Thursday, April 15, 2010

Did Christ Descend Into Hell? Part 4

Once more, we are asking the question: Did Christ descend into hell. We will wrap up by looking at two final texts.

Part 1: Ephesians 4:7-10,
Part 2: 1 Peter 3:18-22,
Part 3: 1 Peter 4:4-6
Part 4: Romans 10:7 & Acts 2:24-28
Part 5: Theological Conclusion

Romans 10:7
NAU Romans 10:7 or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."
Does this passage teach that Christ body and soul descended into Hades?

First, this passage clearly does refer to a descent. Of this there can be no question. It is a question: “who will descend into the abyss?” Paul is challenging the ability of the believer to achieve their own righteousness and they cannot because no one can do what God has done: send Christ down to earth—to do that a person would have to first ascend into heaven. No one can bring Christ up from the dead, to do that they would have to be able to descend into the abyss.

It is possible that this is the pit/abyss that is mentioned in Revelation. Yet is seems here that this usage is not based on the pit of condemnation that we see in Revelation but the Old Testament where pit and Sheol are used together to refer not to a place but rather the state of death. Bringing Christ out of this pit—meaning the state of death—is the resurrection.

Part of the thing with this passage is that Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy. But in Deuteronomy says:
Deuteronomy 30:13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
The reason Paul speaks of the Abyss in this passage is probably the tendency to associate the sea with ‘the deep’(tehom) as a euphemism for death—see Jonah 2:6.

This passage in Romans could allude to a descent to an actual place or, as I think is more likely, it refers to the state of death. So for example Job links ‘the pit’ with the state of death:
Job 33:18-22 18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, And his life from passing over into Sheol. 19 "Man is also chastened with pain on his bed, And with unceasing complaint in his bones; 20 So that his life loathes bread, And his soul favorite food. 21 "His flesh wastes away from sight, And his bones which were not seen stick out. 22 "Then his soul draws near to the pit, And his life to those who bring death

NAU Ezekiel 31:14 so that all the trees by the waters may not be exalted in their stature, nor set their top among the clouds, nor their well-watered mighty ones stand erect in their height. For they have all been given over to death, to the earth beneath, among the sons of men, with those who go down to the pit."

NAU Ezekiel 28:8 'They will bring you down to the pit, And you will die the death of those who are slain In the heart of the seas.

Yet in other places Sheol and the pit are places one goes and cannot expect the faithfulness of God.
Isaiah 38:17-18 17 "Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back. 18 "For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness.
I believe the distinction between Sheol/pit as a state and Sheol as a place is a most helpful distinction. All who die come under the state—under the realm and rule of Sheol/Death that is unleashed on creation by God’s curse. But is seems that ultimately it is only the unrighteous dead who go both body and soul to the Sheol/pit as a place where they cannot expect any faithfulness from God. God however, does redeem the believer from those who have succumb to the state and reign of Sheol/pit, although there is no conclusive indication that their soul entered into the location.


Acts 2:24-28
Acts 2:24-28 24 "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. 25 "For David says of Him, 'I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. 26 'THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; 27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. 28 'YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.'

There is nothing that indicates that agony of death is actually the torment of hell. It is probably more along the lines of the idea of the sting of death—the power it has to destroy the body. This is not the same word used for agony in Luke 16:24,25.

The big question that needs to be answer here is does Hades refer to the place of the dead or does it refer rather to the state of death as Sheol can sometimes be used in the Old Testament. Furthermore, most uses of ‘soul’ in the Old Testament refer not to the immaterial aspect of our persons but rather the core of our life. I believe that ‘abandon my soul to Hades’ probably speaks for of having ones life abandoned in the state of death—not a crystal clear indication of a descent into Hades.

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