The Death Jesus Died – Response to Gary Summers on the Death Jesus Died
William Bell, Dr. Div.
The opponents of Covenant Eschatology are in full panic mode, as illustrated by the fact that they are now claiming– almost unbelievably
that Jesus never died the death of Adam! Gary Summers, seeking to extricate Howard Denham from his embarrassing debate with Holger Neubauer did a “review”
of that debate. But, in his review, he did more than review. He inserted new arguments in a vain attempt to bolster Denham’s case. In the article below, William Bell
Examines Summers’ attempt and finds if fatally flawed.
Gary Summers, moves from the position of being a spectator commenting and
reviewing the Denham Neubauer debate, to debating the issues by making
arguments that Denham did not make. However, in so doing, he so thoroughly and
completely makes our case and destroys both his and Denham’s position on
Summers cites two examples and then by way of transfer, he attributes similar
reasoning to Neubauer. The first is Joyce Meyer whom he says believes Jesus was
tormented and mocked three days in Hades and that everyone who does not so
believe her view is going to hell.
Secondly, he gives his own argument [which was not a part of the debate critique
but his insertion of extraneous material] of Jesus healing diseases and taking on
infirmities and bearing sicknesses. He argues that Jesus did not have to become ill,
lame, blind or deaf to heal us. The conclusion he draws is that Jesus was not
required to die in separation from the Father to heal us from sin.
The fallacy of this argument is that it relegates diseases, infirmities and the bearing
of sicknesses to the body only. When the essence of diseases is the stress of mind
and spirit that result from it. Even when a person is paralyzed or lifeless, i.e. without
feeling in certain parts of the body, the mental anguish and stress from the loss of
that limb, organ, etc can be devastating, even suicidal. Thus, the true essence of
bearing the infirmities is far deeper than a physical identification. Summers wrongly
reasons that if he cannot see the physical bearing of infirmities, it means they were
not born by Christ.
As the saying goes, that which proves too much proves nothing. That is precisely
what Summers’ argument does.
First, note that Summers and Denham, argue that the penalty of sin was physical
death. If Summer’s argument is correct, then Jesus did not die physically on the
cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He only appeared to die and the New
Testament writers have all lied to us in stating that Christ died.
The soldier pierced his side, showing the blood had separated from water, a
pathological proof of physical death. But, since physical death is the penalty for sin
according to Denham and Summers, then Jesus never died. How ludicrous! It’s
Secondly, some also teach that spiritual and physical death is the penalty for sin.
That does not solve the problem. Rather, it compounds the difficulty. If Jesus died
physically, but not spiritually, then we have only half the atonement for sin. Only
half the penalty was paid. But worse, the penalty paid effected the opposite result.
Jesus did not a sin death but we are redeemed from sin. He died physically in our
stead and yet we physically die.
According to Summers’ logic, we are yet paying our own penalty for physical death,
since we all must experience it. Seems we have to have “skin in the game” on a “pay
to play” basis. One needs to ask, are we physically dying now because of sin or
because of righteousness?
Summers seems to suggest that we might believe that Jesus was in torment for three
days per his reference to Joyce Meyer. We categorically deny such a charge. Our
reasons follow below. What Summers has failed to do is recognize all the clues and
evidences in the text as Meyers has done. He does add that Jesus didn’t suffer for
even three hours to state “his” disapproval of Meyers’ contention but he never gives
us that credit.
Then he adds, “the price for sin was crucifixion—not being disfellowshipped.”
Interestingly, he cites 1 Peter 2:24, “Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree,
that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you
Consider for a moment that the reason Jesus is dying for the sins of mankind is
because all men had sinned and the result was their separation from God. Sin caused
the separation between man and God, i.e. death. Yet, Jesus bore not one man’s sins
but all men’s sins in His body. These were the same sins that separated all men from
God. Yet, somehow magically, when Jesus takes them upon Himself, bearing them in
his body, they lose their power to separate one from God.
That means Jesus has all the sins of the world upon Him but remains in full
fellowship with the Father. That is a worse doctrine than saying that Jesus was not
separated from the Father. It says the Godhead was in full fellowship with sin. It
says the Father and the Holy Spirit who did not take upon themselves the sins of the
world, now fellowshipped sin. If the entire Godhead fellowshipped sin who was
there available to forgive sin? If Jesus bore the sins of the world in His own body
and was in fellowship with the Father, then the Father was in fellowship with sin. If
not, why not?
Thirdly, according to Leviticus 16, the high priest in making atonement brought a
live goat. Upon it, he laid both his hands on the head of the live goat and confessed
over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions,
concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and then sent it away
into the wilderness. The next verse reads: “The goat shall bear on itself all their
iniquities to an uninhabited land and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”
In other words, the High Priest, transferred the sins of all Israel from Himself to the
scape goat. Margaret Barker, world renown temple typology scholar says the High
Priest could not transfer the sins if he did not possess them.
The high priest, the LORD, brought about the healing and renewal by absorbing the effects of
the evil into himself. Again, this has to be deduced from several texts: the high priest
absorbed (‘bore’) the impurities of the people’s offerings when he was wearing the golden
plate of the sacred name (Ex. 28:38); the Suffering Servant made atonement when he bore
the sins and iniquities of many (Is. 53:11-12); Jesus the healer ‘bore’ infirmities and diseases
of those he cured (Mt. 8:17). Having absorbed all the impurities into himself, the high priest
transferred them to the head of the goat’ for Azazel’ and sent them into the desert. How
could he have transferred the sins unless they were ‘his’ to transfer? (NB The Hebrew word
nasa’ means both ‘bear’ and ‘forgive’. “On Earth As It Is In Heaven, p. 55.
Note also that the ‘live goat’ was sent away into the wilderness. “The goat shall bear
on itself to an uninhibited land and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.” (v.
22). Hebrews shows clearly, that Christ suffered “outside the gate”, outside that
ground that was considered “holy ground” on which the temple stood. The Jews
themselves treated him as one out of fellowship, cast away into the wilderness in
His suffering and death.
The parallel is pressed further when Jesus’ death outside the city walls is compared
to disposing of the goat’s body; after the blood had been used in the ritual the
carcass was burned outside the camp (Heb. 13:11-12). If the argument of these
passages is to have any meaning it must be that the death of Jesus was the final Day
of Atonement offering, not the annual temple substitutes when the LORD and his
Day had been ritualized, but the heavenly reality realized. The Lord had come and
made the great atonement where there was no substitution.” Ibid, p. 56
Isaiah 53:6 makes it clear that God laid upon Christ, the iniquity of us all. “All we like
sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone to his own way; and the LORD
has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Visible Clues of the Separation
For those who understand the cosmic temple layout of the universe, very briefly,
heaven is the place of God’s throne, i.e. the Most Holy Place, the earth is the place of
man’s incarnation, and the firmament or expanse in the sky is the veil.1 For the
1 Beale writes: Likewise, the veil symbolizes the airy covering of the earth that
In reflecting on the overall significance of the tabernacle, Josephus says, ‘every one
of these objects [of the tabernacles] is intended to recall and represent the nature of
the universe’ (Ant. 3.180). G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, A
Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, Ed. D. A. Carson, pp. 46-47.
© 2017 William Bell 4
temple as a microcosm of the world, see Hebrews 9:1f, depicting the worldly
sanctuary, and the most holy place separated by a veil. N.T. Wright states that
temples have within them images of God. Thus, God made the world and place man
in that cosmic world temple as His image.
As Jesus took on the sins of man, the visible evidence of his separation from the
Father was demonstrated in nature. “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?” (Matt. 27:45-46).
The connection of these events in nature are not without design. It is after bearing
the darkness of the veil of separation from the father for three hours (sixth to the
ninth hour) that Jesus cries out. He does not cry out, My God, My God, would you
forsake Me, but why have you forsaken Me? The Greek is even more emphatic for it
reads, “why Me have you forsaken?” Forsaken is from egkatelipes2 which means “to
leave in a place or situation, Acts 2:27; to leave behind; to forsake, abandon, Matt.
27:46, to leave as a remnant from destruction, Ro. 9:29. However, the word is 2 per.
Sing. Aor. 2 ind. Act. It states that Jesus had already been forsaken by the Father. In
other words, the question is both a question and an affirmation. It’s like asking a
person who has struck you, why did you hit me? The question implies and affirms
the truth of the action stated within it.
Thayer says it means to abandon, desert, leave in straits, leave helpless, Matt. 27:46;
15:34, from Psa 22; Heb. 13:5; pass. 2 Cor. 4:9; by forsaking one to let him go into
Hades, abandon unto Hades, Acts 2:27, to desert, forsake, 2 Tim. 4:10, 16. 3
Abandoned to Hades
The fact that Christ was “abandoned temporarily to Hades” further indicates the
separation between Himself and the Father. Hades is never spoken of as a blessing
with the Father. It is the place where men, separated from God went after death. The
reason, they could not go into God’s presence was because of sin. It is the spiritual
wilderness outside the tabernacle of God.
That Hades is the enemy of the church is seen in Matt. 16:18. Christ would build his
church and the gates of Hades would not “prevail” against it or overpower it. When
Jesus rose from the dead he claimed in his victory over death, victory over Hades. “I
am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I
have the keys of Hades and of Death. (Rev. 1:18).
2 Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 113
3 Joseph Henry Thayer, “Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.
166 (Strong’s # 1459),
In Jesus’ death, he conquered the principalities and powers, leading them captive.
