God Dies, from The Preposterous God

 Chapter Nine 

The title of this chapter is overly sensational, and if taken literally, is error. Obviously, God does not die; He is the ultimate Living Presence. 

Still, God did die. Isaiah said it would be so as recorded in his chapter 53: 

Crushed for our iniquities 

a lamb that is led to the slaughter 

he was cut off out of the land of the living 

they made his grave with the wicked 

and with a rich man in his death 

King David had stated the same idea two hundred and fifty years earlier: “You lay me in the dust of death” (Psalm 22:15c). 

God had to die, since “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15b). Death must come, and death is not merely dying, it is eternal separation from God in hell. 

Hell may not be fire and brimstone with devils and pitch forks. Christians are divided on this point. I do not make any claim to understanding except that hell is eternal and under the domination of Satan. Whatever it is, it is not good. 

Islam teaches that God had sex with the virgin Mary and that Jesus was the product of that union. This is an attempt to supplant Christian doctrine by ignoring the witness of the writers of the New Testament. 

At the core of the mystery 

It was the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, who died. God the Father did not have a child as humans do.2 However, consider the analogy that human fathers have human sons, and the son is no less human than the father. Does this help explain Jesus, the Son of God? Not completely, but it paints a picture of a reality we can understand. Of course, we are speaking of the Trinity here, so the analogy breaks down. Nothing we know of or ever will know of while on this planet will entirely explain this mystery. 

The mystery deepens: That which is not holy cannot be in the presence of the holy God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—yet the ultimate intention of the Godhead is that chosen, sinful humans will be with Him forever. What would be done? How could we live when the wages, the outcome of sin, is death? The answer is sin be forgiven—washed away and cleansed by means of the death of Jesus on the cross—otherwise, I would be forever separated from the presence of God.  

Abraham and Isaac 

In Genesis 22 is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham and Sarah, through whom the nation to be, Israel, would issue. Surprisingly, God, who had made it miraculously possible for Sarah to give birth to Isaac, commanded Abraham to sacrifice that very of miracle, Isaac.3 As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God’s angel stopped him and pointed to a ram caught in a thicket. This animal served as a substitute. Isaac lived. 

This event, known as the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, may be viewed as a proto-gospel, since God provides a substitute sacrifice so that the nation, the people of God, might survive. 

Circumcision is a word used to symbolize forgiveness. Uncircumcision would refer to unforgiveness. 

God the Father gave the Son up to death, making Jesus the substitute. Only that which is holy could be a substitute. 

Theologians refer to this work of God as “Substitutionary Atonement,” a big term, but helpful, as it means that instead of the sinner dying, Jesus dies in that sinner’s place. This is the mystery. God does what no one else can do. Since our sin is against God, only God can put away sin. And He did that on the cross. Jesus literally died in the sinner’s place. 

Another look 

The writer of the Book of Hebrews, in chapter 2 verse 9, provides a distinctly Jewish view of the work of Jesus on the cross. 

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 

We have the required number of witnesses, over a thousand-year period of time, from King David in the tenth century BCE to the first century CE, stating the very same truth. The Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son God, God in the flesh, dies. 


In biblical baptism is a picture of what happens in the rebirthing miracle of God called conversion. To baptize is to plunge under water, to dunk, or to immerse. A person is laid back in the water, symbolizing death and burial, then is raised up again. It is not magical; no sin is washed away. Rather it is a physical re-enactment of salvation; it is storytelling. 

Writing to the congregation at Colossae, Paul explains the spiritual significance of baptism: 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision4 of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debts that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) 

The key phrase is “nailing it to the cross.” When Jesus was crucified, God the Father placed our sin upon God the Son. Jesus emptied Himself of the glory of deity and became flesh, born of the virgin. Jesus without sin Himself became the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Jesus is the substitute, our substitute. 

Paul made this truth clear to the congregation in Rome: 

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5) 

Baptism is not a ritual as much as it is a testimony and symbolic re-enactment of what God has done in Christ. 

God died that we might not. As Paul put it, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

This is unimaginable love from the Triune God for the prodigals.  A “prodigal” is one who has left his father and family to live a riotous and debauched life. See the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. 

Both preposterous and wonderful! 

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