Question: One of my favorite hymns says, “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me!” It goes on to say, “the Immortal dies!” How could God die? And if He did, who held the universe together?
Response: Christ is both God and man in one Person. Surely He didn’t cease to be God when He died for our sins. Then did God die? Some suggest that Christ died as a man but not as God. But there is no biblical basis to separate His deity from His humanity so that Jesus did this as a man and that as God. We dare not restate Scripture in a way that lessens the mystery of the Incarnation.
Paul writes, “[G]reat is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,...” (1 Tm 3:16). Everything that Jesus did was a manifestation of God as a man. As God manifest in the flesh, He rebuked the storm; as God manifest in the flesh, He died on the cross.
If Jesus were not God, the great I AM, He could not be our Savior. The God of Israel declares, “...beside me there is no saviour” (Is 43:11). The babe born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem was “The mighty God, The everlasting Father” (Is 9:6). Were He less, He could not pay the infinite penalty through His death for the sins of the world.
Could the Immortal die? In fact, only the Immortal had life to lay down. But if God died, who held the universe together? The Bible doesn’t say “God died.” God is a triune Being. Christ, who is God and man in one Person, died, but the Father and the Holy Spirit didn’t “die.” Yes, Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (Jn:10:30). But “the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 Jn:4:14); the Father did not incarnate and suffer crucifixion. The eternal Son, one with the Father, became a man “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb:2:9).
Death is a state of separation, not unconsciousness. “In hell” the rich man “lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom...” (Lk 16:23,24). “Abraham’s bosom” (16:22) was surely the “paradise” where Christ promised the believing thief on the cross that they would be together that very day (Lk 23:43)—fully conscious as were the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham. Surely Jesus could sustain the universe from paradise!
A more difficult question would be, “How did Jesus, as a fetus in Mary’s womb or a babe nursing at her breast, run the universe?” We must accept the Incarnation as a mystery beyond human understanding. Jesus told Nicodemus, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (Jn:3:13). Whether in grave or womb, the incarnate Son of man was also “in heaven” because He is God eternally omnipresent.
Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb:13:8). Never was there a time when Christ was not fully God. The same Jesus who did the miracles also died on the cross and is now in heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ who is God and man in one Person, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures—and this is the gospel whereby we are saved if we believe it sincerely in our hearts (1 Cor:15:1-4; Rom:10:9).