Death Before the Cross

By Lloyd Ellefson

The religious attainments of man have resulted in various translations of the Bible, verse by verse expositions, and many encyclopedias and dictionaries. These are made by people who were already associated with religious denominations. A cascade of teaching mixed with the traditions that have accumulated over the years, has come down to us.

There is only one truth, one Spirit, one Lord, one baptism, and one hope of our calling. This hope has foundation and has assurance. As sons of God, we have the hope of being regenerated into true witnesses in the earth.

The purpose of the ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to mature the saints so that the body of Christ is edified and brought into a unity of faith. (Eph. 4:11-12) We need to understand that these ministries are really Christ in operation; they are not human attainments, nor are they man's office. Therefore all the glory belongs to God!

People have various beliefs regarding salvation and God's plan for the future. Some believe that they are forgiven, that heaven will one day be their home, and that Jesus is returning physically; some believe that, although they are forgiven and born again, they are still sinners; some believe they are sons of God; some believe that the manifestation of the sons of God, the millenium, and the holy city coming down, are future events. There are also those who know that they already are the temple of God and the tabernacle of witness in the earth.

A perfect man has to be a true image of God - one who represents the exact, unadulterated image of who God is. Only Christ is that! That is why we have to grow in the knowledge of Christ, the Son of God! Those who are in Christ, are in the Son of Man while they live in earthy temples. They have been born from above, and their true nature is the nature of the Son of God. As their true nature emerges, they will be true witnesses of God and Christ in the earth. They will witness to the fact that God is their Father and Christ is their life. They receive revelation that their new life is really Christ, and that He is the Word of God! They are edified by Him!

The many wrong teachings and traditions in which we have been trained, have a negative effect on us. The proper understanding of what is meant by the cross and the death of Jesus Christ is vital to understanding the work of Christ in us.

In Rom. 6:3 it says, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" This baptism into Christ is a baptism into His death. We cannot get into Christ as those who reside in Adam. We can only get into Him by being raised from the dead, because Christ has been raised from the dead! He now dwells in life - and so do we!

Being baptized into Christ means being baptized into His death. Christians are not agreed upon whether this is a spiritual baptism or a water baptism. Paul said that there is only one baptism. So then water baptism is only a representation of the real baptism - which is spiritual.

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (v.4) Baptism represents death and burial and being raised into a new life. The baptism of Jesus was a demonstration of this. Jesus went into the waters of baptism as one who was dead, was buried, and then raised into a new life - and so do we. If we are baptized, yet continue to hang onto our old life, we'll make a mess of things - just like the Christian system of religion has done, and is continuing to do.

Notice that Jesus died two deaths: He died to sin, and He died physically on the cross. He was put on the cross by the hands of wicked men; He was rejected and killed because people wanted Him out of the way, but His baptism into death was a voluntary act. When we are baptized into His death to sin, we are not baptized into the death He died on the cross. Our burial in water signifies that we are now dead to the old nature and to our identification with the law.

The law leads us just as it led Jesus. After the law has done its work in us and has shown us the uselessness of our own efforts, it causes us to repent. It led Jesus to John's baptism of repentance, and it leads us to repentance. Christ's burial was the burial of His identification with the law.

The Spirit of Christ was the foundation for the law; it was the foundation for Christ's baptism, His being raised again, the heavens being opened, His anointing and hearing the Father's voice, and finally being crucified. The cross did not come at the beginning of His ministry. We do not belong at the foot of the cross, for we were crucified together with Him. The word witness means martyr. As we are true witnesses of Jesus Christ we will be martyred either verbally or physically - or both.

The cross cannot be experienced unless we have first received the new life that accompanies the baptism into Christ's death and burial with Him. This is none of our doing; it is what Jesus Christ does and has done! He is those things in us when He comes to us in the Spirit.

He is the spirit of the law; He is our death to sin; He is our new life; He is our anointing; He is the heavens opened to us; He is our new consciousness, and He is our new testimony of who we are in the earth! He teaches us that the physical body has been redeemed, so that we can now be His true witnesses. He hears heavenly things and passes them on to us.

"For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." (Rom. 6:5) Our union with Him in the likeness of His death is His death to sin. The Concordant Literal translation says that we have been "planted together in the likeness of His death". This planting brings about the death of our old nature and the resurrection into His life.

