20. Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 7)

‘Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

As Jesus was about to descend into the realm of the dead, he committed his spirit to the Father. As for his body, it was kept under maximum security! The Jews requested Pilate that Romans soldiers be assigned to guard the tomb against his disciples from stealing his body. God had also assigned angels to guard the tomb against the devil from stealing his body. Remember, after Moses’ death, there was a dispute between the Archangel Michael and the devil about the body of Moses and the Lord rebuked the devil. ( Jude 1:9) So both men and angels were guarding the body of Jesus. Meanwhile, his spirit ‘descended to the lower earthly regions ( Greek meros means portion or part) or the depths of the earth’ ( Ephesians 4:9) to Paradise which was the resting place for the righteous dead; where the thief on the cross was to join him. But Jesus went beyond Paradise, into Sheol ( Greek Hades), which is the abode of the wicked dead. Jesus himself had said that “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” ( Matthew 12:40) Jesus was willing to go any depth to save man and he trusted the Father to raise him up on the third day. No one has been resurrected from Sheol or Hades. All those who have been resurrected before were raised from Paradise. Psalm 18 has a strange description about a man who escaped from Sheol : ‘The cords of death entangled me. The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave ( Sheol ) coiled around me, the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called out to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, my cry came before him, into his ears … He reached down from on high and took hold of me … He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who are too strong for me ...’ This Psalm seems to be far- fetched (unlikely and unconvincing) because it cannot be true about the sufferings of David. Could it then be a Messianic Psalm, speaking about the aftermath of Christ’s death? Since Jesus holds the ‘keys of death and Hades’ (Revelation 1:18), it therefore means that he indeed descended beyond paradise into Hades where he even preached to ‘spirits in prison’ who disobeyed during the time of the flood. ( 1 Peter 3:19-20) There will come a day when ‘death and Hades will give up the dead that are in them (Revelation 20:13) because Jesus has conquered ‘death and Hades’ and he holds the keys ( meaning authority over that place).

Death was the last enemy ( 1 Corinthians 15:26) Jesus overcame. ‘During his days on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.’ (Hebrews 5:7) He had authority to lay down his life and to take it up ( John 10:17) but he had to be delivered from the clutches of death. God’s Spirit can reach out for those in Hades, as the Psalmist says: ‘Where can I go from your Spirit … If I make my bed in the depths ( Hebrew: Sheol) you are there.’ ( 139: 8) God’s power was exerted in Christ when he was raised from the dead. ‘That power was like the working of his mighty strength which was exerted in Christ when God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above call rule and authority, power and dominion.’ (Ephesians 1:19-21) Death could not contain him! The grave could not hold him! ‘And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.’ (Colossians 2:15) Not only did Jesus overcome death, but all the saints in Paradise, who we captives of death, were resurrected together with him, ‘when he ascended on high.’ (Ephesians 4:8) The thief probably had the shortest stay in Paradise! Hallelujah! And then in judgement he will open Hades and lead all men out to be judged. ‘Then death and Hades will be thrown into the Lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, they will be thrown into the lake of fire.’ (Revelation 20:14-15)

Just as Jesus committed his spirit to the Father, we too have committed our spirits to God, when we accepted Jesus as our Saviour. Therefore Paul wrote: ‘I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.’ (2 Timothy 1:12) ‘He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies.’ (Romans 8:11) Sleep is a simulation of death. That is why death is also called sleep. What guarantee is there that we will wake up in the morning, unless God wakes us up each day? So will it be at the first trumpet, when the ‘dead in Christ shall rise’. ( 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16) We must be certain about the power of the resurrection, just as Jesus was certain that the power of God will raise him up from Sheol. Jesus assured his disciples that they will be raised up on the last day. “And this is the will of him who sent me that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40) What a blessed assurance! Amen.

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