Friday, April 30, 2010

The Law, Eschatology and Christ

An excellent quote from Jason Meyer's The End of the Law:
Paul conceives the Mosaic (old) covenant as fundamentally non-eschatological in contrast to the eschatological nature of the new covenant. Paul declares that the Mosaic covenant is not old because it belongs to the old age, whereas the new covenant is new because it belongs to the new eschatological age. This distinction has determinative effects. The old age is transitory and impotent, and therefore the Mosaic covenant is both transitory and ineffectual. The new covenant is both eternal and effectual because it belongs to the new age and partakes of the power of the new age, the Holy Spirit.
Another way to state the difference is as follows. As the eschatological covenant, the new covenant consists of what one would call "eschatological intervention," while the old covenant does not. God intervenes through His Spirit in the new eschatological age in order to create what He calls the new covenant. The Mosaic covenant lacked the power to produce what it demanded. (p.1-2)
A couple of thoughts:
(1) While this synthesis draws together a whole number of Paul's works and sections within them, it clearly stands out in Galatians. Moises Silva has said that the key to understanding Galatians is eschatology. Bruce Longenecker's work The Triumph of Abraham's God makes the same basic point. In Galatians, Paul clearly sees the Mosaic Law as temporary. He set apart obedience to the Mosaic Law from fulfillment of the promise with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is clearly eschatology that is at work. 

Paul's focus though is to go back to the Abrahamic covenant as the root of the this eschatology. So that the climax of the age, Paul in Galatians does not mention the new covenant directly but the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (which is clearly in the New Covenant). 

For Paul the role of the Law is temporary until (eis) faith--Paul uses "faith" towards the end of chapter three as a metonymy for 'Christ' or for the object of faith. When Paul speaks of the Law being a tutor, he is not speaking of the role of the Law prior to an individuals salvation but rather the redemptive-historical role of the Law prior to the fulfillment that comes in Christ.

(2) It seems to me that this eschatological structure and the role of the Law is found similarly in Hebrews.  Clearly the Mosaic covenant (the old covenant) is the first covenant that leads to transgression. Those transgression committed by the first covenant must be removed (almost in a similar argument as Galatians 3:10-14). The new covenant is the eschatological and therefore is both a climax and a fulfillment.

Hebrews is clearly all about eschatology. The fulfillment comes in the "once for all time" work of Christ which sets aside all that which belongs to the 'shadow' and sub-eschatological. Hebrews also in its eschatology sees the eternal fulfilled in the new covenant, again Vos is strongest here.

(3) Of course, Scripture never sets aside ethical behavior result from the Spirit which is having the Law written on our hearts. But these changes the role of the Law. The first covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant. Yet it is clear that the outward working of the Law in kosher foods, feasts & holy days, circumcision and the sacrificial system are all set aside as matters that do not bind because we are no longer "under the Law."

(4) We should never under estimate the lack of actual power that the Law in itself has. The Law, according to Paul, in the end stirs up sin. This is because of the human who enters into the covenant with God through the Law not God, or the Law which is holy, righteous and good. Hebrews, too, identifies the same problem with the Law.
Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
Hebrews assumes the first covenant has a problem and therefore we need the second one. The Law could not ultimately remove sins, furthermore the second partner in the covenant--us--could not live up to their end of the bargain, so to speak. This condition of 'having faults' is that it is the not 'perfection' that Hebrews envisions as a category of eschatology itself.

(5) The implication is the freedom we have in Christ. This freedom is not merely a personal experience that we now have in Christ, although Luther was certainly right in all this. Rather, freedom is a category of eschatology. Freedom in Christ removes the yoke of slavery to the Law as Mosaic Covenant. Those having received the adoption as Sons can live in a new way has full heir, which makes a statement over against being a 'minor' not yet of age to inherit who needs the tutor. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christ & Paradise

We began here a five part series talking about Christ's descent into hell. There is much more we could say as a whole but consider several issues arrive concerning "Abraham's Bosom" and "Paradise".

First, Luke 16:
Luke 16:22-26 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
While many people use this to describe to places in Hades/Sheol—and such divided states of Sheol is clear in intertestamental Judaism—this passage only clearly defines the rich man as in Hades:
23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
So while Lazarus is at Abraham’s side, the passage does not clearly define this as part of Hades. It seems clear then that the rich man is in the underworld and Lazarus is perhaps not but is at Abraham’s side. Hebrews may indicate that Abraham was in heaven. Clearly he anticipated heaven, Hebrews is less clear on the timing of this reception (and Hebrews is clear in 11:40 that they receive these things in conjunction with us in the final eschatological perfection).
Hebrews 11:13-16 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
The grammar of this passage ‘they were desiring a better country’ indicates a present experience in their life of faith—whereas the aorist tense: “he has prepared” seems to indicate something He had in store for them. I want to be careful about putting to much weight on this, but it seems the heavenly hope awaited at death not future from their death. Of course, they experienced this in advance of the atonement and enthronement of Christ so the full eschatological hope was not there’s. I think there is a slight indication though that they waited in heaven.

