You died with Christ and are now free!

Let’s begin this study with Colossians 2:8-14

8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The Bible explains that each person who enters the world has been born through Adam. Through him, we inherit our sin nature. We aren’t sinners because we committed sin. We committed sin because we were sinners. That nature is born into sin and seeks to serve itself.

From early childhood, we begin to demand our ways while also learning how to develop a selfish attitude based on our sin nature. This is why it is impossible for man’s efforts to make him righteous. Even if we do good by human standards, it still is born through a sinful nature and is ultimately self-serving. We do good because it makes us feel good. We sacrifice because it makes us appear honorable. Honorable to those watching, and honorable to our own egos.

Jesus said that whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The flesh cannot produce spiritual fruit. It can only produce flesh and decorate it with man-made works. This is also why Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of our righteous acts are filthy in God’s sight.”

One thing that is often overlooked by Christians is that we are not only receiving Christ, but He is crucifying our old nature. Not only is Jesus taking our sins out of the way, but He is taking our fleshly nature out of the way, and He is taking the law that kept us in bondage out of the way with it.

Christians often focus on the front-side of the cross. We have little trouble understanding that Jesus paid for our sins, but that is not all Jesus accomplished. Jesus took our sins completely out of the way, took our sin nature out of the way, and gave us His life and His righteousness. You are righteous because you are a possessor of the righteousness of God in Him. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

It is NOT your righteousness that pleases God. It is your faith in Him so that you are a receiver of God’s righteousness. He took your sin out of the way through His death. He also took your sin nature and the burden of the law upon Himself. The barriers between you and God have been taken out of the way, and a new nature is born. We’ll look at our new birth in detail next week, but let’s take a moment to focus on the work of God to remove our sin and sinful nature.

Before Christ, you had one nature. It was a corrupt nature born through Adam. After Christ you also have one nature, but this nature is born of God, has its life in God, and abides in the Spirit. Look now at 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Old things have passed away. Your old man was crucified with Christ and taken out of the way. This is what the Bible means when it speaks of the circumcision without hands. In the Old Covenant, God provided a living symbol of what He would one day perform for us. Every male child had to be circumcised in order to enter into God’s covenant of promise. The flesh of the child’s foreskin was cut away as a symbol of God’s working. The child had to do nothing. They were unaware of what was happening to them.

When Christ came, God unveiled the meaning of circumcision. He alluded to this even in the Old Testament. Look at Deuteronomy 30:6

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

We are the descendants. This is why the Bible says that anyone who is born of faith are the children of Abraham, who is the forefather of the Jews. The outward foreshadow of circumcision became the inward working of the Holy Spirit at our new birth.

Before Christ, your nature has a bent toward sin. Your heart is sinful, corrupt, and incapable of pleasing God. You cannot enter into God’s promise because your sinful nature is incompatible with the life of the Spirit. But when the message of Christ is preached, the Holy Spirit reveals the joy of the Lord as He draws us to submit to His call. Anyone who responds by faith receives new life. But that new life cannot occur until the circumcision of Christ occurs first. The Spirit cuts away your old nature, buries it in Christ, and a new life in the Spirit is born. This is what is meant by being born again.

You cannot enter into God’s promise while the old nature is within you. God circumcises the fleshly nature away, we enter into the covenant of promise, and we are born as a new man and receive the promise that now all things are new and of God. Old things have now passed away, and behold all things are new – and all things are now of God!

If you put your trust in Christ, you are now buried with Christ! The old nature that ruled you is dead, buried, and taken out of the way. Look now at Romans 6:4-7

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

You are not trying to get rid of an old nature – if you are in Christ, that old man (or fleshly nature) has been crucified with Christ. Past tense. It is not your work, it is the work of Christ. Your body of sin is now unemployed.

In the next few weeks we are going to look at the source of sin and why we still struggle, but we must first understand that our old nature is dead and gone. There is a little confusion in the way verse 6 is translated. Most translations say things like, “The body of sin might be destroyed,” or, “The body of sin might be destroyed.” ‘Might be destroyed’ is translated from a single Greek word, ‘katargeo’ which literally means to become unemployed.

Our sin nature is gone, but sin remains in our flesh; however, the flesh is now unemployed. It once ruled us, but now has been rendered idle. This is why the Apostle Paul said that sin in his flesh wars against his mind, trying to bring him back into captivity. We’ll discuss this in detail at another time, but what’s important to understand now is that the nature that sin once ruled has been taken out of the way. We are born into a new nature that is born of God.

Let’s look at another passage that can help us get our minds around this truth. Look at Romans 7:1-6

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another– to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

I love this illustration. The Bible begins by presenting the law and our obligation to it. As long as you are alive, you are under the law. Every sin creates judgment. The Bible says that by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified. Righteousness cannot come by the law. The law is a reflection of God’s perfect standard based on His perfect nature and character. The Bible also warns that if we offend the law on any point, we are guilty of the whole law. The law is not a grading system. There is no 80% good. There isn’t even a 99% good. The law takes our lives, acts of sin, sinful thoughts, intents of our heart, obedience, disobedience, and compares it to the whole law. The Bible even says, to know good and to not do it is sin. The Bible also says that anything not of faith is sin. Have you ever not trusted in God? Or been afraid to step out in faith? What about the command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Have you had any thought that was not based on the love of God?

The law says, “Are you perfect.” If the answer is ‘no’, you are guilty. Now this passage is presenting this problem. It compares the law to a husband. The husband is perfect. The law is good, holy, and pure. Unfortunately, we who are born under that law are not. The law has no tolerance for sin, for all sin is a challenge to God’s authority and an assault on perfection.

Anyone born under the law remains under the condemnation of the law unless the law dies. Yet we know the law cannot die, for it is eternal. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word will never pass away. The comparison is that we are married to the law from birth, and unless the law dies, we cannot be free. Yet now we see the love of God presented to us through Christ, but we can’t be joined to Christ because our marriage to the law can never be annulled. It must die before we can be free, but it can’t die because it’s eternal.

Then the Bible gives an amazing solution. The law can’t die, but you can. And Jesus, the embodiment of the love of God cares enough for you to bear the penalty for your sins and die for you. While that will take care of your sin, it won’t free you from the law. So God offers an amazing solution. Be crucified with Christ, die to the law, and the one who has died is no longer under the law.

Your old nature was born through the flesh and is forever bound to the law of condemnation. God now promises, let Me put your flesh to death, and then you will be free from the law and born into a new law – the law of faith. The law of life in the Spirit. Now look at Romans 8:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Once you are in Christ, the law of condemnation has no power. Let’s add one last passage to this topic. Galatians 5:18

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

In Christ, you are a spiritual man or woman. You are not under the law, but in Christ. You have a new nature whose life is in Christ and a nature that desires the righteousness of God. This is why the Bible says, “The Gentiles who did not know the law, did by nature the things found in the law, proving that the law of God was written in their hearts.

Our new nature is a partaker of God. Its nature is to act in accordance to God’s will, because its nature is to do so. It is only when we submit our minds to the flesh that sin rises up to trouble us.

In Christ, you have a new life. The condemnation you once had can no longer condemn you. You now have the promise, “Now all things are of God.” You were crucified with Christ, set free from the law and all its condemnation. Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. But this gift of God is only received by faith.

God is calling. God has expressed the amazing love He has for you in the person of Christ. The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. Did you know that you were the encouragement of Jesus when He was facing the torture of the cross? The joy of your reconciliation was the joy set before Him, and He endured for your hope of redemption. This is the love of God given to you.

You died with Christ, you are free from the law, you are free from condemnation, and all you must do is receive His gift by faith!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

 

Defending the Faith, or Sowing Discord?

About two weeks ago, a friend sent me a broadcast by Michael L. Brown. In this broadcast, he and Sid Roth promoted his newly released book called Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message.

During the broadcast, I listen to them belittle those who believe everything the Bible teaches about grace. Of course they labeled it ‘hyper-grace’ and then everyone who believes in the depths of God’s grace were called heretics. They went as far as to claim this was the greatest threat to the church in modern history and then explained how his book would help the church fight against people like myself. They then explained how our children and loved one’s very souls were at stake.

It’s interesting that Jesus said, “By this shall all men know you are my abounding grace coverdisciples, because of your love for one another.” The Bible also says that God hates when brethren sow discord among brethren. It is a fallacy to think that just because we can put someone under a negative label that this gives us the right to destroy our brothers. Labeling someone as an enemy of God does not give us the right to attack them. Not only did Jesus command us to love our fellow believer, but He also commanded us to love our enemies.
During the broadcast it was said that grace (hyper-grace) is creating divisions in the church. I just did a search on the word ‘hyper-grace’ and found more than 26,000 hits. These lead to two types of articles. One set of articles are the dangers of hyper-grace and the call to fight. The other sets of articles are people like myself saying things like, “No, this is not an accurate representation of what I believe or teach.”

Who is causing the divisions? Who falls under the Bible’s rebuke of, “Are you not carnal (or fleshly minded) when there are fightings, divisions, and wars among you?” Am I causing division by saying, “Look at Christ?” Or is the person who says, “Here is what these heretics believe,” and then calls for the church to fight against ‘those people’ the ones causing the division.

After reading through the top article hits against hyper-grace, the majority of these have never heard the teachings of the people they are criticizing. They are repeating, almost verbatim, the words of Michael Brown’s broadcast. Consider this quote taken directly from one of the parroting sites:
Preachers of hyper-grace doctrine discount the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments as irrelevant to New Testament believers. They even teach that Jesus’ words spoken before His resurrection are part of the Old Covenant and no longer applicable to born-again believers.

The majority of these accusations are like this one. They believe. They teach. They reject. I wasn’t aware that I was hyper-grace until I listened to this broadcast, but he criticized nearly everything I have been discovering in God’s word. And I didn’t even know there was a ‘hyper-grace movement’ out there. But I am encouraged that there is. Yet the above statement doesn’t represent anything I believe or have heard anyone teach.

People like myself teach this: Everything must be viewed through the cross of Jesus. Anything that points to what Jesus fulfilled must be viewed as His works. Grace teaching is that everything goes through the cross and everything is received through Christ. The Bible clearly teaches that every spiritual attribute is the fruit of the Spirit and not the works of man. The Bible teaches that we receive from His divine nature all things. Faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, philia love, and agape love are all received as gifts of grace through His divine nature. This is clearly taught in Peter’s epistle to the church. The Apostle Paul said, “What do you have that you didn’t receive [from God]. If you received it, why are you boasting as if you have done it?”

Grace teaching is to accept the Bible’s claim that we can do nothing for God, but we look expectantly to Him for every need. We believe the Bible’s claims that we are already overcomers in Christ, and this is our victory – faith in Him. Why that makes us a threat, I don’t know.

There are many accusations Michael Brown’s book levels against those who stand by faith in God’s grace – a grace that God calls abundant, exceeding, and above all that we could think, ask, or even imagine. I’m not sure how you can imagine enough to exceed this promise.

Since this broadcast misrepresents grace and what people like myself teach, I felt led to clarify what grace teaches. I’ve put this into a short book called, ‘Abounding Grace: Dispelling Myths and Clarifying the Biblical Message of God’s Overflowing Grace’. I’ve made this free on Amazon. If you read this article after the free promo has expired and you don’t want to spend .99 cents, email me on my contact page and I’ll get you a free ebook copy.

Don’t allow others to create divisions or poison your attitudes toward those who believe grace is God’s love that He packaged into many spiritual gifts, and gave these to us freely for no other reason than for us to get a glimpse of the depths of God’s love.

Grace is the gospel. The gospel is not about what you do for God, but what God has done – and given – you as a gift of His loving grace!

Abounding Grace can be found by clicking here.

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Part 2)

Jesus’ Tomb
Three decades ago, archaeologists found an ossuary in Jerusalem that had what is believed to be a family tomb. This was not big news until recently when James Cameron announced that he was filming a documentary claiming this was the tomb of Jesus Christ. Now, thirty years after the fact, it has been announced that “researchers have made a new discovery that could shake Christianity off its foundation”. I have even watched some of the more liberal ‘Christians’ come up with new theories that make Jesus’ ascension into heaven symbolic. One priest even made the comment that Jesus’ spirit ascended but His body remained on earth.

Why is it that each time the atheists make a claim, Christians put their faith in these wild theories even though there is no credible evidence? When researchers found a tooth of a pig some years back, it was declared to be a missing link for mankind and they used this tooth to create – not one hominid, but an entire family. Science eventually prevailed and it was proven to be a tooth of an extinct pig and not the imaginary ‘Nebraska Man’ created from the imaginations of evolutionists. The evidence of Jesus’ tomb is on par with the pig’s tooth – a speck of evidence and a mountain of imagination. It is such a laughable theory I originally shrugged it off; however, since I have seen so much concern over the topic among Christians, I have decided to add a brief segment into this study.

The arguments for the tomb of Jesus are so easily refuted, that no rational person would give them any credibility. A few paragraphs should sufficiently aid the Christian with all the information needed. The first thing that should be noted is that the archaeologists that discovered the tomb did not see any significance in the names at all as related to Jesus Christ (and still do not). Why? These names were so common during the era of Christ, that it is not surprising at all to see them together. Think about the scriptures. In the four gospels, three Mary’s are directly involved with Jesus. There could have been more, but the fact that in one place you see three people named Mary should be sufficient evidence that the name is quite common. The same is true for the name ‘Jesus’. Jesus was the third most common name in Israel during the era of the tomb. Evidence for this is also found in scripture. In Colossians 4:11 Paul introduces one of his workers as Jesus whom they call Justus.

The Tomb of Jesus theory claims that the odds that Jesus and Mary being in the same tomb together is rare and proves Jesus married Mary Magdalene. This is like saying the odds of a man named Steve being married to a woman named Mary is nearly impossible. Since these two names are common in America, you may find dozens of Steve’s and Mary’s joined together in marriage. Critics of the Bible also claim that Mary’s tomb has the name ‘Magdalene’ over the tomb. This is an attempt at deception. The name on the tomb is ‘Miriamne’ which is a Greek name. Cameron is claiming that this is the Greek translation of ‘Magdalene’.

There are two flaws with this statement, first, it is pure speculation that this Greek name means Magdalene and researchers have not made this connection – only Hollywood has. Second, why would a Jewish woman have a Greek name put on her tomb? The Jews despised the Roman government and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was a revolt to break away from Roman rule. The only reason Greek was spoken was because of Roman law. When Rome conquered a nation, they established a Roman governor and required all people to learn a simplified form of Greek. This was a point of contention among the Jews in the Bible and ultimately led to their destruction as a nation.

Amon Kloner, the Jewish archaeologist who oversaw the original excavation of the ossuary in 1980 called Cameron’s claim ‘nonsense’.  He stated that Jesus’ family were Galileans with no ties to Jerusalem. Also, the Archaeology Institute of America stated the following:

Jacobovici points to the James Ossuary as the last missing piece of the puzzle, though he acknowledges the artifact has a controversial background. The inscription on the box, “James Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus,” has been demonstrated to be at least half fake. Studies of the box show that “Brother of Jesus” was recently added to the inscription by forgers. Moreover, a recent news report states that an FBI expert witness at the trial of Oded Golan over the “James Ossuary” and other dubious antiquities, has testified that Golan had photos of that ossuary taken in the 1970s. See http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/jesus/

So in other words, Director James Cameron and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici are taking a little bit of fact, mixing it with proven frauds, and creating a documentary that they claim to be proof. Ernst Haeckel would be proud!

Those who promote the Jesus Tomb theory claim that they have evidence through DNA testing. They fail to publicize the fact that the DNA came from a contaminated source where several remains were mixed, making it impossible to tell whose DNA was being tested. So even if they could make a reasonable test, it has little value. The fallacious claim is that since the two samples tested were proven to be unrelated, this proves that the remains were a married couple. The claim of DNA evidence serves only one purpose – to make the theory sound scientific. It is merely a vain attempt to fabricate evidence from the ruins of their theory. Why are atheists so gullible? Perhaps it is desperation. The real bottom line of the documentary is money. The press release in 2007 was to generate publicity for their book and movies. That is why researchers shrugged off the claim, but the media and atheist circles devoured it like wolves.

