3.23.2008

WHERE HAS JESUS BEEN FOR THE PAST 48 HOURS

Did Jesus spend Saturday in hell? I assumed this to be true, given the clause in the Apostles' Creed (one of the most widely spoken confessions in the Christian world): "he descended into hell." But my father-in-law, who is quite the Bible scholar, told me many people, including himself, do not believe that to be true.

Thankfully for the Internet, I can get a quick review of what's what and who's who. There are some, notably the Catholics, who believe Jesus spend Saturday preaching to people in hell, and saving some. On the other side, none other than John Piper, one of my favorite Christian authors of all-time, omits the phrase when he recites the Apostles' Creed (see this link from his website from yesterday morning).

My own take is informed by Acts 2:23-24: "This Man [that is, Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."

I always understood that to mean that Jesus experienced hell in its purest sense: human death, spiritual separation from the Father, and (delicious oxymoron warning) at least temporarily experiencing the finality of death and its power over us. That's what makes the Easter message so incredible, and so relevant to the rest of us humans who are in fact destined to die and to stay dead, at least in the human sense: God sent His Son to become human, to live as a human, to suffer as a human, and to die as a human, and yet demonstrated His power over death by raising Him from the place of death to the seat of honor.

Perhaps we confuse things by assuming hell is a place (say, below the earth) and heaven another, different place (say, above the clouds). The geography of hell and heaven may be vastly secondary to who's in charge where. And, according to my read of Scriptures, when Jesus died in the flesh, He went to where the enemy of our souls is in charge, but Almighty God brought Him back to life and conquest and eternal reign. And the Easter message is that He's still in the business of doing that same thing for us and others who will submit to the Lordship of the First Son He did that for. He is Risen, Hallelujah!
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