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Was Christ Separated from the Father?

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Surely some have departed from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), as today we see elements of Gnosticism “crept in unawares” through the preaching and teaching of otherwise sound, fundamental, Bible believing Christians. Scholars have warned that “gnostic ideas will frequently reappear on Christian soil, even in modern times. The ‘Christian Science’ of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) is a modern variety of Gnosticism.”1)Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., fourth printing 2007, originally published under the title Heresies: the Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy by Baker Books, 1984, p. 44

To begin, we must define certain terms to specify what is meant when speaking of Gnosticism in this article since there are many variations and different systems under the broad spectrum identified as Gnostic. The doctrinal system which will be considered here was introduced by a heretic name Cerinthus. Cerinthus taught that “On Jesus (a mere man) the Christ descended from above to impart the true religion of the Unknown Father, deserting him before the Passion.”2)Rev. F.W. Bussell, D.D., Religious Thought and Heresy in the Middle Ages, Robert Scott Roxburhge House Paternoster Row, E.C., 1918, p. 600 This entails the New Age Christology as Ron Rhodes explains, “Fundamental to any discussion of New Age Christology is the recognition that New Agers distinguish between Jesus (a mere human vessel) and the Christ (variously defined, but always divine, and often a cosmic, impersonal entity).”3) Ron Rhodes, The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age Movement, Baker House Company, 1990, p. 16 This teaching carries the same as Cerinthus, who “held that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary; that He became distinguished above all others by His wisdom and His life; that after His baptism the Christ descended upon Him; that He then preached the unknown Father and performed miracles; but towards the end of His passion the Christ departed from the Jesus, and the Jesus suffered and was raised, whilst Christ remained impassible, being as He was, ‘the Spirit of the Lord.’”4) William Smith, Henry Wace, eds., A dictionary of Christian biography, literature, sects and doctrines: being a continuation of “The dictionary of the Bible”, Princeton University, J. Murray, 1882, p. 229 In brief, the “Christ,” a divine spiritual entity or the “Unknown Father,” possessed Jesus at the baptism and separated from him as he hung on the cross.

Similar theology continues to haunt Christian thinking today and not just in Gnostic cults such as Christian Science. One publication from Evangelical Press speaking of the Lord Jesus, states, “As he hung on the cross he cried out, ‘My God my God, why have you forsaken me?’  At that terrible moment God the Father turned his back on his beloved Son, who then endured the penalty of separation from God.”(italics in original)5)John Blanchard, Ultimate Questions, Evangelical Press, 1987, 2004, p. 25 The earliest of such interpretation is presented in Gnostic literature entitled The Gospel of Philip believed to have been composed in the mid third century. It states, “‘My God, my God, why, Lord, have you forsaken me?’ He spoke these words on the cross, for he had left that place.”6)The Gospel of Philip, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts, Marvin Meyer (ed.), HarperCollins Publishers, 2007, p. 174 This cry of Christ on the cross is known as the “cry of dereliction.”

Could God the Son be separated from God the Father? Hank Hanegraaf points out that if “one Person of the Holy Trinity was ripped away from the Godhead. This necessarily implies that the triune God had ceased to exist. It also necessarily requires the destruction of Christ’s deity. …  Scripture rejects any such perversion, for God is an unchanging Being (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8)…”7)Hank Hanegraaf, Christianity In Crisis, 21st Century, Thomas Nelson, 2009, p. 189 Although Hanegraaff deviates doctrinally on other many positions, this statement is accurate and historically sound Christology. Lactanius (250-325 A.D.) wrote, “When we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate them. Because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor the Son be separated from the Father. That is because the name of Father cannot be applied without the Son. Nor can the Son be begotten without the Father. Since, therefore, the Father makes the Son, and the Son the Father, they both have one mind, one spirit, one substance…. And since the Son is both faithful to the Most High Father and beloved by Him, He is not separated from Him. Just as the Stream is not separated from the fountain, nor the ray from the sun. …there is plainly no separation.”8) Lactantius,  The Divine Institute,” Book IV. chap. XXIX, para. 1; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 7, p. 132 Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) agreed, stating, “The Word, therefore, is both always in the Father (as He says, ‘I am in the Father’ [John 14:10-11]) and is always with God (according to what is written, ‘And the Word was with God’ [John 1:1]). He is never separated from the Father, or different from the Father, since ‘I and the Father are one [John 10:30].’”9)Tertullian, “Against Praxeas,” Chap. VIII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 3, p. 603

