The Descent Of Christ Into Hades (Fourteen)

It is written:

For David says concerning Him: ‘I FORESAW THE LORD ALWAYS BEFORE MY FACE, FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, THAT I MAY NOT BE SHAKEN. 26  THEREFORE MY HEART REJOICED, AND MY TONGUE WAS GLAD; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL REST IN HOPE. 27  FOR YOU WILL NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HADES, NOR WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO SEE CORRUPTION. 28  YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF JOY IN YOUR PRESENCE.’ 29  “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30  Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31  he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32  This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:25-32)

The first mention of the descent of Christ into Hades is found in the Book of Psalms, which Peter quotes here in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. Nearly a thousand years earlier, the Psalmist had written:

Psalm 16:10-For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

When David wrote Psalm 16, was he prophesying of the Messiah Who would come nearly a thousand years later?

Sometimes unbelievers claim that Peter and the Apostles were taking Psalm 16 out of context and applying it to Jesus. They claim that the words of Psalm 16 were actually about David, and not about Jesus.

What shall we say to this?

First, please notice that no one on the Day of Pentecost accused Peter or the other Apostles of twisting the Scriptures out of their context and applying them to the Messiah. Indeed, throughout the rest of Acts and the New Testament, you don’t find the Apostles being accused of this by any of the unbelieving Jews! Instead, their interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies is carefully considered; and those who are familiar with the Scriptures often become Christians!

Acts 17:2-4-Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3  explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4  And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

Acts 17:11-12-These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12  Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

In fact, it becomes clear that the Messianic interpretation of Psalm 16:10 was commonly known and accepted in the first century!

Second, it is important to realize long before the time of Christ, the Jewish Rabbis had understood Psalm 16 to be a prophecy of the Messiah.

“On verse xvi. 9 [Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely], the Midrash on the passage says: ‘My glory shall rejoice in the King Messiah, Who in the future shall come forth from me, as it is written in Is. iv. 5: “upon all the glory a covering.”‘ And the Midrash continues ‘my flesh also shall dwell in safety’—i.e. after death, to teach us that corruption and the worm shall not rule over it.” (Alfred Edersheim Edited By Robert C. .Newman, Messianic Passages in the Old Testament as Cited in Rabbinic Literature (IBRI Occasional Papers Book 35), 506-512 (Kindle Edition); Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute www.ibri.org)

Third, the structure of Psalms demonstrates that one of the themes of this majestic Book is the coming Messiah Who would be the great King of the Earth.

