Recently, Matt Heard, a Colorado Springs pastor (Woodmen Valley Chapel), taught that Jesus' death on the cross was not just physical death, but Jesus "suffered spiritual death," too. Here is what he said:
1) Pastor: “What you’re doing as a community is you’re proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Now I’ve got a question for you: ‘Is the word death there, about what Christ did on the cross, is that referring to just physical death?” (no response) “OK, the longer you hesitate the more depressed I’m gonna get.” (laughter from audience) Pastor: “Just physical death? Is that what we’re talking about?” (Audience: “No.”) Pastor: “No. When He died on the cross it was not just physical death.”
Later in same sermon:
2) Pastor: “I’ve got a question for you: ‘Is that death referring to just physical death?’ (Audience: “No.”) Pastor: “Thank you.”
Later in same sermon:
3) Pastor: “It’s amazement over this Grace of God that caused Jesus to suffer that spiritual death for you and me so that we could be released from that prison.”
Later in same sermon:
4) Pastor: “He tasted the death that’s the consequence of your sin and mine. Physical death? Yes. But spiritual death.”
Why is it wrong?
The Apostle Paul warned us to never embrace "another gospel" in the first chapter of Galatians, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have already preached to you, he is to be accursed!"
Some pretty strong words. Paul goes on to say the same basic thing to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 11:4. So the question is: Is this a contrary teaching? Does it contradict what we have always been taught?
Nowhere do the Scriptures ever say that Jesus suffered spiritual death. The Bible teaches over and over again that He died physically, but not once does it ever say that Jesus suffered spiritual death. So it definitely qualifies as "a gospel contrary to what has already been preached to you."
One of the biggest issues is it insinuates that Jesus' blood was not enough to save! Nope, the blood couldn't get the job done...He's gonna have to die spiritually. Really? Nowhere to be found in scripture.
Jesus said in John 4:24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” So if Jesus is God (John 1:1) then if He ever died spiritually, He would cease to be God. You cannot be God in human form and be physically AND spiritually dead, so logically it strips Him of His Deity.
What does it mean when you say your next door neighbor is “spiritually dead?” Obviously it means, that he is not “saved” or “born again.” In other words, if a person is spiritually dead, he is “lost.” To say that Jesus was spiritually dead, is to say that He was lost, or unsaved.
Colossians 1:21-22 says, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…”
Likewise, in Hebrews 10:10,“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
So we see that it was Jesus’ death bodily, in the flesh, that reconciled you. So there is no need for Jesus to suffer spiritual death. Jesus says in John 25 “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Was Jesus saying that you will never die physically? Of course not. Everyone dies physically. Jesus was saying that you will never die spiritually. Are we better than Jesus? By faith, we will never die spiritually, but Jesus did?
So how did He come back alive (spiritually)? Was he born again? What happened to "once saved always saved?" If you get saved by believing in Jesus, did Jesus lose His salvation, because He stopped believing in Himself? So Jesus was spiritually dead (lost) and then by faith was born again? That’s not only unbiblical, it’s borderline blasphemy.
Therefore, the teaching is unbiblical at best, and potentially heretical at worst.
Some have said that the doctrine is valid because Billy Graham and others have taught it. So now our standard for Truth is Billy Graham? I love and respect Billy Graham but I don't trust any human interpretation unless the Word backs them up, and in this case, there is no valid foundation for this doctrine. We can show you 50 scriptures that say Jesus' PHYSICAL death paid for your redemption. There's not one verse in the Bible that says, "Jesus had to suffer a spiritual death to pay for your sins." It's just not there.
Ironically, later in that same service, that same pastor had Communion using leavened bread. Sounds like someone has issues with Scriptural Authority versus personal opinions. Personal opinions are fine unless they contradict Scripture. At that point, pastors must learn to check their opinions at the door.