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GOD’S SECRET PLAN UNFOLDS
Jesus Tasted Death In All Its Phases
In our previous two studies in this series we have been dealing with the theme: Jesus, the Last Adam. This is the title given to him in 1Corinthians 15:45 and it denotes his identification with Adam and his descendants. In his own ministry during the gospels he called himself frequently “the Son of Man,” more literally “the Son of Adam.” And he came to earth as the divinely appointed representative and substitute of the entire Adamic race.
This came to its climax on the cross where he became the substitute for the whole race. This is summed up in Isaiah 53:6 where it says “the Lord made to meet together upon him the iniquity of us all.” Where I understand iniquity to mean rebellion and all its evil consequences. And we have been working out in some detail the nature of this substitutionary work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Personally I believe the whole scripture reveals that what Jesus did on the cross was entirely a substitutionary act. In every respect he took our place, he bore the evil consequences that were due to us for our rebellion that we, in return, might receive the good that was due to him by eternal right. And as I have studied and meditated on the scriptures over the years, continually there has unfolded to me more and more of the details of this exchange. And we have been dealing with these in some detail, I will briefly recapitulate the ones we have already dealt with and then we’ll move on to a further aspect of the exchange in our present study.
In your previous outlines you will find that we had the thing arranged this way, and I will go through it briefly. We have dealt with six aspects of this exchange already.
First of all, Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the punishment of our peace was upon him. In other words, Jesus received the punishment due to our sinful acts that we might have peace, which is forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
Secondly, he bore our sicknesses and carried our pains, and with his wounds we are healed. Jesus bore our pains and our sicknesses in his own body physically, that we might receive healing.
Thirdly, the scripture says that God made his soul to be sin. Jesus became the sin offering that we in return, by faith, might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Fourthly, Jesus was made sick with our sickfulness that we might be made whole with his health.
The fifth aspect of the exchange, Jesus was made a curse with the curse of the broken law that we might receive the blessing promised for obedience.
And sixthly, Jesus became poor with our poverty that we might be made rich with his wealth.
Now I want to go on to the seventh great aspect of this exchange which in some sense is the deepest and most wonderful of all. The exchange here is that Jesus tasted death that we might have life. And as I’ve meditated on this and studied it, it has unfolded to me in an ever fuller way. Let’s look first of all at the scripture that states Jesus tasted death for every man. We’ll turn to Hebrews 2, and we will read verse 9. And I want you to notice that this is explicitly in the context of Jesus taking our nature upon him. Hebrews 2:9 says:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man [or in the place of every man].” (KJV)
Jesus, individually tasted death in the place of every individual descendant of Adam. Now you will see there that the writer of Hebrews goes on to emphasize in that very chapter the fact that Jesus actually took the Adamic nature upon him. For instance, in verse 14:
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same [that is, flesh and blood. And verse 16:] For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”(KJV)
He became in actual fact, a descendant of Abraham and thus, a descendant of Adam. He took on him human nature, the Adamic nature, that he might be the substitute for the Adamic race. If he had not been totally identified with the race, he could not have become the substitute for the race. And this substitution found its climax in the fact that he tasted death in the place of every man, of each individual member of the human race. Where you read the word every in the King James Version, it would be better in modern English to read each, or each individual. And I believe that this contains an important truth that we sometimes overlook. Jesus did not just die for a group, but he died for each one individually. And whoever you may be, you have a right to put your name in there. Jesus died specifically in my place. If there had been no one else to die for, he would still have died. It is important that we make this individual. And the writer of Hebrews does by the use of that word “every man” in the place of each individual. God’s love is not just collective and general. It’s not just a blanket that he drops down over the human race, it’s something individual for each one of us individually and he desires that each one of us will respond individually by faith.
Now let’s look at the full meaning of the statement that Jesus tasted death for every man. First of all, let’s notice that death is the final consequence of sin. This is an important fact to bear in mind. James 1:15 is dealing with the subject of temptation and it explains the end of yielding to temptation to sin. In verse 14 it says:
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”(KJV)
The two factors in temptation are inner lust and outward enticement by the devil. The devil from without plays upon lust within us and when we yield to that lust in response to the devil’s enticement, that is sin. And then James goes on to say in verse 15:
“When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
That is such an important fact to bear in mind. Sin’s ultimate end is always death. The Bible never speaks about a little sin. It does speak about great sins and wicked sins, but it never speaks about little sins. There is no sin that we can continue in that will not end in death. Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. If we do not repent and turn away from it, its ultimate end is death. There is no other end.
