Monday, October 25, 2010

Hell, The Apostle's Creed, and Almost Heaven

Last week at the small group we attend, someone asked about the line in the Apostle's Creed that says

"He descended into hell. 
The third day He arose again from the dead"

In one of the books I reviewed last year, called Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraff wrote his concern about Joyce Meyer's preaching about what happened during those three days.  I remember reading what he wrote and that he stated her preaching on this topic is unbiblical.  But, I didn't fully understand at the time why.  Now I do and I'd like to explain why it is unbiblical to make this claim.  Let me say first though that Joyce Meyers is not the only preacher to state such things.  

One of the trends I've seen in many books I've read over the past 10 years is to read into what the Bible says--to attempt to fill in the blanks so as to more fully understand the Word of God.  John and Kim Walton explain in detail in The Bible Story Handbook that the Bible is God's self-revelation--the purpose of the Bible is to point to Him.  It is not our job to analyze in detail what isn't there and try and to fill in the missing details.  The details that God wants are there. As the Waltons say on p. 30 of their book, "Relationship is the goal, salvation is the means, and eternity is the scope...Our approach to the stories of the Bible ought to focus on how each one helps us to understand God and his plan better."

Which leads me to what Joyce Meyers said and what the Apostles Creed originally meant as well as what the Bible says about the matter.  Last night, our pastor shared with us selections from this article:   It is a very scholarly article, but I am going to attempt to sum it up.  There is no scripture that says Jesus went into hell for three days and was under the power of Satan.  The original Greek of the Apostles Creed actually stated that Jesus went Hades.  The word in Greek that is translated as Hades actually meant the grave.  The Apostles Creed basically means that Jesus was dead for three days and then he rose again from the dead.  They believed that the scriptures say this and I believe the Word of God does say just this.  

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (English Standard Version)

 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

I think it's important to understand this and not believe that Jesus was under the power of Satan or that he was tortured by Satan.  God is in control of all things.  Satan has no power over God.  

We need to know what we believe and we need to know what the Bible says because it helps us understand that fiction that sounds truthful is fiction--it is not nonfiction.  Two years ago, there was quite a stir about The Shack.  Many people felt that The Shack opened their eyes to who God really is.  This is a very interesting thing to me because I have understood from many detailed reviews of the books and direct quotes that many things the books says are not scriptural.  The author supposedly wrote a fictional book--he was not trying to write a book of theology, yet many people have taken it to be such.  

This weekend I read a book that unsettled me greatly in a similar way, Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry.  It was a wonderful, beautifully written book.  It was heartbreaking and I cried several times as I made my way through the book.  Yet, I began to skip certain sections of the book.  The author put himself in the place of an angel watching over his charge.  He goes into great detail about why God does what he does, what God is capable of, and also into great detail about demons and imps.  It scared me half to death.  I have been willing myself to begin to discharge these ideas from my head.  

It is a book of fiction.  The Bible tells us very little about angels and I think it's dangerous for us to read into the Bible about them.  I've seen many fiction books address this and I wouldn't say to someone "You can't read that!" but I would give the caution to any reader of a book addressing angels and demons--remember that the book is fiction--it isn't the Bible.

Tomorrow I'm going to write and post a review of Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry.  It is the third book in a series of stand alone novels he's written about characters who live in Dogwood, West Virginia.  June Bug was one of my favorite books I read last year and Almost Heaven is wonderfully written.  I wish I could give it a wonderful review without any reservations, but I can't.  I will explain more tomorrow in my review.

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