Did Jesus Suffer in Hell?
Todays Question: I have a
question about Jesus' descent into hell. In Luke 23:43, "And
Jesus replied, Today you will be with me in Paradise. This
is a solemn promise." TLB
The question I am wondering about is how could He have
defeated Satan in hell if He declared to the thief that they both
would be in Paradise that day? I believe Jesus made an open
display of Satan on the Cross, according to Col.1:14: "Who
bought our freedom with His Blood and forgave us all our
Could you also explain to me how the Word of Faith teaching
responds to Luke23:43? I'll be waiting for your reply.
Sincerely, William Carpenter
Bible Answer: I do not dare speak for
the entire Word of Faith movement, but I would like to share some
of my insights in this area.
As far as the passage in Luke 23:43 Jesus did go to Paradise
that day. I agree. Jesus, however, did not say that He would be
there for all three days. That's where you make a wrong
assumption. Jesus said, "Today, you will be with me in
Paradise." Today does not mean three days; it simply
means the current day.
Before we proceed any further, we need to establish the fact
that man is a three-fold being. God made mans body
from the dust of the ground then breathed into him the breath of
life which is mans spirit, and man became a living soul
(Gen 2:7). He is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body.
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and
through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Thes 5:23). This
truth is important to understand if you are to comprehend Christ
descent into hell and His victory over the devil in hell.
Next, you need to realize that Adams sin resulted in not
just physical death but spiritual death. God warned Adam and Eve,
"The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not
eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt
surely die" (Gen 2:17, KJV). God said they would die in
the day that thou eatest. Adam and Eve did not die physically
that day, but they did die spiritual on that day. For
Christ to eradicate Adams transgression He would have to
experience the full judgement of sin, not just physical death.
The Bible teaches there is more than one type of death. As
Paul said, "You were dead in your transgressions and
sins" (Ep 2:1). This speaks of spiritual death. Then there
is the passage in Rev 20:14: "Then death and Hades were
thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second
death." The soul suffers eternally in the lake of fire.
Obviously from these passages there is more than one death. There
are three deaths, and they all correspond to our three-fold
nature: physical, spiritual, and soulish.
The message of the gospel is simple: Christ died for our sins.
Does this mean only physical death? Well, if thats all sin
does is kill us physically, then all Christ would have to do is
die physically, but as we have already established, there are
three deaths of the sinner. So if Christ is to die for the
sinner, then He must die in all three ways.
Isaiah the prophet confirms Christ three deaths:
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the
rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was
any deceit in his mouth. (Isa 53:9)
The Hebrew word used for death1 is plural. Literally it
reads, "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with
the rich is his deaths." Scholars still dont
understand why it is in the plural, so they usually translate it
in the singular.
Isaiah chapter 53 speaks of Christ three-fold death.
Isaiah mentions Christ afflictions and
woundsthats physical (vs. 4-5). He also alludes to
His spiritual death by saying that the Lord has laid on him the
iniquity of us all (v. 6). Finally Isaiah expresses Christ
suffering in hell by declaring:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for
sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and
the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall
see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied
hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with
the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made
intercession for the transgressors. (Isa 53:10-11,
Notice how often Christ' soul is mentioned. Jesus did
not suffer in body only; His soul suffered as well. The soul
suffers in hell.
Peter, in his first sermon, mentions the suffering of
Christ soul in hell:
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither
wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Acts
Jesus soul was in hell, but not left there. Praise God.
Why did Jesus go to hell for us? He went there because the
punishment of sin is for the soul to be cast into hell. Since
Christ suffered the penalties and punishment for our sins, it
stands to reason that He would have to suffer in hell, and He
I asked the Lord to give me a clear passage about this and He did. He gave me
Leviticus chapter 16. You need to read all of it. There you find the sacrificial
order on the Day of Atonement. What is important to notice is that there are three
sacrifices on this day: two male goats and one ram for a burnt
From the Israelite community he is to take two male
goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
Now why are three sacrifices necessary? Simply because the
three sacrifices speak of the three-fold death of Christhis
physical death, his spiritual death, and his soulish death.
Study the three sacrifices in Leviticus chapter 16. In this
passage, only the first goat was killed through the shedding of
blood; this speaks of Christ physical death and His shedding of
His blood on the cross.
The Second goat had the sins of the nation confessed onto it and then
banished alive in the desert; this speaks of Christ spiritual death whereby he
became sin for us. This is why Christ said, "My God, My God, why have you
forsaken me" (Matt 27:46). Jesus was made sin there on the cross (2 Cor 5:21).
