Faithlife Sermons

The Savior from Separation

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During my time with you I’d like for us to look at a portion of the Apostles Creed and how it shows us the great length Jesus took on our behalf.
One section we will look at in particular is very controversial and polarizing and that is “He descended into hell.” I don’t think it has to be either of those things but it can be a statement that points us to the reality of what separation from God looks like and the extent God was willing to take so that we did not have to experience it. There’s your outline for tonight.
So, if you would join me as I read from scripture this evening.
Read Matthew 27:45-54
Before we go anywhere, we must first set the tone for what was happening and what brought us to the events we just read about in Matthew.
Jesus has led an earthly ministry of loving God and loving others.
He has been teaching His disciples.
He has had this superstar moment of riding into Jerusalem as the crowd cheered for Him.
He celebrated Passover with His disciples and points out who would betray Him.
He washed His disciples feet.
He sought solitude in the Garden to pray.
He was betrayed and arrested.
He was tried for a crime He did not commit.
The same crowds that cheered Him, condemned Him.
He was stripped of his clothing.
A crown of thorns was put on His head.
He was mocked, spat on, beaten and flogged...
Beaten to the point that his flesh was ripped from His body. His body was bruised beyond anything we can fathom.
He then was forced to carry a cross.....a cross that He would be nailed to.....a cross that He would hang on for hours ....a cross that He would take on the full wrath of God.....a cross that He would die on.
He endured this torment for some 6 hours. Then we see in our passage darkness came over the land and Jesus who had endured so much to this point, endures more as we see the separation we deserve placed on Jesus as God the Father abandons Him. Most of the time we refer to our punishment for sin as death and that’s not accurate but it is so much more than just death, it’s complete separation from the father. No more of a worse punishment can there be and we see here that Jesus takes that from us.....
And then He cries out.

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Then in a continued act of torment He is given wine vinegar to drink and is mocked by those who are witnessing this.
And then Jesus cries out one more time “IT IS FINISHED.”
Isaiah 53:5 ESV
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Now, reflect on this for a moment. Up to this point, for most if not all of us this was enough. He endured so much, He took on the full wrath of God. But yet it doesn’t stop there.
Jesus goes on to be buried in a tomb. And at this point in the Creed it tells us He descended into Hell. Now there is much speculation on what that means I wish for us not to get too bogged down and miss the point here.
There are many takes on what this means and for our purposes tonight I plan to take the literal approach of what it is saying. Now keep in mind Creeds are man made synopsis of scriptural truths so there is always room for error but I think the Apostles Creed is very much still applicable to us.
The first thing we must realize that Christ did was He died.....He literally died. He didn’t act out a death. He didn’t just show us what dying was...... He died.

Jesus just doesn’t know what it’s like to die...........He fully understands what it’s like to be dead.

And so for us as humans and sinners we have a savior not only who knows what life has to offer. The pains, the sufferings, the joys but he knows death.
Pastor and Speaker Ligon Duncan says this:
The Bible tells us that Jesus’ incarnation made him a high priest who is able to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. And that means that he is a more effective high priest than he would have been or could have been had he not known the fullness of what it is to be human and experience that with and for us. There are a variety of ways that that’s manifested. One is that Jesus in his own life and experience dealt with and encountered the same range of human problems in the fallen world that we do, that God in the flesh knows the same kind of heartaches and sorrows and disappointments and betrayals and wounds that anyone who lives in this fallen world experiences. This is not something theoretical to him, this is not something that he stood off in the deep bowels of space, in the dusty past of eternity and speculated about. It’s something that he came into the world in our poor flesh, in our poor blood and experienced himself.
— Dr. J Ligon Duncan III
And so Jesus died. Many ask the question, where did he go? According to the Creed, he descended into Hell.
Now, one thing we all must wrestle with is how is all this even possible. The answers are not many, but as the popular phrase says-God works in mysterious ways and that is something we must get comfortable with when serving a Sovereign God. It doesn’t always make sense. It doesn’t always work in our minds but God allows Divine Mysteries to happen. And I think this is an instance of that here.

Jesus experienced death as all humans do—his body was buried and his soul departed to the place of the dead—and in so doing, by virtue of his divinity, he defeated death and the grave. - Matthew Emerson (He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday).

The easiest way to explain this is He went to the place of the dead. In the O.T. it is called Sheol, in the N.T. it is called Hades. This word is often translated for English as Hell. That probably isn’t the best way to look at it as it’s somewhat inadequate to describe them.
But we do see in the N.T. a word used also as hell is Gehenna in many places, which means a place of torment. Its used several times in Mathew 5. Scripture does not tell us that Jesus went to Gehenna. But what it does say very clearly and boldly is that He died and this part of the Creed clearly defines that for us.
If he did go, why?
There is two possible answers to this:
To free the believing saints who were waiting for this moment.
We see in 1 Peter 3 where Peter is speaking of Jesus freeing the imprisoned Spirits. The word here is to watched or guarded. It shows Him proclaiming victory to O.T. saints such as Noah. We see this idea backed up in Hebrews 11 as it is sings the praises of the testimonies of the O.T. saints. In verse 39, it tells us that they were commended through their faith but were apart from it as they had not received the promise of God, but now all believers through Christ are made perfect. Christ going to them shows His victory and bringing them into that perfection so that they are no longer apart from us.
For other reading on this, we see similar language used in Luke 16:19-31 where the rich man and Lazarus find themselves in Hades. Lazarus is safely found with Abraham, but the rich man is found in torment and agony. Abraham tells him of this great chasm between them. This would indicate to me that Abraham and Lazarus are safely in Hades, the place of the dead without torment, but the rich man is clearly in Gehenna.
Psalm 16:10 ESV
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
Acts 2:29–31 ESV
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Peter is drawing directly from Psalm 16 and reminding us that King David, a patriarch of the faith, believed that God was not going to abandon Him. He would not be left in the place of the dead because a descendant of his would come.........Christ the Lord....and free all who believe. David trusted the promise of God and God’s promises are to be trusted.
2. To fully experience the separation from God and the human condition so that it’s defeat would be made 100% complete.
We have to reflect on the immensity of that for a moment. The extent God was willing to go to for you. Christ took on the full punishment. The punishment was not just death, it was separation from the father.
Christ was willing to take it all on so that he could truly defeat sins debt.
2 Corinthians 5:21 CSB
21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
How does that make you feel church? This isn’t something we should be lamenting. This is our joy made complete.
This is what bonds us together as believers....Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, His separation from the father and his defeat of that separation.
Understand this......i often hear people will say....”Sunday is coming” or post about that....and it is and that is something to rejoice in but do not think for a single moment that Jesus’ death is not something to be rejoice in, nor think for a moment Jesus was sitting idly by from Friday to Sunday.
Jesus was doing more in those three days than any of us will do in our whole lives.
Christ our King was taking care of business...... And that business was defeating our eternal separation from the father because of our sin.
That’s what leads us into the next part of the Creed. For whatever controversy this part has we find our hope in the next.
He wins! That means we win! If place our trust in Him, we have won the battle through Christ.
Ephesians 2:1–7 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Paul is reminding us here that we were all once spiritually dead and subject to God’s wrath but because of His mercy He.....don’t forget that He, not you, not me provided salvation for us by His grace through our faith......not our good works, not all the nice things we do but by faith so that we can’t take credit for something we didn’t do.
Our faith must be found in Christ Jesus…our High Priest.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


So tonight I invite you to reflect on these truths of God. Found in His Holy Scriptures.
By our sin alone we deserved separation but God knowing we could never atone for that. We could never be good enough for that sent His Son to suffer and die and be separated from the Father. To endure our punishment.
But despite of our inabilities we serve a God who is completely able. And he conquered what we could not.
Jesus tells us “
John 14:6 CSB
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
All we must do to experience the forgiveness we need that He bought with His payment on the cross is to believe....that He is the way, the truth and the life for us. Through Him we reach our Father in Heaven.
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