Because the Gnostic heresy thrived during the first few centuries of the Church age, early Christians wrote extensively to refute this idea of a separation occurring during the crucifixion. A tradition  from the early church related an account of the Apostle John’s encounter with Cerinthus which illustrates how serious they viewed this teaching. “There is also those who heard [from Polycarp] that John, the disciple of the Lord, went to bathe at Ephesus. But realizing that Cerinthus was within [the bath house], John rushed out of the bath house without bathing. Instead, he exclaimed, ‘Let us fly, lest even the bath house falls down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.’”10) Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” Book III, Chap. III, para. 4; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 416 The Apostle John called this doctrine “the spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:3), and history thoroughly vouches that John was utterly opposed to this doctrine. Irenaeus (130- 200 A.D.) reported: “John, the disciple of the Lord, preached this faith. And he sought, through the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error that Cerinthus had disseminated among men.”11)Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” Book III, Chap. XI, para. 1;The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 426 Ignatius (35-107 A.D.), a contemporary of John, carried his mantel to refute this heresy, writing, “For there are some vain talkers and deceivers, not Christians, but Christ-betrayers, bearing about the name of Christ in deceit, and ‘corrupting the word’ of the Gospel; while they intermix the poison of their deceit with their persuasive talk… For they alienate Christ from the Father…”12)Ignatius, “Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians (longer version),” Chap. VI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 68

We find the doctrine of Cerinthus in Eddy’s tenets reminding us of her Gnostic roots. “Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ.”13)Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, The First Church of Christ Science, 1934 edition, p. 473 One secular historian explained this aspect of Gnosticism. “Other Gnostics believed that Christ was a divine being who came into the body of the man Jesus when he was baptized; while inhabiting Jesus’ body, he taught his followers the truth that can bring salvation. He then left Jesus prior to his death. That is why, on the cross, Jesus called out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ For these Gnostics, the divine element really did abandon Jesus on the cross.”14)Bart D. Ehrman, Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 43 This form of Gnosticism can also be seen prevalent in the New Age movement today. New Ager Benjamin Crème taught it in these words: “He [Jesus] was, still is, a Disciple of the Christ and made the great sacrifice of giving up His body for the use of the Christ. By the occult process of overshadowing, the Christ, Maitreya, took over and worked through the body of Jesus from the Baptism onward.”15)Benjamin Crème, The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom, The Tara Press, 1980, p. 46

The mistake being made by many Christian leaders today is how they perceive the Trinity, not just drawing a distinction between the three Persons of the Godhead, but separating them completely. This is breaking the unity of the Triune God. “No doubt, there is a distinct consciousness which identifies each Person, yet there is a united possession of attributes and of nature.”16)Lewis Sperry Chaffer, D.D., Litt.D., Th.D., Systematic Theology, Dallas Seminary Press, 1948, 1974, Vol. 1, p. 273 The willingness to separate the Triune God stems from their understanding of the passion which will be seen to be comparable to the Gnostic Cerinthus.


