The Apostle Peter wrote; “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)
The apostle Paul wrote; “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Denying the deity and atoning work of the Lord Jesus
False prophets and teachers have always been around but in these last days they are multiplying and becoming a spiritual infestation within the wider Body of the Messiah and many are being led astray by these imposters or literally “enchanters” who are deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13) Those who are teaching that Jesus died spiritually, was tortured in hell for three days and nights and needed to be born again in hell before the work of salvation was completed, are teaching a doctrine that denies the deity of the Lord Jesus and the full and complete sufficiency of His atoning death at the cross. The faith prosperity hyper faith money preachers are teaching this error. Their favourite line is “What happened from the cross to the throne?” and then they teach a doctrine that is not taught in the Bible.
The Bible tells us what happened to the Lord Jesus after He physically died on the cross and nowhere are we told He was tortured by demons in hell. This is pure Gnosticism. As with all false doctrine in some way it is an attack on the person, the deity and atoning work of the Lord Jesus accomplished at the cross. The main error spreading through Christendom today from the faith prosperity preachers is this idea that Jesus died spiritually according to their supposed ‘revelation knowledge,’ interpreting certain Bible passages to suit their own hypothesis. When our Lord Jesus was dying on the cross as He was about to yield up His spirit to God He cried out concerning the work of salvation, “It is finished!” declaring that the work of salvation was a completed work as the Book of Hebrews tells us.
However, the faith prosperity hyper faith people are saying that the work of salvation was not finished but that the Lord Jesus had to go down into hell, receive the nature of Satan, be tortured for three days and nights in hell and be born again in hell before the work of salvation was complete. This is what they are teaching. The logical conclusion to this erroneous unbiblical doctrine is that if the Lord Jesus became one with Satan and received a sinful nature and needed to be born again in hell then the Lord Jesus would have cease to be God at that point.
At no time did the Lord Jesus cease to be God, being fully divine and equal with God.
As fully man He died for all men but He did not cease to be God. Some might suggest that His divine nature left Him at the cross but this is Gnosticism. Even at the cross the fullness of deity remained in Him in bodily form. (Colossians 1:19-20; 2:9) Some translations say “He emptied Himself” but this does not mean He gave up gave up His deity. He laid it aside only in the sense that He refused to use His divine power to overcome the suffering at the cross. He suffered as a man, sustained and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to endure the terrible suffering and separation from fellowship with His Father which was spiritual death or separation from God for Him but He did not cease to be God. The eternal unbroken fellowship the Lord Jesus had enjoyed with the Father was broken and this was unimaginable suffering and torment for our Lord Jesus, a torment we cannot even imagine or enter into. Everything the Lord Jesus said and did when He tabernacled among us as God manifest in the flesh, (John 1:14) He did by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by virtue of His divinity.
The same Holy Spirit who rested upon the Lord Jesus and empowered Him for his earthly ministry as fully man was also empowering Him at the cross. Even though He had the power to lay down His life and to raise Himself from the dead as God incarnate it was God the Holy Spirit who raised Him to life again. (Luke 4:18) (Acts 10; 38) (John 10:17-18) (Romans 1:4, 6:11)
Who are those promoting “the Jesus died spiritually” Doctrine?
This teaching was promoted by the late Kenneth. E. Hagin and was passed on down to other faith prosperity teachers. Kenneth Copeland, himself mentored on the teaching of Kenneth Hagin, has done a lot to promote this unbiblical doctrine among his hyper faith colleagues. Those who are teaching this today along with Kenneth Copeland are Joyce Myer, Fred Price and Benny Hinn and other fewer luminaries in the hyper faith prosperity camp. Those who claim this ‘extra revelation’ concerning Jesus dying spiritually, being tortured in hell and being born again while down there is nothing more than first century Gnosticism repackaged and a doctrine which is “going beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6)
What is spiritual death according to the Bible?
