Why Didn’t Jesus Have to Suffer the Way Unbelievers Will?

Question:  Why was it such a difficult thing for Jesus to die on the cross and pay for our sins? I know that he took the full force of God’s wrath for our sin, but what did that do to Jesus? I know Jesus went through hell, but it was only temporary. All of us die, some very horrible deaths. And then some of us receive payment for our sins forevermore to be separated from God. This is terrible to say, but honestly it seems like a small price to pay considering humans and demons continue paying for their sin forever. I know Jesus was innocent of any sins. How can I see this from a more realistic and Godly viewpoint?

Answer:   I think you’re asking why Jesus didn’t have to pay more of a price equal to the punishment humans receive for rebelling against God.  He only died physically (and though torturous it was fairly limited compared to how some have been made to suffer) and then he was only separated from God for a short time and then entered Paradise upon death.  In other words, Jesus’ penalty seems way less than what others have exacted from them by God.

I have just had some of my own assumptions challenged in this area.  Are we correct in assuming that Jesus’ death has to be equal to the suffering of death that anyone else experiences to adequately pay the price for their sin?  Is the price for sin related to how horribly we die or just that we die physically?  It would seem it could only be related to the fact that we die, not the extent of our suffering.

And was Jesus’ statement that God had forsaken him a statement of the Father’s actually  abandoning him spiritually (so that he experienced a taste of hell)?  What is the actual penalty of rebellion against God?  It might only be physical death and that physical death for the unbeliever leads to eternal separation from God as a consequence, not so much as a penalty.

I don’t know yet how to answer each of those questions I raised, but I think it is important to recognize that Jesus was the only human being who ever lived a completely righteous life in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the value of his life is of infinite value and capable of paying for every human being who believes.  The fact that he would choose to die in our place when he did not deserve to die at all lends even greater weight to his sacrifice.

So we don’t have to see some kind of one-to-one correspondence between how Jesus died and how everyone else dies.  It is more a matter of what God accepts.  God values Jesus’ death as equal to what we would have had to pay corporately.  He feels it is a just payment in our place.  We may not fully understand how that is so, but we know His balance scales are always honestly weighted.  He didn’t give himself an easy way out.

7 thoughts on “Why Didn’t Jesus Have to Suffer the Way Unbelievers Will?

  1. I am puzzled by this question, and answer. I am not sure why Jesus would have to die the way people who will never come to believe and repent would? He died so that we would be free of our sins. “We” being those that believe in him and repent. To die a horrible death and then be forever separated from the Father, would be, at least form my perspective, dying for those that will never choose to know Him. It doesn’t make sense to me that it should have happened that way. It would be incredibly gracious and merciful, for sure, but … pointless? God knows the last hour of the last day when the very last person that will turn to Him will do so. It’s only those that *choose* to do so. And unfortunately, that’s not everyone’s choice (look at Satan … the most beautiful of all His angels thought He could outsmart God). God waits for that very last person to turn to Him, and there will be a point in time when everyone who has not yet turned to him, never will. I am not sure that dying to free those people would make much sense. He could will them to turn, but that is no longer freedom of choice. We have the choice. Everyone has to follow on their own choosing. He can only die for those that will turn to Him. At least to me, that’s the only sacrifice that makes sense.

    • You seem to be questioning that Jesus died, in fact, for every human being, even for those that will not believe in him. You may not be aware, but this is a question that has been quite debated by Christians. One group has argued that the Scriptures seem to unequivocally teach that Jesus died for every single person in the world (1 John 2:1,2). They usually argue that this atoning death was only provisionally atoning dependent on the individual trusting Christ. Others have argued that there is no such thing as a provisional atonement. Either Jesus paid the price for my sins or he did not. From their perspective, only the elect were atoned for. In their view the issue of choice is looked at a little differently. They believe that those Jesus died for God will bring to Jesus, enabling them to do what they could not do on their own, i.e., believe. They are irresistibly drawn to Jesus (John 6:44) and so choose him but it is nonetheless God who brought about their choice.

      As you can imagine, this topic has been hotly contested. I will go on record as saying that the latter view makes better sense to me. This view is sometimes called limited atonement, but perhaps a better term is definite atonement. Jesus’ atonement was definite and only for the elect. So there was no one for whom Jesus died that it was “pointless.”

