The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

by John Owen


Book I

Chapter 7

Containing reasons to prove the oblation and intercession of Christ to be one entire means respecting the accomplishment of the same proposed end, and to have the same personal object.

I. Our first reason is taken from that perpetual union which the Scripture maketh of both these, almost always joining them together, and so manifesting those things to be most inseparable which are looked upon as the distinct fruits and effects of them: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities," Isa. 53:11. The actual justification of sinners, the immediate fruit of his intercession, certainly follows his bearing of their iniquities. And in the next verse they are of God so put together that surely none ought to presume to put them asunder: "He bare the sin of many" (behold his oblation!), "and made intercession for the transgressors;" even for those many transgressors whose sin he bears. And there is one expression in that chapter, verse 5, which makes it evident that the utmost application of all good things for which he intercedes is the immediate effect of his passion: "With his stripes we are healed." Our total hearing is the fruit and procurement of his stripes, or the oblation consummated thereby. So also, Rom. 4:25, "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." For whose offences he died, for their justification he rose;-- and therefore, if he died for all, all must also be justified, or the Lord failed in his aim and design, both in the death and resurrection of his Son; which though some have boldly affirmed, yet for my part I cannot but abhor the owning of so blasphemous a fancy. Rather let us close with that of the apostle, grounding the assurance of our eternal glory and freedom from all accusations upon the death of Christ, and that because his intercession also for us does inseparably and necessarily follow it. "Who," saith he, "shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" (It seems also, that it is only they for whom Christ died.) "It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died," (shall none, then, be condemned for whom Christ died? what, then, becomes of the general ransom?) "yea rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us," Rom. 8:33, 34. Here is an equal extent of the one and the other; those persons who are concerned in the one are all of them concerned in the other. That he died for all and intercedes only for some will scarcely be squared to this text, especially considering the foundation of all this, which is (verse 32) that love of God which moved him to give up Christ to death for us all; upon which the apostle infers a kind of impossibility in not giving us all good things in him; which how it can be reconciled with their opinion who affirm that he gave his Son for millions to whom lie will give neither grace nor glory, I cannot see. But we rest in that of the same apostle: "When we were yet without strength, in due time. Christ died for the ungodly;" so that, "being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him," Rom. 5:6, 9;---the same between the oblation and intercession of Christ, with their fruits and effects, being intimated in very many other places.

II. To offer and to intercede, to sacrifice and to pray, are both acts of the same sacerdotal office, and both required in him who is a priest; so that if he omit either of these, he cannot be a faithful priest for them: if either he does not offer for them, or not intercede for the success of his oblation on their behalf, he is wanting in the discharge of his office by him undertaken. Both these we find conjoined (as before) in Jesus Christ: I John 2: 1, 2, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins." He must be an advocate to intercede, as well as offer a propitiatory sacrifice, if he will be such a merciful high priest over the house of God as that the children should be encouraged to go to God by him. This the apostle exceedingly clears and evidently proves in the Epistle to the Hebrews, describing the priesthood of Christ, in the execution thereof, to consist in these two acts, of offering up himself in and by the shedding of his blood, and interceding for us to the utmost; upon the performance of both which he presseth an exhortation to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, for he is "come an high priest of good things to come, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us," Heb. 9:11, 12. His bloody oblation gave him entrance into the holy place not made with hands, there to accomplish the remaining part of his office, the apostle comparing his entrance into heaven for us with the entrance of the high priest into the holy place, with the blood of bulls and goats upon him, verses 12, 13 (which, doubtless, was to pray for them in whose behalf he had offered, verse 7); so presenting himself before his Father that his former oblation might have its efficacy. And hence he is said to have "an unchangeable priesthood", because he continueth for ever, chap. 7:24; so being "able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, verse 25: wherefore we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus," chap. 10:19-22. So, then, it is evident that both these are acts of the same priestly office in Christ: and if he perform either of them for any, he must of necessity perform the other for them also; for be will not exercise any act or duty of his priestly function in their behalf for whom he is not a priest: and for whom he is a priest he must perform both, seeing he is faithful in the discharge of his function to the utmost in the behalf of the sinners for whom he undertakes. These two, then, oblation and intercession, must in respect of their objects be of equal extent, and can by, no means be separated. And here, by the way (the thing being by this argument, in my apprehension, made so clear), I cannot but demand of those who oppose us about the death of Christ, whether they will sustain that he intercedeth for all or no;---if not, then they make him but half a priest; if they will, they must be necessitated either to defend this error, that all shall be saved, or own this blasphemy, that Christ is not heard of his Father, nor can prevail in his intercession, which yet the saints on earth are sure to do when they make their supplications according to the will of God, Rom. 8:27; 1 John 5:14. Besides that, of our Saviour it is expressly said that the Father always heareth him, John 11:42; and if that were true when he was yet in the way, in the days of his flesh, and had not finished the great work be was sent about, how much more then now, when, having done the will and finished the work of God, he is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, desiring and requesting the accomplishing of the promises that were made unto him upon his undertaking this work! of which before.