The best expert witness Cameron could come up with was Shimon Gibson of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Israel. He was also a member of the original team that excavated the ossuary, and his response was reported by the Archaeology Institute of America:

After a lengthy description of the original condition of the tomb, Gibson confessed to being skeptical about the claims that the site was Jesus’ tomb, though he added he was trying to keep an open mind about the possibility.

In other words, he doesn’t see credibility in the theory promoted by Cameron, but he’s willing to be persuaded. Ah, the heart of atheism. I have another theory. Perhaps he is truly skeptical to this imaginary theory, but he isn’t willing to risk losing any financial compensation he was to receive from promoting the documentary. It is ironic that the best expert witness on this claim is someone who is not convinced, yet the masses are accepting the theory like it was the gospel.

The name Matthew was also found in the tomb and it is supposedly evidence that it is Jesus’ tomb. Once again, this is a very common name; however, why weren’t the other disciples buried in the tomb? If you notice, the only names that have been the target of attention are the ones that are common to names found in the Bible. When they figure their odds that they broadcasted as evidence, they only chose the names that would increase their argument and ignored the rest. It was claimed that the odds were 600 to 1 in favor of their theory. That is only using four names and assuming the other six ossuaries to be inconsequential. An honest attempt would have factored in the six limestone boxes that could not be linked to the Bible. These were not included in their statistical analysis.

The strongest evidence against the Tomb of Jesus theory is the location of the tomb. At least the swoon theory had the foresight to put Jesus in a far away place, but the new theory puts Jesus right in the middle of Jerusalem. Think about the implications of this for a few moments. The church is now growing at an alarming rate, the Jewish religious leaders are doing everything in their power to stop this new faith, the apostles are being beaten, threatened, jailed and killed for their claims that Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven. Doesn’t it seem a little odd to say that Jesus was living openly in Jerusalem – the hotbed of controversy – and no one thought to point down the street and say, “Why is Jesus living down the road with his children?” The irony almost makes me laugh.

Critics claim this discovery to be the deathblow to Christianity. So in truth, they are admitting the very flaw that undermines their own claims. If this find shakes the foundation of Christianity today, how much more true would this have been during the life of the apostles? The entire Christian belief system would have crumbled and the early church with it if Jesus was on the streets of Jerusalem. If these were just a bunch of cult followers, they would have rewritten the Bible to fit the evidence and would have made Jesus into a cult leader instead of a risen Savior. This would include rewriting the Old Testament that foretold that His life would be taken from the land of the living (Isaiah 53:8).

Anyone who puts any faith at all in this theory should also take a moment to pay homage to the Nebraska man’s pig’s tooth.

The stolen body theory.
This is the only counter-argument that is even remotely logical. It also has flaws that can’t be explained. First, who stole the body? It is undeniable that the body of Jesus was no longer in the grave. The disciples, Jews, and Roman soldiers all concurred that the body was missing. As one historian put it, “history’s silence is deafening concerning the body of Jesus. No one has ever claimed to see the body of Jesus after the resurrection.” If the Jews or Romans stole it, they would have produced it. All of the efforts to squelch Christianity and the determination to explain away the resurrection would have ended quickly if someone produced the body. We know that the soldiers did not have it or they would have surely produced it. They were paid for their silence, how much would they have been paid if they produced the body? There would have been no need to think up and rehearse the story of the disciples stealing it if the soldiers had it. We know the Jews didn’t have it, because they would have been the first to put it on display. This only leaves the disciples or the resurrection.

Let’s look at the possibility that the disciples took Jesus’ body. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered like cowards. Peter was the boldest of the twelve and he denied Jesus three times. To show how cowardly he was at this point, he was afraid of a servant girl who did not even have the legal right to testify in that culture. Yet when she confronted Peter, he called curses down upon himself to prove he was not one of Jesus’ followers.

The disciples were too afraid to come forward to take Jesus down and help with the burial. How is it that they would suddenly be bold enough to risk certain death and sneak among the guards, break the seal, move the stone without rousing anyone and take the body. Also consider that the head cloth was neatly folded and laid beside the burial cloth. Anyone sneaking into the tomb would be hastily retreating after getting the body. They would not take the time to remove the burial cloth and then neatly fold it.

How would a stolen body suddenly empower eleven men who were hiding from the Jews to go out and begin preaching His resurrection boldly before the same leaders they feared? What would make eleven men rejoice at being beaten, imprisoned and then put through painful deaths? A stolen corpse? The stolen body theory holds no water.

The final possibility is that Jesus was resurrected. We see that all the evidence against the resurrection falls short, but what evidence lends credibility to the resurrection? Let’s begin by examining the disciples. These men fled in all directions when Jesus was arrested and they did not offer any defense on his behalf during the trial where he was sentenced to death. After the resurrection there was a dramatic change in their lives. These men who were afraid to be present at Jesus’ burial now were going into the very city where the crucifixion occurred, and were boldly proclaiming His resurrection at their own peril.

The crowds were still present and so were the council members that tried Jesus and the soldiers who crucified Him. Why would they suddenly have such a change of heart that they would preach the same Jesus that they had just denied? Not only did they preach the resurrection, but they also condemned those responsible for His death and called them to repent so they could be forgiven.

To create a legend, you don’t go where the eyewitnesses are and exaggerate when the facts are still fresh. Legends are born by carrying the story to a distant land or waiting until the facts have faded from memory. The disciples went to where the fire was still hot. They proclaimed the resurrection to those whom they knew would examine the facts. There are no accounts of anyone refuting the disciples. There was no attempt to silenced them with evidence; they were threatened in an attempt to persuade them to stop. When ordered to never again preach in the name of Jesus, Peter said, “We cannot help but to proclaim the things which we heard and saw.”

There were many eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ. Look at Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Paul presented his claim before those that could question him and in fact is inviting them to question. He is saying that most of these witnesses are still alive and available to examine. His reference to James is significant because James was one of the brothers who scoffed at Jesus during his life. After mocking him, the Bible says that even his brothers did not believe him.

People may be willing to die for what they believe to be true, but who would die for what they knew to be a lie? The eleven disciples saw Jesus die. They gained absolutely no financial gain from this faith; indeed we see just the opposite. They lost everything except their joy and the hope of heaven. When Jesus was alive, their hope was their expectation of an earthly kingdom. After the resurrection, they lived for Christ with reckless abandon as they were committed to the hope given to them for the eternal life and the kingdom of God to come. Only John died of old age; however, he was beaten, imprisoned and banished to the isle of Patmos. Patmos was a penal colony where criminals were sent to die either from starvation or from the hands of other criminals. Each of the other disciples were beaten repeatedly and eventually killed. Look at how Jesus’ disciples died and determine if this sounds like men clinging to a lie:

Matthew was slain in Ethiopia.
Mark was dragged through the streets until dead.
Peter and Simeon were crucified.
Andrew was crucified.
James was beheaded.
Philip was crucified.
Bartholomew was flayed alive.
Thomas was pierced with lances.
James, the less, was thrown from the temple and stoned to death.
Jude was shot to death with arrows.
Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded.

All of these men could have lived if they had said one statement: “He is dead,” but they refused. The list above accounts of their deaths but they also endured hardship, imprisonment, beatings, and torture. Paul was stoned three times and survived. He was beaten with forty strips from a cat of nine tails on five occasions, and imprisoned repeatedly. Similar stories follow the other apostles. Bartholomew was crucified twice. He was first nailed to the cross and then brought down by the Roman Emperor and set free. Not even a fool would have continued to spread a lie after this encounter, yet Bartholomew recovered and went on spreading the gospel until he was captured again and crucified a second time.

The disciples lived lives that would be considered sheer misery by the world, yet they rejoiced in their sufferings. Not one of them caved in and chose the easy life. Can anyone believe that not one of these men would deny his resurrection unless they absolutely witnessed the resurrected Christ? What did they have to gain by forming this kind of religion? They lost property and often were abandoned by friends and family. Even if you could believe that these men were willing to suffer for a lie, would they be willing to draw their own friends and families into suffering? They may have suffered for Christ on the outside, but they rejoiced openly and lived with joy and peace that their captors did not have and could not understand. Throughout history, many of the very people who have persecuted Christians have become Christians. As they saw the strength, joy, and peace that defied logic, they saw their own lives as meaningless. There are many testimonies of captors who witnessed persecution who said, “I want what that person has.”

If Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body of Jesus in hopes of being religious elitist, they would have given up when the illusions of grandeur proved to be a failure. If it were a lie, they would have quickly grown tired of the beatings and other punishments. Look at James, the brother of Jesus. He rejected Jesus during His life. I am sure that he thought of his older brother as just another sibling and a delusional one at that. Yet after seeing the resurrected Christ James was a changed man as well. After James encountered the risen savior, he no longer referred to himself as a brother of Christ, but a “bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Not a single critic ever questioned that the tomb was empty. There was no doubt of this fact. The real question is, which testimony do you believe? Those who reject Christ or those who were eye witness testimonies to His resurrection and GLADLY suffered for their proclamation of this truth?

Are the gospels reliable? What about the differences? One of the biggest arguments against the gospels is that they have slight differences. The irony is that if all the gospels were identical, they would have zero credibility. These same critics would say they were written by the same people. In truth, the differences between the gospels are not contradictions but the eyewitness testimonies written from different perspectives each testifying to the same truth. Critics of the gospels argue both sides and don’t see their own contradiction.

Skeptics claim that the later church doctored the manuscripts to support their beliefs and then these same critics point out the differences as proof of error. First, if the later church had doctored the manuscripts, why didn’t they fix the differences? Second, we know the manuscripts were not doctored because we now have documents dating back before the ‘questionable’ era and there are virtually no differences. By all standards, even harsh critics agree that the scriptures have maintained an incredible accuracy over the centuries.

Also consider the testimonial aspect. If three witnesses testified to being eyewitnesses to an event and their stories matched completely with the exception of a few supporting details, would that evidence be valid? By all standards it would. In fact, if there were no differences, it would raise serious doubts to their credibility. The scriptures provide Matthew, Mark and John as eyewitness accounts to the life of Christ and they all agree. Luke comes in as a character witness that makes an airtight case. Luke was not an eyewitness. Luke wanted to do two things. He wanted to give Theophilus a complete explanation of who Jesus was and he wanted to compile all the testimonies that had been handed down 2nd and 3rd hand from eyewitnesses. This is an extremely important testimony. This is how we know if the word and doctrine handed down agrees with the events that actually occurred.

The gospels were not widely circulated at the time. The differences in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John prove that the each of the apostles wrote from their own eyewitness perspective. The gospel of Luke proves that the gospel was accurately handed down without becoming sensationalized. There is virtually no difference between Luke’s account that was passed by testimony and the apostle’s accounts that were witnessed directly. These three witnesses and the character witness of Luke would hold up under any cross-examination.

The earliest apostle writings can be dated back to eyewitnesses. You can’t make that claim from other religions. Christianity was written down closer to the actual events than other religions. The Gathas of Zoroaster were estimated around 1000 BC but didn’t make it into writings until after the third century AD and the most popular Parsi biography was written in 1278. Buddha lived in the sixth century BC, but the scriptures of Buddha were not written until the first century AD. Muhammad died in 632 AD but his sayings were not written for more than 100 years, 767 AD. Unlike other religions, outside the Bible there are many supporting witnesses that verify the accuracy of the accounts of scripture. Without the Bible, we can prove through historical evidence that:

-Jesus was a Jewish teacher
-Many people credited Jesus with healing and exorcisms
-People believed He was the Messiah
-He was rejected by the Jewish leaders
-He was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius
-After his shameful death, His followers believed he was still alive and this faith spread to the multitudes throughout Rome by AD 64
-The Christian faith was held dear by all manner of people; women, men, slave, free, rich, poor.
-Those who converted, worshipped Jesus as God.
-There are also tens of thousands of archaeological discoveries that validate the scriptures and silence criticism.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact of history and applies to every person’s life. Because Jesus died, our debt was paid. Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished”, the debt has been paid. His death on the cross paid the debt for your sin and His resurrection gives you life. Romans 10 says:

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in
your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the
mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put
to shame.”

Salvation depends on the resurrected Christ. When you believe and confess Him as your Savior, you will no longer have to fear the shame of your sins, and no longer have to fear God’s holy judgment for sin. The Bible says that Jesus came into the world and that the world was made through Him. As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the children of God (John 1). It is not automatic, we must acknowledge Him as Lord. The Bible also says that we must count our lives as a loss and receive new life through Him.

Jesus died to take your debt to sin and exchange His righteousness in its place. When we receive Christ, we literally become the righteousness of God so that we are completely justified before Him. It is no longer your ‘falling short’ but the gift of righteousness credited into your life because of your faith and trust in Christ. If you have never received Jesus as your Lord, he offers a new life where the past is buried and you become a new creation.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” The cry of Jesus on the cross is the love of God. The Bible says that though Jesus existed in the form of God, he humbled himself, took on the form of a bond servant, and became obedient unto death on the cross. The cry of his humanity is a declaration of the love of God to bear our guilt in our place. When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” your debt was paid in full. Hope and salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone and only Jesus proved to be our Savior by His death, burial and resurrection.

Eddie Snipes

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Part 1)

Psalm 22:
1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;
17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!

The most descriptive account of the crucifixion of Christ was written over 1,000 years before Jesus was born. This vivid detail of the anguish of Jesus as He bore our sins leaves little doubt that the crucifixion was a part of God’s plan from the beginning. As a part of this Easter season, let us take a closer look at the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will look at the resurrection account in light of both scripture and history. What evidence outside the Bible validates the biblical account? Obviously, in a short study like this, we can only hit the highlights of this subject; therefore, let us take a brief look at history and the biblical account that gives reasonable evidence to believe. The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the crucifixion and equip saints for sharing faith among a skeptical world. It is frequently argued that there is no evidence outside the Bible to verify the Bible’s claims. Thank God this is far from true; history, archaeology and science are filled with irrefutable proofs that validate the scriptures. In this study we will look at historical accounts that are widely accepted as credible by both biblical scholars and secular historians. Let us take a brief look at the Life, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

The Life of Jesus
Some time back, I had a discussion with an atheist who stated that he would not believe Jesus existed unless he saw irrefutable proof. He claimed that the authors of the Bible made up the whole story of Jesus. It is ironic that he needs no proof to believe in the conspiracy of the disciples but he needs irrefutable proof that the conspiracy does not exist. How do we know that Jesus really existed? How do we know that Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or the founding fathers who signed our declaration of Independence existed? How do we know any historical event is true and not a fairy tale made up to shape history? We know they existed because historical documents, artifacts, the testimonies of eye witnesses and other evidences are examined and accepted as credible by those who have examined the evidence. We either believe the generation that lived through the events or we have to believe there is a massive conspiracy to fabricate historical events. As individuals, very few of the men in our past are mentioned in detail; instead most of their names show up in history as having been at an event but little is known about them as individuals. Where is Jesus mentioned in history? Obviously, the Bible will give the detailed description of Jesus because He is the central figure of the Bible; however, Jesus is accounted for in many other historical documents as well.

First look at the testimony of the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud is a historical document that includes commentaries on the Jewish books of the law, civil and religious records. The Talmud is not supportive of Christianity and is very hostile to Jesus. The Talmud praises the trial, conviction and execution of Jesus. The Talmud also refers to Jesus as a bastard son of Mary. The account of Jesus in this historical document was indisputably written by those who were enemies of Jesus. In a court of law, if your enemy testifies on your behalf, willingly or unwillingly, it is a highly credible testimony. The Talmud testifies on behalf of many of the Bible’s claims about Jesus; it verifies the existence of Jesus, states that Jesus was a teacher, verifies the trial of Jesus as instigated by the religious leaders, the conviction and crucifixion of Jesus. Even more importantly, the Talmud verifies that Jesus performed many healings and miracles. It claims that Jesus performed these miracles through the power of sorcery; however, the key evidence is that even though the enemies of Jesus are hostile witnesses, they do not dispute the miracles but verify them and validate the Biblical account. Jesus’ very enemies validated His works and even though their intentions were malicious, they provide a strong testimony for the scriptures.

Josephus, the great Jewish historian wrote about Jesus. Josephus also claimed that Jesus was a teacher that wrought many surprising feats. Josephus states that by miracles, Jesus won over many Jews and Greeks. Josephus testifies that Jesus was condemned under Pilot, crucified, and then He appeared restored after three days. Josephus states that Jesus’ followers were called Christians after Him.

Roman governor Pliny the Younger produced writings, which also testify on behalf of the Bible. He stated that Christians were sent off to be executed for their “stubbornness and unshakable obstinacy that ought not to go unpunished. …they would not recant and they worshipped and honored Christ as if he were a god”.

There can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus did in fact exist and other historical documents hold testimonies that do not contradict the biblical account. We have testimonies that verify Jesus’ miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and the fact that His followers believed He was God. Two of these three witnesses are hostile to the gospel, yet verify the gospel. There is no shortage of proofs for those who will be open enough to see it.

The Crucifixion
We have already seen that Josephus, Roman historians, and the Talmud validates the crucifixion. Lets look at the picture of the crucifixion. In an essay on a popular atheist website, the writer makes the comment, “On the cross Jesus’ last words were, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’ That doesn’t sound much like Jesus’ plan went as he expected”. Of course, this was not Jesus’ last words. After this quote, Jesus then said, “It is finished” and finally, “Father into your hands I commit My spirit”. Even so, as we have seen from the opening passage of this study, not only was the crucifixion foretold a thousand years before this torturous method of execution was invented, but even Jesus’ words and thoughts were foretold as well. It is clear by reading Psalm 22 that God’s plan was completed exactly as expected. The historical account of Matthew 27:46 matches the prophecy of Psalm 22. Matthew 27:

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

To add to the historical significance of the crucifixion, look at the following passages:

Luke 23:44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

There is also a plethora of historical evidence that validates this event in scripture. Two witnesses to this scripture are Thallus and Phlegon. Although they did not witness the crucifixion, they were both eye witnesses to the events surrounding the crucifixion. Look at their accounts:

Thallus finished his historical account of the world since the Trojan war in 52 A. D. His work was destroyed but quoted by Julius Africanus in AD 221. Julius gives a commentary on Thallus’ AD 33 record of the darkness across the land. “Thallus in the third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun – unreasonably as it seems to me.”

Thallus testified that this event occurred on the exact day of the crucifixion but explained it away as an eclipse of the sun. Why did Julius Africanus state this explanation seems unreasonable? The reason is because the feast of the Passover was ALWAYS celebrated on the new moon during the Jewish month of Nisan. The new moon occurs when the lunar cycle has been completed, and the new cycle begins. At the beginning of the new lunar cycle, the moon is not visible. Each day, more of the moon becomes visible until it reaches a full moon, and then begins to fade each day as it approaches the next new moon. This is an approximate 30 day cycle. On the new moon, the moon has no visibility at all in the sky because it is on the opposite side of the earth, thus making it impossible to have an eclipse. Therefore, to attribute this event as an eclipse is truly an unreasonable assumption. Traditionally people credit this darkening to clouds; however, this is not the case at all. Look at the testimony of a Greek historian named Phlegon.

A Greek author from Caria named Phlegon wrote about the darkness that occurred in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad (equivalent to 33 A.D.). “There was the greatest eclipse of the sun. It became as night in the sixth hour of the day (noon) so that the stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia and many things were overturned in Nicaea”.

Thallus’ account did not mention an earthquake but Phlegon did, however both reported the same darkness and both believed it to be an eclipse. Thallus was not close enough to feel the earthquake but Phlegon was. The earthquake was regional, but the Bible says that the darkness was over all the land. It is no wonder that they chose an eclipse as the reason since there was no other logical explanation without understanding the scripture’s claim that the sun refused to shine. How this occurred will never be known, but the evidence clearly shows that this event was witnessed throughout the Roman Empire on the date and time stated in the scriptures.

The darkness reported was not consistent with a normal eclipse and was referred to as ‘the greatest eclipse’. Consider how an eclipse occurs. A full eclipse is a rare event and it can only be seen in a specific region. If Atlanta gets a full eclipse, Texas will only get a partial eclipse; therefore, the same applies in this historical event. If two records of the same event occurred thousands of miles apart, an eclipse cannot explain it. Add to this the fact that never is an eclipse so dark that the sky is darkened and all the stars can be clearly seen. Though many have sought natural causes to explain the darkness, they clearly validate the Bible’s account.

Two other pieces of significant evidences are the account of the pierced side and the tomb of the prominent rich councilman, Joseph of Arimathea. After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph went to Pilot and asked for the body so he could bury Him with honor. Pilot sent a soldier to verify that Jesus was already dead. The soldier verified Jesus was dead and pierced His side. The spear clearly went through to the heart and John 19:34 says that blood separated from the water poured out. The only way the blood could separate is if circulation has stopped and the blood begins to clot and separate. It is highly unlikely that John could have known this to be evidence of death and fabricated it. This era had little medical knowledge and those present would not have understood the significance of this statement at the time.

Isaiah 53:9 foretells that Christ would die with the wicked but would be buried in the rich man’s tomb. John’s account is fulfillment of this prophecy. (See Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50-51) Joseph of Arimathea was a rich, prominent member of the council that condemned Jesus to die. Fabricating the story of Joseph would have been a fatal blow to any ‘conspiracy’. If the disciples were going to make up a story to fulfill this prophecy, as some have claimed, they would not have picked someone out of the council that tried Jesus. If it were a lie, they would be the first to protest and would have the public platform to dispute the claim. There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in the councilman’s tomb.

The Resurrection
The resurrection is the most controversial part of the biblical account of Jesus. If Jesus was not bodily resurrected, He was not God, He was not a Savior and Christianity is a lie. Symbolic resurrection is not compatible with the Christian faith. The resurrection is the evidence that Jesus proclaimed to be a sign that He was who He claimed to be. The resurrection is the proof that Jesus conquered death. It is also what gives Jesus the authority to claim that He is the resurrection and that we all will be partakers of the resurrection if we are found in Christ. This alone separates Christianity from mere religion.

The apostle Paul states that if the resurrection is not a fact, then we are false witnesses before God. He sums it up this way, “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” 1 Corinthians 15:17. If Jesus could not rise from the dead, He is not our savior and our faith is a lie. However, if Jesus were God in the flesh as He claimed to be, then taking up His body would be a small thing. Lets finish this study by examining the proof of the resurrection.

To clarify the resurrection, let us first look at the arguments against it. There are many alternative views used by critics to claim that the disciples conspired to make Jesus look like more than a man. Out of all the dozens of alternate stories, only two are even remotely worth examining. Most conspiracy stories are so weak that no one who uses reason would consider them valid. Even the two more common views are so weak that only those desperate for another answer would even give them credibility. Most skeptics try to argue Jesus out of history in order to avoid the debate all together. History does not support them, but that doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to those determined to disbelieve. Let us examine the two most popular conspiracy stories about Jesus.

The Swoon Theory. This alternative explanation has been repackaged with many variations. The most popular variant was ‘The Passover Plot’ published in 1965. The basic argument is that Jesus and His disciples conspired to fulfill messianic prophecies by faking Jesus’ death on the cross. They managed to manipulate the Jewish leaders into trying and convicting Jesus, the people into demanding the crucifixion and the Roman government into executing Him. The legal manipulation would have been a miracle in itself. Before being nailed to the cross, Jesus was supposedly given a drug that appeared to make him look dead and trick the soldiers into removing Him from the cross while he was still alive. The cool damp air of the tomb revived Him and He appeared alive to His followers. By just using simple logic, this argument fails miserably. The first obvious flaw that jumps out is the question ‘how did they know Joseph would offer his tomb?’ If you can believe that Joseph and Pilot were a part of this conspiracy, there are plenty of other flaws to fight through. Jesus was beaten so badly that He was too weak to carry His own cross and a bystander was commissioned to carry it for Him. He had nails driven through His wrists and feet. The blood loss is hard to escape. The blood poured out His feet, hands, back from the beating, and finally a mortal wound was inflicted between His ribs when the spear pierced His heart.

If someone has faith enough to get past the impossible odds of survival, there are a few more problems to deal with. How does a man who has had spikes driven through his limbs get up and walk and appear as a victorious leader to the people? Somehow Jesus revived, untangled himself from the burial cloths wrapped around his body, pushed a massive stone away from the entrance of the tomb, passed through a squadron of soldiers guarding the site, and ran away without anyone noticing. Not only did he escape, but he also walked seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus with two travelers who did not notice he was wounded.

How is it that most people can’t walk with minor pain in their feet, but Jesus was able to walk with holes in His? He had full use of His hands because he took over the evening meal and broke bread. We could come up with dozens of functions that would cause Him excruciating pain if this was a faked resurrection. If by some miracle Jesus and the disciples pulled this off, He would have looked so weak and anemic that no one would have been amazed. It seems a little hard to believe the disciples were able to get the multitudes fired up by seeing a half-dead Jesus

Eddie Snipes
04/2010

Why does the Bible say that Mary could not touch Christ after His resurrection?

Why does the Bible say that Mary could not touch Christ after His resurrection?

Many people completely misinterpret John 20:17. The KJV’s translation does not clearly reflect the meaning of Mary’s encounter with Jesus. The KJV said, “do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” Many incorrectly assume that Jesus is saying that He cannot be touched. We know this is not the meaning of this passage because a few verses later in John 20:27, Jesus asks His disciples to touch Him, feel the wounds and even put their hand in the wound in His side so that they will believe that He has truly resurrected bodily from the dead.
In John 20:17, the word ‘touch’ comes from the Greek word ‘haptomai’. Haptomai means: to fasten one’s self to; adhere to; or cling to. When Mary recognized Jesus, she embraced Him with such emotion that Jesus said not to cling because he has not yet ascended. When I read this passage, I imagine that this was a joyful encounter by Mary and Jesus. Mary and Martha were extremely close to Jesus while He was alive and Mary has at last seen that death did not have a hold of Jesus. When she realized it was Him, she embraced Him and did not let go. I picture Jesus laughingly saying, “Stop clinging, I haven’t yet ascended”. No that she has seen, Jesus instructed her to go and tell the other disciples that He was alive and is coming to see them as well. This is confirmed in Matthew 28:5-9

5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

Notice that Matthew gives additional details that indeed confirm that the women did in fact touch Jesus and were holding him by the feet. Thomas was invited to touch Jesus’ hands and side to resolve his doubts about the resurrection. It is not possible for Jesus to be corrupted or made unclean; therefore, there is no concern with anyone touching Him before His ascension.

Eddie Snipes
2010

Did Jesus Suffer in Hell? (Part 2)

Preaching to the spirits in prison
Look again at 1 Peter 3

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

Who were the spirits in prison? Some believe it was fallen angels. I suppose it is possible that Jesus would proclaim His victory to the principalities that tried to hinder God’s plan, but I don’t believe this is what is being communicated here. This passage says that Jesus preached to those who were formerly disobedient while God patiently waited. Fallen angels (or demons) were not formerly disobedient – they are presently the way they have been since their fall. They will not change and cannot be redeemed according to scripture. 1 Peter 4 gives more information:

5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

The Bible first identifies those God waited for in the days of Noah and now others are included. Jesus preached the gospel to those who are dead. They also will live according to God in the spirit just as we will. I believe that this is the Old Testament saints. Look at

Matthew 27:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

I want to compare this to Jesus’ explanation of the uncompassionate rich man and the beggar. Daily the rich man passed by the needy beggar and never even offered a crumb. Jesus continues the illustration in Luke 16:

22 “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’
25 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

In these passages, Jesus revealed that Hades had two sections. On one side there was torment and on the other side the saints were at rest. Now if we take this information back to the passage of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison, we can get a better understanding. Keep in mind that the Old Testament Saints were waiting for their redemption as well. By faith they kept the law and trusted in God’s redemption that was yet to be revealed. The Bible pointedly states that the sacrifices of bulls and rams cannot take away sin. Until Jesus died on the cross, God’s people were still in bondage to sin. They were not tormented because they were credited with righteousness because of their faith, but they could not be justified until the debt owed to sin was paid. An animal sacrifice cannot pay that debt. Jesus alone paid that debt. Once He died, their redemption was preached and they were released from prison. When He rose, the Bible says that they were no longer in Hades. A sinful man or woman cannot come into God’s presence. Therefore, I believe that the Old Testament saints could not enter their final rest until they were justified by Christ on the cross. Until that time, they were in prison waiting for Messiah to come. They were not in torment and were not being punished, but they were still under the debt of sin. Jesus stated that He came to set the captives free. Bondage is from sin, but freedom comes only through the completed work of Christ on the cross.

Man’s Destiny
It is argued that Jesus had to suffer in Hell so man would not have to. The argument is that if Jesus suffered in all ways like us; this must also include our suffering in hell. As we have seen, teachers of this doctrine believe that Jesus served our sentence. However, the Bible does not condemn sinners to a temporary Hell. Because of sin, we deserve an eternal hell. Our sentence is not 3 days. Once this life is over, our destination is final.

Another oversight is that Hell is not man’s intended destiny. Look at Matthew 25:

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

Hell was designed for Satan and the angels who fell with him. Only by choice will any man go to Hell. There is no need for Jesus to suffer the sentence of hell because hell can only found after salvation through Christ has been rejected. The Bible tells us that it is appointed for man once to die, after this is the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible tells us that man is appointed to die, but no where are we appointed to hell. No one is judged for their sins. We are judged with our sins if we choose to cling to our sin and to stand in account for ourselves. We will only pay if our sins remain at our judgment. Because Jesus died for past, present and future sins, we can only stand to be judged if we reject the cross of Jesus Christ and refuse to make Him our Lord. The debt to sin was either paid on the cross, or is due at judgment. Jesus paid for those who put their faith in Him; man pays only when Jesus has been rejected.

Did God Forsake Jesus
It is commonly taught that Jesus became sin for us on the cross, therefore God had to turn away from Jesus. Some teachers take this misassumption to a new level. Several teachers claim that Jesus said, “My God why have you forsaken me” because God was no longer His father. Some go on to teach that Jesus was estranged from God because He took on the very nature of Satan. In this section, I hope to clarify this issue by examining scripture.

Most Christians I have talked to believe that Jesus was separated from the Father because of His statement on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me”. I also once believed this. Scripture itself convinced me that this is not so. For our sakes, I am thankful this is not true. When Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me”, it was not because He was separated from God. It was not because God wasn’t His father anymore. It was not because God turned His back on Jesus. It was a proclamation that scripture was fulfilled. I do believe that Jesus really felt forsaken. Even though He was fully God, He was also fully man. Jesus had human emotions. Even when I feel distant from God, in reality God is right where He always has been.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, certain events were exacted solely so that scripture could be fulfilled. Jesus said that of the 12 disciples that He handpicked, none would be lost except the one who was the devil. This was Judas. He was picked to betray Jesus so that scripture might be fulfilled. In John 19, the Bible says that the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ tunic ‘so that scripture might be fulfilled’. Jesus said, ‘I thirst’ so that scripture might be fulfilled. For the same purpose, Jesus cried out ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me’ so that we could identify the prophecy that He was fulfilling. As I stated earlier, this does not mean that Jesus did not suffer. I believe that Jesus truly experienced the agony of feeling separated. However, human emotions do not override reality. Now let’s go to the prophecy that Jesus was quoting.

Psalm 22 begins with Jesus’ declaration that we just quoted from the gospels. Because of this, we know to go to this prophecy to see what God was doing. Not only do we see that this quote was a fulfillment of this prophecy, but we also see the deep thirst foretold by the phrase, ‘My tongue clings to my jaw’ and fulfilled in the gospels. We see His bones out of joint, His hands, feet and side were pierced. In exact detail, the crucifixion of Jesus was foretold thousands of years before this horrible punishment was invented. Even the mockery was perfectly described. Compare these two passages:

Psalm 22
7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Matthew 27
42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.
43 “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ “

Because Jesus has pointed us to this passage, it only makes sense to take this passage into account when we proclaim the gospel of salvation. In the four gospels we are only getting an external view, but in the prophecy of Psalm 22 we are given a small glimpse from Jesus’ perspective. Jesus makes it absolutely clear that He was never estranged by God. Look at Psalm 22 again:

24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.

God has not despised. God has not abhorred. God did not hide His face. The Father was watching, listening and enduring the suffering so our redemption could be made. Isaiah 53 says that ‘we’ hid ‘our’ faces from Him, ‘we’ esteemed Him stricken – we rejected Him. This has been misunderstood to become God’s rejection of Christ instead of man’s rejection of Christ. Scripture does not say that the Father rejected Jesus on the cross. It is just the opposite. The Bible says that God was pleased with Jesus on the cross. If Jesus is God as the Bible claims, how could He become estranged from God? Can a God who cannot change be torn apart? Can an infinite God that the universe cannot contain divide? To think so is irrational, contradictory and unscriptural. Jesus was never forsaken by God on the cross. However, the Bible clearly says that He suffered like us so that He could understand our sorrows. Look at Hebrews 2

17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

This does not even remotely imply that He suffered spiritual death. As we discussed earlier, spiritual death can only come after rejecting God’s mercy. Man is not appointed to hell. Man was created for God. According to scripture, Hell was created for Satan and his angels. Man can choose hell, but it comes only after we have sealed our fate. For this life, hell is irrelevant; therefore there is no need for Jesus to suffer in hell in order to identify with our suffering. Emotional pain is another story. Emotionally, the weight of the sins of the world were unbearable. Jesus did not shield Himself from the feelings of anguish, separation and rejection.

God does not reject man. Man rejects God. People feel lost, rejected and abhorred by God, but are they? The Bible says, no. The weight of sin makes me feel rejected, but the Bible says that I am free to come before God to lay down my sin. If we look to the beginning, Adam and Eve felt ashamed and hid from God. God did not reject them or hide from them, they hid from God. God came to them, sacrificed an animal and used it to cover their shame.

People have this terrible misconception that God cannot look upon sin. The Bible never says this. The Bible says that God’s holiness will consume sin and God will judge sin. God cannot be touched by sin and He cannot be tempted. Sin is anything that goes against God’s character. It is an assault on God. You can assault God all you want, but it will not affect Him. Sin does not harm God. However, God does have a dramatic affect on sin. It is sin that is destroyed by God’s presence, not the other way around. Sin did not attack Jesus on the cross. Jesus attacked and defeated sin on the cross.

What this means to us:
Understanding this truth applies directly with how we relate to God. If we can’t understand that God loved the Son on the cross, then we can’t understand that God loves a sinner like me. If Jesus took upon Himself all the sin of humanity – past, present, and future – and God did not turn away and did love Him, then I can be certain that God loves me just as I am. A murderer can confidently kneel at the cross and lay his or her sin down and receive the love that God has always longed to give. An adulterer, homosexual, prostituted, thief, or any common sinner will only be willing to come before God if they realize that God not only can look upon them, but He can lift the burden of their sin, cleanse them and make them righteous. Romans 5:8 says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There is no way to misinterpret this passage. God loved us while we were sinners. That love was demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross. God even loves those who hate Him. However, a sinner cannot receive God’s offering of love without the cross of Jesus Christ. He may love us unconditionally, but He cannot accept us unconditionally. Sin cannot abide in God’s presence and every sin must be judged and avenged by God. God could not even receive the Old Testament saints until their sin was paid. God did not bypass His law; instead He fulfilled the law in our place. The good news of the gospel is that every sin has been paid for on the cross. Either we can be judged with our sin, or we can exchange our sins for the righteousness of God through the cross. Only on the cross has sin been avenged. Only the cross can pay our debt. We cannot. We can only choose to accept Christ or reject the cross and stand in judgment for our own sin in place of the cross. Hell is eternal because the debt cannot be paid by our efforts or penance.

Those who do not understand this principle of scripture will be like Adam and Eve. They will flee from God out of fear and shame. God calls sinners to come. He paid the debt and offers His righteousness to all. If God could not look upon sin, then He could not look upon sinners and we would be hopelessly lost.

Did Jesus Lose His Divinity?
We have already covered this in part as we looked at the Bible’s proclamation that God cannot change. The Bible clearly states that Jesus never changes – He is the same yesterday, today and forever. However, to make certain that this is clearly understood, let’s take a closer look at the erroneous doctrine that teaches that Jesus lost His divinity and compare this to scripture.

The doctrine that Jesus became sin for us by becoming one in nature with Satan is orthodox Christianity mingled with false religion. The idea that Jesus became one with Satan on the cross comes partly from the Gnostic religions. The Gnostics teach that the serpent is the redeemer on the cross. Many of these teachers point to Moses lifting up the serpent in the desert. This passage is found in Numbers 21. When the people revolted against Moses, God sent serpents as a judgment against them. God also provided healing by commanding Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole. If anyone was bitten, they could look upon the serpent and live. Jesus pointed back to this event as a symbolic prophecy concerning Him and His manner of death – being lifted up on the cross. Just as the bite of the serpent meant sure death, so the infection of our sin means death. God commanded the people to look at the serpent lifted up as a symbolism that pointed ahead to the time when we who are infected by sin could look at the cross of Jesus Christ to find healing by being saved from our sins. Just as the people revolted against God and fell under the curse of serpents, sin is rebellion against God and puts us under the curse of sin.

The serpent in the desert did not represent Jesus himself, but the sin that would be nailed to the cross. In Jesus’ body, sin was nailed to the cross. He became our sin does not mean that Jesus became sinful in nature, but instead it means that He took on our sin. Look at 1 Peter 2

24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.

As always, we must compare scripture to scripture to get the complete picture of God’s revelation. Jesus became our sin in the same way that the Old Testament sacrifices became the representation of sin that was sacrificed in the place of the person who actually committed sin. The animal did not literal become sin, but became the stead for sin. The animal symbolically bore the sin as a temporary sacrifice which would ultimately be fulfilled in Christ. Look at John 3

14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

The serpent in the desert was lifted up to show how our Messiah would die – not to show what our Messiah would become. It was our sin on the cross, not a satanic Jesus on the cross. It was a symbol of the kind of death Jesus would die. Some even teach that Jesus did not take our sin, He had to become sin. However, the Bible clearly states that in fact, Jesus did take our sin. The above passage in 1 Peter says that He bore our sins. Colossians 2:13-14 says that He took our sins and nailed it to the cross. So in light of these passages, we can clearly interpret 2 Corinthians 5:21 which says that He was made to be sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God in Him. This does not mean that He literally became sin nor does it mean that He took the nature of Satan. It means that He was made to be sin in our place so that we could be credited with the righteousness of God.

Jesus did not need to be ‘born again’ because He is eternally the same. He may have veiled His glory, but He did not cease from being God. It is unnecessary and impossible for Jesus to be transformed into a satanic nature or to be born into a new divine nature. In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). It is contradictory to say that Jesus had to be reborn when the Bible says that He was God in the flesh and this would also contradict the Bible’s claim that Jesus has never and will never change. When the Bible tells us that man is born again, it does not mean that man becomes divine in nature. It simply means that we have become a child of God and are spiritually alive in His kingdom. We no longer live for the world and our selfish desires, but as we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, we now live for the spirit looking forward to the day when we will be changed into an incorruptible child of God.

Eddie Snipes
04/2002

Did Jesus Suffer in Hell? (Part 1)

Is Spiritual Death Necessary?
Some teachers claim that Jesus’ physical death on the cross could not redeem mankind but that He had to die spiritual to pay our debt. Some go so far as to say that we can’t be saved unless we believe that Jesus suffered in Hell. Why do they make this claim? It is a myth that has been propagated and grown over the years, but is contrary to the Bible and Christianity throughout history. There is no scriptural reference supports this idea. The Bible says just the opposite. Look at Colossians 2:

13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

How were our sins taken out of the way? They were nailed to the cross. Look now at Colossian 1

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled
22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight —

We were reconciled from our wicked works in the body of His flesh through death. If it is true and we can’t be saved unless we believe that Jesus suffered in hell, why hasn’t spiritual death been mentioned? Jesus’ supposed spiritual death is not found anywhere in the Bible. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. The Bible does not say, “You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell”. The Bible says that you must confess Jesus as Lord with your mouth and believe that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Romans 8:3 tells us that Jesus Christ condemned sin in the flesh. 1 Peter 3 says:

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit

The Bible says that Jesus’ death was in the flesh but His spirit was made alive. If the Bible teaches that death was physical and the Spirit was and is life, how can anyone claim that Jesus had to die a spiritual death?

