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Silent Saturday


Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”                                      -Luke 24:46-47

Last week we looked at the burial of Jesus Christ.

We saw how Joseph and Nicodemus gave great care to take Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrap it in clean linen, and place it in Joseph’s unused tomb before sundown. They intended to come back on Sunday and embalm Jesus’ body!

But where was Jesus’ spirit when His body was in the tomb?

Sometimes we refer to the time Jesus’ body was in the tomb as “Silent Saturday!”

On Good Friday, Jesus dies on the cross; On Resurrection Sunday, He rises from the dead. But what was happening on Silent Saturday?

From outward appearances, not much!

Jesus’ disciples were bewildered and grieving His death, to be sure. Most of the Religious leaders were thinking they had gotten rid of their “Jesus problem.” Pilate was probably wondering how he would “spin” it all to his superiors.

But when you connect the dots that the Bible gives us, a whole lot more was happening on Silent Saturday in the spiritual realm.

Remember what Jesus said to the thief that turned to Him and asked Jesus to remember him?

“Don’t you fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are being punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “I assure you: today you will be with Me in paradise!”    -Luke 23:40-43

A few weeks ago we thought about that together. If Jesus wasn’t going to rise from the dead until Sunday, how could He promise that repentant thief beside Him that “TODAY” he would be with Jesus in paradise?

We can say that since the Lord is not bound by time, it’s always “today” with Him! That’s a good and true answer, but I think there is something more to say!

Let’s start by looking at Jesus’ teaching on the rich man and Lazarus…

One day the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a far way off, with Lazarus at his side. “Father Abraham!” he called out, “Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!”

“Son,” Abraham said, “Remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.”           -Luke 16:22-26 

Here is an artist’s rendition of what that looked like.  

Departed Unrighteous/ Pit              CHASM                  Departed Righteous/Paradise

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How does the Rich Man and Lazarus teaching square with Old Testament teaching?      Very well!

It appears that before Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, the place called Sheol (Hebrew language) or Hades (Greek language), was the place where all dead people went, but had two “compartments.”

Jacob spoke of Sheol as the place he would go if he died of grief:

“Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.”            -Genesis 37:35

So there’s a guy that loved God knowing that after he died he would be in Sheol.

In Deuteronomy God speaks of those He is judging being in a lower part of Sheol:

For a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol.                                                                                                            -Deuteronomy 32:22

Elsewhere the Bible seems to refer to this part of Sheol as the pit.

Then the fifth angel sounded and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth, and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.               -Revelation 9:1

In I Samuel Hannah expresses faith that there is life after Sheol for people of faith:

The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.                                    -                                                                                   1 Samuel 2:6

Last week we saw Psalm 16 speak of the Messiah not being abandoned in Sheol:

For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.                  –Psa. 16:10

This hope is also expressed for all OT believers in Psalm 49:15…

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah.                         -Psalm 49:15

But how can God redeem believers from the power of Sheol?

By the blood of Christ, shed in His atoning sacrifice for us on the cross!

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me, and said, “Don’t be afraid!  I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.      -Revelation 1:17-18

Before the cross Old Testament believers looked forward in faith to what Christ would do for them (Isaiah 53); We look back by faith on what Christ has done for us, and commemorate it by taking the Lord’s Supper together.

All of this was God’s layaway program! Do you remember layaway programs? You would purchase something in advance, but could not take it home until the final payment was made.

When an Old Testament saint died, they went to the good part of Sheol awaiting Christ’s work on the cross. Once it was made, they could go on to Heaven.

So where did Christ’s spirit go while His body was in the tomb?

Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. For it says: When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people. But what does “He ascended” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? The One who descended is the same as the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.                 -Ephesians 4:7-10

We are told there that when Jesus ascended on high, after descending to the lower parts of the earth, He took prisoners with Him.

I believe that language is speaking of how He had redeemed them!

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He may bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared; in it, a few – that is, eight people – were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now that He has gone into Heaven, He is at God’s right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.     -I Peter 3:18-22

Early Christians used the ark as a symbol of salvation from judgment.

When Noah and the other seven were in the ark, they were spared from judgment. When you and I are in Christ, we are spared The Great White Throne judgment.

What did Jesus preach there in Sheol? Not a long message, just the simple truth.

To the saints He probably said something like this, with the repentant thief at his side –

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of one of His saints. Get ready to come with me.”

But to those on the other side, those who had never admitted their sin and rebellion against God and cried out to Him for salvation, Jesus probably said something like this –

“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; Oh that you had repented and believed God; You have to stay here until the Great White Throne Judgment – and then you will go to the Lake of Fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”

Then He will say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”            -Matthew 25:41

That is speaking of the Lake of Fire, which is the final place unbelievers will wind up in; the temporary place is Sheol/Hades.

I believe after Christ’s resurrection believers now go directly to the presence of the Lord in Heaven, while unbelievers still go to Sheol/ Hades.

2 Corinthians 5 explicitly tells us that for believers – “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!”

Look what Matthew says happened after Christ’s resurrection:

The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had gone to their rest were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.  –Matt. 27:52-53

From this I gather that the saints in Heaven now have some type of transitional bodies now before the new body they will receive later on! It’s a mystery – but we do know that Enoch and Elijah both were raptured directly to Heaven.

Look what John writes in Revelation:

Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. Earth and Heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. I also saw the dead, the great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.          -Revelation 20:11-15  

This is what the Apostles Creed, going back to the early church, had in mind when it said of Jesus:

…He was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

A whole lot was happening on Silent Saturday!

When we get baptized we are expressing our faith that just as the preacher will lift us out of the water, which represent death, Christ will raise us up as well!

When we take the Lord’s Supper we are expressing our faith that the only reason we are going to Heaven is because of Christ’s body broken for us, His blood shed for us!

Credit card/ Debit Card analogy.

Sinner’s Prayer