Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Warning to the Nay Sayers

The Lord in His mercy has been giving divine revelations to certain people, and sending them with messages to warn the sleeping Church in these last and evil days.  However, some people either reject these messages entirely, or in part, due to fear, doubt, and unbelief.  While we need to be careful to discern the things of the spirit, we must be equally careful not to reject the genuine messages that are truly from the Lord.

Here are some Scriptures to consider, study, and meditate on, regarding the temptation to reject any prophesy, dream, or vision from the Lord.

The Lord Speaks Through Children and the Child-like
Sometimes the Lord speaks through children, including our own children.  Some people want us to make them stop speaking about these things, because it scares them.  It’s like the the chief priests and the scribes, who heard the children praising Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  They became indignant:

And said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus *said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself'?"  (Mat 21:16)

Remember that the Lord has ordained praise, and even dreams, visions, and revelations for children, as Joel prophesied:

"It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. "Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joe 2:28-29; cf., Ac 2:16-18)

It is not the wise and learned ones to whom God has chosen to reveal these things. He reveals them to the children and the child-like.  Yet so many intelligent Christians speak like Dr. Spock from the Star Trek series.  When they read or listen to some of these divine revelations, they have the thought, “That’s illogical,” and dismiss what the Lord said.  Be careful not to fall into this Dr. Spock syndrome.

At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.  (Mat 11:25-26)

Nay Sayers Say "Do Not Speak Out"
In the book of Micah the prophet, he wrote:

'Do not speak out,' so they speak out. But if they do not speak out concerning these things, Reproaches will not be turned back.  (Mic 2:6, NASB)

In other words, they spoke out, telling the prophet, “Do not speak out!”  Or in the NIV translation, "Do not prophesy!": 

Do not prophesy,” their prophets say. “Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us.” (Mic 2:6, NIV)

They fail to realize that disgrace will certainly overtake them if they reject the message of the Lord through His prophet.  Unless the prophets speak out concerning these things, reproaches will not be turned back.

But religious people have always tried to stop the prophets of God from prophesying.  The men of Anathoth did this with Jeremiah, and even sought his life, if he insisted on prophesying:

Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth, who seek your life, saying, "Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, so that you will not die at our hand"; therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, I am about to punish them! The young men will die by the sword, their sons and daughters will die by famine; and a remnant will not be left to them, for I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth--the year of their punishment."  (Jer 11:21-23)

Isaiah the prophet also wrote about this experience of those who said to the seers, "You must not see visions"; And to the prophets, "You must not prophesy to us what is right, Speak to us pleasant words.”  He wrote:

Who say to the seers, "You must not see visions"; And to the prophets, "You must not prophesy to us what is right, Speak to us pleasant words, Prophesy illusions. "Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel." Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, "Since you have rejected this word And have put your trust in oppression and guile, and have relied on them, Therefore this iniquity will be to you Like a breach about to fall, A bulge in a high wall, Whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant, Whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter's jar, So ruthlessly shattered That a sherd will not be found among its pieces To take fire from a hearth Or to scoop water from a cistern." For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength." But you were not willing,  (Isa 30:10-15)

You see they didn’t want to hear about holiness from the Holy One of Israel.  If they had repented and rested quietly in an abiding trust in the Lord, they would have been saved.  But they rejected the Word, and they were not willing, so the Lord sent disaster instead.

Jesus affirmed that the religious people of Jerusalem had killed the prophets and stoned those sent to her.  He Himself wanted to gather their children to Himself, but they were not willing, so nothing remained for them, except desolation, which came forty years later in 70 AD.

"Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (Mat 23:36-38)

A Way of Death That Seems Right
You might be thinking, “I don’t see anything sinful or wrong about this thing I am doing, which this person claims the Lord told them to warn the Church about.”  If that is you, then remember that,

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Pro 16:25)

As disciples of Christ, we're entering into life.  This is an eternal life we're beginning.  So we need to begin now living the kind of life we'll be living for eternity in heaven.

Calling Evil Good and Good Evil
Any time the true prophets of God speak, like Jeremiah, it will expose sin.  But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the false prophets of today do not expose sin.

“Your prophets have seen for you False and foolish visions; And they have not exposed your iniquity So as to restore you from captivity, But they have seen for you false and misleading oracles.” (Lam 2:14).  We must beware of false prophets, who give messages that do not expose sin, and have no point to them. 

These false messengers are defending the devil by calling good evil and evil good.  The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20).

Woe to those who reject the Lord’s message of holiness, since they are not listening to His voice, and not obeying Him.  They have an evil unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  As the Scripture says, "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God." (Heb 3:12).

Therefore, the Lord will give them over to the stubbornness of their heart to walk in their own devices. "But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices."  (Psa 81:11-12; cf. Rom 1:24-28).  That is a dangerous place to be, because you can no longer see that what you are doing is evil.

A Divine Mandate to Warn Others
And let’s never forget that the messengers of the Lord are under divine mandate to warn us, or else our blood will be on their hands:

"Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.”  (Eze 33:7-8)

Likewise, if we receive the message of the Lord and refuse to warn others, then their blood will be on our hands.

Concerned More About Our Comfort Zones
However, sometimes we can be like Jonah.  We’re more concerned about our own comfort, than about the things the Lord cares about.  We get upset if someone gives a warning message from the Lord that threatens our comfort zone. But the reason is that we don't understand the mercy of God.  The Lord in His mercy is much more concerned about rescuing our souls from perishing than He is about us keeping our little idols. 

Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (Jon 4:10-11)

"Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them." (Jon 2:8).

God is restoring Truth
As I mentioned in my article, Restored Truth, some who reject the messages say that God has not left anything out of His Word, so He doesn't need to give us any new revelations. However, what they fail to realize is that these things have been in the Word of God all along right beneath our noses, although in certain cases the specific sin may not be mentioned by name.  The problem is not that they are missing from God's Word, rather the problem is with us that we have been beaten with blindness and lost the Truth.

When God calls us back to the Truth written in His eternal Word, which we have lost, I call this a restored truth.  God is restoring Truth.  Each time God restores Truth, people either reject it or embrace it.  The ones who embrace it and repent find mercy.  Those who reject the truth that God is restoring are hardening their hearts and missing the grace of God (Heb 12:15). Be careful you are not like the religious leaders who loved their sin more than the Truth and rejected Martin Luther's ninety-five theses.

Consider Carefully What You Hear
Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us to consider carefully what we hear. He said, “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear. Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mk 4:22-25).  That means that whoever does not have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches, even what they have will be taken from them.  Don't let that happen to you!

Spiritual Warfare and the Two Perspectives
I can assure you that there is great spiritual warfare surrounding these revelations.  The devil knows that if people accept these and repent, turning back to God, they will escape hell.  He is angry that his secrets have been revealed, so he is working hard to keep that from happening, or at least to minimize the damage to his kingdom.  There are two basic perspectives when reading these divine revelations. It's like two witnesses seeing the same thing from two different points of view.

One perspective is the enemy's.  He speaks to a person and says, "What's the use then? Why serve God?  You're going to hell, and so is your whole church.  It's all a waste.  It's hopeless. You're doomed.  Nothing you do will ever please God. He's a ruthless task master, and His standard is too high."  This is a defeatist attitude in what I call the "condemnation zone."

Another lie the enemy will tell you is, "These testimonies are from the devil.  A loving God would never say such things. That sounds like the Old Covenant, so it cannot be true.  It's just legalism."

The other perspective is God's.  If you have that perspective, you think, "How compassionate!  How merciful of God to delay the rapture long enough for me to get this revelation, so that I could repent!  The fact that I am still alive and the rapture has not happened yet is evidence that God loves me and cares about me.  He is seeking to save me and rescue my soul from hell.  I need to take this day that the Lord has given me, and I need to use the opportunity to repent, seek His face, cry out to Him for mercy for me and my family and my church. Then I need to begin to warn them before it's too late. There is still hope for us! This could be the last day I have."  God doesn't see it as hopeless.  He sees there is great hope that you will repent and warn other, and not perish.

