It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46 NASB)
One of places all of the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion seem to agree is the timing. Except for John, who leaves the timing out completely, all the Gospel accounts seem to agree on the timing based on the darkness that covered the earth. From the sixth hour until the ninth, darkness fell over the earth. Only Luke, of the three, attributes this darkness to an eclipse. He actually uses the technical term for it of his day.
A solar eclipse occurred as Jesus hung bleeding on the cross. There have been many things written on the significance of this. The position I have taken has been that Jesus had to suffer death in the form of separation from God as the penalty for sin for all mankind. But I have also believed that this happened when He breathed His last, and lasted for the three days He was in the tomb. Now, I’m not so sure about that timing.
What does the darkness mean? Considering that the Creator of the universe set that date and time in place as He created the universe, as it was marked by an eclipse, the timing must be important. Jesus lives through it, and breathes His last on the other side. Or does He? Luke says that the veil of the temple was torn, then Jesus cries out, committing His Spirit to the Father, then dies. The other Gospels include only one other detail, Jesus asking why He has been forsaken. Other than that, they agree, which presents an interesting option for timing.
It’s possible that Jesus breathes His last, and then the eclipse concludes, revealing the sun once more. Consider the dramatic conclusion to this life, that, as He breathes out, the sun slides from behind the moon to illuminate his Creator’s body suspended in death upon a cross. Why the sun now of all times? Why not the darkness from that point? But the image translates what was considered a defeat into the illumination of a victory. Jesus says Himself, “It is finished.” And so the sun can, once more, reappear to reveal the body of his Creator. Only now, that body is all that’s left…for now.
So, while Jesus hung for those three hours of darkness, what was happening? At the end of them, Jesus cries out asking why He has been forsaken, and the temple veil is torn from top to bottom. He commits His Spirit into the hands of the Father, and dies. Although, I believe that, even though He breathed His last at the ninth hour, Jesus dies at the sixth.
What is the penalty of sin? According to Romans 6:23, sin earns death. According to Isaiah 59:2, our iniquities have caused a separation between us and God, and He hides His face from us, and does not hear. In the Garden, God tells Adam that the very day he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he will certainly die. Yet, the day they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden, and have children. Did the “wages” change? It could be important that the banishment from the Garden is the last recorded communication between Adam and God.
The impression left from this cursory examination of sin may redefine death. Jesus, in order to pay this penalty for sin, would need to suffer that separation from God. God would have to hide His face and not hear Jesus. And this would be in keeping with God’s definition of death. The problem of Jesus’ deity aside, the payment remains the same. Just as the Trinity, the triune nature of God, is inexplicable, so too would be how Jesus could pay this debt. Regardless of how, He did. And so, I believe He did so, and as He does so, the sun is hidden behind the moon.
I believe Jesus dies in the sixth hour, is separated from the Father for three hours, and then breathes His last. And is then joined by the criminal in paradise? So it would seem. Wouldn’t it be supremely ironic if, as Jesus breathes His last, He lives again? The sun reappears. For those at the cross who witness Jesus’ last breath, it’s over, and He dies. But for the Father, that isn’t necessarily so. The reunion of Spirit and body hasn’t happened yet, but does Jesus’ connection with the Father resume when He breathes His last and the sun reappears? Or is the sun’s reemergence a promise of the hope to be revealed in three days? Does the Father foreshadow Sunday on Friday? I’m not sure. But that day Jesus stands with a redeemed criminal in paradise.
What’s your view of Jesus through your knothole?
Hi Matt! You clearly put a lot of thought into this. Thanks for inviting me to read and give my thoughts. I typed this out on my computer as I read your article, so forgive me if it is not concise enough (or too long). I read once beforehand, then again as I replied. I want to make sure I look closely at what you are saying. My response:
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (Luke 23:44). I’m not sure how this signifies and eclipse any more than the other accounts. Do you mind elaborating further on this?
The eclipse aside, I think I understand where you are coming from in the notion that death is separation from God. I’ll keep reading.
What does the darkness mean? It means that when Jesus died, he who is the light went out from this world. That is my take on it. Without Jesus, we are all in darkness.
I’m having a hard time following your train of thought about the timing and nature of Jesus’s death. It seems you are trying to make this line up with the timing of an eclipse, is that correct? It seems to me that this article is more about trying to understand how the death of Jesus aligns with the eclipse, in that I don’t have much insight to offer.
To me, speculating on a possible eclipse and how this related to the timing of his death is an aside, and if we are not careful, can become one of those issues that become a distraction from the greater and more important message. I’ve gotten hung up on details before, so I get how this happens. Its good that you pay that close attention, but my advice is not to “strain out the gnat and swallow the camel.”
What was happening when he hung there for three hours? It seems to me that he did not die until the last of those hours, at which time he gave up the spirit to God. We are told that when we die, our spirits return to God. (Ecclesiastes 12:7) It was the same for Jesus. During those three hours, I believe Jesus was dying, and in that time the sins of man were on him as the atonement was being made. I don’t understand how you can conclude that Jesus dies at the six and breaths his last breath three hours later. Can you explain your thought process?
What is the penalty for sin? I think God makes it clear that the penalty is death. It is true however, that to be dead is to be separate from God, because God is life. We cannot be truly separate from God if we have any form of life, or if we are existing in a never-ending torture chamber some place. Sin earns death because to sin is to bring death to others. It is the fair judgment.
The wages did not change when Adam and Eve were banished, though we can see the imagery. If we continue in sin, we are separated from God. The garden of Eden also had the tree of life, so they had to be banished from that place.
How does this redefine death, exactly? Is there debate whether or not death is separation from God? Maybe I’m not learned enough on this topic. How can we be dead and with God? Do you suggest that the eternal punishment is a living separation from God? I don’t see how that is possible.If we have life in us, then something of God is with us, regardless of our sinful state. I must be missing something 🙂
In your last paragraph, you say that Jesus died in the sixth hour, is separated from the Father for three, then breaths his last breath on the ninth and dies and is immediately joined with God? I’m sorry, but I do not agree. I believe that Jesus was in the process of dying from hours six to nine, and as with all mankind, his spirit returned to God and Jesus went into the grave (hell) for three days. He then rose and went to paradise with God.
This is my general belief. To sin is to do things that bring death. When we ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we, being fleshly creatures of this earth, loved evil things. We did the things that bring death, and in so doing, we brought the wages of sin onto ourselves. Being creatures of this world, we cannot help but do these things.
I view this death as literal, total annihilation. That is my take on the lake of fire. A place of destruction. The only way to be fully separated from God is to die. So, yes, as result of sin we are forever separated from God.You read my articles on hell, so you are familiar with my beliefs to some degree.
As to the nature of what happens when man dies, which Jesus experienced, is this. When we die, our spirit that gives us life returns to God. The soul sleeps in hell (as translated hades meaning the grave). We await either the first resurrection of life or the second resurrection of damnation. If we are appointed to damnation, our soul that was asleep is totally destroyed. I plan on doing an in-depth study on the first and second resurrection, if you are interested. It will be a few months before it is done.
Some of the common views about heaven, hell, and death make it hard to see what is really happening, and I get that. But, after much study and consideration, this is my stance at this time.
Sorry if this was an overly long-winded response. I understand there is much we disagree on. However, we agree on the main points. Jesus died to atone for our sins, and if we do not put our faith in him we will perish.
I appreciate that you consider the details of the death of our Savior. I pray the Lord lead us both to greater understanding.
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Hi Amanda, I can see this entry really confused you, so let me walk you through it. In Luke 23:44,45 it becomes dark, but in verse 45, Luke is the only gospel writer to point out this was because the sun was “obscured”. or it’s “light failed”, using a verb “ekleipo”, which, when referring to the sun is the Greek term for an eclipse (notice the similarities in the words, our word comes from the Greek word).
All four gospel writers include the detail of the darkness for 3 hours. My question is, could this be when Jesus was separated from God, taking on the sin of the world, with the darkness being the visible representation of that separation?
