Last September, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died. Now, Dr. Klopfer would not be known to most people and would have simply passed from this life without incident except for a shocking discovery. After the doctors death, relatives found 71 boxes in his garage. Those boxes contained 2,246 aborted fetuses. In the trunk of one of his cars, they found another 165 fetuses. All totaled, this man had saved the fetuses of 2,411 babies aborted between the years of 2000-2003. (1)
Frankly, many questions should be asked, but most can never be answered now that Dr. Klopfer is dead. Why did this many keep these aborted babies? Why did he keep them for 16-19 years? But the biggest question is how could all of these lives be simply abandoned?
Thankfully, an arrangement was made to restore the dignity of these humans by providing them a proper burial a couple of weeks ago – even if the burial was premature for most of them had they been allowed to be born, and much delayed given what happened to them.
Most people who hear of this situation are appalled – and rightfully so. But is the appalling nature of this situation the act of abortion, the act of keeping these children in boxes, or the number of babies involved?
The abortion debate is real. And it is intense. And a lot of people who have been impacted by abortion are deeply wounded. This message is not about opening that wound. This message is not about abortion. But it is about abandonment. And those babies were abandoned. But the issue is that you and I abandon people each and every day – perhaps not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense – perhaps even the individuals impacted by abortions. And although we may never know why Dr. Klopfer did what he did, one day you and I will have to give an account of our actions to our Lord.
See, all of humanity should be in a state of abandonment. That may be true of our lives, but it should certainly be true after we die. But God. God made a way through Jesus, who Himself “was not abandoned to Hades” (Acts 2.31), but loosed “the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him (Jesus) to be held by it” (Acts 2.24).
Read Acts 2.23-24. God had a plan. Jesus executed that plan. And because of that execution, we are not abandoned, if only we believe.
This truth about what God has done through Jesus, and what Jesus has done for us, and what the Spirit desires to do within us is why we are studying the Apostles’ Creed. Today, we come to the part of the Creed that says, “He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.”
However, we should know that God raised Jesus so that He could raise us too. That is, God raised Jesus back to life, so that we could not only live with Him forever, but that we could truly live.
So, if Jesus rose in order for us to live, what are we doing with the life He has given?
Jesus Descended into Hades
Today, portion of the Creed begins with one of the most challenging truths mentioned in the Bible. But we must consider two aspects to this truth. First, we must examine the wording carefully to make sure the Creed matches the Bible. Second, we must be careful not to make our attempts at understanding the passage say more than what the Bible really says. (Many have suggested this phrase should be left out of the Creed, but it is there, and we must deal with it as best we can.)
First, the challenging passage is found in 1 Peter 3. Specifically, verse 19 says, then Jesus “went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” Now, we do not need to wonder what He preached. Like His time on earth, He preached of the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed Himself Messiah and the fulfillment of the prophecies. But the real question arises as to where He preached.
Most every reputable translation uses the term or concept of those in prison. And, indeed, that is the term in the Greek. It is the same term used of John being in prison in Mark 6, for instance. But the Creed says hell.
Now, hell is a real place that will be the eternal home for the devil, the demons, and all of those who reject Christ. But it is not the word used in 1 Peter 3, which is the source of this statement in the Apostles’ Creed. So, did Jesus go to hell to do this preaching? No.
He went to Hades. Hell and Hades are two places that are often used synonymously. But they are two different places. Hades is the place of the dead, much like the Jewish concept of Sheol in the OT. The concept of Hades actually has three levels. It has a level of punishment (like hell) for those who are evil. It has a middle place where most people will be (those who are not too good and not too evil). And it has a place of blessing for those who are good and heroic.
We see this idea of Hades in Luke 16, when the rich man was dead and looking up from the place of torment in Hades (v. 23) saw the poor man, a man named Lazarus (with no evidence that it was the Lazarus who was brought back from the dead in John 11) in Abraham’s bosom (the place of blessing in Hades). Lest we think this is just some human thought, realize this story is from the mouth of Jesus!
From the cross, Jesus said to one of the thieves, today you will be with me “in Paradise.” That man went to the place in Hades known as Elysium (or the Elysian Fields), and Jesus would be there to proclaim the message of God to all who would listen.
Again, this is as much as we can say. Did Jesus go to the other levels of Hades? Perhaps, but the Bible does not say so. Jesus did mention Paradise, and that is the “best” level or Hades, so He at least went there. And Jesus died for all sinners which would include any who were in the other levels (the Asphodel Meadows and Tartarus), so He may well have gone to proclaim the truth of God there as well. But we must be careful to go further than that in our interpretation, and thus, understanding of the Bible. Jesus went to Hades because those who were there – that is, all who died prior to Jesus death on our behalf – needed to know that Jesus paid the price for sin. His message was meant to deliver them from an otherworld place like Hades into the presence of God after His own resurrection.
For as Paul says, to depart from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5.8; cf. Phil 1.23).
But for you and me, Jesus has already come. He has already died. And He has already been raised from the dead. And thus, we turn to the message that Peter preached, as recorded by Luke in Acts 2, to see what Jesus resurrection can and should mean to us.