And now here is where it gets real interesting. After the
sacrifices of these two goats, there is a time lapse. The Priest
takes off his filthy garments and puts on clean garments (Lev
16:23-24). He washes himself and makes sure he is clean; this
interim period is where I believe Jesus descent into Paradise
takes place. Jesus is free from sin and He proves it by saying,
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke
23:46). Jesus is restored to God the Father and is cleansed much
like the Priest was. So Jesus is free from sin when He meets the
thief in Paradise.
Now comes the final sacrifice that the priest makes, which is
the ram and burnt offering. This is the only sacrifice that is
burnt in the fire; I believe this speaks of Christ sacrifice in
After Jesus meets the thief that day, the sun goes down over
Jerusalem and the Passover officially begins. The first Passover
is recorded in Exodus 12. God makes clear when the Passover
should begin. (A Jewish day begins at sundown.)
Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the
month, when all the people of the community of Israel must
slaughter them at twilight. (Exod 12:6)
As you know, Jesus died on the day before Passover. For Jesus
to fully fulfill the Scriptures He must be sacrificed on
Passover. He was. Jesus descends into hell on Passover day and
becomes like the ram in the burnt offering. Passover last for 12
hours. I believe this is the time Jesus suffers in hell. At dawn
on Passover, Jesus strips the devil of his authority over
mankind. He enters the deepest part of hell called the dungeon
and declares His victory over Satan.
He was put to death in the body but made alive by
the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the
spirits in prison (1 Pet 3:18-19)
Jesus was made alive in His soul right in hell itself. He then
preached victory to the spirits in prison. He also led all the
Old Testament saints out of Abrahams bosom.
This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he
led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (Eph
Jesus message is clear:
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive
for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Jesus defeated the devil in Hades (hell) and took the keys
from him. He now rules!
I truly believe Satan hates this message; this is why he has
tried so hard to keep people from understanding this. Heresy
hunters have condemned preachers to hell if they preach this.
Hank Hanegraaff writes:
"It is at the crossnot in hellthat
your salvation is either won or lost." (Christianity in
Crisis, page152, Emphasis in the original)
For Hank it is an "either or" proposition. For him
it is not possible that both the sufferings at the cross and in
hell are essential for salvation. And to scare people from the
Word of Faith position he writes:
"They are heretical, which is another way of
saying that they directly oppose the clear teaching of
Scripture on matters of essential importance as highlighted
in the creeds and councils of the church." (Ibid. page
46, Emphasis in the original)
If you should believe like I do that Jesus' sufferings were
three-fold, then he is ready to label you a heretic and send you
to hell. Notice, he appeals to the creeds of the church. Well,
lets talk about the most famous creed, The
Apostles Creed. A portion of the creed affirms Jesus
descent into hell, the very thing that Hanegraaff disbelieves. It
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of
heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and
buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose
again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on
the right hand of God the Father Almighty
Its clear that the early church believed that Jesus descended
into hell. Were they heretics? The fact is, during their time
if anyone refused to believe in the entire creed they were disfellowshipped.
Because of efforts like Hank Hanegraaff some churches have removed this part of
the Apostle's Creed from their statement or they rephrase the creed to say, "He
descended into the Grave." (The word "grave" does not make sense since the previous
statement in the creed already mentioned that he was "buried"; why repeat the
thought? Remember that the creed was originally written in Greek,
and the word for hell is Hades, and it is used
consistently to speak of the place of punishment, see Luke 16:23
as an example.)
Now Im not labeling anyone a heretic simply because they
dont have as full an understanding of the full atonement,
but Hanegraaff is definitely wrong to imply that this teaching
about Jesus descent into hell contradicts all the creeds. This
teaching did not originate with the Word of Faith movement. It
is as old as the early church.
It is time to quit using scare tactics to make people
believe a certain way. I believe that a person can be saved
without fully understanding what Jesus accomplished for us in His
redemptive work. Hank thinks only people who believe exactly like
him about the atonement can make it to heaven. He writes about
the importance of his view versus our view:
"The stakes here are enormousno less than
salvation itself." (Ibid. page 154)
Wow! Hanks fear tactics just wont work with me. I
am quite secure in my salvation and I am in fact very grateful
for all Christ went through for me. Satan won't stop me from
preaching the full redemptive act of Christ.
Follow up Question: Your position rings true in light
of the Scriptures, but another verse came to my mind - John 19:30, where Christ
says "It is finished". Could you please comment on how the Lord's statement fits
into the Word of Faith position on this issue?
Thank you for your time, Sandi
Bible Answer: The term it is finish means what it says,
"It's paid for". Jesus descent into
hell is still part of the cross and the same redemptive work of Calvary. They
are not separate sacrifices, but taken together as one complete act in the same
way that the three animals used on the Day of Atonement is still one complete
act of one atonement.
1 Text from one of my Bibles. You may click the text for a
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