by Shawn Brasseaux
Objections have been made regarding the literal, physical death of Jesus Christ. Skeptics suggest that Jesus was merely comatose or unconscious (i.e. “swooning”), but not literally dead. The record of the Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ was “stone-cold” dead. To say otherwise is absurd ad infinitum.
In this Bible study, we want to use the Holy Scriptures to give five practical reasons and two doctrinal reasons to prove that Jesus Christ was literally “stone-cold” dead, just as dead as those in cemeteries today!
1. PILATE WOULD NOT RELEASE JESUS’ BODY UNTIL HE KNEW JESUS WAS DEAD
In Mark 15:43-45 KJV, the Bible tells us:
“43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.
45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.”
Joseph of Arimathaea asked Judaean governor Pilate if he could have Jesus’ body, but Pilate would not release Jesus’ body until it was confirmed that Jesus was absolutely dead. Pilate called forth a Roman centurion to reassure him that Jesus had died. The centurion was a powerful Roman military leader. As commander of 100 soldiers, he was highly trained in torture techniques and capital punishment (declaring prisoners to be dead).
The Roman centurion confirmed that Jesus Christ was dead, completely lifeless. Once he told this to Pilate, Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathaea. There was no doubt in Pilate’s mind, and no doubt in the centurion’s mind, that Jesus Christ was dead. Jesus had not simply fainted, but was literally and physically dead.
2. JESUS “GAVE UP THE GHOST”
The Bible gives us another proof that Jesus Christ was not comatose, but literally and physically dead as we understand death today. Let us consider John 19:30 KJV: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” Mark 15:37,39 and Luke 23:46 also confirm that Jesus “gave up the ghost.” Matthew 27:50 says He “yielded up the ghost.”
Jesus “gave up the ghost.” To “give up the ghost” is the Bible’s term for literally and physically dying, when the soul-spirit (spiritual body) separates from the physical body (Genesis 35:18). This term was used to describe Abraham’s death (Genesis 25:8), Ishmael’s death (Genesis 25:17), Isaac’s death (Genesis 35:29), and other’s deaths (Lamentations 1:19); New Testament references are the deaths of Ananias and his wife Sapphira (Acts 5:5,10) and King Herod (Acts 12:23).
The term “giving up the ghost” was never used in the Bible to convey a coma or fainting spell, because burial was always subsequent to the giving up of the ghost. In Isaiah 53:8 the Bible confirms that Jesus Christ “was cut off out of the land of the living.” If you are not part of “the land of the living,” then what are you? YOU ARE D-E-A-D, NOT COMATOSE!!!!
According to Acts 2:27,31, Psalm 16:10 repeats Jesus Christ’s words to His heavenly Father: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (Psalm 16:10a). Jesus Christ is physically dead!! For more information about Psalm 16:10, see our study “Did Jesus Christ Go to Hell?”
The Passover lamb was a type of Jesus Christ. Every year, at Passover, Jews had to kill a spotless (healthy) young lamb or goat and shed its blood (Exodus 12:1-10). Paul wrote, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7b). Just as the Passover lamb literally and physically died, Jesus Christ literally and physically died.
3. JESUS’ LEGS WERE NOT BROKEN
For a third proof that Jesus Christ literally and physically died, let us consider John 19:31-36 KJV:
31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
Crucified individuals suffocated because of limited diaphragm movement. However, on the cross, they could relieve their suffocation by pushing up with their feet. By doing this, some crucified people were known to have survived days hanging on the cross.
Verse 31 says that the day after the crucifixion was a Sabbath day, a “high day,” a religious day during which the Jews could not have Christ on the cross. He had die and had to be taken down before the Sabbath day began (which would be in a few hours—this was not the Saturday Sabbath, but a special Sabbath, “for that sabbath day was an high day”). The thieves who were crucified with Christ were still pushing up with their feet, so their legs had to be broken. This would ensure their death would occur before the Sabbath began (at 6 p.m.). The soldiers broke the thieves’ legs and the thieves died, being unable to push up with their legs.
However, when the soldiers came to Jesus’ body, the Bible says they did not break His legs. Why? He was already dead. Had He simply been unconscious, they would have broken His legs, so He would die. But, Jesus had already died. Again, these Roman soldiers knew when someone was dead; they were trained in meeting out capital punishment. Little did the soldiers know that by not breaking His legs, they had fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 34:20).
4. JESUS’ FOLLOWERS ANOINTED HIS BODY WITH SPICES FOR BURIAL
Our fourth piece of evidence from the Scriptures that Jesus was dead was that none of His followers revived Him. They knew He was dead. If He were simply unconscious, His followers would have tried to revive Him. The little flock of Jewish believers would not simply lose their King to some swoon: that is absolutely stupid. Rather they anoint His body with spices for burial—Jesus Christ is literally and physically dead, and they know it. That is why they placed Jesus in the tomb.
The Bible says in John 19:40-42 KJV:
“40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”
5. THE UNBELIEVING JEWS WANTED JESUS DEAD
A fifth proof that Jesus died physically is that the Jews made absolutely sure they killed Jesus. In John 8:59, Jesus angered the unbelieving Jews by telling them they have disobeyed God and they are children of the devil. They pick up stones to stone Him, but He leaves unharmed. John 10:31 was another example of the Jews wanting to stone Jesus. Jesus was even accused of blasphemy, for John 5:18 says, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
Jesus had been such a controversial figure in Israel. The Jews were so convicted of their sin and unbelief that they saw to it that Jesus was literally and physically dead. They were tired of hearing Him preach against their wickedness. The Jews rejected the truth of God, so there is no way they let Jesus escape with a simple fainting. The Jews made absolutely sure that Jesus died.
6. IF CHRIST DID NOT REALLY DIE (MERELY A SWOON) THEN WE ARE NOT REALLY DEAD TO SIN
A sixth proof that Jesus died physically is one of doctrinal importance. According to the Bible, we Christians were “baptized into [Jesus Christ’s] death” (Romans 6:3). “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (verse 8). Had Christ experienced a mere swoon (fainting), then we have simply been baptized into Jesus’ unconsciousness! Does that make any sense? It makes no sense whatsoever. Just as Jesus Christ died physically, we died to sin spiritually. Sin has no dominion over us, because we died with Christ too: “For he that is dead is freed from sin” (verse 7). A swoon cannot and will not fit the doctrine taught in Romans chapter 6. Swooning is something temporarily; death is permanent: we are not simply unconscious to sin, but we are dead to sin. In Christ, we are free from the power of sin. Just as Jesus Christ was separated from the land of the living by physically dying, we have been separated from Satan’s power of darkness by spiritually dying with Him (Colossians 1:13; cf. Romans chapter 6).
7. CHRIST HAD TO DIE IN ORDER TO DESTROY SATAN’S POWER
A seventh proof that Jesus Christ died physically is also of doctrinal importance, for the only way to overcome death and Satan was to die on Calvary’s cross! Physical resurrection is far more miraculous than regaining consciousness!!!
Let us read Hebrews 2:14 KJV: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” Again, a swoon cannot and does not fit the doctrinal aspect of Christ’s finished crosswork. Notice in Colossians 2:15 KJV: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” If Christ’s “resurrection” was nothing more than a recovery from fainting, how is that overcoming Satan’s power? How is that overcoming death? It makes no sense.
Both spiritual and physical death were the results of sin, Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). The only way that God could reverse death was to die Himself, physically and spiritually. Experiencing a swoon cannot overcome death because a swoon is totally unassociated with death. The miracle is not a regaining of consciousness, but a literal resurrection from the dead. By Jesus Christ being raised from the dead, He defeated Satan. If Christ did not exert resurrection power (if it was a swoon), then do we have any hope in being resurrected? No!
Christ said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18 KJV). Why does Christ now have the “keys of hell and of death?” He took them from Satan when He resurrected (defeated death). It was not a swoon; it was a literal, physical death.
How do we know Jesus physically died, that His soul literally left His body, and that it was not merely a swoon (fainting, a period of unconsciousness)?
- Pilate would not release Jesus’ body until He knew Jesus was dead
- Jesus “gave up the ghost”
- Jesus’ legs were not broken
- Jesus’ followers anointed His body with spices for burial
- The unbelieving Jews wanted Jesus dead
- If Christ did not really die (merely a swoon) then we are not really dead to sin
- Christ had to die in order to destroy Satan’s power