Who Raised Jesus from the Dead?

The straight forward answer is that God raised Jesus from the dead as Acts 2:24 states: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

But I love the trinitarian implications found in Scripture with respect to Christ’s resurrection.

Most references to God raising Jesus up refer to God the Father.  Even the mockers testified truth when they said in Matthew 27:43: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The Father-Son relationship was validated by the resurrection, and God the Father proved to be faithful in resurrecting Jesus.

Scripture also gives us evidence that Christ’s power was involved in the resurrection, as Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity.  In John 11:25 Jesus makes the powerful statement “I am the resurrection and the life,” assuming to Himself the power to life.  Jesus also said in John 10:17-18, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again…  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The Father has assigned the task of life to the Son.

The Holy Spirit is also closely implicated in the greatest and most important event to ever grace the face of the universe.  Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”  And Romans 8:11 makes it clear that the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to life is similar to the work of resurrecting Jesus: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit have achieved the greatest and most glorious act in this work of redemption when Jesus was resurrected.

And we rejoice as we look forward to God resurrecting up His saints in a similar fashion!

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Medical Perspective on Christ’s Death

It is commonly taught that the victim of crucifixion would die from asphyxiation.  Many of those crucified would live three or more days before their neck muscles would no longer be able to support the 12 lbs (5.5 kg) weight of their head.  Airway obstruction subsequently would set in and the victim would suffocate to death.

Such a patho-physiologic event is sometimes ascribed to the death of Jesus.

However, biblical narrative and medical correlation would indicate that Jesus’s cause of death was multifactorial, and that He died suddenly from an acute internal event and not suffocation.

But first let us review some of Christ’s stresses and injuries that set up his unusually quick death on the cross.

1. Less than 18 hours before his death, the physician and evangelist Luke tells us that Jesus was in extreme physical and psychological anguish: “being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44)  Luke may be referring to the phenomenon of hemohydrosis where sweat glands may bleed under extreme stress, just like in the case of coagulation disorders.  This may be indicative of the extreme level of stress the Savior was under as He was approaching the time of God’s wrath being poured on Him.

2. Jesus probably walked 2-3 miles between various places (trials and questioning) in the 12 hours prior to crucifixion, likely without hydration.

3. Jesus received blows to the face and His body as part of being mocked (Luke 22:63-65).

4. Friday morning before being delivered to be crucified, Jesus was severely flogged (John 19:1). This was a Roman judicial penalty where the victim was beat with a multi-lashed whip containing embedded pieces of bone and metal.  As the blows landed on Jesus’s back and thighs, the whip ripped into skin, subcutaneous tissue and muscle, tearing blood vessels and nerves in the process.  This particular event weakened the Savior tremendously due to blood loss and severe pain.  Exposing His tissues on a cold early morning also initiated hypothermia which led to coagulation defects and further loss of blood.

5. The severe beating and blood loss likely led to orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing) as Jesus was unable to carry the crossbar of the cross (75-100 lbs) and was forced to walk or perhaps drag Himself on Via Dolorosa.

6. At this point, even before crucifixion, Jesus was in critical medical condition.  An older man with medical issues would have died by now.  Even by modern medical standards, a 33-year-old healthy man would likely have to be taken to the operating room for wound debriment, tissue reconstruction, fluid resuscitation, warming, and blood transfusion.  All this followed by a long recovery in the intensive care unit with possible complications of infection and kidney failure.

Up to this point Jesus suffered severe trauma and was in dire need of resuscitation.  In this critical state He is delivered up for crucifixion.

It was the custom for nails to be driven in the hands (wrists) and legs of the victim during crucifixion which compounded blood loss.  In the case of Jesus, the hemorrhage became critical as His wounded back was pressing and rubbing against the tree.  As a trauma victim who sustained significant hemorrhage, Jesus became very thirsty and cried: “I thirst.”  They offered Him an analgesic consisting of wine and myrrh, but He refused.

This brings us to the climatic event.  What exactly caused Jesus’s death?

Biblical narrative demonstrates that Jesus had a sudden death, and not a prolonged period of suffocation as was the case in most crucifixions.  All four Gospels present Jesus as crying out with a loud voice (in the case of John, He says: “It is finished”) and immediately dies.  This is unlikely to be a death from asphyxiation.

There is no evidence in the narrative of the Gospels that in the short time Jesus was on the cross (less than 6 hours) He was suffocating.  On the contrary, despite His weakened state, we see Him conversing with various people while on the cross.  This is strong evidence that He was able to maintain a patent airway up until His last breath!

It is more likely that Jesus died of a sudden internal catastrophe. The highest ranking possibility is a lethal arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) potentially caused by electrolyte disturbances from severe dehydration and hemorrhage.

Others have postulated a tension hemothorax (accumulation of blood around one lung) which led to an acute drop in blood pressure and immediate death.  This diagnosis may be supported by the blood that flowed from the Savior’s side after His spearing.  Red blood flowed from His side (settled red cells), followed by serum (clear fluid that may look like water) which is found at the top of any settled blood sample that does not circulate.

Other possibilities include a trauma-induced tear in one of the atria of the heart leading to cardiac tamponade (blood around the heart), or perhaps a sudden pneumothorax (dropped lung).

All of the above descriptions would correlate well with the Gospel accounts of a sudden death after what appeared to be a loud statement by Jesus.  A prolonged dying process by suffocation can thus almost be ruled out.

Whatever the exact pathologic event was that caused the Savior to give His last breath, one thing remains certain.

He died with certainty.

And this is important because His death made His resurrection a truly miraculous event, the greatest event in the history of the universe to date!

For a JAMA article on the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus, click here

I Found the Book of Life


I saw a beautiful monument in front of a hospital chapel today with a fancy book entitled “The Book of Life.”  Great was my curiosity to see what words of wisdom this book contains.

To my surprise it contained names.  Lots and lots of names.  Some of the names were written as “Anonymous” followed by initials.

Biblically speaking, why would one want to have only his/her initials in the Book of Life?

Any believer should want their name to be spelled in bold letters, including their address, phone number, email, etc… in the real Book of Life!

But it quickly became evident from reading the introduction that this particular Book of Life was a record of those patients who “gave the gift of life” to someone else via organ and tissue donation.

I stepped outside and there I saw another beautiful monument.  This one was entitled “The Tree of Life,” and it was made of a steel tree with the names of various organ donors on its leaves.

Organ and tissue donation is a noble thing in the appropriate circumstances, but I found it interesting that two key figures from the Bible (The Book of Life and the Tree of Life) were used in naming these monuments.

It is important for Christian believers to realize that God is the Author of life, and only He can give physical and more importantly spiritual life.

Organ harvesting and transplantation are means to prolong a patient’s life and increase their quality of life in the same way that medications or implantable devices prolong life.  No doctor or transplant team can give life; by the common grace given to us by God, they can save a life or prolong a life. This is a critical distinction that must be made when thinking of these situations.

One Legacy is a large organ donation referral and matching service operating in California, and their motto is “Donate Life.”  From a biblical point of view, we do not give life, and we do not donate life.  We merely apply the common grace found in modern technology.

The decision to sign up for future organ donation is a personal one.  I do not believe the Bible prohibits it, but many Christians may disagree, raising the issue of the resurrection body and its totality.  One thing is clear to me from 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul writes the doctrine about Resurrection: our glorified resurrection bodies will not be the same as the our decaying physical bodies.

The saints whose bodies were burned to ashes across the centuries and recently in Africa for their faith will have awesome and majestic glorified bodies, despite the fact that their physical bodies were turned to ash for their LORD.  The same is true with believers who were consumed by ferocious animals in the Roman arenas.

Our physical bodies with their tissues and organs are a mere temporary tent.  Our glorified spiritual bodies will last forever.

A name in a hospital Book of Life is a nice memory.

Our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life… now that is cause for celebration and total obedience to the Savior who wrote them there!

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