5 reasons for the fear-destroying death of Christ

April 10, 2020

Hebrews 2:10-18 explains Hebrews 2:9, which states that Jesus tasted death for everyone. Specifically, this passage answers the question, “Why did Jesus taste death for everyone?” And there are at least five answers to that question found in verses 10-18, which should give us hope when we face trials like the coronavirus pandemic.

First, Jesus tasted death to be made perfect through suffering (v. 10). 

What does it mean to say that Jesus was “made perfect through suffering?” 

Those familiar with Scripture are probably thinking, “Jesus is already perfect. He is without sin. How could he be made any more perfect than he is?” And, of course, Jesus is sinless. He is morally perfect. But moral perfection is not what this passage is referring to. Instead, the focus is on Jesus’ obedience as the incarnate Son of God. 

In a very real sense, while Jesus was perfectly holy from the time of his conception by the Holy Spirit, Jesus needed to be tested and tried in his humanity. His obedience as a man needed to be brought to completion, fulfillment, or perfection, as this verse states. This becomes clearer when we read verse 18, which states that Jesus can help us in our temptation, because he himself was also tempted. He understands our temptation because he was tempted too, but he did not arrive on earth with such understanding from the perspective of a human being. 

When the Son of God took on flesh and became a man, whom we call Jesus, God experienced something that he had never experienced before, namely, a man. There were experiences and sufferings that Jesus had to endure to be able to fulfill his role as our Great High Priest, and these were things that he had not yet experienced as the Son of God before his incarnation. So, Jesus tasted death. He endured suffering in order to be made perfectly fit for his role as a sympathetic and merciful High Priest.

Second, Jesus tasted death to identify with us in suffering (v. 11-14). 

Verses 11-14 makes this point clear, which is related to the last point. Now, though, the focus is on how Jesus’ suffering relates to us as sons and daughters of God. The author of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8 to highlight the role of Jesus as the suffering Messiah. He endures suffering and trusts the Lord for vindication in his suffering while “bringing many sons and daughters to glory.” By Jesus, we are returning to the glory that we all fell short of in our sin (Rom. 3:23). And the means of our being brought back is through the sufferings of Christ. 

As C.S. Lewis put it, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” In other words, Jesus became like us in order to redeem us. He didn’t just phone our salvation in. He came to us in our weakness and need, and took on that same weakness in order to redeem us from it. Because Jesus became like us, we can become like him, in the sense that we can be children of God. The author makes this point explicitly at the beginning of verse 14, stating, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.”

Third, Jesus tasted death so that he might destroy Satan and deliver us from fear of death (v. 14-16). 

At first, you may not see the connection between Satan and fear of death. Your first thought might be, “Well, if I die and I am not a Christian, shouldn’t I be afraid of God. Isn’t he going to be the One who judges me? What power does Satan have at my judgment before God?” God is the judge before whom we will stand and give an account. So how does Satan wield the power of death? Satan wields the power of death through accusation. He is our accuser. He is the one who rattles us as we are facing the prospect of standing before the judgment seat of Christ. In Revelation, Satan is described as “the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:10).

As the founder of our salvation, Jesus is perfectly equipped to sympathize with us in our struggles, free us from fear of death, and empower us in the midst of our temptation. There is no one else to whom we can flee for salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our hope.

So, what are we going to do? The author of Hebrews realizes that humanity has a real problem when it comes to death. In Hebrews 9:27, the author writes, “For it is appointed unto man once to die and then comes the judgment.” Do you realize that judgment is coming? That we will be held accountable? How will you stand before God one day? Well, according to this passage, your only hope is found in Jesus, the founder of our salvation, who destroys the devil and the fear of death. 

But you might be asking, “Ok, great, Jesus defeats the devil and strips him of the power of enslavement to fear of death. But how does this deal with my guilt and my sin?” This leads us to the fourth reason that Jesus tasted death. 

Fourth, Jesus tasted death to satisfy God’s wrath toward us (v. 17). 

We need to see and understand the relationship between our freedom from fear of death and the work of Jesus as our High Priest. This verse uses a glorious word: propitiation. Propitiation refers to the work of Jesus Christ whereby he absorbs and satisfies God’s righteous, holy, and just wrath toward our sin. 

In God’s holiness, someone must be held accountable for our rebellion. Someone must do the time for the crime. Someone must be punished. It would be unrighteous for God to clear the guilty without retribution. And that is the devil’s point in his accusations against before God. We are guilty. We have sinned. We deserve to die eternally for our sin. We deserve the wrath and judgment of God. Therefore, when we hear these accusations, we are terrified. We are enslaved. 

So, what is the solution to our plight? What is our hope in this seemingly hopeless situation? It is that Jesus was made like us in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for our sins. Our hope is found in that fact that Jesus took the penalty and punishment that we deserved. The wrath and judgment that should have fallen upon us, fell on Jesus Christ. When the hammer of God’s justice dropped, it dropped on Christ, who willingly, for the joy that was set before him, took our place. God’s wrath is satisfied toward those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, the threats of the devil are empty. They have no power because Jesus’ death and resurrection have stripped them of their power. Sin and death have no ultimate power over us because Jesus has died and rose again in our place.

Fifth, Jesus tasted death in order to help us in temptation (v. 18). 

Jesus suffered in our place in ways that we will never suffer. Jesus overcame temptation in the midst of suffering, so that when we are faced with temptation, we might endure and resist by trusting our Heavenly Father as Jesus did in the midst of his suffering. He helps us not as one who does not know what we are going through, but rather, as One who was made perfect through suffering and is able to carry us through our temptation.

In conclusion, as the founder of our salvation, Jesus is perfectly equipped to sympathize with us in our struggles, free us from fear of death, and empower us in the midst of our temptation. There is no one else to whom we can flee for salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our hope. 

As we face the temptation to despair in the face of the coronavirus, we must place our hope in Christ. Our salvation from earthly disease and disaster is found in the One who took on flesh, dwelt among the decay that sin has brought, and delivered us from it through his life, death, and resurrection. As you contemplate your own mortality in the face of disease, turn your eyes to Jesus, the One who, through death, destroyed the one who has the power of death—the devil—and delivers us from slavery to the fear of death.

Casey B. Hough

Casey B. Hough (Ph.D., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as lead pastor at Copperfield Church in Houston, Texas, and assistant professor of biblical interpretation at a Luther Rice College and Seminary. Casey and his wife, Hannah, have three sons and two daughters. For more ministry resources from Casey, visit his … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24