What we thought about...



10th April, 2006

Seeing God articles
Faith & Reason articles
Bible Teachings articles

Can God die?

Many atheists disbelieve in God because they cannot figure out who created Him. And, as with believers, they cannot grasp the concept of anything or anybody not having a beginning. The difference between believers and atheists is that believers are willing to accept the proposition even though they cannot understand it. They read the Bible and conclude that its words are way too sublime to have come from the minds of men. (How can anybody reckon that a mere man wrote the book of Isaiah, for instance?) And when that book tells in a number of different ways that God always has been and always will be, they believe it.

Most Christians also believe that Scripture presents Jesus as God in the flesh. Indeed, for most of us, the issue is settled; in some mysterious but real way Jesus was God. If God is “bigger” than the universe (1 Kin. 8:27) and in touch with every atom in it (implication of Hebrews 1:3), for Him to “be made flesh” (John 1:14) presents no challenge whatsoever.

But if Jesus was God, who lives forever and cannot die, then how come He did die? Those Christians who believe that Jesus was not truly God believe that this problem proves fatal for those of us who believe that Jesus was God and that He died.

This objection, though, is based on a false premise — that God died when Jesus died. But if God had died, who raised Jesus from the dead? God obviously did. Are we talking gobbledygook? That depends on whether you define anything that is beyond us to fully understand as gobbledygook.

Some try to solve the problem by positing that the One True God actually consisted of two God beings, the Father and the Son, one of whom was transformed at the time of Jesus' birth into flesh. He voluntarily surrendered immortality and was turned into a mortal man. Thus, even though one God being died, the other lived on, and so God died but He did not die. This position is fraught with problems. For example, one has to wonder if baby Jesus was truly a baby or only a pretend baby. If an infinitely intelligent and all powerful God being metamorphosed into flesh, what happened to His infinite mind and power? Was that infinite intelligence “hiding out” in the babe just pretending to be unable to talk? Did baby Jesus only pretend to be incapable of walking. Was baby Jesus

history's best act? May we not even begin to imagine such a thing.

Let's try to understand to the degree it is possible to understand. God is infinite, in all places at all times. Jesus was an act of God, a manifestation of God in the flesh. God entered flesh, but that does not mean that either He or any part of Himself disappeared from heaven at the birth of baby Jesus. The death of Jesus did not take anything away from God. Admittedly, the resurrected glorified Jesus is presented in Scripture as a real “part” of the living God, a High Priest making constant intercession for His saints (Heb. 7:25). But we should not construe High Priest Jesus as constituting a separate being or as an addition to the divine being. Rather, the act of the death and resurrection of Jesus make God a High Priest in the same way that the act of creation made God “Creator”. When God created and thereby became Creator, nothing changed in the actual being of God. He has been capable of being Creator for all eternity, but did not “become” the Creator until He created. God alone is capable, and always has been, of atoning for human sinfulness, but He did not “become” the atoning Lamb until that moment in history when, in Jesus, He tasted death (Heb. 2:9), nor did He “become” the high priest until Jesus was resurrected.

An analogy may help, even though it contains an inbuilt contradiction to the statement above that no “part” of God disappeared from heaven with the coming of Jesus. But remember, analogies are designed to help grasp a concept, not to perfect the metaphysical explanation. Imagine that the moon represents God. When astronauts chiseled out some rock from the moon and brought it back to the earth, they enabled men to handle very moon essence. The moon rock in Houston is genuine, bona fide moon. But the moon still stands in the night sky, unchanged from what it always has been. Jesus is the sample “moon rock” God Himself sent to earth (as distinct from being brought down by men — Rom. 10:6), the genuine article, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). And since every “molecule” of God is conscious and capable of thought, Jesus displayed divine thought patterns; His was not a second mind, separate from His heavenly Father's. But just as moon rock can in no way be described as another “moon being”, so too Jesus should not be looked upon as “another God being”. He was “part” of God, in Whom God walked and talked with us human beings, suffered at our hands, tasted death in our behalf, became our Savior and high priest. He was truly Immanuel, God with us.

For more thoughts on the question of the divinity of Jesus, see "Was Jesus God?"


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