Many Christians have espoused this idea that the Father was separated from the Son during the crucifixion. The reasoning used to support their doctrine is that God the Father could not look upon the Son while He bore the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states: “Instead, Christ had become the object of the Father‘s displeasure, for he was the sinner‘s Substitute. Christ became ‘sin for us’ (II Cor 5:21), and a holy God cannot look with favor upon sin.”17)Donald W. Burdick, Th.D., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Everett F. Harrison  (New Testament editor), Moody Press, 1962, p.185 Merrill Unger concurs, “The three-hour darkness was a supernatural phenomenon when the Father hid His face from the Son as He became sin for us… our Lord’s suffering as He became the Sin-bearer, for the Father turned His face from Him as His sinless soul felt the crushing load of the world’s sin.”18)Merrill F. Unger, TH.D., PH.D., Unger’s Bible Handbook, An Essential Guide to Understanding the Bible, Moody Press, 1966, p. 490

One verse quoted as a proof text that God cannot look upon sin is Habakkuk 1:13. It is common that only a portion of the verse gets cited as a proof text. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…” However, the second half of the verse refutes this notion as it is being used deceptively to endorse an unscriptural doctrine. It continues, “wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” The Bible is very clear on the fact that God sees all, including sin. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverb 15:3). “For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes” (Jeremiah 16:17). “There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:22). More specifically “the Suffering Servant” prophesy of Isaiah 53 emphasizes the propitiation aspect of the atonement, explaining, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied…” (Isaiah 53:11) “The sense of being forsaken was not necessarily caused by God the Father looking away from Him, but from His looking at Him in wrath, as He would look in judgment at a condemned sinner.”19)Edward E. Hindson, Th.D., D.Min., Liberty Commentary On The New Testament, Jerry Falwell, D.D., D..Litt. Executive Editor, Edward E. Hinson, Th.D., D.Min., Woodrow Michael Kroll, Th.D., General Editors, Liberty Press, 1978, p. 89

The most common verse sited to identify this doctrine of separation as judgement for unrepentant sinners is 2 Thessalonians 1:9 – “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Separation from the Lord’s presence (lit., ‘face’) is the essence of eternal punishment.”20)John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, Victor Books, 1987, p. 716 The interpretation of this verse hangs upon how the word “from” is to be understood. It could be understood as the punishment being “separation from” the presence of the Lord as Paul uses the word in 2 Thessalonians 3:2, 3, 6; or it could be understood as the punishment is “coming from” the presence of the Lord according to the use of the word in 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 7, 2:2, 13, 3:18. To accept the popular interpretation of this punishment being a “separation from” the presence of the Lord would cause a greater exegetical problem in light of Revelation 14:10 which clearly states that those suffering in hell are in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.”

It is an interesting fact that nowhere in Scripture is this alleged separation of God the Father and God the Son taught. There is not one didactic (doctrinal) statement proclaiming it. Other than Christ’s “cry of dereliction” from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34), the only verse brought to attention by those adhering to this doctrine is in reference of the supernatural darkness that occurred from the sixth hour until the ninth hour (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). “It may be that this darkness veiled the entire earth, as God for a time withdrew even the physical evidence of His providential care for the earth, as His Son was bearing in His own body the sin of the world and suffering himself the judgment of separation from God.”21)Henry M. Morris with Henry Morris III, Many Infallible Proofs: Practical and Useful Evidences for the Christian  Faith, Master Books, 1974, 1996, p. 91 Dave Hunt also equated the darkness as validating this interpretation of Christ’s words spoken from the cross speaking of it on a radio show: “When Jesus took my place and He was put to, to death, this is not just physical death, but a separation from God that He experienced, an eternal separation for the whole human race, in those, whatever, three hours, perhaps, of darkness on, on the cross, that God could reach down and could pay the penalty for man, in such a way that it would be paid. ‘It is finished,’ Jesus said. That this penalty is paid, then He can raise us.”22)Dave Hunt, “Gospel of John,” Search the Scriptures Daily, The Berean Call, 2004, CD (item CD075), disc 7 of 29, track 1

These verses are not didactic (doctrinal teaching), but are narrative. This interpretation is being read into these verses not out of these verses since the reason for the darkness is not explained, only recorded as a historical event fulfilling prophecy (Amos 8:9-10). Nowhere in the Bible is the darkness or Christ’s words from the cross explained didactically. To assert that the darkness is evidence of the alleged separation which is a presumptuous interpretation of Christ’s cry of dereliction is circular reasoning. The darkness is explained by the interpretation of the words from Christ on the cross while the interpretation of His words is believed to be proven by the event of darkness. One must wonder if the darkness beginning at the sixth hour indicated the Father separated from the Son, why was Jesus silent about being “forsaken” for three hours – until the ninth hour when He cried out? A basic rule of hermeneutics is do not devise a doctrine based on one obscure verse.