Now Jesus, the scripture says, having loved his own, loved them unto the end. Jesus went all the way in becoming our substitute. I pointed out in earlier studies that according to the scriptures, death in the human race comes in three phases. First of all, spiritual death; separation or alienation from God through sin. This was made clear in the case of Adam when God said to Adam in Genesis 2:17:
“On the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”(KJV)
And sure enough, Adam died. He did not die physically, he died spiritually. And the scripture says in Ephesians that we are alienated from the life that is in God through the ignorance, or blindness, or hardness that is in us. This is spiritual death.
Then, many, many years later Adam died physically. But physical death is not the end. The scripture speaks about the second death which is banishment from the presence of Almighty God.
Now what I want to show you in this study is that Jesus endured death in all three phases. Very, very little is usually said about the third aspect of what Jesus endured and I want to spend some time on it in this study because I believe it’s tremendously important in the revelation that we need. And it is very clearly stated in the scripture. Now let’s look at the three phases of death as Jesus passed through them as our substitute.
First of all, we have to understand that when Jesus came to this earth in human form, he came in total dependence upon the Father. And he had no life except through his personal relationship with the Father. Just as the believer in Christ has no spiritual life except through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is stated in John 6:57. John 6:57. These are the words of Jesus and he says this:
“As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”(KJV)
Jesus said the living Father sent me and I live by the Father. I have spiritual life only through my direct union with the Father. Just as when the believer comes to Christ, the believer has spiritual life only through his direct union with Christ. If the union with Christ is broken off, the spiritual life also is cut off. So Jesus lived his life as a human being in total dependence upon the Father, having life by his union with the Father. And if at any time Jesus had sinned, that life would have been forfeited. But he never did sin so there was always perfect uninterrupted communion and fellowship between Jesus and the Father. And this he himself states very clearly in John 10:30:
“I and my Father are one.”(KJV)
It was through this perfect union with the Father in the spirit that Jesus had spiritual life. To me this is an amazing revelation of the humility of Jesus that he deliberately made himself dependent for his spiritual life upon his union with the Father. In other words, he had no special favors. He didn’t live in any way on a higher level than we can live on because God, as I will show you in due course, has made it possible for us to be united with God just as Jesus was by the Spirit. And it was by this spiritual union with the Father that Jesus had spiritual life.
Now, when Jesus became our substitute on the cross, when he was actually, not just theoretically or theologically, but actually identified with our sin, when he became sin for us, the first immediate consequence was that his union with the Father was broken by sin and therefore he lost the life which he had by that union. Let’s look in Matthew 27:46. We have now this scene where Jesus is on the cross and near to the end, and one of his last utterances is here recorded. You’re probably aware that there were seven last utterances of Jesus on the cross. If you put the four gospels together, you will get them and you can place them in their right order.
“About the ninth hour [that’s about 3:00 in the afternoon] Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?[which is Hebrew Aramaic, and is translated there] that is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”(KJV)
Now we have to understand Jesus was not mistaken. He was forsaken. And notice that there came no answer from heaven. This is the first time that Jesus prayed and did not get an answer. Up till that time he said to the Father, “I know that thou hearest me always.” Why was Jesus forsaken? Why was his prayer not answered? Because the communion had been broken. Why? Because of the reality of the fact that he had been made sin with our sinfulness. I’d like you to compare two statements in the prophets that deal with this. In Isaiah 59:2, well, we should read verse 1 as well. Isaiah 59:1–2:
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”(KJV)
God has not lost his power nor his ability to hear. But sin separates us from God and causes that he will not hear nor reply to our prayers. Now this is stated of God’s people, Israel, in their wickedness and their rebellion. And you’ll notice in verse 2 of Isaiah 59 the word is your iniquities, which is the same word that’s used in Isaiah 53:6 when it says, “the Lord made to meet together upon him the iniquity of us all.” And the consequence of iniquity is this separation from God, the shutting off of our prayer and the fact that there will come no response from Almighty God. It is sin and sin alone that can separate a human soul from God. There is nothing else in the universe that can ever separate any human soul from God but sin. But sin inevitably does so.
