Why So Much Fuss About the Trinity? Part 5: The Death of the Eternal God

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Why So Much Fuss About the Trinity? Part 5: The Death of the Eternal God

In continuation of the last article, we focused more on the eternal life of the Son of God, even the reality of his eternal nature or essence. Not by coincidence, this reality is brought out more in His incarnation, and even more at the cross, than in any other place in Scripture. Though we cannot understand the infinite gravity of what happened on Calvary, our limited minds can still understand the aspects that have been revealed to us in Scripture, and even then, we are only scratching the surface. Hence inspiration tells us concerning what took place on Golgotha’s hill,

 

The cross of Christ will be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity.[1]

 

Can you imagine that what took place at Calvary is so vast, so broad, so high, that it will take eternal ages to comprehend it? Which really means, we will never be able to fully comprehend it! What a powerful and overwhelming thought. Yet in this world, we can begin the study that will never end. That is what I seek to initiate in this article, even to skim the surface of the great deep.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Living in the Shadow of the Cross

 

The Eternality of Christ

 

In looking at Christ’s eternality in the last article, we saw that this truth is inextricably tied to the reason that we worship Him. We worship Him not necessarily because He is superior in power, but superior in His very essence, due to being eternal. We worship Him, not necessarily because of what He can do for us, but because of who He is, even eternal God. But something to now keep in mind is that due to Christ eternality, not only was He not created, but He cannot die. Divinity cannot be created or brought into existence, neither can Divinity die.

 

Therefore, as we look at Christ from the incarnation to the climax of the cross, we are looking at an astounding miracle. One that boggles the mind. In the incarnation, we see a divine formula that is necessary for salvation, and also necessary because of Jesus being eternal at His core. How can one who is everlasting or immortal by nature, die? The Bible speaking of God states, that He “alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:16) Now in context, while this may be speaking of the Father, Christ being God in the highest sense, is also a part of that “God who alone is immortal.”

 

This text gives the clear understanding that while holy angels, and unfallen beings may live forever, their ability to live forever, is contingent upon their connection with the Father and the Son. While created beings may receive the ability to live forever, they can only do so, as long as they are connected to Someone else. On the other hand, God has no need of being connected to someone else to live, He alone is immortal by nature, the very source of life. Therefore, Jesus being God, the very fountain of life itself, is immortal by nature, even self-existent.

The Condescension of Christ

This, therefore, reveals the necessity of the incarnation. Jesus’ essence is so powerful, so outside of the realm of death, that in order to pay the penalty for sin, which is death, divinity would need humanity. God would need mortal flesh. Speaking of the incarnation Ellen White states

 

Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in Him, the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.[2]

 

However, while the mystery of the incarnation was spoken of in the previous statement, the necessity of it is revealed as follows,

 

The Redeemer of the world clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might reach humanity: for, in order to bring to the world salvation. it was necessary that humanity and divinity should be united. Divinity needed humanity, that humanity might afford a channel of communication between God and man, and humanity needed divinity, that a power from above might restore man to the likeness of God.[3]

 

Imagine that, God needed mortal flesh, to redeem mortals. In return, as the statements shows, humanity cannot overcome, in the warfare with sin, unless it receives divine power. As mentioned before, so powerful was Jesus’ divinity, that it needed something outside the realm of the eternal, to restore fallen man. This reality is brought out in Philippians 2, where we see the delineation of the necessary steps, Jesus took to redeem man. In this chapter, Paul makes a statement that is so far above the natural capabilities of men and women in their own strength, yet is possible through divine power. He states in Philippians 2:5

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…

 

Right after stating this, he begins to delineate the demonstration of that mind, as it was manifest in Christ condescension, via the incarnation. Concerning the first downward step of Jesus, Philippians 2:6 says “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…” This means that “Because he existed as God,” “his true nature is characterized not by selfish grabbing, but by an open-handed giving.”[4] Literally what the verse is saying then is that “though Jesus was God, He did not try to selfishly hold on to a title, and position equal with His Father.” Here we see the mindset of our Savior, just prior to His condescension. The eternal nature of Jesus is selfless.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: How Jesus was Like Us

 

Now with this mindset, He takes the second step, in that He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Now while it is true that Jesus laid aside certain divine prerogatives, as we also saw in the previous articles, He did at times use His own power to work miracles. This is why while this verse may give the idea of Him laying aside certain divine prerogatives, “A better interpretation is that emptying himself is tantamount to pouring himself out – so Hawthorne wrote,

 

it is a poetic, humanlike way of saying the Christ poured out himself totally at the disposal of people (cf. 1 John 3:16), that Christ became poor that he might make many rich (2 Cor. 8:9).[5]

 

Also, this reveals that Christ had to become nothing, to make man something, but the way that Jesus did this was by becoming a man, revealing that man is nothing, unless Jesus gives him/her value. Humanity’s richness in value was manifested in creation, and especially redemption, because of the who made and redeemed them. The redemption of mankind cost the condescension and death of the Son of God, revealing that our worth is equivalent to the price paid. The net worth of Jesus is in accordance with His essence. Therefore, our worth is eternal, for One who is eternal was our ransom.

 

What love Jesus has for us. What selflessness must be in someone, for that person to die, for humanity, who does not deserve it. One commentary lays out this selfless reality as follows,

 

Paul described Christ’s deity in terms of his selfless denial of his rights. This selfless denial entailed two steps, making himself nothing (or emptying himself) by becoming a human being and a slave, and humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of suffering a slave’s death, death on the cross.[6]

 

The third step, after becoming nothing, which is equivalent to becoming human, was that now in light of His humanity, Jesus could die. Hence Philippians 2:8 states:

 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

This could not be done, however, unless the first two steps were followed. Verses six and seven, were a necessity, for verse eight to even be a possibility. Now it is clear, that what we saw earlier in Ellen White’s writings, is delineated in Scripture, the only difference is that her writings amplify the truth of Scripture, giving us further incite, that corroborates with, and finds its genesis in the biblical text.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Jesus, the Self-Existent God

 

All of this being said, the reality of what happened at the cross will still astound us. We will see just how powerful Jesus’ eternal nature is, revealing the truth concerning the fullness of His uncreated deity. He was never brought into existence, nor will He ever go out of existence.

 

A few questions have crossed my mind and the mind of many concerning the cross. Questions such as,

 

If Jesus is the self-existent God of old, then what happened at Calvary?

What died on Calvary?

Divinity cannot die, God cannot die, and if Jesus is God, what died on the cross?

 

Friends, it is true that One who is immortal by nature cannot die, that deduction is clear. Remember, based on statements above, Jesus had to blend with humanity to die. This was due to His eternal nature, being outside the domain of death. Therefore, what died on Calvary was the human nature of Jesus Christ, which was susceptible to death. Due to God, dwelling in that human nature, however, it was more than enough to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Hence we read this stupendous statement

 

Was the human nature of the Son of Mary changed into the divine nature of the Son of God? No; the two natures were mysteriously blended in one person – the man Christ Jesus. In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. When Christ was crucified, it was His human nature that died. Deity did not sink and die; that would have been impossible.[7]

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Jesus as YHWH

 

Conclusion

 

What a powerful, yet logical revelation! A mystery indeed, yet with God, nothing is impossible. We see Jesus, the eternal God, pouring out Himself, becoming nothing, becoming a slave, by becoming a man. In that humanity, He lived a perfect life, that He might die a perfect death. His humanity perishing on Calvary, while His divinity is sustained. We see that Christ’s eternality is so established, that not even what happened at Calvary could kill it.

 

To try to even begin to process this boggles the mind, it takes us through a never-ending maze, hence while there are aspects of this subject we can understand, there are aspects we must accept by faith. Only by faith can we believe things we cannot fully comprehend. In His humanity, and especially at the cross, we see that indeed once again, our Savior was truly eternal. All I can say when I look at this subject is “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,” for that same man, is also the infinite God.

Read the rest of Akeem’s series on the Trinity.

______

Notes.

[1] Ellen White, Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1898), p. 651.

[2] Ellen White, “Child Life of Jesus,” The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896.

[3] Ellen White, “The Plan of Salvation,” Signs of the Times, February 20, 1893.

[4] Philip W. Comfort, Cornerstone Bible Commentary: Ephesians, Philippians, 1-2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Philemon, (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois 2008), p. 169.

[5] Ibid, p. 169.

[6] Frank Thielman, The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995), p. 119.

[7] Ellen White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1113.

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About the author

Akeem James

Akeem James is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and has lived in the United States since 2001. At the age of 16, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, and became a Seventh-day Adventist. Currently, he obtained his Masters in Divinity degree from Andrews University and is the director of Ultimate Cry Ministries.