College & Career Class Lesson Summary, December 23, 2018
We have now made it to a few verses in chapter 4 that are often recited in a mix of verses to teach something about the time Jesus spent between His death and resurrection. I’ll attempt to explain this teaching, but it will be something you’ll have to pay attention to on purpose. There are bits of this teaching that certainly seem to be in harmony with scripture’s teaching as a whole. Yet, there are aspects of this that I’m not sure are totally sound – especially where these verses in Ephesians are concerned.
Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 4:9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Looking at verses 7 and 11, we see that by the measure of the gift of Christ, grace has been given to everyone of us. This grace isn’t a reward for personal merit, but is a gift. If there is a measure to this gift, having height, length and depth, it would be the standard of Christ Himself. This gift of grace has supplied various functions as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We’ll spend time on verse 11 in a future lesson, but for now, we see that Paul is speaking of gifts that were given to us and what these gifts are. Allow that to be in your mind when you consider verses 8, 9, and 10–it will ultimately come down to the establishment of the One worthy to give such gifts and who they were given to.
We will examine verses 8, 9 and 10 much more closely, however, in the meantime, let’s talk about this teaching that uses these verses to teach something about what Jesus was doing during the time He was buried.
There is a teaching that says that while Jesus was buried, He went to hell to accomplish 2 things. There is a third thing that sometimes gets mentioned, but it has no scriptural support. At least the other two things do.
The first thing He did was to preach to the spirits who were imprisoned there. The second thing He did was to take those of faith who had died prior to Christ’s death and take them to heaven. This view creates a compartmental structure of hell. The side that houses those of faith is known as Abraham’s bosom, from Luke 16, and the other side, (we’ll call, not Abraham’s bosom) is what we traditionally think of when we hear the word, hell. Also from Luke 16, we see that there is a great gulf fixed, dividing these two compartments. Once Jesus takes the Old Testament saints to heaven, the place of Abraham’s bosom is no longer needed (because now believers just go straight to heaven), therefore the prophecy was fulfilled,
Isaiah 5:14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
The “not Abraham’s bosom” essentially became the single compartment of hell, full of fiery torments.
(As a side note, if you read Isaiah 5, this verse is speaking of the judgment of Israel by their captivity. “Hell” comes from a word that means “grave” and in the context, the prophet is writing of Israel not having a good time in their captivity and the fact that the grave had to enlarge itself in order to receive the greater amount of Israel who perished because of the captivity conditions.)
Isaiah 5:13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. 5:14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
Despite this seeming misuse of Isaiah 5, do we have evidence that Jesus went to hell, preached to the spirits imprisoned there and led the Old Testament saints to heaven? Again, we will see scripture teaching various aspects of this, however, what we are looking to understand is if the teaching, as a whole, is sound, and, if Ephesians 4:8-10 has anything to do with it.
How is this teaching constructed?
The scriptures seem to suggest we are tripartite being, made of body, soul and spirit. When Christ died, then each aspect of His being went to different places.
1Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 15:44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 15:45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 15:46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.
Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
Act 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
From this, we see Jesus physical body was put in the grave/tomb; His spirit was commended back to the Father; and His soul was apparently in hell, but wasn’t left there. (We’ll not look more closely at Acts 2:27, which is a quote of David from Psalms, but I might suggest that this is not speaking of the fiery place of hell we commonly think of, but is a reference to His burial in the grave, which is where corruption (decay) would happen. Perhaps in a future post, we’ll discuss the idea of soul and spirit – as it was asked in class today as well). Since the teaching uses this verse to refer to the fiery place of hell, for the sake of argument, we’ll assume that is true and continue to examine the position.
We know Jesus’ body laid in the grave for 3 days/nights–not much happening here. His spirit went back to the Father who gave it (echos of Solomon – Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.) But, it appears that the soul of Christ went to hell. The first thing we noted above was that He was there to preach to the spirits in prison. Peter does speak of this, on two occasions, and Jude also refers to this.
1Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
Christ suffered once for sins, by His death, and was put to death in the flesh, yet was quickened, or made alive, by the Spirit. By the same Spirit, Christ also went and preached unto the spirits in prison. These spirits seem to be associated with a disobedience in the days of Noah. Peter will speak of this again in his second epistle. Before we get there, I just wanted to make a comment about verse 21. A clunky reading of this might have someone believing that water baptism now saves us. Remember when we looked at the “one baptism” from Ephesians 4:5, that we noted there were many different baptisms in scripture. One of these baptisms was the baptism of the believer into the death of Christ and into the life of Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Notice here Peter is not speaking of anything different – those on Noah’s ark were saved by water. The water served a source of judgment and death to the world, yet, Noah and his family came out of the deluge of death, alive. In other words, Noah pictured a resurrection and in verse 21, Peter simply says that the baptism into the resurrection of Christ is what saves us. This baptism doesn’t put away the filth of the flesh (presumably, sin), but is nothing more than the answer of a good conscious toward God. It is the affirmative response of faith to God, thereby having a conscious that is clear and at peace. Don’t get hung up on this verse – Peter is essentially drawing on the same reality that our baptism (identification) with the resurrection of Christ is what saves us. He is just using Noah as an object lesson to demonstrate his point.
Let’s not digress to much – our focus is on these angels that sinned during the days of Noah and that Jesus went and preached unto them. Note Peter’s words in his second epistle,
2Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
Peter is speaking of false prophets and false teachers and even though they exist and run amuck, God is able to deal with them just as He did with the angels who were doing the very same thing. Peter records that God did not spare the angels that sinned but case them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, now in reservation for judgment. He also refers to Noah again, drawing on how God also dealt with the wickedness of mankind. So, despite the false teachers that might be frustrating you now, God is able to deal with them accordingly and the look back to the angels that sinned, the flood, and even Sodom and Gomorrah as examples.
In Jude, we read something very similar,
Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 1:5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Jude is likewise referring his readers back to the fact that when God needs to take care of business, He takes care of business. In this, Jude writes of the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation – these have been reserved in everlasting chains under darkness until judgment. When Jude writes of the angels leaving their own habitation, the word behind this is the same word use in 2Corinthians 5 to refer to a physical body.
2Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
The word “estate” in Jude 1:6 is found elsewhere in scripture to refer to an origin or the power/authority established for a thing. So, these angels left what they were initially created for and took on the form of a human body. In this condition, they not only sinned by abandoning their created purpose, but they also infiltrated the world of humanity. Who are these angels? And, why would Jesus need to go preach to them?
First, as to who these angels are, we’ll need to run back to Genesis where this account is recorded.
Genesis 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
In the Old Testament, the phrase “sons of God” is consistently used of spirit beings, which we gather from Peter and Jude’s words are angels. These beings were created by God and were considered sons of the Most High. There is a family in heaven as well (as Paul told us about in Ephesians 3:15, speaking of Christ – Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named). There are three other times in the Old Testament that the sons of God are referenced,
Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
God apparently has board meetings and His leadership team (headed by Himself, of course) and there was a time when the sons of God assembled and Satan (the accuser) came among them.
Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 38:2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 38:3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 38:5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 38:6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
For most of the book of Job, Job and his two “friends” are philosophizing and complaining about the circumstance and eventually God answers Job and in verse 7, He wants to know where Job was when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. “Stars” in the Bible are often a reference to a celestial, spiritual being. When God laid the foundations of the earth (when He created the earth), all of the sons of God shouted for joy. Were these humans? No–humans didn’t arrive until their creation on Day 6, but, when God laid the very foundations of the earth itself, these spirit beings of God’s divine counsel shouted for joy over the magnificence of God’s handiwork.
However, at some point, some of these sons of God lost sight of reality and left their first estate (their created purpose) and their habitation (their substance as a spiritual being) and took on human flesh and co-mingled with the daughters of men and from this union, it produced giants (nephilim). It wasn’t God’s design for spiritual beings of His divine counsel to co-mingle with humans. These spiritual beings had to take on the form of flesh in order to do this. This is why in Genesis 6, we read of man being referred to as “also” flesh.
The offspring of this union produced giants and there are various races of giants mentioned in the scriptures (i.e. the Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, Anakim, etc.) The Anakim especially were a nemesis to Israel. They were the first giants to thwart Israel’s unanimous agreement to enter into Canaan the first time they surveyed the land.
Deuternomy 9:2 A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!
Numbers 13:33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
But, these weren’t the only giants Israel ever ran into. There was Goliath of Gath. There was a giant named, Og, who was the king of Bashan. Suffice it to say, giants were something that Israel ran into not so uncommonly. It is said that the average height of a male in that area of the world and at that time was about 5’4″, so it wouldn’t take much for someone to be a giant. Goliath was about 9′ tall, but he was most likely an outlier of the giant population. Also, the finding of nephilim skeletons would be very slim due to the fact that embalming hadn’t been invented yet. They would have just returned to dust (as we read from Ecclesiastes 12:7). If you think about the estimated number of humans to have ever lived on earth, then look at the number of human skeletons ever found, it is a very small ratio. Now, take that already small ratio and the amount of giant skeletons that would have survived would be an even smaller portion of that. To put it succinctly – we wouldn’t necessarily expect to be tripping over giant skeletons in the fossil record.
These angels produced these giants, but why? This will answer why Jesus went to preach to them. In Genesis 3:15, the serpent is told this,
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The seed of the serpent (the serpent – Satan – has seed? hint hint, Genesis 6) would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, but the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. The head of Satan (his authority/rulership) would be bruised, while only the heel of the woman’s seed would be bruised. In other words, the seed of Satan would be crushed while only the seed of the woman would suffer a flesh wound. Satan doesn’t want his headship destroyed and so he does whatever he can to prevent this from happening.
Jesus Christ dies at Calvary and Satan assumed he had won. However, what Christ would accomplish by His death, burial and resurrection, was kept a secret from them otherwise they wouldn’t have participated in the crucifixion of Christ.
1Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Jesus goes and preaches to the spirits in prison – these angels from Genesis 6 – and informs them that not only are they still going to remain in chains of darkness, but that He is going to resurrect to life, thus crushing their head (their leader). He preaches to them that they lost and He will stand as eternal victorious over their domain of death.
To summarize, Jesus does indeed go and preach to these spirits that are imprisoned in darkness and these spirits are the angels that sinned during the days of Noah (Genesis 6). It also seems, based on 1Peter 3, that this happened when Jesus suffered once for sin – so, in His death. So, what about the second thing – taking the Old Testament saints to heaven? Let’s look at this, but, before we do, I mentioned earlier that there was a third thing that often is said about what Jesus did in hell and that is that He deposited our sins there. Yet, as I mentioned, there is no verse that says this at all. Sin was killed at Calvary when Christ became sin for us and then was crucified (2Corinthians 5:21). Hebrews 9:26 says that Christ put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Colossians 2 writes of our being reconciled by the death of Christ. It was the very death of Christ that dealth with sin. Christ did not take our sins and deposit them in a fiery place called, hell.
But, what about the Old Testament saints? Some would say that before the death of Christ, Old Testament saints didn’t go to heaven directly, but went to a place called, Abraham’s bosom, which was a compartment of hell that Jesus took to heaven upon His resurrection and subsequent ascension. The reason some say this is twofold: one, there really isn’t mention in the Old Testament of saints going to heaven when they die, and two, the account in Luke 16 shows that the poor beggar goes to Abraham’s bosom yet the rich ruler ends up in hell. From this, it is extrapolated to be what the experience was for everyone in the Old Testament.
Here is the account from Luke,
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
As Paul writes Ephesians 4, many would say that verses 8-10 refer to Jesus, before His ascension, first descended into the lower parts of the earth (which they would say is hell) and led captivity captive. In other words, those who were captive to Abraham’s bosom were removed to heaven. Now, all believers, when they die, just go straight to heaven.
This is where we had to stop in class, due to time. Next time, we’ll look more closely at Luke 16 to understand what it is speaking about. We’ll also look at Ephesians 4:8-19 in light of Psalm 68, which it is quoting. We should be able to put everything together next week.
Our story continues…