Second, Jesus promises entrance into paradise on the day of His death.
NAU Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
The main thrust of this passage is not to teach us about the intermediate state but to show the immediate hope that the thief had on the cross. Paradise is clearly the abode of the righteous, which both Jesus and the thief enter upon their death.

Paul tells us the location of this is the 3rd heaven:
2 Corinthians 12:2-3 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-
Paul probably breaks the heavens down into: 1st-the sky; 2nd-the realm of the stars; 3rd-the highest where God dwells. This is not certain and Judaism in Paul’s days certainly offered speculative accounts of levels inside heaven. The best interpretation seems to be that which adds the least to the passage. (see for example: Genesis 1:1,8, 9, 14,15 which seems to distinguish heavens and Heaven [although I am not dogmatically certain on this])

The point that Paul places Paradise in heaven.
Revelation 2:7 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'
The background for paradise is the Garden of Eden. At this point I think that Eden is typological that points to the final hope. Some studies on the Temple have shown that Eden was a Temple and like the Tabernacle/Temple it was modeled after the heavenly temple.

I understand that one interpretation is to say that Paradise is a realm of Hades and that it moves from Hades to Heaven with Christ’s ascension. I find this difficult for two reasons:

(1) Scripture is no where explicit that Paradise moves. To create such a major doctrine I believe we should have a specific statement. Granted sometimes we do have to put pieces together. But as the rest of my exegesis has hopefully showed, it just is not there in terms of warrant.

(2) If Eden is a Temple/Paradise, then it is a sort of type of what is in heaven not something that ascends to heaven. I would apply the similar principles we find concerning the earthly temple to the Eden. Its relationship then stands to the heavenly Paradise that awaits descent in the New Creation not a part of the Hades which would be sub-eschatological. [Here I think we can creative combine G.K. Beale's work on the Temple and the Church's Mission with Vos' Teaching of the Epistle of Hebrew, particularly his chapter on Hebrews' philosophy of revelation.]

Scripture is clear that heaven/paradise will descend to earth in the creation of the New Heavens and New Earth. The heavenly descends. It is a backward appeal to eschatological progression to think that paradise must first ascend to heaven. In fact, the Garden of Eden holds out the eschatological reward for Adam in his first obedience. Upon being cursed, he is cast out of the garden. The offer of the tree of life had he been obedience was the offer of the eschatological reward. This shadow in the garden pointed forward to the climax of the reward the second Adam would win. He won this in His ascent to heaven so that having won the award, heaven itself might come down for us.

Therefore, paradise does not progress upward but progresses downward. The saints, in the intermediate state, enjoy a presence in Paradise just as Christ did but this is not the full experience which for Christ and man only comes in Resurrection life, for Christ He enters as triumphantly to secure the prize and be enthroned over it only in His ascension--yet in His death God is His refuge. While His body descends to the grave/Sheol, His spirit he entrusts to His father who ushers him into paradise until His resurrection. Yet we must not confuse the intermediate state with the climax of the final state either in Christ or in the believer's experience. In Christ's intermediate state, death still rules--the grave still has its choke hold upon although the suffering of Christ was finished on the Cross.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reading our Bible with Jesus

Two weeks ago, in a Christianity Today interview, Jennifer Knapp announced that she was a homosexual. Commenting on the Scriptural arguments, she repeated a common fallacy concerning the Old Testament with the relationship between the food laws and the moral prohibitions concerning homosexual. Here is the relevant excerpt:

What about what Scripture says on the topic?


Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the "clobber verses" to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they're eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I'm not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn't allow homosexuals within our church. There's a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I've been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

The basic point is that since you eat shellfish and dismiss those verses which prohibit such behavior, therefore do not use other verses to assert moral authority over me. This argument fails on a number of points:

(1) It ignores the Biblical arguments. It is not as if these Old Testament verses are the sum total of the Bible's argument. It ignores key passages like Romans 1 among others such as 1 Tim. 1:10 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10. (Consider some of these Biblical points).

(2) It fails to provide a sufficient basis for "throwing out" part of God's Word and seemingly undercuts the actual authority of God's Word. It is no argument to say "you throw some out, so I'll throw others out." In these case you are not asserting the rightness of one's own position but potentially impugning the behavior of both. In other words, this does not liberate one's own position any more than my daughter when caught pointing to her siblings and saying "but they were breaking those other rules of yours, dad."

(3) The argument fails to note the redemptive historical nature of the commandments themselves. The New Testament explicit brings certain ceremonial aspects of the Law to fulfillment in the work of Christ. Where fulfillment is brought by Christ the nature of the believers relationship to the commands changes yet certain ethical commands are not revoked--particularly ones that are rooted in the created nature of things.

So Knapp and other are right to point to such Biblical commands regarding shellfish and clothing. They are indeed in Scripture itself.
Leviticus 11:12 'Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you.
Deuteronomy 14:3 "You shall not eat any abomination.

Leviticus 19:19 'You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.

Deuteronomy 22:11 "You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.
Yet the nature of Scripture itself, and even more Jesus' hermeneutic tells us that how to handle these passages in light of the unfolding redemption where the ceremonial serves as a shadow until the fulfillment comes.

Jesus himself declares all food clean:
Mark 7:19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
Acts 10--
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour [2] to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
The unfolding of redemption brings certain aspects of the Law to fulfillment in Christ. They were set up with a sort of time delay whereby when the fulfillment comes in Christ these aspects are no longer necessary just as a shadow passes away in the presence of the real.

If we fail to understand that the forms of obedience change, we haven’t put Jesus at the center of our Bible. When someone mandates that we must obey the Old Testament Sabbath, Jewish feasts, circumcision, the Jewish Calendar, food laws, and clothing Laws—they are denying that Christ is the fulfillment. Jesus as the fulfillment changes the nature of our relationship to the Old Testament. It does not throw the Old Testament out. BUT if you want to use the Old Testament without understanding Jesus climaxes it—you deny Jesus is the fulfillment. If you do not see a distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant you miss that Jesus is the fulfillment. But if you fail to see continuity of commands rooted in the holiness of God and humanity's bearing the image of God, we fail to do justice to how God binds us. The new creation Christ inaugurates as the firstfruits of the eschaton brings to fulfillment and accomplishment things created for and held out to the first Adam. In Christ then numerous ethics are still in force as something we fulfill the new humanity in--sacrificial love, sexual fidelity, creational distinctions with salvific equality in heirship, etc. The believer must walk as the new man, having put to death the deeds of the flesh.

Scripture is clear that certain aspects of the Law are not morally binding as then have been fulfilled in the inauguration.
Acts 10 & 11—all food is clean.
Romans 14:14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Gal. 4:10 and Col. 2:16-17—we do not have to celebrate feasts.
Colossians 2:16-17 16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Sabbath is no more holy than any other day:
Romans 14:5-6 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
Sacrifices that were once a year—are not fulfilled by the “once for all time” of Jesus’ death. In the same way ceremonial principles laid out in the OT commands are fulfilled in Christ. If the fulfillment has come we are not under the same obligation to practice them—but we do not merely throw them out. It is not just that the Christian chooses what to throw out “eeni, meeni, miney, mow”. We are not “abolishing” what was laid down… rather we are saying that Christ has ushered it to fulfillment.

While Jesus points to the fulfillment of these aspects of the Law, there are other aspects of God's Law that are repeated in the New Testament with the same moral force that they have in the Old Testament. This is particularly true when it comes to sexual and marital fidelity, issues which are rooted not in the Mosaic Law, certainly not the ceremonial aspect, but distinction and covenant unions which are grounded in creation itself. It is the rebellion against creation that leads a perversion of this standards imbedded in the very fabric of our being as those made in the image of God.

While Jennifer Knapp is only repeated what is in the cultural air, the fact remains that such common argument pay little or no attention to the actual wording and structure of Scripture itself. Scripture has an eschatological and redemptive historical structure to it. The covenants given in Scripture are part of the unfolding of God's revelation and redemption.

Some other posts debunking some of the common fallacies and false arguments favoring homosexuality against the clarity of Scripture:
Here, here, and here.

Want to learn more about putting Jesus at the center of your Bible? Listen to this sermon:


Covenant Theology for Baptists

Sometimes Baptists forget that there is a strong vein of Covenant Theologians in Baptist Theology. Yes, they reject applying covenant theology to baptism yet there is a strong teaching about the covenant of works and a covenant of grace in Baptist theology.

Here's an older paper I did on this issue, for your enjoyment.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Did Christ Descend Into Hell? Conclusion

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

Certainly the doctrine of a descent into hell is well founded in church history. Yet I think that part of this develops out of a misunderstanding of what Hades is.

This doctrine in a large part develops in a misunderstanding particularly out of 1 Peter 3. If we are right, then this passage refers more to the ascent and the proclamation that it makes over spiritual forces rather than a descent.

It is possible that Christ’s spirit does not go into Paradise as the third heaven but Scripture does not give any other location for Paradise. Indeed, Paradise is never associated with Sheol and the underworld.

