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Most Significant Hours in Human History

 www.bibleone.net

 

The record of the most significant (important, vital, essential, key) hours in human history is documented in three passages within the Holy Bible, as follows:

 

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

(Matthew 27:45, 46)

 

Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:33, 34)

 

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46)

 

Scripture repeatedly points out that there were three hours of darkness during the period of time that Jesus Christ was crucified on the Cross of Calvary.  To most Christians it appears that these three hours were somewhat insignificant; or, at least not fully understood.  Yet, those three hours were the most important, the most critical hours in all of human history.

 

Specifically, it was during this three-hour period of time that the precise act for the eternal, spiritual salvation of mankind was executed and finalized.  In other words, it was during this three hour span of time that Jesus the Christ (Anointed One, Messiah) “fully paid” the divine penalty for the sins of mankind, completely satisfying the consequence brought about by the introduction of sin in the Garden of Eden (including all sin thereafter); thereby making the “payment” available and effectual to any person who would simply accept it “by faith.”

 

(A study of Scripture reveals that the issue of “salvation” of/for  mankind is tripartite in nature, affecting each facet of man’s composition, i.e., spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).  But its foundation is found in what Christ did on the Cross of Calvary, the subject of this documentary.  A complete analysis of salvation may be obtained at the following links: http://bibleone.net/SGF.htm; http://bibleone.net/SOS.htm.)

 

Many in Christendom understand that the spiritual salvation of mankind is directly related to the work of Christ on the Cross of Calvary, which is correct.  Many have obtained eternal life by placing their faith in Christ and His work on the Cross.  But it is rare to find a Christian who can precisely identify  the specific work that Christ performed, which alone made/makes it possible for God to forgive his/her sins.

 

To clearly understand this work, this payment for sin, one should examine its origin, which took place in the very beginning when mankind was created and placed in the Garden of Eden where the eternal-temporal relationship between God and man was formed.

 

The Sin

 

This relationship between the physical (temporal) and the spiritual (eternal) – between mankind and God – is immediately seen in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis

 

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

 

But the life that God gave to man was unique.  Literally, God established in man a feature (aspect, facet) that He allowed in no other living creature.  Whereas all living creatures possess a body and a soul, it is man alone who was given a “spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12).  And it is the spirit that is man’s direct link with the Living God, a link that was alive until man experienced spiritual death.

 

It was in the beginning, upon man’s creation, that God breathed life into him – a life that was without end, which was man’s possession as long as he honored God by believing and thereby obeying God’s instruction, specifically, when God “commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16, 17).

 

The initial, and most certainly the dominant, sin of mankind was the disobedient act executed by Eve in the Garden of Eden when she made the conscious decision to disbelieve (trust, have faith in) God’s Word pertaining to the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Instead, she consciously decided to believe Satan who in the form of “the serpent” (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; 20:2, 10) disputed God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-5).  The result was that due to her disbelief in God’s Word “she took of its [“the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”] fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6).

 

Most significantly, one should understand that it was the basis (root, foundation, origin) of the outward act that was the sin of Eve, which is to explicitly say that her sin was “disbelief in Gods Word” that led to the taking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What mankind exhibits outwardly most surely reflects what mankind believes inwardly.  And what God exclusively recognizes relative to the full spectrum of mankind is the foundation of faith.

 

Unfortunately, the absence of faith is usually missed when one considers the initial, foundational sin of mankind.  Just as many within Christendom endeavor to point to outward physical acts as the means to eternal salvation instead of the execution of (the conscious decision of) faith in Christ, they exercise the same misguided reason relative to the sin of Eve.

 

So to repeat and to emphasize the issue, the actual sin of Eve in the Garden of Eden was not the eating of the fruit of the tree (an outward expression of an inward disorder), but it was her conscious (purposeful) disbelief (lack of faith) in God and His Word.

 

The Price

 

For the wages of sin is death . . . . (Romans 6:23a)

 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12; cf. 1 Corinthian 15:21)

 

Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:15)

 

It was established at the very beginning that the consequence, the price or payment for sin (disbelieving and thereby disobeying God) was death, which literally is the separation between two entities – between the Divine and the temporal, between God and man.  The death relegated to man due to his sin was all-inclusive.  It was (1) the initiation of a progressing temporal death of the body and soul, which was and is promoted by the then-alteration (deterioration) of man’s physical environment (Genesis 4:17-19), which results eventually in a person’s separation from temporal life and (2) an instantaneous supernatural death of the spirit, affecting (passed on to) every human being from that day forward (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1), which results in an eternal separation of a person from God.

 

Bottom line, the cost, the consequence, the price of sin was death – separation.  The most crucial aspect of this death/separation was on the spiritual level.  Man was separated from his Creator, the Living God.  Furthermore, this cost, this consequence, this price is eternal unless it can be “satisfied” (paid in full) before God.

 

The Payment

 

But because of God’s great love for mankind (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 4:9, 10), He made for him a faith-based means of salvation from the price/consequence of sin.  Such is the basis and expression of the sacrificial system established by God in the Old Testament, a system that looked forward to the One Divine Sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.

 

(It should be noted that it is not the purpose of this study/document to expound on the sacrificial system within the Old Testament.  Such will be left up to those who are able to elucidate it with much more detail.  Just as the references to the shedding of blood in the Old Testament referred to a spiritual transaction between God and man, so do all declarations of the shedding of blood and/or death of Christ refer to the spiritual death of Christ, which indeed was/is the payment for sins of all mankind.  Scripture is profuse with type-antitype relationships representing the Divine plan of salvation for man.  An excellent account of this is embodied in the book, Salvation by Grace through Faith by Arlen L. Chitwood, which may be accessed at the following link: http://bibleone.net/SGF.htm.)

 

What is germane is that, even before man sinned and caused spiritual separation from God, God not only knew such would occur but that He provided the means for man to be delivered from the consequence of his sin (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 1:2, 20).  Clearly, when the man and woman ate of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” thereby exhibiting their disbelief in God’s Word, they not only initiated their deteriorating physical death (physical degeneration), but they most certainly and immediately died spiritually.  And by the death that Christ experienced on the Cross of Calvary, His spiritual death executed for all mankind (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:2), all persons may be “made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

 

It should be noted that when speaking of the “death” that Christ experienced on the cross, Scripture speaks of “spiritual death” and not “physical death.”  By utilizing phrases relative to the “blood of Christ” (e.g., Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; Acts 20:28; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14, 20; Hebrews 9:12, 22; Revelation 1:5), Scripture is denoting death, but not physical death.

 

The death of Christ, which was/is the payment for the sins of mankind, was a substitutionary death that is clearly expressed in the following passages of Scripture:

 

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)

 

Therefore, in all things He [Christ] had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

 

And He Himself [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

 

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

 

In brief, the word propitiation equates to the mercy seat in the Old Testament, the place where God met man and covered the sins of man.  It was located in the tabernacle of the Old Testament. The tabernacle was the portable sanctuary used by the Israelites from the time of their wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt to the building of the temple in Jerusalem (Exodus 25-27).  Within the tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant which included the mercy seat (Hebrews 9:3-5).

 

The Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was the most sacred object of the tabernacle and later in the temple in Jerusalem, where it was placed in an inner area called the Holy of Holies.  On top of the Ark was a lid called the mercy seat on which rested the cloud or visible symbol of God.  Here God was understood as seated, and from where He was understood to dispense mercy to man when the blood of the atonement was sprinkled there.

 

The Greek word for mercy seat is hilasterion, which means “that which makes expiation” or “propitiation.” It carries the idea of the removal of sin.  In Ezekiel 43:13-15, the brazen altar of sacrifice is also called hilasterion (the propitiatory or mercy seat) in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) because of its association with the shedding of blood [representing the concept of “death”] for sin.

 

In the New Testament, Christ Himself is designated as our “propitiation.” Paul explains this in his letter to the Romans: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Romans 3:24-25).  Here, Paul is teaching that Jesus is the covering for sin, as shown by these Old Testament prophetic images.  By means of faith in Christ – His work [spiritual death] on the Cross – a person’s sins are covered.  This ties together the Old and New Testament concepts regarding the covering of sin as exemplified by the mercy seat of God.

 

(For a more com  prehensive treatment of the concept of propitiation, the reader is advised to access it at the following link: http://bibleone.net/print_es8.html.)

 

The Time – The Hours

 

The “death” that Christ experienced on the Cross of Calvary, which was indeed the payment of the price required by God for the sins of mankind, was not the physical death experienced by the physical body of Jesus Christ.  In fact, before that occurred, Christ specifically cried out “It is finished!”  And only then did He bow His head and give up His spirit (John 19:30), i.e., personally permitted His physical death.

 

What did Christ mean by “It is finished”?  It refers back to His previous cry, which followed a specific period (3 hours) of time, as depicted by the following:

 

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

(Matthew 27:45, 46; cf. Mark 15:33, 34)

 

Simply put, it was during that three hours period of time, “from the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 P.M.) there was darkness over all the land,” that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was separated from God the Father – personally experiencing spiritual death for (in place of) mankind.

