Word of Faith Atonement: Jesus in Hell

This entry is part 7 of 23 in the series Wolves in Wool

Untitled from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

(Notes below are scrollable)

Word of Faith Atonement:  Jesus in Hell

Jesus takes the nature of Satan on the cross

As noted in the last section, the WOF teaching concerning the nature of Jesus was not the traditional church’s position, namely that Christ was man and God, but rather that Christ relinquished his divinity when he came to earth as a man.  While this is a poor beginning for an atonement doctrine, it gets much worse.

In accomplishing the work of salvation, according to the WOF movement, Jesus also took on the very nature of Satan.

“How did Jesus then on the cross say, ‘My God.’ Because God was not His Father any more. He took upon Himself the nature of Satan.
Kenneth Copeland (Believer’s Voice of Victory, TBN, April 21, 1991)
“He [Jesus] who is righteous by choice said, ‘The only way I can stop sin is by Me becoming it. I can’t just stop it by letting it touch Me; I and it must become one.’ Hear this! He who is the nature of God became the nature of Satan where He became sin!”
Benny Hinn (Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) 1 December 1990)
“The sinless son of God became as a serpent that He might swallow up all evil….If you will behold what happened when the sin offering was made and the fact that Jesus became a serpent upon the pole, it will change your life. . . . Jesus died spiritually, not for any of His own sin! He became the serpent on the pole, the snake on the ground, in the Old Testament type.” Charles Capps (Authority in Three Worlds, 177, 166-67)

In the WOF understanding of atonement, Jesus literally took Satan’s nature upon himself; that is to say that he became a Satanic being, so that that he may properly be able to atone for the sins of man.  This understanding seems to come from an incomplete interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21.

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[1] [[21] Or be a sin offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The NIV (and most other translations) certainly seem to indicate something that could be understood to be a baseline for the WOF definition of Jesus’ “becoming sin” for us through his death on the cross.  While it says nothing whatsoever about a satanic nature, the text clearly states that he who knew no sin was caused “to be sin” on our behalf.  The question that needs to be addressed, however, is does “to be sin” parallel with the idea of Jesus taking upon himself “the nature of Satan?”

Essentially, “no.”  It does not mean that in the wildest translational variance.  Jesus did not take on Satan’s nature, nor did he become sinful, but rather, the object of God’s wrath for our sin.  The NIV leaves a footnote (left in the text above for reference) which gives a good clue as to the intended meaning of the phrase; “be a sin offering.”

The idea of Christ being without sin, yet being made “to be sin” comes from the Old Testament portrait of substitutionary atonement, which Christ himself fulfilled in his death on the cross.

The Greek term translated “to be sin” is the term hamartia.  Hamartia, itself, literally translates “sin.”  The “to be” is added in.  I some translations, words added into a text to help one understand the meaning are italicized.  One will notices such italics in the NASB and KJV in this text for the words “to be.”  In the Greek, the phrase would directly be translated “him not knowing sin, on behalf of us, he (God) made sin.”  The picture has nothing to do with Jesus taking upon himself the nature of Satan.  The “nature of Satan” attribute is a completely extra-biblical idea in atonement, created perhaps by the “revelation knowledge” of the WOF teachers, but certainly not from scripture.  Scripture teaches of a “sin nature,” but never of Christ having a sin nature, nor a Satanic nature. 

The term, hamartia, is translated “sin” 172 out of 174 uses in the New Testament.  The understanding from the text is clearly that “he who knew no sin” was made “sin” for us- the recipients of his atoning work.

In the Old Testament, the idea of “becoming sin” is attributed to the work of the sin offering, or the sacrificial animal whose blood wrought atonement through the sacrificial system.  The Hebrew terms chattath or chattaah are used interchangeably to denote “sin” or the “sin offering” in Old Testament texts, depending on the context of their usage.

Adam Clarke states,   [[NOTE:  WordPress renders the Greek letters below as ???????, but the transliterated english terms are printed after the ??????]]

The words ??????  chattath, and ??????  chattaah, frequently signify sin; but I have observed more than a hundred places in the Old Testament where they are used for sin-offering, and translated ??????? [hamartia] by the Septuagint, which is the term the apostle uses, 2 Corinthians 5:21: He hath made him to be sin (????????, A SIN-OFFERING) for us, who knew no sin.  
— Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Gen. 4:7  [bold brackets added]

Thus, the idea of “becoming sin” is tantamount to saying that Christ became “the sin offering” required in the Old Testament Law.  Indeed, Christ fulfilled the law as he predicted he would do.

Matthew 5:17 (NIV)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Jesus “becoming sin” is the same idea as the atoning blood of the sacrificial goat on the Day of Atonement “becoming sin.”  He was the blood offered which paid the demands for God’s justice against sin; for the wages of sin is death, and the day you eat of it you will surely die.  Sin has always born the penalty of death.  God’s grace provided the substitutionary atonement system, beginning with the old testament animal sacrifices, which pointed toward and was completed by the final sacrifice of Christ himself; the provision of blood for the atonement of man’s sin.

With a proper understanding of Old Testament theology, it is unthinkable that a serious theologian would suggest that Christ’s atoning work was tantamount to his “taking the nature of Satan” rather than the systematic fulfilling of his work of substitutionary atonement by becoming a vicarious sacrifice on man’s behalf.  Yet, in the fairy tale world of WOF doctrine, this is precisely the assertion.

“The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own spirit. And at the moment that He did so, He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?’ You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, ‘Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there — the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?’ And the Lord said, ‘Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.’ He said, ‘I accepted, in My own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned off.”
Kenneth Copeland (What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)

Absolutely no biblical text teaches, infers or even hints that the eternal son of God took on the fallen and corrupt nature of Satan through his redemptive work on the cross.  In fact, the Bible teaches quite the contrary.

In Isaiah, God calls Christ “my righteous servant.”

Isaiah 53:11 (NIV)
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

And, God’s righteous servant bears the iniquities of sinful man.  He is a substitution; righteous on behalf of those who are not, bearing the sins of those who have sinned, though he was without sin himself.  Jesus’ “becoming sin” was his bearing of the sins of others, not his becoming literally sinful himself.  Isaiah notes,

Isaiah 53:12 (NIV)
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

The WOF teaching that Jesus took the nature of Satan is egregiously erroneous, and quite deliberately misplaced, simply because it fits their model and serves their purposes of exalting man (not to mention Satan) and demoting God.


Jesus goes into Hell to “pay” for the sins of man

The WOF movement furthermore teaches that Christ suffered in Hell for the sins of man.  This theology is referenced as being derived from Psalm 16 or, in some references, the Apostles Creed.

One of the most controversial statements of the Apostles’ Creed is the line which states of Christ, “He descended into hell.”

The sentiment of the Apostles’ Creed is good and legitimate.  The failure which leads to the controversy is a misunderstanding of what the framers of the creed meant by their use of the term, “Hell.”

“Hell” is an English term.  It has no singular biblical Greek or Hebrew equivalent which describes it accurately according to its modern English usage.  The English term is used over several differing Greek and Hebrew terms in some translations.  Furthermore, translations tend to use the term within the cultural understanding of that term of the generation from which the translation comes.  Older translations use Hell in a different way than newer translations use it.

The term comes from the Saxon “helan,” which means “to cover” or “to hide.”  Hell, in its original usage, speaks of the unseen place of the dead.  It does not speak of “the lake of fire” in its original usage, but rather generally of “the place of the dead.”  The Hebrew term Sheol and the Greek term Hades are the most legitimate terms for one to understand the meaning of Hell in its original historical usage. 

Language, however, has a tendency to digress.  Terms which mean one thing in one generation come to new meanings as time passes.  The English term “gay” has certainly transformed its fundamental meaning over the years.  A gay man was once considered only happy.  Today the same phrase would describe a homosexual to most all who hear it.  Likewise a “mad” person was once considered to be mentally deranged rather than angry, as it is commonly understood today.

Hell, in its original usage meant simply “the place beyond the land of the living.”  It could equally refer to the righteous or the unrighteous, as both die and are relegated to the place of the dead.  The King James Version, written in 1611, speaks prophetically of Christ, in Psalm 16, using the original understanding of “hell” in its translation.

Psalm 16:10 (KJV)
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Truly, Psalm 16 speaks of the coming Christ.  Truly, it states that he will not be left “in Hell,” in the King James Version.   However, one’s understanding of what exactly Hell is in 1611, when the KJV was published, is not the same as one’s use of the term today, as most people today understand the term to refer instead to “the lake of fire,” which is not what the Psalmist speaks of.

The underlying Hebrew word in Psalm 16:10, translated “Hell” by the King James Bible, is the term Sheol.  Sheol, in the Old Testament is a place where all of the dead of humanity will rest until their appointed time.  It is not synonymous with the lake of fire, or “Hell” as we know it today.

Sheol was a place where the righteous and the wicked went prior to the resurrection of Christ, at which point the righteous no longer went there, but directly to Heaven.

