THE MOMENT OF DEATHBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
Some feel that Jesus Christ either died of heart failure or suffocated on the cross. However, if either of these beliefs is true, how do we reconcile what Jesus said about his body and blood as he instituted the new rituals and symbols for the Passover and how do we reconcile the prophecies that speak of his death?
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt.26:26-28 KJV).
Jesus told his disciples that his blood would seal the New Covenant and give forgiveness for sin.
As for the prophecies that foretell Jesus' death, Isaiah was inspired to record that the death of the Messiah would be caused by the shedding of his blood. If Jesus is the Messiah, he would have had to have died by the shedding of his blood:
"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa.53:12 KJV).
It is very important to understand that Jesus fulfilled every prophecy concerning the first advent of the Messiah and he died according to the prophesies. If these things were not true, Jesus cannot be the Redeemer and Savior of humanity, and mankind is still lost without hope of salvation and condemned to death by the law of God.
However, as the scriptures clearly show, Jesus did fulfill the first coming of the Messiah and the prophetic symbolism of the Passover Lamb in exacting detail and he did die by the shedding of his life-blood.
In order to find out what killed Jesus, all of the gospel accounts of his death must be reviewed and the true chronology of events must be reconstructed. When this is done, it becomes apparent that indeed Jesus did die as the prophecies foretold.
The Gospel Accounts
The following is a review of Mark's, Luke's, and John's accounts of Christ's death. We will review Matthew's account in the end of the study, because within it is a clear explanation of how Jesus died and the moment of his death.
"And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mk.15:33-39 KJV)? See also Psa.22:1-2.
"And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calls Elias. And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. And Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the spirit. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom" (Mk.15:33-39 KJV).
"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour [noon to 3 p.m.]. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the spirit" (Lk.23:44-46 KJV).
Both Mark and Luke state that Christ died after giving a loud cry and the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom.
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst" (Jn.19:28 KJV).
Because Jesus knew that he must fulfill all of the prophetic scriptures concerning his death, he made his thirst known to those watching him.
"Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the spirit" (Jn.19:29-30 KJV). See Psa.69:21.
Mark, Luke, and John did not record all of the events surrounding Jesus' death. And what they did record is not in chronological order. When these events are viewed in their true chronological order, the mystery of when and how Jesus died can be easily solved.
The Legs Broken
"The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken [so they would suffocate and die sooner], and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs" (Jn.19:31-33 KJV). See Ex.12:46; Num.9:12; Psa.34:19-20.
The Piercing of Christ
"But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (Jn.19:34 KJV).
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zech.12:10 KJV).
The Hebrew word for pierced that is used in this prophecy is 'daqar', which means 'to stab' and 'to strike through'. The word 'daqar' is very important because it confirms Matthew's account, which shows that the stabbing of Jesus and the subsequent draining of his blood is what killed him.
"And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: . . . that you might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken" (Jn.19:35-36 KJV).
John reveals that the reason the soldier speared Jesus was to fulfill scriptures concerning Jesus as the prophetic Passover lamb, and so that others would believe when they read his record of the event.
"And again another scripture says, They shall look on him who they pierced" (Jn.19:37 KJV). See Psa.22:16-17.
John makes two references to Jesus being pierced. The first refers to the piercing of his side, and the second most likely refers to the nailing of his hands and feet. Because of the chronological order of events, it would seem that Jesus was already dead before the soldier stabbed him. But is this so, or is there something missing in John's account?
If we take all of the scriptures reviewed so far at face value, it would seem to prove that Christ had died of something other than the shedding of his blood. However, this is not the case.
WHAT IS LIFE?
In order to understand what the scriptures refer to when they say that the Messiah will pour out his life, we need to know what the source of life is as God defines it:
Leviticus 17:10-14 KJV
"And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eats any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls [or your life] . . . for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourns among you eat blood. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunts and catches any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eats it shall be cut off."
God says that the life-force of a physical life-form resides within the blood. In order to prove that Jesus was actually the prophetic Passover lamb, it must be proven that he bled to death.
THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD
Hebrews 9:19-28 KJV
"For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people [making a blood contract], Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God has enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry [setting them apart by the sacrifice of blood]. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission [no forgiveness]" (vs.19-22).
Christ's Shed Blood
Scriptures in both the Old and New Testament, which state that, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin are very clear. If Jesus died of heart failure due to mental stress, suffocation, or any cause other than the shedding of his life's blood, we have no Savior or forgiveness of sin.
"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these" (v23).
Physical things can be purified with physical things (i.e., the blood of animals). However, spiritual things must be purified with spiritual things. Therefore, Christ was a better sacrifice than animals because, besides being a physical man, he was also spiritual (i.e., the Son of God).
