Muslims love to ask Christians this question because it seems like the perfect trap.
They expect the conversation to go like this:
Muslim: Can God die?
Christian: Of course God cannot die.
Muslim: Did Jesus die?
Christian: Yes he did.
Muslims: So Jesus is not God!
Very simplistic reasoning and a very flawed one. Let’s think about it for a minute and see why this argument does not work.
First of all, we can all agree that God is eternal and infinite. He is the beginning and the end. He cannot die.
Who can die? Human beings, of course.
But what is dying? Does dying mean ceasing to exist? When you die, do you disappear into nothing?
No. Dying is just the end of your existence as a human being on earth. Your heart stops beating and your bodily functions cease. Your earthly body goes into the ground but your spirit will still live on in either heaven or hell.
So when Jesus died, what happened? His existence as a human being on earth came to end. The human body that the Word of God took on, 33 years earlier, was killed.
You see, the eternal Word of God who is divine, added to Himself an earthly, weak, human body which is not eternal, which is not infinite, but can die. In other words, a weak human nature was added to His eternal divine nature. This is called the Hypostatic union.
He never lost His divine nature when He took on a human nature.
In John 2:19, when Jews demanded for a sign of Jesus authority, Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
What was destroyed? The temple i.e. His physical body being killed. Now look at this. Even though his body was dead, we see here Jesus saying that, “I will raise it up.” This is remarkable! Jesus did not cease to exist for three days. His Spirit is eternal. Muslims fail to comprehend this when they ask who ruled the world when Jesus died.
John 10:18 “I lay it (my life) down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
Power to take it again – This shows that he was divine. A dead man has no power to raise himself from the grave. And as Jesus had this power after he was deceased, it proves that there was some other nature than that which had expired, to which the term “I” might be still applied. None but God can raise the dead; and as Jesus had this power over his own body it proves that he was divine. ~ Albert Barns
This why Jesus could say something incredible like this :
“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)
Read the rest of John 8. You will see that Jesus goes on to say that He existed before Abraham. Not only that, He claimed God’s name, YHWH, for Himself.
Now, let’s try this again.
Can God die? No, He is eternal.
Did Jesus die? Yes, His existence as a human being on earth came to end.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)