You cannot find anywhere in scripture where it is even remotely implied that Jesus served man’s sentence in hell. In fact, there is not a single implication that Jesus suffered beyond the cross. Everything in scripture points directly to the cross as the victory over sin and death. There is an erroneous teaching that says Jesus suffered spiritual death and was then revived by God in Hell. He was born again with a new spiritual nature and he then emerged with the keys of hell. They point to the Apostle’s Creed as evidence that the early church believed the same things they are teaching. The point in the Apostle’s Creed in question states:

[Jesus] Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead

Where is spiritual death in this statement? Where is suffering in hell in this statement? There is no question that Jesus descended into Hades because scripture clearly states this, but it does not say He suffered. The confusion comes from the KJV use of the word hell. In the Old Testament, the KJV uses the words grave and hell interchangeably. In the New Testament, the KJV makes no distinction between hell and Hades.

Before we dig in, let me stop and make it clear that I am not degrading the KJV. I am merely pointing out the fact that the King James Version makes no distinction between Greek words. This is common in all translations. As students of the scriptures, we should examine the original intent to clear up meanings between Greek and English. The great preachers of the past did not rely on translators. An example is Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon spent 40 or more hours a week looking up the meanings of words in order to understand scripture. He was arguably the greatest KJV preacher in history. However, he was committed to understanding the meaning behind the words in order to accurately understand the Word of God.

Understanding the word Hell
One basic principle I frequently reiterate is that the Bible is one complete revelation. To properly interpret scripture, it must be taken in light of scripture as a whole. We will see some examples that show why this is so important as we proceed. The concept of hell was not introduced until Jesus taught it in the New Testament. Old Testament saints had no distinction between hell and the grave. Jesus’ teaching is the first glimpse of hell that God ever revealed. In the Old Testament, the word ‘hell’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘sheol’. Psalm 18 provides an example of this word usage:

4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

In this Psalm, David is lamenting his sorrows. The word ‘hell’ is the word ‘sheol’. Even in the context of the passage it is being used, it is clear that the Bible is referring to the grave. Death compassed me; the sorrows of ‘sheol’ (or the grave) compassed me. It makes perfect sense to say that death and the grave is surrounding me. David was a man of God; he was used greatly by God and inherited the promise of God. He was the lineage that Christ would one day descend from. David was not going to hell when he died – at least not in the sense of today’s meaning. Sheol simply means the grave. It may be translated as hell, but it did not mean to be separated from God and tormented.

Look at Psalm 88:

3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

Sheol has now been translated as the grave in the KJV. It is the exact same word and used in the same context, but this time it is called the grave. Now let’s move to a passage that is used to show that Jesus descended into hell. Psalm 16 says:

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Is this passage foretelling of Jesus’ separation from God, or is this prophecy pointing to His death, burial and resurrection? The apostle’s save us the confusion and interpret this very passage for us. Look at Acts 2:

26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
30 “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,
31 “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.
32 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

Only the KJV translates this as hell in verse 27. The word ‘hell’ comes from the word ‘Hades’ which means ‘the abode of the dead’ or the grave. The KJV translates three Greek words into the word hell. We will examine this in more detail shortly. To the English reader it comes across as the same word, therefore it is assumed be the same meaning, but this is not so. It is understandable that the Old Testament never addresses the issue of hell. Sheol is always used. The grave (or death) can be judgment, but it is not always. As we have already discussed, the concept of torment in hell was unknown in the Old Testament because Jesus revealed this in His teachings. Before Jesus came, the grave was a dark unknown to the Old Testament saints. The New Testament reveals a lot about hell. Understanding the different references will clarify much of the confusion about Jesus’ descent into hell.

There are three primary words translated into the word ‘hell’ by the KJV. Hades, geenna (or gehenna), and tartaroo are translated without distinction in the King James Version of the Bible. Hades is translated into the grave and hell in the KJV. Hades means the underworld, grave or place of the dead. Acts 2:27 is an example of Hades:

For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

The KJV translates this as hell, but the Greek word is Hades. The KJV translates the exact same word as grave in 1 Corinthians 15:55

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The prophecy of Jesus not remaining in Hades is talking about the body. Jesus’ body did not remain in the grave, nor did His body see corruption (or decay). This is a reference to His resurrection.

The word Gehenna is also translated into hell. Gehenna was a valley of Hinnon just south of Jerusalem. This was a wasteland where animal corpses were dumped and burned. It was a horrible place and Jesus used this as a word-picture for hell fire and judgment.

Matthew 18 is an example of this word:

9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

This word is intended to represent eternal judgment and torment. The Bible never mentions Gehenna as being the place of Jesus’ destiny after the cross.

The last word for hell is Tartaroo (or Tartarus). This means the deepest abyss of Hades. This is where the Greeks believed the wicked dead were cast when they died. 2 Peter 2 is an example of this word:

4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

The Bible is teaching that angels in rebellion are cast into the deepest abyss to await judgment.

Putting it into perspective.
Now that we can see the different words used to describe death, the grave, hell and the abyss, let’s go back to the question of Jesus’ descent into hell. Was Jesus condemned to hell? I heard one teacher say that the demons threw a net around Jesus and dragged Him into hell to torture Him. This would imply that Jesus was defeated on the cross and was later rescued by God. (Which would also imply that Jesus was not God). Jesus did suffer in hell when He died. His body went to the grave, but His spirit was fully alive. Jesus made this clear in John 2:

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

It was the temple of His body that would be destroyed, not His spirit. When Jesus died, He immediately surrender Himself into the Father’s hands. Of course we don’t know the exact events or when they occurred, but we do know that after this He descended into Hades. We will discuss this in-depth a little later. Jesus’ own words give us a small glimpse. On the cross, one of the thieves repented and asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus responded in Luke 23:

42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

To remove the contradiction of Jesus’ statement and the doctrine of Jesus suffering in hell, one teacher offered this explanation:

Jesus did not say, ‘I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’ the comma is misplaced. It should read, ‘I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise’. In other words, “Today I am saying this. You will be with Me in Paradise”.

This is reading into the text. There would be no need for Jesus to tell the thief when this statement was being made. Even so, all we need to do is read three verses farther and Jesus clears up the issue completely.

46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

It is a contradiction to say that Jesus’ spirit was dragged into hell, when Jesus said His spirit was in the Father’s hands. The Bible tells us that the first place Jesus’ spirit went was to be with the Father. In light of what He told the thief, we can assume His destination was Paradise. Jesus’ body went to the grave, but His spirit was fully alive. We may not know the exact events that happened after Jesus’ physical death, but the Bible does offer several pieces to this puzzle. Look at 1 Peter 3

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

Again I want to bring your attention to the truth of scripture. Verse 18 tells us that Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but alive by the Spirit. After making this point unmistakably clear, the Bible then tells us that He also preached to the spirits in prison. If the Bible is true, then the teaching that Jesus suffered for 3 days in hell must be false. There is a chasm between these two doctrines. Jesus claimed His spirit was yielded into the Father’s hands, the scripture also claims that Jesus triumphed on the cross and then preached to the spirits in prison. How does suffering fit into these scriptures? It is not found in scripture, therefore it must be added.

Proverbs 30:6 warns us not to add to God’s words or else He will rebuke us and we will be found to be a liar. Isn’t that exactly what is happening in the doctrine of Jesus suffering in hell? Teachers are adding to God’s word what clearly is not there. The Bible always points to the cross as Jesus’ victory over sin and our redemption. The cross is the message of the gospel. If Jesus triumphantly declared, “It is finished”, what right does any man have to say, “No, the process of redemption has only begun”?

Each of these passages of scripture testifies that Jesus was alive in the Spirit, in the Father’s hands, entered Paradise, etc. No passage even remotely implies that He suffered beyond the cross. If there are countless verses that teach that He triumphed over sin on the cross and He preached in victory, and no passages say He suffered spiritually, then doesn’t it make sense to take the Bible speak for itself on this subject?

Satan hates the cross and will attack it on every level. Look again at Colossians 2:

13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

If Jesus made a public spectacle of Satan and his forces on the cross and through the cross He triumphed over them, is it any wonder that satan desperately wants to discredit the cross? Since the cross is a reminder of Satan’s defeat, we can surely expect that he will do anything to take attention away from the cross.

Eddie Snipes
04/2002