Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Welcome to an extended daily devotional on a subject that causes a lot of misunderstanding. I trust this will be helpful to you.
There has been a lot of confusion in Christian circles over the issue of what happens when we die. One of the responsibilities of the Bible teacher is to present truth and not sentiment. Nowhere does sentiment cloud the truth more than in the emotional subject of death and the loss of loved ones.
The key words in understanding this issue are Hades [or Sheol in Hebrew] and Paradise. We need to define these two words: Firstly, “Hades.” Sadly, Hades has been translated as hell in some versions of the Bible. This is incorrect. In Jewish understanding Hades was the place where the soul and spirit went at death. The Jewish belief at the time of Christ was that the soul and spirit of all who died went to Hades into one of two compartments, either Abraham’s side or Torments. When Jesus spoke to the dying thief and told him, “You will be with Me in Paradise,” the man would have understood this as going to the believers’ section of Hades.
Secondly, “Paradise.” It is clear that Paradise is in the third heaven [Paul stated that in 2 Corinthians 12:3]. Jesus said to the dying thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise” [Luke 23:43]. Jesus promised the Ephesian Christians to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God [Revelation 2:7]. It is in the heavenly realm where those who died in the Lord await their resurrection body.
On the cross Jesus defeated death and the grave – literally Hades. There are different views as to what happened next, but it is clear from 1 Peter 3:18-19 that after His death and before His resurrection Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. One of the traditional views is that this was Hades and that Jesus announced salvation to God’s faithful followers who had been waiting for their salvation during the whole Old Testament period. Jesus literally, “led captivity captive.” The spirits of these righteous ones could now be made perfect [see Hebrews 12:23 & 11:39-40] and like those who died in Christ could now go to Paradise and await their resurrection body.
A comment on 1 Peter 3:18-19 in the margin of Life Application is helpful:
“In any case, this passage shows that Christ’s Good News of salvation and victory is not limited. It has been preached in the past as well as in the present; it has gone to the dead as well as to the living. God has given everyone the opportunity to come to Him, but this does not imply a second chance for those who reject Christ in this life.”
At the resurrection all those who belong to the Lord will receive their new resurrection body. Tomorrow we will continue with our devotional series and consider the new resurrection body.