These revelations are God's medicine that He is giving us to take, because the Church is sick.  Like little children who make faces when they take their medicine, and they spit it out or refuse to take it once they taste it, many people do that with divine revelations of hell, and warning messages from the Lord.  They get very depressed, confused, sick to their stomach, and struggle with receiving these words. 

But you need to understand that God is giving us this medicine, because it is necessary.  It's the last thing He is able to do, before He sends calamity.  Those who will take the medicine and repent, turning back to God through Jesus Christ, will be spared from the coming disaster.  But those who refuse to take it will end up in the Great Tribulation, in the midst of divine judgments.  If they thought the bitter medicine was terrible and they could not bear to taste it, and if it made them depressed and confused, then how much more will they have the same kind of reaction to the Great Tribulation.  They will realize that they and their church have missed the rapture, and they are left behind.  They will not want to get out of bed.  It will be worse than dying.  That will be far more depressing than any revelation they heard before the Great Tribulation..

At that point, it will no longer be merely a prophetic utterance, it will be the fulfillment of prophecy.  They will be living a nightmare in their home, their neighborhood, and their country.  Then the horror of it all will become reality and it will be that much more difficult for them to repent, because they will be in survival mode.  And if they hardened their hearts when they heard the revelations, they will be tempted to harden their hearts again in the Great Tribulation.  They will have plenty of opportunity to deny Christ and take the mark of the beast. But if they do, they will have lost all chance of ever being saved.

Dear people, now is the time to repent.  Today is the day of salvation.  Now is the time of God's favor.

"We also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain-- for He says, 'At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.'  Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation--'" (2Co 6:1-2)

In His kindness, He has extended this extra grace to you to get things right with Him.  Seize the moment!  Don't sit back with a condemned attitude and say, "It's too late. There's nothing we can do."

If You Love Me You Will Obey Me
Many times, we think that the words we speak are the most important thing that matters.  But God doesn't look at it that way.  I need to clarify that our words are important, and we will be rewarded for our words, as surely as we are rewarded for what we do.  But God is looking at the heart and wants to see obedience to His commands.  Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (Joh 14:15)

It doesn't matter if a woman sings the most beautiful lyrics with the voice of an angel in Church on Sunday.  If she is dressed and adorned like Jezebel, what will it profit her?  If a man is living in adultery, yet he evangelizes many people, will he go to heaven?  Surely not.  No adulterer will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever your sin is, no amount of good works could be enough to outweigh it and get you to heaven.  You can take whatever that sin is that you want to hold onto, and plug it into this illustration.  Then ask yourself if it's worth losing your soul.

You might say, "All this talk of holiness in these messages makes me feel like we're going back to the Old Covenant." Based on the years of desensitization from our culture, and the failure of preachers to preach on holiness, I can understand how someone might feel that way.

But Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:17-20)

It doesn't matter what you "say" with your lips, if you do not act on the Words of Jesus.

He also said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.' Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall. When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." (Mat 7:21-29)

The two houses are two lives.  One is built on sand, because that person is not obedient to act on what Jesus said.  That house fell with a great fall.  The other is built on the rock, and did not fall, because that person puts the Lord's Words into practice. He taught us that it doesn't matter what you say with your lips, if you don't put His Words into practice.  Therefore, God is not looking for lip service, but true, obedient love. 

“But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.” (1 Sam 12:15)

Narrow is the Gate
You shouldn't say, "What about this person or that person I know?  They are a believer, and they are not living by these high standards that we are being called to in these revelations.  If that's the standard for heaven, then they'll perish in hell."

You need to first get your life right with God through repentance and obedience.  Then you need to pray for others that God will have mercy on them.  And you need to warn them.  God will not lower His standard for anyone.  He expects us to change.  

The gate we must enter through is a narrow one. As I explained in my article, The Straight and Narrow Path, it's much more narrow than most people realize.

Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mat 7:13-14)

As in the Days of Noah
If there were an impending, massive hurricane about to hit your town, would you be decorating the front of the house for Christmas, or would you be preparing for emergency -- taping windows, buying water, and stocking up on supplies like flashlights and batteries?  Likewise, the hour is late as impending disaster is coming to those who are not prepared spiritually. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming right away. Yet rather than preparing for His coming, many people are going about their usual business, more concerned about their normal routines, like hanging Christmas decorations.  They refuse to listen to the warnings.