Also in the prophet Habakkuk 1, and the first part of the 13th verse, the prophet cries out to God because of the terrible wickedness that he sees surrounding him in the earth. And he says this in Habakkuk 1:13:
“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity...”(KJV)
Notice we have again the same word iniquity. God has to avert his eyes and stop his ears when iniquity is before him. He cannot look upon it. The eyes of God are too holy to behold iniquity. And when Jesus was made iniquity upon the cross, God averted his eyes and stopped his ears. Jesus was cut off spiritually from his union with the Father at that point.
This was the first phase of death that every sinner has passed through. Every one of us knows what it is to be separated from the life that is in God by the sin that is in our heart and lives. I trust every one of us also knows what it is to be united with God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. This is a reality.
The next phase of death, as I have said, is physical death. If you want to turn back to Matthew 27, and read just a few verses further on. It says in Matthew 27:50:
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”(KJV)
The ghost is Old English for the spirit. His spirit at that point was separated from his body. This is physical death, the separation of the inner spiritual element in man from the physical body. I read in three gospels the words that are used for this death of Jesus. It’s interesting. One gospel says he expired. That’s the physical aspect. Matthew here says he dismissed his spirit. And I think it is John that says he handed over his spirit. So there are three different words used. And you’ll remember in one of the other passages it says into thy hands I commit my spirit. But the truth that I’m seeking to establish is that the spirit of Jesus at this point was separated from his body and physical death took place. Actually, as I pointed out before in relation to death, physical death is not a change. Nothing is changed by physical death, just two things are separated. That’s all. The two real aspects to death are the initial cutting off from God in spiritual death and the final banishment from God which is called the second death. The physical death is what we see. It’s the outworking, visibly, in the world of the senses.
Now, when the spirit of Jesus left his body on the cross, as we know, the body was taken down, wrapped in the linen clothes, placed in the tomb, and lay there from Friday afternoon till early Sunday morning. And scripture says his flesh rested. We’ll see one of the psalms where this is stated in a moment. But his spirit had yet a great deal more to accomplish. And the scripture makes it very clear that his spirit descended into Hades, or Sheol. The realm below the earth, where the wicked are imprisoned waiting judgment and where also the souls of the righteous had been set aside waiting the time when Jesus would come and proclaim deliverance to the captive. This is to me become very, very vivid. For some of you, I daresay, it’s unfamiliar. But as I have meditated over the past weeks, I’ve come to see this in a way I have never saw it before. It’s as clear to me now as if it were something that I was witnessing on the street.
Now if we want to see the outworking of what took place on the cross and after the cross, as I said before, the remarkable thing is we don’t find it in the gospels. The gospels contain the most brief succinct statements. They crucified him, he dismissed his spirit. That’s all they say. But with this historical fact as an anchor, you can then turn back to the psalms and the prophets and you find a very full revelation of what took place when Jesus hung on the cross and what took place after his spirit left his body and descended into Sheol. So Sheol being the Hebrew word, which in Greek is Hades, which means the place under the earth where the souls and spirits of the departed are stored or reserved until the final judgment. Do not confuse Hades or Sheol with the lake of fire, that’s entirely different. Or Gehenna, the two words used there are the lake of fire, Gehenna. The lake of fire is a place that will not be used, no one will be sent there until after the final judgment. But pending judgment, the souls of the departed are imprisoned in Hades or Sheol.
Now I’d like to turn to a picture from the Old Testament in the book of Leviticus 16. This is part of the description of the ceremonies on the day of atonement, what the Jewish people call Yom Kippur. If you’ve ever lived with Jewish people you realize that this is still for them one of the main feasts or fasts of their religious year. And Orthodox Jews still fast all day on Yom Kippur. God told them, through Moses, that every year, once in the year, on the day of atonement they were to afflict their souls. And every religious Jew understands to afflict his soul is to fast as well, of course, as to do other things. And on this day the high priest went, and only once in the year did he go, into the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the whole nation. And he could not go, as the writer of Hebrews says, without the blood. He only went once, the writer of Hebrews explains, the Holy Spirit would show him that the way into the real Holy of Holies was not yet open while the tabernacle of Moses remained standing. Now there were various different sacrifices. Aaron had to take a sacrifice for himself and he had to take a sacrifice for the people, he had to make atonement for himself, then he had to make atonement for the people. But in addition to these, what I would say, normal sacrifices, there was one thing that was never repeated at any other time of the year, and that was what we call in English the “scapegoat.” In Hebrew, azazel. And I want you to look with me for a moment at the picture of the scapegoat because here we have a unique revelation not of Jesus dying on the cross, but of what happened after he died. If you will look in Leviticus 16, begin at verse 5 for a moment:
“And he [the high priest] shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. [Then in the 6th verse Aaron offers his own offerings, then in the 7th verse we return to the offerings of the children of Israel.] He shall take the two goats [which were the people’s sin offering], and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell and offer him for a sin offering.”(KJV)
The goat that was made the sin offering died. This is a type of the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s the outward physical death here typified. But now in the other goat called the scapegoat, which is a unique feature, is never referred to anywhere else in any other situation, is a type of the soul of Jesus after death. And we read now in verse 10:
“But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”(KJV)
Then we go through the other parts of the ceremonies of atonement and in verse 20 we read what happens to the scapegoat.
“And when he [the high priest] hath made an end of reconciling [better: atoning for] the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel.”
Notice the live goat was also identified with sin, though it was not to be killed and notice again we have this key word iniquity, which is the theme that runs all through this.
“And all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man [or a man who chances to come along] into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.”(KJV)
Really this is a very vivid picture. Here is this goat burdened down with the sins of the whole congregation. And they find a man and they say now lead this goat away into a place that is not inhabited, but the Hebrew says a land of separation, meaning a land cut off from God. And just leave the goat there. To me this is vivid. I love animals and it’s somewhat tears my heart to think of even leading a goat away into a dry, barren, waterless wilderness and leaving it there to perish slowly. But God intended this to be a very, very vivid and almost harsh picture. Because this is Jesus. Not on the cross, but after his physical life terminated, this is Jesus being led away bearing all our iniquities into a land of separation.
Now I’ll show you this in many scriptures. This is not just a picture, I’ll establish it out of scripture. That Jesus, after his physical death in spirit descended into Sheol or Hades. Turn to Psalm 16, and I’m going to read from verse 8 through 11 and I want you to bear in mind that as we shall see in a moment, these words in Psalm 16 spoken by David, are quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost and specifically apply to the Lord Jesus Christ. You have to understand that in many of the psalms of David, David speaks in the first person and says things about himself which actually do not apply to himself. For instance, in Psalm 22 he says they parted my garments amongst them, cast lots for my raiments. That never happened. He said they pierced my hands and my feet. That never happened. Yet he speaks in the first person as if it was actually happening to him. And in 2Peter 1 the apostle Peter says it was the spirit of Christ in David which was showing beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. And so I’m sure David had many problems in his own mind when he spoke these tremendous words, he said why am I saying this? What’s the meaning of it? But the scripture reveals it wasn’t David as David but it was David as the anointed who was to be the father of the Messiah and he was speaking not in his own capacity and experience, but prophetically of the experience of the Messiah. And of course, all the writers of the New Testament, and Jesus himself, clearly understood this and referred to it many times. So that the word we’re going to read here in Psalm 16:8–11, though spoken in the first person by David, do not apply to David but they do apply to Jesus. We’ll read from verse 8:
“I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. [This is the body of Jesus laid aside in the tomb.] For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [in Sheol. [Notice his soul is to be in hell, or Sheol, but not to be left there. Not to be abandoned forever.] Neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. [His physical body, resting in the tomb, did not see corruption which of course, was a physical miracle.] Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”(KJV)
Having finished the whole atonement, he is raised up again to the right hand of Almighty God, the place where there are pleasures for evermore.
Now let’s notice in Acts 2 that Peter specifically applies this to Jesus. Acts 2, beginning at verse 25 and reading through verse 31:
“For David speaketh concerning him [Jesus], I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad. . . .”
You notice that where David says in the Old Testament glory, Peter says tongue, that shows you your tongue is your glory. You know why it’s your glory? Because it’s given to you primarily to glorify God with, that’s just a comment by the way.
