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He Tasted Death for Every Man

"We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Hebrews 2:9

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a Man lay down His life for His friends." John 15:13.

All through the Bible the death that is common to all men, what has been a plague to humanity and brings fear to people as they face it, is called the "first death" or simply "sleep."  When someone dies, they're said to be "asleep with the fathers" (2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Kings 1:21; Acts 13:36), or simply "resting in sleep" (Job 7:21; John 11:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). More than 50 times, the Bible refers to the first death as "sleep" (for more examples see also Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52).

This death is not the penalty for sin, but a consequence of Adam's fall (Romans 5:12). If Jesus had died only this death, He would not have paid the penalty for sin, since this death is common to all men. To pay for our sin, Christ's death had to be much more that simply resting in the grave over the Sabbath.

The Bible teaches us that Christ "tasted death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9). It also teaches us that every person is not going to experience the first death because some will be translated out of this world alive at Christ's second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:17). From this, we can conclude that the death that Christ suffered on Calvary was the equivalent of the second death — the death that the violated Law of God demanded.

The phrase "second death" occurs only in Revelation (2:11, 20:6, 20:14, and 21:8). Two of these verses tell us that those who overcome sin through the power of Christ working in their lives will not suffer the second death. The other two verses describe what the second death is. The second death is something that only the incorrigibly wicked will suffer.

We say that Christ died the "equivalent" of this death because there is no resurrection possible from the second death. It is total annihilation, complete destruction of the very substance of the individual. They will never exist again in any form, except as ashes under the feet of the righteous when this earth is made new (Malachi 4:3). Peter tells us that when the wicked are destroyed, the earth will burn with such fury that "the elements shall melt away with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).

To help us imagine the magnitude of this event, compare it to a thousand atomic bombs exploding all at once. This final event in earth's sinful history will be far more cataclysmic than what the persons at ground zero experienced when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. For many of those unfortunate people, there was not a single trace left of them. There was a brilliant flash of light, then they vanished from the face of the earth.

After the judgment however, those who have rejected the loving plea of the Master to come to Him in repentance, those who refused to believe, will receive eternal annihilation as the recompense for their stubborn resistance to His love (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46; Acts 24:15).

The second death also includes the mental experience of a total separation from God, the Author and Giver of life. Jesus knew that "iniquities have separated between [us] and [our] God, and [our] sins have hid His face from [us], that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). Christ also knew the Scripture which stated that any man who was hung on a tree, was accursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23; see also Galatians 3:13).

As the accumulated weight of the iniquity of all humanity was pressing down upon Jesus, He experienced such filthiness from sin that He felt that His Father could never accept Him again. Hanging on the cross that Friday afternoon, surrounded by a blackness so deep that even the sun couldn't shine through (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-45), Christ sensed that He was totally abandoned by His heavenly Father.

Jesus' words, "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46) tell us that He perceived as His own, this complete separation between Himself and His Father. It is in this way that Jesus "tasted death for every man," even for the unrepentant wicked who will one day suffer the second death.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a Man lay down His life for His friends." Praise God that, even though we were His enemies and hated Him (Romans 5:6, 8), He loves us anyway, calls us His friends, and chose to pay the ultimate price for our redemption from sin. It was His great self-emptying love for lost humanity—His agape—that compelled Him to experience this as our complete Saviour from sin (Matthew 1:21).

The terrible tragedy is that all those who will be lost eternally will have thrown away salvation that already was freely given to them by our loving Saviour, who died to save all men (1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11) from the horrors of the second death. By their free choice, they have persistently rejected and resisted the love of God that would save them, if they would only respond to Him. Unbelief is the only sin for which there is no redemption. Why? because the unbeliever does not desire repentance, but persists in his rebellion.

"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Hebrews 10:26-27.

Hell (eternal destruction) was only "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Anyone else who ends up losing their eternal life will have thrown away their birthright possession to eternal life in Christ, having chosen to reject His gift of salvation. Against His desire for them, God will finally be forced to give them what they want. This is God's "strange act" (Isaiah 28:21) in releasing them from His loving embrace into the fires of total destruction.

See articles related to this subject: "No Greater Love"; "Lesson of the Cross"

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