"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mat 24:37-39)

Putting it All Together
Let's not be nay sayers, who want to silence the children and the child-like that are giving us messages from the Lord.  If you hear the Lord's voice today, don't harden your heart.  Beware that you are not calling good evil and evil good.  It is possible that the Lord could give you over to your own devices, so that you would become convinced that you are right, when in fact you are rebellious. We should correctly discern the things of the Spirit, and then receive that which is genuinely from the Lord.

Don't fall into the Dr. Spock syndrome.  It's not your logic or intellect that is going to save the day, but the Spirit of God alone.  He has and continues to do things that are seemingly illogical to our little brains.  But in fact, they are very wise.

You need to be willing to give up everything for the Lord.  That one thing that you want to keep is not worth losing your soul.  It may seem right to you, but in the end it's the way of death.  If the Lord puts His finger on it and says, "That must go," then get rid of it. In fact, don't wait for Him to tell you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to expose anything hidden in your life that must go.  Ask Him to judge you severely, correct you ruthlessly, and rebuke you thoroughly, so you can serve Him more perfectly, being void of all hypocrisy, meek and lowly of heart. 

While we're going around trying to protect our little comfort zones or favorite sins that seem so small to us, the Lord's concern for our souls and the souls of billions of others is infinitely greater than our concern for our comfort zone. Try to put everything into proper perspective by seeing it in the light of eternity.  What will you think about that little sin a million years from now? If you fail to give up everything, then end up in hell, what will you think throughout eternity about that thing you held onto while you were on earth, which seemed so important at the time?  You will regret the day you were ever born!

But if you forsake all sin,and follow Jesus, then once you are up in heaven with Him, you won't even remember the things you gave up for Him while you were on earth, because they will seem so insignificant compared to His exceedingly great glory. 

The Lord has given a mandate to the watchman to warn others.  And once we come to know what the Lord requires, we too must warn others.  The time is short, and the Lord is not going to lower the high standard of heaven for anyone.  He requires truth, righteousness, and holiness, without which no one shall see God.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. The "Four Horsemen" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note: I also recommend reading: Persecuted or Popular?, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Discerning the Things of the Spirit, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, The Top Ten Things Jesus TaughtThe Law is Good if Used Lawfully, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations and The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Jesus Christ Descended Into Hell

I want to explore the topic of Jesus descending into hell, which is an ancient, but controversial subject. I first wrote about this several years ago, but I feel it's necessary to publish it at this time. I believe it is more relevant today than ever before, because people either don't believe in hell, or don't think they're going there.  Yet people are going there in untold numbers every day. 

By way of introduction, I’ll begin with a couple of quotes from DiAnna Paulk:

Where was Jesus and what was He doing during the three days and nights that His body was in the tomb?  The Apostles' Creed answers, "He descended into Hell."  The first known use of this phrase didn't occur until AD 360.  It doesn't appear in any of the earlier creeds or baptismal confessions.  It wasn't included in the Apostles' Creed until AD 570.  The newer versions of the Creed say "He descended to the dead."  Some churches omit it entirely.  Why was it ever included?  What was the scriptural basis for such a thought? (DiAnna Paulk)

One of the primary scriptures supporting the belief that Christ descended into hell is Acts 2:27.  The King James translation of this verse reads, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption."   Also in this chapter of Acts verse 31 is translated "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ that His soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption."   (DiAnna Paulk)

Since the Scriptures state that Jesus’ soul was not left in hell, we know it had to be in hell at some point. But we need to study the Scriptures to determine if this is true, and if it is, the exact details concerning His journey into hell.

Jesus Descended into Hell so That the Dead Would Hear His Voice and Live
Why would Jesus need to go into hell?  He Himself said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (Joh 5:25).

Therefore, He descended into hell so that the dead would hear His voice and live.

