Summary: Did Jesus have to suffer in Hell? Did He have to die spiritually?
Did Jesus Suffer in Hell? (Part 1)
Is Spiritual Death Necessary?
Some teachers claim that Jesus’ physical death on the cross could not redeem mankind but that He had to die spiritual to pay our debt. Some go so far as to say that we can’t be saved unless we believe that Jesus suffered in Hell. Why do they make this claim? It is a myth that has been propagated and grown over the years, but is contrary to the Bible and Christianity throughout history. There is no scriptural reference supports this idea. The Bible says just the opposite. Look at Colossians 2:
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
How were our sins taken out of the way? They were nailed to the cross. Look now at Colossian 1
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled
22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight --
We were reconciled from our wicked works in the body of His flesh through death. If it is true and we can’t be saved unless we believe that Jesus suffered in hell, why hasn’t spiritual death been mentioned? Jesus’ supposed spiritual death is not found anywhere in the Bible. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. The Bible does not say, “You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell”. The Bible says that you must confess Jesus as Lord with your mouth and believe that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit
The Bible says that Jesus’ death was in the flesh but His spirit was made alive. If the Bible teaches that death was physical and the Spirit was and is life, how can anyone claim that Jesus had to die a spiritual death?
You cannot find anywhere in scripture where it is even remotely implied that Jesus served man’s sentence in hell. In fact, there is not a single implication that Jesus suffered beyond the cross. Everything in scripture points directly to the cross as the victory over sin and death. There is an erroneous teaching that says Jesus suffered spiritual death and was then revived by God in Hell. He was born again with a new spiritual nature and he then emerged with the keys of hell. They point to the Apostle’s Creed as evidence that the early church believed the same things they are teaching. The point in the Apostle’s Creed in question states:
[Jesus] Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead
Where is spiritual death in this statement? Where is suffering in hell in this statement? There is no question that Jesus descended into Hades because scripture clearly states this, but it does not say He suffered. The confusion comes from the KJV use of the word hell. In the Old Testament, the KJV uses the words grave and hell interchangeably. In the New Testament, the KJV makes no distinction between hell and Hades.
Before we dig in, let me stop and make it clear that I am not degrading the KJV. I am merely pointing out the fact that the King James Version makes no distinction between Greek words. This is common in all translations. As students of the scriptures, we should examine the original intent to clear up meanings between Greek and English. The great preachers of the past did not rely on translators. An example is Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon spent 40 or more hours a week looking up the meanings of words in order to understand scripture. He was arguably the greatest KJV preacher in history. However, he was committed to understanding the meaning behind the words in order to accurately understand the Word of God.
Understanding the word Hell
One basic principle I frequently reiterate is that the Bible is one complete revelation. To properly interpret scripture, it must be taken in light of scripture as a whole. We will see some examples that show why this is so important as we proceed. The concept of hell was not introduced until Jesus taught it in the New Testament. Old Testament saints had no distinction between hell and the grave. Jesus’ teaching is the first glimpse of hell that God ever revealed. In the Old Testament, the word ‘hell’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘sheol’. Psalm 18 provides an example of this word usage: