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William Atkinson: The Spiritual Death of Jesus

In short, if the rigid trichotomy of the JDS teachers is not correct, then its application to Jesus needing to die spiritually is also incorrect.

These kinds of assumptions create the foundation upon which many other ideas of the Word of Faith are formulated. Are these assumptions firmly rooted in biblical revelation?

Does the teaching that Jesus died spiritually stand up against Scripture?

It is claimed that if man is spiritually dead, then Jesus must experience a spiritual death. The author follows through the many arguments and counterarguments debated over five key scriptures: Gen. 2:7; Eph. 2:1; Is. 53:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 3:18. The conclusion to which the author arrives is that those who espouse JDS are naive when it comes to exegetical work. Atkinson’s conclusion is that there is no direct statement in the scripture that Jesus died spiritually.

Atkinson boldly spells out how the JDS teachers insist on downplaying the physical death of Jesus, who claim that this doesn’t touch the sin problem at all. The author clearly shows evidence that the JDS teachers teach that the physical death of Jesus was insufficient for salvation and a spiritual death is pivotal.

When Jesus hung on the cross, did God break fellowship with him? Did intimacy between Father and Son stop? Did God become hostile and distance himself from his Son?

JDS teaching assumes the answer is yes to these questions, and then will go on to offer theories as to the timing of this separation (while Jesus was on the cross or after he died), and its nature (relationally or spatially in hell). Atkinson will show that the confused propagators of JDS haven’t thought through their positions nor the implications of their statements.

The particular scriptures under review for this question are Matt. 27:46 with Mk. 15:34 (Ps. 22:1), as well as 2 Cor. 5:21.

Does the cry of dereliction from the cross mean that the Father separated himself relationally from Jesus, or an indication that Jesus would not be exempt from the horrors of the crucifixion? Did Jesus assume a satanic nature?

The problem in answering this question is that nowhere do the JDS teachers explain what they mean by ‘nature’. There is a tendency to be ambiguous with no clear definitions. The scriptures under review in this section are 2 Cor. 5:21 and Jn. 3:14. Again the author skillfully reveals the history of interpretation on both sides of the issue, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

Another aspect of the JDS teaching is what happened to Jesus between his death and resurrection. Did Satan take Jesus to hell where he inflicted upon him unimaginable torments? Was Jesus made Satan’s prey? Did Jesus need to suffer these torments after his physical death to satisfy the demands of justice?

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2015

About the Author: Eugene Smith currently pastors a church in Northern Ireland. He spent over thirteen years in global ministry, constantly travelling from country to country as a missionary teacher, participating in pastors’ seminars, conferences, Bible schools and church services. Eugene has a strong burden that Spirit and Word be brought together to speak with one voice.

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