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.”
This is the seventh in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
In the last column we defined the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory and argued that this long-held teaching finds no support in Scripture.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the doctrine of purgatory is that it undermines the sufficiency of Christ. Just before His death on the cross, Jesus declares triumphantly, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Among other things, this means the work of redemption is complete and that no more sacrifice for sins is required.
The wrath of God has been satisfied as the One who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
The writer of Hebrews echoes this truth: “After making purification for sins, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3b). Further, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” (10:14).
This is the sixth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
Do some Christians undergo purification from the stain of sin between death and entrance into heaven? Many who answer yes to that question embrace the doctrine of purgatory, which became official Roman Catholic dogma in A.D. 1438.
Simply stated, purgatory is a place or state of suffering where the dead bound for heaven achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the presence of God.
It should be noted, according to Catholic teaching, that some saints go directly to heaven upon death, needing no purification, while those who die in the state of unrepented mortal sin find themselves at once, and eternally, in hell. All those in purgatory ultimately make it to heaven.
This is the third in a four-part series on Roman Catholicism.
Roman Catholics embrace at least seven doctrines that evangelical Christians reject as inconsistent with the Word of God. In the previous article, we explored five of these doctrines. This column examines two more.
The Bible reveals that salvation is a gift of God received by faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian partakes of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as acts of obedience, or ordinances, which have no saving value.
Roman Catholics, however, teach seven sacraments that are essential to an individual’s eternal destiny. Sacraments in Catholic theology do not merely symbolize grace; they are said to be containers of grace, which participants receive as they partake.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states plainly: “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.”
The Roman Catholic Church traces its beginning to the apostle Peter, claiming he is the rock upon whom Jesus built His church (Matt. 16:18). As the first pope, Peter is followed by an unbroken line of successors stretching to Pope Francis today. Non-Catholics establish the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church at A.D. 590 with Gregory I, who consolidated the power of the bishopric in Rome.
In any case, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church, with 1.2 billion members. The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.
The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. In addition, it teaches that its bishops are the successors of Jesus’ apostles, and that the pope, as the successor to the head of the apostles (Peter), has supreme authority over the church.
Categories of Catholics
While the Catholic Church claims to be the one true church, Catholics worldwide hold to a diversity of beliefs. Researcher Ken Samples has concluded that there are six primary categories of Roman Catholics:
Ultratraditional Catholics defend historical Catholicism and are critical of recent changes such as those coming out of Vatican II in the 1960s.
Traditional Catholics resist liberalism and modernism within the church, yet they generally accept the reforms of Vatican II.
Liberal Catholics celebrate human reason over the authority of the church; they also question the infallibility of the pope, church councils, and the Bible
Charismatic/evangelical Catholics emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the importance of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit-filled life.
Cultural Catholics are “womb-to-tomb” Catholics – born, baptized, married, and buried in the church. However, they essentially go through the motions of their faith without much regard for its meaning.
Popular folk Catholics predominate Central and South America. They combine elements of animistic or nature-culture religion with traditional medieval Catholicism (Christian Research Journal, Winter 1993).