Today's Foundations Devotional: What happened with the spirit of Jesus?
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(1 Corinthians 15:20)
What happened to the spirit of Christ after it was thus released at death from the earthen vessel of His body? Paul says, concerning Christ:
(Now this, “He ascended” – what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Eph. 4:9-10).
Again, in 1 Peter 3:18-20 we read:
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, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.
If we combine the various revelations contained in these passages, we may form the following outline of the experiences through which the spirit of Christ passed.
His spirit descended into Sheol, the place of departed spirits. On the day of His death upon the cross, He went first to the place of the spirits of the righteous, called “Paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom.” Since the Gospel record indicates that the death of Christ on the cross preceded the death of the two thieves, it seems natural to suppose that Christ was in Paradise to welcome the departed spirit of the penitent thief who followed Him there.
From Paradise Christ then went further down into that area of Sheol reserved for the spirits of the wicked. It would appear that His descent into this place of torment was necessary for Him to complete the work of atonement for man’s sin, since He had to endure in full not merely the physical but also the spiritual consequences of sin.
At some stage while in this lower realm of Sheol, Christ preached to the spirits of those who had lived wickedly in the days of Noah – that is, the antediluvian age – and who had consequently been consigned to a special place of imprisonment in Sheol. (The Greek verb here translated “preached” is directly connected with the Greek noun herald. It does not therefore necessarily indicate that Christ “preached the gospel” to the spirits in prison, but merely that He made to them some proclamation such as a herald would make.)
Then, at God’s appointed moment, when all the divine purposes of the atonement had been accomplished, the spirit of Christ ascended up again from the realm of Sheol to this present temporal world. At the same time His body, which had been lying lifeless in the tomb, was raised up from death, and spirit and body were once again reunited to form a complete personality.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first- fruits of those who have fallen asleep ... For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:20,22).
Paul indicates that the resurrection of Christ from the dead set a pattern which is to be followed by all men. In this pattern we may distinguish two main threads: 1) Man’s immaterial part – his spirit – is to come forth once again from the realm of departed spirits; 2) his material part – his body – is to be raised up again from death.
In this way spirit and body are once again to be reunited, thus reconstituting the complete personality of man, with its material and immaterial parts – its three elements of spirit, soul and body.
Lord Jesus, reading these things, our hearts leap with hope and joy,
that the pattern of Jesus' death and resurrection is indeed literally a
kind of "pre-announcement" of what will happen to us. With Paul I say
from Cor. 15: 'Death, where is your sting'? Amen.