The mystery of the divine-human nature of Christ is beyond our finite understanding. As the Son of Man, He was subject to His parents as a youth, engaged in a carpenter’s trade, had to eat and sleep like other men, and was subject to pain and suffering, and finally to death, like other men.
But as the Son of God, He was born of a virgin mother, performed mighty miracles of creation, even controlling the wind and the sea, and finally conquered death itself when He left the empty tomb! As man He was “in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15), but as God, He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). As man, He was unjustly “crucified and slain by wicked hands,” but as the Lamb of God, He was “delivered” (to be put to death) by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).
The Bible simply presents as fact the great truth that Jesus Christ was both God and man. It does not try to explain how this could be, because it is inexplicable. It must be apprehended on faith alone, and true Christians have always found full rest and peace in this reality. Those of a skeptical and rationalist bent have always made this doctrine a stumbling block. The first heretics, the Gnostics, said that Christ was only divine, rejecting His humanity. Modern-day skeptics, on the other hand, reject His deity. The former said that, since He was God, He never really died on the cross. The latter say that, since He died, He could not have been God. But the Bible says that He was God and that He died!
One should remember, of course, that physical death is not the end of existence. When Christ’s body died, God did not die in the sense that He ceased to exist. In the Spirit, He was intensely active (note 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:9, etc.). The death of His physical body (and even this was only for three days) was merely a change of state, as it were, from the limitations of the flesh to the freedom of the spirit. When He returned to His body, triumphant over death and hell (Revelation 1:18), He empowered even His physical body with full freedom from the limitations imposed by time and space, and the principle of decay and death, so that He now lives forever in His glorified body.
However, the most important aspect of the death of the Son of God was not His physical death, but His spiritual death, which was fully accomplished on the cross before He ever “yielded up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50) physically. For three awful hours darkness engulfed the whole land during the very middle of the day, as “He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Although He “did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” nevertheless, He bore “our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:22, 24). He became the very personification of evil, bearing the guilt of all the sins of all men of all time, enduring the punishment of the outraged holiness and perfect justice of the Creator of every man. Though He had always been in perfect communion with His Father, He now had to be utterly forsaken by God (Matthew 27:46), and allowed to drink to the very dregs the awful “cup” (Matthew 26:39) of God’s infinite wrath.
This, of course, is the essence of what hell will be—that is, the state of being utterly forsaken by God. Those who reject the offer of forgiveness through the atoning death of Christ, and who thus continue to retain the guilt of their own sins, will finally be separated forever from the presence and power of God (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9). Hell is an eternal existence far removed from all evidences of God’s presence—an eternity of darkness, wickedness, turmoil, pain, and wretchedness, the just destiny of those who willfully reject God’s gift, in Christ, of light, holiness, peace, immortality and joy.
In the most real sense, therefore, the Lord Jesus endured hell itself as our substitute, when He was forsaken by God for those three terrible hours on the cross. Thus, He could give the great victory cry: “It is finished!” (Luke 23:46; John 19:30), just before He dismissed the spirit, from His tortured body, back to the presence of His Father.
Here, once again, we confront the mystery of the divine-human nature of Christ, the “hypostatic union,” as theologians have called it. Christ, as man, suffered and died, “more than any man” (Isaiah 52:14), but as God He could endure infinite and eternal punishment in a finite time and specific place, thus satisfying forever the righteousness of God and manifesting to perfection His redeeming love.
Though the “hypostatic union” is a mystery and a paradox, there is more mental, as well as spiritual, rest in accepting it by faith than there is in trying to explain away the overwhelming evidences of both His deity and His humanity. Similar paradoxes abound in His creation, perhaps even intentionally, as a reflection of their Creator.
Thus, “Space,” like Christ, is both finite and infinite. “Time,” like Christ, is both temporal and eternal. “Matter” is related to “Energy” in terms of the motion of Light, through Space, in Time, and “Light” is both a “wave” motion and a “particle” motion. The processes of nature seem both “deterministic” in terms of natural laws and yet “indeterministic” in their ultimate nature, paralleling the paradox of “predestination” versus “free choice and responsibility” in human experience. All of these and similar paradoxes we accept in terms of experience, even though we cannot reconcile them with our limited capacity of understanding.
Thus, too, the Christian believer, though he does not understand it all, can rejoice in the historical and experimental reality that God Himself, in Christ, has died for his sins and now lives forever as his eternal Savior.
Henry M. Morris and Martin E. Clark