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FROM HADES TO HEAVEN
By Tom McCall, Th.D.
What happened to the saints of the Old Testament when they died? What happened when Christ died and “descended in to Hades”? What happened between the time the risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene and the time He appeared to the disciples later that Sunday evening? What does the Scripture mean that Christ led “captivity captive?” Where do believers go today when they die? The purpose of this article is to find the answer to these questions in the Word of God.
When Christ died, His body was in the tomb, but His soul went to Sheol (Hades); He then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven
8 I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever (NASB).
David prophesied that his descendant, the Messiah, would die and his body would lie in a tomb but it would not decay. This means that the body would have to be raised from the dead within a few days. Furthermore, the Messiah’s soul would go to Sheol (Hades), but would not remain there. Sheol was the netherworld place of the dead both good and bad went after death in the Old Testament. This is called Hades in the New Testament. Instead He would be shown eternal life. Thus, His soul would be reunited with His body and be resurrected from the dead.
23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. 25 “For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 ‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope; 27Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. 28 ‘Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.’ 29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet”‘ (NASB).
The Apostle Peter in his inaugural address of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost quotes the prophecy by David in Psalm 16, and said that David was not speaking of himself being raised from the dead. After all, David died a thousand years before, and his tomb was visible as a great monument described by Josephus. Rather, David was prophesying about his descendant, the Messiah, whose flesh did not decay nor was His soul left in Hades. Indeed, David further prophesied that the Messiah would ascend into Heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father. It should be noted that Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father is not the same as Christ sitting on His own throne, also known as the throne of David. Christ will sit on His own throne when He returns to earth after the Rapture of the Church and after the Tribulation to establish the Millennial Kingdom.
21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (NASB).
Before the Cross, the dead souls went to Sheol (Hades), the righteous
to the Bosom of Abraham, and the unrighteous to the Place of Torment
19 “Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 “And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead’” (NASB).
Jesus reveals that throughout the ages before the Cross-, the souls of the dead went to Sheol (Hades), but there were two major divisions in Hades: the Bosom of Abraham and the Place of Torment, with an impassable gulf between them. The righteous saints went to the Bosom of Abraham, while the unrighteous unbelievers went to the Place of Torment. The righteous believed in and looked forward to the redemptive sacrifice of the Messiah, but the unrighteous spurned the revelation of God through Moses and the prophets. The believers were comforted in the Bosom of Abraham, but they were not permitted to go to Heaven yet, because the penalty for their sins had not been paid. They could not enter into the presence of the Living God. Jesus proclaimed when He died “Tetelestai!” it is finished, the debt had been paid, and then His soul descended into Hades. He could then announce to the righteous souls that the time had come for them to be released from Hades and ascend with Him to Heaven and the presence of the Father. Before He could do that, He first had to demonstrate that He had risen from the dead. So His soul went back to earth, reunited and transformed His body and came forth from the grave victorious over death.
When Jesus arose from the dead on Resurrection Day, He told Mary Magdalene not to cling to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (NASB).
After Jesus was complete with His resurrection body, the implication was that He descended again to Hades to gather the Old Testament saints and transport them from Hades to Heaven.
When Christ ascended to the Father, He took Captivity Captive. He took the righteous saints from the Bosom of Abraham to Heaven. This apparently was done on the Resurrection Day.
18 Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men, (NASB).
8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, (NASB).
The Old Testament saints were captives in the sense that they were not permitted to go to the presence of the Lord before the Cross. Now, however, Christ led their souls in a great procession as a conquering general, to present them to the Father in Heaven as fully redeemed saints awaiting their own resurrection from the dead.
When Christ went to Hades what did He say? Peter says He proclaimed a message to the spirits in prison who were disobedient before the Flood, but He probably also announced to the Old Testament saints that it was now time for them to go with Him to Heaven. The debt for sin had now been fully paid.
1 Peter 3:18-20
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water (NASB).
Peter says that Christ died and preached to the spirits in prison. The ones he mentions were certain ones who were disobedient at the time of the Flood of Noah. However, it also seems clear that He had a great message for the Old Testament saints about their coming elevation to Heaven. The unrighteous souls, however, were destined to remain in the Place of Torment in Hades until they face the Judge at the Great White Throne and the Lake of Fire.