Hosea uses the same term (Sheol):

Hosea 13:14 (KJV)
14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

Here, the KJV uses the term “grave” as an English translation of the very same Hebrew term, Sheol.  And, clearly from this text, the Lord will “ransom” his righteous ones from Sheol.  Indeed he did.  When Christ died, he went where dead people went- to Sheol, or Hades, which is the same term rendered in the Greek New Testament.  And, when he rose, he emptied the righteous out of Sheol/Hades and took them with him to Heaven, as noted in Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:7-9 (NIV)
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?

The Apostles’ Creed speaks of a pure and original understanding of the term Hell, which denotes the hidden place of Hades.  Christ died, went to Hades, and rose from it, bringing with him all of those who waited for his victory over death.  Likewise, when the King James Bible speaks of Jesus not being left in Hell, it is translating the term Sheol, the general place of the dead.

David wrote in Psalm 139 the following:

Psalm 139:8 (KJV)
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Using the KJV, once again the term “Hell” is rendered for Sheol.  The NIV, however renders the following:

Psalm 139:8 (NIV)
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

The underlying term, Sheol, does not refer to Hell by today’s understanding of that term, but rather the unseen place of the dead.  Did David really consider himself prepared to make his bed in Hell at some future point?  If so, perhaps soon the WOF teachers will have David paying for the sins of man in Hell.  It’s just as ridiculous of a thought as to think that Jesus went to the lake of fire which people commonly call “Hell” by today’s language standards.

Modern versions account for the development of the cultural understanding of what Hell is, and use other terms to as not to cause modern readers, who believe “Hell” to be synonymous with the lake of fire, to misunderstand the text.

Another modern translation, the NASB, translates this text using the original Hebrew term to avoid misunderstandings:

Psalm 16:10 (NASB)
10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

This lengthy explanation is essential to allow the reader to understand without question a simple fact:  Jesus did not go to the lake of fire, where the eternal punishment for sins is realized.  He went where dead people went; to Hades, because he died as a human, and followed the natural course of a dead man to that place.  [For a more expanded study on Sheol, Hell and other related terms concerning the realms of the dead, visit the “Spiritual Realms” study series at: http://www.returningking.com/?p=19.]

And, here begins the issue with the misuse of scripture in the hands of the WOF teachers.  Simply stated, they teach that Jesus literally went to Hell – in the modern understanding of the term, the lake of fire – and that he suffered in Hell to pay the penalty of sin for mankind.

“How did Jesus then on the cross say, ‘My God.’ Because God was not His Father any more. He took upon Himself the nature of Satan. And I’m telling you Jesus is in the middle of that pit. He’s suffering all that there is to suffer, there is no suffering left . . . apart from Him. His emaciated, little wormy spirit is down in the bottom of that thing and the devil thinks He’s got Him destroyed. But, all of a sudden God started talking.”
Kenneth Copeland (Believer’s Voice of Victory, TBN, April 21, 1991)
“In hell He [Jesus] suffered for you and for me. The Bible says hell was made for Satan and his angels. It was not made for men. Satan was holding the Son of God there illegally … The trap was set for Satan and Jesus was the bait.”
Kenneth Copeland (Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 1979, p. 77)

WOF teachers teach that Jesus went to Hell, using the modern definition of what Hell is.  In short, they teach that Jesus went to the lake of fire, the place of torture and punishment, on behalf of man to pay the penalty of man’s sin by being tortured in Hell.

The problem with this misquoting of scripture and misunderstanding of proper atonement theology is simple: if Jesus paid the price of man’s sin in Hell, then what was he doing on the cross?  Did his death on the cross serve any purpose, other than getting him “dead?”  Not according to these teachers.

According to the WOF false prophets, Jesus’ work on the cross accounted for nothing.  It was not Jesus’ death which provided salvation for mankind, but his suffering in Hell.

“Every prophet that walked the face of the earth under the Abrahamic covenant could have paid the price if it were a physical death only. When He said ‘It is finished’ on that cross, He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption had just begun; there were still three days and three nights to be gone through.”
Kenneth Copeland (What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)

To Copeland, then, the “plan of redemption” was incomplete upon Jesus’ death on the cross.  It was not Jesus’ death which bought atonement for man, but his suffering in Hell.  Indeed, “every prophet that walked the face of the earth” could have “paid the price if it were a physical death only.”

