Friday, April 09, 2010

New Blog Announcement

April 2010, Prayerlogue will move to

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Thank you again

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Between the Cross and the Empty Tomb

There are so many more things going on during the Passover/Crucifixion timeframe than we ever get a chance to cover during the Easter season. In this post I'm going to share what I've called "Between the Cross and the Empty Tomb."

In the cartoon “The Wizard of Id” the king is walking out of the church and says to the friar, “You said your Lord descended into Hell?” To which the friar replies, “Well, actually, He just dropped in to pick up the keys!” On the marquee in front of the church are the Scripture references “Matthew 12:40; Ephesians 4:9; and Revelation 1:18.”

So… did Jesus descend into Hell? If so, why? Well (to paraphrase a popular quote) it all depends on what your definition of “Hell” is!

There are 5 words in the Bible (2 in the OT and 3 in the NT) that are translated as “hell” or the place of the dead, in various translations (KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT, etc.) These words are also translated as, “death, Hades, the grave, the pit, destruction, etc, depending on the translation.

In the Old Testament “Sheol” is the most commonly used word. (The other word is “Abaddon” which is most often translated as “destruction” as for what happens to the dead in the place, rather than referring to the place, itself.)

Sheol (it seems) is a sort of a “holding place” for the spirits of the dead. Both the good (Jacob speaks of going there in Genesis 37:35 and 42:38; and David speaks of going there in 1 Samuel 2:6) and the bad go there (Numbers 16:30 and Psalm 55:15 for just 2 examples of many.)

In the New Testament there 3 commonly used words which are all (depending on the translation) rendered as “hell”:

~ Tartaroo is one of the NT equivalents of Sheol. It is only found in the NT in 2 Peter 2:4. It is the part of Hell (or Hades) that is reserved for the fallen angels who are to be held until the final judgment that we read about in Revelation 20.

~ Hades is another NT equivalent of Sheol. It is also translated as Hell in the New Testament (mostly in the KJV.) This is the word that is used in Luke 16:19-31 in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as well as in describing what will happen to some cities in Galilee which reject Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 11:23 and Luke 10:15.) This (seems to be) the place of “disembodied wicked spirits” or “unbelievers.”

~ The third NT word for hell is Gehenna (Gheh-en-nah). This is the place of the lost or condemned. It is a place of torment for both the body and the soul where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44; 46; 48, which is a quote from Isaiah 66:24.) This is what is commonly referred to in Revelation as “the second death.” This is where death and Hades will be thrown after the Great White Throne judgment. This will be the place of eternal punishment of the resurrected body and soul of the unbeliever. (See Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:5)

Then, there are a couple of additional (more “encouraging”) words for places of the “departed”:

~ The first is “paradise” which is found in Luke 23:43 where Jesus tells the thief on the cross that “today you will be with Me in paradise.” Paul also speaks of “being caught up into Paradise” in 2 Corinthians 12:4, and in Revelation 2:7 “the Paradise of God” is promised to the “overcomer.” The word “Paradise” is from the Greek word “paradeisos” which means “the king’s private garden.” It is the NT equivalent of the Hebrew word “pardace” which is the word used for the Garden of Eden.

~ The second is found (again) in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:22, Lazarus is said to be carried to “Abraham’s Bosom” after he dies. (According to Vincent’s Word Studies, this is “A Rabbinical phrase, equivalent to being with Abraham in Paradise.”)

So, what does all this mean? Did Jesus descend into Hell or not? Be patient!

The above information is gathered from respected Biblical studies and books, such as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Thayer’s Greek Definitions, The King James Concordance, and The Complete Word Study Dictionary (Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D editor).

The following is what I have gleaned (through prayer and meditation) from this study. But still, it is what “I” believe and is subject to my own growth in the future. And now, having said that, this is what I believe.

I believe there is Biblical support for “levels” of reward for the believer. I have often used the phrase, “saved by faith, and judged by works.” I believe that this is supported by such scriptures as 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 as well as Matthew 5:21-23 to name a few.

So, it stands to reason (at least to me) that if there will be different rewards, there could very well be different “levels” of judgment. It appears that Sheol is the “place” of the dead, and within Sheol, there is (was):

~ Paradise (or Abraham’s Bosom) where the spirit of the OT believer resided before Christ came.

~ Hades – the (current) place where the spirit of the wicked reside (nonbelievers.)

~ Tartaroo which is reserved for the fallen angels (from Lucifer’s fall) and possibly from Genesis 6 (depending on interpretation.) (See 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6)

~ And then finally, Gehenna which is the “lake of fire and brimstone”. This is the place where, after the Great White Throne Judgment, death and Hades will be cast along with the fallen angels (Revelation 14:10; 19:20; 20:10-15; and Matthew 25 41; 46.)

So… to which of these places did Jesus go “between the cross and the empty tomb?”

First of all, most scholars agree that on the cross, Jesus suffered and died. His body was put to death, and His spirit died when He was “made sin”. But, His spirit was resurrected, (Acts 2:31) and He yielded it to the Father. Then, according to 1 Peter 3:19 “between the cross and the empty tomb” Jesus “preached to the spirits in prison.”

This begs the questions, who were these “spirits” that He visited, and what did He “preach” to them?

There are two major thoughts on this subject. Some (very well respected) scholars and commentators believe that Jesus went into Sheol and led all of Paradise (those OT believers who were once held captive) to heaven with Him. This is supported by Ephesians 4:9 and especially by 2 Corinthians 12:4 where Paul talks about being “caught up into Paradise.” (Emphasis added.)

Another train of thought (held by equally respected scholars and commentators) is that Jesus went into Hades, and maybe even Tartaroo, and “preached” to the dead (unbelieving) spirits and/or the fallen angels. If this is true, does it mean that there is a “second chance” for unbelievers? The key here lies in the word “preached.”

When we think of “preaching” we think of “the Gospel” – the “Good News;” however the word itself simply means “to proclaim.” What is “proclaimed” may or may not be good news. In this case, what is “good news” for believers was not “good news” for the spirits in prison! What Jesus “preached” or “proclaimed” was His victory over Satan, over death and over the grave! (See also Colossians 2:15.)

In this regard, Ephesians 4:8-9 means that He symbolically “paraded the captives through the streets” as was a common occurrence in OT times, and that His “subjects” (believers) received the gifts or “spoils” of the battle. (See also Psalm 68:18 and 1 Samuel 30:26.)

So… did Jesus descend into Hell? Yes… and no…

Again, it all depends on what your definition of “Hell” is!

I believe that “between the cross and the empty tomb” that Jesus descended into Hades (and maybe Tartaroo, but not “Hell” or Gehenna, which is the place of final judgment) and proclaimed victory over Satan, death, and the grave. And then I believe He took possession of the keys of Hades, liberated Paradise, and took the OT saints to heaven where Paradise resides today.

I believe that for the child of God, “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.” I believe that the moment a believer dies, he/she is in the presence of God in “Paradise” in “the King’s private garden” awaiting the time when the final judgment will take place, after which the “New Heaven and the New Earth” will appear, and the believer will receive their brand new resurrected body.

And all because of the fulfillment of "First Fruits!" To God be the Glory!


The Fulfillment of the First Three Feasts of the Jews

There are so many more things going on during the Passover/Crucifixion timeframe than we ever get a chance to cover during the Easter season. In this post I'm going to share what I've called "The Fulfillment of the First Three Feasts of the Jews".

It is during Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread/Feast of First Fruits that the Crucifixion/Resurrection takes place. (For more information on the specifics of the Feasts see Leviticus 23)

We know “somewhat” what Passover is. It celebrates the final plague that takes place while the Israelites are in Egypt. (See Exodus 12-13 and Leviticus 23:5) A “lamb without blemish” was killed and the blood placed on the doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their house. (Interestingly, being “Jewish” did not save them – only having the blood on the door. No matter what their race, if they did not have the blood on the door, they were subject to the same plague as the Egyptians.)

Passover is, of course, only a “foreshadowing” of Christ’s shedding of blood for the atonement of our sin. Jesus is the “Perfect Lamb.”

The Jews celebrated Passover every year on the fourteenth of Abib (or Nisan depending on pre or post exilic calendar name) which falls somewhere between our mid-March and mid-April. The Jewish calendar revolves around the lunar calendar – in other words, the phases of the moon. Each “new moon” constitutes a new month. Therefore, Passover can fall on any day of the week, depending on when the full moon occurs.

The Jewish “day” goes from sundown to sundown (remember Genesis 1:5 “And the evening and the morning were the first day”) therefore on (our) Maundy Thursday at sundown, Passover begins.

The next day (Friday at sundown) the Feast of Unleavened bread begins. (See Leviticus 23:6) This feast lasts 7 days. Leaven, in the Bible represents sin and evil. The unleavened bread in the New Testament represents the Body of our Lord. Part of the Jewish Passover ceremony includes burying a piece of the unleavened bread before the day of Passover is over, in other words, before sundown on Friday… and remember, Jesus was buried before sundown on Friday…

Jesus’ followers (those who were left at the cross) wanted His body taken down from the cross and buried before the Sabbath began (at sundown.) What they didn’t realize was that they were actually fulfilling the Feast of Passover by the shed blood of “The Lamb” and burying His sinless (unleavened) body before the day was finished. And for even more “fulfillment” – the “middle piece” of the loaf of bread is what is buried. Jesus is the “middle part” of the Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

The next feast, “First Fruits” takes place on the Sunday following Passover. Since the feast of unleavened bread lasts 7 days, one of those days will be a Sunday. On that day is the Feast of First Fruits. The feast of “First Fruits” is when the Israelites would bring the first offering from the early crops of their spring planting to God. (See Leviticus 23:10-11)

In the year of Jesus’ death, “First Fruits” occurred 3 days after Passover. (Thursday at sundown began day one; Friday at sundown began day two; and Saturday at sundown began day three – three days in the ground - Matthew 12:40.) So, all three of these major celebrations – Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of First Fruits – all “happen” to take place back to back the particular year that Jesus was crucified.

Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15:23 that Jesus is the fulfillment of this feast. Jesus is the “First Fruit” to be resurrected from the dead. Yes, others were “raised” from the dead, but only Jesus was “resurrected” and given His resurrected body. It was not just “any” day that Jesus chose, but the very day of “First Fruits”. He fulfilled the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread, with the appropriate actions, and then finally He fulfilled “First Fruits”

And not only did Jesus fulfill these first three feasts, but He also presented a “First Fruits” offering to God. As Jesus hung on the cross, an earthquake occurred and graves were opened in Jerusalem. When Jesus was resurrected the bodies of “the saints” came out of these tombs. (Matthew 27:52-53.) Thus Jesus “showed the Father the early crops of what will be a magnificent harvest later on.” (From “The Seven Feasts of Israel” by Zola Levitt.)

We miss an important truth by calling our celebration “Easter” instead of “First Fruits” because “first” indicates that there will be others to follow. Paul did not call Him the “only” fruit, but the “First” Fruit. And anyone who believes in Him will someday be given a new life, too.

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