Jesus in Hell? Response to a Brother

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Brother

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog, “Did Jesus go to HELL?”  I had been looking forward to your comments since Monday.  Many of your points were well stated and caused me to look at some of the post again.

I would like to clarify a few items.  I may have said or written something that was not clear and I would like to correct that.  With that said, I have taken your comments (in blue) and inserted my thoughts for your consideration. 

With all due respect.  It is written… you have a copy of scripture. I read some of it to you when we talked. I believe in a plain normal grammatical historical plenary interpretation

  • Plain
    • When you mention plain interpretation of scripture, I assume that you are referring to a literal reading of scripture. In many portions of the Word, I would agree with you.  Some passages give me pause though.
      • When Acts 2 speaks of tongues of fire, would you understand it to be literal fire?
      • I am sure you do not consider the Messiah to be a door, or a sheep, or a light
      • I think the apostles and prophets spoke to their audience in a manner that would communicate clearly to them, in their culture, language, social structure and religion. It is our labor to try to decipher their message from that environment, and not to read the Word as if it has been written for 21st century American believers.  That just seems a bit provincial.
    • Normal
      • I looked up normal for a definition and found
        • conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural
      • I would appreciate a little clarification on what you mean when you say normal. It’s almost as if the other terms in this description is defining your “normal” reading of Scripture
    • Grammatical
      • Definition for grammatical
        • Of or relating to grammar, Conforming to the rules of grammar:
      • I assume you are describing your method of Bible interpretation/understanding as being different than my efforts. I tend to analyze a passage through word studies, the flow of the sentence structure and the context of the sentence/verse/paragraph I am studying.  I think I am on the same page as you on this.
    • Historical
      • I believe the historical context of the passage when spoken/written is critical to understanding the message. As an example, when Jesus spoke of thine eye being evil, I used to think He was referring to a wickedness of some sort.

Matt 6:23

but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

What does it mean “if your eye is bad”?  Could it refer to a murderous intent, wicked thoughts or evil schemes?  I never really understood this verse until I checked the historical background in Deuteronomy 15:9

Deuteronomy 15:9

Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.

Deuteronomy refers to “…your eye look grudgingly”.  The most common translation of this hebrew word is “evil”.  

When I read Matthew 6:23, I assumed I understood the phrase “if your eye is bad”.  But when I studied the historical background of the phrase, and how it relates to the audience Jesus was immediately addressing, the application for my life becomes so much clearer.  So I would heartily agree that the historical interpretation of any passage is critical

  • Plenary
    • If by plenary, you mean that the canon of Scripture is complete (plenary = full), I would also agree.

If we don’t believe the scripture itself when read, how can we expound upon deeper truth?

I think we need to understand the Scripture (as much as possible) in order to believe it.  I consider belief/faith an action word Gal 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

and not mental consent, and therefore the day to day decisions I make, exercising my faith/belief has to come from an understanding of the message God has provided.

If Christ went to the grave and that’s it. We are still dead in trespasses and sins.

I do not recall saying that Christ went simply to the grave.  If I did, I spoke wrongly.  What I was considering in the blog post was whether the Messiah went to hell, ie the place of torment.  The few NT passages that seem to speak of the Messiah going to hell are not convincing to me in my study.

What is the point as Paul said in 1 Cor 15? The early church got it right historically as I told you Saturday. I stand with them even though the “Soli Scripta” Scripture alone speaks for itself.

Sola Scriptura is what I am trying to do as I study.  I seek to find how the Scripture interprets itself, and in the blog, I made mention of a few Old Testament passages that may supply hints as to what the apostles were pointing to.

An example was the “lowest parts of the earth” phrase that Paul used in Ephesians.   The OT supplied three possibilities for understanding what Paul meant when he wrote “the lower parts of the earth”

Regarding the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) I feel you still consider my thoughts to be of denial of the resurrection.  I am not sure where you get that from, but let me assure you that I believe in the bodily resurrection more now than when I first believed.

What is the point of judgment if you are going to be forgiven anyways?

Judgement (krino and its compunds – anakrino, diakrino ) have many shades of meaning, from simply to “discern” all the way to “condemn.”  To judge (krites and its compounds – dikastēs, kritērion) defines the one judging.

You surely will agree that at the believer’s judgement, condemnation is not considered.  Also, we who have been forgiven, will be judged.

New Testament (Greek) for “judge”
G350ἀνακρίνωanakrinōexamine, judge, ask question, search, discern
G1252διακρίνωdiakrinōdoubt, judge, discern, contend, waver, misc
G1348δικαστήςdikastēsjudge
G2919κρίνωkrinōjudge, determine, condemn, go to law, call in question, esteem, misc
G2922κριτήριονkritērionto judge, judgment, judgment seat
G2923κριτήςkritēsjudge, Judge

New Testament (Greek) for “condemn”

G176

ἀκατάγνωστος

akatagnōstos

cannot be condemned

G178

ἀκατάκριτος

akatakritos

uncondemned

G843

αὐτοκατάκριτος

autokatakritos

condemned

G2607

καταγινώσκω

kataginōskō

condemn, blame

G2613

καταδικάζω

katadikazō

condemn

G2631

κατάκριμα

katakrima

condemnation

G2632

κατακρίνω

katakrinō

condemn, damn

G2633

κατάκρισις

katakrisis

condemnation, condemn

G2917

κρίμα

krima

judgment, damnation, condemnation, be condemned, go to law, avenge

G2919

κρίνω

krinō

judge, determine, condemn, go to law, call in question, esteem, misc

G2920

κρίσις

krisis

judgment, damnation, accusation, condemnation

G5272

ὑπόκρισις

hypokrisis

hypocrisy, dissimulation, condemnation

G6048

καταδίκη

katadikē

sentence of condemnation

Judgement has an implication of separation, or even of making a determination between right and wrong.  Katakrino is the term that strictly refers to condemnation, and at that, I am not sure if there is a time element associated with it.  By that I mean, the word itself simply means condemn, not necessarily condemn forever.  The context may supply that information, but I do not see where the word itself carried a time element.

KatakrinoAs a matter of fact, it looks like men do a lot of the condemning (ie the men of Ninevah, the Queen of the South, even ourselves (Rom 2:1, 14:23)).  Other occurrences in the New Testament speak of the Messiah receiving condemnation.  One time the Messiah spoke on condemning, but that He would not condemn the sinner.  He is something else, eh? (John 8:10-11)

The list may be found at the end of this post (if of interest).

(As I am studying this concept of judgment, I have found a much larger body of data in the New Testament than first reviewed.  In the interest of brevity, I will leave the above mini-study as is, know that it is incomplete, and I will return to it.)

So When Jesus said it was better for Judas not to have been born, (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21) woe doesn’t have any significance if there is no consequences for betraying the Son of the living God.?

I am going to assume the consequence you are referring to above is Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT)

Matthew 26:24

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Mark 14:21

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

I understand your point, but note that the Messiah said “it would have been better” for Judas to not exist than to be born, not “Judas will burn in hell forever”

“Better” is a comparative term.  If I said “I am better than Joe” this doesn’t mean I am equal to the great apostle Paul.  Better simply compares to conditions, but it does not supply the extent of the difference between the two things being compared.  In other words, Judas destiny was defined as being less than the condition of existing (ie being born). A negative condition.

So, if the Scriptures teaches ECT, Jesus may have been hinting at Judas’ destiny.  (A negative condition!)

If He meant something else, (like living and dying under the guilt of condemning a just man), that is also possible. (Also a negative condition!)

Both of these destinies (I am sure there are additional destinies that may be possible for Judas) for Judas would surely fit the description Jesus provides of  “not existing”

At this point in my studies, to demand ECT is taught in this passage would be considered eisegesis.  The verse does not clearly inform us of Judas destiny, other than being a negative condition.

Or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

One verse in the New Testament speaks of blasphemy against the Spirit

Matthew 12:31

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

There are multiple ways to understand this passage.  I will address this passage in a future post as a separate topic.

Or the woes of Matthew 23.

Greater condemnation, v.33-how will they escape the condemnation of Hell?

I guess you don’t believe what Jesus said in v.35 either?

No purgatory in Scripture.

No escaping the judgment of God having received the knowledge of the truth( Hebrews 10:26-31).

If you believe otherwise with all due respect I pity you.


I appreciated this brothers challenge to my thinking, and wish him the best.  Since our discussion, he has found something in me that is unacceptable to associate with.  I have reached out to him a number of times, but he is a busy family man and was not available.  I hope that in the near future, I will have the opportunity to find peace in our relationship.

If you have comments or I have missed an imprtant concept, ignored a Bible passage or represented a teaching incorrectly, let me know.  Look down a few inches and you will find a convenient contact form for you to use! 

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Passages containing the greek word “Katakrino”

Matt 12:41The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Matt 12:42The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Matt 20:18Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn G2632 him to death,
Matt 27:3Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, G2632 repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Mark 10:33Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn G2632 him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
Mark 14:64Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned G2632 him to be guilty of death.
Mark 16:16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. G2632
Luke 11:31The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn G2632 them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Luke 11:32The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
John 8:10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath G2632 no man condemned G2632 thee?
John 8:11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do G2632I condemn G2632 thee: go, and sin no more.
Rom 2:1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest G2632 thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Rom 8:3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned G2632 sin in the flesh:
Rom 8:34Who is he that condemneth? G2632 It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Rom 14:23And he that doubteth is damned G2632 if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
1Cor 11:32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should G2632 not be condemned G2632 with the world.
Heb 11:7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned G2632 the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
James 5:9Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: G2632 behold, the judge standeth before the door.
2Peter 2:6And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned G2632 them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

 

Did Jesus go to Hell?

hell-awaits-fire-redDid Jesus go to Hell?

