In my readings I ran across a Bible doctrine promulgated by some teachers as truth that in the three day interval following Christ’s crucifixion he was in hell [insert jaw drop and gasp here]. The version of this erroneous doctrine that I read unabashedly stated that Jesus needed to bear all the sin of all time “compressed into that 3 day timespan.” So let’s get this straight: never mind the fact that He had just endured perhaps the most brutal and humiliating deaths of all time after being flogged within an inch of His life in the public square and mocked and betrayed and spit upon, and finally had His Father turn His back on Him after having spikes driven through His hands and feet and left to suffocate on a cross. Forget all that. Lets tack on an idea not stated in the Bible that He still needed to endure all the eternity of Hell for all people that ever had lived or would live. The implication here seems to be that the awful flogging and the crucifixion of Jesus were essentially just the official earthly spectacle needed for historical purposes only.
I suppose it comes from an incorrect interpretation of Matthew 12:40, “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The “heart of the earth” is supposedly hell in this faulty doctrine. I call this reinterpreting Scripture as we see fit, because the verse clearly means His earthly body was simply buried underground for three days (I will explain why–please keep reading). I thought that digging into this would bring up some interesting thoughts, so I first identified two main faults with this doctrine:
- It makes the statement that the cross wasn’t enough.
- It calls Christ a liar.
I will justify these rather bold statements in order. Jesus was crucified at the exact moment as the Passover lamb because He was the ultimate Lamb that was slain for all mankind. It was done out in the open for all the world to see His love for His enemies. If God’s plan all along had been for Jesus to go to hell to pay for the sin of the world, then why would the cross have been necessary at all? Our God is all knowing, and there is no way He would do something so clearly pointless. On the cross as He suffered in agony, Jesus said of the people who put Him there, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” Who were those people? Not the Romans, contrary to a common misconception. Everyone who has lived, is living, and will live all had a part in driving the nails into His hands and feet because of our dreadful sins. Here is the proof of the completeness of the holy and blameless sacrifice of Jesus: The curtain dividing the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was supernaturally torn exactly when Jesus died. This was God the Father’s Divine illustration that at that moment sin and death had been defeated forever, and human priests were no longer needed. If the full price had not yet been paid at that moment, there would not have been direct access to God the Father through our High Intercessor Christ Jesus at that moment.
This doctrine implicitly calls Jesus, the one who was pure and holy and sinless, a liar. Jesus made two statements on the cross that are quite self-explanatory, but since some people don’t understand them apparently, I will need to explain. First, he said to the thief on the cross next to Him (this is from Luke 23:43), “Truly I say to you, today shall you be with me in paradise.” See? He even emphasizes His statement with “truly”, so as to remove suspicion that He was lying. The only logical way that Jesus and the thief on the cross could have been in heaven together that same day is that Jesus and the thief’s souls both rose to heaven when they died (Jesus actually went first, since the Romans didn’t have to break His legs to kill Him like they did with the two other unfortunate crucifixion victims). This brings up another interesting point: Christians must go straight to heaven when they die. How glorious!
Jesus left His earthly body behind. He must have, because that is the only way He could have made a presence in Heaven that same day and also had His body left nailed to the cross. So, how could Jesus be in Hell if He was with the thief in heaven? Maybe you still aren’t convinced. Maybe Jesus was only in heaven for a little while, then went to hell (I hope this sounds as absurd to you as it sounds to me). No, remember Christ’s last statement before He died? He said, “It is FINISHED [emphasis added]”, then he “gave up the ghost” (go to John 19:30 if you don’t believe me). Here the “ghost” means Jesus’s soul, or immaterial part of Him. If Christ’s job wasn’t done yet, THEN WHY DID HE SAY SO? Like I said, you CANNOT embrace this erroneous, absurd, illogical, and destructive doctrine unless you are equally willing to call the great I AM a liar.
The way the world teaches us is to be “open minded” and “tolerant” of viewpoints that happen to be at odds with our own, which can be fine sometimes, but when it can be shown clearly and logically that these same perspectives are not supported by Scripture, it is correct to boldly show people their error. Jesus clearly warned that those who added or detracted from Scripture are in a very perilous position. Jesus holds His Scripture in high regard, and will righteously judge those who dare to alter the meaning He intended in His Word. I have another post where I delve more deeply into other methods used to append to or take away from Scripture which are relevant today. I think Christians need to be more discerning and vigilant in respect to matters such as these.