| Not too long ago, a dear friend of mine ask me the question, "Did Jesus go to hell after He died on the cross?" To be honest about it, this question caught me a little off guard. In further discussion, I learned that my friend had been taught that during the three days that Jesus' body was in the tomb, His spirit was in hell "paying for our sins." I told him that this was not my understanding of what actually took place during that three-day period, but I would research the question and get back to him. This article is in response to my friend's question.|
In my research of this topic, I discovered to my dismay that this doctrine is rather wide-spread in the teaching of it. Many television evangelists who follow the Faith doctrine teach this concept. The Faith doctrine primarily contends that you can have anything you desire -- if your faith is strong enough. To begin, let's examine in a little more detail exactly what this doctrine is all about.
Those who follow the Faith doctrine believe and teach that Jesus, while still hanging on the cross, was changed form divine to demonic. In other words, He became like Satan or at least one of Satan's followers (a demon). He had all the characteristics of Satan and the demons. This supposedly happened because Jesus "became sin" so you and I could be forgiven of our sins. To put it another way, Jesus not only died physically, but He also died spiritually.
Continuing with this line of thinking, Jesus, or more specifically His demonic spirit, then went to hell to pay the price for our sins. While there, Jesus was tortured in the most hideous fashion by Satan and his followers. They literally tortured the life (spiritual life) out of the demonic Jesus. His spiritual body lay limp and lifeless in the very heart of hell. Satan thought he had won.
However, as the Faith doctrine goes, God -through His faith-filled words - began to bring Jesus back to life. His spiritual body began to fill-out with a newness of life even more powerful than ever before. When this process was complete, Jesus had been re-born in hell and was once again the Son of God, a divine being. His divine spirit then re-inhabited His physical body and was resurrected.
What is your first reaction to the above account? Have you ever heard it before? If your first reaction was, "YES! Victory over Satan," then please STOP and read the account again before going any further with this article. Think about what this doctrine teaches.
I hope and pray that your reaction is now one of repulsion and anger. How could anyone who loves God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit ever conceive of such a ridiculous doctrine. Let's take a look at what the Bible teaches in respect to this.
In order for the false teachers of the Faith doctrine to concoct such a fable as this, various Scriptures must be twisted and distorted to their way of thinking. First, let's take a look at possibly the only verse that could even begin to be taken in such as way as to confirm this doctrine: "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) If you look closely, this verse does say "to be sin for us." The question is, does this verse mean literally that Jesus became sin? To answer this, let's consider two points: the practically of it and respected Bible scholars.
To begin with, sin is an abstract not a tangible object. Sin is the failure to obey the commands of God. It is an action or in some cases an inaction. It is what we do, not what we are. A person cannot "be sin," but rather can only act sinfully. A person can sin; be a sinner; be despicable, terrible, abhorrent, ungodly, unrighteous, and all the rest. But he cannot "be sin." The Bible teaches us to hate the sin but love the sinner. If the person was sin we would have to hate him too. Therefore, Jesus could not have been sin for us. This Scripture then must, of necessity, mean something other than the literal meaning as it relates to the phrase "to be sin."
So me must rely on respected, trusted Bible scholars to assist is in the interpretation of this Scripture. These scholars agree that the phrase "to be sin" means "bearing the penalty of our sins." In other words, Jesus did not become sin but rather became the person who suffered the penalty for the sin which we and countless millions of others throughout the ages have committed. Not only do the respected scholars of our time agree on this point, but the Scriptures also agree. In many places in the Old and New Testament Jesus is portrayed as the sacrificial lamb, the person who bore the punishment for our sins.
Putting that issue to rest, does the remainder of Scripture support or reject the idea of Jesus becoming sin, going to hell, becoming a demon, etc. We will consider just a few of the many Scriptures which refute this abhorrent teaching.
The Old Testament laws concerning sacrifices were a forerunner to the perfect sacrifice which Jesus was to make. In other words, the sacrifices of the Old Testament were a picture of or a representation of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. When God ordained these laws concerning sacrifices, He placed stipulations on them concerning the characteristics of the animals which were to be used. Regardless of the kind of animal to be used, there was always one specific characteristic that they were to have. That characteristic was, "without blemish." (See Leviticus 4:3; 4:28; Deuteronomy 15:21) The sacrifice was to be a perfect sacrifice, without blemish or defect.
The New Testament tells us that Jesus was a perfect sacrifice, "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. . ." (Hebrews 9:14) Does this sound as if Jesus became the despicable character the Faith teachers claim He became on the cross? And how about this, "but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:19) Again I say, the picture here is one of Jesus being a perfect sacrifice. And one last comment on this aspect of our discussion, "And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." (Ephesians 5:2) If Jesus had actually became the demon the Faith teachers claim He became, then God's word would not describe Him as "a sweet-smelling aroma" for we know that God cannot tolerate sin.
The Faith teachers contend that in order for Jesus to have been the sacrifice for our sins, He had to die spiritually. Or, to put it another way, His physical death on the cross was not sufficient. In the first place, if God says that the physical death of Jesus is sufficient, who do the Faith teachers think they are to contradict Him? The Scriptures (God's word) teaches that the sacrifice Jesus made for us was His physical death on the cross. Consider these passages: "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10); "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight" (Colossians 1:21,22); and "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" (1 Peter 2:24). [See also 1 Peter 3:18; 4:1] These Scriptures (and others) unmistakably show that it was through the death of Jesus' physical body that the sacrifice was made for our sins.
To further illustrate this point Jesus Himself gave us the Lord's Supper to remember His physical death, "And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.'" (Luke 22:19,20) If the sacrifice which Jesus was about to make was spiritual in nature and not physical, why did He give us a memorial that asks us to remember His physical death? The answer is clear, the sacrifice He was going to make was giving of His physical life not His spiritual life.
And finally, let's consider the events which transpired as Jesus hung on the cross. As He hung there He said, ". . . Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. . ." (Luke 23:34) Does this sound like someone who is dying spiritually and becoming a demonic being? Not hardly! Remember the thief who took up for Jesus as the other began to ridicule Him? Jesus told him,
". . . Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) This statement from Jesus was significant or it would not be in Scripture. This tells us that Jesus' spirit went to paradise after it left His physical body. (See our monograph "Where Are The Dead.") And finally, as Jesus was just about to die He said, ". . .Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) Notice that Jesus committed His spirit to His Father, not Satan or hell!
Did Jesus go to hell during those three days in which His physical body lay in the tomb? The answer is clearly no when you take into consideration all the applicable Scriptures. This teaching is a false teaching by those in the Faith movement. I am afraid that there are some dear saints who truly love the Lord and strive to live faithfully who have fallen for this lie. His death was a physical death not a spiritual death. He was just a much God as He ever was during those three days His body was in the tomb.
All Scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted
About the Author
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.
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