The fact is the interpretation of divine separation occurring could not be an accurate interpretation because the Bible makes numerous statement contrariwise. With cry of dereliction, Christ is pointing us to the fulfillment of the prophesy detailing the crucifixion in Psalms 22 which shows us that Christ could not have been separated from the Father as David wrote, “For he [the Father] hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted [i.e. Christ being crucified]; neither hath he [the Father] hid his face from him [the “afflicted,” i.e. Christ]; but when he [Christ] cried unto him [the Father], he heard” (Psalm 22:24). Christ Himself spoke of the hour of the crucifixion saying, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). This also in fulfillment of prophecy, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones” (Zechariah 13:7); as our Lord  explained at the last supper, “This saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31, 56; Mark 14:27, 50). But Jesus said clearly when the sheep are scattered “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” Isaiah’s series of suffering servant prophecies also foretell the passion of Christ. “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me… He is near that justifieth me” (Isaiah 50:6-8). Matthew Henry stated in his classic commentary, “But it is true in a furthermore peculiar sense: the Father justified him when he accepted the satisfaction he made for the sin of man, and constituted him the Lord our righteousness, who was made sin for us. He was justified in the Spirit, 1 Tim. Iii. 16. He was near who did it; for his resurrection, by which he was justified, soon followed his condemnation and crucifixion. He was straightway glorified, John xiii.32.”(italic in original)23)Mathew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. IV. – Isaiah to Malachi, Fleming H. Revell Company, p. 285-286 Thus the Father was “near,” not separated.

The most disturbing part of this teaching is it’s implication on the atonement. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, “But certainly its basis lay not in the physical suffering primarily, but in the fact that for a time Jesus was made sin for us (II Cor 5:21); and in paying the penalty as the sinner’s substitute, he was accursed of God (Gal 3:13). God as Father did not forsake him (Lk 23:46); but God as Judge had to be separated from him if he was to experience spiritual death in the place of sinful men.”(italics in original)24)Homer A. Kent, Jr., Th.D., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Everett F. Harrison  (New Testament editor), Moody Press, 1962, p. 107-108 Douglas D. Stauffer wrote, “Death indicates a separation. There are two types of death. These are the physical death (the separation of the soul from the body) and the spiritual death (the separation of the soul from God)…. When the body dies (physically), the individual experiences the first death. Following the judgment of the lost, the individual experiences the second death…. If you pay what you owe as a sinner, you must spend eternity in the lake of fire (hell), separated from God…. The Lord Jesus Christ was not a sinner, yet He suffered death and separation from God the Father on the cross.”25)Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer, One Book Rightly Divided: the Key to Understanding the Bible, (Expanded Edition), McCowen Mills Publishers, 1999, 2006, p. 212 Dave Hunt declared, “Our salvation was procured not by what His tormentors did but by Christ taking upon Himself ‘the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) and suffering the eternal death (‘that he by grace of God should taste death for every man’ -Hebrews 2:9) in the separation from God (‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ -Matthew 27:46) that all mankind deserved.”26)Dave Hunt, Seeking and Finding God: In Search of the True Faith (Expanded Edition), The Berean Call, 2004, 2005, p. 120 Unbeknownst to Dave Hunt was his frequent contradiction when explaining the Trinity. “Now we have Father, Son, Holy Spirit, you can’t separate them.”27)Dave Hunt, “Gospel of John,” Search the Scriptures Daily, The Berean Call, 2004, CD (item CD075), disc 7 of 29, track 2 Yet he remains staunch, advocating a spiritual second death separation of the Father and Son. Speaking on a radio show: “He took the second death. He tasted death for every man. The second death is the lake of fire. Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire. There is something worst then physical death. Death is separation from the body, from your, this world, from your life and so forth. Spiritual death, the death finally, the second death is total separation from God, forever and forever and forever, and Christ had to be God in order to endure this. This is an infinite price that He paid. The lake of fire for every person, forever. So, we will never see that we will never understand it, we couldn’t possibly because we are finite beings and this was an infinite price He paid.”28)Dave Hunt, “Gospel of John,” Search the Scriptures Daily, The Berean Call, 2004, CD (item CD075), disc 29 of 29, track 1

