Did Jesus Die Spiritually and Did he Descend into Hell?
There are two sections of this article on if Jesus died spiritually, as proclaimed by some of those in the Word of Faith movement. The first section, exposes the false claims of those who are teaching that Jesus died spiritually on the cross and spent 3 days in hell.
The second section of this article, "Proving from Scripture that Jesus Did not Descend into Hell" explains what is meant when scripture says Jesus spent 3 days and 3 nights "in the heart of the earth" and how it is not referring to Hell.
Jesus's Spiritual Death Debunked
As Hank Hanegraaff, in his book Christianity in Crisis explained, this "Jesus died spiritually" and "Jesus went to hell to be redeamed" theory comes from Frederick K.C. Price who got it from Kenneth Hagin who got it from E.W. Kenyon (an early word of faith teacher), who got his information from metaphyusical cults.
Following are some quotes on this subject from these false teachers
(False teacher/prophet quotes are in purple and indented, my
comments are in plain text and scripture is in teal. False teachers rarely use scripture. I have only included those portions I intend to comment on.)
Kenneth Hagin said, "He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can't you see that? Physical death wouldn't remove your sins. He's tasted death for every man. He's talking about tasting spiritual death."
(Kenneth Hagin, "How Jesus Obtained His Name," tape #44H01, side 1. Kenneth Hagin Ministries).
Kenneth Copeland said, "When Jesus cried, 'it is finished' He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne. . . . Jesus' death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption."
(Kenneth Copeland, "Jesus--Our Lord of Glory," Believer's Voice of Victory 10, 4 (April 1982).
Jan Crouch, wife of TBN's Paul Crouch, approvingly recited the following from Paul Billheimer's book, "Destined for the Throne,":
"Because he was 'made sin, impregnated with sin, and became the very essence of sin, on the cross He was banished brom God's presence as a loathsome thing. He and sin were made synonymous. . . .[I]t was not sufficient for Christ to offer up only His physical life on the cross. His pure human spirit had to 'decend' into hell. . .
His spirit must not only descent into hell, but into the lowest hell. . . .The Father turned Him over, not only to the agony and death of Calvary, but to the satanic torturers of His pure spirit as part of the just dessert of the sin of all the race. As long as Christ was 'the essence of sin' he was at Satan's mercy in that place of torment. . . .
While Christ identified with sin, Satan and the hosts of hell ruled over Him as over any lost sinner. During that seemingly endless age in the nether abyss of death, Satan did with Him as he would, and all hell was 'in carnival.' " (Paul E. Billheimer, "Destined for the Throne", pub. 1988, pg 83-84, program aired 20 August 1987)
As Hank Hannagraaff explains "How can anyone miss what the Lord said to the thief on the cross? Jesus did not say, 'Today you will be with me in hell.' He said, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise' (Luke 23:43)."
Hank also points out that "It is worth noting that Jesus on the cross cried, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit' (Luke 23:46; cf. John 19:30) "
Hank also points out how Matthew 12:40 and Eph 4:9,10 are taken out of context and forced to speak of Jesus going to hell when they are merely talking about Christ being dead for 3 days and how David used the same expression in Psalm 139:15, 16.
Hank concludes his 14th chapter by saying: "Jesus did not suffer horrible torture at the hands of Satan in the bowels of hell. Christ triumphed over the devil at the cross! It was His death on the cross that made possible our salvation. How could the writer of Hebrews have made it any clearer?"
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that BY HIS DEATH HE MIGHT DESTROY HIM WHO HOLDS THE POWER OF DEATH--THAT IS, THE DEVIL--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15)."
So, scripture indicates that Jesus did not die spiritually after all.
I would really recommend Hank's book, Christianity in Crisis. It is very well documented. He also has tapes of these false teachers speaking their untruths. They can be obtained through Christian Research Institute.
Proving from Scripture that Jesus Did Not Descend into Hell:
Some false teachers use the following verse to claim that Jesus spent 3 days in hell after he died:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt 12:40)
A lot of false teachers translate "in the heart of the earth" to mean "hell." But is that what it really means?
What Does "in the Heart of the Earth" mean?
In the Greek the word "heart" is *Kardia*, Strongs #2588, and when speaking of the body it means heart, "for the life of the flesh is in the blood," (Leviticus 17:11) so the heart is the seat of physical life. However, according to Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, when speaking of the earth, this word means "the seat and center of all physical and spiritual life."
Does any spiritual life originate in HELL? No!
Some False Teachers refer to the following verse to also mean Jesus descended into hell:
"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?" (Eph 4:7-9)
If one is thinking that the "heart of the earth" means means "Hell", then the next logical conclusion is that must be where Jesus descended to.
Where is the Seat of Spiritual life on the Earth?
Before the cross there were two sections in the place of the dead, Sheol, often translated as "Hell" (for the Lost) and "Abrahan's Bosom"(also known as Paradise, for the saved).
Read the story of Lazarus:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. . . And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." (Luke 16:22)
Do those in Hell get a second chance at redemption? No!
Would Jesus therefore have lead captives out of hell? No! But he could have led them out of Abraham's bosom/Paradise.
Did Jonah go to Hell when he was swallowed by the great fish? No! He was in a protected place provided by God in the belly of the great fish. And the same thing happens with those in Abraham's bosom before Christ came to earth, died and was resurrected.
Where did Jesus Complete his Work of Redemption?
"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.' A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponde in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hysoop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his life." (John 19:28-30)
Where did the saints in Paradise Go After Jesus' Resurrection?
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 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.) (Ephesians 4:7-10)
In other words, Christ descended into Abraham's Bosom/Paradise, and took "captives", the redeemed, to heaven. This event closed up Paradise because from this point on believers go to be with Christ immediately after they die.
What does "It is Finished" mean?
The word teleo (strongs #5055) means "to finish". It is a verb. This word with the proper tense, mood an voice added, as spelled in the Greek is *tetelestai* and it means "it is completed, finished".
This word "teleo" is in the perfect tense, indicative mood and passive voice, i.e., "has been" or "it is" finished. The perfect tense means an action that was completed in the past but has continuing results, not exact meaning in the English but usually translated as has/have.
The indicative mood makes an insertion of fact and is the only mood when the time of the event can be established, i.e., when it was uttered is when this event was finished.
The passive voice means the subject received the action of the verb and uses a form of the verb "to be", i.e., "it is" in this instance and it was Jesus who finished it.
It should be apparent to anyone reading this passage that Jesus completed his work on the cross because of the verse right above which says:
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, (#5055, i.e., *tetelestai*) that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.. . ." (KJV John 19:28)
The word translated as "accomplished" in the KJV is the exact same word and spelling and tense, mood and voice as used in verse 30 (which is translated as finished in the KJV).
In other words, when Jesus uttered those last words, his work was completed right there on the cross, shedding his blood for us. NOT IN HELL.
Also, Jesus did not spend 3 days in hell. He went to Abraham's bosom to lead believers who had died before the cross to heaven.
See also a collection of articles critiquing the teachings of Joyce Meyer False Teacher on this site, on Jesus supposedly dying in Hell.
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