“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
God loves us and desires that none should perish, for he said: “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11 ASV) We see the same thing in the New Testament where we read: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
So, according to what was mentioned above, God wants us to be saved. But we know that the old covenant couldn’t make this happen. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come - In the volume of the book it is written of Me - To do Your will, O God’.” (Hebrews 10:4-7 NKJV) So, who is the one that “knew no sin” and who said: “in the volume of the book it is written of Me” as quoted above? Well, please read on to find out.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ “ (John 1:14-15 NKJV)
According to that passage above, the “Word” who became flesh and blood like us was none other than Jesus Christ himself. So: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 NASB) So, the “Word” emptied himself by letting go of who he was in heaven and became like us. This he did, not only to show us the way to God the Father, but to take upon himself the sins of the world.
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
According to the passage above, Jesus said: “For as Jonah was. …so shall the Son of man be.” So, to see what it was like for Jesus in the heart of the earth, we need to see how it was for Jonah himself. “And Jonah prayed unto Jehovah his God out of the fish's belly; and he said: I cried by reason of my distress unto Jehovah, and he answered me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:1-2 DBY, KJV) So, we can see that Jonah was experiencing “distress” or “affliction” as the KJV has it, and quoted it as being in “the belly of hell.” And let’s remember that Jesus called Jonah a prophet, for we read: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39 NKJV). So, from all this we should be able to conclude that Jesus was suffering affliction in the heart of the earth. For in the book of Psalms we read: “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:7-8)
Now, in Hebrew 5:7-10, we read that Jesus was pleading that his soul would not be left in hell. “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:7-10) So, it says that he “was heard in that he feared.” So, we know that this wasn’t concerning his physical death because he did die. Therefore, Jesus was asking that his soul would not be left in hell. For Peter said: “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:23-24 NKJV) So, Jesus was “loosed” (saved) from “the pains of death” which could only mean the flames of hell itself.
Now, from the account of the rich man and Lazarus, we can see that hell is a place of torment. For we read concerning the rich man: “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:23-24) So, let’s consider how much Jesus suffered for us. For he took upon himself the agony and torments that was do all of us, for “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6 ASV)
“Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)
This passage above poses a few problems for some because in most translations (as we see above), it appears as if Jesus was promising the repentant thief that they would be together in paradise that day. But we also know that Jesus said he had to spend three days and nights in hell. So, how do we make sense of all this? Well, let’s first keep in mind that there were no comas in these Greek manuscripts. Therefore, translators both of the past and present placed these comas where they wanted to.
So, for this passage quoted above, the translators of the King James Bible chose to put the coma before the word “today.” However, we have other bibles where the translators rightly chose to place the coma after the word “today.” Thus, this same passage quoted above would read: “Truly I say to you today: you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 PAENT) This makes more sense, because now we have Jesus not promising the thief that they would be together that literal day, but at some time in the future. The commentator E. W. Bullinger of the Companion Bible wrote in his notes: “I say to you, today = ‘I say to thee today.’ Today; connect this with ‘I say’ to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion; not with “shalt thou be.”
Now, the misplacement of a coma may for the most part be just a minor thing. However, in this passage it becomes a major one. So, it’s important that you have more than one translation within your library to help you have a better understanding of God’s word. This is true especially when those red flags pop up in your head telling you that something doesn’t make sense. But most importantly, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us navigate through all these different bible texts. So, let’s always seek God’s help, even when it comes to something as simple as a coma placement.
Below are listed some of those translations that chose to place the coma after today:
Below are different passages found in the King James bible which uses the word “today” to help emphasize what’s being said:
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 ASV)
According to that passage above, what was it that Jesus finished? Was our forgiveness and redemption totally completed at that moment? For we must remember that Jesus said “It is finished” before he died and rose from the dead. So, to get a better understanding of what Jesus meant, we need to consider a few other bible passages as well. The first is: “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:25 NKJV) The next is: “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:15-17 ESV) So, we can see that the death and resurrection of Jesus is crucial for our redemption.
Now, let’s examine another passage which may help us to understand what Jesus meant when he said “It is finished.” For in John 17:3-4, Jesus himself said: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:3-4) So, we see that Jesus came to reveal not only who he was, but also “the only true God” which we know is God the Father. This Jesus did in order for us to know God’s plan of salvation for us. Therefore, my brothers and sisters in Christ, wouldn’t “it is finished” be in reference to Jesus’ earthly ministry which he finally completed? So then, if our redemption was in mind, wouldn’t Jesus have said, “it is finished” after his death and resurrection? For without these two acts, there would be no hope of eternal life for us. Something to consider, study and pray about.
“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46)
Jesus knew that he must spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth (hell). Therefore, Jesus was simply trusting his soul in the hands of God the Father. For we read: “I have set Jehovah 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 dwell in safety. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:8-10) So, Jesus was trusting that God the Father wouldn’t leave his soul in hell nor allow his body to decay in the grave. For Jesus knew that he had to spend three days and nights of torment in hell. But again, he committed himself into the hands of God his Father, knowing that he would not abandon him. For he trusted that God would raise him up and deliver him from the pains of death.
And it’s the same for us today. For we who are in Christ have but our trust in God the Father that he will bring us into paradise on that day. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) Yes, Jesus Christ shall return for us his people who have put are faith and hope in him. This would be true whether we’re dead or alive. For if dead, we shall be in the company of the dead in Christ who shall be returning with him. And if we are alive, we shall be caught up with them in heaven. Either way it’s a win-win situation for us who are born again Christians.