“The original meaning of NT quotes from the Psalms, as will be discussed here, points directly to the Messiah in a manner that may be obscured when individual psalms are not understood in the context of the Psalter as a whole….“Acts 2: 24 appears to be an allusion to Ps 18: 6 (see 2Sm 22: 6), and in Ac 2: 33-35, Peter first alludes to and then cites Ps 110: 1. Acts 2: 37 appears to be an allusion to the Greek translation of Ps 109: 16 (LXX). Likewise, Paul cites Ps 2: 7 in Ac 13: 33, and his reference to Ps 16: 10 (Ac 13: 36) appears in a matrix of other citations and allusions to the book of Psalms….However, the NT’s messianic interpretation of Ps 16, with its incorporation of other messianic psalms, is supported by an ever-growing amount of textual evidence demonstrating that the book of Psalms is truly a book with a well-planned compositional structure and a theological message.7 This body of evidence weighs heavily in favor of understanding Ps 16 as the authors of the NT did—as a messianic psalm….“The growing body of biblical research points to a carefully designed literary structure for the book of Psalms as a whole. 8 Crucial to the overall structure are: 1. The introduction and conclusion to the book of Psalms (Pss 1–2, 146–150) 2. The fivefold divisions of the book (Pss 3–41, 42–72, 73–89, 90–106, 107–145) 3. The carefully arranged groupings of the individual psalms by means of key words in the superscriptions 4. The pervasive use of literary links and inclusios (literary framing devices) in the adjacent psalms and groupings of psalms. This literary design begs the question of the author’s theological concern for the message of the Psalter as a book. The careful placement of psalms that envision the rule of a Davidic messianic king in the literary seams between and introducing the five books (Pss 2, 45, 72, 89, 107–110), as well as in the seams of the individual books (e.g. the Royal Psalms in Book I: Pss 2, 8, 18, 20–21), supports a growing consensus that the book of Psalms reflects a unified composition about God’s promises to the house of David, namely, the coming Davidic Messiah…“Psalm 15 describes Israel’s ideal king, one who lives a pious life, and who, therefore, qualifies to dwell in the Lord’s holy mountain (Ps 15: 1-5a). David assures us that this ideal king will “never be moved,” lōʾ yîmmôṭ leʿôlām (Ps 15: 5b). The following psalm takes up this confident hope: “I keep the LORD in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken [moved],” bal-ʾemmôṭ (Ps 16: 8; see 17: 5). This confidence leads to assurance of the king’s eternal pleasures at God’s right hand (Ps 16: 11), which was defined in the preceding psalm as the Lord’s tent and holy mountain (Ps 15: 1). In order to ascend to the mount of the Lord (Ps 15: 1), the king must first descend into the grave and conquer death (Ps 16: 10-11)….To answer this question, one must first consider those passages in this group of psalms (Pss 15–24) that explicitly mention the death of the ideal king of Psalm 15, later identified as the Messiah in Psalm 18:50 and 20:6 (“anointed” in Hebrew is mashiach or Messiah)….“The king described in Ps 16: 10, according to the larger context, is an ideal king who walks blamelessly and has clean hands (Pss 15: 2; 24: 4), a king who has been viciously assaulted and put to death (Pss 17: 9-12; 22: 12-18), who loves the Torah more than gold or silver (Ps 19: 1), whom David identifies as the Messiah (Pss 18: 50; 20: 6). Not only is this king blameless (Pss 15: 2; 18: 23, 25, 32; 19: 13), but one who is laid in the grave and does not experience decay. The description of this ideal king leads us to the same conclusion the apostle Peter came to in his first post-Pentecost sermon to the people of Israel: David cannot be speaking about himself!…“This article has argued that the NT’s interpretation of Psalm 16: 10 as a prophecy of the Messiah’s resurrection, though often rejected on the basis of the grammatical-historical interpretation, has much in favor of it. First, this interpretation acknowledges what more and more modern scholars have come to realize over the past 20 to 30 years of Psalm scholarship: The book of Psalms is really a book with a messianic message. Second, the interpretation of the individual psalms must not be done in isolation from their larger literary context. This article has explained how the royal messianic psalms function within Book I (1–41), and most particularly within this particular grouping of psalms (Pss 15–24) that envisions the ascent of the ideal king, the Messianic King, to the eternal presence of God on His holy mountain. Third, the article has described how other psalms within this grouping speak clearly of the death of the Messianic King. Finally, this discussion looked at the word šḥṯ in Ps 16: 10 and argued in light of the other miḵtām psalms that this king is not simply kept from the grave, but is actually raised from the grave and preserved from the decay of death. Given other psalms of David that have been interpreted both figuratively and messianically in Book I (Pss 3–7), one can confidently say, along with Peter, that David’s focus in this psalm is not on himself, but rather upon the King who is both his son (Ps 18: 50) and also his Lord (Ps 110: 1).” (Seth D. Postell, ‘The Resurrected Messiah,’ in Michael Rydelnik & Edwin Blum, The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, 513-525 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added);

513-525 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Publishers)

In Psalm 16:10, David clearly prophesied of the descent of the Messiah into the realm of Sheol.

It is also interesting to consider these facts in view of what Luke (who is the author of Acts) points out that Jesus says:

Luke 23:43-And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

We noticed in a previous lesson that Hades is divided up into two sections: Paradise, and the place of torments.

Now, is Jesus here saying that He and the thief would travel to Paradise (ie, Hades) that day?

Or is He saying something different?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible translates this verse in this fashion:

Luke 23:43 (NWT)-“Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”

So which is correct?

