When Peter is giving a speech on Pentecost, he says about Jesus, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2.24). I find two very interesting things here.
For one, Peter uses the term “agony of death.” He doesn’t say “agony of dying.” To me, agony of dying would have seemed more appropriate. Jesus was scoured, stripped, spit upon, and then nailed to a cross. It was a tortuous way to die, this painful dying. But then it was over; he was freed from the process of dying once he, well, died. But this isn’t what Peter is talking about.
No, he says agony of death. Could it be that although the agony of dying was over, that didn’t put an end to the agony of death? It’s not like Jesus died and that was it. He was still functioning, still existing. He descended into hell. He was separated from God. This was the agony of death. The real torture is not the agony of dying (it is at once over), but the agony of death (it lasts forever once you enter it).
But Peter says God freed Jesus from the agony of death. He raised Jesus from the dead.
The second interesting thing is the word used for “agony.” There are other words used in the Bible for agony. But here, the word is “odin.” This is the only time “odin” is used of death in the entire Bible. Other times it means “labor or birth pains.” As in, this will hurt, but in the end life will spring from it. As in, this will hurt, but once you hold the baby in your arms, the pain won’t matter. As in, winter is here, but spring will come. Do you see what God is saying here?
Jesus experienced the agony of death, yes, but it would not be unto death. Not for him and not for us. God freed Jesus by raising him from death back into God’s Presence. And he’ll do the same for us if we let Him.
We will each complete the agony of dying eventually, but without Jesus, we won’t escape the agony of death.