I think it is best to understand Sheol as both a place and a reigning realm. So that the unrighteous who die succumbing to its reign go down into the depths as a real place. The righteous have their life destroyed by its reign and so enter the state of death—their body goes down but even Old Testament saints most likely go to glory. In this glory they are not in the glorified state. They await (1) the full work of Christ that both secures their position and wins the kingdom and (2) they await, along with us, their future resurrection.

It is difficult to be hard and dogmatic on these issues especially since Sheol is a complicated theme. We must allow (a) for progressive revelation and (b) for the poetry and usage. Sometimes OT authors convey fears and express pleas making appeals to God in a manner that expresses what they are going through without giving us an OT systematic theology about what happened beyond death. Nevertheless I have sought to carefully put together the puzzle pieces as clues that we have. No doubt, other interpreters might arrange them slightly differently.

Synthesis: What happened to Christ when He died? When and what was His ascension?

(1) Christ dies and His body succumbs to the grave. It is a real death as the agony of death takes His body. His life is gone. Death does conqueror Him.

(2) Christ’s body is in the grave for three days. His body is in the heart of earth. He is under the state of death—thus we can rightly refer to him as ‘in the heart of the earth.’ Disembodied existence, even in heaven, is not the hope of ‘life’ the Bible ultimately offers.

(3) Christ clearly goes into Paradise and entrusts His Spirit to God.

Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."

Luke 23:46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last.
Without a clear description of movement in the location and place of Paradise, and given that the Old Testament saints do seem to enter God’s glory and a place of rest and peace—I would cautiously maintain that Christ’s human spirit goes into God’s presence.

This is not the ascension. This is not a state of exaltation.

(4) On the cross, Christ finishes His redemptive suffering and therefore undergoes no further torment.
Luke 23:46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last.
This is a confession entrusts Himself to God. Taking this with John, it seems clear that suffering for the curse of sin is over.
John 19:30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
(5) The Ascension does not occur until after the Resurrection when the human body and human soul/spirit of Christ is united in an indestructible body of the New Creation.

It is clear that Jesus does not ascend to heaven until after the resurrection.
John 20:17 Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"
Christ must ascend bodily into heaven to complete His act of ministry and mediation. It is in the ascension that He is enthroned as the Second Adam. The resurrection and ascension are a crowning with glory and honor. Here Christ is raised up and given all authority over angels, demons, and principalities.

The ascension is a triumphant victory. From His ascended state Christ pours out the Holy Spirit.

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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Did Christ Descend Into Hell? Part 3

Once more, we are asking the question: does the Bible teach that Jesus Christ descended into hell between his death and resurrection.

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

Today, we want to look at 1 Peter 4:4-6. This passage is often taken with 1 Peter 3:18ff to say that upon his death Jesus descended into hell to preach to spirits in prison. We will argue this passage does not teach that.

1 Peter 4:4-6
1 Peter 4:4-6 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

The questions in this passage arise over the nature and timing of the preaching to the dead.
There are three basic options for understanding this passage:
(1) Jesus went and preached to the dead in Hades. In this reading the passage is interpreted in collusion with what we have shown to be a misunderstanding of 1 Peter 3:18-19.
(2) It is the spiritual dead to whom the gospel is preached.
(3) It is those who are dead now who had the gospel preached to them while they were living.

First, the passage does not say that Jesus went and preached the gospel. It only says “6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead,” In this verse the word for preached is euangelizomai which is the word used for gospel preaching for salvation and repentance. It is not the same word used in ‘preaching’ in 1 Peter 3:19. This seems then in our passage to be a real call to repentance and belief for salvation not merely a proclamation and announcement.

If this passage would be referring to Jesus ministering the gospel this would then be the only place where the offer of the gospel is held out to those who are dead. Nothing in the passage says that Jesus does the preaching in this passage, and nothing indicates that it is Old Testament saints or unbelievers who never had opportunity to hear the gospel as some use this passage to suggest. Scripture speaks against the notion that people who have died have opportunity to repent. Passages like Hebrews 9:29 indicate that after man’s death is judgment which would eliminate the possibility of postmortem offers of the gospel.
NAU Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
Luke 16 is clear that it is impossible for the righteous dead or the unrighteous dead to cross over to the side of the other and abide with them:
NAU Luke 16:26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'
The second option that these are spiritually dead also inserts ideas into Peter’s words. Dead in verse 6 should mean the same thing that it does in verse 5. Peter is talking about those who are physically dead.

In the context, Peter speaks about unbelievers who are attacking and slandering the believing Christians—v.4 “they malign you.” Those who do such things will be called to account for their actions (v.5) because God judges both the living and the dead. This notion of judging the living and the dead show the impartiality of God.