Look at how Jesus uses the phrase “assuredly I say unto you” throughout the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 4:24-Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.

Luke 12:37-Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.

Luke 18:17-Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Luke 18:29-So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,

Luke 21:32-Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.

Observe that the phrase “assuredly I say to you” was used by the Lord throughout the Gospel Of Luke several times to emphasize an important lesson that He was teaching to the people. He would use the phrase, “assuredly I say to you,” AND THEN introduce this new truth or understanding to His disciples. It is because of this fact that the translators of the English versions place the comma AFTER the phrase, “assuredly I say to you.”

This is one of the reasons that we know that Jesus is telling the thief on the cross:

Luke 23:43-Assuredly, I say to you, TODAY you will be with Me in Paradise.”

One author has clarified:

“This is a clear case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses changing the Bible in order to fit their doctrines. Without any warrant whatsoever, they have forced a comma into a part of the sentence that changes entirely the intended meaning of Jesus’ words. It is helpful to observe how the phrase, “Truly, I say to you” is used elsewhere in Scripture. This phrase—which translates the Greek words amen soy lego—occurs 74 times in the Gospels and is always used as an introductory expression. It is somewhat similar to the Old Testament phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” 60 Jesus used this phrase to introduce a truth that was very important. In 73 out of the 74 times the phrase occurs in the Gospels, the New World Translation places a break—such as a comma—immediately after the phrase, “Truly, I tell you.” 61 Luke 23: 43 is the only occurrence of this phrase in which the New World Translation does not place a break after it. Why? Because if a break—such as a comma—was placed after “Truly, I say to you,” the word “today” would then belong to the second half of the sentence, indicating that “today” the thief would be with Jesus in Paradise. But this would go against Watchtower theology. Hence, the relocated comma….Apologist Robert Bowman notes that if Jesus had really wanted to say, “Truly, I say to you today,” He could have done this very clearly by using a different construction in the Greek language. 62 But based upon the usage of amen soy lego throughout Scripture, it is clear that the word “today” belongs with the second part of the sentence, not the first. Related to all this, Watchtower expert Marian Bodine points out that the phrase, “Truly, I say to you today” does not make good sense: “It would have been needless to say, ‘Today, I am telling this to you.’ Of course He was! What other day would He have been speaking to the thief on? Jesus never added the word ‘today’ when speaking to anyone.” 63 According to orthodox scholars, this thief apparently believed that Jesus would eventually come into His kingdom at the end of the world. He therefore asked to be remembered by Jesus at that time. Jesus’ reply, however, promised him more than he had asked for: “Today [not just at the end of the world] you will be with me in Paradise.”…From the above, it is clear that Luke 23: 43 argues strongly against the Watchtower position that there is no immaterial nature that consciously survives death. As is true with other Bible verses, a thorough look at the text unmasks the Watchtower deception.” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning From The Scriptures With The Jehovah’s Witnesses, 327-329 (Kindle Edition); EUGENE, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)

In another passage, Jesus discusses His coming descent into the realm of Hades.

Matthew 12:40-For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The Lord compares His time in “the heart of the earth” to Jonah’s time in the belly of the sea creature. The Greek phrase “heart of the earth” is used in the Greek translation of Jonah when he figuratively describes being in Sheol!