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)
Now, let’s not come to the false notion that Jesus (after his death) descended into an earthly paradise called “Abrahams Bosom.” (Luke 16:22) For there are those who believe that Jesus was hanging out there for three days and nights with the departed saints of God (some who would have been there for over a thousand of years). However, if that was true, why was Jesus so glad that his soul was not left there as we read earlier? Also, it says above that Jesus was praying earnestly “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” So, wouldn’t this agonizing prayer be not only for the cross, but his three days and nights in hell as well?
So, where in the bible does it mention a place that’s called Paradise? Well, the first is: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) So, we see that there is a paradise of God and it’s where the tree of life is. So, where is the tree of life? “And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2 ASV)
Also, we have Paul’s own testimony when he said, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) So, according to the apostle Paul, there is a paradise that’s up (not down) in the third heaven. Therefore, we have two scripture witnesses that show that paradise is not in the underworld.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
So, where is Abraham and the rest of the departed Saints of God? Well, let’s first notice that it says we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in that passage above. And next, it says in Hebrews 11:13 that those witnesses are they who have died in faith. So, according to God’s word, it sounds like they are quite alive, and we’re surrounded by them as well. We can see this also to be true from what we read about the rich man and Lazarus. For after he died, the rich man was conscious of his surroundings, feeling the torments of hell. And while looking up, he saw Lazarus who also had died was being comforted in the arms of Abraham who was quite alive himself. Let's also remember that Moses and Elisha appeared before Peter, James, and John when Jesus was transfigured before them. Also, Jesus himself said to the Sadducees: “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32)
So, even though a person’s body may be buried in the ground, their soul would still be alive. This is true whether one is up in the realm of the saints or being tormented in the flames of hell below. (Matthew 17:1-4)
Now, you may be thinking, “didn’t the rich man in hell talk to Abraham afar off.” And even though this is true, that still doesn’t prove that there’s some chamber called “Abraham's Bosom” inside the earth. So, let’s first read that passage which declares this: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:22-24) So, we must realize that the rich man has never seen Abraham before. So, how could he have recognized and even communicated with him in the distance among a huge mass of God’s saints? That would be like you sitting in a packed stadium recognizing and communicating with a well-known radio host on the other side of the field whom you never seen before.
So, on the contrary, wouldn’t this be a vision of some sort just as it was with Stephen who was looking up and seeing Jesus standing on the right hand of God? (Acts 7:55-56) So, that great gulf could have been simply the distance between hell inside the earth and the Saintly realm of the dead somewhere above it. Again, I encourage you to do some studying on your own my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For we must beware of the doctrines and teaching of man that doesn’t line up with scripture itself.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)
Now, we shouldn’t come to the wrong conclusion that our atonement for sin has nothing to do with the shed blood of Christ. For according to that passage above, it’s the blood that makes an atonement for our souls. Also in the New Testament, John the apostle said: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) So, we see that the blood of Christ is a vital part of our atonement for sin. For without it, there would be no forgiveness possible.
BELOW ARE A FEW SCRIPTURES PERTAINING TO THE BLOOD OF CHRIST:
Now that being said, we must also realize that all sacrifices had to be done according to procedure. For not only was the blood of the lamb to be shed and applied for the remission of sins, but the lamb also had to go through the fire. One was not to be done without the other. And if by chance a step was missed or neglected, would God even regard it? For God said: “They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast.” (Exodus 12:7-8) Therefore, even though the blood of the lamb was the atonement for their sins, they still had to partake of its flesh which went through the flames of fire. So, in a similar way, even though the blood of Christ does atone for our sins, he still had to endure the flames of hell on our behalf.
During communion, we receive the bread and wine which represents the body and blood of Christ which was offered as a sacrifice for our sins. So, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was offered up as a sacrificial lamb. And we know that the sacrificial lamb was both slain and brought through the fire as well. So, in a sense, Jesus Christ truly became our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed on our behalf.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
As mentioned earlier, we see that hell is the temporary abode for all who have died in their sins. (Luke ch.16) So, even though Christ's blood was a vital part of our atonement for sins, he still had to suffer the wrath of God that was do for all sinners, which is hell itself. And let’s remember that God is not a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) So, because our Savior Jesus died a sinner’s death, he had to also suffer a sinner’s death: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Now, it’s true that we’re not all at the same level of faith. For there are some who have a limited knowledge of the word but are yet still saved. On the other hand, there are those who have a much deeper knowledge of the word and are saved as well. And let’s remember what Paul the apostle said to the Corinthian believers: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1) So, if one only has the knowledge that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and then rose the third day for our redemption, this person still would be saved. For he, believing in the saving blood of Jesus Christ, would have eternal life even though he has a limited knowledge of the gospel. Therefore, we as Christians are learning every day the truths of God. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)
So, knowing that the Holy Spirit lives in us and teaches us all things, lets dig deeper into God’s word to know all his truths. (2 Timothy 2:15) For it should be our desire to truly recognize and see everything that God did for us sinner. Therefore, we must not only rely on others to teach us, but to rely on God’s Holy Spirit as well. For Jesus said: “take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29) He also said: “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” (John 6:45 NASB) And let’s also remember what John the apostle said: “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie--just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:27 ESV)
May God bless you as you seek to do his will, amen.