We plant a seed of that which we want to harvest. Spiritually, there is only one Seed and that is the Word of God. It is a single seed and always bears the same fruit; it always bears the same Son, and it births the Christ in us. The sonship of Jesus Christ was manifested after He came to the Jordan and there was filled with the Spirit.

"Knowing this, that our old self" (humanity - Concordant) "was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." (v.6) This knowledge comes to us in our union and identification with Christ. The mind of Christ brings us His consciousness and knowledge that our body of sin has been done away. We no longer think as a natural human being about the things of God. Natural thinking causes all the problems.

The body of sin does not refer to our physical body. It is the accumulation of deception, lies and ignorance that comprises the nature of the Adamic man. He is ignorant of spiritual things and has a consciousness of separation from God. Since the natural man can't hear the things of the Spirit, he cannot hear spiritually. He can only hear whatever comes into his natural mind. So this is what he preaches. Those who cannot hear spiritually, like it, for that is all they want.

"For he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." (vv.7-8) This dying with Christ does not refer to His crucifixion, but to His death to sin. He demonstrated this death during His lifetime, and this death to sin culminated on the cross. His life reveals the personal application of it. He did this for each one of us.

"For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus...present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (vv.10,11,13b) Let's believe that! This is a matter of faith. We are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God! Paul wrote this long ago, yet people still flounder in unbelief.

"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died." (2 Cor. 5:14) Since Christ died for all, we must conclude that all were dead. The dead are those who are living in Adam. Natural man is dead in his trespasses and sins. This refers to the spiritual death that came into the world through one man, because he sinned. We are all involved in this death without any effort on our part. No one is excluded; all religious people, both Jews and Gentiles - everyone who is not in Christ - is included.

Jesus was raised from among the dead. This is mentioned about 17 times in the New Testament. Most translations have incorrectly left out the word among. Jesus lived among those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. In His identification with humanity, He went into the waters of baptism as one who was dead, was buried, and then raised into a new life.

Jesus said that God is not the God of the dead but of the living. He also said, "Let the dead bury their dead". In other words, the Adamic man does not accept God's rule. The Jews proved this by their treatment of Jesus who was the perfect expression of God. The dead in Adam rejected Him, called Him Beelzebub, put Him on the cross and killed Him. Although the leaders instigated this, the people didn't know enough about God to resist them. Nor did they care to.

Most people only understand the death that causes physical life to pass away. But people are dead before they die physically. This was true of Adam and it is true of every man who is in Adam. The flesh has a union with Adam, and it produces death. The death of Jesus demonstrated humanity's separation from God.

It says that "the soul that sins shall die." We have all sinned, and we have all died. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins! Jesus knew that we were dead. Many Christians find it hard to believe that they were dead in Adam, so they cling to their Adamic consciousness! People who are living in the Adamic consciousness cannot do the will of God, because that consciousness is anti-God! The fleshly body (which is just a vessel) can only be redeemed through the Holy Spirit. As He indwells us, we can do the will of God for we are controlled by the love of Christ! Now the fleshly body is no longer united with Adam.

Jesus is the last Adam. Everyone who is in Christ has been generated and born from above. Our union with Christ is also a union with God, for Christ and the Father are one.

Our problem is that we have misunderstood Christ's death on the cross. Humanity sees His death as a substitutionary death. It thinks that the natural person can now go to heaven, and his body will be raised out of the grave, and God will breathe life into it again. But this is not going to happen!

Many are also waiting for the physical return of Jesus. But that is not the way He returns. He is spirit and He returns in the Holy Spirit; He is to be seen in you and me - in people who are born from above! They know that they are sons, and they are bearing witness of the life of Christ - not of the Adam man. If people do not see Christ in us, they are not going to see Him. Just as the Father sent Christ, so He now sends us. (Jn. 20:21)

Jesus also said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also." (Jn. 15:20) Notice our identification with Christ! We will be treated just as Christ was. We have received the same ministry He received - the ministry of reconciling people to God. That ministry would not be needed if people were already reconciled to God. No one in the Adamic state is reconciled to God.

