Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 (ATP)

Was Jesus tormented in Hell after the cross to take our spiritual punishment?

This is a question that I have pondered greatly to some extent. I have even done some research into it. At the very least, with this I can say it is a fringe doctrine. 

By saying fringe, I’m not just saying that it’s unimportant because I do think it can have some implications in what it adds to the way we think. I’ve been saying a lot lately as I minister how it’s important to remember that everything we believe has a history and if you really want to know what you believe, you’d better learn that history. When I say fringe what I am saying is, this is not a widely accepted idea. Now, not being widely accepted does not equate to wrong, but when we understand this we should be leery. 

All new theological ideas should be scrutinized. That is not equivalent to being thrown out, but if someone presents us with something “new”, they do and should bear the burden of proof. An example of this is Pentecostalism as a denomination. In the late 1800’s this was a very controversial practice within the Christian community. Fast forward to today, it is a widely accepted set of beliefs, supported by many serious and some incredible scholars. Not that everyone believes it but it’s not in the “just wrong” category anymore because it’s withstood the scrutiny. However, when we look at Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, these religions remain in that cult category, universally rejected across the Body of Christ as Christian religions.

I say that to say that although some people embrace the idea of Christ suffering in hell and dying spiritually, it is rejected at large. In fact, I don’t know of anyone in the trusted Christian scholarly world that actually supports this idea. I’m not saying there isn’t, I just haven’t found any. To me, that raises red flags. Before I take you into the scriptures I believe teach the opposite, I want to add that I also cannot find any scripture that clearly, or even close to clearly, backs up this doctrine. This is also concerning to me. Remember, if someone is going to present a doctrine, especially one that is rejected at large, the burden of proof is on them. Proof is not interpretation either. 2 Peter 1:20 (NASB) says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” This is an incredibly important standard to live by. Embracing this standard keeps us from deception and error.

The idea that Christ suffered in hell has its root in the thought that if He did not die spiritually, then we could not be born again spiritually. Romans 8:3-4 (NASB) explains to us pretty clearly what happened on the cross. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, HE CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The regeneration of our life is one of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:11 (NASB) says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” This life He’s giving to our mortal bodies is the new life that we call being born again. Remember Romans 12:2, that we are being transformed by renewing our minds or 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are being transformed from glory to glory? These are both referring to this process that the Spirit is working in us now. We are not just reborn, we are also being reborn!

Now 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Where did this happen? On the cross! What does this mean? To understand what Jesus did, we have to understand the way atonement worked. We understand that God didn’t just randomly do stuff, but that there is connection back to the Old Testament. This is because the Old Testament is a foretelling of what would happen. Leviticus 16:21-22 tells us about the scapegoat which was a type and shadow of Christ. The sins were laid on the goat and it was sent out. Now let me ask you, if you read those scriptures, do you see where the scapegoat went and suffered in hell? No, it carried the sins far away. Remember Psalms 103:12 (NASB)? “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The scapegoat was not sent to the wilderness to suffer, but to remove sin far from us. Our sin keeps us from God. Jesus our scapegoat, removed them from us so that we could come back to Him. How would it follow that He must suffer in hell? This leads us to the next truth, that there is a purpose in death and it’s not necessarily centered around punishment. 

We are often told that sin causes death but do we ever ask why? It is because sin is the corruption of our true nature which was made in His image. Sin separated us from God, causing this body to die. God permitted death in order that sin could not live forever. The redemption Jesus brought us we understand wasn’t instant and complete in this sense, that we still have to live in this body that is subject to sin. We are promised a new body someday, one that cannot sin nor be defiled by sin. This body WILL die and we were not powerful enough to overcome death. Jesus died so that He could be reborn, so that death could be overcome, so that we could be reborn. In this way Jesus conquered death for us. Just as our sins were put on Him, His life and resurrection are now put on us! 

Jesus never needed to suffer in hell because hell is not just about punishment, hell is also about placement. If I got into all this, this Faith Fix would never end so I am only going to touch on it. Basically, hell is punishment to those who reject God but we must understand why. When we embrace sin we reject God. When someone rejects God completely, He is not forcing them into His presence. Hell is the place of the absence of God for those who do not want His presence. Death happens so that sin cannot be immortal. Hell happened because there needed to be a place for those who reject God.

An interesting thing to consider is this, what happened to the saints who died BEFORE Jesus? They could not go to be with God because of sin, but God was not unjust to throw them in eternal punishment either. This is a misunderstanding of hell and scripture. My point is, Moses, Joseph, David were all sinners but they were not suffering in hell because hell was not made for the righteous. They were not righteous enough to be in God’s presence otherwise they wouldn’t have needed Jesus. They waited for Jesus (as the end of Hebrews 11 tells us) so they could experience that redemption. If they did not have to suffer in hell, logically, why would Jesus? 

There is a lot more I could say about all this but this can’t go on forever. What I want to suggest is this: we don’t have to believe everything everyone says, but we don’t have to hate them for it either. If someone faithful presents us with ideas, we should consider them. However, we also need to study them and seek God through His word. If something doesn’t sit right in your spirit, question it, study it, ask others, and get clarity. If someone presents you with something and cannot handle being questioned about it, you may have to question their motives. I don’t preach to get people to believe me, I preach to try and teach people the truth. If I’m wrong, which I have been and will be, I need to be corrected. If I can’t be corrected I’m full of pride. You and I will stand before the Lord one day. Let’s not do it as those who haven’t done their due diligence. God’s given us the truth to know the truth. We judge all things, including our spirit, only through the truth. Not the other way around.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Jeff