4. Why was Christ also buried?
Christ was buried for the following seven reasons:
a) To prove that he was truly dead. Only the dead are buried and it was important that Scripture should record that He was buried to prove to the church that the purchase price for her was truly paid.
Therefore, just as Christ presented himself after his resurrection to be seen and touched and that he was hungry and ate, that there might be clear evidence that his body was raised from the dead, so after his death he gave himself so that he might be declared dead and be buried, that it might be known that he was a real corpse.
As further testimony that he was truly dead and ought to be buried were the following:
· His body was pierced;
· He was taken down from the cross, which would not have happened unless his sentence was complete, that is, he succumbed to the punishment he was subjected to;
· He was anointed, as was the custom;
· His body was wrapped in linen.
Our redemption consists of Christ's sacrifice and his death. Without him being truly dead, we have no redemption, so God, in his eternal wisdom, had this crucial event recorded that we may have the necessary comfort that we have been saved from this gruesome punishment and that we may have a true knowledge of our salvation. Truly a mystery made known to the believers only. The others might have an academic knowledge of these events, but they fail to comprehend what has happened on the cross.
b) His burial was the last part of his humiliation for this was a part of his punishment, curse and dishonor that were actually our punishment, curse and dishonor to bear. Although a dead body is destitute of feeling and understanding, it was, nevertheless, a disgrace that the body of the Son of God should be committed to a grave just as that of a sinner.
Therefore, as the resurrection of Christ from the grave is a part of his glory, so his burial, and internment among the dead, is a part of the humiliation and disgrace that he rendered on our account, for he was willing to become a corpse for our sake.
c) He had to be buried so that we might not be terrified by the grave that lies ahead of all of us. The grave that is before each and everyone of us has been stripped of all of its terror and horror, and was made a safe passageway through which we will pass gladly and with joy into the glorious presence of Jesus Christ.
Our graves have been sanctified by his own burial so that they are no longer graves to us but chambers and resting places in which our bodies will remain until they are renewed into glorified bodies, united with our souls and raised to a new and glorious life.
d) He was buried that it might be apparent, in view of his resurrection, that he had truly overcome death in his own body. That by his own power he had thrown death off from himself, so that his resurrection could not be seen as a ghostly or imaginary thing, but was a real resuscitation of a corpse reanimated.
e) That our hope of our resurrection might be confirmed since we too shall be buried and raised up again by his power. If his power, to take up his life when he wanted to, was sufficient to not only overcome death, but to raise him up in a glorious body, we can be fully assured that, in him, death holds no threat or danger of injury to us. Christ, our head, has opened up the way for us to glory through the grave, through which we all must pass.
f) That we, being spiritually dead, may rest from sin.
Romans 6:4 - 11 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection 6for we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him 9for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
g) That the truth might correspond with the type of Jonah and that the prophecies might be fulfilled in relation to the burial of the Messiah.
Psalm 16:10 Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
Isaiah 53:9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Matthew 12:39, 30 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah, 40for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.
5. If Christ died for us why must we also die?
The answer to this question is a response to an objection that is oftentimes heard from those who oppose us: He for whom another has died ought not himself to die otherwise God would seem to demand a double satisfaction for one offence. Therefore, we ought not to die if Christ has died for us.
It is true that we ought not to die if it is for the sake of making satisfaction. But there are other causes why it becomes necessary for us to die. We do not die a temporal death for the purpose of satisfying the justice of God but we die temporarily so
a) that we may finally receive the benefits purchased by the death of Christ,
b) that it can be an admonition of the remains of sin in us.
c) that it can be an admonition of the greatness of the evil of sin.
d) that it can be an abolishing of the remains of sin, and
e) that it can be a passage, a transition, for the faithful to eternal life.
But shouldn't the effect of sin, which is death, be removed when the cause, which is sin, is removed?
The effect of sin is removed when the cause is wholly removed. Sin, as far as it respects the guilt is taken away, but not as it respects the matter of sin, which is not entirely abolished in this life, but it remains with us until we shed this old body and life in exchange for the new.
I Corinthians 15:35 - 38, 42-44 But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies? 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. 43It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
It is removed gradually, that our free will may be purified and exercised to freely and eagerly trust and obey the Lord. It is a gradual process so that we can exercise repentance and be passionate and zealous in prayer, until, in the life to come, we will be perfectly freed from all the remains of sin.
6. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ?
By virtue of Christ's sacrifice our old nature is crucified, dead, and buried with Him so that the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us. We may now offer ourselves unto Him as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for having laid down his life so that we may be freed from sin and the effect thereof, which is death.