Spiritual death is to be separated from God and from fellowship with God. All men and women are born into this world spiritually dead on the inside and alienated from the life of God. (Ephesians 4:18) We are all sinners by nature and objects of God’s wrath. Because we are all born spiritually dead because of our fallen sinful nature we need to be spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit. We need to have God’s divine nature reproduced deep down on the inside so that we become partakers of that nature. In the New Birth God does not patch up the old nature but imparts a brand new spiritual nature through the impartation of the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:4) (John 3:3) (Ephesians 2:1-5)
The result of spiritual death is separation from God. The Bible teaches us that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3) He died in our place and took upon Himself the wrath and separation from God that was due to us. He did for our sins not for his own sins as He was sinless, the pure spotless Lamb of God offered on the sacrificial altar of the cross to atone for our sins and to turn aside God’s wrath from falling on us. (1 John 2:2)
When we repent and believe on Him who shed his blood to atone for our sins God declares us to be righteous in his sight and infuses into our spirit the very righteous life of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:30) (Philippians 3:9) consequently our inner dead spirit is spiritually regenerated by the blessed Holy Spirit and we are spiritually reborn. (Romans 3:21-26) Our relationship with God is restored. We are no longer spiritually separated from God. As scripture says; “He who knew no sin became sin (a sacrifice for sin, or an atoning death in our place) that we might be made the righteousness (or righteous ones) of God.” (2 Corinthians 5: 21)
And again it is written; “God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself” and that by His death we are reconciled to God or have received from God this reconciliation. In the Messiah and through faith in Him to save us we are made a brand new spiritual creation down on the inside. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) (Romans 5:10-11) There is a story told of a man who had just been saved and he was so happy and excited and wanted to tell everyone he met as he walked down the street, He grabbed the nearest sign board from the fence without reading what was on it and tied it around his neck and written on it was “Under New Management.”
In what way did the Lord Jesus experience spiritual death?
Now the Bible teaches us that when the Lord Jesus did on the cross that He did experience spiritual death in the sense of being separated from fellowship with His Father but did not cease to be divine. He was not separated from His relationship with God but separated from His fellowship with God. On the cross the Lord Jesus was made a sacrifice for our sins and bore them in his own body and suffered the consequences namely separation from fellowship with God. Having said this He never ceased from His deity as God the Son.
If Jesus died spiritually according to the teaching of the faith prosperity heretics, and this included taking into Himself our sinful unregenerate nature, then He would have to have ceased being God. These ‘Gnostics’ make the assumption that our Lord Jesus needed to be spiritually reborn in hell after He had died on the cross before the work of salvation was complete. However, we are told that the God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19) At no point even after He had physically died and gone down into Sheol did our Lord Jesus cease to be God.
The Lord Jesus never ceased to be God even as He hung on the cross.
The Lord Jesus was God manifested in the flesh and never ceased to be God at the cross and even after He had died and gone down to Sheol He was still fully God and fully man. (John 1:14) When He took upon His own body our sins as He hung on the cross His physical appearance was marred beyond that of even looking human. (Isaiah 52:14) His physical body was twisted and ravished by our sin and his soul felt the agony and the pain of it but His spirit was untouched. He was the Lamb without spot or blemish. As He died He yielded up His pure untainted spirit into God’s hands. (Luke 23:46) He remained God even in his Physical, emotional and mental suffering and agony while on the cross. Being separated from the Father was physical, mental and emotional torture in itself for the Lord Jesus but at the cross He did not cease to be God the Son but was cut off from fellowship with God the Father.
Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 give us insight into the inner emotional, mental and spiritual suffering the Lord Jesus endured during those dark hours He hung on the cross. Once He had physically died His suffering was over and the work of salvation completed. As the writer to the Hebrews says; “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Now after the Lord Jesus had died on the cross the work of salvation was completed. After three days and nights in Sheol He was resurrected and ascended to sit at the right hand of God his father. The statement that “He sat down” conveys that His redeeming work was done. It was a finished and complete atoning work for sin never to be repeated.
What about the word “Hell?”
Let’s be very clear that according to scripture our Lord Jesus did not go down into hell to be tortured by Satan and demons for three days and nights and had to be born again down there before the work of salvation was finished. Let’s now look at what the Bible actually teaches. Firstly we need to look at the word hell. It is in our English Bibles but the word is different in the original languages of the Bible. In the Old Testament all who died both the righteous and the unrighteous went to Sheol, namely, the place of departed spirits. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the Lord Jesus clearly revealed that place and called it hades. The word hades is the New Testament word equivalent to the word Sheol in the Old Testament.