Then v.6 begins with “for this reason also” “eis touto gar kai”. Peter is ground is next statement on the fact that God judges the living and the dead. These dead have the gospel preached to them and the result is (so that) “they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” Here he is specifically talking about how these people are treated when they live versus how they are treated when they die.

In life, in the flesh they are judged by men. These may indicate, given “they malign you” in verse 4 that these dead were indeed judged harshly in this life by people who treated them cruelly. But the result of having had the gospel preached to them they ‘live according in the spirit according to God’.

Spirit should probably not be understood as disembodied existence. In 1 Peter pneuma generally refers to the Holy Spirit. The one exception would be 1 Peter 3:4 where “spirit” is modified by “quiet.” Spirit there refers to the inner attitude of a person not disembodied existence. The parallel to 4:6’s use of flesh and Spirit would be in 1 Peter 3:18. Life in the Spirit according to God is probably looking forward to resurrection life of those who are vindicated by the judgment of God.

It seems best then to emphasize the past tense of the preaching in 4:6. The gospel was preached to the dead. The idea is that the gospel was preached to those who are dead now. They may have been judged harshly and wrongly by men but because the gospel was proclaimed to them they will live for God in the resurrection. They will pass through God’s judgment. This is a natural reading of the text and I believe that it is other factors that we bring to the text that forces some to insist that the preaching people after their death. This is possible but it is not the best interpretation of the text.

Conclusion:
This passage does not even mention Jesus. It is not teaching that Jesus descended into hell and it does not teach a preaching of the gospel to the dead after they had died. Of course, this passage is debated and is difficult but it seems best that when read in context Peter is telling us that those who have been judged unfairly in this life 'in the flesh,' though dead now they had had the gospel preached to them so that might be vindicated by God in resurrection life.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Did Christ Descend Into Hell? Part 2

We are continuing our series: did Christ descend into hell?

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

The next major passage is 1 Peter 3:18-22.

1 Peter 3:18-22
This is probably one of the most complicated and difficult passages in all of Scripture. No doubt the standard interpretation going back to the church fathers has been to see a postmortem preaching by Christ prior to the resurrection. Tertullian held that the Christ did rescue OT saints from Hades to take them to heaven and that Christ moved paradise. One of the complications of these section of Scripture is not just the history of interpretation but the fact that there are so many possibilities for interpretations of individual clauses and then there is the issue of how we are to understand the whole. Nevertheless, we will attempt to carefully wade through it.

The first question as it relates to our inquiry is whether what is the relationship of the phrase “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”?
NAU 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
The best option here is to see that “flesh” is the realm of the old age and Spirit is the power of the ‘age to come’. This type of eschatological dualism is common in Paul’s thought. Christ of course has no sin but comes ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Rom. 8:3) and is born of the line of David ‘according to the flesh’ (Rom. 1:3). Being put to death in the flesh then means that in His human body which was flesh and blood, he was susceptible to death and the curse so that he could bear the curse. He is put to death in the realm which death reigns. This then is the stage of his humiliation.

He is however raised up ‘in the spirit’. This probably should be taken as parallel in some fashion to ‘in the flesh.’ If flesh is that existence in the old age, of which Christ partakes. ‘Spirit’ then should be seen as the eschatological “age to come.” Therefore, ‘spirit’ does not refer to disembodied existence but rather the Holy Spirit. He is raised up and given a “spiritual body” one that has conquered flesh that is susceptible to death and received the full inheritance of the Spirit of God.

Some evidence of this might include 1 Peter 4:14:
NAU 1 Peter 4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
The Spirit is associated with glory which most likely refers to the glory that awaits in the glorification of the believer. The Holy Spirit is the active agent in ushering in and bring this transformation both in Christ and also in the believer. This is why in 1 Cor. 15:45, Christ is a life-giving Spirit, in that He from His ascended position sends the Holy Spirit.

This would be consistent with Pauline usage of the ‘flesh/Spirit’ dualism.
Romans 1:3-4 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
To speak then of ‘death in the flesh’ and ‘life in the spirit’ is to speak of the two states of Christ: first in the body that can succumb to death, like that of the first Adam where we have a body that is perishable, weakness, without glory/honor, and “natural”—and the state that the Second Adam ushers in where the body is imperishable, crowned with glory, and in full reception of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

The point however is that ‘spirit’ is not speaking of Christ’s disembodied spirit or soul, rather it is speaking of the power of the eschaton. It is pointing to the inbreaking power of God where the Holy Spirit is poured out—at Christ experiences this first on our behalf in order to achieve it for us.

The second complex issue is the nature of the phrase “in which” or “in whom” as it relates to how and where Christ preached.
1 Peter 3:19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
We have already argued based on the Biblical conception of flesh/Spirit, that his is not a reference to disembodied existence. So to say that Christ preached in the spirit does not entail a disembodied preaching of the gospel prior to his resurrection.

