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Wordwise Insight, Issue #015 --
March 14, 2006

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS. Seed thoughts on the Passion of Christ

READER Q & A. The annihilation of the wicked; why Christ's bones were not broken on the cross


NEWS & REVIEWS. The best magazine on the market about Israel and prophecy


With the Easter season almost upon us, pastors and Bible teachers will be expounding again the fearful yet wonderful story of the death of Christ and its victorious aftermath. Here are some thoughts on a few verses, mainly from Matthew’s Gospel, ideas that may be useful in sermons, Sunday School lessons, or devotionals.

Matt. 26:24
There is, in this verse, a balancing of the two paradoxical elements, the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Judas is held responsible for his choices, and yet the cross was a part of God’s foreordained plan. We are not asked (or expected) to resolve the apparent contradiction between these two.

Matt. 26:26
Those who insist Jesus means, “This turns into my literal body” must be consistent and handle the second command the same way (cf. Lk. 22:20; I Cor. 11:25). “This cup is the new covenant...” to anyone using common sense means, “This represents the New Covenant established by the shedding of My blood.” There is undoubtedly a close connection between the symbol and the reality.

1) Not that the symbol becomes the reality...

2) Not that the symbol is invested with power to bless as though it were the reality...

3) But that the symbol has value as a vehicle to communicate truth about the reality. Since His body was still there before them, the disciples without doubt understood Jesus to mean, “This symbolizes My body,” and likewise, “This symbolizes My blood.”

During the Passover, the head of the home would take up the bread and say, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt” (meaning this represents it). All Jesus did was shift the focus of the symbol from the type to the antitype, instituting a service of remembrance. (Compare: Jesus’ use of the same formula in Luke 8:11, “The seed is the word of God,” and Paul’s adoption of the formula in using Hagar in an allegorical illustration– “This Hagar is Mount Sinai” (Gal. 4:25).

All through Scripture the Lord jealously guards the rituals He institutes. Severe punishment is meted out upon those who would carelessly misuse or abuse them, thereby distorting the truth God intends them to convey (cf. Num. 20:7-12; I Cor. 11:17-22, 29-30).

Matt. 26:38
“My soul is deeply grieved [emphatic] (NASB). “My soul is encircled and overwhelmed with grief, so much so that I am very close to dying” (Wuest). “My heart is breaking with a death-like grief” (Phillips). This is none other than the sorrow for sin (infinitely magnified) which should strike every heart. Sin grieves the heart of God (Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30). And any who view it from God’s perspective are likewise touched with grief (Ps. 38:3-8). How would one feel whose life had never been tainted with the minutest wrong, yet who suddenly bore the guilt of all mankind’s sin to its most foul depths? We shall never understand the half of His grief.

Think of sitting at the bedside of someone you dearly love, watching him or her die of a terminal illness and knowing that the end will bring terrible pain. That heartache, that helpless feeling, that longing wish that things could be different from what they must be, that almost unbearable inward pain that echoes the pain in the other, all of that is a parable of sin’s grief. It is one reason why God has allowed physical suffering to continue. Without the analogy of physical suffering we would miss great lessons on the grief and pain in the heart of God because of this destructive thing called sin.

Matt. 26:39
As John Walvoord points out in his commentary Thy Kingdom Come, there is an overwhelming impression of loneliness here. Jesus left the world behind in the upper room and was deserted by Judas. Then he left eight of the disciples on the borders of Gethsemane (vs. 36). Then even Peter James and John were left behind. Finally, at the cross, there was the consciousness that His fellowship with the Father was broken because of His bearing of the world’s sin. The prayer in the garden was:

1) A private prayer. Though He had told His disciples to pray too (Lk. 22:40, 46), this prayer had to be His own. In the same way, there will be certain of our prayers that must be for the Father’s ears alone.

2) It was a humble prayer, and yet one in which He claimed His relationship with God. “[He] fell on His face and prayed...’O My Father...’” Similarly, we must approach God first with a recognition of who He is, by nature and by right, and then with an appreciation of who we are, by grace.

