Did Jesus Suffer In Hell?
An Answer to Copeland's Heresy
In One Part
There is a teaching floating around certain circles, mostly among the charismatic/word of faith circles, that when Jesus died, he descended into the torments of hell, in order to complete our salvation. Some have even went so far as to say, that his death on the cross is not what gained salvation for man, but it was his torment in hell.
Here is one quote by Kenneth Copeland, to the effect that it wasn't Jesus' death that brought salvation, but his torment in hell.
For three days He suffered everything there is to suffer. Some people don't want to believe that. They want to believe that after His death, Jesus just stayed in that upper region of Sheol that the Bible calls paradise, but they're mistaken! If He had simply stayed there, there would have been no price paid for sin (Believer's Voice of Victory, Vol. 19, No. 9, Sept. 1991)
Copeland is not the first to preach such foul heresy. He actually got this doctrine of demons, from the real father of Word of Faith teaching, EW Kenyon. Kenyon wrote in his book, What Happened From the Cross to the Throne,
Jesus was left alone. God turned His back on Him. Satan triumphantly bore His Spirit to the Dark Regions of Hades. All the sufferings and torments that Hell could produce were heaped upon Jesus. When He had suffered Hell's agonies for three days and three nights, the Supreme Court of the Universe cried, "Enough." He had paid the penalty and met the claims of justice. Satan saw Him Justified. God made Him alive in Spirit right there in the presence of the cohorts of Hades.
Back to Copeland, who takes his statement even further,
He [Jesus] is suffering all that there is to suffer. There is no suffering left apart from Him. His emaciated, poured out, little, wormy1 spirit is down in the bottom of that thing [hell]. And the Devil thinks he's got Him destroyed. (Believer's Voice of Victory" program, 21 April 1991. This message was originally delivered at the Full Gospel Motorcycle Rally Association 1990 Rally at Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas)
Now, I don't know about you, but it gives me the chills to hear how this man, Mr. K.C., describes the soul/spirit of the Lord Jesus. It seems there is no fear of God in this man, at all. To describe the Spirit of our Lord as an "emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit", is the height of arrogance and wickedness. There is nowhere in the Scriptures that even comes close to hinting that this was Jesus' condition in the grave.
And in the first quote, he comes right out and says, that it was not the DEATH of Jesus that purchased our salvation, but it was his being tormented for three days and nights that did it.
He goes on to assert that if it had been only a physical death required to purchase our redemption, then that could have been done by any of the ancient prophets. He says,
Every prophet that walked the face of the earth under the Abrahamic covenant could have paid the price if it were a physical death only. (What Happened from the Cross to the Throne)
He also calls the Lord, who is the Truth, a liar. . .
When he said 'It is finished' on that cross, he was not speaking of the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption had just begun, there were still three days and three nights to be gone through.(What Happened from the Cross to the Throne)
[Jesus] accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own Spirit, and at the moment that He did so, He cried 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (What Happened from the Cross to the Throne)
Jesus had to take on Satan's sin nature? Is he implying that Jesus died for Satan, too? Where does this come from?
He [Jesus] was down in that pit and there he suffered the punishment for three horrible days and nights for Adam's treason... There is a new birth takes place in the very depths of the earth, when the command of God says 'That's enough, loose him and let him go'. (What Happened from the Cross to the Throne)
Jesus was born again in the pit of hell?
By such statements as above, he places Jesus on the same level as any of the ancient prophets. Jesus, to this man, was nothing more than just another prophet. Any ancient prophet could have died a physical death and effected salvation for all of mankind? Excuse Me????
And then to put the icing on his perversion, Jesus took on the sin nature of Satan? The Scriptures say that "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2Co 5:21). But nowhere does it say anything about Jesus taking on the sin nature of Satan. This little bit of fanciful poison, leads to one even bigger.