No man can come to Christ unless he has learned from the Father. The baptism of Jesus demonstrated that He had been taught by the Father. The Father taught Him that the law is the ministration of death. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The law is the vessel that brings death to us - death to our self-effort, our self-life and our own righteousness. We all have to pass through this death before the seed can sprout and bring us into the regenerated life that reproduces Christ. So when Jesus was baptized, in His identification with humanity, He experienced the law's ministration of death - the penalty of sin.

The law is incredibly important, but we cannot become good by obeying the law. God did not give the law for that purpose. The law is fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He is the spirit of the law - not the spirit of death.

Is being in Christ a restoration to what Adam lost? If we think we are only going to be restored to what Adam lost, we are still as vulnerable as Adam was. Adam had everything going for him in the garden, and he failed; Jesus had everyone against Him in the world and He overcame! Jesus Christ has already overcome this world!

There is a difference between overcoming the world and changing the world. Overcoming means to be victorious, to overcome obstacles; changing means to make different or alter. It is useless for us to try to change the world, because it won't happen.

The kingdom of God is not of this world! Jesus said that we can rejoice because He has overcome the world! We are to overcome as He overcame. He overcame by letting His Spirit overcome the god of this world - the desires of the flesh, the ways of the world, the ignorance, darkness, and lack of knowledge of God. By living in Christ we overcome the world that is in us. To overcome the world we simply need to abide in the Spirit that is in Christ! This does not require going anywhere or bringing in laws of morality.

The question that now comes to us is whether the Son of God can die. If we think of death as annihilation, or a passing away forever, we are thinking of it in connection with the flesh. The flesh is not going to come out of the grave again. Adam was formed from dust and his body is destined to return to dust - to the creation from which he came.

Christ is the new creation man, the heavenly man, the spiritual witness, the spiritual reality. He is the Son of God! If God had killed His Son, He could kill any son. Jesus was not killed by God, but by the hands of wicked men. Jesus experienced His greatest hardship in Gethsemane because He knew the time had come for Him to be killed by man. He knew this had been in their hearts for a long time, but now the time had come - He was going to be separated from God and be in the darkness of human nature for a while. He struggled with that.

Jesus knew that He Himself had to lay down His soul, for no man could take it from Him. He also knew that He could take it up again. (John 10:17-18) Although many translations say that He laid down His life, the correct translation is soul. Man's ego rules him until the Word of God comes and takes that wrong foundation out from under him. When we are ruled by our ego, we are dead.

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked..." (Eph. 2:1-2a) This includes everybody. In Adam all are dead and separated from God. Our natural consciousness comes through the flesh. But in the scriptures, death is a state of being in which we are not conscious of having a union with God. Since God is omnipresent, we cannot be separated from Him, except in our realization or consciousness.

People think they are capable of governing themselves, but they are not. Man is not an entity that can correctly discern what is false and what is truth, what is death and what is life. He lives in the destructive fallacy that he can make right choices.

"In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." (v.2) In times past we walked according to the course of this world - the world that people are trying to change into God's kingdom.

This world is filled with people who are unregenerate - with children of disobedience. They are being led by a spirit that is causing them to disobey God. This shows that we do not belong to ourselves; we are not an entity in ourselves. We do not have the ability to make right choices, because we are either being led by a spirit of disobedience - which is Satan with his delusion, ignorance and lies, or we are being led by the Spirit of God - which is truth and life.

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." The world is a rule, an arrangement of things; it is not people. It says, "Do not love the world nor the things in the you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (1 Jn. 2:15; James 4:4) So we see, that when we talk about the world, we are talking about the rule and arrangement of things that are in the earth. This rule is against God. By conforming to this rule, we make ourselves enemies of God.

John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world." Does God love the world that we are to hate? No, He loves the world in which righteousness dwells - the world of 2 Peter 3:13! He loves it so much that He was willing to give His Son so everyone could dwell in it! This world is filled with new creation people - those who have been made righteous in Christ Jesus. They are being ruled by a new law - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus!

"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:3-6) How can a dead man be made alive? In the natural that is impossible, but in Christ, the Son of God, we receive the consciousness, realization and enlightenment that is in Him.

Let's look at 2 Tim. 2:25-26. "With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." This again shows us that man, without Christ, is being held captive by the devil. He is not an entity in himself; he can't make right choices. Christ has to free him from his bondage to Satan by bringing him truth.