This question deals with the fruits or benefits of Christ's death. As in the passion of Christ, the end and fruits are to be regarded as the same, only in a different respect. The things that Christ considered as ends are to us benefits when we receive or apply them to ourselves. It is, therefore, evident that the benefits of Christ's death comprehend the entire work of our redemption.
The benefits that we receive form Christ's sacrifice are principally the following:
a) Justification. Justification may also be seen as the remission of sins. The justice of God demands that the sinner should not be punished twice. And since He has punished our sins in Christ, He will not, therefore, punish the same in us. The blood of Jesus Christ cleansed us from all sin, original as well as actual, sins of commission as well as omission, sins past and future. We are, therefore, justified, freed from the evil of punishment and of guilt because of the death of Christ, which is the cause of this effect.
b) Regeneration. Regeneration means that the Holy Spirit has renewed our nature. Christ, by his death, has merited for us not only the pardon of sin, but also the removal of all our sins. Furthermore, we also received the gift of the Holy Spirit. To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit means that we received the indwelling of God in us.
John 16:7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
Colossians 2:10 And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
I Corinthians 1:30 It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
The death of Christ is in two respects the efficient cause of our justification and of our regeneration:
First, in respect to God: because God, on account of the merit and death of Christ, remits unto us our sins, grants us the Holy Spirit, and renews in us his own image, which was corrupted at the fall in the Garden.
Romans 5:9, 10 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him. 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life?
Galatians 4:6, 7 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Second, in respect to us: because we, who believe that Christ obtained for us righteousness and the Holy Spirit, cannot be otherwise than grateful to him, and earnestly desire to live in such a manner that we may honor him, which is done by commencing to walk in newness of life.
We can neither remain ungrateful nor in a state of indifference if we apply the death of Christ, and a proper consideration thereof, to our lives, but we will begin to love Christ in return and render thanks to him for such a great and inestimable benefit.
From this we see that we cannot have remission of sins without regeneration for no one that is not regenerated can obtain remission of sins. Remission of sins is the acquisition of eternal life and if it were possible to have remission of sins without regeneration, it would be possible to live eternally in sin. That is why the flaming sword kept man out of the Garden and why Jesus spoke in parables.
If one were to boast of having applied to himself by faith the death of Christ and yet has no desire to live a holy and godly life, that he may so honor the Savior, lies, and gives conclusive evidence that the truth is not in him. All those who are justified are willing, eager and ready to do those things that are pleasing to God. The desire to obey God can never be separated from the application of the death of Christ, nor can the benefit of regeneration be experienced without that of justification. All those that are justified are also regenerated, and all those that are regenerated are also justified.
It is important that we understand the relationship between the merits of Christ, and the application of his sacrifice. By Christ's death he has merited regeneration for us but by his resurrection He has applied it to us. For by rising from the dead and applying regeneration unto us, he gave us the Holy Spirit.
As we have said before, the remission of sins results in the acquisition of eternal life, so another fruit of the death of Christ is eternal life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I John 5:11 - 13 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
What, then, does it mean to say that we believe in the death of Christ? It is to believe that He has not only suffered the most excruciating pains and torments, but also death itself. By his death He has obtained for me remission of sins, reconciliation with God, and by consequence, the Holy Spirit also. The Holy Spirit commences in me a new life that I may again be made the temple of God, and at length may enter into eternal life in which I shall forever praise and magnify God.
7. Why do we say that Christ descended into hell?
We testify with this that, in my greatest temptations, I may be assured and wholly comforted that my Lord Jesus Christ, by his inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors and hellish agonies, in which He was plunged during all his sufferings for my sake, but especially on the cross, delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell.
It is important that the believer understands this correctly, and towards this understanding, we need to reflect on what it means when we say that Christ descended into hell and also what is the benefit thereof.
1. Firstly, the meaning.
The term 'hell' is used in Scripture in three different senses, namely, the grave (Gen. 42:38; Ps 16:10), the place of the damned (Luke 16:23), and it is also used to signify the most extreme distress and anguish (Ps. 116:3; I Sam 2:6.) It is the latter understanding of 'hell' that we are concerned with.
Let's briefly look at why it is impossible that Christ could have descended into hell in any other way than in most extreme distress and anguish.
It cannot be taken in the sense of the grave because if that were all there was to it, there would have been no benefit for us. Christ was in the grave to signify that he was truly dead and not merely sleeping. The torment of hell, which we justly deserved, could not have been satisfied by a mere act of burial, but his death and burial was necessary to prepare the stage of the true sacrifice, namely, the extreme suffering of the wrath of God (torments).
