Did Jesus descend into hell?

This is the first in a two-part series on the whereabouts of Jesus between His death and resurrection.

One of the more puzzling questions about the redemptive work of Christ is where His soul went between death and resurrection.

The Gospel writers confirm that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb after His death, and remained there until His resurrection.

But what about the immaterial part of Jesus – namely His soul and / or spirit?

One view is stated in the Apostles’ Creed: “He [Jesus] descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead.”

The meaning of this phrase is much debated. The traditional interpretation is that Christ went to the abode of the dead to preach the gospel to Old Testament saints in order to set them free for the full experience of heaven.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church embraces this view, as do many Protestants.

However, theologian Wayne Grudem points out that the troublesome phrase, “He descended into Hell,” is a “late intruder into the Apostles’ Creed that never belonged there in the first place and that, on historical and Scriptural grounds, deserves to be removed.”

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What Every Christian Should Know about Satan

The Missouri Baptist Convention, through its High Street Press imprint, has released a new resource for personal or group study titled What Every Christian Should Know about Satan.

Written by the MBC’s Rob Phillips, the 400-page book explores more than a dozen biblical names and titles that reveal the evil one’s character, tactics, and ultimate destiny in hell. It’s designed for pastors and laypersons who desire a deeper study of Satan’s doomed campaign against God and God’s people.

Curiously, the Hebrew satan means “accuser” and is not a title devoted solely to the evil one. Even the angel of the Lord – the preincarnate Christ – plays the role of satan / accuser on one occasion (Num. 22). However, God’s progressive revelation in Scripture reveals one particular accuser who stands in opposition to his Creator – the diabolos, or devil, of the New Testament.

Numerous biblical names and titles appear, focusing on a single fallen angel who reigns over a host of demonic followers. These names include: dragon, serpent, father of lies, murderer, tempter, deceiver, evil one, Beelzebul, ruler of this world, and destroyer.

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Jesus, the firstborn over all creation

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).

In the last column, we explored John 1:1-3 in our quest to understand Jesus’ role as the creator of all things. Now, let’s consider two additional passages.

Colossians 1:15-17 – “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.”

Those who seek to reduce Jesus to a created being argue that Paul refers to Jesus as the image of the invisible God, not God Himself. But this fails to recognize that Jesus and the Father are distinct divine persons. Further, no mere creature can serve as the true image of the invisible God. 

Humans are created to be image bearers of God, reflecting His character and attributes, but we are not divine. Only Jesus, who shares the eternal glory of the Father, can truly reveal Him in human flesh (John 17:5). 

Then, some contend that Jesus, as the “firstborn over all creation,” is the first of God’s created beings. Jehovah’s Witnesses are the primary promoters of this view today. 

But while the Greek prototokos (firstborn) can refer to the first person born into a family, it often signifies a position of supremacy. For example, Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers and sisters,” the model of all saints bound for glory (Rom. 8:29). 

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Afterlife: Now on Audible

The Missouri Baptist Convention’s publishing imprint, High Street Press, has just released an audio version of its popular printed resource, What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife

Published in 2017 in print and ebook editions, Afterlife is now available through Audible, the premiere audio-book platform, which may be accessed at Audible.com

The book explores key words and phrases used in Scripture to describe life beyond the grave, with an emphasis on how to know one’s eternal destiny.

In 13 short lessons, the book addresses what the Bible says about death, judgment, heaven, hell, and more. Each chapter concludes with probing questions, making this an ideal resource for personal or group study.

What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife features lessons on:

  • Ten biblical truths about the afterlife
  • Hades and the afterlife
  • Gehenna and the afterlife
  • Your future resurrection
  • Everyone’s day of reckoning
  • Is heaven our final home?
  • Should you believe in ghosts?
  • Where are you spending eternity?
  • And other topics related to the afterlife

The book continues to be available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.com and other retailers.

 

 

 

The Son as Creator

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).

In the last column, we explored God the Father as creator. Now, let’s consider the first of several passages that reveal the Son as creator.

John 1:3 – “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”

After establishing that Jesus is both eternal and divine, as well as a distinct person from the Father (vv. 1-2), John declares that the Son created “all things.” This simple statement sets Christianity apart from Gnosticism, a religious movement that severely threatened the infant church, particularly in the second and third centuries.

While diverse, Gnosticism generally held to two overarching beliefs. First, salvation is obtained primarily through special knowledge obtained in secret rituals. In fact, the term gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” This secretly obtained knowledge enables a person to escape the corruption of the world, particularly as it resides in the physical body.

Second, Gnostics embraced dualism. That is, they believed the material world is inherently evil, while the spiritual realm is intrinsically good. So, salvation is achieved by escaping the body – freeing the “good” spirit from the “evil” flesh. This may be one reason the Greeks on Mars Hill berated Paul for preaching the resurrection of the body (Acts 17:32). After all, if the body is evil, who wants a resurrected one?

In any case, Gnostics faced the challenge of explaining who created the world. If God is pure spirit, and if matter is corrupt, how can the two be reconciled? Gnostics devised their own creation story.
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