III. The nature of the intercession of Christ will also prove no less than what we assert, requiring an inseparable conjunction between it and its oblation; for as it is now perfected in heaven, it is not a humble dejection of himself, with cries, tears, and supplications; nay, it cannot be conceived to be vocal, by the way of entreaty, but merely real, by the presentation of himself, sprinkled with the blood of the covenant, before the throne of grace in our behalf. "For Christ," saith the apostle, "is not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us," Heb. 9:24. His intercession there is an appearing for us in heaven in the presence of God, a demonstration of his sacred body, wherein for us he suffered: for (as we said before) the apostle, in the ninth to the Hebrews, compares his entrance into heaven for us unto the entrance of the high priest into the holy place, which was with the blood of bulls and goats upon him, verses 12, 13; our Saviour's being with his own blood, so presenting himself that his former oblation might have its perpetual efficacy, until the many sons given unto him are brought to glory. And herein his intercession consisteth, being nothing, as it were, but his oblation continued. He was a "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," Rev. 13:8. Now, his intercession before his actual oblation in the fullness of time being nothing but a presenting of the engagement that was upon him for the work in due time to be accomplished, certainly that which follows it is nothing but a presenting of what according to that engagement is fulfilled; so that it is nothing but a continuation of his oblation in postulating, by remembrance and declaration of it, those things which by it were procured. How, then is it possible that the one of these should be of larger compass and extent than the other? Can he be said to offer for them for whom he doth not intercede, when his intercession is nothing but a presenting of his oblation in the behalf of them for whom he suffered, and for the bestowing of those good things which by that were purchased.

IV. Again: if the oblation and death of Christ procured and obtained that every good thing should be bestowed which is actually conferred by the intervening of his intercession, then they have both of them the same aim, and are both means tending to one and the same end. Now, for the proof of this supposal, we must remember that which we delivered before concerning the compact and agreement that was between the Father and the Son, upon his voluntary engaging of himself unto this great work of redemption; for upon that engagement, the Lord proposed unto him as the end of his sufferings, and promised unto him as the reward of his labours, the fruit of his deservings, every thing which be afterward intercedeth for. Many particulars I before instanced in, and therefore now, to avoid repetition, will wholly omit them, referring the reader to chapter III for satisfaction: only, I shall demand what is the ground and foundation of our Saviour's intercession, understanding it to be by the way of entreaty, either virtual or formal, as it may be conceived to be either real or oral, for the obtaining of any thing. Must it not rest upon some promise made unto him? or is there any good bestowed that is not promised? Is it not apparent that the intercession of Christ doth rest on such a promise as Ps. 2:8, "Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance," etc? Now, upon what consideration was this promise and engagement made unto our saviour? Was it not for his undergoing of that about which "the kings set themselves, and the rulers took counsel together against him," verse 2? which the apostles interpret of Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the people of the Jews, persecuting him to death, and doing to him "whatsoever the hand and counsel of God had before determined to be done," Acts 4:27, 28. The intercession of Christ, then, being founded on promises made unto him, and these promises being nothing but an engagement to bestow and actually collate upon them for whom he suffered all those good things which his death and oblation did merit and purchase, it cannot be but that he intercedeth for all for whom he died, that his death procured all and every thing which upon his intercession is bestowed; and until they are bestowed, it hath not its full fruits and effects. For that which some say, namely, that the death of Christ doth procure that which is never granted, we shall see afterward whether it do not contradict Scripture, yea, and common sense.

V. Further: what Christ hath put together let no man presume to put asunder; distinguish between them they may, but separate them they may not. Now, these things concerning which we treat (the oblation and intercession of Christ) are by himself conjoined, yea united, John 17; for there and then he did both offer and intercede. He did then as perfectly offer himself, in respect of his own will and intention, verse 4, as on the cross; and as perfectly intercede as now in heaven: who, then, can divide these things, or put them asunder? especially considering that the Scripture affirmeth that the one of them without the other would have been unprofitable, I Cor. 15:17; for complete remission and redemption could not be obtained for us without the entering of our high priest into the most holy place, Heb. 9:12.

VI. Lastly, A separating and dividing of the death and intercession of Christ, in respect to the objects of them, cuts off all that consolation which any soul might hope to attain by an assurance that Christ died for him. That the doctrine of the general ransom is an uncomfortable doctrine, cutting all the nerves and sinews of that strong consolation which God is so abundantly willing that we should receive, shall be afterward declared. For the present, I will only show how it trencheth upon our comfort in this particular. The main foundation of all the confidence and assurance whereof in this life we may be made partakers (which amounts to "joy unspeakable, and full of glory") ariseth from this strict connection of the oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ;---that by the one he hath procured all good things for us, and by the other he will procure them to be actually bestowed, whereby be doth never leave our sins, but follows them into every court, until they be fully pardoned and clearly expiated, Heb. 9: 26. He will never leave us until he hath saved to the uttermost them that come unto God by him. His death without his resurrection would have profited us nothing; all our faith in him had been in vain, I Cor. 15:17. So that separated from it, with the intercession following, either in his own intention or in the several procurements of the one or the other, it will yield us but little consolation; but in this connection it is a sure bottom for a soul to build upon, Heb. 7:25. "What good will it do me to be persuaded that Christ died for my sins, if, notwithstanding that, my sins may appear against me for my condemnation, where and when Christ will not appear for my justification?" If you will ask, with the apostle, "Who is he that condemneth?" "It is Christ that died," it may easily be answered, Rom. 8:34. "Why, God by his law may condemn me, notwithstanding Christ died for me!" Yea, but saith the apostle, "He is risen again, and sitteth at the right hand of God, making intercession for us" He rests not in his death, but he will certainly make intercession for them for whom he died: and this alone gives firm consolation. Our sins dare not appear, nor any of our accusers against us, where he appeareth for us. Cavilling objections against this text shall be afterward considered; and so I hope I have sufficiently confirmed and proved what in the beginning of this chapter I did propose about the identity of the object of the oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ.

Top of page

[Home][Calvinism][TOC][Book I] Chapter VIII]