That would be the idea that Jesus had to be born-again. Yes, folks, that's right, Mr. K.C. teaches us from the vast depths of his wisdom and revelation, that Jesus had to be born-again, just like you and I do. Well, after all, Jesus is referred to as the "firstborn from the dead" (Col. 1:18) isn't he? And so the pretzel logic goes on and on.
So what we have here is this. Jesus dies on the cross, spilling His life's blood, which meant nothing, and then descended into the pit of hell to endure three days and three nights of torments at the hand of the devil and demons. Once he had been tortured sufficently by all the hordes of hell, God the Father says, "that's enough". Then Jesus gets born-again and comes out of the grave. WOW!!! What a vivid, but perverted imagination this one has.
[Observation: Mentioned in the above is one little point that has not been dealt with thus far. This is that Jesus was in hell being tormented by the devil and all the demons. He stills believes the old fable that the devil is in charge of hell instead of God. Hell was prepared for the devil's torment, not for him to use it as his own personal torture chamber.]
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin writes the following,
In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. (Institutes, Book II, Chapter XVI, section 10)
The place where Jesus felt the "weight of divine vengeance" was on the cross. Why else would Christ proclaim His separation from the Father. This was a separation which had never occurred in the Son's relationship with His Father.
The fact that it was the cross, and the cross alone, that purchased man's salvation, is evident from the witness of Scripture. For the writer of Hebrews, states,
12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
He says nothing about Jesus enduring the torments of the fires of hell. Paul also states that it was the death of the cross that gained Christ Jesus, His glory.
Phil. 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It was the fact that Christ, who always existed in the form of God, took upon Himself the form of a slave, and being found in condition or habit of being a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. It was because of this obedience to the death of the cross, that God highly exalted Him, so that all creation should confess that He is Lord, to the glory of His Father. There is no hint in Paul's language, of His being glorified because of His enduring the torments of hell.
The first question that we would have to ask is, 'Is any of this taught in the Bible'? Well, we could save alot of time, yours and mine, by simply giving the short answer, and being done with it. The short answer is, No, none of this is taught in the Bible. That should be sufficient, but since I know there may be those out there who have come under the spell of this specious doctrine, it would be prudent to actually see what the Bible does say about where Jesus went after his death on the cross. I call these men magicians for this reason. With the wave of their magic wand and a few words of hocus-pocus, they make truth fly out the door, causing wholesome doctrine to disappear, while replacing it with error heaped upon error.
Just in case there are some of you who are tempted to argue that these "truths" have come to these men by revelation, instead of good old fashion Biblical study and interpretation, let me say this. First off, no revelation that God gives will be in contradiction to his written revelation. This idea that a spirit revelation can supersede the written revelation of the Word, is just another trick up the magician's sleeve to dupe the gullible masses. Sadly, this trick has worked all too well and all too often.
Gehenna or Hades?
There are two Greek words that are translated as Hell, one is Gehenna and the other is Hades. These are two totally different concepts, unfortunately translated into English with the same word, Hell.
Now since these men do not make the distinction between these two places, I can only assume that they simply think of the hell mentioned in the New Covenant as a place of torment. For them, hell is hell. So much for biblical scholarship or rightly dividing the word of truth.
Was Jesus in Paradise or Fiery Hell?
These men teach that Jesus went from the cross down into the very pits of hell to be tormented by the whole demonic horde. If this is true, then Jesus is a liar. Yes, folks, I know that this may be hard for some of you to accept, but if these men are telling the truth, then Jesus is not. How do I know this? For one simple reason. While Jesus was on the cross, and after the repentent thief asked to be remembered when He came into His kingdom, Jesus said, "Today, you shall be with me in paradise."
However, Copeland says that Jesus was dragged down into the pits of hell to be tormented on that very day. Did Jesus consider being tormented by demons, paradise? Hardly. So I don't know. Who do you think is telling the truth?
First I would like to list every place in the New Covenant writings were the word gehenna appears in the text. In the following verses, the word you see translated as hell is the Greek word gehenna.
- Mt 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
- Mt 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
- Mt 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
- Mt 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
- Mr 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
- Mr 9:45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
- Mr 9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
- Lu 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
- Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Now what you will want to do is notice that in all of these references to 'gehenna' in the New Covenant, not one of them are referring to Jesus being there. You say, 'Ok, so what'. Well, I will tell you so what. The word gehenna in the Scriptures is the one word used to denote the place of torment for the wicked. According to the teaching of these men, that is where Jesus would have had to go, in order to complete our salvation.
Next we look at the other word for hell, which is hades. Here is everywhere this word appears in the New Covenant. In these verses, where you see hell, it is the word hades.
- Mt 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
- Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
- Lu 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
- Lu 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
- Ac 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
- Ac 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
- 1Co 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
- Re 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
- Re 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
- Re 20:13 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.
- Re 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Now of all these, only two specifically refer to Jesus being in hell, or more correctly, hades. This term hades is quite interesting. It is the Greek equivilant of the Hebrew She'ol, which simply refers to 'the grave'. It is the word used to denote the place of departed souls who have left this earth through death.
The Compartments of Hades
In the first century AD, it is apparent that there was the belief that She'ol was divided into at least two compartments, one for the wicked and one for the righteous. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is the best illustration of this belief.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
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.
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;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
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.
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.
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.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
According to the parable, both the rich man and Lazarus died. Lazarus was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom, while the rich man was buried and found himself in a place of the torments of flame. The rich man could see Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, being separated by a great gulf which was fixed. The ancient rabbis believed . . ." hell and paradise join each other. R. Johanan claims that a partition of only a hand-breadth, or four inches wide, separates them. " (Paradise, Jewish Encyclopedia).
Whatever the distance between the two, the facts stated are clear. In Hades/She'ol, there are two compartments, one for the righteous, which can be designated Abraham's bosom or Paradise, and one for the wicked, which is a place of torment of flames. The wicked can see the righeous but it is not stated if the righteous can see the wicked. It would seem to add to the torment of the wicked to be able to see the righteous enjoying their reward, while the wicked are in their own torments.
Let us make one point about this parable that might be lost in the whole of the argument. The description of hades/she'ol is not even the point of the parable, but is simply background coloring for the real point. What is the real point? That the destiny of a man is determined upon whether he believed the Scriptures or not. The rich man was convinced that his brothers would not pay attention to the prophets, but they would listen to someone who has returned from the dead. And here is the central point of the parable. If a man will not listen and give heed to the Scriptures, then he will not listen to one who has returned from the dead. Jesus proved this. Jesus was raised from the dead, and those who did not believe him while he was alive, continued in their unbelief after the resurrection.
So the idea that when the Scriptures say that Jesus was in 'hell', is not referring to his being in torments with the wicked, but simply refers to his descent into the grave/hades/she'ol. Jesus went where every man who had died went, into the grave. But the idea that he was down there being tormented by the devil and a whole horde of demons, is nothing but the fanciful imagination of a twisted mind. As stated earlier, Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him, after his statement of faith in his kingship, that he, the thief, would be with him, Jesus, in paradise, that same day, not in the torments of hell. This one verse alone should be sufficient for the normal thinking person, to prove where Jesus was going after his death on the cross was complete. But for not-so-normal persons, no sound Biblical reason is ever enough to answer their twisted reasonings.
The Blood/Death of Jesus is Insufficient?
As concerning the issue that it is not the death of Jesus that effected salvation and redemption for us, but was his torment in the grave, the Scriptures are clear. Contrary to what Mr. K.C. says, when Jesus said "It is finished", he was not lying. Now the choice is clear and the choice is yours. You can believe the Son of God, the Word of God incarnate, the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life, or you can believe this one who calls Jesus a liar. I choose to believe Jesus, that when he said , "It is finished", he meant, IT IS FINISHED, WITH NOTHING ELSE TO ADD IN ORDER TO COMPLETE THE WORK.
