Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. We’re going through Dave Hunt’s book, In Defense of the Faith—we’re in chapter 12; so it may be a little late for some who wanted to track with us. This is the last chapter of the book, but the book we recommend, nevertheless, and Gary will tell you a little later how you can get a copy of the book.
Dave—well, I have to say this part, I guess I do most of the time. The book contains questions that we’ve been addressing. These are questions that Dave has received over his many years of ministry, and they are questions that relate to the Bible, the accuracy of the Bible, the truthfulness of the Bible. It claims to be God’s Word, and if it is, it has to be accurate in everything that it affirms, everything that it claims.
Tom: The alternative to that is if it’s not God’s Word, then it’s men’s words…
Dave: Right, forget it.
Tom: Yeah, it’s just opinions and speculations and so on.
Dave: What’s the point?
Tom: Dave, the first question I can relate to, having grown up Roman Catholic—well, let’s just read it: “I’ve read your rejection of the teaching that Jesus was tortured in hell by Satan. Yet the Apostles’ Creed says that Jesus was tortured in hell by Satan [I don’t know that it says that]. But did Jesus descend into hell or not? I’ve searched and searched the Scriptures and asked several pastors about this and still have no satisfactory answer.”
But Dave, as I said, really having memorized the Apostles’ Creed—as a matter of…some I know, I’ve been through a couple of books by Garry Wills, who is a different kind of Catholic. One of the books he wrote—these are best sellers; he’s a historian at Northwestern University, Pulitzer prize-winning historian, a writer, and he believes the whole crux of the church, anything that he needs to believe, is found right in the Apostles’ Creed and anything else, he can dismiss.
But the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell…”—which is what we are going to deal with— “The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church...”—even the Catholics believe, that’s a small “c,” meaning the universal church— “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, Amen.”
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t like the Apostles’ Creed for a number of reasons. Number 1: It’s a misnomer. The Apostles never heard of this Creed! (laughing) What Apostle made up this Creed? Where is it written? You know, it’s like I often say to Catholics, “You say you have Apostolic tradition. Really! Well, if you can show me one Apostolic tradition that you have, and you can prove that it is an Apostolic tradition, and it’s not in the Bible, I’ll become a Catholic on the spot!” How would you prove it? They didn’t have tape recorders in that day, and even if they did, I wouldn’t recognize Paul’s voice or Peter’s voice, okay?
So, Apostolic tradition? Come on! I’ll go to the Bible and in fact, Paul, when he talks about the traditions or the things that He has orally said to them, and this program is too short to get into that, but you have that in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, for example. He says (I think it’s verse 5): “You remember that when I was with you, I told you these things.” Or you could go to 1 Corinthians:11:23—He says, “I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how the Lord on the night in which he was betrayed…” you know, and so forth.
So, you find over and over that Paul and Peter, although they have taught orally—of course they did—they have put in writing all of those things that they taught orally that would have been traditions at that point, they have put in writing—and Peter tells us why. Second Peter, chapter 1—I never remember the verses, Tom, because somehow I never had the time to try to memorize the Bible, but I think it’s around verse 15, maybe, somewhere around there, where Peter says, “I will endeavor that after my decease you will have all these things in remembrance.” Well, how is he going to make sure that they remember it? They don’t have tape recorders, so he puts in writing what he has taught them orally.
And you would get the same thing in 2 Thessalonians, the end of chapter 2 and chapter 3, and so forth. Okay, so, Apostles’ Creed? It’s not the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles never heard of it, number 1. And Tom, it’s not a small point, I think, because it leads people astray. Well, if this is the Apostles’ Creed, and this is what the Apostles believe—this is the summation of it—then like your friend, Wills, well, that’s all you need. What more would you need? The same thing with the so-called Lord’s Prayer.
Tom: Well, it might be nice to have the gospel.
Dave: It would, and there’s no gospel in there. It doesn’t tell us that Christ died for our sins. It says He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Well, a lot of people suffered under Pontius Pilate, so that’s not going to help us.
Tom: Again, Dave, if this is so critical and so important, and as I mentioned, within the Catholic Church it is, certainly. But also among evangelicals—believers—they hold to this as well.
Dave: Ecumenism comes out of this. The document back there, ECT, Evangelicals and Catholics Together—they say, “Oh, we agree on the Apostles’ Creed.” Well, you don’t agree on enough because the Apostles’ Creed, first of all, isn’t the Apostles’ Creed. Secondly, it doesn’t even have the gospel in it. Paul tells you the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15: “How that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; that he was buried and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures,” and the Apostles’ Creed does not have that. Let’s just be blunt about it: It’s something someone made up years later! It’s ecumenical, it’s watered down, and it doesn’t even give you the gospel, okay?
The next problem is: what do we mean by hell? “He descended into hell?” And John Calvin gives us his interpretation in his Institutes, and he tells you very clearly that “the descent into hell is an expression [I’m quoting him] of the spiritual torment that Christ underwent for us,” and he almost sounds like…
Tom: Well, it’s not the torment by demons, do you think? That’s not what he is referring to.
