The First and Second Death of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary

by J. Wilfred Johnson

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In the heavenly Sanctuary, before He ever came to this world, He [Christ] laid down His great eternal body and blood; He shed His life blood; He gave up the ghost--the Holy Ghost! There was no Holy Ghost before that--only the Spirit of God. He gave up the Spirit of life, the eternal Spirit which was His eternal life. (This is in the Spirit of Prophecy): "Christ declared that after His ascension, He would send to His church, as His crowning gift, the Comforter, who was to take His place. This Comforter is the Holy Ghost, the soul of His life!" E.G. White, Review and Herald, May 19, 1904. He gave it up; and He died a voluntary death -- in the court of the heavenly Sanctuary! And there were two witnesses who saw this -- two witnesses who had been called up from earth: Moses and Elijah. This was the first death of Christ, from which there WAS a resurrection!

At any time during His sojourn here on earth, in the person of Jesus, He could by a thought have returned to His former glory, received all His heritage again, and left man to die an eternal death. He could have done this! He died here [in the heavenly sanctuary] the first death--the death of sleep. He could have been restored.

The Irrevocable Decision of Jesus in Gethsemane

In Gethsemane He made the irrevocable decision to die the second death, from which there can be no hope of a resurrection! 'He suffered the death which was ours," says Sister White, "that we might receive the life which WAS His." Desire of Ages, 25. That's plain! In Gethsemane, He relinquished His eternal life; He relinquished His body and blood -- that former body and blood that represented His great eternal heritage -- His Word, and His Spirit, and all things that had been written into His creation, and the Spirit of eternal life! He relinquished them! And He cried, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?' (Mark 15:34). And He said to His disciples at the last supper: 'I will not again partake of this emblem until I partake of it anew with you in the kingdom.' (cf. Matt. 26:29). And in the kingdom, He will partake of it anew through the marriage ceremony, when He becomes united with the rest of His body in the marriage union with His bride -- the saints!

His body you see, is now divided; it is broken and given to His saints to eat -- to assimilate. And in the marriage union of the Lamb with His saints, the new body of Christ is restored -- it is restructured. And now Jesus is the Head of that body, but His people are the members. Anybody knows that the head would have a difficult time functioning without the body. Christ needs His new temple of saints, to function through them!

This was the sacrifice He made; this was the [crowning] gift He gave. His heritage should now be in them -- that they were to be His body through whom He would operate on a voluntary basis. No more could anyone challenge the integrity of Christ. Never could anyone say that He was the autocrat, the dictatorial ruler! He is now the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. And if the hand refuses to do the bidding of the head, it is not done. Only by means of the hand can it be done. So when the head requires the hand or requests the hand to do a task, the "hand" must voluntarily do it, if it is to be done. The kingdom of heaven will be based on voluntary allegiance; there will be no force. The drawing and constraining power of love for Jesus will motivate the active response!

When this enormous sacrifice of Christ is seen in all its glory, God's people will loathe themselves for their iniquities. They cannot ever again bring themselves to sin against their Redeemer. They know that He has declared them righteous forever, and that He has declared Himself their High Priest forever, and that if ever again they should sin, they would not jeopardize their eternal life; but they would jeopardize the peace and the freedom from suffering of their Saviour; for He is the one who must bear the consequences of such a sin!

Victory over sin, refusal to sin, is a voluntary thing. If it were made a condition of eternal life, then sinlessness would be motivated by selfishness; and that is a contradiction. For sin, basic sin, is selfishness; and sin cannot be eradicated until selfishness is destroyed and selflessness rules. And that could only be done as Christ would take the sinner's penalty forever; and the saint would voluntarily refuse to sin, because he knows that if he did sin, Christ would be the sufferer -- not he himself. Thus selfishness is placed on an entirely voluntary basis! I hope I have made my point.

The Marriage of Christ to His Saints Before Probation Closes

When Jesus came forth from the tomb, He came forth as the One who had been born in Bethlehem and who had grown up in Nazareth. And He will not again partake of the eternal heritage of His former body and blood, until He partakes of it through the marriage union with His saints, and the kingdom is restored.

This occurs before the close of probation (EW 280)! The marriage union is consummated and the new body of Christ is established, and the kingdom is restored. The allegiance of His people voluntarily to their Counsellor, the Head of the new body, is restored; and Jesus again partakes of His former heritage through His saints. What a picture of humility! What a picture of self-sacrifice! There is no equal to it.

Christ Died The Second Death at the Cross

It should be recognized that Christ did die the eternal death of the sinner. The death of the sinner is the second death which is an everlasting death from which there can be no hope of a resurrection [EW 218.6]. Christ died the FIRST death in the heavenly Sanctuary before He came to this world in the form of Jesus. This was the death of sleep from which He awakened, and from which He had the privilege of going back into His former heritage. On the cross He died the SECOND death; and this was a different death. There was no returning from this death, in the sense that He would never again be able to return to the position -- the status -- in exactly the same way that He had it before.

I recognize that we are dealing with a difficult problem here, that Christ died an eternal death from which there is no resurrection, and from which there can be no hope of a resurrection; and at the same time He lives. But Christ is eternal; and so we are dealing with a mystery. At the same time, He does not return to the identical conditions under which He existed prior to His Incarnation. In the Old Testament, Christ was the great God -- the God of His people. It was Christ who created the world. It was Christ who spoke to Moses on the Mount, and whom Moses saw. It was Christ who walked with Abraham. He was God, and yet God the Father was operating through Christ. And here again we're dealing with a mystery. It is not my purpose at this point to move into this mystery; I am not able to solve it. There are thoughts that could be expressed, but we will leave them at this particular stage.