As Joyce Meyer puts it,

“He was pronounced guilty on the cross but He paid the price in hell.”
Joyce Meyer (What Happened from the Cross to The Throne? audio)

In this manner of thinking, Jesus’ death on the cross is utterly misunderstood by the whole of theological history.  And, according to this doctrinal error, God’s word itself misspeaks when it states that God worked  20 through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:20 (NASB)

Clearly Paul understood atonement to come “through the blood of His cross” rather than through some future suffering in Hell, of which Paul never speaks.  Does the cross have any power to these teachers?  Is it one of numerous instruments of death by which Jesus could gain passage to Hell, where the real work was done?  Is the focus on the cross this past two thousand years mere foolishness?  Perhaps it is to these who do not serve under its banner.

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 (NASB)
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Clearly, the cross of Christ is the power of God to those who know him, but only foolishness to those who are perishing.  Note clearly Paul’s mission to preach the true gospel, “so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”

Yet, in the teachings of the Word of Faith movement, it has indeed been proclaimed void.

“And you’ve got to really glean some things out of the Word of God to really get hold of what He [Jesus] did for you during those three days. Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ And He meant the Old Covenant. The job He had to do was just getting started. He really did the job the three days and nights that He was in hell. That’s where the job was done.”
Joyce Meyer (What Happened from the Cross to The Throne? audio)

The cross is utterly pointless in this fabricated system where “the job was done” in Hell itself, by Jesus’ supposed punishment at Satan’s hand.

At this point, the silliness of the notion that Satan himself would punish Jesus in Hell should be observed.  This idea is utter foolishness for three reasons.

First, it is foolishness because Jesus did not go to Hell, or the lake of fire, but Hades (the Greek equivalent of Sheol) as has been noted.

Secondly, it is foolishness because Hell is not yet open for business.  The modern understanding of Hell, which these teachers use in their argument, is called either Gehenna or the lake of fire in the New Testament.  This final place of eternal destruction, according to scripture, is not yet populated, but is empty, awaiting the final judgment of the unrighteous.  The “ribbon cutting” for the lake of fire is demonstrated clearly in the book of Revelation to be a future event.

First into the lake of fire are the Beast and the False Prophet.

Revelation 19:20 (NASB)
20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.

They will be followed by the unrighteous survivors of the Tribulation at the time of Christ’s return.

Matthew 25:31-34 (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Matthew 25:41 (NIV)
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

This group will be followed by Satan himself, one thousand years later.  (read Revelation 20:1-9 for full context)

Revelation 20:10 (NASB)
10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Lastly, the dead of history who remain in Hades (the righteous were removed from Hades at Jesus’ resurrection) will enter after their judgment from the great white throne.

Revelation 20:11-15 (NASB)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

One will clearly note that “death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” at this future time.  Though Satan is present at this time, he was not present at the time of Christ, and is not present currently in Hell.  His advent into Hell is still a future event.  Thus, he could not possibly have been waiting in Hell for Jesus around 30 AD.

Thirdly, the idea of Satan punishing Christ in Hell is foolish because it presumes that Satan has some sort of authority to punish beings who are cast into Hell.  This postulate comes from superstition, bad “Hell” jokes and wives tales.  Satan is not the “proprietor” of Hell, but is an “inmate” of Hell himself.  Even Copeland seems to understand this, though his theological postulating skips over his own realization of this truth.

The Bible says hell was made for Satan and his angels. It was not made for men. Satan was holding the Son of God there illegally … The trap was set for Satan and Jesus was the bait.”
Kenneth Copeland (Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 1979, p. 77)

Indeed, Hell was made for Satan and his angels.  It is a place of punishment whereby Satan and his angels are to be destroyed for all eternity.  How can one’s intended place of eternal punishment somehow become his personal place of mastery over another?  Did Satan go to Hell and take over his own prison?

Matthew 25:41 (NIV)
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

It makes no logical sense whatsoever to presume that Hell is an abode where Satan would have authority to punish Christ.  It is Christ who created Hell to punish Satan!  And, God has authority over Hell, not Satan.  If Christ were to go to Hell, and if Satan were to have been there to meet him, even then there is absolutely no scriptural hint that Satan would have the authority to punish Christ there.  Hell belongs to Christ, and is a place where God punishes the wicked- including Satan himself.  It is not Satan’s personal play pen, but his own eternal destiny of punishment.

These teachers are a mockery to legitimate theological study.  I am convinced, however, that they are not stupid, but rather very intelligent.  Their failure is not that they are incapable of studying scripture properly, but that they choose not to.  Instead, they twist scripture to meet their own needs, all the while leading millions into the pit with them.

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