Dave: Uhhhhm…he almost sounds like Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland when he says, (well, let me quote him): He says, “It was expedient the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance to appease his wrath; [I don’t like that term—you don’t appease God] to satisfy his just judgment [that’s good, okay]. For this reason he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death.” Then he goes on and talks about Christ being afraid of death, and that was why he prayed in the Garden, and that though you wouldn’t think that he could be afraid of death, but anyway that’s what we face, and so forth. Christ did not grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell! Now, that may be figurative speech, because he says that—well, let me quote it again,; this is a heading: “The Descent into Hell”…
Tom: This is from the Institutes that you’re reading.
Dave: Right. His Institutes. “The ‘descent into hell’ as an expression of the spiritual torment that Christ underwent for us.” Well, but Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus went somewhere. He went to paradise, and He was not grappling hand to hand with the armies of hell down there. He went to Abraham’s bosom. And you wouldn’t know this from the Creed—so-called Apostles’ Creed—but it explains to us: There was a place—and we’ve talked about this in the past, so we won’t go into detail about it—but there was the place of the damned and the place of the saved, the ones that looked forward to the Cross of Christ, to the redemption of Christ, that He would accomplish in fulfillment of what the sacrifices in the Old Testament foretold—what they pre-figured.
So Jesus Christ did, literally, go into a place. Otherwise, where was He? His soul and spirit—He said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, and what shall I say? Father, let this cup pass from me.” But the death that He was talking about is not grappling hand to hand with the armies of hell. It’s suffering at God’s hand. Isaiah 53: “It pleased Yahweh to bruise Him...thou hast put Him to grief…when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin….” And we know that must have happened on the Cross because before He gave His Spirit into His Father’s hands, and He says, “Father, into thy hands I commit my Sprit,” then He must be going to the place that the spirits of the redeemed went, where Lazarus, the beggar, went—into Abraham’s bosom. And then Jesus says, “It is finished, Tetelestai”—we talked about that—it means “Paid in full.” So, everything was paid in full. We are redeemed by the blood of the Cross; we have peace with God through the blood of the Cross. So then, He did go to a place, and Calvin talks about that it’s those people who say that He literally went to the place of the patriarchs and preached down there and so forth. He says this is just spiritual language for the suffering that Christ endured.
Tom: Dave, there are a couple of other points about this. As I mentioned, this was important to us when I was a Roman Catholic as a young man but, well, even into my early thirties. However, I found that some of the perspectives from protestants or evangelicals are that these “He was buried and then descended into hell,” but they would say, “No, He just descended into the grave.” Some would use that perspective. But I think Calvin makes a good point—it can’t be that, or you’d have a redundancy here. I mean, how could you say, on the one hand, He was buried, and then say then He descended into the grave? There would be no point to that.
Dave: Good point.
Tom: Dave, some then say that He “descended to the dead.” When you find the Apostles’ Creed today, there are some that hold to the Catholic perspective, certainly Lutherans—I believe Lutherans—use the phrase “descended into hell,” but some say, “descended to the dead.” Now, one of the things we have to remind our listeners about, and maybe even myself—this is not the Scriptures here. We’re talking about a creed—something that men made up in order to put a summary of what their basic beliefs were. In the second century—I did a little homework on…
Dave: This is—Tom, this is somebody’s belief. Somebody put this together, but this does not represent the truth, as the point you are making.
Tom: Well, it’s not Scripture. In the second century, the earliest creed along this line was called “The Old Roman Creed,” and they completely left out “He descended into hell.” So it goes: “…and he was buried and then he ascended into heaven,” so that’s completely eliminated. It wasn’t until the sixth century that this idea entered in.
Dave: And the apostles were not around at that time to revise their creed, so-called creed, or to come up with it.
Tom: Right. But Dave, Jesus did suffer for our sins.
Tom: It says, “He tasted death for every man.”
Dave: He suffered the full penalty that His own infinite justice demanded for sin.
Tom: This didn’t take place—we’re looking at the order of things—this didn’t take place after He was buried.
Dave: No, absolutely not.
Tom: So the order here is a problem.
Dave: Well, yes, but the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t even say that. It’s not giving you any details about this. So, this is not talking about the spiritual suffering that He would endure, as Calvin suggests, because He says to the thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Well, where would paradise be? And it’s certainly not his body—the thief wasn’t buried in the same grave with Him. Well, where would paradise be? Abraham’s bosom. We get this—Jesus said, “The rich man died, and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment and seeth Lazarus afar off in Abraham’s bosom.” Well, it also says that Lazarus died and he was taken to Abraham’s bosom.
So what the Bible teaches then is there were apparently, two compartments. I can’t get over that and you could apparently—well, we talked about this in the past, Tom, so we won’t go back into it, but you could apparently see from one to the other. That’s rather odd, but that helps us, and at least the rich man was allowed to address Abraham. Whether that was a special case, I don’t know, but that could explain Peter when he says, “He preached to the spirits in prison who were aforetime disobedient in the days of Noah.” Well, if Jesus is coming into paradise, which He said He would be there with the thief on the cross—that is, the one who believed in Him: “Today you will be with me in paradise,” and He is announcing the good news to those there and they can hear Him over on the other side, that is, the damned, they’ve made their choice. It’s not that He is offering them, you know, “How many of you will raise your hand and make a decision now?” No, none of that stuff, but He is announcing His triumph on the Cross, that He’s paid the full penalty, and they hear Him—those who were disobedient—but it’s too late. I think that would also help us understand that a bit.
And then it says that when He ascended into heaven (that would be forty days later. He was with his disciples forty days and forty nights), and when he ascended, Peter, on his sermon on the day of Pentecost, he said, “Having ascended to the right hand of the Father, he has received this which you now see. He’s poured it out upon us “—so He apparently had not…His ascension had not taken place. Not that he wasn’t in the Father’s presence. In fact, in John, chapter 3, Jesus said, “No man has ascended up into heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven.” He’s God! So, although He’s a man, He’s also not only omnipotent, omniscient, but He’s omnipresent. We can’t understand that. It’s not Christ’s physical body that appears to us, but He said—in Matthew 18, Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst.” And we still take that—when we gather together, we believe that Christ, by his Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, is in our midst. And we don't have to say, “Come, Jesus, come,” or “Come, Holy Spirit, come,” like some people say. No, He says, “I am there. You are gathered together, I am there in your midst.” He is in our hearts—but not bodily, not physically.
So the same thing was true—Christ was physically on this earth, but He said, “I am in heaven,” at the same time, because He is God. So when His body is laid into the grave, His spirit, the human spirit—it’s a human body, human soul and spirit, descends into Hades.
Tom: Now Dave, that’s a question I am going to add an addendum to the question that we have, because I have always been—not confused by it, but I’ve been puzzled. This abode, which you have been talking about, Abraham’s bosom, where we find—where the scripture teaches that Lazarus resided as well as the rich man on the other side. And it talks about in the earth. Why would, or what’s the rationale, or what’s your understanding, that there would be this abode in the earth? These are nonphysical beings, just as you said—a spirit and soul. Why have paradise within the earth? You are referring to a physical place, the earth. Have you thought about that?
Dave: Yeah, it’s a good question, Tom. I don’t know! (laughing)
Tom: That’s a good answer, Dave, because there are a lot of things we don’t know—but not the critical things.
Dave: As I have often said, my wife claims that every time she asks me a question from the Bible, I say I don’t know, and she thinks I should be in the Guinness Book of Records for not knowing more than anybody who ever lived! Well, I don’t know, and the Bible doesn’t explain it to us. It does “into the depth of the earth,” I don’t know why it couldn’t be. Or it could be merely a spiritual expression. In other words, this is a physical body, it goes into the grave, and you’re not taking these souls and spirits to heaven—they can’t go there into Christ’s presence yet. He says, as I quoted before in John 3: “No man has ascended up into heaven but he that came down from heaven.” Now that raises more questions about Enoch. And Elijah was taken up.
Tom: You have Moses—those who appeared at the transfiguration.
Dave: Right, Moses and Elijah appeared. So there is much that we don’t understand, and there may be some exceptions—maybe Enoch was an exception, maybe Elijah was an exception, and Jesus is saying, “The general rule is that no man can go into heaven until I have paid the penalty for their sins, and that penalty has been accepted by the Father, and I have been raised from the dead as proof of that, then I must ascend to heaven first.” And we’ve mentioned in the past, Hebrews, I think it’s chapter 7, talks about “whither the forerunner has for us entered.” And the word in the Greek there is like the man that leads the Olympics carrying the torch. So Christ is our forerunner. He entered into heaven. But before that, He goes into the place of the dead. Yes, the place of the dead, but there are some dead who are redeemed, who are waiting there in hope. There are other dead who are in the other side, who are doomed, and what is going to happen to them? “Death and hell,” Revelation 20, “gave up the dead that were in them,” and they are cast into the lake of fire. First of all, they stand before the Great White Throne Judgment, and then they are cast into the lake of fire; this is the second death.
So those ones who have not believed the truth, who have not received Christ—they are in the place of the damned. And Christ did not go there. He went to the place where those who were the believers, Abraham and others, who were awaiting their release to be taken to heaven, and that could only happen after He had done it Himself—He had paid the penalty and He had resurrected and had risen to heaven.
Tom: Dave, in the minute we have left, you’ve got somebody out there—or one of our listeners—throwing up his hands: “Well, if these guys don’t know, what’s the point of me even trying to deal with it?” But these are not critical issues. These are things that we pursue, aren’t they? Trying to understand better what God has.
Dave: It’s not essential to your salvation to understand this, but it’s helpful because questions do arise, and this man raised a question, and the Bible gives us as much of an answer as God wants us to have at this point.
Tom: And we try not to go beyond that. If we go beyond that, it’s obvious we are into our own speculation—just wild ideas.