan is not the penalty for sin; there is no Bible verse implying any such thought. Only death, spiritual and physical, was required. Other verses to consider are:

1Pe 3:18, 19 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ;

Notice the Holy Spirit was upon Him when He, His spirit, preached to the spirits in prison. That means the spiritual death was over and He was alive again to the Father and Holy Spirit. The prison was a place in the lower parts of the earth called Abraham’s bosom or Paradise (which will be explained later). The important thing to see here is that He was no longer spiritually dead after His physical death. The devil did not beat on Jesus’ spirit for three days. Jesus went down to the lower parts of the earth a victor Hallelujah!

Jesus’ Body Freed Us From Sins (His spirit freed us from spiritual death)

Hebrews 10:10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Col. 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.

It is through the body of Jesus we are cleansed of our personal sins . It is through the spirit of Jesus we are born-again in our spirits. Both the death of the body and of the spirit were necessary for the complete redemption. If Jesus only died and rose in body, then our spirits still have no redemption. But since His spirit also died and rose we can now be called children of God for we are born-again into the Kingdom of God . The above verses also prove that the victory over personal sins was won on the cross. Jesus was not tortured in Hell by Satan; no redemption took place there for it was won on the cross.

Eph 2:15, 16 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross , having slain the enmity thereby:

Rom 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Notice all these verses are talking about overcoming sins of the flesh where we transgressed the Law of God. For this reason Jesus’ body became a sin-offering for us. Sin is an action. We choose to give in to that sin nature and act which is sin. For these sins we need cleansing and forgiveness. Jesus’ body was sacrificed for our personal sins and its consequence of sickness/disease.

Jesus’ Spiritual Death is Not a New Concept

People act like this is some new teaching about Jesus dying spiritually. However, this has been taught by the Church fathers for centuries as a basic doctrine of the Christian faith. Not until now has it been challenged because the devil is doing all he can to prevent people from seeing what Jesus really did in these last days.

  • John Wesley believed in Jesus’ spiritual death:“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? – Our Lord hereby at once expresses his trust in God, and a most distressing sense of his letting loose the powers of darkness upon him, withdrawing the comfortable discoveries of his presence , and filling his soul with a terrible sense of the wrath due to the sins which he was bearing.” -In Wesley’s commentary of the Bible, Wesley’s Explanatory Notes .
  • John Calvin believed in Jesus’ spiritual death:“If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No – it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment.” -Calvin, John. Christ Descended Into Hell , Excerpted from Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T. McNiell. Translated and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles. Publishing date unknown. 7 July, 2003
  • Billy Graham believes in Jesus’ spiritual death:“Jesus’ cry, “˜My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34) has puzzled many. Jesus is actually quoting the opening line of Psalm 22 and using it to express His deep agony on the cross. He is suffering the penalty for our sin in our place. The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Death includes two dimensions — physical and spiritual. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. Since Jesus was dying for our sin as our substitute, He was experiencing the agony of separation from His Father.” -Graham, Billy. Did God really forsake Jesus when He was dying on the cross? Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Publishing date unknown. 7 July, 2003.
  • John Gill seems to think Jesus died spiritually:“that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man; that is, Christ was made a little lower than the angels by becoming man, and assuming a body frail and mortal, that he might die for his church and people: to “˜taste death’, is a Jewish phrase, often to be met with in Rabbinical writings; (See Gill on Matthew 16:28) and signifies the truth and reality of his death, and the experience he had of the bitterness of it, it being attended with the wrath of God, and curse of the law; though he continued under it but for a little while, it was but a taste; and it includes all kinds of death , he tasted of the death of afflictions, being a man of sorrows all his days, and a corporeal death, and what was equivalent to an eternal one; and so some think the words will bear to be rendered, “˜that he by the grace of God might taste of every death’; which rendering of the words, if it could be established, as it is agreeable to the context, and to the analogy of faith, would remove all pretence of an argument from this place, in favour of the universal scheme: what moved God to make him lower than the angels, and deliver him up to death, was not any anger towards him, any disregard to him, or because he deserved it, but his “˜grace’, free favour, and love to men; this moved him to provide him as a ransom; to preordain him to be the Lamb slain; to send him in the fulness of time, and give him up to justice and death: the Syriac version reads, “˜for God himself through his own grace tasted death for all'” – Gill, John John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer), The New John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernized and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne , Ontario . Available at
  • Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown believe Jesus died spiritually:“”˜Taste death’ implies His personal experimental undergoing of death: death of the body, and death (spiritually) of the soul, in His being forsaken of the Father.” – Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary

If space permitted, many more well know theologians and preachers could be named that believed Jesus died spiritually. However, the most important ones were the ones that wrote the Bible. The Bible is clear that Jesus died spiritually. If He did not, then not a single person is born-again. Jesus’ physical death washed away our personal sins however we still have the problem of being children of the devil. No, we must be born-again which is a spiritual process that had to be obtained in the spirit realm. Nothing in this physical realm, even Jesus’ body, could obtain a spiritual redemption. That which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is spirit. We needed a spiritual redemption to become born-again children of God.

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Jesus Died Spiritually: Introduction

Jesus Died Spiritually: What Happened On The Cross

Jesus Died Spiritually: What Happened In The Lower Parts of the Earth