What type of question is that?

Three passages seem to tell me that, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus actually descended into hell.

The passages are as follows.

1 Peter 3:18-20

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The popular teaching goes like this – the spirits are those of Noah’s generation that are in some type of prison at the time of Peter’s writing.  The assumption is that at the time of being put to death in the flesh, Jesus preached to these spirits in prison, before the resurrection. To the disobedient, He confirmed their condemnation and to the righteous He declared His victory, and their subsequent being led out of the prison they are in. (See Eph 4:8-10 below for verses that seem to teach this scenario.)

Another interpretation is that he – Noah, during the construction of the ark, by the Spirit, preached unto the disobedient, who are now spirits in prison.

This seems to make sense to me, since:

  • Whoever “He” is in verse 19, the power of the preaching was by the “Spirit”
  • Peter refers to Noah in the very next verse.
  • Peter is referring to a specific time frame – “while the ark was a preparing”
  • Noah is described as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and the souls in prison are described as disobedient.

The passage in 1 Peter in not conclusive, to say the least

Lets go on to the next passage and see if it sheds any additional light on this subject.

Acts 2:25-28

For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

The passage of interest focuses on verse 27, where Peter quotes the 16th Psalm, declaring that the resurrection was prophesied.

A major assumption needs to be made if this verse is to teach that Jesus was in the traditional concept of hell. The term used in the Old Testament referring to this hell is Sheol, which by all accounts refers to the grave.

Even within this passage in Psalm 16 itself, with the use of Hebrew poetry (restating the same concept with different words) the psalmist describes what he means when he says “hell”. Hell seems to be synonymous, in this psalm, with corruption. It is commonly understood that Old Testament believers did not have a clear understanding of the afterlife, and Sheol simply meant the grave.

If this is true, then Peter is declaring the resurrection from the grave, not the resurrection from hell.

As an aside, a very interesting study, for those interested, is the number of times the apostles referred to hell in their preaching to the lost. It is true that Jesus preached on hell (gk term hades) very often, but why didn’t the apostles keep up the message? That particular topic is for another time!

Given the last two passages, and the possibility (probability) of alternative interpretations, is this teaching depending on assumptions instead of Bible teaching for support?

The last passage that seems to support the teaching that Jesus visited hell is the following.

Ephesians 4:8-10

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  

(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

captivity captiveWhen Paul mentions that He descended into the lower parts of the earth, is it a safe assumption that he meant hell?  I taught that for decades and assumed it was without fault.  After all, what else could he mean?

I have a greater appreciation for the Word, now that I have finally understood that Paul, along with the rest of the New Testament authors, were preaching the risen Christ from the Old Testament. When a passage like Ephesians 4:9 is compared with the Old Testament, and found to shed light on a weak assumption, I will gladly confess my error.

Consider what I found after a simple search.

Psa 63:6-11

When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.
But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

This passage uses the very same phrase Paul uses, and seems to describe Sheol within the context. Simply defining the grave. Nothing to see here folks – lets move along!.

Isa 44:21 – 25

Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that preadeth
abroad the earth by myself;
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;

Realizing Isaiah is using Hebrew poetry, the “lower parts of the earth” are coupled with “ye heavens”. The very next verse, Isaiah 44:24, is coupling heaven and earth, and seem to be defining the “lower parts of the earth” as simply “the earth”

At the very least, it would not prove that “the lower parts” are necessarily hell.

One other passage that I find amazing is the following.

Psa 139:12 – 16

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

lowest parts of the earthBased on the passage in Psalm 139:15, the lowest parts of the earth, are referring to the womb. This is an incredible passage in light of Ephesians.

Granted, it is not the exact phrase that Paul used in Ephesians 4:9, but it shows the difference between my independent interpretation (lower parts of the earth = hell), compared with Scripture interpreting Scripture.

In view of the previous three Old Testament verses, Ephesians 4:9 could be referring to

  • “the grave” (Psa 63:9) – This interpretation seems to have some strength based on the passage in Acts.
  • “the earth” (Isa 44:23) – This interpretation would coincide with the incarnation of the Messiah.
  • “the womb” (Psalm 139:15) – This interpretation would also coincide with the incarnation of the Messiah.

I have also understood that Paul may be referring to the class of people Jesus came to be among, that is, the lower class. This is a possibility and a teaching that Paul has brought up in his writings before.

With all of this being said, I find there to be very little Biblical support for the popular teaching that Jesus visited our traditional concept of hell, ie. a holding place of suffering for the lost.

What think ye?

 

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