The immediate question is does “in which” refer to “in the Spirit” or the whole phrase “made alive in the spirit” meaning “in the state of resurrection in the Spirit.” ‘Alive’ is clearly in the context not life after death but made alive in resurrection life. If ‘in which’ refers to ‘spirit’ alone then it could mean that Jesus went somewhere as a disembodied spirit if that was the meaning of ‘spirit’ but we have show that it is not.

The phrase is most likely to be translated as temporal (Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 343). So it should probably be translated something like ‘upon which occasion.’ The addition of kai ‘also’ indicates further that Peter is taking about the state in which Jesus went and did the preaching. His basic point is that Jesus in his resurrected state went away and did the preaching described in the rest of the verse that follows. In short, only after the resurrection does Jesus actually do this preaching. Thus a descent to hell/hades between his death and resurrection is not what this verse describes.

Third, is the question of who are “the spirits in prison.”
1 Peter 3:19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison,
The two main options for interpretation here are (1) spirits of fallen angels or (2) human beings. The former is to be preferred because the only place in Scripture where spirit refers to human beings it is qualified:
NAU Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
Above spirits is clearly qualified by “righteous made perfect” indicating that it refers to human beings. When “spirits” is used in the plural it refers to angelic beings either righteous or fallen.
Hebrews 12:9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
NAU Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
NAU Luke 10:20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven
See also Rev. 4:5; 5:6; 16:14 [but it is clearly clarified by ‘of demons’]; 1 Cor. 14:32 is a bit questionable—it could refer to inspiration that from the Spirit that comes upon the prophets, it could refer to their own spirits, either way here we have ‘spirits of the prophets’ which is clearly a qualification. Mark 3:11 and 5:13 refers to ‘unclean spirits’ so it may or may not serve as a real parallel.

Since ‘spirits’ in our passage is plural, it seems wisest to understand it as angelic beings, particularly fallen angelic beings who have been put in prison in some fashion.

Fourth, where is the prison? All we can say is that this passage does not identify where the prison is. It could be hades/sheol, earth or heaven itself. Some Jewish traditions at the time of the first century believed that angels who had sinned during the days of Noah, or just prior to his days, were held in Sheol while other held that the prison was in heaven itself. The Bible could offer insight in two passages:
2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day-
In 2 Peter 2:4 the word Tartarous is used for hell. It is the only place in Scripture where the word is used. This word may have similarities to the Abyss used in Revelation 20 and other places. Either way, 1 Peter is not clear what or where the prison is. If it is hell/hades, we should take serious the account of Luke 16 which separates the place of torment from Abraham’s bosom by a deep chasm yet communication across such barrier is still possible. We will suggest later that Abraham’s bosom is heaven and not some place the righteous dead waited to ascend to heaven. If this is true it might give us some indication of the nature of the how Jesus having been ‘made alive in the Spirit’ goes and ‘preaches to the spirits in prison.’

Fifth, Jesus having been made alive in the Spirit goes and proclaims to these angels:
NAU 1 Peter 3:19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
Initially this passage does not tell us where “he went” (poreuomai) is directed to. It does not specify a decent. The verb itself is nowhere used in the New Testament to mean ‘going down’ which would be the verb katabainō. With the use of ‘poreuomai’ which just means going out, if the author wishes more specificity context would have to tell us the direction if it is up or down. The verb only specifies a journey of some kind. There is a good indication that a decent is not actually what is in view here. The context 1 Peter uses the same verb poreuomai to indicate a going into heaven:
1 Peter 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
1 Peter 3:22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
Some interpreters suggest that there are two journeys in view here one that is ‘down’ and a second one that is ‘up’. This is possible but the context suggests against it. First, it is clear that the Jesus does go and preach to the spirits in prison. But going to preach does not necessarily grammatically necessitate that he went into the same prison as the spirits. Nor are we told that the prison is specifically ‘down.’

“He went” is a participle and the main verb is “made proclamation.” Since the participle function in what is called attendant circumstance, it is probably right to translate them as coordinate: “He went and made proclamation.” This is indeed a normal construction. Yet it is the proclamation that is directed to the spirits. The dative “to the spirits” merely indicates that they are the indirect object of the speech. The spirits are in prison but entering into that prison to make the proclamation is not necessitated by the construction. In fact, it is by bringing things to the text not specified that we arrive at such conclusions.

Furthermore, “having gone” in verse 22 is resumptative. Peter, after a brief aside about the nature of baptism and its relationship to Noah, reminds us of efficaciousness of the resurrection of Christ in saving us. He went into heaven having angels and authorities subjected to him.

