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                                      THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS: PART TWO

                             Was Jesus alive while His body lay in the tomb?

       After Jesus died on the cross, His body was laid in a tomb.  While it is generally agreed that his body remained in the tomb until the time of His resurrection three days later, it is also generally believed that He was alive in some sense during the time His physical body lay in the tomb.  It is believed Jesus was out and about doing stuff while His body was in the tomb.  This belief is based on the following passages of Scripture.

 1 Peter 3:18-20: For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom (which) also he (Jesus) went and preached (Greek: kérussó “to proclaim”) to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

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

       Luke 23:42-43: Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

       Many see 1 Peter 3:18-20 telling us that while awaiting resurrection of His physical body, Jesus was preaching to those who had died in the Noachian flood. Ephesians 4:7-9 is seen as telling us that after his death, Jesus visited those residing in Hades.  The passage in Luke is seen as telling us Jesus went to “paradise” the day He died. 

Luke 23:42-43:

       Let’s begin examining this issue by taking a comprehensive look at Luke 23:42-43.  The word “paradise” is taken from the Greek word παράδεισος (paradeisos) and appears twice in the NT in addition to Luke 23:43.  In 1 Corinthians 12:4 Paul appears to be referring to himself when he speaks of being “caught up to paradise” and hearing inexpressible things that man is not permitted to tell. The other occurrence of paradeisos is in Revelation 2:7 where those in the church at Ephesus are told that those who overcome will be given the right to eat from the tree of life “which is in the paradise of God.”

       Greek Lexicons show the Greek word paradeisos to be of Persian origin and was used to designate an enclosure or park. By context the use of this word in Scripture appears to identify the place where God resides.

       Sometime after telling the repentant criminal crucified with Jesus that he would be in paradise with Jesus, it is recorded that “Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46). The Greek rendered “spirit” here is pneuma, a word that appears some 383 times in the NT and has the basic meaning of “moving air.”  In Ecclesiastes 12:7 it’s recorded that at death “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit (Hebrew: ruach) returns to God who gave it.” The Hebrew ruach is the equivalent of the Greek pneuma. David wrote something similar.

       Psalm 146:4: When their spirit (ruach) departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing (NIV).

       "His breath (ruach) goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (KJV).

       While the basic meaning of pneuma and ruach is moving air, it is apparent from how these words are used in Scripture that they mean a lot more. These words are used to describe the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. They are used to describe the actual Being of God.  God is seen as having spirit and being spirit. The Spirit of God is often identified as the Holy Spirit.  Angels are seen as being spirits. Some are seen as “unclean spirits” and referred to as demons.  Others are seen as ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14). Paul speaks of the spirit in man as facilitating cognitive function.

       1 Corinthians 2:11: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?

       So when Jesus says to the Father “into your hands I commit my spirit,” this may mean more than just Jesus taking His final breath. For a comprehensive discussion of how the word “spirit” is used in Scripture, go to WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH PART THREE

       Scripture tells us that Jesus died, was buried and after three days was resurrected. Paul writes that “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:3-4). Peter wrote of David saying “Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:31-32).

       After His resurrection, Jesus told Mary "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17). Here, after being resurrected, Jesus is saying that He had not yet returned to the Father.

       The NIV translation incorrectly uses the word “return” in place of “ascend” in their rendering of John 20:17. (recent editions of the NIV now have "ascend") Most translations use the word “ascend” which is the correct translation of the Greek anabaino which means to go upward.  There is nothing in the meaning of this Greek word that suggests returning to where you were before.  The word simply means to go up and is used in this manner some eighty-one times in the NT narrative.        

       If Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father after his resurrection, it would appear He did not go to paradise when he died. Therefore, the criminal that died next to Him did not go to paradise either. So how do we explain Luke 23:43? 

       It is to be noted that in the original Greek Scriptures there was no punctuation. Punctuation was added by translators long after the original documents were written. Most translations render Luke 23:43 as "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Reading this passage in this manner would suggest that on that very day Jesus and the repentant criminal would be in paradise. However, this passage could just as easily be rendered "I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise." 

       By placing the comma after the word “today,” what Jesus said can be understood to mean that the criminal would be with Jesus in paradise at some point in the future but not necessarily on the day he and Jesus died. More importantly, by rendering this saying as "I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise" it allows for Luke 23:43 to coordinate with John 20:10 which shows Jesus as not going to the Father at the time of His death.

       While saying "I tell you the truth today” may appear a little awkward, it is considered a normal Hebrew idiom according to Appendix 173 of Bullinger’s Companion Bible. We see this usage in Acts 20:26, “Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.”