The Third Day He Rose Again
First, let me say that I am not dealing with the aspect of the third day in this post. The Bible does say three days and many possibilities exist, but I do not have time to unpack them all. I will say that I personally believe that it is likely that Jesus died on a Thursday.
So, what is less important in these two phrases is not where He proclaimed the message, nor how many days He was dead, but that He rose again.
First, let me speak to the idea of “again.” I was recently asked why the word again is used. It is a fair question because Jesus was not raised twice. As I researched this, the best explanation is found in a close synonym – anew, or even afresh. Others have made a similar argument. (2) Using this idea, Jesus rose anew. He was renewed, and indeed, He was in His resurrection body.
But let us turn to Acts 2 to see Peter’s words.
Beginning in verse 22, Peter appeals to the crowd to take stock of this man Jesus whom they had seen. It was this Jesus who, according to the plan of God, was crucified. But, death could not hold Him. The grave would not defeat Him. And Peter refers to David’s words nearly 1000 years prior when David proclaimed that God would not “let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2.27). The word corruption here means “the pit” (as in decaying in the pit).
It is in this verse, by the way, that we see the use of Sheol and Hades as interchangable. Acts 2.27 begins with, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades…” Peter is quoting from Psalm 16, where in verse 10, David used Sheol. Thus, going back to the previous point, we see that Sheol and Hades were considered as similar in their usage depending upon whether one was speaking in Hebrew (Sheol) or Greek (Hades).
But if Peter had simply quoted David, the people could have believed that David was referring to Himself. So, Peter then revealed that David was more than a king, he was also a prophet.
Read Acts 2.29-31.
David died, but did see decay. He was buried and was still in the tomb. So, God meant someone else. That someone was Jesus. Jesus was buried, but the tomb where He was buried was empty. We have to believe this by faith, but the people who heard Peter’s voice that day could have checked for themselves. In fact, that is what Peter says in verse 32-33. God raised Jesus and Peter, along with the other apostles were simply proclaiming that truth.
What we must understand is that Jesus death was important. It is by the blood of Jesus that we are saved. But it was the resurrection of Jesus that sealed our salvation. Or, rather, I might say, the resurrection confirms our salvation. Paul uses David’s thoughts to say as much in Acts 13.37-38.
In effect, if God did not resurrect Jesus, then we could not consider God to have been satisfied by His death. But because God did raise Jesus from the dead, we can have full confidence that God’s wrath for our sin was satisfied on the cross, if we will only place our faith in that truth.
But before we leave Acts 2, I want to focus on a particular term that Peter used twice. That word is, “abandon.” Again, in Acts 2.27, David said that in the future, the Holy One will not be abandoned. And in Acts 2.31, Peter says that Jesus, the Holy One, was not abandoned to Hades. Hades could not hold Jesus. It was Jesus vs Hades in a death match. And Jesus overcame death.
And because Jesus was not abandoned, we will not be either. Because Jesus overcame death, we can overcome it too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 (verses 54-55, quoting Isaiah and Hosea), “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
But here is the challenge. If God did not abandon Jesus, and Jesus did not abandon us, then we can not abandon others.
Sometimes we feel lonely. We feel isolated. We may feel abandoned. It happens to many people at various times in their lives. But God has a plan. Just like those 2411 aborted babies who were given dignity through a mass burial, as humans, we all have dignity. The death of Jesus for us reveals that truth. The resurrection of Jesus proves it because God did not abandon Him, so Jesus will not abandon us. We must simply choose to be saved by the only one who can truly save us.
Before we can rise again with Jesus, we must be born again by God. As 1 Peter 1.3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
Jesus rose again by the power of God. But the power of God can do more than resurrect a body, it can change a life. And a changed life can truly change the world. The truth of the resurrection changed the apostles from being of “little faith” to being world changers. The truth of the resurrection continues to change lives – live that otherwise might be abandoned – and those changed lives can change the world again!
Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.
Many of our JOURNEY letters in this series have been the J for Jesus. But today, the focus needs to be on our JOURNEY. Each one of us needs to know that wherever we may be on that journey, God is not done with us yet. If you are doing zealous work for the Lord, He has more for you to do. If you are muddling along in life, God has something for you. If you are feeling hopeless and abandoned, God has something for you. If you are still breathing, God is not done with you…your journey is not complete, so you must consider what you will do for Him during the remainder of your journey.
God made a way for a dead man to have purpose. And that purpose includes you. If He could do that with a man who was dead, how much more can He do for you? How much more can He do through you? But the question is not how much more can He do, the question is what will we allow Him to do?
NEXT STEP(S): LIVE. Jesus influenced many people while He lived. But it was after He died that He changed the world. Likewise, Jesus bids us to come and die. Once we do, our life is not our own, and so He can do through us what He wants and needs for us to do. It is when we die to ourselves that we truly learn to live. So learn to live for Jesus today by allowing Jesus to live through you.
Who’s Your One? Who’s Your One plus One?
If we follow through on finding, praying for, and investing in both the one and the one plus one, we can help those individuals to know that God has not abandoned them, that God has a plan for them, and then lead them to help others to find their one plus one as well.
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/12/ulrich-klopfer-abortion-fetuses/, (accessed March 6, 2020).
- See, for instance, Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-rose-again.html, (accessed March 6, 2020).