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world [end of this age] has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (vs.24-26).
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (vs.27-28).
It is very important to note that, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission or forgiveness of sin, and that all of the sacrifices for the atonement of sin before the advent of Christ were blood sacrifices.
TO COVER OR TO FORGIVE
Although animal sacrifices before Christ's sacrifice were also blood sacrifices, they were not perfect in the eyes of God. Animal sacrifices could only temporarily cover a sin, set it aside, and hide it from God's view. Such sacrifices could never render forgiveness for sin because they did not equal the value of the sinner's life. Therefore, the penalty was not paid; it was merely delayed for a time.
Hebrews 10:1-19 KJV
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year" (vs.1-3).
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (v4).
These animal sacrifices were meant to be a shadow of things to come; they pointed toward Christ and his ultimate sacrifice that was able to render forgiveness of sin:
"Wherefore when he [Christ] comes into the world, he says, Sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body have you prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do your will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin you would not, neither had pleasure therein; which are offered by the law. Then said he, Lo, I come to do your will [that will was to become the perfect and ultimate sacrifice], O God. He takes away the first, that he may establish the second" (vs.5-9).
The original agreement with national Israel was set apart and sealed by the blood of sacrificial animals. The new agreement is also set apart and sealed by bloodthe blood of Jesus Christ:
"By the which will we are sanctified [i.e., set apart] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" (vs.10-12). See 2.Cor.5:21.
Jesus Christ is the perfect and final sacrifice for sin.
"From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the holy spirit also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them" (vs.13-16).
Here, we see a new covenant that is established by a blood sacrifice.
"And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (vs.17-18).
Once Christ died by offering his blood (his life), there could not be a more valuable sacrifice made; therefore, those who have this sacrifice applied as payment for their sins obtain forgiveness.
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (v19).
Notice it is by the blood of Jesus that we are able to go before the Father's presence. Christ's blood makes this possible because his life was in his blood, which he freely gave as an offering for our sins. If this were not so, there would still be no access to God except through a physical priesthood and the sacrificial worship system. If Christ did not die from the loss of his blood, all of the scriptures that speak of our being justified and having access to the Father through his blood would be meaningless.
Ephesians 2:13-18 KJV
"But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ" (Eph.2:13 KJV).
Here, Paul speaks to those who are non-Israelites: people who had no promise before Jesus Christ died and was resurrected.
"For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace" (vs.14-15).
With the giving of his life-blood, Christ opened the way for Israelites as well as non-Israelites called to salvation during the gospel age to access God the Father without a sacrificial system of worship, which was necessary under the former agreement with national Israel.
Christ abolished the necessity of animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin and for justification, because his blood sacrifice was more valuable than any animal life, including human life. His sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice. Therefore, all laws pertaining to animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin and justification were of no more value to humanity:
"And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were near. For through him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father" (vs.16-18).
In order to understand how and when Jesus died, it is important to review Matthew's account of Jesus' death:
Matthew 27:46-51 KJV
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calls for Elias. And straightaway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the spirit. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" (vs.45-51).
The King James translation says, "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the spirit."
It is important to note that none of the other gospel accounts record that Jesus cried "again" after he had been offered the vinegar to drink. Why is this important? It is important because there is something missing from the King James translation of Matthew's account. When this missing text is inserted into its proper place, the mystery of how and when Jesus died is solved. Notice how this passage reads when properly translated with the missing text:
Again notice that "Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (KJV)? "And straightaway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. And another took a spear and thrust it into his side; and out came water and blood. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the spirit" (vs.48-51). Quoted from The Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible based on the Rotherham version. See also the Moffet and the Fenton translations.
When we review all of what Matthew originally wrote about the last few minutes of Jesus' life, it is clear that the correct chronology of events shows two distinct cries of agony and the last cry was made after the centurion stabbed Jesus with his spear, bringing his life to an end as the blood drained from his body.
It is unfortunate that this last sentence is left out of Matthew's account by many translators; however, most of the ancient transcripts and writings have the last part of this verse with the sentence above intact.
When this scripture is properly translated, it conveys the correct sequence of events and confirms prophecy. A careful reading of all the scriptures clearly shows that Jesus was offered vinegar several times, and that he cried out twice. The second time he cried out was when the spear was thrust into his side.
The truth is that Jesus did not die of heart failure, nor did he suffocate; he died from the loss of blood through the stab wound inflicted by the centurion.
As his blood drained out of his body, so did his life (the life is in the blood). All the biblical prophecies tell us that the Messiah would die by the shedding of his blood, and according to the scriptures, this is exactly what happened.