  2. According to the Bible, there are two kinds of death. In Revelation 20: 6, 14,15 the Bible mentions a second death which means there is also a first death. The first death is the death we all have to die due to old age, illness, accident etc.. But the second death is different, no one has died this death except Jesus. This is the death that is complete separation from God, the only source of life. Unlike many Christian and pagan religions, I do not believe in an eternal hell. It just doesn’t make sense. And it’s not justice. Let’s say we could calculate sins and punishments by lbs, just as an example, if I had committed 80 lbs worth of sins, then the fair and just punishment for that is 80 lbs worth of punishment. That’s absolute fairness. For God to mete out infinity lbs of punishment to punish my 80 lbs makes Him a monster. It’s like whipping your child for the rest of his life because he stole some money. Don’t get me wrong, the child needs discipline, of course, but whipping him for the rest of his life is monstrous. Now I could see Satan taking absolute delight in torturing people for eternity because HE IS A MONSTER, but not the God of love, not the God of mercy and justice. Christ’s death on the cross was not a ‘first’ death. It was the second death. That’s why, unlike the martyrs who were at peace and even sang at their deaths, Christ was full of emotional turmoil and fear. He was going to pay the price every sinner who rejects Christ will have to pay, the second death. That’s a death that is eternal. You will cease to exist forever. That means that for eternity, Christ would be separated from the rest of the Godhead, something that had never happened before.
    Even in human terms, the ultimate price a person must pay for a crime such as treason or 1st degree murder is death, not torture. The criminal is not only deprived of liberty, he is deprived of life here on earth. Torture is seen as barbarous and brutish in nature by civilized nations. I think we take God’s name in vain when we teach such pagan and monstrous teachings about God’s justice. The wages of sin is death, not eternal torment. God asks us to choose between ‘life and death’, not between ‘life and eternal torments’. That foolishness can be traced back to the Greeks and the Egyptians, but it has nothing to do with God.

    • The second death in Revelation 20 is the “death” that is imposed on those who are already dead, who have been up until that time held in Hades, but are now going to be judged “according to what they had done” and according to their absence from the “book of life.” They are not in the Lamb’s book of life because they did not trust in the Lamb. They are judged according to their works because there are varying levels of evil that people have committed. The second death is the Lake of Fire. There are indications that the Lake of Fire is not an extinguishing of one’s consciousness/existence (Mark 9:48; Matthew 25:46 where the comparison is made between eternal life and eternal punishment). If Jesus means by these terms that there is an eternal, conscious experience of punishment from God, then we may certainly not accuse him of teaching a pagan concept, nor may we assume that we know what is a fair and unfair punishment for our rebellion. And we must not take as our assumption that we know what is and isn’t fair for God to do as determinative of what Jesus’ words mean. We must let determine the meaning of Jesus’ words as best we can and let all other considerations fall under that meaning. To do other than that is the true foolishness.

      • “if Jesus means by these terms that there is an eternal, conscious experience of punishment from God” is the key sentence. And the key word is IF….. I’m totally against that view because it pictures God as a monster. It has done more to turn people off to Christianity than any other (please pardon the expression) heresy. It puts God on the same playing field as Satan. God is not going to torture you forever because of rejecting Christ, He is going to put you to sleep forever. DEATH. That is essentially what separation from God is. How can a human being live apart from the Life giver? To be separated from God is to die, literally and eternally. Now that’s fair. If I choose not to live in Christ, well, then I can only have death because there is no other Life-giver. Of course, there is also the fact that I have to pay for the sins I refused to let Christ pay for. That involves punishment and I think that is fair too. but FOREVER? Seriously, as a minister, you can’t see something twisted about that? And I do believe we have been given enough intellect to know when something is fair and is not fair. If we were discussing a matter of a few 100 years in hell, you might be right in saying that ‘who are we to determine what is a fair punishment for rejecting Christ.”(I hope I paraphrased you correctly there) But we are not talking about that. We are talking about eternal, unending human torture of the most excruciating kind that is relentless and unceasing. You don’t have to be God to know that isn’t justice. Not for eighty years of a sins. My understanding of the gospel is that God is here to destroy sin and eradicate it from the universe. When God is finished you will go anywhere in the universe and you will not be able to find any where, in any place, at any time, sin, sinner or devils. All will have ceased to exist. The universe will be pure and holy without some “off limits area where the sinners are being tortured”. In other words, this world and it’s people will be redeemed back to the time of Adam before the fall. That is true hope. By the way, no where in scripture does God promise sinners eternal life. Eternal torture requires eternal life. Eternal life is reserved only for the righteous. Death is the wage of sinners.

    • I too, have a hard time reconciling a just God and eternal torture forever. God is a billion times more loving and forgiving than we can ever hope to be….and the thought that people would forever and ever people would be in pain just doesn’t gel with my idea of a loving God. I do believe Jesus as My Savior,always have, but now I have a much more personal relationship with Jesus. I know what it says biblical, but God sees and knows all and I can’t fathom eternal torture.But I come to sights here to study and learn about the Bible. Thank you.

      • God is also a billion times more just and fair than we are. So the real question is whether the Scriptures teach this doctrine or not. If the Bible is an inspired revelation of God’s truth and Scripture teaches eternal torture, then it is an accurate reflection of God’s justice and love and our own perspectives on whether it is fair or not cannot be determinative of the doctrine. There is a strong argument for a temporary hell, but once again that must be arrived at, not by deciding that God cannot be fair if hell is eternal torture, but by careful exegesis of Scripture. Without a doubt questions of fairness may cause us to question certain doctrines and lead us to more careful exegesis.

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