As far as I know, crucifixion is no longer practiced. But, in the ancient world, crucifixion was a horrible form of execution which accomplished both the torture and death of the persons sentenced to such a punishment.
Crucifixion involved either tying or nailing a person to a large wooden cross in a manner such that his feet would not touch the ground. Hanging there, the person would linger for hours and sometimes days, asphyxiating until the lungs filled with fluids and he died.
Before the advent of Jesus Christ, the Cross was an instrument of pain and death. That was all that the Cross accomplished, until Jesus came along.
An instrument of pain and death
To be perfectly clear, the Cross itself did not accomplish anything except that which it was designed to do. Pain and death.
Jesus, however, accomplished much, much more.
Before we get into what Jesus accomplished from the Cross, we need to learn a little bit about salvation history and about Jesus.
Instead of reading the entire Bible, Chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews has a concise statement of the entire history of man in the Old Testament. As you read it, notice that the Hebrews were a faithful people who accomplished many things which God had instructed them to do.
It is a heroic story. And very poignant. Because they suffered so much in God’s name. But they did not receive that which was promised.
Hebrews 11:39 Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised.
What is it that was promised? They did not enter the Promised Land where they would dwell with God for eternity. They did not enter heaven.
Where did they go, then?
Their souls went to a place of Limbo which is described as the Bosom of Abraham. From this place, which is outside of time, they watched Salvation History unfold and witnessed the coming of Christ, the Messiah whom they were awaiting.
The living God had to die
The Jews are the Chosen People. This everyone knows or should. But what no one knew, up to that time, is to what a degree God had made them His people. In the Old Testament, God said to them:
Leviticus 26: 3 If you live in accordance with my statutes and are careful to observe my commandments, 4 I will give you your rains in due season, so that the land will yield its crops, and the trees their fruit; 5 your threshing will last till vintage time, and your vintage till the time for sowing, and you will eat your fill of food, and live securely in your land. 6 I will establish peace in the land, and you will lie down to rest with no one to cause you anxiety. I will rid the country of ravenous beasts, and no sword shall sweep across your land. 7 You will rout your enemies, and they shall fall before your sword. 8 Five of you will put a hundred of your foes to flight, and a hundred of you will put to flight ten thousand, till your enemies fall before your sword. 9 I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous,g as I carry out my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat the oldest stored harvest, and have to discard it to make room for the new. 11 I will set my tabernacle in your midst, and will not loathe you. 12 Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people;
God associated with and loved the Jews so much, that He considered them His children and Himself, not just their Father, but their Inheritance.
The promises which He made to the Jews in the Old Testament, amounted to a Last Will and Testament. And the only way to fulfill the promises of a Will, is to die. Therefore, the eternal and living God had to die.
How does an eternal God die?
What is death? In the Spirit world, where God dwells, there is no such thing as death. Only in the material world do living beings die. That is because in the material world, the spiritual element, in men and animals, animates the body. When the spirit and the body are separated, the body dies. Not the spirit.
Enter Jesus Christ
God the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, took upon Himself flesh, and came into the world, sentenced to death. Because He it is, who died in order to fulfill His promises to His people. Here is how Scripture explains this:
Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. 15 For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. 16 Now where there is a will, the death of the testator must be established. 17
For a will takes effect only at death; it has no force while the testator is alive.
Redeemed the sins of the Old Testament
So, the first thing that Jesus accomplished from His death upon the Cross, is the Redemption of the Sins of the faithful Jews who had lived faithful lives and died without receiving God’s promises. After which, the Jews were allowed to enter into heaven.
Romans 15:8 For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,g
Essentially, the Jews in Limbo, received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, without which, no one can see God. They were cleansed of their sins and could now enter heaven.
So, the Old Testament Jews entered heaven, now what about us?
First of all, we need to remember that the promises of God are eternal. They have been fulfilled and will continue to be fulfilled, to the end of time. And they are being fulfilled in those who have turned to Jesus Christ obeying Him in faith:
2 Cor 5:15 He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
But now, we have to die
You see, all is accomplished in Christ. Therefore, in order for us to receive the promises of the Old Testament, we must become Christ:
Romans 6:3 Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 5 For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. 7 For a dead person has been absolved from sin. 8 If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
We are very much alive
Don’t worry, those of us who are baptized are dead, but we are very much alive. We are alive with a supernatural life. We no longer have the natural life of the natural man or animal. We are now Testaments of the Holy Spirit.
By His Cross and Resurrection, Christ has set us free!
Alleluiah! He is Risen!