“The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands” by Matthew Emerson

“The most important practical application of the descent, at least in my opinion, is that it means that Christ experienced death in the same way we do and also defeated it.

His human body went to the grave and His human soul went to the place of the (righteous) dead. This is not a natural state for humanity.

Death is an effect of the fall (Gen 3:17–19; Rom 6:23), and Jesus became fully human to the point that He experienced the fullness of death. He did not die one moment on the cross and rise the next moment but remained dead for three days.

This is a great comfort to those who are facing death or those who have lost loved ones. And those two categories encompass everyone on the planet.

When we, or those we love, face death, we can find assurance in the fact that Christ, too, has experienced death in all its fallen fullness. He really, truly died.

His soul was separated from His body for three days. This is just as we will remain dead and just as our souls will remain separated from our bodies until Christ returns.

Our Savior has gone before us.

Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the people of Israel through the wilderness for three days to find a place for them to rest (Num 10:33), so Christ has gone before us through the wilderness of Hades to prepare a place for us to rest in Him.

But He has not only experienced the fullness of human death; He has also defeated it. Death does not have the last word.

Those of us who trust Christ do not have hope only because Christ experienced it as we do, but because in it experiencing it as the God-Man He defeated it.

And one day He will expel it fully and finally from His presence and from our experience.

We do not remain dead, just as Christ did not remain dead, because Christ has defeated death in His death, descent, and resurrection.

Because Christ rose, we long for the day when we will rise with Him and dwell, bodily, with Him forever on the new heavens and new earth.

This should also bring believers comfort here on earth as they experience evil, suffering, oppression, and all other effects of sin. Christ’s descent answers the problem of evil because in it (and His death and resurrection) He has defeated the principalities and powers (Col 2:15).

The descent, then, ought to be a great comfort to those facing death, whether their own or a loved one’s. It is part of the reason we grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thess 4:13).

When we cite Paul’s statement in funeral contexts, it is usually to point to the resurrection. And that is right and good, and the ultimate grounds of such hopeful grieving.

But in the meantime, while we think of our departed dead, while we walk in their graveyards and look at their ashes and remember their lives, while we ponder our own deaths, and while we consider how long it is, O Lord, until the Second Coming, we do so with hope.

We hope because Christ also remained buried in the grave, buried with us and for us. We hope because we have a High Priest who has experienced death as we all will, if the Lord tarries.

We hope because we have an advocate who has experienced the pain of death and yet has done so victoriously, rising from it and drawing us with Him on the last day.

We therefore dig our graves, facing toward the East, knowing that as our bodies decompose, our souls remain with Christ, awaiting the day when He will with loud trumpets return and reunite our bodies and souls so that we can live with Him forever by the power of His Spirit to the glory of the Father.

Charles Hill summarizes this hope well:

Christ descended into Hades so that you and I would not have to. Christ descended to Hades so that we might ascend to heaven. Christ entered the realm of death, the realm of the strong enemy, and came away with his keys.

The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands. And God His Father has exalted Him to His right hand, and given Him another key, the key of David, the key to the heavenly Jerusalem.

He opens and no one will shut, He shuts and no one will open (Rev. 3:7). And praise to Him, as the hymn says, “For He hath op’ed the heavenly door, and man is blessed forever more.”

All praise and honor and glory to the Lamb who has conquered! “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth” (Rev. 14:13).

And blessed are we here and now, who even now have this hope, and a fellowship with our Savior which is stronger than death! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.”

–Matthew Y. Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019), 219–221.

“Everyone is a legalist at heart” by Sinclair Ferguson

“It cannot be too strongly emphasized that everyone is a legalist at heart.

Indeed, if anything, that is the more evident in antinomians.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 86.

“There’s cleansing in His blood” by John Calvin

“When we see salvation whole— its every single part
is found in Christ,
we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop
from somewhere else.

If we seek salvation,
the very name of Jesus
teaches us
that He possesses it.

If other Spirit-given gifts are sought— in His anointing they are found;
strength— in His reign; and purity— in His conception;
tenderness— expressed in His nativity,
in which He was made like us in all respects, that He might feel our pain:

Redemption when we seek it, is in His passion found;
acquittal— in His condemnation lies;
and freedom from the curse— in His cross is known.
If satisfaction for our sins we seek— we’ll find it in His sacrifice.

There’s cleansing in His blood.
And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it He entered Hades;
if mortification of our flesh— then in His tomb it’s laid.
And newness of our life— His resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift.

And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance,
His entry there secures it now
with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound
—all flowing from His kingly reign.

The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings,
These blessings of all kinds, is this:
from nowhere else than him can they be drawn;
For they are ours in Christ alone.”

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19, 1559 Latin ed., translation and versification by Sinclair B. Ferguson, as quoted in The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 55-56.

“The central fact of the entire history of the world” by Herman Bavinck

“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.

Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.

Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.

The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.

The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.

The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.

Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.

The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.

“Lord God of ineffable goodness” by John Chrysostom

“Lord God,

of might inconceivable,

of glory incomprehensible,

of mercy immeasurable,

of goodness ineffable;

O Master, look down upon us

in Your tender love,

and show forth towards us

Your rich mercies and compassions.

In Christ’s name, Amen.”

—John Chrysostom, as quoted in Jonathan Gibson, Be Thou My Vision: A Liturgy for Daily Worship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 112.

“Salvation flows from its deep source in the triune God” by Fred Sanders

“Salvation flows from its deep source in the triune God, who is the fountain of salvation.

This phrase, fountain of salvation, goes back at least to a Latin hymn from the sixth century that praises God as fons salutis Trinitas. As one English translation renders the lines, ‘Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring, may every soul Thy praises sing.’

The sense that the nature of salvation is only understood properly when it is traced back into its principle in the depth of God’s being is evoked by Scripture’s own way of speaking.

The Old Testament bears witness to it in an intensely personal idiom, as for instance in Isaiah 12:2’s confident boast, ‘Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.’

The connection here between God and salvation is direct: He is it.

When Isaiah goes on to spell out an implication of salvation being in God, that is, that there is exuberant resourcefulness to be drawn from, then he uses our fontal image: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (Isaiah 12:3)

According to Christian teaching, salvation’s source is God, and the manifestation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gospel is what opens up that fountain in its fullness and depth.”

–Fred Sanders, Fountain of Salvation: Trinity and Soteriology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021), 14-15, 17.

“No one was ever saved other than by grace” by A.W. Tozer

“No one was ever saved other than by grace, from Abel to the present moment. Since mankind was banished from the east-ward Garden, none has ever returned to the divine favor except through the sheer goodness of God.

And wherever grace found any man it was always by Jesus Christ. Grace indeed came by Jesus Christ, hut it did not wait for His birth in the manger or His death on the cross before it became operative.

Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The first man in human history to be reinstated in the fellowship of God came through faith in Christ.

In olden times men looked forward to Christ’s redeeming work; in later times they gaze back upon it, but always they came and they come by grace, through faith.

We must keep in mind also that the grace of God is infinite and eternal. As it had no beginning, so it can have no end, and being an attribute of God, it is as boundless as infinitude.

Instead of straining to comprehend this as a theological truth, it would be better and simpler to compare God’s grace with our need.

We can never know the enormity of our sin, neither is it necessary that we should. What we can know is that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ (Rom. 5:20)”

—A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1961/1978), 148-149.

“God photographs Himself” by Herman Bavinck

What is prescribed in this commandment? (Exodus 20:4-6)

God alone has the right to determine how He wants to be served. God must be worshiped and served in the way He Himself has commanded– that is, only according to His Word.

Nonetheless, there lingers deep in our soul the yearning to see God (Ex. 33:18).

Therefore, God says:

You will find no image of Me in any creature; that would dishonor Me. But if you want an image, take a look at Adam, at human beings, who are created in My likeness. Above all, look at the Son, the Image of the Invisible God, God’s One and Only Firstborn, God’s other I, the expression of His self-sufficiency.

Whoever sees Him sees the Father. As Christ is, so is God. He is the perfect likeness, the adequate Image.

Let us be satisfied with that. God may be venerated with no other image than the Son. Beholding Him and venerating Him, we are changed into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18).

God wants, as it were, to multiply images of Himself, to see nothing but images, likenesses, portraits of Himself.

Human beings themselves must be God’s image, and not make pieces of wood or stone into God’s image. The new humanity in Christ, from all sides and everyone in their own way, reflects and mirrors God.

God is mirrored in us; we are mirrored in God. ‘When [Christ] appears, we shall be like Him [and like the Father] because we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2).

God makes images of Himself in us. But not we of God. God photographs Himself.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 174-175.

“He is conceived in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit in Mary” by Herman Bavinck

“Promised under the Old Testament as the Messiah who is to come as a descendant of a woman of Abraham, Judah, and David, He is conceived in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit in Mary (Matt. 1:20) and born of her, of a woman (Gal. 4:4).

He is her son (Luke 2:7), the fruit of her womb (Luke 1:42), a descendant of David and Israel according to the flesh (Acts 2:30; Rom. 1:3; 9:5), sharing in our flesh and blood, like us in all things, sin excepted (Heb. 2:14, 17–18; 4:15; 5:1); a true human, the Son of Man (Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Tim. 2:5), growing up as an infant (Luke 2:40, 52), experiencing hunger (Matt. 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), weeping (Luke 19:41; John 11:35), being moved (John 12:27), feeling grief (Matt. 26:38), being furious (John 2:17), suffering, dying.

For Scripture it is so much an established fact that Christ came in the flesh that it calls the denial of it anti-Christian (1 John 2:22). And it teaches that Christ assumed not only a true but also a complete human nature.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 296.

“This is the heart of the gospel” by Herman Bavinck

“There is one mediator between God and humanity, the true God-man Jesus Christ.

This is the heart of the gospel.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 237.