“. . . moreover also my flesh shall rest and hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. [That’s after resurrection. Now Peter interprets these words.] Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. [In other words, these words did not apply to David because he died, he was buried, he saw corruption.] Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ [the Messiah] to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of] Christ, that his soul [Christ’s soul] was not left in hell, [Sheol, Hades] neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”(KJV)
So you see that it is very clearly stated that while the body of Jesus rested in the tomb, the soul, the spirit of Jesus descended into Sheol, into Hades. And this you will find stated very clearly also in Ephesians 4:9. Paul is quoting here from the Old Testament, in verse 8 he’s quoting from Psalm 68 and he says:
“When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. [Now Paul applies these words to Jesus and he takes hold of the word ascended and points out that there must have been a previous descent for Jesus to ascend. And he says this in verse 9.] Now that he ascended, [he went up] what is it but that he also descended [went down] first into the lower parts of the earth.”(KJV)
There is a very, very clear statement, Jesus did not ascend again into heaven until he had first descended into hell, Sheol, or Hades. Now in 1Peter 3 this truth is brought out again. The 1st epistle of Peter, chapter 3, verses 18–19:
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, [or the righteous in place of the unrighteous] that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”(KJV)
Now I don’t think that’s exactly the right translation. Greek has no capital letters. So the capital letter “S” for Spirit which implies the Holy Spirit is a supposition of the translators. And in actual fact, in the Greek, in the flesh and in the spirit are exactly parallel in construction. The word quicken, as I have explained, means to make alive. I believe the correct—I have no doubt in my mind the correct translation is this: “that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” And here is a tremendous truth, that Jesus was made alive spiritually before he was resurrected from the tomb. I’ve always seen this in scripture. I’ve always seen that the scripture distinguishes the two things. But it isn’t until recently that I saw that it is an integral part of the total picture, he died in the flesh, was cut off from God spiritually because of our sins, descended into Sheol [or Hades] and when his work there was accomplished, was made alive again in the spirit. Then he was brought up in resurrection from the dead. Now notice verse 19 which goes on from verse 18:
“[made alive in the spirit] By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison [the prison, Sheol, the place of confinement]. Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.”(KJV)
These were disobedient rebellious spirits imprisoned in Sheol or Hades. And at some point in his descent into the nether regions, Jesus having been made alive in the spirit went and preached. Now you say did he preach the gospel? The Greek does not say so. The word that is used here is not the word that means to preach the gospel, it’s the word that means to make a proclamation as a herald. Jesus was the herald of God when he went into the nether region and made a proclamation to the spirits of the disobedient. We do not know the exact nature of the proclamation. Now a little further on it speaks about preaching the gospel but it is in a different context and in due course I’ll try to distinguish the two. But notice how real the whole transaction is that he went down in spirit into Hades and after various things, which we’ll describe in a little more detail in a moment, he made a proclamation to the spirits that were imprisoned down there.
Now let’s turn to two passages from the Psalms to get a fuller and clearer picture of what went on in this period between his death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb. Turn to Psalm 71:20–21. Again, this is a psalm in which David is speaking, but these words do not apply to David, they apply to the Messiah.
“Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again [shall make me alive again], and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” (KJV)
Notice there is the order very clearly stated. Thou shall first of all make me alive, secondly, bring me up again from the nether regions. Then after being raised up from the dead, the rest applies.
“Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.”(KJV)
This is the restoration of the Son to the presence of the Father at his right hand, the proclamation that he is Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, and his perfect permanent restoration to the union that he had always enjoyed with the Father. This is the comforting and the increasing of his greatness. But prior to this, God the Father showed him, caused him to endure great and sore troubles. Then when he was down in the depths of the earth, made him alive again and then brought him up again. This is the correct order.
Now let’s turn to Psalm 88 which is one of the most fantastic of all the Psalms. And one that I really could not understand, or appreciate, or give much meaning to for many, many years. But of all the psalms and of all the passages in scripture, Psalm 88 gives the clearest fullest picture of the experiences of Jesus as the scapegoat in Hades bearing the ultimate wrath and judgment of Almighty God, not in the physical, but in the spiritual. And bear in mind that every judgment that’s here spoken about now is not in the physical, it’s not the lash, it’s not the nails, it’s the spiritual experiences subsequent to his physical death. In your outline I have put some verses with a few alternative translations because I think, in some cases, they’re somewhat more vivid. But I’d like to just read through this psalm making a few brief comments as I do. Now the language in the Hebrew is very terse and sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly how to translate it.