The Incarnation of the Holy Ghost in Christ's Saints

I simply want to point out that when Jesus came out of the tomb, He was a man who had walked the dusty roads of Galilee; and He would not again partake of His former heritage, His former body and blood, except as there would be men who would respond to His call to 'follow' Him. Only as His new body could be built up from the saints, and the incarnation of the Holy Ghost could take place -- only through this experience could the body of Christ be reproduced.

The "temple" that He said would be destroyed, He also said that in three days "I will raise it up." There is a deeper meaning in this statement. He spoke of the temple of His human body -- yes; but He spoke also of the great temple of His heavenly body. And each day is for a year. But each day is also for a thousand years with God, and a thousand years as one day. It was in the third thousand years that the new temple was to be restored in His people, and the incarnation of Christ through the Holy Ghost in His people, known as the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, was to take place.

It is through the saints that Christ returns. He is to live in His saints -- 'His inheritance is in His saints,' says Paul. (cf. Eph 1:18). And herein again is the law of the universe, the law of heaven and earth, exemplified: He gave all, that He might receive all again. There is no way to receiving but by giving. If a man would have eternal life, he must lose his life for Christ's sake. Christ gave His life for the sake of His people, and it is through His people that His life is restored!

I am not herewith talking about His human life -- His life in humanity and the resurrection of His human body -- I am speaking of His great eternal and spiritual body which He exemplified or typified through the communion service --this is what I am speaking of. And He himself said that He broke His body, and that the broken bread of the communion service represented His body, that it might be divided among the disciples for them to eat and assimilate.

He was not talking about His physical human body --He still lives in that. Nor was He talking about the life of his physical human body. [We are invited to partake of His DIVINE nature--2 Peter 1:4]. He was talking about the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Spirit of life, the Eternal Spirit of God, which is the source of all life that had been His in His great eternal body, as the God of the Old Testament and the God of eternity -- this is what He was talking about! It is in this blood; and this is the blood of His body, for it is the life of it --He gave up the Spirit of Life. He gave up the Ghost. And that great Ghost of His former body --the Holy Ghost -- that great body with all its characteristics and qualities -- was divided for His disciples to eat and for them to drink. And it was in this Spirit of Life that the new testament or new covenant resided. He said, "This is the new covenant in my blood, the new testament in my blood; drink ye all of it." -- all of it! [cf. Matt. 26:27 & 28; also 1 Cor. 11:24-28].

The Comforter is the Soul of Christ's Life

The abundant outpouring of the Holy Ghost is to come to the 144,000. Through them will be restored the body temple of Christ. Through them will God and Christ -- in them will God and Christ come to dwell by the agency of the Holy Ghost. I wonder if you get the implications of this? "This Comforter is the Holy Spirit -- the soul of His life,...." (EGW Review and Herald, May 19, 1904).

And the promise to the Laodicean people who overcome is fantastic. It says, (Revelation, chapter three): 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame," -- the same way! -- "and am set down with my Father in His throne." Now get it! As Christ was set down with His Father in His throne (and the Bible says that all things were given into the hands of the Son -- all power) --this is how Christ is set down with His Father in His throne.

He was One with Him from eternity; and through Him was everything made that was made. This is the great God of the Old Testament, the great Christ, the Son of God. That is how He is set down with His Father in His throne. And He says that even as I am set down with my Father in His throne, eve so will I grant that Him that overcometh (in the Laodicean period of the church's history) as I also overcame, will I grant to sit down with Me in my throne -- in the same way. (cf. Rev. 3:21).

The New Governing Body of the Universe

What a tremendous picture! Here is the new governing body of the universe: Christ the Head, and His saints the body; and as a unit they function and replace the great God of the Old Testament, Who is now in them, Who is now married to them; and they twain, says Paul, shall become one flesh. But this is a great mystery, he says; but I speak concerning Christ and His church. (Eph. 5:29-30). Is this not plain? He also says that "the saints are built up an habitation of God through the Spirit." (cf. Eph. 2:20-22). It could not be made any plainer for anyone to see. Let's get the scales off our eyes. Let's anoint our eyes with eye-salve and take a look -- and see!

How can anyone who sees this picture refuse the call of Christ to take up His cross and follow Me; how can anyone refuse? It is not the reward -- it is a responsibility; it is not the reward -- it is a need on the part of Christ, who has given all. And He can regain His life only through His saints! I speak here of His former life. There is a difference; else He did not die the eternal death of the sinner.

The eternal life of Christ did not die; He relinquished it [laid it aside for us]. He gave it up. He gave up the Ghost, and the Spirit returned to God who gave it! [cf DA 22.9 & 23.1]. And He prays the Father, that the Father would send that Spirit upon His children. That is the Everlasting Covenant. That is the agreement -- that the heritage that had been His, was to be bestowed upon His people. That is His last will and testament! And the Father is fulfilling the part of the Administrator and Executor of the will of Christ; and He delivers the heritage, even as Christ had requested in His last will and testament!

That's how you get eternal life, my friend -- no other way. Your life is His life. I should say, your eternal life is not yours, it is His. He gives it to you. You could have it in no other way. "He suffered the death which was yours," says our prophet, "that you might receive the life which WAS His." (cf. DA 25). I know I am dealing here with a very deep mystery, and some will not see it. If you cannot see it, just leave it. Don't let it bother you. Take the Word of God by faith; accept what it says, and God will take care of the rest.

But He is looking for a people; He is calling for individuals who are willing to stand up and be counted, and through whom He can perform His work of purification and complete salvation from sin. That is what He is looking for! That is what He is calling for: that is what He is inviting you to do! Are you willing? Are YOU willing?