“In fact, the phrases that are repeated in Matthew 12: 40 occur in Jonah 2: 4 (LXX) and 2: 7 (LXX), both of which make reference or are parallel to Hades/ Sheol (Jon 2: 2; 2: 3 LXX). 47 Consider the following: Matthew 12: 40 reads, ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱος τοῦ άνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας. 48 The quotation is from Jonah 1: 17 (2: 1 LXX), but the other phrases in Matthew 12: 40 also parallel portions of Jonah 2.49 First, while Jesus says he will go into the heart (καρδίᾳ) of the earth, Jonah is, in Jonah 2: 3 (2: 4 LXX), cast by the LORD into the heart (καρδίας) of the sea. Further, this reference in Jonah 2: 3 (2: 4 LXX) is parallel to “the belly of Sheol” in Jonah 2: 2 (Jon 2: 3 LXX; ἔκ κοιλίας ᾅδου, literally “belly of Hades”). Notice how this phrasing thus lexically connects “belly of the fish” (Jon 1: 17; 2: 1 LXX), “belly of Sheol” (Jon 2: 2; 2: 3 LXX), and “heart of the sea” (Jon 2: 3; 2: 4 LXX). 50 Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus’ statement that he will be three days and three nights “in the heart of the earth” (καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς) finds a clear parallel in Jonah 2: 6 (2: 7 LXX) with the phrase κατέβην εἰς γῆν (“ I went down to the land”). 51 Both Jesus (literally) and Jonah (figuratively and symbolically) descend to the depths of the pit, Hades, Sheol, the abyss. These are all synonymous terms in Jonah 2,52 and the lexical similarities between that chapter and Matthew 12: 40 indicate that, “The primary meaning of the ‘sign of Jonah’ . . . is . . . the correspondence between Jonah’s experience in the belly of the sea creature, and Jesus’ experience in death, his descent to Hades.” 53 For these reasons, we could accurately say that Jonah’s descent into the belly of the sea, and, derivatively, into the belly of the fish, is figuratively portrayed as his descent to the place of the dead. This puts Jesus’ statement in clearer context. Jesus does not merely compare the timeframe of his death to the timeframe of Jonah’s time in the fish, nor is the comparison merely one between Jonah’s prophetic ministry and that of Jesus. Rather, Jesus compares himself to Jonah because what happens to them—the former literally and the latter figuratively—is the same. Or, as Nolland puts it, “Both [the belly of the sea monster and the heart of the earth] represent liminal states connected with death.” 54 They descend to the place of the dead. 55 Jonah’s body is in the fish (grave) while his soul, metaphorically, is in Sheol; Jesus’ body is in the heart of the earth (grave) while his soul, literally, is in the place of the dead. 56 And again, it is Jesus himself who affirms this.” (Matthew Y. Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday, 36-38 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

There can be no doubt that Jesus here describes going to Sheol:

It is only in Matthew that Jesus himself speaks of his descent into the underworld between his death and resurrection….“As early as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian, 26 Matthew 12: 40 is already being used in reference to the Descensus. Many scholars since have argued that the Descensus is being taught in this passage, 27 while others directly oppose it. 28 The allusion to Jonah29 is significant because Jonah, in figurative language, descends to Sheol/ Hades in Jonah 2: 1-9 (death and descent) and then is vomited onto dry land (resurrection) (Jonah 2: 10-3: 3). 30 Thus, the “sign of the Prophet Jonah” that Jesus applied to himself would include his real death, descent, and resurrection all of which was foreshadowed in Jonah’s figurative descent into the heart of the great fish (death and descent) and ascent onto the dry land (resurrection). 31 In Jewish tradition on the story of Jonah, the most emphasis is on Jonah’s time in the fish and his liberation was seen as deliverance from death. 32 The Scribes and the Pharisees are witnesses to both the death of Jesus and at least second hand witnesses to the resurrection (Matt 27: 41, 62-66; 28: 11-15). The very sign that brought the Ninevites (Gentiles) to faith (Jonah 3) is the very sign that condemns the Jewish leadership (Matt 8: 11-12; 12: 22-37; 23: 1-39). This fits well with Matthew’s emphasis on rejection of Jewish leadership and the Gospel going to all the nations (Gentiles) (Matt Jewish leadership and the Gospel going to all the nations (Gentiles) (Matt 20). Even though Christ’s descent into the underworld is not the primary teaching here, it is nevertheless assumed by his allusion to Jonah’s descent.” (Justin Bass, The Battle for the Keys: Revelation 1:18 and Christ’s Descent into the Underworld (Paternoster Biblical Monographs), 105-106 (Kindle Edition); Paternoster)

There is no doubt that David, Luke, and Jesus Himself taught clearly that in His death, Jesus went to Paradise in Hades.

However, the Bible also teaches that Jesus did not only go to Paradise in Hades when He died.

No, Jesus also descended to the realm of the dammed.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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