The term 'hell' cannot be taken in the sense of the place of the damned because his Divinity did not descend or go anywhere, because it is, and was, everywhere as omni-present God. Neither did his body descend to the place of the damned because it was in the grave for three days, according to the type of Jonah. Nor did his body rise from any other place than the grave. The body of Christ is not often considered as the part of Christ that descended. It is the soul of Christ that is often considered as the part that descended, so we shall look at that more carefully.
The soul of Christ did not descend,
a) Because there is no affirmation in Scripture that it happened.
b) Because Christ said on the cross, "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit;" and to the thief with him he said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise." (Luke 12:46, 43). The soul of Christ was, therefore, in the hands of his Father in Paradise and not in hell. One cannot claim that Christ was also in the hands of the Father in hell based on Psalm 139:8, "If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there;" because of the figure of speech employed here by the psalmist to express the omniscience and omnipresence of God.
Furthermore, the felicity and deliverance spoken of here is not found in hell, but only in the presence of the Father. The meaning of what Christ said here to the thief is that both of us, who now suffer, will this day be in Paradise, in the place of eternal salvation and blessedness, free from all these tortures. But paradise is neither hell nor is it in hell: the place of torment.
It is, therefore, evident that Christ declared that the thief would be with Him in paradise, not with him as to his Divinity, but his soul, which suffered with his body.
While on the cross, the Divinity of Christ was with the thief, which explains the deliverance that took place there. Christ did not suffer nor was He delivered according to his Divinity, but according to His soul.
c) If Christ descended into hell (his soul), He descended either that He might suffer something there or that He might deliver the fathers from that place, as the Papists believe. But He could not descend to suffer anything because while hanging on the cross He said, 'It is finished' (John 19:30).
Neither did He descend to liberate the fathers,
i. Because He accomplished that already by his suffering on earth.
ii. He accomplished the liberation of the elect by the power and efficacy of his Godhead from the very beginning of the world and not by any local descent of his body or soul into hell.
iii. The fathers were not in hell in the first place, therefore, they could not be liberated from there. The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God the Father and they do not suffer any pain but eternal ecstasy from which no deliverance is necessary. (Luke 16:26). Lazarus was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom and not into Limbus Patrum as the Papists believe.
There are those who believe that the soul of Christ descended into hell after his death that He might there make an open display of his victory and strike terror into the minds of the devils. There is no testimony in Scripture that supports this theory.
The proponents of this theory quote I Peter 3:19 as if it is in opposition to the view which we have presented. It behooves us to carefully look at this passage since it is possible to misunderstand what is said here.
To see through whom Christ went, we need to start at verse 18:
I 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 19through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.
Christ went, that is, he was sent, in his Divinity, through the Holy Spirit by the Father to the church from the very beginning to the spirits in prison, that is in hell; he who disobeyed long ago, which is before the flood when they were disobedient in the time of Noah. Therefore, it was then that Christ preached by the fathers, inviting the disobedient to repentance.
Furthermore, although Peter speaks of the descent of Christ into hell, yet this is not the meaning of our opponents, but of the Papists who insist that Christ preached to the fathers in hell, and delivered them, a theory Scripture does not support and we, therefore, totally reject.
Similarly, the expression of I Peter 4:6 may lead to confusion:
I Peter 4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
Scripture undeniably supports this passage as that the gospel was preached to those who had already died by the time Peter wrote this passage but who were living at the time when the gospel was preached to them.
In Ephesians 4:9 and 10 we read:
"What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe."
If one understands the 'lower earthly regions' as hell, it is to disregard the meaning of what is said here. There is a contrast presented here by Scripture between the highest place (heaven) and the lowest place (a grave on earth) to illustrate the deepest humiliation of Christ. There is no contrasting of the different parts of earth here, but Christ's highest glory versus his lowest suffering and humiliation.
These passages establish nothing in relation to the descent of the soul of Christ into hell for the purpose of striking terror into the hearts of devils. After his death, when he had said it is finished, the soul of Christ rested in the hands of the Father to whom he had commended it. It is unlikely that the glorification of Christ would take its beginning in hell, as they propose it.
The terror of the devils originates from God's announcement of the Covenant of Grace after the fall in the Garden and not because of Christ's so-called visit to hell to strike terror into their hearts, as is evident from many passages in Scripture testifying that the devils know God well. Two of the most striking are:
Luke 4:34 "Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!"
Luke 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!"
There would have been no need for Christ to descend into hell to strike terror into the hearts of the devils. They already knew what their fate was. Satan failed in leading Jesus astray in the desert and he failed to stop Christ from making his sacrifice. Without doubt the devil saw that he was entirely disarmed and conquered by the death and resurrection of Christ. From the announcement of the Covenant Satan was terrified, knowing that his demise was imminent. There was no need to descend anywhere to accomplish this.