The Scriptures tell us that is was the DEATH of Jesus, or the shedding of his BLOOD that purchased our redemption. The Scriptures describe the death of Jesus or refer to his blood, which was shed in death. So when we see the references to the blood of Jesus, it is referring to his physical death upon the cross. Hear what the Word says,
Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
It is the blood of Jesus that is able to bring us near unto God, not his enduring the torments of hell.
1Pe 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:
Christ has suffered for sins once (lit. once and for all), not twice. He did not suffer on the cross, and then suffer in the pit and torment of hell. He suffered once and for all, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, not being tormented in his "wormy little spirit". His bringing us, or presenting us to God was effected by his death in the flesh, not his torment in his *@%#^% spirit. It was his death in the flesh that enabled us to be presented to God.
Heb 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
It is the BLOOD of Jesus that enables us to boldly enter the holiest place, to meet with God.
Heb. 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
It was outside the gate of Jerusalem that he suffered, not inside the gates of hell.
Rev. 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Our sins are washed in his own blood. In the torments of hell, he had no more blood to shed, for he shed it all at Golgotha.
Just the facts
So what do we really know about what happened to Jesus after he died upon the cross and was buried? Well, glad you asked. Here is what we know for sure.
- Eph. 4:7-10
- But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
- 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.)
We know that before he ascended up on high, i.e., the ascension, he descended "first into the lower parts of the earth." This phrase lower parts of the earth is another Hebraic way of saying the grave/or She'ol, for this is where they believed She'ol to exist.
When he ascended, he "led captivity captive". The meaning of this phrase is those who once had been held captive by another power, were now His captives. It points to the fact that those who had once been held captive by death and the grave/She'ol, had now been freed from this power and was now under His leadership. What may we conclude from this? We first need to add one other Scripture into the mix, so as to give us a clearer picture of the scene.
- Matt. 27:50-53
- Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
- And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
- And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
- And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
This passage tells us that there were many who were raised from the dead on the same day Jesus was. Jesus was the first one to be raised up, but then after him many came out of their graves and appeared to many in Jerusalem. This is one of the reasons that the Scriptures refer to Jesus as the firstborn from the dead(Col. 1:18). It is not because he was the first to be 'born again' down there in the pit, as these men teach. But it is due to his pre-eminence as the Heir of all the promises of God to the Fathers, and his being the first to be raised up incorruptible.
This also points to what the Scriptures call being the "firstfruits from the dead" (1 Cor. 15:20,23). He is the Firstfruits of the dead, i.e., he is the first of his kind to come forth from the earth.
So here is what we can say for sure.
- Jesus died, spilling his blood in death at Golgotha. This shedding of blood is what the Scriptures point to as bringing man's redemption. Remember, "without the shedding of blood,there is no remission of sin."
- Then Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. Jesus uses the phrase 'heart of the earth' (Matt. 12:40). This, in Hebraic thought, is equal to the grave or She'ol.
- He was in the 'heart of the earth' for a full three days and three nights. (Matt.12:40)
- While in this place, he set free the righteous who had been, to that point, held captive by the grave.
- He then led these freed captives out of the grave, Himself being the first to come forth from the grave. He was then followed by all of those whom he had set free (Rom. 8:29). He was the firstborn among many brethren.
- Jesus, along with his many brethren who were raised after him, appeared to many in Jerusalem. [Matt. 27:50-53]
- After a period of forty days, Jesus ascended into the heavens along with those of his brethren, that he had freed from the grave's power.
These are the facts as we know them and that can be stated without reservation from the Scriptures. Apart from the stated facts, all else is conjecture, guesswork and fanciful imaginations.
1 When the Psalms says, "I am a worm," it is signifying a specific type of worm. See The Crimson Worm (coccus ilicis)