“O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee...”(KJV)
That is not exactly what it says. It says I have cried before thee in the day and in the night I am before thee. And I think that is a better understanding. I have prayed, and now in the night, in the darkness, I am before thee. I think we understand that. We go through that experience sometimes. I’ve prayed, and it’s all dark round about me but Lord, I’m in front of you. And I’m waiting till the answer to my prayer comes. To me this has been a personal experience.
“Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; for my soul is full of trouble.”(KJV)
There’s an alternative translation I picked up somewhere, verses 3 and 4, which you find in your outline. I’d like to read it. “My soul is satiated with evil.” It’s one of the strongest Hebrew words. It’s totally filled with evil. “My soul has arrived at Sheol, the kingdom of the dead.” “I am become a man without God.” That’s where it says in our version, “I am as a man that hath no strength.” It’s the same letters that make the word God. And I think that’s the correct translation. “I am become a man without God.” I am cut off, I’ve arrived at the kingdom of the dead. Verse 5 in the King James:
“Free among the dead, [but in my Bible, the alternative reading in the margin is cast off. Or, I would say in Hebrew, cut off, among the dead.] like the slain that lie in the grave [Sheol], whom thou rememberest no more: [the land of separation, the land of forgetfulness, the land that God does not acknowledge, banished from his presence] and they are cut off from thy hand.”(KJV)
Verse 6, I have found this translation which you have in your outline: “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit.” You see, there are different levels in Sheol. Jesus went down to the lowest level, “thou hast laid me in the lowest pit [the abyss, and that’s the correct translation, this is the abyss which is spoken about in the New Testament. The abyss] of dense darkness.”
I was dealing with a woman the other day who had a frightening experience in childhood. She’s known to some of you here. It’s not confidential, I won’t mention her name. And this thing followed her up and out of many, many problems, when we dealt with her this was the root. And it was this feeling of absolute black darkness that came upon her. And it really terrified her. She could hardly even endure to speak about it. And as I was dealing with her and thinking about it, I thought there was more to this than just an individual’s psychological experience. There is a thing of dense utter darkness. Not physical, but spiritual. It’s the ultimate. And this is what Jesus endured. “Thou hast laid me in the abyss of dense darkness.” There are various different Hebrew words for darkness, and each one gets more powerful than the other. The most powerful of all, this is total absolute darkness. Verse 7:
“Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou has afflicted me with all thy waves [all thy breakers, all thy judgments have come upon me in succession. Verse 8:] Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.”(KJV)
Of course, as a man crucified, Jesus was totally unclean to the Jewish race. You understand, it was an abomination to come near him. Verse 9:
“My eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.”(KJV)
Now in verses 10, 11 and 12 we have a series of questions asked by the psalmist. In incredulity. Could it possibly be. And we’ll come back to them in a moment because the answer to each one is yes. It happened when Jesus went down into hell. But to the natural mind of the psalmist it was incredible that any of these things should happen. I’d like to leave those three verses of questions out for the moment and move on to verse 13:
“Unto thee I have cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer come before thee.”(NAS)
That’s the resurrection morning. Now we come back to this picture of rejection:
“Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? [because he was made sin with our sinfulness. Verse 15:] I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up [or I have been a dying man from my youth upwards. Because from his youth the shadow of the cross hung across the life of Jesus. Every step he took was a step nearer the cross.] while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.”(KJV)
To me this is tremendous. See, it wasn’t just an act. It was reality. And I don’t know how many of you have any measure to appreciate what spiritual terror is. I’m not talking about the physical. But I have dealt with people in the ministry of deliverance who have tasted a little of what the terrors of God are. Most such people are in mental institutions, I’ll tell you that. And here we read that over the spirit of Jesus, breaker after breaker, all these fearful terrors of abandonment and darkness swept over. Verse 16:
“Thy fierce wrath hath swept over me, thy terrors destroy me.”
You notice the continual emphasis upon the word terror. Tremendously strong word. And again in the realm of deliverance and mental illness, you’ll find people that have tasted just a little fraction of what this means. Verse 18:
“Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, [now the King James says ‘mine acquaintance into darkness’, but the Amplified version has got a most beautiful rendering, which is the right one I’m sure.] my familiar friends are darkness and the grave, I have no other company.”
All my own friends, my loved ones, my family, have been cut off from me. And think of ending a psalm like that. I can’t but admire the faith of the psalmist who could come forth with a psalm like that, and end on that note. Of total absolute despair and doubt. And yet God ordained it that way because that’s the picture. That’s what happened. That’s exactly as it was. Keep your finger there in Psalm 88 and let’s look back into the New Testament for a moment at John 18:11. John 18:11. Peter was about to draw his sword and defend his lord that he should not be arrested in the garden. And Jesus gave Peter this answer:
“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”(KJV)
And in the passage that we have read, he drank the cup to the very dregs. You see, it did not finish on the cross. In fact, the bitterest dregs came after physical death.
Now let’s turn back to these questions for a moment in those three verses that I missed out in Psalm 88. And I believe now you can see how the answer to each of these questions is yes. And yet how could the psalmist have ever believed such a thing.
“Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead [to those in Hades, to the departed spirits]? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? [The answer is yes.] Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? [in Sheol. The answer is yes. Jesus went down and did it.] Or thy faithfulness in destruction?”
The Greek word is Abaddon, it means the place of total destruction. It’s used in Revelation 9:11 about the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name was Abaddon, that’s the word that’s used there. It means destruction. Verse 12:
“Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”
The answer to every one of those questions is yes. It happened when Jesus went there. But you see, the psalmist could not conceive that there could be such an issue to a man going down into hell and to the lowest pit, every breaker of God’s judgment passing over him, being laid in dense darkness, without hope. How could it be? How could God permit it? The answer is that it was permitted by God because he had in mind these things that are stated in these verses. That he would show his wonders to the dead, that the dead should arise and praise him, that his lovingkindness should be declared in Sheol and his faithfulness in the place of destruction, his wonders were to be made known in the dark and his righteousness in the land of forgetfulness. Now these questions asked by the psalmist in Psalm 88 are answered in that 1st epistle of Peter. I want to turn back there for a moment. The 1st epistle of Peter 3, and looking again at verses 18 and 19,
“he was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit: in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison who were disobedient.”
He went and made a proclamation to the rebellious spirits who had been confined there from the days of Noah onward. Now the proclamation I do not believe was an offer of mercy. I would believe it was a declaration that I’ve taken over the keys. From now on it’s my authority that prevails here. Because you remember when he appeared to John on the Isle of Patmos, he said I have the keys of death and of Sheol. I think this is the proclamation. You have a new master. I’m in control from now on. God has made me master in this area. But, the gospel was also preached.
Now I want you to turn to 1Peter 4:6, but we’ll read verse 5 also, talking about the ungodly, the wicked:
“Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick [that’s the living] and the dead. For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, [this is the gospel, this is the good news] that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”(KJV)
You see, in Sheol as is clearly revealed from other passages in the New Testament, there were confined the souls of the believers of all previous ages. Abraham and all the other believers. They had a separate place in Sheol, separated by a great abyss from the souls of the wicked. This is very clearly brought out in the case of the poor man who died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom and he lifted up his eyes and saw the rich man in the other part of Sheol suffering torment. But nevertheless it was a place of confinement. These had died in faith not having received the promise, the scripture says. So the very first persons to whom the full message was preached were these souls of the righteous. And to them Jesus preached the gospel. He said it’s finished friends, you can go free. You don’t need to stay here any longer, now the situation has been changed. I’ve actually paid the penalty. It’s not something that God is accepting on the basis of what is to happen in the future, it is finished. And it is clear to me that those souls were translated out of that place of confinement into another place which is in Heaven. I don’t want to deal with this because it is outside the theme of our main study, but here is the point. Jesus went down, endured the entire wrath of Almighty God in every aspect. And having finished that, he was made alive in the spirit, made a proclamation to the wicked dead and preached the gospel to the righteous believers saying it is finished, you can come out. That’s a scene that I’d love to be able to describe but I’ll have to do it another time. I can think of a great sigh of relief when they realized that their time of waiting was over.
So in every sense, now I have to go rather quickly, Jesus exhausted the cup. He drained it the dregs. First of all, spiritual death, banishment from God, cut off. Secondly, physical death and thirdly, spiritual banishment from God.