The nature of the proclamation is debated as well. This preaching is not evangelism coming from the Greek word euangelizomai which is not used here. Rather the verb kērussō this can be used to speak of gospel preaching but it more generally denotes proclamation and announcement. Certainly gospel preaching falls into this category but not all ‘proclamation’ is not of the gospel. The best way to understand this is that the message is a message of triumph over demons, powers and evil spirits. It is a proclamation of triumph over now that the kingdom of God has come and is inaugurated in the reign of the king over all (Eph. 1:20-22).

What we have in this passage is not a going down to hades for preaching but a statement that the ascension of Christ is a proclamation over all spiritual authorities. It announces their defeat by the King ushered to the throne of His Kingdom. They are put under His feet and authority. The structure of the passage then is (1) Jesus dies in the flesh sacrificing Himself for our sins; (2) He is raised up in the Holy Spirit ushering in the New Creation and the firstfruits; and (3) He ascends into heaven triumphing over all authorities, angels and spirits. This interpretation is clear when we see how 3:21-22 pick up were 3:19 leaves off.

This passage is not teaching about a descent into Hades but that the ascension of Christ in His glorified resurrected state is a proclamation over spirits in prison (v.19) and angels, powers and authority (v.22). In His ascension they are subjected to His authority as all are placed under His feet. This subjugation is a proclamation of the sealing of their fate. The Bible is clear about significance of the ascension of Christ for triumph over evil and the kingdom of this Satan, as we saw with Ephesians 4:7-10. Christ defeats all other principalities and powers. The fate of the ‘spirits in prison’ is further sealed by the Lord who is exalted over all creation. The Bible is very clear about the defeat of the power of evil spirits, authorities and demons in the ascension.
Ephesians 1:20-22 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

Colossians 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

Conclusion:

This passage does not teach that Jesus Christ descended into hell. Instead, just the opposite, it teaches us something about the triumph of Christ in the ascension. He triumphed over angels, demons and principalities. He is set up in the ascension as the Second Adam who rules over all creation including all spirit beings. The ascension is a triumph--it proclaims and declare the enthronement of the king in the Kingdom of God.

Although this passage is highly debated and the details of interpretation vary greatly, we believe it is simply wrong to use this passage to teach a descent into hell.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Did Christ Descend Into Hell? Part 1

In this series we are going to seek to ask and answer the question: upon His death, did Christ descend body and soul into hell? We will examine the relevant text, and exegete them in context to see what they teach.

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

Ephesians 4:7-10
Since the passage that you started with was Ephesians 4:7-10, I believe this is the best place to start. Of course, there are numerous issues with this passage including (1) when/and to where was the descent; and (2) who are the captives led is procession?

When and where was the descent? While we will not answer all these questions, verse 9 should be looked at very carefully. The question needs to be asked when and where he descended. Verse makes it clear that “he descended to the lower parts of the earth.”
Ephesians 4:9 (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?
The phrase is “εἰς τὰ κατώτερα [μέρη] τῆς γῆς” (eis ta kayōtera merē ēs gēs). Part of the issue that arises is what is the lower part of the earth? What region are we talking about here? If one uses this passage as a defense of Christ’s descent into hades/hell, I do not believe that one grammatically answers this question but assumes that it is hades, the grave, or hell itself. This certainly is a possible understanding of the passage but is this what Paul has in mind?

There are essentially two options for translating this passage: either “of the earth” is a partative genitive. This means the phrase “of the earth” (which is Greek grammar is in the genitive form) should be taken as describing the whole (the earth) of which the lower regions is a part of. Thus, we might think of the lower regions as under the earth if this is the correct grammatical relationship.

The second way to translate this phrase is as a genitive of simple apposition (the so called epexegetical genitive). This means the phrase “of the earth” is explanatory and definitional of the preceding “the lower regions”. Thus we could translate this as “the lower regions, namely the earth”. In this interpretation the lower regions then refers not to sheol/hades or something below the earth but as his descent to the earth itself in his incarnation. (This use of the genitive is common in Ephesians: 2;2; 2:14, 15, 20; 3:4, 7; 4:3; 6:14, 16, 17 [Hoehner, Ephesians, 535;])

When describing places, the genitive of apposition is used regularly. As expert Greek grammarian Dan Wallace notes, when merē is used in the plural [which is in Eph. 4:9] and the region is used in the singular [which ‘earth’ it is in Eph. 4:9] it is commonly a genitive of apposition. Wallace notes similar constructions is the Greek translation of Isa. 9:1; Matt. 2:22; 15:21; 16:13; Mark 8:10; Acts 2:10.

What this basically means is that we are not to understand “earth” as the whole and “lower regions” as some part of the earth—under it—as sheol/hades is described. Rather we are to understand the lower regions to which Christ descends as the earth itself.