3) It was a persistent prayer (vs. 39, 42, 44) and yet always a submissive prayer–“as You will...Your will be done.” It is not wrong to keep asking, as long as we leave God the right to answer as He wills. William MacDonald says, “Jesus was saying, in effect, ‘My Father, if there is any other way by which ungodly sinners can be saved than by My going to the cross, reveal that way now! But in all of this I want it known that I desire nothing contrary to Your will.’” The silence of heaven at this point is eloquent proof that there is no other way.

Matt. 27:4
1) His own betrayer confesses the innocence of Christ, 2) As does Pilate (vs. 24), 3) And Pilate’s wife (vs. 19), 4) Also the thief on the cross (Lk. 23:4), 5) The centurion beneath the cross implies the same (vs. 54). 6) Even His accusers speak not out of a conviction of His guilt, but from “envy” of His power–a fact well known to Pilate (vs. 18). They are forced to seek false witnesses against Him (26:59-60). 7) Herod also confesses Jesus’ innocence (Lk. 23:13-15).

Matt. 27:6
How scrupulous they are of the fine points of the Law, while they plot to crucify the Lord of glory! They decide to use the money to purchase a burial ground for “foreigners” (vs. 7)– meaning Gentile proselytes to Judaism, whom they considered of lower status than themselves. F. W. Grant comments, “Phariseeism remained true to itself!”

Matt. 27:24
Pilate declares Jesus’ innocence, but he tries to relinquish any responsibility for His death. It could not (and cannot) be done. We must not think we can evade our responsibilities by simply saying, “I will not be held responsible”! Pilate yielded to the pressure of the world; Peter succumbed to the perversity of the flesh (26:41, 74-75); Judas was ensnared by the persuasion of the devil (26:47-50; cf. Lk. 22:3-6).

Compare John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. The latter tries to quell the crowd’s growing unrest with:

1) An appeal to LAW (Jn. 19:4). Is this really just? Is it legally proper? “I find no fault in Him.” But Christ’s legal position in cosmic terms is that He bore the guilt of our sins.

2) An appeal to LOVE and compassion (Jn. 19:5)–“Behold the Man!” Jesus had been abused and crowned with thorns. Pilate hopes an appeal to pity will change their minds. But the “love” is not on their side but on His. For love of us all He suffered.

3) An appeal to LOYALTY (Jn. 19:14)– “Behold your King!” He has claimed to be their King. Will they respond as loyal subjects? No (vs. 15). But all will recognize His sovereign right one day (Phil. 2:9-11).

The dramatic difference between Pilate and Christ is exemplified in two basins of water. One is found here, the other in Jn. 13:5. 1) Pilate’s action was self-serving; Jesus served others. 2) Pilate sought to evade responsibility; Jesus seized it willingly. 3) Pilate’s actions were typical of man trying somehow to obliterate his own guilt; Jesus’ actions symbolize the true cleansing from sin that only He can provide. 4) History records that three times in his career Pilate handled the Jewish populace badly. He was recalled to Rome where he apparently committed suicide. Jesus, after His death, rose again in victory and is our coming King.

Matt. 27:25
The Jews readily accepted responsibility for Christ’s death. One can only dismiss as ludicrous the following explanation of their words. In 1990, the people of Oberammergau were preparing to enact their three century old Passion Play. The Jews objected that it was antisemitic in that it blamed them for Christ’s death. The focus of attention with this verse. There was some discussion of dropping it from the script. It was retained by a narrow vote. At this point the director, Otto Huber, offered his interpretation of the words, citing some radical theologians. He said the words are really a reference to the saving power of Christ’s death, a sign of the New Covenant in the same sense as “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” This is utter nonsense. (Source: TIME Magazine, June 4, 1990).

Matt. 27:27-31
Emblems of royalty: 1) A royal robe (vs. 28; cf. Rev. 19:13); 2) A royal crown (vs. 29; cf. Rev. 19:12); 3) A royal sceptre (vs. 29; cf. Rev. 19:15); 4) A royal entourage (vs. 29; cf. Rev. 19:14); 5) A royal title (vs. 37; cf. Rev. 19:16). Conspicuous by their absence: 6) A royal prerogative (the sovereign right to act as He wills). We see Christ utterly submissive and acted upon in Matthew (vs. 26, 27, 28, 30, 31), whereas in Revelation He takes kingly action (Rev. 19:11). 7) A royal pronouncement or declaration. In Matthew, Christ says nothing during this abuse (cf. Isa. 53:7), but in Revelation, “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword” (Rev. 19:15). This visionary image likely depicts His word of judgment on His enemies.

Matt. 28:6
“He is risen!” That announcement, coupled with the one recorded in John 19:30, “It is finished,” proclaims the legal letter and the living power of the gospel. The work of redemption is accomplished, and its sign and seal is the empty tomb. Now we wait expectantly for one more grand pronouncement, “The Bridegroom cometh” (25:6).

“Come, see.” Compare vs. 7, “Go...and tell.” As it was for the resurrection, so it is for all of God’s truth. First come and see. There is a commitment of the will and an involvement of the senses, aided by spiritual perception. Unstated, there is a presumption of satisfaction with what is seen. That becomes part of the motivation to go and tell. That which is received is to bear fruit. That which has been received freely is to be given likewise (10:8). This continues the propigation of the good news.


Question: Jeanette asks, “Some groups teach that sinners will be annihilated after death and cease to exist, rather than suffering eternal punishment in the lake of fire. What does the Bible teach?

Answer: Annihilationism is the theory that human beings cease to exist after death, a theory Seventh Day Adventism holds in common with the Jehovah’s Witness cult and some others. Pure annihilationism teaches that we are all like the animals and have no immortality. When we are dead, that is the end for everyone.

A variation on this notion is what is called conditional immortality. It says that only those who are saved are immortal. That God grants sinners immortality when they are saved–the other side of the coin being that the unsaved are annihilated at death, and there is for them no eternal punishment in hell. Comforting as these theories may be to some, neither of them is in keeping with the teaching of God’s Word.

Not only the saved, but also the unsaved will be raised bodily from the dead in the day of resurrection (Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:25-29). At that time, the unsaved will be judged at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-12), and condemned to eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Jesus describes this as a place of “everlasting fire” originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), and a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48). This same fate not only awaits the unsaved of the Old Testament era and the Church Age, but also those who worship the antichrist (the “beast”) during the coming Tribulation (Rev. 14:11).

While I would hesitate to use it as clear proof, there is another passage that relates to this issue. It is Jesus’ account of the destiny of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Some commentators see it as another of Jesus’ parables, a made-up story. If that were the case, it would not be wise to use it as evidence for what occurs after death. However, there are indications this is not a parable, but rather a true account. Jesus actually names individuals involved–Lazarus and Abraham, which He did not do in any parable He told. (The rich man is traditionally called Dives [DYE-vees], but this is simply Latin for rich.) Jesus quotes Abraham several times (vs. 25-26, 29, 31). If it is merely a made-up story, we put Jesus in a position of telling people Abraham said things he never actually said–which would be a falsehood!

The significance of the account is that it graphically describes the rich man in a place of torment after death (vs. 22-24). The place is called Hades in Greek, Sheol in Hebrew. Before the cross, the departed saints were kept nearby in a place of comfort and blessing called by Jesus “Abraham’s bosom” (vs. 22) with “a great gulf” between them and the unsaved (vs. 26). (Since Calvary, believers go immediately into the presence of the glorified Christ–Lk. 23:42-43; Phil. 1:21, 23; II Cor. 5:8.)

Relevant to our discussion at this point, Hades continues to be the temporary abode of the wicked dead until the last judgment at the Great White Throne. (Thus some have been there already for thousands of years.) Three times the text speaks of the rich man being in “torment” (vs. 23, 24, 28). Two Greek words are used for this with similar meanings connoting intense pain, torture and sorrow. The rich man is fully aware of all that is happening to him and desperately regretful. He wishes he could keep his brothers from the same fate (vs. 28). There is certainly no annihilation for him.

Some claim the “second death” of which Scripture speaks means those who experience it cease to exist. But there is no biblical warrant to interpret the term that way. The second death is the point at which the sinner is condemned to eternal separation from God in a place of everlasting punishment (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). The individual’s ongoing existence in the lake of fire is illustrated by the fate of the antichrist (the “beast”) and his false prophet–both human beings, by the way. They will be cast into the fire at the beginning of the Kingdom Age (Rev. 19:20), and will still be there a thousand years later (Rev. 20:10).

Question: Glenn writes, “During our New Years Eve party at a friend’s home we had a discussion about what it means in Scripture when it says that Christ was a perfect sacrifice. My question is specifically dealing with the prophesy in the Old Testament, that was fulfilled at the crucifixion in John 19:36, where it says, "Not one of His bones were broken." In our discussion there was a bit of a disagreement as to what this verse means. Concerning His bones, is it correct to say that this would even include when Christ was a child, that not one of His bones would be broken? In what way was Christ a perfect sacrifice?

Answer: I know of no specific verse in the King James (or New King James) versions which describes Christ as “a perfect sacrifice.” Almost always the word “perfect” applies to ordinary human beings. And rather than having the sense of sinless perfection it usually means complete or mature. (The New King James renders it so in verses such as: I Cor. 2:6, “those who are mature;” II Tim. 3:17, “that the man of God may be complete.”) That Christ is the one and only truly perfect Sacrifice is without doubt. This perfection related both to the kind of sacrifice offered (i.e. His Person) and the result of the sacrifice. Christ was sinlessly perfect in Himself in the most absolute sense, using the word to mean flawless, without the slightest imperfection. He is compared to “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18-19; cf. 2:22; Heb. 4:15). He is the only One to ever walk this earth who lived his whole life utterly and completely without sin.

Then, Christ’s sacrifice was perfect in its outcome in that it fully accomplished the Father’s will. In his multi-volume work on theology, Lewis Sperry Chafer discusses some fourteen things accomplished by the death of Christ (Systematic Theology, Vol. III, pp. 55-115). For simplicity’s sake, let me mention just one: that Christ fully and completely paid the debt of the world’s sin (I Jn. 2:2). There is not a single human sin that has been or ever will be committed that was not paid for at the cross. The Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). It is a perfect redemption.

I am not sure what connection your question makes between these things and John 19:36. However, let me comment on the verse. John quotes a psalm of David and applies it to Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ps. 34:20). We know next to nothing about the childhood or the teen years of Jesus (except about the trip to Jerusalem when He was twelve, Lk. 2:41-52). Therefore, we simply do not know whether He suffered any broken bones in His youth. I am sure in many ways He was a normal active boy. However, Satan later applied Psalm 91:11-12 to Christ: “He shall give His angels charge over You...lest You dash Your foot against a stone” (Matt. 4:6). Was he correct in seeing this as referring to Christ? It would seem so. And if so, it does suggest God’s special protection of Him.

All this aside, the reference in John 19:36 is not to Jesus’ life in general but to the crucifixion in particular. With this brutal method of execution it sometimes took many hours–even days–for death to come. Victims would often brace their feet against the vertical post of the cross and push, to lift the weight off the nails through their wrists (not the palms, as is often depicted). This upward thrust took pressure off the diaphragm and aided breathing. But if the Romans wished to hasten death and bring the torture to an end, they would shatter the legs of the individual, making this impossible. Death often came quickly by suffocation as a result.

The Jews were anxious to hasten Jesus’ death so His body could be removed before the beginning of the Sabbath (Jn. 19:31), which, according to Jewish reckoning, officially began at 6:00 p.m. Friday. But when a soldier came to Jesus that day, it was evident He was already dead (vs. 33), so he did not break the leg bones. He did however thrust Him through the heart with a spear (vs. 34), fulfilling yet another Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 12:10). Thus, from the human perspective, the bones were left intact simply because it was unnecessary to break them. It served no valid purpose. But from God’s perspective it was according to plan.

The Jews were specifically taught not to break the bones of the Passover lamb (Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12), and the Lord Jesus Christ was Himself the fulfilment of the Jewish Passover ceremony (I Cor. 5:7; cf. Jn. 1:29). There are several possible reasons for the leg bones of the lamb (and of Christ, the Lamb of God) to be left intact.

1) It is understandable that the Passover lamb was to be handled with special reverence because it was a picture of Christ.

2) The bones being unbroken suggests unity and wholeness, perhaps symbolizing the oneness of the spiritual body of Christ (Eph. 4:4).

3) The legs relate to the walk or behaviour, and there was a wholeness and perfection in the daily walk of the Son of God. (Cf. Ps. 51:7-9, where the destructive effects of sin are compared to broken bones.)

Next Month: A question about whether Christians have the right to "judge" others. Some say no, based on Matthew 7:1. But there is more to it than that.

NEW BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on the Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


Prepare a sturdy box which can stand up to reuse. One possibility is to purchase a good-sized lunch pail for the purpose. You could paint Mystery Box on the side of it, or perhaps scattered question marks. Inside the lid of the box, glue the following instructions.


God has designed the physical world around us to be full of illustrations of spiritual truth. Everything from rainbows to rocks, wind to weeds, and more, is used in the Bible to teach important lessons. For example, Proverbs says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard [you lazy person]! Consider her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6). In the verses that follow, ants are used to teach the importance of hard work and careful preparation for the future.

Using this principle of comparison, we can illustrate many valuable lessons using objects we find around the house. Think! What lesson might by illustrated with a mirror, or a postage stamp, or a glass of water, or a packet of seeds? Here is your assignment–something the whole family can work on together:

1) Choose a familiar small object. It should be something recognizable to the pastor and to most of us in the church, or the lesson may be lost.

2) Decide on a good lesson that can be illustrated by the object. Discuss this together. You could ask your family and friends for ideas. Some clues: Ask yourself what the item is used for. What are its characteristics? What would happen if you didn’t have one? And how is something here like what we have, or need, in our Christian lives?

3) Place the object in the Mystery Box, and bring it to church. Wrap it carefully, if it is something that could spill or get broken.

4) During the morning service, the pastor will take a quick look at the object, and try to come up with a lesson that could be illustrated by it.

5) If you stump the pastor–if he can’t think of a good less from the object you brought–you can share a lesson you came up with.

In introducing this project, the pastor himself should choose the items for several weeks, so everyone understands what is required. Then, he can ask for a volunteer–either an individual or a family– to take the box home and come up with something themselves. You could do this for several weeks, and then take a break from it. Use your own judgment. Don’t let the activity become stale.

The objective behind this little game is to teach the use of analogy. Much of the wisdom of Proverbs uses this technique. By being observant and using some imagination, we can find wonderful illustrations of spiritual truth all around us. This should become a habit!

2) The best Bible study tool ever! At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.
Check out this practical material.

3) Also see, on the website, an article called 12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


Israel My Glory is the award-winning monthly magazine of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry Incorporated. The magazine accurately characterizes itself as, “The world’s most popular magazine on Israel, the Bible and prophecy.” This excellent publication provides articles on Jewish history and culture, and sound articles on theology. But perhaps its most valuable contribution is its commentary on the news as it pertains to Israel and to the Jews across the world. Recognizing that many in the news media are biased against Israel, one is hard-pressed to hear the other side of current issues. Israel My Glory provides this. Very highly recommended.

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