A controversy has arisen recently on this point because of a few well-known teachers who erroneously assert that Jesus Christ on the cross died not only physically but spiritually as well. They say that this shows how great His love for us is and how much power He released because He gave up so much for us. Well, that is an interesting thought, but it is an impossibility, a contradiction in terms. By definition, a spirit cannot die. A spirit is an immortal being.
Of course, God cannot die either. If God died, the universe would fall apart. And Jesus is God. If the Spirit of Jesus died, then God Himself would have died, and the whole universe would have collapsed.
These teachers say that they mean by “death” a separation from God. According to them, in order for a person’s spirit to be redeemed, Jesus’ Spirit had to die. However, for Jesus to be separated from God, He would have had to be a sinner. But a sinner could not have been the “lamb without blemish and without spot” offered for the sins of the world (I Peter 1:19). If Jesus–the Son of God and second Person of the Trinity–were truly separated in spirit from the Father, then God Himself would be torn asunder and would cease to be–another impossibility.
The book of Hebrews states: “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come–in the volume of the book it is written of Me–to do Your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5-10).
The Bible clearly states, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” It is His physical death in obedience to the will of the Father that sanctifies us. Jesus’ humanity, which knew no sin, tasted the horror of the sin of all humanity. He was offered as a sacrificial lamb before God to pay the price for all of our sins.
After his physical death and before His resurrection, Jesus’ Spirit descended into hell and preached to all those who were there, leading “captivity captive” (see I Peter 3:18-20). His Spirit was neither dead nor separated from God. Instead, He was continuing to please and serve the Father, as He is at this moment.