Prison Ministry (Ephesians #20)

Text: Ephesians 4:9-10

Most people have no problem believing in heaven or some better place.  People fundamentally understand this world is not in good shape and there is something better.  But what’s harder to believe in is a place called Hell.  How could God be so mean?  How could he take people and cast them into hell?  Even though people accept that the government has authority to put criminals in a prison separated from law abiding citizens. The Lord descended first into the lower parts of the earth (vs 9).  The Lord Jesus Christ descends into the heart of the earth and preaches to the disobedient the coming judgment.  Then he brings some of those obedient souls imprisoned by Death up and out of their graves.  This morning we’re going to consider the Lord’s prison ministry.

Where did the dead go?

  • A dead body would return to dust eventually.  But what about the soul?  Before the Lord resurrected from the dead, what happened to the souls of men?
  • In the heart of the earth is where this place called Death is located.  Within that place God made a separation for the devil and his angels and the souls of men.  Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels.  Death was prepared for people awaiting glorified bodies since the physical part of man, his flesh and blood had become corrupt.  Since the soul is precious and eternal to the Lord, he planned to provide those righteous souls with new bodies one day.  The way that would be done is through God manifest in the flesh, Jesus Christ, subduing the flesh and blood to the Spirit of God his entire lifetime.  That way he would gain victory over flesh and blood and offer that victory to righteous souls in the form of an incorruptible body.
  • The problem arose immediately after Adam that men were dying in unrighteousness and instead of being able to reside in Paradise until a new body could be given them, they had to be thrown into hell; the prison prepared for the devil and his angels.
    • Luke 16 the rich man cast into hell where God never intended him to be and he is burning and tormented.
    • Numbers 16:32-33 Korah, Dathan, and Abiram are swallowed up by the earth into a pit.
    • This pit is a bottomless pit (Revelation 9).  It’s bottomless because of its shape, not because of it goes down forever.  It’s bottomless because it is a fiery void inside the earth.  No top, no bottom.  But there are sides.  Isaiah 14:15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
  • The righteous souls went to another place in the earth called Paradise.
    • In the same account of the rich man in Luke 16, there is a poor man named Lazarus.  He is carried to a place of comfort and rest.  And there is a great gulf between the two places (Luke 16:26).  It’s like the rich man is in Alcatraz and Lazarus is on the beach.  And Alcatraz is on fire, but there is nothing anyone on the beach can do about it.
    • Samuel is disquieted when he comes up.  1 Samuel 28:13-15
    • Jesus Christ takes the thief to paradise in Luke 23:43.  Remember, that day both the Lord Jesus Christ and the thief are both dead on the crosses.  The soul of the Lord is in the heart of the earth and that is where the thief goes.
    • After his resurrection, Paradise is in a different place (2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7).

God’s prison for carnal corruption

  • Hell had always been a place for spiritual beings corrupted by sin that resided in flesh and blood (Jude 6-7).  Punishment and judgment from God was meted out to carnal
  • Deuteronomy 32:22 For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
  • Psalm 55:15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell:
  • Proverbs 15:24 The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
  • Proverbs 7:27 Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

God’s power to conquer sin

  • Jesus Christ lived in flesh and blood dealing with all the temptation that comes with carnal corruption, yet without sin.  So he conquers sin in the flesh.  He subdues corruption under incorruption by yielding his own flesh and blood to the spirit of God all the days of his life.
    • Sometimes we look for victory without a fight and things don’t work that way.
    • Even God himself when preparing an incorruptible body for his people came down and personally defeated sin in the flesh so He could offer an incorruptible body to his people.
  • The Bible says in Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
  • While Jesus Christ’s body lay in a grave like Jonah’s body lay in the whale, his soul went down into hell.  Acts 2:27, 31 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption…He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
  • After the Lord Jesus Christ has subdued sin and secured for himself an incorruptible body by never yielding to the temptations in the flesh, he lays the body down in the grave and himself, his soul, goes down into the heart of the earth.

God preaches victory over flesh and blood

  • 1 Peter 3:18-20 To the disobedient ones.  Why site Noah?  Because that was the first time He decided to destroy the entire world because of what flesh and blood had become.  Even to corrupting part of the angelic host.  
  • 1 Peter 4:1-6 To the obedient ones.  Flesh has already been destroyed.
  • Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
  • Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
  • Matthew 27:52-53 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.