First, note how “death” is being defined as “separation.” Walter Martin also utilized this definition: “We see, therefore, that death is a separation of the soul and spirit from the body, … however, in the spiritual sense death is separation of soul and spirit from God as the result of sin…”29)Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, Updated, and Expanded Edition, Bethany House Publishers, 2003, p. 143-143 So the first death is separation from the body, but preceding the second death which is the “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). The flaw of this perspective is negligence of the universality of resurrection. “Resurrection means that the experience of physical death is not a termination of existence. It merely ushers one into another state of existence, and this state is temporary, for by resurrection there is to be joining again of the body with the soul and spirit.”30)Herman A. Hoyt, The End Times, BMH Books, 1969,2006, p. 193 But there is a resurrection of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15). “As to time, this resurrection is located at ‘the end’ of the thousand-year kingdom (I Cor. 15:24). This must therefore refer to the resurrection described in Revelation 20:11-14 which takes place at the time of the great white throne judgment,… Involved in this ‘end’ resurrection are all unsaved persons.”31)Herman A. Hoyt, The End Times, BMH Books, 1969,2006, p. 200-201 It is the physical resurrected bodies that suffer in the lake of fire since this resurrection precedes the second death, thus it is the “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). If the first death is defined as separation from the body and soul, it would become nullified at the resurrection thus rendering the phrase “second death” meaningless. Beyond this logic is the testimony of Scripture which tells us that it is the death of the body that causes the soul to depart. “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died)…” (Genesis 35:18), “For as the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26) This is a cause and effect relationship. Death causes departure of the soul and therefore cannot be defined as separation. Even if the cause and effect occur simultaneously, death and separation could not be considered synonyms. Furthermore, obscurity is found in the Hebrew which occasionally refers to dead bodies as a soul (Number 6:6, 9:6).

Secondly, claiming Christ’s alleged separation from God the Father is Him suffering the “second death” is strikingly similar to what the Word-Faith teachers espouse. Kenneth Hagin wrote “Physical death will not remove sins”32)Kenneth Hagin, The Name of Jesus, Faith Library, 1981, p. 29 implying only a spiritual death can. Hagin concluded, “Jesus became sin. His spirit was separated from God.”33)Kenneth Hagin, The Name of Jesus, Faith Library, 1981, p. 32 K. C. Price agreed. “Do you think that the punishment of our sins was to die on the cross? If that was the case, the two thieves could have paid our price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God.”34)K. C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, Newsletter, Crenshaw Christian Center,  June 1980, p. 7 Kenneth Copeland taught, “Just as Adam died spiritually, Jesus died spiritually. The spiritual death He suffered caused His physical body to die…. When Jesus accepted the sin nature of Satan into His Spirit He cried ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ He was separated from God… He was ushered into the bowels of hell.”35)Kenneth Copeland, Classic Redemption, Kenneth Copeland Publications, 2001, p. 13 Remember Dave Hunt and others are teaching that our atonement is by the separation, the “second death” which is defined in the Bible as “the lake of fire” – hell (Revelation 20:14).