After a very busy day of travel from Hades to earth to Hades to Heaven and back to earth, Christ appeared to the disciples later to inspect His wounds.
19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord (NASB).
No longer was there any reticence about being touched as there was earlier that day with Mary Magdalene. He had accomplished His unique mission of transporting the saints from Hades to Heaven and presenting to the Father the evidence of His sacrifice on the Cross. Now He was ready to present to His disciples many infallible proofs that He had indeed risen from the dead so that they could go out to Israel and the world with the truth of the Gospel.
When believers in Christ die today, we do not go to Hades, but we go directly to Heaven to be in the presence of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:8
8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (NASB).
Believers in Christ today wonder what happens to us when we die. We do not descend into Hades like the Old Testament saints, but our souls go directly into the presence of the Lord. We look back to the Cross-, where the penalty for our sins was paid for in full. We will know each other and have some kind of recognizable form, as did the souls of the Old Testament saints, such as Samuel, Moses and Elijah. We will also be waiting for the time of the Rapture of the Church, when we will receive our Resurrection Bodies. Then we will wait in Heaven to join Christ as He descends again to earth at His Second Coming.
Written by Thomas S. McCall, Th.D.
Edited by Daniel E. WoodheadShare on Facebook
First The Messiah Came & Conquered For Salvation
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (ASV 1901).
This text is one of the most Messianic and significant passages in the entire Bible. Both Jewish and Christian Bible students commonly apply it this way. Judaism sees in it a basis for a royal single messianic appearance, whereas the New Testament and Christianity see a prophecy of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). It is only from the whole counsel of God in view (both testaments) that we can clearly see this prophecy as pertaining to Christ’s First Advent.
After the discussion of the calamities of the aggressive conqueror Alexander, God moves to discuss Himself appearing as a very different conqueror. To be sure Alexander was used as a human conqueror to judge and chastise the nations near to Jerusalem who had brought much harm to the Jews. At the time of this prophecy in approximately 487 B.C., the Lords appearance in Jerusalem proclaimed as Israel’s king was approximately 519 years later (Cir. 32 AD). While Alexander’s swift and aggressive nature brought some measure of peace to the Jews it will not be until the Lord Jesus comes for the second time that there will be true peace on earth. The genuine King of Israel has strength, which is not dependent on chariots and horses (Psalm 20:7). He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. It is salvation that He brings, not only to Israel, but also to the goieem “the nations.”
The age of the Gospel of Jesus will mark the beginning of that time through the salvation that His death bought for all who believe. But the final fullness if you will, is the Second Advent when truly every knee will bow to the glory of God the Father. Moreover every tongue will confess that Jesus the Christ is Lord as Paul and Isaiah have related the message to us. Zechariah 8:20 which as a prelude to discussing these events uses the Hebrew phrase of od ashehr, which means, “It will come to pass.”
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (KJV).
23 I have sworn by myself, The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear (KJV).
During the Gospel time of Messiah’s First Advent one has the choice of whether or not to accept Him. Most will not as the Lord Jesus told us “strait is the gate and narrow is the way which Leadeth unto life and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14 KJV). At the First Advent He did not come as a human conqueror but a Divine Prince of Peace. He did not inspire physical fear and dread but uplifting joy. However at the time that our Messiah King sets up His earthly Kingdom all humans will be believers and all will bow the knee and confess with their mouths His kingship. He will come back to earth and fight the Campaign of Armageddon as a Divine conqueror overturning an entirely corrupt satanic one-world government and establishing a Messianic Theocracy where peace and righteousness will be the laws of the world. It is best to recognize His sovereignty now and avoid eternal punishment. For even in Hell will those bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10).
Many Jews until the time of Jesus First Advent did not clearly see the distinction between the First and Second Advents of the Messiah. They fixed their attention to the Second Advent and the Messianic Kingdom not fully understanding that there would be two advents. Most in Old Testament times regarded only one advent for the Messiah to deliver His people the Jews. While this verse clearly describes a humble Messianic King many thought it could refer to Zerubbabel, Judas Maccabeus or Nehemiah who was too poor to own a horse hence the use of a burrow. Rabbi Kimhi of the late twelfth century (Cir. 1190 AD) in Spain wrote that he believed that it refers to Messiah’s Advent when He would be humble because the whole world will be in His power. He too did not realize that there would be two advents. The ancient rabbinic authorities have applied this prophecy to the Messiah. Rashi another Medieval Rabbinic commentator from France said, “This cannot be explained except of King Messiah, for it is said of Him, ‘And His dominion shall be from sea to sea’; but we do not find that such a one ruled over Israel in the time of the Second Temple (516 B.C.-70 AD). ”Saadiah Gaon, commenting on the words in Daniel 7:13 “Behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven,” says, “This is the Messiah our righteousness. But is it not written of the Messiah, ‘Lowly, and riding upon an ass’? Yes, but this shows that He will come in humility, and not in pride upon horses.” It was not until He was ascending back to Heaven that it was clearly known there would be two advents of the Messiah. Jesus disciples thought He would initiate the Kingdom at His First Advent. For they asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6b-7 KJV). This verse clearly identifies the Christ at His First Advent. While many missed the nature and prophetic importance some were chosen by Jesus to receive an explanation. He did an Old Testament Bible study with some of His disciples (not apostles) on the road to Emmaus after His Resurrection. Clearly even with all the prophecies they did not fully understand until He explained it to them.
The Announcement of King Jesus
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee (ASV 1901).
This First Advent is heralded with exuberance by the use of words such as “rejoice greatly!” “Shout!” and “behold!” The phrase “the daughter of Zion” makes reference to the entire population as a place that is personified by a female. It comes from referring to a city or a country affectionately as “her.”
There is joyful animation expressed here as God Himself writes this through Zechariah declaring that He is coming to Jerusalem to fulfill all the prophecies regarding His first coming (Genesis 3:15, 49:10; Isaiah 7:14, 53:3; Deuteronomy 18:15; Daniel 9:26 etc.). Consider this wonderful comforting prophecy in light of the fear and trembling that Alexander’s armies gave the area of Israel before he met with the High Priest and they read to him from the book of Daniel. This is THE occasion of immense spiritual significance as the announcement of the long awaited Immanuel, which means God With Us!
He is given the name of King here in verse nine. When Jesus would perform a miracle or do some significant action He would slip away (Luke 4:30-40) so that the people could not declare Him Messiah the King (Hebrew Mashiach Nagid) (Daniel 9:25; I Samuel 13:14). In the Daniel passage Nagid gets translated as prince. In the I Samuel passage it is translated as king when David was crowned. It was only on Sunday before His crucifixion that He allowed the multitudes to praise Him as their King. The apostle Matthew affirms this as fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9.
4Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, 5Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass. 6And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them, 7and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon. 8And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way. 9And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (KJV).
The Character and Mission of Israel’s King and Savior
He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass (ASV 1901).
From this passage we see four features of the Messiah.
- He is just or righteous
The righteousness of God is one of the most prominent attributes of Himself declared in Scripture. It is synonymous with His justice. It is used in the Bible as straight or morally right. When we say that God is just we are saying that God always does what is right. He does it consistently without partiality or prejudice. These two words are the same in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God’s actions are always fair and right. This righteousness is an expression of His holiness. He is infinitely pure and always opposed to sin. Since this is His nature we see that He IS just. It is one of His characteristics. It is not a characteristic that He applies to Himself. It is His way, His manner and simply the way He is. He consistently acts in accordance with His own character. He always does the same thing. He cannot be anything different than the way He is. There is no standard of righteousness or justice that can be applied to God as a measurement. He IS the standard. The Hebrew word tsaddeq is righteous and is applied to God (Job 10:15, 15:14, 22:3; 34:17; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 119:137, 129:4). Consider how Peter and James both characterize His consistency.
34And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (KJV).
 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons (KJV).
In other words His character is consistently applied to all mankind. Jeremiah declares that His name shall be called “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
- He Shows Himself a Savior
This characteristic of God and His Messiah is diametrically opposed to Alexander who was a conqueror and not a savior. He butchered and slaughtered thousands at Damascus, Tyre and Gaza. Then he sold thousands more into slavery. The Hebrew word translated as savior here is nosha. Of the various expressive grammar participles forms this is called a nifal. It further is categorized as reflexive in that something is shown or done by the object of the action. One might say John shaved himself, which is reflexive. In this case it is the Messiah is “showing Himself a Savior.”
Salvation is mentioned in the Bible in two different ways. One is physical salvation as from some impending catastrophe. The other means is spiritual salvation which is what is discussed here in Zechariah 9:9 as coming from the Messiah. He saves. This simply means that by the substitutionary atonement of His death He provided us the means to be connected to God and “saved” from the effects of our sins, which is eternal damnation. Eternal damnation is a permanent separation from God since He cannot be in the presence of sin as he is perfectly holy. That is the punishment, which a holy and just God must exact from those that do not accept the atonement He has provided. All are guilty since Adam and Eve of sin against God. Sin is carried out through our procreation to the next generation (Psalm 51:5). This sin needed to be broken so people could be reconnected to God. He provided it in Jesus, which was first announced in the Garden of Eden at the point that sin came into the world (Genesis 3:15). The Hebrew word for salvation is yeshu’ah given by the Lord in Isaiah 51:6. In the New Testament the Greek name of Jesus is based upon the Old Testament word for salvation. His name is Iesous, “Savior.” He was the servant who was to bring the Lord’s salvation to mankind (Acts 8:26–40). He is Himself that salvation (Luke 3:6; Romans 11:11) which the apostle Paul proclaims in Romans 10:13.
Many New Testament passages confirm this great Messianic prophecy.
56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (KJV)
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (KJV).
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (KJV).
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (KJV).
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (KJV).
- He is Lowly
Lowliness is translated here from humble (Psalm 18:27-28; II Samuel 22:28). Jesus came to the lowest members of the Jewish society. He did not court the governmental powers to gain access to the population. He started out lowly and humble and stayed that way during His First Advent. He had not position, title or possessions. He washed the feet of His apostles to demonstrate servant hood to them. He was beaten with a Roman scourge, which ripped the flesh from His body. They beat Him about the head and humiliated Him as they mocked Him. Finally Jesus suffered the humiliation of a crucifixion at the hands of ruthless men when they nailed Him naked to the cross. The Roman crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals to humiliate them as a deterrent to other criminals so they would not commit crimes against the state. Here was the God of the Universe who created it all entering a human body taking on a low state of a man and allowing Himself to be humiliated to the point of death on a cross for all mankind. This is what it means to be lowly.
- He is riding a colt of a donkey
Human kings after the time of King David (I Kings 10:25-29; II Kings 9:18-19) usually displayed their power and glory by riding on a war-horse (compare Esther 6:8; Jeremiah 22:4). Our Messiah showed his humility by riding a donkey, the ordinary person’s beast of burden. A colt is a young donkey (male in this case) and foal is another term for a young donkey, referring to an even younger animal hence the greater display of humility.
This Messianic passage displays our Lord’s prophecy of the manner in which he would display Himself one week prior to His crucifixion for us.
Daniel WoodheadShare on Facebook
The Announcement of the Kingdom
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (KJV).
God had an earthly Kingdom in mind before the creation of the universe (Matthew 25:34;; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; I Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:18). The Kingdom is what God has been trying to set up in a visible manner on the earth since the creation of mankind. It is this creature (humankind) to whom He gave a clear dominion over the earth. It was lost at the Fall and Satan usurping God’s authority made himself the Prince of this World (Matthew 4:8-10; John 14:30).
God selected a people group, the Jews to begin setting up the earthly Kingdom starting with Abraham. After a refining period in Egypt the Jews under Moses’ leadership began an outward form of the Kingdom called the Commonwealth of Israel. This reached its high point in the theocracy under the kings of Israel and then the Kingdom was delayed from being set up on the earth due to the sinfulness of the nation Israel. They were punished by God through the Assyrians and Babylonians who removed their national existence, expelled them from the land starting their exile in 586 B.C.
It is important to notice how God is allowing His people to come to the realization that they need the King. Sin in its grosses form is idolatry or turning away from God and worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. As long as this continues on this earth the Lord will not establish His earthly Kingdom. His people the Jews must nationally repent by accepting Jesus as their Savior and asking Him to return. God in His Divine Providence is allowing His people to receive the various forms of punishment meted out by this earth until they cry out for Him.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (KJV).
The Old Testament scriptures teach that there will be an earthly, visible Kingdom over which the Son of Man is to rule (Daniel 7:13–14, 2:34–35, 44–45; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 14:9). At the time of Jesus’ birth there was a widespread expectation of the coming of the Messiah. For example, Simeon and Anna waited in the Temple for the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25–38).
When six hundred years of the Times of the Gentiles had been completed God sent Himself, The King to the earth. He had the angel Gabriel announce to Mary that she would give birth to that King.
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (KJV).
Thirty years later Jesus Himself as well as John the Baptist announced that the Kingdom is “at hand.” This means that the King has arrived and is offering the Kingdom to the chosen people the Jews (Matthew 3:1-2, 4:17-23; Mark 1:14-15). Jesus the King sent out the apostles (Matthew 10:7) and another seventy disciples (Luke 10:1-9) telling them to proclaim to the Jews the same thing. Now the ruling governmental, Temple and Religious authorities rejected the offer as well as the King. They crucified Him and the Kingdom was again postponed. It now had a mystery form called the Kingdom of Heaven.
The “Kingdom of Heaven” is a New Testament term, and is found in Matthew’s Gospel only, where it is mentioned thirty two times. The characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven are described in the twelve “Kingdom of Heaven” Parables (Matthew 13:1–50; 18:23–35; 20:1–16; 22:1–14; 25:1–30). From these Parables we see that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is limited as to its Time and its Sphere. Its Time is from the First to the Second Coming of Christ, and its Sphere is over that part of the world that we call Christendom. In the “Kingdom of Heaven” there is a mixture of good and evil, of “Wheat” and “Tares,” of “Good Fish” and “Bad Fish,” of “Wise Virgins” and “Foolish Virgins.” These Kingdom parables describe the character of the Present Dispensation in its earthly aspect during the absence of the King. The Lord Himself in the following parable teaches it.
11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. 22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? 24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) 26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. 27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (KJV).
Jesus is describing the nature of the administration of spiritual gifts during the time on earth between His first and Second Comings. Many on this earth hate Him and will receive their just reward. Those in the Church have been given gifts to use for building up the Church and He will reward us for the seriousness, which with we used them. The believing Jews will be given authority over many cities. Interestingly the world at large called him a nobleman a term, which He uses in this parable. Most of this world will admit to Him being of some value such as a good teacher. When He returns He will be the King of the earth.
After Jesus’ resurrection His Jewish followers asked if now was the time for the Kingdom to be set up on the earth. They realized that the King Himself was here. He told them that it was not going to occur then (Acts 1:6-7). He left them with the belief that there was to be an “earthly and visible Kingdom” some day.
Because of the King’s rejection it was impossible to establish it at that time. Its establishment will require the Jews to affirm Him as the King. They will do this at the second Coming (Zechariah 12:10). They will look on Him whom they have pierced. This has all been part of the broad “Plan of God,” who knew that Israel would refuse to accept Jesus as King, and that they would not nationally repent until after the Church had been formed and taken out of the world. The Church is not the Kingdom or any aspect of it. The Kingdom is an outward visible political theocracy yet to be set up on earth (Daniel 2:44) whereas the Church is a spiritual organism that will be taken out of the world at the rapture (Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 21:34-36; I Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The impact of Christianity over this world is diminishing as the Prince of this World gains more control and adherents. Whereas many western world governments were influenced by Christianity causing them to adopt laws and social practices patterned after the Bible’s teaching this is coming to an end. The influence of Christianity on this world, which is called Christendom, is referred to in Matthew’s Gospel as the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus has not yet received the Kingdom. He must finish His High Priestly and Mediatorial work first.
13I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (ASV 1901).
The form of Government will be a “Theocracy.” Christ will reign through a “King” or “Prince” called David (Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:24, 37:24), whose Throne shall be at Jerusalem. The Temple will be rebuilt, and the “Aaronic Priesthood” reestablished (Ezekiel 44:15–31). There will be a revival of the Land of Israel (Joel 3:18), and the length of human life extended (Isaiah 65:20–22. Zechariah 8:4).
Characteristics of the Future Earthly Kingdom
The general characteristics of the Kingdom are revealed through a great many of the Old Testament prophets. In general they are:
- Man will be rightly related to God
- Universal peace between men
- Animals will return to their Edenic state
- Renovation of the heavens and earth
- Elimination of infant mortality
- Minimum human longevity is one hundred years
- Death in the Kingdom is limited to unbelievers
- The incentive for sin will be greatly reduced
- Many of the effects of the curse will be removed
- Warfare and inter-human calamity will be removed
- The Church Age saints as well as Tribulation and OT saints will have glorified bodies
- God will control the entire government from Jerusalem
6And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea (ASV 1901).
Most of the exact nature of the effects of the Fall will be removed from the earth at that time. When Satan lured Eve into disobeying God she let sin and decay into the arena of time and space. What exactly was this sin that Satan imparted to Eve and has become endemic to mankind; even celebrated? It is pride, the source of all sin and that, which is an abomination to God.
We are warned the effects of pride in our lives in multiple Scripture passages.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride [goeth] before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall
It was the principal reason that God destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah.
Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy
God hates pride within mankind and especially within His Church. There is no room for prideful ambitions in our lives. It stunts our spiritual growth and causes us to be out of fellowship with the Lord when we are prideful. This will all be removed through the Great Tribulation. God has expressed three distinct reasons for the Great Tribulation.
- To make an end of sin and sinful people (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19-20)
- To bring about world wide evangelization (Revelation 7:1-17)
- To break the power (will) of the Jewish people (Daniel 11-12)
So sin and its source are eliminated at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.
Only the Biblically illiterate fail to realize that we are in the final throes of the Last Days. Conservative and hermeneutically sound Bible teachers are presently teaching that world events have reached a point in the long session of Last Days “Birth Pangs” that Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse. We should be aware of what He said and pay attention to Him. This should heighten our expectations of Christ’s soon return. They are as follows:
- World Wars I & II (coupled with famines and earthquakes)
- The Reestablishment of Israel (we will cover this in detail next session)
- Jerusalem under Jewish Control
- The Northern Alliance Invasion of Israel
- The One World Government
- The Ten Kingdoms
- The Rise of Antichrist
- The Period of Peace and Security
- The Seven Year Covenant
It is extremely important that we do not fail to realize that Christ explained in the Olivet Discourse that these things must happen before the Great and Terrible Day of The Lord. The Olivet Discourse provides detail of each of these Birth Pangs or Travails as some translations render these events.
As the economic distress, persecution, and conflict as well as political turmoil increase we must be aware of how we are commanded to respond.
- Believers Should be Watchful and Alert
(Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:33-37: Luke 12:35-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6; Revelation 16:15
2.Believers Should be Motivated to Godly Living
(Matthew 24:45-51; 1 Peter 31:13-15; 2 Peter 3:11-14; 1 John 2:28)
3. Believers Should Consider His Coming Very Soon
(Romans 13:11-12; Phil 4:5; James 5:8-9; 1 Peter 4:7)
4. Believers Should Eagerly Await It
(1 Corinthians 1:7; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:11-13)
5. Believers Should Encourage One Another
(Romans 8:23-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
6. Believer Should Long for It
(2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Peter 3:12; Revelation 22:20)
7. Believers Should Persevere
(Matthew 24:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:12-14; James 5:7-8)
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Who Do You Say That I Am? Therefore Who Will Believe?
This question that Jesus asked His disciples is the same one we must ask ourselves today. Whom do we say this man, Jesus of Nazareth is? When He asked this of them He preceded it with a more general question regarding His identity. The question is important enough to appear in three of the Gospels (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27; Luke 9:18).
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am (KJV)?
This question raises some issues that are very relevant today and continue to be questioned just as they were during Jesus first advent. This is the issue of who He is? This issue is of the utmost importance because of who God is and who Jesus Himself claimed Him to be.
Jesus and His disciples left the Galilean region in the north of Israel and travelled north about thirty miles to the costal city of Caesarea Philippi which was the tetrarchy of Herod Philip who was Herod Antipas’ brother. It was named after the Roman Caesar Augustus. Today it is a modern upscale resort city, which retains Herod’s palace. Once they arrived there Jesus asked them who do the people say that He is. Interestingly they said He is being called a prophet such as Elijah, Jeremiah or others. Others said that He was John the Baptist who at this time was murdered by Herod.
After listening to these statements from His disciples of who the general population was saying He was He specifically asked them “who do you say I am.” This question is extremely profound since He took His question from focusing on the general population’s identification of Him to the specific of what the individual thought He was. Now we know how Peter responded. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (KJV).
But the important aspect of this is what people will say today and that is something similar to what the general population said back in the day when Jesus walked the earth. People will explain away His divinity and call Him a man who was not just an ordinary man but a very special rabbi or teacher. Rarely will His divinity be affirmed. Why is that? The answer is in the way Jesus responded to Peter’s correct identification of Jesus.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (KJV).
This is the key to understanding how anyone can realize who Jesus is. God Himself must supernaturally give that awareness to them. Only God will provide the understanding. It cannot be discerned from the general population or even evaluating the eyewitness accounts. While proving who Jesus is can certainly be discerned from the eyewitness accounts the actual realization must be spiritually discerned. That can only come as a result of God choosing who will be able to understand. This then forms the basis for salvation. God has chosen who will understand and believe, just as Peter believed and God the Father revealed it to him. Even though Peter would deny Him God had revealed Jesus’ true identity to him.
The Bible makes it very clear that there is no other person through whom salvation can be achieved. Salvation comes through only Jesus.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (KJV).
This verse from the apostle Peter makes it quite clear that Jesus is the only way. In fact he is referencing Psalm 118:22-26 which discussed the coming of the Lord Jesus as the Head of the Corner.
22 The stone, which the builders rejected, Is become the head of the corner.
23 This is Jehovah’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes. 24This is the day which Jehovah hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save now, we beseech thee, O Jehovah: O Jehovah, we beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of Jehovah: We have blessed you out of the house of Jehovah (ASV 1901).
Here the Psalmist is declaring that Jesus will be rejected but He is the Head of the entire building (corner) and God the Father will bring Him. Paul affirmed this in Ephesians 2:20 when he said that Jesus Christ Himself is the chief Corner Stone of the Church. And as we have seen so did the apostle Peter. We the believers will rejoice and be glad. He is the one that was Prophecied to come in the name of Jehovah. There are many other Old Testament prophecies letting the Jews know that their Messiah would come starting with Genesis 3:15 and continuing throughout the entire OT (Micah 5:2; Psalm 2:7; Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 7:14 etc.). With salvation is no other but Jesus and since He did not arrive on the earth for several thousand years from the first prophecy, how did the OT folks get saved? Did God simply forget His people that He had chosen to bring His Bible and Messiah to the world. No He did not. People in the Old Testament were saved the same was they are today by the grace of God, through their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Salvation in the Old Testament
Many people in Israel loved God and wanted to dedicate their lives to Him. They faithfully carried out the commands of the Law as best as they could, waiting for the Savior of mankind to appear. The Gentiles who became aligned with Israel came to realize this too. Consider Ruth and Rehab. Others who came into the Commonwealth of Israel as converts were aware of this too. They became part of the Commonwealth of Israel as proselytes. In doing so they would share in the salvation if they were chosen by God unto belief. One chief example of an Old Testament Jewish saint is Simeon.
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (KJV).
Several observations can be gleaned from this passage.
- Jesus according to Jewish Law had to be circumcised on the eighth day of His life.
- Simeon the OT Jewish man was waiting in the Temple for the Lord to present His Christ (Messiah).
- God’s Spirit the Holy Spirit led him to the temple and revealed to him that His parents were bringing Jesus to the Temple.
- He held Jesus and realized that salvation only comes through this Jesus to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
- This salvation is for people from all over the earth.
- Simeon saw the fulfillment of his patient waiting and was then ready to leave this life to be in the presence of God.
When a righteous person in the Old Testament died their soul went to Abraham’s bosom as shown in Luke 16. This story told by Jesus is a factual story not a parable since individual names are given. However since their righteousness and attempts to keep the Mosaic Law were insufficient to get them to Heaven their bodies went into the ground and their souls went to the good part of Sheol. Sheol in the Old Testament is the same as Hades in the New Testament. Prior to the opening of Heaven at Christ’s death and resurrection all souls went to Sheol, some to the good side and some to the bad side. Notice from the illustration there are three compartments to the bad side of Sheol. The saved when to the good side and awaited the death of Jesus. Their sins need His salvation just like everybody else does. When Jesus was in the ground for those three days He went to Hades to free the captives. He did not go to Hell, He went to Hades. Many of our Bibles mistranslate this and say it was Hell. That is incorrect. Today when a New Testament Saint dies his body goes into the ground and his soul goes straight to Heaven. The unbelievers go straight to Hell. After the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth (Millennium), the inhabitants of Hell, Tartarus, and the Abyss will be cast into the Lake of Fire. (The Greek word is Gehenna, which means a burning garbage dump)
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