 

Granted, the spiritual separation between the Father and the Son was for only a three hour period of time, but on the Divine level, it equated to eternal separation between the Creator and those He created.  As for our (created beings) ability to understand it, don’t even try.

 

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

 

Nevertheless, it may be observed that the horrific penalty due one person because of sin, which is eternal in scope, only required the Son of God to fully pay the penalty for every person who has ever lived in a three hour period of time.  As many believe, the number three in Scripture represents “Divine wholeness, completeness and perfection.” This is certainly true with God’s substitutionary sacrifice for the salvation of mankind.

 

And because God in the flesh, in the Person of Jesus Christ during a three hour period of time on earth, experienced the price of sin in the place of man (i.e., a substitutionary sacrifice), any person who is willing to accept by faith this total payment for sin, will then never ever be personally subject to it.

 

Arlen L. Chitwood in his book, Salvation by Grace through Faith, had the following to say regarding this matter:

When Christ referred to His finished work immediately before His death on the Cross, He cried out in “a loud voice” — Tetelestai — one word, which has been translated in the English text, “It is finished” (John 19:30; cf. Matthew 27:50Mark 15:37Luke 23:46).  Tetelestai is the perfect tense form of the Greek verb, teleo, which means “to bring something to an end or completion.”  This word in the perfect tense could be more accurately expressed and translated, “It has been finished,” or “It has been completed.”

That to which Christ referred in John 19:30 was His work of redemption.  The perfect tense that He used refers to a work completed in past time, with the results of that work extending into and existing during present time in a finished state.  At the moment Christ cried out, announcing that His work had been completed, there was then no reason for His death to be prolonged.  The blood of the Passover Lamb had been shed, and God had “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5612; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Thus, at this time, He bowed his head and gave up His spirit [lit., comparing the other gospel accounts, ‘He breathed out,’ i.e., He expired, willingly giving up His life]” (John 10:171819:30).

Redeemed man has been saved by grace through faith solely on the basis of that which Christ referred to when He cried out from the Cross, “Tetelestai.”  The words “are you saved [lit. ‘you have been saved’]” in Ephesians 2:8 — “For by grace you have been saved . . . .” — are also the translation of a perfect tense in the Greek text.  The reference, as tetelestai, is to a work completed in past time, with the results of this work extending into the present and existing in a finished state.

At the moment a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ (places his trust, reliance in Christ, i.e., receives, by faith, that which Christ has done on his behalf), the Spirit not only breathes life into that person but the Spirit also takes up His abode in the individual (cf. Genesis 1:2b2:7Ezekiel 37:11 Corinthians 6:19).  Through this means, the man passing “from death to life” becomes a new creation “in Christ,” a part of the one new man (2 Corinthians 5:17Ephesians 2:115).

Redeemed man thus possesses a salvation wherein everything pertaining to works/actions is past.  The work necessary to effect one’s salvation (Christ’s work) is past and complete, and the work effecting one’s salvation itself (the Spirit’s work) is past and complete.  The latter (the Spirit’s work) is based on the former (Christ’s work).  Thus, divine intervention on man’s behalf is the only work seen throughout.

Relative to one’s presently possessed eternal salvation, redeemed man did nothing in the past, nor can he do anything present or future.  Salvation was and remains “of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

Redeemed man possesses a present, completed salvation based on the past, completed work of Another.  Both man’s present salvation and Christ’s past work exist in a finished state, and neither can ever be altered, changed, added to, taken from, etc.  Ones salvation is just as complete and secure as the work upon which it rests.

AND FINALLY

 

Much is made of the symbolism within Christianity.  Probably no other symbol is recognized and acknowledged as the cross.  One sees it everywhere, on buildings, on clothing, and hanging around numerous necks.  It is almost as if it is a sacred symbol and is almost worshipped by many.

 

One should not forget that it was strictly a place of horrific torture, humility, shame and death, which was employed and sustained by the Roman Empire.  Frankly, given the purpose and history of the cross, there can be nothing attractive of just itself.  Furthermore, please understand and know that it was not the physical suffering experienced by Christ while on the Cross that was and is the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  Such physical agony, and even worse, has been experienced by a vast number throughout the history of man.  Still, many see the cross as a beautiful symbol.

 

The only beauty relative to the cross can be ascribed to what spiritually took place on it approximately 2,000 years ago, and this should be understood as to what took place during a specific 3-hour period of time when the one True and Living God, who exists in three distinct Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), was able to effect the key to salvation of mankind by personally experiencing and paying the price required by such in mankind’s place.

 

And this is why those three hours are indeed the “Most Significant Hours in Human History.”