To be fair, Dave Hunt does not believe in a literal lake of fire as do the Word-Faith proponents. Note that Jesus said there will be “both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Ignoring such verses, Dave Hunt asserts, “There are no physical bodies in hell, even though the ‘rich man,’ who perhaps had been there for a long time, longed for just a drop of physical water to assuage what he thought was physical thirst and begged to have it on his ‘tongue.’ In fact, his tongue and every other part of his body were rotting in the grave… He imagined that his pain was physical, when in fact it was a far greater anguish of soul.”36)Dave Hunt, Cosmos, Creator, and  Human Destiny, The Berean Call, 2010, p. 500 Are the torments of hell imaginary? Such a statement is odd since he opens this discussion of the rich man and Lazarus, by saying, “The following statement is not a parable.”37)Dave Hunt, Cosmos, Creator, and  Human Destiny, The Berean Call, 2010, p. 499 Why not take it literally then? Many hold this view of hell because they find it‘s description of “fire” and “outer darkness” irreconcilable, causing them to allegorizing “fire.” Why not allegorize “outer darkness” and accept the “fire” as literal? However, elementary science classes are introduced to Bunsen Burners whereby a non-luminous methane flame, which is transparent, produces the most intense heat. A non-luminous flame reconciles a literal fire and darkness. The “utter darkness” of hell could also be explained by the thick dark “smoke of their torment” from the literal flames (Revelation 14:11).

Thirdly, and considerably the most repulsive to Biblical Christianity is that if this alleged separation becomes the atoning act on the cross, there is a full denial of the blood atonement! The Gnostic system of Mary Baker Eddy denied the blood atonement. “The efficacy of Jesus’ spiritual offering is infinitely greater than can be expressed by our sense of human blood. The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon ‘the accursed tree’ than when it was flowing in His veins as he went daily about the Father’s business.”38)Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, The First Church of Christ Science, 1934 edition, p. 25 Are we saved by Jesus making a spiritual offering, or sacrificing and suffering spiritual separation, or are we saved by the blood shed on the cross? The early church proclaimed salvation was assured by the blood, and “if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation.”39)Ignatius, “Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans,” (shorter version) Chap. VI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 88-89 It was the shedding of blood from His physical body that was preached in the first and second century. “For to this end the Lord endured to deliver up His flesh to corruption, that we might be sanctified through the remission of sins, which is effected by His blood of sprinkling.”40) “The Epistle of Barnabas,” Chap. V; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 139

Henry Morris and others avidly acknowledge the blood and its efficacy to atone our sins as an epistemological inconsistency when also teaching this alleged separation. The blood atonement is the testimony of Scripture without question. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrew 9:22) Jesus said at the last supper, “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) “Whereupon, neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.” (Hebrews 9:18) On the cross He shed “the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrew 13:20), “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossian 1:20). We are “now justified by his blood” (Roman 5:9), “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood” (Hebrew 13:12). “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4)

“For the wages of sin is death” (Roman 6:23), and the wages of sin was paid for us not “with corruptible things, as silver and gold… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18- 19). “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). The Saints praise Christ, proclaiming, “for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (Revelation 5:9).  “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). Jesus paid the price for “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5), “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Jesus was declared “the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) This refers to the figure of the Passover lamb, which annual sacrifice was initiated while in Egypt. God said “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13), “for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past” (Romans 3:24-25) “‘To be a propitiation’ points back to the time over nineteen hundred years ago when Christ was set forth as the Savior. You will recall that the veil of the temple hid the mercy seat and only the high priest could go in past that veil. But today Christ has been set before us as the mercy seat… (Heb. 9:5) – the Greek word for mercy seat, hilastrion, is the same word translated ‘propitiation.’ … Paul is saying that now there is on display a mercy seat – God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in His blood…. Actually, you and I were shut out from a holy God. But the way now has been opened up for us by His blood.”41)J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, Vol. IV, Matthew – Romans, p. 667-668

Paul assures us “that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7), “that hope is in the Son of God and in His blood.”42)Mark Cahill, One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven, Biblical Discipleship Publishers, 2002, 2004, p. 116 The vicarious blood atonement is an essential doctrine to biblical Christianity.

These facts should leave no lingering doubt that there was no separation from God the Father and God the Son while the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross. Yet it remains to be established what was meant by His words, “My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). The earliest explanation set forth was that His cry was brought forth from His human nature during such excruciating suffering. Tertullian stated: “either, then, the Son suffered, being ‘forsaken’ by the Father, and the Father consequently suffered nothing, inasmuch as He forsook the Son; or else, if it was the Father who suffered, then to what God was it that He addressed His cry? But this was the voice of flesh and soul, that is to say, of man – not of the Word and Spirit, that is to say, not of God; and it was uttered so as to prove the impassibility of God, who ‘forsook’ His Son, so far as He handed over His human substance to the suffering of death…. In this manner He ‘forsook’ Him, in delivering Him up. In all other respects the Father did not forsake the Son, for it was into His Father’s hands that the Son commended His spirit [Luke 23:46].”43)Tertullian, “Against Praxeas,” Chap. XXX; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 3, p. 626-627This is not a suitable interpretation as it distorts the hypostatic union, as if the human substance felt forsook but the divine essence knew there was no separation. This view indicates a separation of the God-man, dividing His two natures, a heresy which in the fifth century became known as Nestorianism. This was rejected by Tertullian in his own writings. “[He] is in His birth God and man united.”44)Tertullian, “Apology,” Chap. XXI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 3, p. 35 This same inconsistency is followed by Dr. Martin who at times accurately affirms Christ hypostatic union, but when commenting on John 14:28 he states, “in that context and verse clearly indicates that Jesus was speaking as a man and not as the second person of the Trinity (John 1:1).”45)Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, Updated, and Expanded Edition, Bethany House Publishers, 2003, p. 141 As a man He was the second person of the Trinity incarnate. Martin here is indicating that Christ at times spoke only as a human, apparently dividing Jesus from His divine nature.

A more popular understanding of our Lord’s cry from the cross is that He was identifying the fulfillment of Psalms 22. This is explained by the fact that, prior to the chapter and verse division, the Hebrew Scripture was identified by the first word of the book. This is true but Jesus cited more than just the first word of this particular Psalm. Also note that the Psalms were divided as Paul acknowledged “as it is also written in the second psalm” (Acts 13:33). The division of Psalms was also known by Christians and Jews in the second century as noted by Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) in his Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, whereby he identified “the forty-ninth Psalm,”46)Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew,” chap. XXII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 205 “the forty-sixth Psalm… the ninety-eighth Psalm,”47)Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew,” chap. XXXVII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 213 and “the forty-fourth Psalm,”48)Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew,” chap. XXXVII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 213 etc. Jesus could have mentioned the twenty-second Psalm from the cross by its numerical division.

Furthermore, He would have cited it in the Hebrew language, but it seems He spoke it in Aramaic which was the cause of the confusion of the onlookers (Matthew 27:47; Mark 15:35). Tradition tells us that Luke produced a Greek translation of the Gospel of Mathew which was originally written in Hebrew. This may be why Jesus words are recorded in Hebrew in Matthew, but in Mark He is quoted in Aramaic (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). If He was speaking to the scribes present He would have cited the Hebrew Scripture in Hebrew. If it is believed He was announcing the fulfillment of this prophecy to those who were present at the crucifixion, this view would be wrong. There is no indication that Jesus was addressing those present, but rather speaking to the Father, so He obviously was not attempting to teach them something. Those attending the crucifixion were clueless, mistaken the words as a cry for Elias. Not even John, who was present, understood the statement as he, along with the other disciples mourned for the next three days not realizing the Psalm proved to be a fulfilled prophesy (Luke 24:44). Nor did John ever write of the connection in his epistles.

It is the conviction of this author that His words were spoken for us today, not those present at the foot of the cross. Today we can look back and see the obvious cross-reference. This would also demonstrate Christ deity and foreknowledge that His words would be written for the benefit of His children throughout all ages being accurately recorded in a historical narrative (John 14:26) without any erroneous doctrine inserted. This thought is indicated in 1 Peter 1:10-12 which teaches that the prophets wrote words that they did not understand but were inspired to write “not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (1 Peter 1:12).









Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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