What, then, does this descent of Christ into hell signify?
It signifies those extreme torments, pains and anguish, which Christ suffered in his soul. It embraces also the greatest and most extreme dishonor and humiliation, which Christ suffered during the whole period of his passion. Scripture sufficiently teaches and confirms that this comprehension of Christ's descent into hell is the correct and appropriate doctrine of the gospel.
Psalm 116:3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
I Samuel 2:6 The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.
Isaiah 53:6 - 11 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the LORD'S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11After 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.
Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, <"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?">--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The following arguments prove the same thing:
a) Christ was to redeem not only our bodies, but also our souls. Therefore, it was necessary that he suffered not only in body but also in his soul.
b) It was necessary for Christ to deliver us from the anguish and pains of hell. Therefore, it became him to experience these. And this He did before his death and not after. Neither was it in his body that He endured these things, for the sufferings of his body were only external. Therefore, He suffered them in his soul.
c) It is proper that we take notice of the severe torments and anguish of his soul, which were the heaviest part of his sufferings, and if we do not confess that He descended into hell, we would overlook this most crucial redemptive work of Christ, which would be intolerable. The articles of the Apostles Creed arrange the humiliation of Christ in a specific order, namely, from the lightest to the heaviest, and not in the order of their occurrence.
His humiliation began with his conception and was followed in order of severity by his birth, suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and descent into hell. One cannot claim that, according to the Apostles Creed, Christ's descending into hell follows his burial and, therefore, He must have descended into hell contrary to what Scripture teaches. As we have said before, the order of Christ's suffering, as found in the Creed, is from the less severe to the extreme pinnacle of his suffering, his deepest torment.
2. What are the benefits of Christ's descent into hell?
Christ descended into hell,
a) That I would not be cast into that pit and that I may be delivered from the eternal anguish and torments of hell.
b) That He might carry me to heaven, through the grave, so that this death becomes a mere passageway that leads safely from this life to God's throne of grace, without any agony, anguish, torment, pain or terror.
To summarize: To believe in Christ, who descended into hell, is to believe that He sustained for us, in his own soul, hellish agonies and pains. The extreme humility and dishonor that awaits the ungodly in hell would never be in our path and we would never have to go there. We would, also, never be compelled to suffer the pains and torments that all the devils and reprobate will forever suffer in hell, but that, on the contrary, we might rather ascend with him to heaven and there with him enjoy the greatest felicity and glory to all eternity.
This is the fruit and benefit of Christ's descent into hell.
We took a brief detour to look into the concepts of "a slain Lamb" and Christ's blood as a sacrifice for our sins as we encountered them in Revelation 5:9 and 10.
It is the distinction as the One worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, that Christ earned when He purchased with his blood the entire creation from the just wrath of God. Now, being the sole owner of everything that has been made, Christ alone has the power of justification and condemnation.
Matthew 25:31 - 33 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All 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. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 17:1, 2 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you, 2for you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
The Holy Spirit's application of Christ's blood and merit to the elect, through faith, causes them alone to escape the wrath of God that is now administered through the judgment throne of Christ. "All the nations will be gathered before him…"
Christ's blood has no value to anyone but the elect since the wrath of God is still poured out on those who do not believe and they suffer their just desert. This passage is Scripture proof that the blood of Christ has not been poured out for everybody but only those whom God gave to Christ. When we say that Christ also purchased all of creation with his blood, it is in the context of Him receiving authority over everything because of his sacrifice, which has no saving value for the reprobate.
This rescue of the elect from the bondage of sin overshadows every previous rescue that God has engineered for his people. Even the exodus from Egypt pales in comparison. Israel's liberation from Egyptian bondage was bound up with the rescue of their firstborn from the plague of death. The application of the blood of the Passover lamb to the Israelites' doorposts signaled that their firstborn children, like those of their Egyptian oppressors, were liable to the angels' deathblow unless an unblemished substitute died in their place.
In succeeding generations firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to the Lord in remembrance of that night, but firstborn children were to be redeemed through the presentation of an offering a the sanctuary. Asaph, the psalmist, recalls the exodus in asking God to
Psalm 74:2, 3 Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed--Mount Zion, where you dwelt. 3Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
Verse 9 is also proof text that the elect does not come from one nation, but from every tribe, language and people and nation, and that they have the same titles as Israel, such as 'kingdom' and 'priests'.
Exodus 19:6 You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.
The words of verse 10 indicates that we not only now belong to Christ, but we have also been appointed to fulfill duties in the service of God's kingdom, and that we have work to do.
I Peter 2:9, 10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Psalm 22:30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Revelation 1:6 And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.