Our attitude toward God is either for or against. Jesus said that if we are not gathering with Him, we are scattering. He does not give us any options; we are to be either hot or cold. Those who are lukewarm will be spewed out of HIs mouth. Being lukewarm is being half warm and half cold - half rejecting and half accepting truth. Lukewarm people cannot speak for God and for Christ, because they are in deception.

In Rom. 14:7 it says, "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself." It is so hard for us to believe that we are not entities in ourselves! We have to give up the idea that we can do anything by ourselves - and that includes becoming godly or ungodly. When we come to Christ, we do not come of our own volition, for it is the Father who draws us.

Rom. 7:8 says, "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died." We do not condemn ourselves for being sinners, because that is the devil's work. Neither can we congratulate ourselves on being good Christians, because that is Christ's work.

Paul was not talking about the cross when he said, "sin revived and I died." He was talking about the death the law brings us - the death Jesus experienced at the Jordan, and the death you and I have to experience.

Jesus was put on the cross because of His testimony! He testified, "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father...The Father and I are one". The people did not want to kill Him because of His good works, but because He had called God His Father. So they crucified Him. The crucifixion of Christ is going on all the time; the world is continually putting the Son to death by its unbelief and rejection.

Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live..." (Gal. 2:20) We are not crucified as separate entities; we are crucified with Christ because of our union with Him. Paul's crucifixion with Christ took place because of his testimony, and so does ours. We are crucified with Christ when our testimony is not believed. This is a spiritual reality.

Just as Jesus didn't testify of Himself, so we don't testify of ourselves. He testified of the Father, so obviously He spoke as the Son. And the Father testifies of the Son. If we testify as Jesus testified, we will also be put on the cross.

In Rom. 5:10 Paul writes, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Notice that it does not say that we were reconciled by His crucifixion, but by His death. That death does not refer to His death on the cross, but to His death to sin. Since He did everything as a corporate man, His death to sin was also for everyone. He died to sin for all men, and when we receive His Spirit, we become partakers of that death and also of His life.

Reconciliation is wonderful! Forgiveness is the basis for reconciliation. However, forgiveness and reconciliation do not make us new creatures. Our spirit needs to be regenerated by being birthed from above! When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive a new nature, and the Spirit makes us conscious of it. That is what it means to be saved by His life!

Since we have been made new, we are not returned to the Adamic nature. If we were, we would again be vulnerable to separation from God, just like Adam was. After Adam died spiritually, he continued to live on this earth until he died physically. In Adam all die; there is no exception! Sin came into the world through one man, and death came into the world through sin. Before Adam sinned, death was not present in the world. Neither man nor animal died.

God is the only life there is! Only God has self-existent life. The only way we can have true life is in Christ. He brings us into union with God, and we become partakers of His divine nature. He does not give us life in separation from Himself. His life only belongs to us in union with Him! It is not ours to do with as we please. We do not have self-existence; that is why we need God's life! We need His life before and after physical death.

Jesus had God's life before He went to the cross, and before He passed away. Therefore He knew He could survive the grave. This knowledge is also given to us, so we can know that we will survive the grave. Being in Christ gives us the hope, assurance and faith that everything will be all right! It also takes us out of the hell that unbelievers experience on this earth.

Jesus is the last Adam - in Jesus Christ, Adam ceased to exist. Adam is not a fleshly body, but the avenue through which sin entered the world. Evil comes into the world because of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

The end of Adam can only happen in Christ, because He Himself is the last Adam. The earthy conceptions and the reasoning and delusions that were in Adam, end in Jesus Christ because He is the true witness.

As sons of God we have been given the mind of Christ. His mind enables us to hear truth - to hear spiritual realities. So this is what we are going to speak. These words will undo the traditions and ignorance of religious men who call themselves Christians, religious organizations, and that of many Bible teachers and biblical scholars.

We have to hear beyond the natural. We have to hear Moses and understand the death to self-effort that is produced by the law. We must understand how it worked in Jesus Christ, and how it works in us. Christ's death to sin works in us, and His life becomes our life! Both are the product of Jesus Christ. He who hears the voice of the Son of God lives. We need to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. We cannot be Christians in our own strength. We are led either by the forces of this world or by the Spirit of God!

Consider the things I am saying, and may the Lord give you the understanding. God bless you. Amen.

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