Jesus Made Proclamation to Spirits Now in Prison
The Holy Spirit affirmed this through the apostle Peter when he wrote:

“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; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.”  (1Pe 3:18-20)

He said, “having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit,” which means that although Jesus’ body was dead, He was alive in the Spirit.  This expression “in the Spirit” refers to the fact that in the Holy Spirit, His Spirit was alive while His body lay in the grave.  And Peter said it was “the Spirit; in which also He went.”  Put differently, Jesus died physically, but His Spirit, which was alive in the Spirit, went someplace to preach.  Peter calls that place a prison.

Their bodies were drowned in the Great Flood of Noah’s day, and their spirits cast into prison.  The spirits of disobedient sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the prison of hell, from where there is no redemption.  Since Peter said, “Jesus made proclamation to the spirits of those now in prison,” this means that at the time when Peter wrote this, those spirits were still in prison.  First there was the deluge, then Jesus preached to them, and then Peter wrote that those spirits were still in prison.  How can we be sure this prison is hell?

The Prison Peter Refers to is in Hell, Where There are Pits of Darkness
In Peters second epistle he wrote:

“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; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2Pe 2:4-9)

God cast the angels into hell when they sinned, and also the ungodly people of the ancient world of Noah’s day, as well as the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day.  Peter says the unrighteous are in hell being punished and kept there until judgment day.

By putting this information from his first and second epistles together, it is very clear that the prison Peter refers to is in hell, where there are pits of darkness. Jesus went down to the pit of darkness, and made proclamation to the spirits in hell.  Why did He do this after His death and not before?

Jesus descended into hell after he finished paying the full price for sin. It was not expiatory
The apostle John wrote:

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (Joh 19:30)

From this passage we learn that Jesus could not make His proclamation to the dead in hell until He had finished paying the full price for sin.  So we know it had to be after He died on the cross, which is exactly what Peter taught.

As Jesus died, He committed His spirit into the Father’s hands, not Satan’s hands
Luke wrote:

“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luk 23:46)

This means that the Spirit of Jesus was in the hands of the Father as soon as He died.  So if Jesus went to hell, He was safe in the Father’s hands as He went.  It would still be good if we could find this written somewhere else in the Bible.

Jesus Descended into the Lower Parts of the Earth
The apostle Paul also wrote:

“Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’ (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)”  (Eph 4:8-10)

All Christians believe that Jesus ascended far above the heavens and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens.  But in the same passage where Paul taught on Jesus’ ascension, he also taught on His descent into the lower parts of the earth.  He said the same thing as the apostle Peter.  For in the same passage where Peter said that Jesus “went” down into the prison of hell to preach, He also said Jesus “is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” (1Pe 3:22).  He said it a little differently than Paul, but they both said the same thing.

In the gospel of Matthew, we read:

But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  (Mat 12:39-40)

Jesus drew a parallel between the experience of Jonah in the belly of the sea monster, and His own experience in the heart of the earth. Did you ever realize just how many similarities there are between Jesus and Jonah? Jonah was alive in the Spirit during those three days, while his physical body may have been clinically dead.  I believe his body had no heartbeat and was not breathing, since there would be no air in that place. The Bible seems to indicate that before the creature swallowed him, he had already experienced death.

He cried for help "from the depth of Sheol,” not just from the sea creature's belly (Jon 2:2).

Jonah explicitly said that he died before the creature swallowed him:

"Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple." (Jon 2:5-7)

It's seems clear from Scripture that Jonah drowned.  The great deep engulfed him, and he descended below sea level, where the mountains have their roots. Just before he drowned in that stormy sea, while he was losing consciousness and fainting away, he prayed. Then the fish swallowed him after he died, and God preserved his body inside its belly for three days.  During that time, Jonah was in Sheol, and the Lord brought up his soul from the pit.

Since the body of Jesus lay silent and dead in the grave for three days, and Jesus drew a parallel between Himself and Jonah, we could conclude that Jonah’s body was dead, too.  But in the Spirit, he was alive. Likewise, Jesus was alive in the Spirit during the three days while His body was dead.  And Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth during that period, not just in the tomb. (For more on this topic, see The Amazing Sign of Jonah).

