QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
On November 3, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Is the cross real? i.e. did Jesus die on a cross? The "torture stake" has always rankled with me and the reasoning behind the [organization’s explanation] does not sit right. A Christian would wear a cross as an identifying sign to others of their faith and as a mark of utmost respect to Our Lord not as a worship object but a daily reminder of that sacrifice. But I do need another’s point of view because I would not want to cause offense, just asking. ”
To the author, thank you for your email. The issue of whether Jesus died on a cross or an upright stake is an issue that has served no other purpose than to divide followers of Christ. It is a non-salvation issue that has no bearing on faith. Whatever way one believes Jesus died or which instruments were used, does not validate nor invalidate one’s faith in Jesus, nor does it in any way interfere with our hope for eternal life.
To us, it is also an illusory dispute, meaning that there is really no dispute at all. It is only a matter of not having a full understanding of the issue. According to what we have learned, there are different ways victims were crucified or impaled. To crucify means to affix to a cross. To impale usually means to pierce or skewer (often into the anus and out the mouth.) In modern times, impaling can also refer to being affixed to a pole, but the original word has the more gross connotation. Based on the Biblical record, we can say for a certainty that Jesus was not impaled in the truest sense. Thus, the other options are that he was either affixed to a pole or affixed a cross. Understanding how crucifixion were carried out in Jesus’ day will shed some light on why we call this a contrived and unnecessarily divisive issue.
During the time of crucifixions, there was often a place that was used almost exclusively for crucifixions. At that place, there may be one or several upright poles (probably the size of modern day telephone poles) that were already inserted in the ground. They were strong enough to hold a human body and durable enough to be reused as needed. In Jesus’ case, that place was called Golgotha, ‘the Skull Place.’ (Matthew 27:33)
There was also a cross that was used. This cross is of much lighter weight than the upright pole. It has a long beam, at least the length of the victim, and a shorter cross bar. Sometimes the victim had to carry his own cross to the site. In Jesus’ case, since he was so weakened after the beatings and lashings he had already suffered, the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry Jesus’ cross. (Matthew 27:32)
When the victim arrives at the site, his cross is laid on the ground and he is laid upon his cross. His arms are tied to the cross beam and then his hands are nailed down. There is also a wood peg nailed about midway down the long beam that serves as a kind of seat to support the weight of the victim. The legs are also tied and bound to the cross and then his feet are nailed together with one long nail into the cross.
The victim, attached to his cross, is then hoisted up to the upright pole and his cross is nailed to the more study pole. The wooden peg and the bindings assure that the weight of the victim will not cause the hands to strip and the victim to fall to the ground. This assured a slow painful death that would serve as a warning to others.
Here’s an artist’s rendition of Jesus’ crucifixion to help you visualize this description. (Note that in this picture, instead of a saddle peg, this artist drew a pedestal block. Nevertheless, we believe you can get a good idea of how Jesus’ crucifixion was carried out.
According to this method of crucifixion, it appears that Jesus was both nailed to a cross AND hung on a pole. So you see why we say this dispute is illusory. There is no real or valid dispute. Both are correct, and not mutually exclusive. It is a case of people having incomplete knowledge. We find that many of the disputes between Christian sects are similarly illusory and based on incomplete knowledge.
Now, as to whether it is right or appropriate to wear a cross, we believe that is a personal decision, just as is the decision to wear any other item, insignia or emblem. It cannot be said that the cross itself is a pagan symbol since the evidence shows that Jesus did die on the cross. So any other objection to using or wearing a cross would be based on personal preference.
Many groups wear signs, insignia or symbols to designate their associations. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have long worn badges when attending conventions hosted by the Watchtower organization. They are specifically told to wear the badges to advertise the conventions and let people know they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Recently, they have become fond of wearing the blue jw.org emblem to identify them and their places of worship as belonging to the Watchtower organization. Yet not one of them would say that their badges or their blue emblem are objects of worship. They view them as simply symbols for identification.
This is no different from Christians who choose to wear the cross to identify themselves as a Christian who belongs to Christ Jesus, not any particular sect or organization. Most are not worshiping the cross anymore than Jehovah’s Witnesses are worshiping their emblems. Thus, if someone decides that wearing the cross is wrong, then wearing the other symbols and emblems is also wrong. Only a hypocrite would condemn one and not the other.
