Was Jesus' Death An Accident?

Jack L. Holt
Memphis, Tennessee

The heart and core of the dispensational theory is that Christ came to earth to restore the physical kingdom of David to Israel. But since Israel did not accept Him as King, He was frustrated in this mission. This "unforeseen" event caused the Old Testament prophecies to be postponed. Further, the church was set up as an interim arrangement until Christ comes again. At His second coming Christ will set up His kingdom and reign on David's throne in earthly Jerusalem for a literal thousand years.

The dispensational (premillennial) theory should be seen for what it really is. It is not just harmless speculation about "unfulfilled prophecy," but is rank unbelief. This "harmless theory" voids the true mission of Christ to the world and makes the death of Christ an accident. One way to prove this whole theory is false is to show from the Scriptures that the mission of Christ was spiritual. And in fulfilling this mission the cross was not accidental but a just moral necessity (Rom. 3:24-26).

"Why did my Savior come to earth and to the humble go?" Here is a trustworthy statement about His mission: "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). In 1 John 4:14 it is declared, "And we have seen and do testify that the Father hath sent His Son to be the Savior of the world." Further, "Ye know He was manifested to take away sins" (1 John 3:5). The Hebrew writer tells us "He appeared to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). Now did Jesus come to set up a material kingdom or to die for the sins of the world?

The salvation of man from sin is possible only because a sacrifice for sin has been made. Jesus came "not to be ministered unto, but to minister (not reign as an earthly king, JLH) and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). Paul didn't think the death of Christ was an accident. He wrote, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). If His death was according to the Scriptures how was it an accident? Peter said, "He was delivered according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). As Jesus approached the cross He said, "The Son of man must go as it is written of Him" (Matt. 26:24). But the dispensationalist makes the "must" an accident.

Isaiah spoke of the suffering and vicarious death of Jesus in chapter fifty-three. In Acts 8, we see the Ethiopian eunuch reading and reflecting on this chapter when Philip joined him. When the eunuch wanted guidance, Philip began at the same Scripture and preached unto him Jesus. Philip found Jesus, not national Israel in Isaiah 53. Jesus, His mission, His sufferings and death, are in the Old Testament. In an effort to escape the New Testament interpretation of Isaiah 53, some seek to apply the chapter to the nation of Israel. There are three reasons why this chapter cannot apply to national Israel.

First, the chapter tells us of one who voluntarily suffered. This was never true of Israel. They didn't volunteer to go into captivity. Second, the one who suffers in this chapter is innocent. This is not true of a nation, nor of any mere man. "All we like sheep have gone astray," but He didn't. The New Testament writers apply the passage to Jesus (1 Pet. 2:22ff; Lk. 22:37; Heb. 9:28) Third, the one who suffers in this chapter suffers for the sins of others. It is not only voluntary suffering, but vicarious suffering. The nation of Israel never suffered for the sins of the world. When you read Isaiah 53, you come face to face with Jesus. The message of that chapter is the Gospel message of the spiritual mission of Christ.

In revealing the purpose of His coming Jesus said, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me" (John 6:38). In doing God's will, Jesus came to earth not to set up an earthly kingdom, but to die for our sins. Paul pictures the journey of Christ to earth in Phil. 2:5-9. Jesus was in the form of God, (v. 5) but He didn't cling to that. He voluntarily emptied Himself of the glories of heaven (v. 7; John 17:4-5) and took upon Himself the form of a servant and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross (v. 8). This death, far from being an accident, was involved in the incarnation itself and was involved in the will of God (Heb. 10:5-10).

Before Jesus left heaven, He knew the cross was at the end of the road (Heb. 12:2 - check Vincents Word Studies here). Paul said, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty (not through His reigning as an earthly, king) ye might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). The riches of the kingdom of Christ are spiritual.

Jesus knew the redemption could be won only by the way of the cross. In the temptation He rejected "the easy way," to gain the kingdoms of the world as offered by the devil (Matt. 4:8-10). In the garden, as He faced the agonizing death of the cross, He prayed that the will of God that He came to do would be done (Matt. 26:39). His going to the cross was not the surrender to fate by a helpless, frustrated victim but the voluntary sacrifice of one whose soul was strong and who loves us all with a "love divine all love excelling." The cry from the cross, "It is finished," was not the cry of a helpless victim, but the cry of the greatest victor the world has ever known.

The death of Jesus differed from the death of all other men. "He dismissed His spirit" (Matt. 27:50). He chose the moment of His death. His death was completely voluntary. "No man taketh (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:18; Phil. 2:5-7): Death was not forced upon Him, for He had control of all events. He could also have raised Himself from the dead.

Jesus was not afraid to die. He had powers at His disposal that He could have used to escape death (Matt. 26:53). But had He escaped death the question comes, "How then could the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be?" (Matt. 26:54). Here and in other verses you have the Divine Imperatives. It is not, "Well, I guess I'll go to the cross since this is the way the Jews want it," but this is the way it must be. (Check these "Divine Musts," Matt. 16:21; Mk. 9:31; 14:49; Lk. 9:22; 17:25; 24:7; John 12:34; 20:9; Acts 17:3; Heb. 9:16).

To say that Jesus formed the purpose of dying for man after opposition to Him arose among the Jews is just a futile attempt to evade the plain statements of the Scriptures.

In Lk. 24:24-27, Jesus said, ". . . O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Jesus said the Scriptures are about Me, about My suffering and death. Why be so slow to believe them? The dispensationalists are not slow to believe them, they don't believe them at all! Why did Jesus put an "ought not Christ to have suffered these things," if it were all an accident?

In v. 26, Jesus said He was to suffer these things and enter into His glory. When Christ entered into His glory, He received the kingdom. Put two scriptures together, "Grant that my two sons may sit . . . in thy kingdom" (Matt. 20:20-21). Then, "Grant that we may sit . . . in thy glory" (Mk. 10:35-37). When Christ entered into His glory, He received the kingdom. But He must suffer and die to enter into His glory. Without the sufferings and death of Christ there could be no kingdom or glory. There must be first the cross, then the crown (cf. 1 Tim., 3:16; Heb. 2:9). Now since you can't have the kingdom without the cross, if the cross was an accident, was the kingdom also an accident?

Jesus was not a helpless victim of Jewish unbelief. Neither was He a helpless martyr for His ideals who was swept along by the current to the cross. He was in complete control of all things every step of the way to the cross. Nothing could be done by man to hinder or thwart the divine mission. Jesus lived by. God's will and in keeping with His time and every event had its hour. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning" (Acts 15:18).

The Scriptures clearly teach that the mission of Christ was spiritual. He came to die on the cross to save a lost world not to restore the national kingdom to Israel. That fact proves dispensationaIism is false to the core. The whole dispensational program is materialistic, unscriptural and those who accept it are guilty of unbelief. The people of God should not glory in some materialistic hope. With Paul let us say, "God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Guardian of Truth XXVI: 3, pp, 34-35
January 21, 1982