Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter 2008 - What Happened from the Cross to the Throne? (and what it means to us)

As Easter has arrived, and Resurrection Sunday is just hours away, I thought I might deal with and explain an issue which I (and others far more intellectually savvy) are asked each spring about this time.

What happened from the time Jesus died, until His resurrection?

And there are corollary questions that go with that, like:

Where are the souls of those who died (faithful and faithless) prior to the time of Christ?

What's the difference in "hades" and "gehenna"? Aren't they both "hell?"

Is the "Paradise" which Jesus mentioned to the thief on the cross the same as "Heaven?"

Did Jesus "go to hell?"

And there are many other variations and related inquiries. I hope the following explanation will be enlightening and help to make sense of these questions....

Until the time of the Cross, ALL men who died, went to a "temporary" place for the dead -- "sheol," "hades," etc... The righteous dead -- those who died in FAITH -- departed to "Abraham's bosom," or Paradise [as did Lazarus] while the faithless dead went to "Hades" [as did the 'rich man'] (Luke 16:19-31).

NOTE: All who died in faith prior TO the time of Christ looked forward to the promised redemption of God in FAITH -- though WHAT or WHO that redemption would be had not been revealed -- the means of salvation has ALWAYS been FAITH. But we KNOW that they certainly figured it out by the time Jesus was on earth:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw [it], and was glad" (John 8:56).

So, prior to Christ' death and resurrection, all who died went to these "holding cells," akin to a county jail -- where they are bound over UNTIL the time of trial [or THE JUDGMENT] (Revelation 20:11ff).

As to those in Paradise -- indeed, when Jesus "dismissed His spirit," Scripture seems to indicate that Jesus did "descend into Hades" as is stated in the Apostles Creed, and affirmed in Scripture:

"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: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 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" (I Peter 3:18-20; cf. Psalm 16:10).

This "Preaching," however, WAS NOT meant to be remedial, nor to offer those who had died without faith "another chance." Rather, it was to declare to those who had died the [b]final revelation of the redemption [/b]which they had [i]already[/i] received or rejected -- and that revelation was JESUS CHRIST Himself.

Those who had died in faith were delivered from Paradise, and ushered into the VERY PRESENCE of God, heaven:

"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" (Ephesians 4:8-10). It is worth noting that some of those "captives" who were set free apparently made a stop along the way: "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose..." (Matthew 27:52).

Thus, "Paradise" is now empty, because Jesus has through His death and resurrection become the way for ALL the redeemed to come "boldly before His throne"... HOWEVER, those in "Hades" -- the portion reserved for the faithless dead, remains "in business," adding to it's number, "enlarging it's borders," in anticipation of the Great White Throne -- THAT Day, the LAST DAY, the Day of Judgment -- Final Judgment:

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

[i][b]And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire[/b][/i] This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15).

In other words, after the Millennial Kingdom, at the Final Judgment, THEN "death and hell [HADES] are cast into the Lake of Fire [GEHENNA]" for eternity.

So, in summary, when Jesus "gave up the ghost," He "descended into Hades" and "preached unto the spirits in prison" in the sense that he presented Himself as the ultimate redemption which those in Paradise had looked forward to in faith, and those in hades had rejected in faithlessness. He then "led captivity captive," opening the way for all those who had by faith trusted God for redemption to enter into Heavenm the very presence of God. Those in hades remain there in waiting until their final judgment and their final disposition as eternal occupants of the Lake of Fire. Since Jesus' resurrection, ALL who have trusted Him upon their death are IMMEDIATELY ushered into heaven, for "to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8).

Hope this presents a solid explanation of what Jesus did "from the Cross to the Throne," and what the disposition of the People of God is past, present and future.

No comments: