Question: In the March/April 1993 issue of Perhaps Today, Jack Van Impe writes that Jesus died spiritually “. . . the Lord Jesus Christ took both the first and second death—the grave and the Lake of Fire—upon Himself when He died.” Pastor David Hocking also taught that Jesus died spiritually. On March 15, 1993, on the radio Chuck Smith stated that Jesus’s Spirit died. Did Jesus die spiritually? Was the Trinity separated? If the Spirit of God died, who was in charge of the universe while God was dead. . . ?
Response: Van Impe, Hocking, and Smith are biblically correct in this regard. Confusion arises because “Jesus Died Spiritually (JDS)” is the label attached to the heresy taught by Hagin, Copeland, and other “word-faith teachers”: That our redemption comes not from Christ’s death upon the cross, but from His being tortured by Satan in hell for three days and nights. Copeland, for example, says, “He allowed the devil to drag Him into the depths of hell as if He were the most wicked sinner who ever lived. . . . Every demon in hell came down on Him to annihilate Him . . . they tortured Him beyond anything that anybody has ever conceived. . . . In a thunder of spiritual force, the voice of God spoke to the death-whipped, broken, punished spirit of Jesus . . . [in] the pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. . . . He was literally being reborn before the devil’s very eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles. . . . Jesus Christ dragged Satan up and down the halls of hell. . . . Jesus . . . was raised up a born-again man. . . . The day I realized that a born-again man had defeated Satan, hell, and death, I got so excited. . . !" (Believer’s Voice of Victory, Sep. 1991).
It is both fanciful nonsense and heresy to teach that our redemption comes through Satan torturing Jesus in hell. That would make Satan our co-redeemer. If he didn’t torture Jesus enough we wouldn’t be saved—and if he did, do we thank him? Blasphemy! Satan isn’t the proprietor of hell. He hasn’t even been there yet. Nor will Satan torture the damned but will himself be tortured with “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41) when death and hell have been “cast into the lake of fire” (Rv 20:14).
Before He died, Jesus cried in triumph, “It is finished” (Jn:19:30), indicating that our redemption had been accomplished on the Cross. Christ told the thief on the cross who believed in Him, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” Lk 23:43), not in hell! He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Yet Hagin, Copeland, et al. say He ended up, instead, in the hands of Satan in the depths of hell!
Did Jesus die “spiritually”? The Bible says that He “taste[d] death for every man” (Heb:2:9). All that we deserved He endured, which must have included death to His human body, soul, and spirit. No, God the Father and the Holy Spirit didn’t die, Christ did. Was the Trinity, then, separated? No. God is One. Yet Jesus did cry in agony, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps:22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34). What could that mean? It is a mystery beyond our comprehension, as is the statement that “it pleased the LORD [Jahweh] to bruise him, he hath put him to grief . . . when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” (Is 53:10). We only know and believe that the full penalty demanded by God’s infinite justice against sin was paid by Christ upon the cross, and that “he who knew no sin was made to be sin for us” (2 Cor:5:21). Christ was punished by God as though He were sin itself so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life as a free gift of His grace.