Hades was one of those principalities. 1 Corinthians 15:55 defines Hades as Death,
i.e. separation from the Father. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is
your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
Thus, Peter, quoting David, who spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, said, “For
You will not “abandon” or leave my soul in Hades.” (Acts 2:27) Now it is clear that
the body of Christ did not go to Hades. His body was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s
new tomb. It is from that place his body was raised. Christ’s soul went to Hades, the
place of separation from the Father. Jesus’ body was never separated from the
Father for it was never in Hades.
This does not mean he suffered for three days in torment and mockery as Meyers
suggests. The place in Hades called Abraham’s bosom or paradise was not a place of
suffering. However, that did not mean it was not a place of separation from the
Father. Those who were in Hades were not in the kingdom of God (Matt. 8:11-12)
and thus required resurrection from it. Jesus did not receive the kingdom until His
ascension and coronation. But what is resurrection but the overcoming of death?
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e. all those under the first testament, were yet under
transgression. “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by
means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant,
that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Heb.
In Acts 3:25-26 we learn that the covenant promise made to Abraham through His
Seed was the blessing of all families of the earth by turning away every one of you
from your iniquities. The context is clearly at the time when God would send Jesus
Christ from heaven, fulfilling all things spoken by the mouth of all his Holy Prophets
since the age began, at the time when he would judge those who refused to hear the
Prophet like unto Moses. In other words, it is the time of judgment upon the Jews.
Paul repeats this covenant promise in Romans 11:26-27, saying, “And so all Israel
will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn
away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away
This is the meaning of Paul’s question and response in 1 Cor. 15 when he asked
about the faithful saints of Israel who were yet in Hades.
“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead [ones] raised up? And with what body do
they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.” In other
words, those who were “alive to sin” in death, had to “die to sin” through the risen
Savior who made atonement for them.
A woman who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives, 1 Tim. 5:6. Dead how? She is
dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. 2:1. Yet, she is physically alive. Another way of
saying it is that she is alive to sin and physically alive. If she does not repent and
obey the Lord during her lifetime she will die in her sins. Then she will be yet “alive
to sin” but physically dead. Now those who were faithful, could not have their sins
removed through the blood of bulls and goats. Thus, when they died, they too were
“alive to sin”. But, their faith in Jesus Christ, would ultimately bring about their
deliverance from “sin death” thereby releasing them from Hades. As the writer in
Hebrews stated, “these all died in faith, not having received the promise.”
Therefore, unlike the woman who lived in pleasure, i.e. without faith, the righteous
O.T. saints lived by faith but died physically without receiving the promise. They
were yet therefore, “alive to sin” and before their release from Hades, they had to
“die to sin”. Hence, Paul’s words, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.
Unless the “dead ones” (Israel) died to sin, in death, they could not be made alive.
They would perish. But because of their faith, God raised them from that death,
through Christ, who was the firstfruits from the dead. Firstfruits means a pledge
that the rest of the harvest would be blessed. It also meant, with Christ’s
resurrection from Hades, the harvest had begun and was imminent.
The dead ones arise, i.e. receive the promise only at Christ’s coming. Yet their rising
would be “every man in his own order”, Christ, the firstfruits and afterward those
who were Christ’s at his coming, 1 Cor. 15:23.
Don Preston, D. Div., has clearly pointed out that this verse expresses the order of
the resurrection, especially when used with tagmati (tagma, i.e. anything placed in
order of succession). 4
1. Christ, the firstfruit
2. Epeita (then, after or in the next place)5 those who are Christ at his Parousia
3. Eita, (afterwords, in the next place)6 then the end, when he shall have
delivered up the kingdom to God.
This is why David, who had not yet ascended into the heavens, (Acts 2:33) wrote in
Psalms 17:15, that he would be satisfied when he awoke in the likeness of Messiah.
Hence, Paul quoting that Psalm along with Daniel 12:2, said, “Awake to
righteousness, [the opposite of sin death], and do not sin, for some have not the
knowledge of God. (1 Cor. 15:34)
Hades, is therefore the opposite of awaking to righteousness. It is the state of sin
death. It’s powers however could not hold the Christ, for no sooner than Christ died,
the atonement was completed and forgiveness accomplished. Several indicators
from the cross scene demonstrate this.
4 Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 398
5 Ibid, p. 151
6 Ibid, p. 121
First, the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom. This demonstrated the
divine action that the way into the holiest was now opened, God having accepted the
sacrifice of Christ.
Secondly, it corresponded in time with the piercing of Jesus’ body or flesh, which
again Hebrews 10:19 -20 says opened the new and living way consecrated by that
veil of Christ’s flesh. Christ’s flesh was the veil that masked or covered his true
divine essence or Presence. After witnessing all the events at the cross, the
centurion could say nothing but cry out, Truly this was the Son of God.