Now, in exchange, the offer to the believer, of course, is life. I have to go rather more quickly over this and some of this is more familiar. Romans 6:23:
“For the wages of sin is death, [the due penalty of sins committed is death] but the gift [the grace gift, the free unmerited gift of God’s favor] of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
He tasted death for every man that we might have life. And we have life in the same three phases that Jesus forfeited it. The parallel is exact. First of all, we have spiritual life, we are brought into union and fellowship with God here in this life right now through faith in Jesus Christ. 1Corinthians 6:17:
“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (KJV)
Jesus was joined to the Lord, he lived by the life of the Father. He said “I and my Father are one” until he took our iniquity upon him and it was separated. He was separated. He was cut off. But he was cut off that we might be united. And through faith in Jesus, you and I can be joined to the Lord in the spirit and walk this life in union with God just as Jesus walked this life in union with the Father by the spirit. This is the end purpose of the gospel. 1Corinthians 1:9, we don’t need to turn to these, we are called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ. And 1John 1:3, these things write we unto you that ye also might have fellowship with us and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus forfeited the fellowship that we might enter into the fellowship. This is the first aspect of spiritual life. And I’d like to read to you Hebrews 13:5 because here’s the other side of the coin. Jesus was forsaken and cut off that we might never be forsaken nor cut off. Hebrews 13:5 says:
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”(KJV)
Jesus was left, Jesus was forsaken. Why? That you and I as believers might never be left nor forsaken.
Secondly we have physical life. This is in two successive phases. We have life in our physical bodies now, but our bodies are mortal. At the resurrection, our bodies will be changed into immortal bodies. Let’s look quickly at these scriptures. Romans 8:11:
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, [and that’s dwell in you right now, not after the resurrection] he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [means give life] to your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”(KJV)
Now this is not a resurrection body. This is a mortal body with resurrection life. There’s a big difference. The same is stated very beautifully in 2Corinthians 4:10–11. And this speaks not about the future, but about the present. 2Corinthians 4:10–11:
“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”(KJV)
This we have now. Mortal flesh, a mortal body, but resurrection life made manifest in it. Not just operating in it, but made manifest in it. If that isn’t divine healing and divine physical strength and vitality, then I don’t understand those words. But that’s not the conclusion. The conclusion is a changed body.
Now we turn for this to 1Corinthians 15 and read just a few verses there which refer to the resurrection which has not yet taken place. 1Corinthians 15, beginning at verse 51, reading through verse 54:
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, [in death] but we shall all be changed, [physically] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, [as long as it takes to close your eye and open it. One moment we’ll be looking at one another and seeing one another as we are now, the next moment we’ll blink and say my, what a change. It will be just as quick as that.] at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, [first] and we [that are living] shall be changed, [physically. And what’s the nature of the change?] For this corruptible [that we have now] must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (KJV)
We don’t need to read further for it explains it a little further from the Old Testament. But that changes in the future. That is made possible by what Jesus has already done on the cross.
Finally, there is the consummation of the work of Jesus in eternity. Eternity in the presence of God. Turn to 1Thessalonians 4:17, and now the time has come—well, this is the last trump, let’s read it. Verse 16.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, [that’ll be the day when the Lord shouts, won’t it? That will be a good sound to hear.] with the voice of the archangel, [that I believe is Gabriel making the proclamation] and the trumpet of God.”(KJV)
Three sounds. The shout of the Lord, the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God. Some people think it’s never holy to shout, but I tell you, God’s going to shout.
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds [not in the clouds, but in clouds. Resurrection apparently always takes place in clouds, wherever you see it in the Bible. Jesus went up in a cloud, we’re going to go up in clouds, the two witnesses went up in a cloud. This is not the normal cloud that drops rain, this is a special kind of cloud, I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t have some chariots of fire in it. We shall be caught up in clouds] to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”(KJV)
This is the consummation of redemption. It’s eternity in the presence of God. If you want to read in Revelation very quickly, just read some beautiful words there, the last two chapters which describe the consummation of God’s plan. Revelation 21:1–5, and I think this will be our last reading:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [no more separation, no more bitterness.] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (KJV)
I believe this is the church, myself. It’s not heaven, it’s the church coming down out of heaven and it’s God’s permanent dwelling place. One of the supreme purposes of God in the church is to have a dwelling place that he can dwell in permanently.
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”(KJV)
That’s the consummation of redemption.