       Because it is apparent from John 20:10 that Jesus did not ascend to the Father until sometime subsequent to the His resurrection and since paradise appears to be where God resides, it would appear that translating Luke 23:43 as "I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise" is the proper rendering of this passage.

Ephesians 4:7-9:

       As to Ephesians 4:7-9, this is a rather difficult passage to understand and I am not able to provide a meaningful exegesis of this passage.  It is commonly believed that when Paul speaks of Jesus descending to the lower, earthly regions, Paul is speaking of Jesus descending into Hades after his death. However, there is nothing in the context of this passage to substantiate such a conclusion.  Likewise, it is often concluded that when Peter, in 1 Peter 3:18-20, said that Jesus preached (Greek: kérussó “to proclaim”) to the spirits in prison, He was doing this during the time his body was in the tomb. Is this the case?

 1 Peter 3:18-20:

      If you carefully read this passage and are not influenced by preconceived ideas as to what Peter is saying, it becomes evident that Peter does not identify the time during which Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. He simply relates that Jesus was resurrected by the Spirit of God and it is by this same Spirit He preached to the spirits in prison.  Peter does not say Jesus did this while His body was in the tomb. 

       The Greek for “spirits” in 1 Peter 3:19 is πνεύμασιν (pneumasin) which is a tense of the basic Greek word for spirit which is pneuma. As stated above, pneuma appears some 383 times in the NT and has the basic meaning of “moving air.”  As discussed above, this word is used to describe the spirit of God and the spirit of man. It is used to describe the actual Being of God (John 4:24).  God is seen as having spirit and being spirit. The Spirit of God is often identified as the Holy Spirit.  Angels are seen as being spirits. Some are seen as “unclean spirits” and referred to as demons. Others are seen as ministering spirits.

       While humans are seen in Scripture as having spirit, humans are not described as being spirit. While Scripture speaks of acquiring a spiritual body upon physical death, nowhere do the Scriptures refer to this spiritual body as being a spirit.

       As already stated, the Greek word for “spirits” in 1 Peter 3:19 is πνεύμασιν (pneumasin) which is a tense of the basic Greek word for spirit which is pneuma.  Pneuma appears in this form only three times in the NT.  Here in 1 Peter 3:19 and in Luke 4:36 and 1 Timothy 4:1.

       Luke 4:36: All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!"  

       1st Timothy 4:1: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

       In these two passages, “spirits” are plainly seen as referring to evil spirits. Evil spirits are spoken of often in the NT.  Are these evil spirits fallen angels? In Acts 23:8 we see the Sadducees distinguishing between angels and spirits.

       Acts 23:8: The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels (Greek: γγελόν (angelon) nor spirits (Greek πνεμα (pneuma), but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

       Paul appears to distinguish between angels and demons (Romans 8:38). Are angels and evil spirits different types of Beings? The writer to the Hebrews asks the question, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:6). In most Scriptures where angels are mentioned they are seen as goods guys. Yet the Scriptures clearly identify Satan as having angels which would indicate there are evil angels (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 12:7-9).

       As already pointed out, humans are seen in Scripture as having spirit. They are not seen as being spirit, neither while having a physical body or upon being given a spiritual body.  Since humans are not identified as spirits in Scripture, is it humans that Jesus is seen as preaching to when Peter writes of Jesus preaching to “spirits in prison?” The Greek word rendered “prison” is phulaké which means enclosure, confinement, to keep watch).

       Some believe Peter is talking about a preexistent Jesus preaching through Noah to the humans living at the time just before the flood. Others believe Jesus is preaching to the long deceased humans who had died in the Noachian flood. These folks are seen as existing as spirits in a “prison” which is usually seen as a place of torment called hell. This is the most popular explanation of 1 Peter 3:18-20.  It is reflected in the Apostles Creed which states in part:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

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

       It could be asked that if Jesus was preaching to those unrighteous folks who had died in the Noachian flood and were now in a place of torment, where were all the other unrighteous people who had died to that point. Why would Jesus be preaching only to the sinners of Noah’s day?

       Peter speaks of the spirits being preached to as having “disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built." Since humans are not seen in Scripture as “spirits,” could it be that Peter is not referring to humans alive at the time of Noah but of non-human entities called “sons of God” who are seen as marrying human women.

       Genesis 6:1-4: When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God (Hebrew: bə·nê hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm) saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

       The phrase “sons of God” appears only three other times in the OT and all in the book of Job where the “sons of God” are seen as presenting themselves before God along with Satan. This presumably occurs in heaven where God resides. Since the “sons of God” are seen as residing in the heavenly realm with God, it is apparent these are supernatural Beings of some sort.

