The Apostles Creed states that Jesus descended into hell, which is a translation of the word, sheol. Hebrew has only one word for hell and death and that is sheol. The emphasis should not be on destination, but isolation. Death means to be separate from, which is what Jesus was experiencing on the cross and why He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken Me.” Between the excruciating pain of the crucifixion and the resurrection Jesus descended into the abyss of loneliness – complete abandonment. He physically died and suffered utter loneliness, which is a frightening prospect.

Walking alone at night through the woods can be scary, even though there may be no physical reason to be afraid. Fear is much easier to resolve if the object can be identified. The fear that comes from being totally alone speaks to our vulnerability. We cannot rationally explain it away. After the planes flew into the twin towers in Manhattan, I couldn’t stay in my own home. I felt this urgent need to be with other people. From the beginning of time, God said it is not good to be alone.

Have you ever visited a funeral home to view a loved one by yourself, or sat in a room alone with a corpse? Did you feel uneasy? Eerie? Maybe you felt a little frightened even though you know that the dead person can do you no harm? This is not the fear of anything in particular, but the fear of being alone with death. This speaks to the most basic of human needs, which is to have a sense of belonging, and why many struggle with abandonment issues. Jesus took the plunge into the abyss of abandonment. Whenever we think we are totally alone – there He is. Hell and death are overcome. The gates of sheol have been opened. Life and love have conquered the grave. Because Jesus was abandoned, we will never have to suffer alone. He will never leave or forsake us.

Dr. Neil

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