The Death Christ Died
In Romans 6:7, Paul concluded, “For he who has died has been freed from sin. This is
a very important text that serves to identify precisely the death that Christ died.
Paul writes further, (8) “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also
live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no
more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
According to the context of Romans 6, what death did Christ die? The answer is
given in verse 10. “For [the death] that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the
[the life] that He lives, He lives to God.
The Scriptures state that Christ died to sin. Death is separation. From what was
Christ separated? How could he die to that to which he was not joined or to which
he was not alive? Whatever Christ died to, the saints joined with Him in that death
and died to the same. To what death did the saints die? They were to reckon
themselves to be dead indeed to sin. How and why? It’s because the death they died,
is the death into which they were buried with Christ. They were buried into “His
But, if the only death Christ died was physical, then the only death that could be
called “His death” is physical death. That can only mean that the death into which
the believers were baptized was physical death. If these brethren who argue that
Christ did not die to sin, i.e. separation from the Father followed their argument to
its logical and consistent end they would be gospel murderers, not gospel preachers.
The believers die to what they were alive to, namely to sin. But whatever they die to
is called Christ’s death. Therefore, it is incontrovertible that Christ was “alive to sin”
and died to sin because the death they died was His death. That is the only death in
Summers claimed the consequences of Jesus’ separation from the Father are
terrifying. Really? How terrifying is it to have the entire Godhead engulfed in sin?
Then he asks, when did Jesus give up his Deity? He claimed that Phil. 2:5-8 does not
teach that Christ gave up the full glory of his Deity but rather, only the privileges of
the Godhead, i.e. the right to be served.
He then claims Christ was omniscient on earth, because he saw Nathaniel under the
fig tree (Jn. 1:47-48) and what men were reasoning in their hearts (Mark 2:6). He
also knew about the temple tax before Peter ever broached the subject (Matt. 17:24-
27). He says Jesus did not surrender His omniscience.
Summers fails to acknowledge that Christ received all his revelations from the
Father. Further, it was clear that in Jesus’ incarnation he did not know the day and
hour of his coming, (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32) Thus, according to Summers’ logic, if
knowing all things, i.e. being omniscient means Jesus and the Father always know all
things, then Jesus could not be God while on earth because there were things he did
not know. Summers cannot deny this because he and Denham argue that Christ did
not know the day and hour while on earth. Some brethren argue that even now he
does not know.
Jesus made it clear that whatever knowledge he received came from the Father. In
Revelation 1:1, the text clearly states that God gave Christ the Revelation to show to
His servants—things which must shortly take place. Now did Christ already have
this revelation before the Father gave it to Him? If he did the Bible is untrue. If He
did not, then the text not only affirms that Christ’s knowledge was limited to the
Father’s authority on earth, but also in heaven. This text is describing events after
Jesus has ascended to the throne.
1 Corinthians 15 makes certain that Christ is subject to the Father, even after the
Father has put all things under Christ’s feet. “…It is evident that He who put all
things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then
the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God
may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:27-28)
After all, Paul wrote, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ,
the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Did you notice that,
namely, the head of Christ is God? (1 Cor 11:3) Both passages from 1 Corinthians
were written after Jesus’ ascension to the Father. Thus, Christ can be in a position
less than the Father, “for My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and yet be God,
the Son, no less divine than the mystery of the Godhead allows. Do I understand all
of what that entails? No. But these passages cannot be denied and they are as simple
and self-evident as the nose on Summers’ face. Jesus could say both, My Father and I
are one, (John 10:30) but also that My Father is greater than I. (John 14:28) The
Father sent the Son into the world (Jn. 13:16). The Father gave authority to the Son
to judge. The Father also gave the Son the power to raise the dead. (John 5:22, 26-
27) Yet Jesus also has that power. Yet, we never read that the Son gave the power,
any power to the Father. Christ clearly said, “Do you not believe that I am in the
Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My
own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10) Christ
did nothing except what he saw the Father do, (Jn. 5:19). The Son was “begotten” of
the Father (Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33)
These verses and related ones, demonstrate that the Godhead does not imply
equality in all areas else the Holy Spirit would not be subject to the revelation from
Whether Christ’s Deity was absorbed by the Father and the Holy Spirit or not, the
above texts cannot be refuted without denying the inspiration of the Bible and
calling the Lord himself a liar. Summers’ claims this is awful doctrine. He says we
didn’t think it through before presenting it in debate. He had time to hear the
debate, reflect on it and write on it, yet his positions makes the entire Godhead
fellowship sin separating the Father even from Himself!
For more on the death of Christ, get a copy of Don K. Preston’s book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory. This book has an amazing
discussion of the death of Christ and the resurrection body of Christ.