Significance of Earthquake When He Died and Descended into Hell
The gospel of Matthew states that on the cross, as Jesus yielded His Spirit to the Father, there was an earthquake:

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’”  (Mat 27:50-54)

We know that when Jesus yielded up His spirit, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  This was the veil dividing the holy place from the most holy place.  By tearing this veil in two, God signified that the way had been opened for all His children to enter by the blood of the Lamb into the most holy place – the throne room of God. 

As the apostle states:

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:19-22)

Likewise, just as the tearing of the temple veil was significant, there was also significance in the tearing of the earth in front of the cross.  God did this for a reason. Since we know that Jesus descended into “hell,” down into the “lower earthly regions,” into the “heart of the earth,” into “the pit,” it seems obvious that the earthquake was related to this.  When the earth split open, it was making way for the King of Glory to come in, and God was signifying that His Son was going into the heart of the earth to do some very important business there.

Similar to the earthquake when the angel of God descended to remove the stone from his tomb
In case you are not sure there was any significance between the earthquake and Jesus’ descent into the heart of the earth, don’t forget what happened when He rose from the dead. 

“And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.”  (Mat 28:2)

This was not a small one, but a severe earthquake.  It happened in connection with an angel of the Lord coming to roll the stone away from Jesus’ grave upon His resurrection. So an earthquake marked the moment His spirit went down into the earth, and an earthquake marked the moment His spirit came up out of the earth.  And the Scripture says this was because of the angelic activity at that moment.

After triumphing over the kingdom of darkness at the cross, he made a public display of them in hell
It’s important to understand what Jesus did while He was in hell.  The apostle Paul wrote:

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

Our Lord Jesus went down into hell and disarmed satan, along with all the demons.  He stripped them of all their authority and triumphed over them.  satan was eternally dethroned, defeated, and disarmed at that time.  That all happened in hell.  It was there and then that Jesus took away the keys of death and Hades. 

The apostle John described his experience seeing the resurrected Jesus:

"When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.'" (Rev 1:17-18)

Following his Descent into Hell, He Appeared Before Ascending to Heaven
So what happened after this great triumph in hell? 

“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.'”  (Joh 20:17)

Just as Peter and Paul taught, after His descent into hell, He appeared on earth alive, and then He ascended bodily into heaven victoriously.

Jesus Ascended to Heaven Leading a Very Large Group of Captives
But Jesus did not ascend alone into heaven. 

“Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’"  (Eph 4:8)

When Jesus came up from the grave and ascended into heaven, He led a host of captives.  Where had they been captive?  They had been captive by the grave, and now they were set free.  Which captives were these?  They were not the ungodly wicked captives, but the saints who had died before the cross. While He was down in the heart of the earth, he set them free from the captivity of the grave. And some of them appeared in Jerusalem after His resurrection.  Scripture says, “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” It was these saints, who ascended in his train as He ascended into heaven immediately after His resurrection.

After that ascension, He continued to appear to His disciples in a glorified body for forty days, until He ascended into heaven in front of them all.

“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”  (Act 1:9)

“So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”  (Mar 16:19)

“While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luk 24:51)

Jesus was Raised from the Abode of the Dead
There are many other Scriptures that give us further proof where Jesus was during those three days.

The apostle John wrote about the third appearance of Jesus to His disciples after His resurrection: “This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.” (Joh 21:14)

As John said, He was raised from the dead.  When it says, “the dead,” that refers to a place, or realm, or dimension, not just a state of being, as in “not physically alive.”

"But God raised Him from the dead;” (Act 13:30)

“Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” (Rom 6:9)

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Rom 10:9)

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1Co 15:20)

The fifth article of the Apostles’ Creed states this
“He descended into hell.  On the third day He rose again.

Catholic Catechism Regarding the Fifth Article of the Apostles’ Creed
While I do not agree with the Unbiblical Practices of the Catholic Church, I do agree with their view on the descent of Christ into hell, since it is Scriptural. According to Catholic Catechism:

“The Apostles' Creed confesses in the same article Christ's descent into hell and his Resurrection from the dead on the third day, because in his Passover it was precisely out of the depths of death that he made life spring forth.”