In Sheol the Lord Jesus clearly revealed that there were two realms of existence for humans or you could say two ‘compartments.’ One was paradise and the other torment in the flames. Lazarus was with Abraham and he was at peace and being comforted and was there with all of the Old Testament saints who had believed before the Lord Jesus became flesh. As for the rich man he was in torment and flames and there was a gulf fixed between him and Lazarus separating the two places. During His ministry the Lord Jesus also referred to this place of torment as Gehenna, the place of continual burning. He had in mind the rubbish dump outside of Jerusalem where refuse was cast and where the fire was kept burning continuously.
The Lord Jesus was the first man to ascend to heaven
Before the Lord Jesus had died and been resurrected and had ascended to the Father no man had been able to enter heaven. The Lord Jesus said this. (John 3: 13) He was the forerunner, the first fruits of the resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15:23) the first man to enter the very throne room of God. (Hebrews 9:24) He had been there before of course in His pre-existence in and with and face to face with the Father in eternity. (John 17:5) (John 1:1-2) Even when the Lord Jesus was on earth as a man He could enter that eternal realm at any time as we saw in the transfiguration. However, after his resurrection as a man he was able to appear before His Father again in heaven. Right now at God’s right hand in heaven there is a resurrected, physically glorified man sitting at the right hand of God having made purification for sins once and for all of eternity. (Hebrews 1:3) When He was resurrected and ascended He took the saints in Sheol with Him to heaven. (Psalm 68:18) (Ephesians 4:8) The only ones left down there were those who had rejected God including the rich man.
Also it is recorded that when our Lord Jesus died and the curtain of the Temple was torn that many of the Old Testament saints also came out from their graves physically. As Matthew writes; “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51-53) They were many of the ones coming out of Sheol. When the Lord Jesus died He went to Sheol but not to the place of torment but to paradise where all of the Old Testament saints had gone to after they had physically died. While He was there He preached to the spirits in prison, both the unsaved and the demon spirits existing across that gulf. (1 Peter 3:19-20) Now let’s ask these questions.
Q1. Why do we know from the Bible that the Lord Jesus was not tortured by Satan and the demons in hell for three days and nights?
When He was dying on the cross He said to the dying thief crucified next to him “today you will be with Me in paradise.”(Luke 24:43) Now paradise is not a place of torment but bliss and rest and comfort as the word implies. It was a place of comfort under the earth in Sheol. Both the Lord Jesus and the thief crucified with Him went to Paradise to join Abraham, Lazarus and all of the Old Testament saints that had died. So this debunks the theology that after our Lord Jesus had physically died He was tortured in hell by the demons. The word hell appears in our English Bibles but it is an English word that in a very real sense does not convey the full meaning of the word Sheol. Hades/Sheol included a place of peace and comfort and a place of torment, two compartments but separated by a gulf. (Luke 16:26)
Q2. When the Lord Jesus, God the Son cried out, “My God My God why have you forsaken Me” was He at that moment experiencing spiritual death namely separation from God the Father?
The obvious answer is yes He was. At the cross He was bearing the penalty and consequences for our sins by experiencing separation from God. He was separated from fellowship with God so that we might receive fellowship with God. He did not cease to be God but as fully man He experienced this separation in our place. In His death we are not dealing with His relationship with or to God His Father as that had not changed but with His fellowship with the Father. His fellowship with the Father was broken, not His relationship. This was intense spiritual death for the Lord Jesus. This is what spiritual death is like for the unsaved being an eternal separation from God where there is agony and torture forever. The torture our Lord Jesus experienced happened at the cross but once He had died and the work of redemption completed the torture for our Lord Jesus was over. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the Lord Jesus suffered torment and torture after He had died physically on the cross.
Q3. When the Lord Jesus said on the cross; “It is finished!” what was finished?
Now the faith prosperity people would say the Old Covenant was finished but is that all it means? Yes the New Covenant was established by the death of the Lord Jesus but there is more to it. The New Covenant superseded the old Covenant because the New Covenant was based on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6) When our Lord Jesus said “It is finished” and then physically died, the curtain of the temple separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This indicated that the way now lay open for any repentant sinner to enter into the very throne room of God which the Holy of Holies in the Temple represented.