I’ve heard it described as the time while Jesus took on the sin of the world, the time the Father could not look on His Son, and so on. So, seeing this period that the sun is obscured, seemed likely to the the time Jesus was separated from the Father and Spirit, and, therefore, by God’s definition, dead. To see that as the time Jesus was in the grave is fine, I suppose, but remember Jesus finishes on the cross, and the sun comes out while he’s on the cross having breathed His last.
The sin in the Garden of Eden was to take on themselves the knowledge of good and evil. This choice stemmed from an unchecked desire “to be like God”. The technical term, “evil”, in Scripture, depends entirely on the subject viewing whatever it is. In a way, we define evil and good for ourselves, that’s the choice made between the two trees. In doing so, we take on ourselves, still, a role God reserved for Himself, but allowed us to take from Him. The result of that choice broke the relationship we, as humanity, had with our Creator. The restoration of which would logically include giving that role back to our Creator that we might, again, walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
Jesus paid the debt of separation, but if death is only accidentally physical, that part of His suffering wasn’t for our sin. If you can accept that Jesus was separated from God (the rest of God) during the darkness, taking on the sin of the world, or as God turns from Him, however you describe it, then, He died during the darkness. Perhaps where I question needlessly is whether He lived before He breathed His last. But He said, aloud, “It is finished”. He was done while still able to speak.
I hope that clarifies. It may further obfuscate (I never get to use that word, thank you – it does exactly what it means. How many words do that?)
Like I said, I’ve been mulling over this for 30-plus years. If it doesn’t make much sense, that’s not surprising. You should see the looks I get on people’s faces when I try and explain it. They look at me like I have three heads, and two have a horn in the forehead. I find it entertaining, but I probably shouldn’t.
Here’s another place I further explain or confuse my suspicion about life and death…
See what you think of this one.
Blessings upon you!
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Hi again, Matt. I appreciate the further explanation of the eclipse. I’ve never really given that point of the crucifixion much thought, and I admit, it is interesting to think about.
I see what you mean about the darkness being a visible representation of this. I have a hard time thinking that God had his back turned on Jesus while he was on the cross though. I think you are of the more popular belief, and I could be wrong. Some place the scripture says, “it pleased God to bruise him.” This was like the Son of God’s grand finale, so to speak. I believe that Jesus felt the human emotion of being forsaken, but it’s hard for me personally to believe that God forsook him for those three hours. Again, I might be wrong.
I don’t see it as Jesus being in the grave for those three hours. I refer to the three days that Jesus was in the tomb. If the sun was dark at the sixth hour, but Jesus gave up the ghost at the ninth, it is my belief that Jesus was alive during those three hours, but in the process of dying as the sins of the world were on him. Maybe when the sins were on him, God forsook him and in that he was dead, though in the flesh he was alive? I think that is what you are saying, and I’m starting to see what you mean.
As for the eclipse ending, it is because the atonement was finished. I do not believe that Jesus was with God right after he died. I believe his spirit returned to the Father, but Jesus slept in the grave while his body lied in the tomb for three days. It is the same for us. We sleep in the grave, and when Jesus returns our bodies will rise, and so will we.
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)
I think it can be reasonable to say that for those three hours, though Jesus was not yet dead in the flesh, with the weight of sin it was as if he was dead, because sin is death. Even so, I don’t know if that means God had to turn His back on him. I also think if we were to make the jump into asserting that the death we experience is merely in the form of separation without destruction would be in error. Like, do we think that we will be alive in some form, but dead in that we are separated from God? Is there anyplace God is not?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (Psalm 139:8).
I also have some thoughts on the garden of Eden that tend to be different than most. I know you’re shocked, right? Haha. I don’t be contrarian because I like to be. I’m not one to kick against the pricks, so to speak. But, I do believe that if we place the righteousness of the kingdom of God ahead of intellectual understanding, God will open his word to us so that we can understand better.
Not to say that you don’t seek those things first, by any means. I hope that you do, because the knowledge that is most profitable is the laws of the kingdom of God that are given by grace through faith, freeing us from sin in a real way as the kingdom reigns in our hearts. That is the knowledge I want most of all.
I appreciate your thoughts, and I will take a look at your link as soon as I can.
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