"The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was 'raised from the dead' presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ's descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there."

"Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, 'hell' - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek...It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him."

"The gospel was preached even to the dead (1 Peter 4:6). The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption."

"Christ went down into the depths of death so that 'the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.'  Jesus, 'the Author of life', by dying destroyed 'him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.' Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."

"In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven's gates for the just who had gone before him."

Jesus Suffered the Torment of a Damned Soul
In his book called Angels on Assignment, Roland Buck writes: “The second death which faces mankind brings fear, dread and torment to him all of his lifetime. This was the death Jesus took for us. When he hung there on the cross, it wasn't the anguish of the physical torment, although he felt everything that we could possibly feel; and it wasn't the separation from people whom he held dear, although he felt it just as keenly as anyone; but Jesus suffered pains that even the ungodly, those totally separated from God, had never felt, for the ungodly have never felt the pangs that come when the last little flicker of hope is extinguished and they hear the words, ‘Depart into eternal damnation.’"

Roland Buck continues, “While living on this earth, they have never felt the weight, the hopelessness and the horror of feeling the cold side of God as he turned his back on them. Jesus suffered the torment of a damned soul! From his heart he cried out, ‘Oh, God, why have you forsaken me?’ and the cold pangs of eternal damnation, those icy fingers gripped his life, and Jesus suffered the judgment of God. He was totally separated from God at that moment!”

“His death was Jesus actually being struck by God's hand with the judgment for sin for the entire world! At this point, Jesus entered into a total separation from God, and God turned his back upon him because of sin!”

I would like to clarify that Jesus did not suffer torment in hell.  He suffered on the cross, and that was enough.  He said, “It is finished,” and nothing further needed to be added to that sacrifice.  I’m sure being in hell was not a pleasant experience, so you could call it suffering, but not a torment or torture of any kind.  He was in complete command while He was down there.

Hell Prior to the Cross
I also need to clarify that before the cross of Christ, there were both righteous dead and wicked dead in the the realm of the dead. In the Old Testament, it was called Sheol, or the grave. Although both the righteous and wicked were there, they were kept completely separate.  Jesus taught this in His account of the true story of Lazarus and the rich man, which was not a parable:

"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. "And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. '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.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' But Abraham *said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luk 16:19-31)

The unnamed rich man was in Hades, which is hell or the grave.  This was an actual place of torment, as the rich man called it, where there were flames and only agony and thirst, but no water.  He could see and speak to righteous Abraham, who was together with Lazarus.  The place of the dead where Abraham and Lazarus were located is sometimes called, “Abraham’s bosom.”  However, Jesus may have simply meant that upon the death of Lazarus, the beggar was literally carried by the angels into the bosom of Abraham, the father of the faithful, where he was welcomed with a loving embrace.  There was no agony or flames where Abraham and Lazarus were resting.  Yet Lazarus could not possibly cross over from where he was to where the rich man was, because there was a great chasm or corridor fixed between them. It was completely impossible for there to be any passage of the dead from one side of the chasm to the other.

Upon His death Jesus preached to all the dead in both of these realms of the grave, but only the righteous dead in the so-called “Bosom of Abraham” were released, and not the wicked in the section where there were flames. As Peter said, those ungodly sinners are still suffering in prison today.  But the righteous dead, including the ones that were in “Abraham’s Bosom” before the cross, are up in glory with Jesus in heaven forever. Abraham welcomes saints into heaven now when they die.

Someone Rising from the Dead
I want to say one final thing about people rising from the dead.  In hell, the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn the rich man’s brothers, so that they would not end up in that place of torment with him.  He knew that they were living carelessly comfortable lives on earth, in disobedience to God’s Word, and they would end up there, too. 

“And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' But Abraham *said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Abraham told Lazarus that if people living on earth do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.  And we see proof of this in Scripture.  After Jesus rose from the dead, the Pharisees and others who crucified the Lord, were still not persuaded.  Instead, they fabricated lies to cover up the resurrection (see Mt 28:11-15).  The same thing happened when Jesus had raised the other Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead.  That miracle was attracting so many people to Jesus, and the religious leaders were so jealous, that they plotted to kill Lazarus (see Joh 12:9-11). 

However, we are living in the very last days. Jesus is about to return for His Bride and take her to heaven. The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Meanwhile, most people are wicked, just as in the days of Noah.  In fact, most of the people in the Church, who claim to be Christians, are not even living a righteous life in obedience to God’s Word.  They are going straight from the pew into hell. God in His mercy does not want anyone to perish, but all to repent and have everlasting life (see 2Pe 3:9-12).

Therefore, God the Father has taken extraordinary measures to give a final warning to the world.  He has determined that a number of people would be raised from the dead, who have experienced heaven and hell, in order to warn mankind before it is too late. You can find testimonies of these experiences at the Eternal Destinations Home Page.  Apparently God, in His infinite wisdom, has decided to answer the prayer of the rich man in hell.  He has sent numerous people to the place of the dead, and brought them back, in order to testify of what they experienced, so that those who do not listen to Moses and the Prophets might possibly be persuaded and repent.

Why should anyone consider it incredible that God raises people from the dead?  He did this with Jonah and Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha.  And just as Jesus went in the Spirit down to hell, then returned, He is allowing people on earth today to go there and return to tell about it.  Likewise, just as He ascended into heaven, and took the apostles Paul and John to visit heaven (see 1 Co 12:1-4; Rev 4:1), He is allowing people on earth today to go there and return to tell about it.  Do not doubt, but believe, and correctly discern the things of the Spirit!

Putting it All Together
When Jesus died, He committed His spirit into the Father’s hands, not satan’s hands.  Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth, into hell, into the pit, into the heart of the earth.

There is a direct relationship between the earthquake when he died & his decent into hell. By the expression "He descended into hell", the Apostles' Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil "who has the power of death" (Heb 2:14).

Jesus had to descend into hell, so that the dead saints would hear His voice and live.  Jesus made proclamation to the spirits now in prison. Even those spirits of the ungodly people that died before the cross of Calvary got to hear the gospel, but they remained in prison even in Peter’s day, and are still there today.

Peter referred to the prison in hell, where there are pits of darkness.  In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven's gates for the righteous who had gone before him. 

First of all, Christ descended into each of the hells, but in different manner. He went down into the hell of the lost to put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to those who were in that part of hell where the righteous were detained, He gave hope of attaining to eternal glory.

After triumphing over the kingdom of darkness at the cross, He made a public display of them in hell.  Jesus descended into hell only after paying the full price for sin, since it was not expiatory.  In other words, He did not continue to suffer for sin there.  Jesus’ soul was not left in hell.  Rather, He was raised from the abode of the dead on the third day.

Following his descent into hell, and His return to the surface of the earth, where the living dwell, he appeared to his disciples before ascending to heaven.   Jesus ascended to heaven leading a very large group of captives.

My friend, hell is real.  You don’t want to go there.  It’s a place of flames, torment, and agony, where there is no water.  The wicked go there when they die to await the final day of judgment.  But the angels carry those who live righteous lives in Christ Jesus, when they die, into glory, where they are welcomed into heaven by Abraham’s bosom. There they live with God the Father, Jesus, the angels and the saints forever and ever.  You don’t have to go to hell.

As brother Roland Buck once said, “Your sin has already been judged; the separating barriers between God and man are down; you are free, liberated by his power; and you can be restored to a place of total innocence, to man's original position of closeness and fellowship with God.” –Angels on Assignment, chapter 7.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "The Question" and "Keys of Hell" paintings © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. 

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend He Went Down to the Dead and Rose Again from the Dead.You are invited to read or listen to the many, amazing testimonies of the supernatural on the Home page of this blog, a few of which are listed below.  I also recommend The Amazing Sign of Jonah, Christ's Two Ascensions and Discerning the Things of the Spirit. You may access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies Angelica Zambrano Hell and Heaven
Baptized by Blazing Fire Taken to Hell Forty Days in Heaven and Hell
Australian Pastor Raised from the Dead Nigerian Pastor Raised from the Dead Revelation of Hell to Seven Colombian Youths

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.