The Bible is an amazing miracle of God. 66 different books, 40 different authors, but a single coherant theme – Jesus.
But humanity seems to have a major issue with the bible. More and more pastors and preachers are taking the scriptures and twisting them. We’re seeing so many leaders in the church using the Bible for their own means, or using it to mislead the people, and we’re also seeing many people in church simply accepting what the pastors say as Gospel, and not challenging them as we ought to.
This is a big interest of mine, seeing the misguided teachings of famous pastors and preachers, and matching them up to what the Bible teaches.
The first one I’d like to tackle is a teaching by many of the word of faith ministers, namely people like Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, etc.
The teaching is that when Jesus died, His spirit went to hell where He was tortured by Satan and His demons for three days and three nights, and was the first man to be born again. I will place references at the bottom of this post.
Where does this teaching come from?
There are two main scriptures this teaching is based on.
1 Peter 3:18 – 19, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely Home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the spirit. So He went and preached to the spirits in prison.”
Ephesians 4:7 – 9, “However, He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the scriptures say, ‘When He ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to His people.’ Notice that it says ‘He ascended’. This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world”
The rest of it simply based on imagination and the wild interpretations that these pastors take. From what I can see, they assume that because Jesus “preached to the spirits in prison”, that automatically means He went to hell. And because He went to Hell, that must mean He was tortured there, which in turn must mean He was the first man to be born again.
Is this teaching scriptural?
No. Absolutely not.
While the scripures in question are rather vague in their descriptions, there are a few theories by Biblical scholars.
Firstly, some believe that between His death and resurrection, Jesus declared the Gospel to those waiting in Sheol (hell) since the Old Testament.
Hell in the old testament was not as we know it to be in the New Testament. It was simply known as the place of the dead (Sheol). It was the state of death for the departed souls. A more accurate term would be the grave.
“By examination of the Hebrew Scriptures it will be found that its radical or primary meaning is, The place or state of the dead. It is plain that it has here no reference to a place of endless torment after death.” – From The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment by Thomas B. Thayer, 1855
It is here that many scholars agree that Jesus went to proclaim the Gospel to the prisoners in prison.
Another view on the subject is that the scriptures simply are pointing to the fact that God became a man in His Son, Jesus, and proclaimed the Gospel to those in bondage to sin (us) through living a perfect life and dying on the cross.
In either case, the main point these scriptures are putting across is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all welcoming and reaches all people throughout history.
While this false teaching does not match up with scripture, it does have implications to those it is being taught to. What it does is take away the sovereignity of God, and the divinity of Jesus.
Jesus did not need to be ‘born again’, because He had no sinful nature to be born again from. He was not tortured in Hell by Satan and the demons because they are not in charge of Hell. The ‘fire and brimstone’ hell that we think of in the New Testament, known in the Greek as Gehenna, is not open yet and is reserved primarily for Satan and the demons. God created Hell, and He is sovereign over all creation.
Please feel free to comment and correct me or add references if I have missed anything or gotten anything wrong!
Author: Justin Berrisford
The Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make, by Joyce Meyer, second printing, May 1993, page 36.
Meyer, Joyce (2008-10-23). The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make: A Complete and Thorough Understanding of What it Means to be Born Again (Kindle Locations 249-250). Faith Words. Kindle Edition.
Meyer, Joyce (2008-10-23). The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make: A Complete and Thorough Understanding of What it Means to be Born Again (Kindle Locations 287-288). Faith Words. Kindle Edition.
http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/discernment/church-issues/word-faith/the-jesus-died-spiritually-doctrine-of-the-word-faith-teachers (Kenneth Copeland)
Copeland, Kenneth (2011-06-30). THE BLESSING of The LORD Makes Rich and He Adds No Sorrow With It Proverbs 10:22 (Kindle Locations 2776). Kenneth Copeland Publications. Kindle Edition. (emphasis added)
Dr. D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel [Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson publishers, 1988], p. 120, footnote 27, “Personal letter from Kenneth Copeland,” Fort Worth, Texas, March 12, 1979). (emphasis added)
Ever Increasing Faith Messenger [June 1980], p. 7; quoted in Dr. D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel [Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson publishers, 1988], 120).
Hagin, Kenneth E (2010-05-14). The Name of Jesus–Legacy Edition (Kindle Locations 382-383). Faith Library Publications. Kindle Edition.
Authority in Three Worlds, 258-59, emphasis in the original. (Citation found in Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaff, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1993, p. 382, #38).