       Job 1:6: Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them (KJV).

       Job 2:1: Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord (KJV).

       Job 38:7: When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (KJV).

       The NIV renders the Hebrew bə·nê hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm as “sons of God” in Genesis 6 but as angels in the Job passages. This is an incorrect rendering by the NIV translators. There is a totally different word for angels in the Hebrew Scriptures. All other English translations I consulted render bə·nê hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm as “sons of God” in both Genesis and Job.  The Hebrew for “angel” is מַלְאָך (malak).  This word appears 213 times in the OT and has the basis meaning of messenger. It is often rendered “messenger” in English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. 

        Were the “sons of God” spoken of in Genesis 6 and in Job angels? Is Satan an angel? It is instructive that nowhere in Scripture is Satan explicitly identified as an angel. I refer you to Part One of my three part series entitled ORIGIN AND SIGNIFICANCE OF SATAN AND DEMONS for an in-depth discussion of the individual called Satan.

       Assuming for the moment that the “sons of God” are angels; could angels have intercourse with human women and produce offspring? We see in Genesis 19 where two angels appeared to Lot as men and were seen as sex objects by the residents of the city of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-13). Can angels transform themselves into human agents and produce human offspring?         

       The non-canonical Book of Enoch describes angels marrying women on earth, and their offspring becoming giants. The book of Enoch was considered Scripture in the Epistle of Barnabas, and by many of the early church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian. By the 4th century it was mostly excluded from Christian canons except for that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church where it remains to this day. 

       Where these angels mentioned in the Book of Enoch the “spirits in prison” that Jesus preached to?  Genesis 6:4 speak of Nephilim being on the earth before and after the flood and suggests they were the offspring of "the sons of God" having sexual relations with the daughters of men. The term Nephilim is defined in Hebrew Lexicons as giants.

       Did the giants of Genesis 6 result from angels having sex with human women? Would not these giants have been destroyed during the Noachian flood?  Yet we see them showing up after the flood as recorded in Numbers 13:33.  Here they are seen as placing fear into those who were exploring the Promised Land.

      Genesis 6:4: The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

      Numbers 13:33: We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."      

       If it was angels who were having sexual relations with human women, did they continue this practice after the flood?  Could it be that the flood was not worldwide and some Nephilim survived the flood and this is what is being expressed in Numbers 13:33? Or is the word Nephilim simply being used to describe giant men who were living at the time Israel was to enter the Promised Land?

       Some scholars see the word Nephilim as associated with the Hebrew word “naphal” which means “to fall.”  It is believed this suggests fallen angels were the source of the Nephilim.

       It is apparent from what is written in Jude that there were/are angels who have behaved contrary to the will of God and have been placed in a state of restraint.

       Jude 1:6-7: And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.  Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

       2 Peter 2:4-5: For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell (Greek: tartarus)   putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others.

       The phrase “sent them to hell” is one word in the Greek text, the verb “ταρταρόω ” (tartaroo).  It means to “to cast down to tartarus.”  “Tartarus” appears only this once in the Greek Scriptures. Homer describes it as subterranean.  It is instructive that Peter follows his statement about the sinning angels with reflection on the judgement God brought upon the Noachian world.  There appears to be a connection being made here between the sinning angels and the ungodly people of Noah’s world.

       Both Peter and Jude appear to be talking about the same event in earth’s history, an event that appears to describe the involvement of angels in the affairs of humans. These angels are seen as being confined to a place of restraint. Tartarus is generally seen in Greek literature as a place of restraint.  Are the angels spoken of in Jude and 2nd Peter the “spirits” Peter records Jesus preaching to in 1 Peter 3?  Genesis speaks of it being “sons of God” that had relations with human women.   Are these “sons of God” the angels spoken of in Jude and 2nd Peter?  It is sometimes argued that angels could not have married human women and had sex with them because Jesus taught that angels cannot marry. Did Jesus teach this? 

       Some Sadducees, who apparently did not believe in resurrection, came to Jesus and said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.  Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother.  The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh.  Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?" (Matthew 22: 23-28).  Here is Jesus’ answer.

       Matthew 22:29-30: Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

       Mark 12:24-25: Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

       Luke 20:34-36: Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.

       What Jesus is saying here is that marriage is not a factor in the resurrection. Marriage is seen to pertain only to this physical realm. Marriage is not a factor in the heavenly realm. Those who are resurrected will be like the angels in that they cannot die nor will they any longer experience a marriage relationship. Jesus is saying that in the heavenly realm marriage does not exist.  It doesn’t exist for angels and it doesn’t exist for resurrected humans.   

       This, however, does not preclude angels having at some point in the historical past taken on physical characteristics and thus engaged in sexual relations with human women.  In the account of Jesus answering the Sadducees, He is not saying angels can’t marry. He is saying that angels in heaven don’t marry.

       In Genesis 6:1-4 it is stated that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. The passage goes on to show that the Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. What follows is the account of the flood.

       As discussed above, Jesus is seen as preaching to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built (1 Peter 3:18-20). It is before the flood that it is recorded that the sons of God married the daughters of men and had children by them. There is an apparent distinction made between the sons of God and human men. The distinction is between human men producing daughters and the sons of God marrying these daughters.    

       Genesis 6:1-4: When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

       When looking at what Peter writes about Jesus preaching to spirits in prison who disobeyed during the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:18-20) and writing about God sending sinning angels to tartarus within the context of the Noachian flood (2 Peter 2:4-5) and Jude writing about angels leaving their assigned habitation for some other habitation (Jude 1:6-7), it becomes suggestive of there being interaction going on between supernatural Beings and humans during the time of Noah and possibly after the flood. 

       As discussed above, humans are not referred to as “spirits” in Scripture whereas angels are.  When Peter writes of Jesus speaking to spirits in prison, it would appear that it is non-human entities being spoken of.

       This all being said, we can’t know for sure whether the “sons of God” spoken of in Genesis and Job are angels or some other type of supernatural Beings. We know from the Scriptures that there are a variety of Beings that are in residence in the heavenly realm. In Ezekiel chapter 1 the prophet sees heaven open and what looked like four living creatures having the form of man but having four faces and four wings. In Revelation chapter 4, four living creatures each having six wings and covered with eyes in front and in back are seen at the throne of God.  The first of these creatures is described as being like a lion, the second like an ox, the third having the face like a man and the fourth like a flying eagle. We also have described here the twenty-four elders that stand before God. The twenty-four elders and four living creatures are distinguished as being different from the angels.

       Revelation 7:11: All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.

Summary:

       We began this discussion by asking whether Jesus was alive and out and about doing stuff while his physical body lay in the tomb awaiting resurrection. It is apparent from John 20:17 that Jesus did not ascend to the Father until sometime after His resurrection. This being the case, He did not ascend to paradise the day of His death. Paradise is seen in Scripture as associated with the heavenly realm where God the Father resides. It is apparent that Jesus did not go there until sometime after He was resurrected.  

       Did Jesus, while His physical body lay in the tomb, descend to a place where spirits from the time of Noah were being held?  As discussed above, Peter does not specifically identify when Jesus spoke to the spirits in prison but only that he did so by the same Spirit by which He was raised from the dead.  We know he was raised to life by the Spirit of God after being three days in the tomb ((1Corinthians 15:3-4). This would indicate He was dead for three days and not out and about doing things.  There is no sound Scriptural reason to conclude Jesus was out and about doing things while His body lay in the tomb.  

       Because Noah is seen as a preacher of righteousness (2nd Peter 2:5), some believe that when Peter speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison who sinned during the time of Noah, Peter is revealing that it was through Noah that this preaching was done. Noah is seen as preaching to the people of his day by the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

       However, this isn’t what Peter is saying.  Peter indicates it is Jesus who is directly doing the preaching and He is doing it to “spirits in prison.  "He (Jesus) was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom (which) also he (Jesus) went and preached (Greek: kérussó “to proclaim”) to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built" (1 Peter 3:18-20). 

       As discussed above, the Greek word rendered “prison” is phulaké and means enclosure, confinement, to keep watch. The humans living during the time of Noah are not seen as being in an enclosure or confined and they are not seen as being spirits.

       Peter speaks of those being preached to in prison as being disobedient during the time of Noah. Therefore, whoever these spirits are, they lived during the time of Noah. Since humans are not called spirits anywhere in Scripture whereas angels are, it can be legitimately asked whether the spirits in prison that lived during the time of Noah were angels and if so, were such angels the “sons of God” who are seen as marrying human women and procreating with them.

       Are these "sons of God" the angels whom Jude writes about having left their assigned habituation? Are these "sons of God' the sinning angels Peter writes about within the context of the Noachian flood whom God is seen as sending to tartarus?

       While we may not be able to know with certainty the answer to these questions, I feel it is prudent not to rule out the possibility that there were supernatural Beings of some sort consorting with human women as indicated in Genesis chapter six and seemingly supported by Jude and Peter in their writings.

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