It is possible that this ‘descent’ includes his body going into the grave.
(a) we do have a similar phrase in Psalm 63:9 and Isaiah 43:23
ESV Psalm 63:9 But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;
NAU Isaiah 44:23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory.
In the Greek translation of the OT, Psalm 63:9 is closer to the NT. Whereas the Greek for Isaiah translates “lower parts” as ‘foundations’. The Hebrew in both passages is tachi. It is possible that Paul has this background in mind, then he may have a descent that is deeper.

It is true that Philippians 2:10 seems to suggest three levels: 'heaven, earth and under the earth." In Philippians 2:6-7 the humiliation of Christ includes both his coming to earth and his death on the cross. So while Philippians 2:11 mention the knees of "of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth," bowing--it never mentions a descent to a physical location under the earth--beyond His body being in the grave.

When it comes to Ephesians 4:(, I think it is best grammatically to see “regions” as an important indicator and Psalm 63:9 just says depth. There may be a difference in the Greek translation of Psalm 63:9 katōtata (lowest) and Ephesians 4:9 katatepos (‘lower’). It is unwarranted to suggest there is a lowest region under the earth just above a lower region. Such thinking assumes Paul, Psalm 63 and Isaiah 43 all have the same things in mind. It is safer grammatically to see Paul describing the lower region as the earth itself in Eph. 4:9 while he clearly holds to a region under the earth in Phil. 2:11.

Grammatically I favor then that the descent is the incarnation. Of course, Paul everywhere understands that the incarnation itself is not a triumph apart from Christ’s death. Yet like John’s Gospel, Paul is telling us that Jesus could not ascend into heaven unless he had first descended from heaven. Yet grammar along does not solve all the issues here. We might make a few other points.

(i) Hades and sheol is not explicitly mentioned in this passage. This is of course a possible interpretation but the passage must be understood in context. Which means we must avoid interpreting it as sheol/hades unless we have clear warrant to do so. While grammar alone will not solve the problem, if it is indeed a ‘partative’ use of the genitive (of the earth), then we would have warrant. However, we have argued that this is not the best view and thus maintain there is not warrant.

(ii) The main context of the passage is that Christ has ascended into heaven and in ascending he has (a) ‘led captive a host of captives’ and (b) gave spiritual gifts to men. The latter is particularly important because Paul is explaining the unity of the church and the measure of Christ’s gifts that are given out in great diversity according to Christ’s free grace.

(iii) Paul’s argument then is that Christ could not have ascended unless he also descended. Now it is possible that as an interpretation if the captives led captive are human souls we could possible suggest that he first must descend to hades/sheol to get them. That is one possible interpretation. However, to reach this conclusion we have to assume things and even read things into the context that are not there.

(a) Who are the host of captives led captive? You rightly noted that there are two possible interpretation (1) saints being led to heaven in the ascension and (2) a triumphal victory over Satan and demons in His ascension.

It is clear that this is a military victory. The passage says “he led captive a host of captives.” This then is not a liberation. But those being led out are not freed or transferred rather they are led as those in captivity much in the same way Roman soldiers would triumphant enter into cities with captives trailing behind them. Therefore, this passage at a minimum does not tell us anything about leading righteous souls out of hades/paradise into heaven.

Furthermore, in Ephesians, Christ clearly triumphs over the forces of darkness as He is established in His ascension as reigning Lord.
Ephesians 1:20-23 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Paul uses this same triumph motif in Colossians:
Colossians 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
(b) Paul’s use of heaven and earth in Ephesians is to contrast two realms. Paul clearly contrasts the heavenlies and earth in the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 1:10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him
Ephesians 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
In Ephesians if “lower parts of the earth” refers to a region below the earth, it would be the only place where we have a clear three tiered cosmology. I would not deny this for other Biblical passages, however, what I am saying is that Ephesians gives us a clear contrast between heaven and earth.

(c) In Ephesians the spiritual war, of which Christ conquerors in first so that the believers might also participate, is not fought in Hades but actually in the heavenlies (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians, 534).
Ephesians 1:20-21 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Ephesians 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

It is best then to see that Jesus’ descent in Ephesians is not to Hades but to the earth. This would clearly follow John’s gospel (John 3:13; 6:62; 16:28). The victory is on the cross (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:14-16) and then Christ ascends bodily into heaven where He is exalted over all things. It is in this ascension that Christ’s Lordship is established whereby He rules as the Second Adam over all creation including angels, spiritual forces and demons.

The point is this: Ephesians 4:7-10 does not properly give us a description of Christ descending to hell. Rather Christ descends to earth. He humbles Himself, being made a little lower than angels (Phil 2; Heb. 2) and then ascends into heaven.

If we are going to believe in a descent into hades, we are not going to find it in this passage if we are going to be faithful to what Paul is actually describing in Ephesians 4:7-10.
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