The fact is, the symbol of the cross is a universally accepted symbol of Christ and Christianity. It is a silent way of acknowledging Christ and openly confessing union with him that speaks volumes! As Christians ourselves, we have no problem with the cross. In fact, when we see a person wearing one, we know that we can have a pleasant interchange of encouragement by acknowledging it or commenting on it. So rather than being an object that causes division, it can be an object that fosters unity. That is our view.
On November 12, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I would like to know if the anointed possess a heavenly spirit after death so they can enter into heaven? Because the bible says flesh and blood doesn't enter in heaven. Thank you.”
To the author, thank you for your email. Your question combines two different concepts: (1) whether the anointed have a heavenly spirit, and (2) whether after death this heavenly spirit allows them to enter into heaven. We will answer both questions, and we will also add a third discussion about the soul that will round out our discussion.
(1.) Yes, anointed Christians possess a heavenly spirit. So do all the children of Godwhether they recognize it and awaken to this fact or not. Paul explained this to the Corinthians twice:
“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that the spirit of God dwells in you?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God?”
– 1 Corinthians 6:19
This is God’s spirit that actuates our minds (Ephesians 4:23) and joins with the Spirit of Truth to bear witness to our sonship. (Romans 8:16) (See The Divine Spirit Fragment of the Father.) It is not inherent in man. It is a gift. (2 Corinthians 1:22) It exists in every normal mind that can seek and find the Father. (Acts 17:26-27) But the Father can withdraw His spirit when the host behaves in a way that seriously grieves the spirit. (Ephesians 4:30; Matthew 23:37-38) The Father’s indwelling spirit will not participate in deliberate and sustained sin. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) However, those who respond to the spirit’s leading have a guaranteed destiny in heaven. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
(2.) As you said, flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom. (1 Corinthians 15:50) What has to happen is that we must either be resurrected with incorruptible bodies or be transformed without tasting death into incorruptible bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) It is with these new incorruptible bodies that we are able to enter the heavens. So, no, it is not the spirit of the Father that allows this. It is the gift of new incorruptible bodies. However, we might say that we can ‘hitch a ride’ with the Father’s spirit. (For more information on our new bodies, see Why Sonship?)
(3) We feel it is important to add to the discussion the matter of the soul. There is a dispute as to whether man has an immortal soul or not. We do not believe man inherently has a immortal soul. But we do believe man can build or develop such a soul. We will share with you what we have learned for your consideration.
We believe the soul is actually the incorruptible body Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 that we will inhabit when our earthly bodies are no longer useful. The reality of the soul body was expressed by Jesus when he made the distinction between the physical body and the soul body. (Matthew 10:28) The soul is also referred to as the ‘inner man’ that is being renewed from day to day (2 Corinthians 4:16), and as the ‘new personality’ that is created and built up with every spiritual decision and every kind act in furtherance of the Father’s will. (Colossians 3:9-10) When we store ‘treasures in heaven’ (Matthew 6:19-21), we are actually building up our soul body. This is not character building that allows the natural man to become a good person. It is the exercise of spiritual characteristics that go beyond the mere acts of a ‘good person.’(Galatians 5:22-23)
And if, at the end of our lives, we have not build up our soul bodies sufficient for our minds, our memories, and our personality to inhabit, then we have no vehicle to take us into the heavens. Without a relatively complete soul, we will expire along with the animals and our only body will return to dust. (Psalms 146:3-4; Ecclesiastes 3:18-20; Romans 8:12-13)
With this understanding, we all have even greater reasons for ‘doing good toward all’ (Galatians 6:10), for loving our brothers as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), for serving one another (Galatians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 9:19), and for doing the will of the Father to the best of our ability. (Matthew 7:21; 12:50) All of these things ‘go with us’ (Ephesians 6:3) and allow us to achieve the heavenly career.
We hope this answers your questions. But the most important thing we hope you take away from this response is that the Father has devised a plan and a purpose for His earthly faith sons to inherit the heavenly kingdom and be adopted as true spirit sons. (Ephesians 1:3-5) So even if we do not understand all the mechanics of how it is accomplished, we can rest assured that if we exercise faith in Jesus and do the few things asked of us, as set forth in the previous paragraph, we will attain the reward. Entrance into heaven is guaranteed to all those who want it, even those who do not fully understand the process.