Believers are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16) The Lord Jesus torn and striped body was represented by the torn curtain. (Hebrews 10:20) The work of salvation was completed. Sheol would no longer be able to hold all the faithful saints who had been confined there even though they were in paradise. The Book of Hebrews tells us this. Once the spotless Lamb of God had died the atonement and redemption of man was “a done deal!” as far as God was concerned and required nothing more to be done or added to it. No more sacrifices were needed. (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10-14) (Romans 6:10) (1 Peter 3:18)
Q4. What does it mean when the Bible says that our Lord Jesus was “the firstborn from the dead?”
Did this mean that He was the first man to be spiritually reborn from spiritual death? Now when we are told in the New Testament that the Lord Jesus was “the firstborn from the dead” it is not speaking about His New Birth but about the fact that He was the first man to die and to be resurrected and to never die again and that He existed even before creation itself. This is confirmed in the scripture which says; “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:17-18) Once again it refers to His physical resurrection not to his spiritual rebirth. He is the firstborn in rank and honour and the firstborn among his brethren being believers. (Revelation 1:5) (Romans 8:29) He is the first fruits of our resurrection! (1 Corinthians 15:23)
If He had to be born again in hell then it means He would have to have taken into Himself the nature of sin and Satan and in that case Jesus would no longer be God. When the Bible says “He became sin” it can be rendered “He became a sacrifice for sin” which the Bible teaches. As we read; “For He (God) has made Him (Jesus) to be sin (a sacrifice for or on behalf of) us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) In other words God treated the Lord Jesus as a sinner even though by nature and by birth He was without sin so that He might treat us as those without sin even though by birth and by nature we are sinners. The Lord Jesus exchanged places with us. We see this illustrated when Jesus dies and Barabbas goes free. As scripture also says; “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:17a)
Q5. What does scripture mean when it says that Jesus was “quickened (made alive) by (in) the Spirit?” Does this imply He was born again?
During His earthly ministry our Lord Jesus had confronted sin in all of its power. At the cross He had to bear all of the sin of man and its consequences in His own body but His spirit was not affected even though His mind and emotions were afflicted. With all of this happening He never ceased to be fully divine and retaining his full deity as God the Son. The reality is that because He was without sin Satan had no legal grounds to keep Him there in Sheol as he did with humans born with a sinful nature. The whole argument of these false teachers that Jesus died spiritually and was tortured in hell for three days and nights and became one nature with Satan and had to be born again is pure heresy and a doctrine of demons because it attacks the deity of the Lord Jesus. They claim it is ‘revelation knowledge’ but in reality it is another form of Gnosticism. The Bible just does not teach that Jesus had to be born again.
Another scripture they use to support their doctrine that Jesus was born again spiritually is that they quote the text which says; “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 (in) the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18) They say this means He died spiritually but was made spiritually alive again or spiritually reborn by the Spirit but this is not what the text says. It means He died physically and was raised to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed in scripture. As Paul writes; “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.” (Romans 8:11) As Paul also writes; “…and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4)
All false religions and doctrines have at their core a denial of the deity of the Lord Jesus and the complete all sufficiency of His sacrifice and shed blood to atone for sin. This doctrinal error concerning what happened to the Lord Jesus from the cross to the throne, as they put it, opens up the way for other doctrinal error such as the over realised doctrines of wealth, health, prosperity and Dominion theology or what is also called Kingdom Now, a derivation of the latter rain manifest sons of God doctrine which in itself is also a form of over realised eschatology. Satan will always seek to pervert, to twist or to distort a Biblical truth. One of His favourite strategies is to lay truth alongside of error. Peter calls this “secretly introducing destructive heresies.” (2 Peter 2:1) Health and prosperity and divine protection and preservation and Kingdom Dominion are promised to the saints in scripture but not in the way the faith prosperity hyper faith people teach it. Added to this the saints do inherit the earth and the Messianic Kingdom but not before the man of sin is revealed who desecrates the temple and persecutes the saints before Jesus comes back. After our Lord Jesus has come back the saints inherit the Kingdom. (Daniel 7:18, 26-27)
To sum up:
The Lord Jesus died spiritually only in the sense that He was separated from fellowship with God at the cross. While He did bear in His own body our sin and consequently His physical body was bruised beaten and striped almost beyond human recognition, His relationship to God did not change. He never ceased to be God even when He was down in Sheol for three days and nights. Once He had died the work of redemption was completed as He Himself cried out “It is finished!” After this He went down into paradise in Sheol and took the thief there who had been crucified with Him. As He had promised him “Today you will be with me in paradise.”