Not long ago, Easter decorations sprang up everywhere. Pictures of eggs, bunnies, and flowers appeared in many places. When I was a child, I asked my mother what all these had to do with Easter. She said that Easter celebrated new life, and the eggs and lilies symbolized new life.
As I grew up, I learned about the resurrection of Christ. Easter celebrated his “new life” from the grave. Christians celebrate his resurrection at this time of year even though the traditional symbols of Easter have nothing to do with the Christian story. We need to understand what this new life is about. Yes, Jesus rose again, but we need to ask ourselves why he died, and why his new life is so important to us.
The Bible tells us that “God demonstrates his own love toward us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Sin separates us from God. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We should die because of our sin. Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for us. He death satisfied the debt we owed for our sin.
When did that satisfaction take place?
There are three views about when the atonement took place. One view states that Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane caused our atonement. Because Christ sweated drops of blood, some believe that he paid the debt by suffering there.
Another view is that Christ went to hell for three days after he died. There Satan and his minions beat up on him those three days, and then the third day he rose from the dead. This view is popular among some groups today.
At The Cross
The Bible teaches that the penalty was paid at the cross. When the repentant thief turned to Christ and asked to be remembered. Christ said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Notice that Christ did not say, “I’m going to hell. I’ll see you in three days.” Both he and the thief went to paradise that day.
Paid In Full
Additionally, he did not have to go to hell to pay any more penalty for us. John 19:30 records Jesus’ words as “It is finished.” In the biblical language, that phrase meant, “Paid in Full” as would be written across a bill. When Christ died on the cross, he fulfilled the work God gave him to do. He did not have to go to hell to get beat up by Satan for three days to complete the transaction.
Paul tells where this took place. Colossians 2:15-15, “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
Think back to the images you often see of the crucifixion. Usually you will see a sign above Christ’s head that reads INRI. That stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, translated Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Although this is a Latin Phrase, the Bible says that it was actually written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin and Greek so that everyone passing by could read it (See John 19:18-20) Mark 15:26 says, “The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.” This was the “crime” he was charged with. Passersby could see the crimes for which the victims of crucifixion were suffering.
Looking back at the Colossians passage, notice that the “charge” against us was placed on his cross. Think of God taking the sign above your head for all your sins and nailing it to Jesus’ cross. That’s exactly what he did. Christ paid the charge of legal indebtedness for your sins by his once-for-all sacrifice. You can be set free.
Paul concludes that passage by saying that Christ “disarmed the powers and authorities… triumphing over them by the cross.” The cross is where Christ paid all your sin debt. The cross is where he defeated Satan. He did not need to go to hell and be tormented for three days.
At the cross, God poured out his wrath for sin on Christ that he might pour out his love on us who are in Christ. Christ became the substitutionary sacrificial Lamb for us. He died so that we can live.