Question: I love your newsletter and radio program but I have to take exception to your statement [Dec '07 article] that for Christ to taste "death for every man would have to include the experience of the 'lake of fire' [which is] the second death." Jesus suffered physical death on the cross and went immediately to the Abraham's bosom/Paradise side of Sheol/Hades. As He said to the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in Paradise," not hell/gehenna/lake of fire. Yes, God did turn his back on Jesus — hence his words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" but Jesus did not actually experience the "lake of fire," which was not opened for business yet. The first persons to go there will be the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Revelation:19:20). Your statement came too close to the false teaching of Kenneth Copeland.
Response: No, I was as far from Copeland's heresy as the East is from the West. Copeland actually says, "Satan and every demon tortured Christ in the depths of hell"-not "lake of fire." But Satan is not the proprietor of either place and will be tormenting no one; he himself will be tormented continuously forever in the Lake of Fire (Rv 20:10). Copeland's worst heresy, and that of others like him, is that our salvation comes from Satan torturing Christ in hell during the three days His body was in the tomb. That is not the gospel that saves!
Nor did I say that Jesus went to the Lake of Fire to suffer for our sins. On the Cross He paid the full penalty for sin, shouting in triumph, " Tetelestai " [paid in full!]. The KJV translates it as "It is finished!" Furthermore, redemption is through "the blood of his cross" (Col:1:20).
Scripture declares, that "he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb:2:9). Being "cast into the lake of fire...is the second death" (Rv 20:14).
How could Christ "taste death for every man" without suffering "the second death" that every sinner will endure eternally in the Lake of Fire? He couldn't. I believe what the Bible plainly says. But how could He suffer the torment of the Lake of Fire while on the Cross? Consider carefully:
- Physical death is not sin's full penalty: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment..."(Heb:9:27). How can eternal punishment of the soul and spirit be physical? Death separates man from his body and opens the door to judgment and eternal punishment.
- Punishment in hell and the Lake of Fire cannot be physical but moral and spiritual. I've been accused of not believing in real flames in hell and the Lake of Fire by those who think that only physical flames could be real. Then neither God, who is "a spirit," nor Satan, angels, demons, or man's soul and spirit are real!
- Is the "water" of eternal life that Jesus offered to the woman at the well and that He offers to each repentant sinner not real because it isn't physical? Then why must the flames of eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire be physical to be real? The rich man was tormented in the flames of hell, but only his soul and spirit were present — his physical body was rotting in the grave.
- Surely, the fire of God's holiness, justice, and judgment, by which "every man's work shall be made manifest...of what sort it is" (1 Cor:3:13), cannot be physical but moral and spiritual. Real? Yes, far more real, terrifying, and tormenting than physical fire could ever be, as the conscience can find no more excuses but is confronted with the stark reality of what sin really is and the horror of its rebellion against God and rejection of Christ and the sacrifice He made on the Cross. I believe that is the horror Christ endured on the Cross for every person who would ever be born as He cried in agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"!