Focus on Jesus Series
What Did Christ Do Between Death and Resurrection?
by Ed Vasicek
In today's sermon, we are looking at various texts from the epistles that some Bible students place as occurring between the death and resurrection of Jesus. I have to admit that today's message includes some speculation, so please feel free to disagree with me. I hope I don't lose you on this one!
The burial of Christ is connected to the ritual of Christian baptism (when we are "buried with Him" in the water—see Romans 6:3-4). In my mind, it fulfills the type of the two scapegoats of Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:15, 20-22). The first goat was sacrificed as a sin offering. The second goat received a symbolic transfer of sin and was released in the wilderness. Together, they picture the death of Christ (sacrifice) and the burial of Christ (our sins are carried far away).
The Hebrews 9:23-27 passage is a bit more confusing. What happened is clear: Christ offered His blood to the Father as a sacrifice for sin in heaven itself; when it happened is not so clear.
But the strangest passage by far is that of 1 Peter 3:18-20:
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built....
The "spirits in prison" are apparently the "sons of God" or fallen angels of Genesis 6:1-5. These fallen angels were somehow able to manipulate human genes (perhaps possessing men?).
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.... The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
Jude 1:6-7 interprets Genesis 6 for us:
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Another point of controversy is: "Did Christ make this victory announcement to these imprisoned spirits between His death and resurrection or just after He was raised by the Spirit? The text is ambiguous, so we cannot be sure.
Also note that some hold that the configuration of Sheol (Hades) was such that before the Resurrection, it was divided into two compartments, torment for the lost and paradise for the saved, as seen in the Rich Man and Lazarus parable in Luke 16:19-31. When Christ arose, He emptied the paradise compartment, carrying them to heaven (Ephesians 4:9-10), leaving those in the torment compartment in place until judgment day, when Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Although this is possible, we want to avoid being dogmatic about such unclear passages. Instead, we need to develop our convictions based upon clear and repeated Scripture.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA