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Does belief precede salvation?

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In John's Gospel, we are told that "whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them" (John 3:36). How we understand this statement  largely depends on the theological lens through which we read (and so interpret) this text. If our lens is a theology of separation, we likely will understand John's statement to mean that God stands separate from and in wrath against all people *until* they believe in Jesus, at which point God (for the first time) enters their lives, ceases to be wrathful toward them, and grants them eternal life. But is that interpretation justified? We answer no, because it is inconsistent with what Scripture tells us about who God is, as revealed in the person of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. According to that revelation, rather than separate from sinners, God is a friend of sinners, the God who is with us and for us, the God of love who, in Jesus, died for us,…

The descent of Jesus (part 8)

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This post concludes an exploration of Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For previous posts in this series, click a number: 1234567.     In concluding his book, Dawson offers this summary:  In the events from cross to resurrection, Jesus opened up the prison of Sheol. Jesus traversed the lost lands of the realm that follows dying. Jesus hazarded this sojourn in order to blaze a road to life in the trackless desert. He plumbed the inky abyss of separation from God in order to shine in the place where once no light could penetrate. Jesus made hell unnecessary and no longer inevitable. Now he is the experienced guide as he takes us into everlasting life. (p. 103)  Dawson is pointing out both the objective and subjective implications of Jesus' great transit of mercy -- his journey of descent and ascent. In an objective (universal) sense, that journey delivered all humanity from the headship of Adam to the headship of Jesus, thus changing forever …

The descent of Jesus (part 7)

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This post continues a series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 123, 4, 5, 6, 8. Last time, we explored the significance for all humanity of Jesus' descent on Holy Saturday into the realm of the dead (Hades/Sheol). We now continue that exploration, looking at the significance of Jesus' ascent out of Sheol on Easter (Resurrection Sunday).

Descended to death in order to ascend to lifeReflecting on Jesus' Holy Saturday descent into Sheol on our behalf, Dawson notes that the arc of the Savior's descent ended with a splash into the bottomless sea of death. His great transit of mercy took him beneath the depths of all our dying. He dropped out of his body, out of our time, out of any place we know, still unaware of his Father's favor or his victory over sin. Saturday marked the farthest reach of his descent. (p. 91)The Psalter was Jesus' prayer book, and while in Sheol, he may well…

The descent of Jesus (part 6)

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This post continues a series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 5, 78.
Last time, we looked at the steps in Jesus' journey of descent on Maundy Thursday evening and Good Friday. Now we'll explore what happened to him on Holy Saturday and why it matters. 


Scripture declares that on Holy Saturday (which, by Jewish reckoning, began at sunset Friday), the human body of Jesus lay dead in the tomb. Scripture then suggests that Jesus' human spirit, now departed from the body, descended into the realm of the dead (Hades in Greek; Sheol in Hebrew). Like the other steps in Jesus' great transit of mercy, Our Lord's descent into Sheol has great significance in salvation history. Though some object to the implication that something needed to be added to Jesus' death on the cross to accomplish our salvation, Dawson reminds us that   the cross was not a single moment, but a series o…

The descent of Jesus (part 5)

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This post continues a series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 678.  Last time, we continued exploring our Lord's great transit of mercy -- considering the meaning and impact of several incidents in Jesus' three-year public ministry. We come now to what Jesus experienced on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, as he descended even further into our God-forsaken hell and death in order to lift us out of both. As Dawson notes, Jesus orchestrated these Holy Week events so that "his passion would occur at the feast of Passover. He would be the Paschal lamb. He would lead his people through the sea of death to the Promised Land of communion and life" (p. 60). Jesus' descent for us comes now to a great crescendo of sorrow and suffering on our behalf.Entering sorrowOn Thursday evening of Holy Week, Jesus gathered his disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem where he "sym…

The descent of Jesus (part 4)

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This post continues a series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 3, 5678.
Last time, we began exploring the steps in what Dawson refers to as Jesus' great transit of mercy -- the passage our Lord undertook for our salvation. This post looks at additional steps -- ones by which Jesus encountered, then defeated, three formidable enemies of humankind: sin, death, and the devil.

Battling sin: descending to the circle of shame John 8:1-11 tells of Jesus' encounter with the woman taken in adultery, and with the Jewish religious authorities who arrested her -- placing her in what Dawson calls "the circle of shame." That circle quickly became "the circle of condemnation" as the authorities, in a misuse of the Law of Moses, took up stones to execute her. Jesus, the righteous one, responded to her quite differently, standing "with the sinful woman in the circle of shame&…

The descent of Jesus (part 3)

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This post continues a series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 4, 5678.
Last time, we looked at Jesus' descent on Holy Saturday to the realm of the dead (Hades in Greek, Sheol in Hebrew). We noted how the time Jesus spent in Sheol was part of the multi-step passage of descent and ascent that the incarnate Son of God undertook for our salvation. That passage began with the Incarnation, which Dawson calls "the great leap from heaven to womb." It continued through Jesus' life of faithful obedience and self-emptying love as he went about "undoing evil and reclaiming people from darkness." The journey came to a great crescendo when Jesus willingly "jumped up, so to speak, upon the cross," bearing our sin and yielding his life on our behalf. This was followed by Jesus' descent as he "tumbled down to the tomb." Then, from out of the realm of the …

The descent of Jesus (part 2)

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This post continues a series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 3, 4, 5678.
Last time, we noted the declaration of the Apostle's Creed that Jesus "descended into Hell." We pointed out that "Hell" translates the Greek word "Hades" and its Hebrew equivalent "Sheol," and that a better English translation is "realm of the dead." We then noted that Jesus' descent to the realm (condition) of the dead occurred on Holy Saturday, the day after Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday, and the day before his resurrection on Easter Sunday. But what happened to Jesus on Holy Saturday? And why is that important for our salvation? This post presents some of the answers that Dawson offers to these important questions.

The foundation of biblical testimony Dawson begins by laying a biblical foundation upon which to ground our understanding of what happened t…

The descent of Jesus (part 1)

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This post begins an eight-part series exploring Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell by Gerrit Dawson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 2, 34, 5678.
A few years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of reading Jesus Ascended, the Meaning of Christ's Continuing Incarnation in which pastor and Trinitarian theologian Gerrit Dawson unpacks the vital gospel truth that when Jesus the incarnate Son of God ascended to the Father after his resurrection, he did so bearing our humanity. Jesus, Gerrit reminds us, remains forever fully God and fully human (click here for key points in this powerful book).

Having been blessed by Jesus Ascended, I was pleased to learn of Gerrit's newest book, Raising Adam, Why Jesus Descended into Hell. It unpacks the profound implications for our salvation of Jesus' descent -- from heaven to earth via the incarnation, in his suffering throughout the course of his earthly life, and most particularly, his descent into death on our …

Our Response to God (Doctrine of the Spirit, part 7)

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This post concludes a series presenting "The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit" by Dr. Gary Deddo, President of Grace Communion Seminary. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1234, 5, 6.

Last time we noted various aspects of the Spirit's ministry to us both corporately and individually. As we now bring this series to a close, let's look at a primary aspect of the Spirit's ongoing ministry which involves enabling us to make a full and proper response to the truth and reality of who God is, and what he has done, is doing and will yet do in our world, church and individual lives.
The nature of our response to God The Holy Spirit works actively in our lives, both individually and corporately, to unbind our wills, unscramble our minds, and refashion our affections so that we can more fully respond with all that we are to all that God is. The Spirit frees us to be receptive at every level of who we are. However, it sometimes seems that we think the Spir…