Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 95, 88, 27; Lamentations 3:37-58; Hebrews 4:1-16; Romans 8:1-11
Today’s Writer: David Sincerbox
This sacred day, the last day of Holy Week, is known as Holy Saturday, or, in Latin, Sabbatum Sanctum. It is also known as the Great Sabbath or Easter Eve. It is called the Great Sabbath because Jesus’s body was at rest in the grave following His horrific work of having passed through the trauma of the crucifixion in which He truly suffered Hell for us, or separation from God on the cross, as He bore our sins. He suffered Hell for us at the moment He quoted Psalm 22:1a (all scriptural quotations taken from the English Standard Version), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This Saturday was also the day that Mary, the mother of Jesus, mourned with a broken heart and despaired, as did all of the disciples and the many faithful followers who had heard the wrenching news of Jesus’s death.
The Eastern Church maintains that before Jesus’s body entered into the Great Sabbath, Jesus descended into Sheol, the Hebrew word for death which the Greek translation of the Old Testament called Hades. He did this on Good Friday. The Eastern Church maintains that Jesus entered into the chamber of Sheol called Abraham’s Bosom (see Luke 16:19-31, the parable, or maybe not a parable at all, but the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man) which held the spirits of the righteous dead since the earliest days of creation and transferred those spirits with Him (including the thief on the cross) into Paradise—this doctrine is called the Harrowing of Hell. The other chamber of Sheol, Torments, is the chamber that held those eternally separated from God because of their unrepentant disobedience. Jesus experienced the miseries of Torments for us on the cross at the moment He quoted Psalm 22.
It doesn’t seem too farfetched to believe that the Harrowing of Hell actually took place, although there are no scriptural texts that support this doctrine.
In Psalm 88:10, the sons of Korah ask a rhetorical question about those in Sheol, one that does not express absolute certainty as to their future, but one that does contain a glimmer of hope: “Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you?” But wonders indeed for the dead have been accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit Who enabled Christ Jesus to come out of the grave on Easter Sunday. The spirits of the righteous dead are now indeed praising God night and day because of the work of Jesus. They are resting in Him.
Today, this Great Sabbath Day, is a day which should remind us that we must wait with patient assurance upon the Lord for our eternal rest. Today reminds us that we must also wait patiently for tomorrow to come, Easter Sunday, the Day we celebrate our Lord and Savior’s bodily resurrection, the Day in which we will proclaim, “He is risen, He is risen indeed.” But this Saturday also reminds us, again, that we are to wait patiently for that Great Easter Day yet to be in which Christ will come again and our resurrected bodies will be reunited with our souls and we will finally enter completely into His eternal Sabbath, His eternal rest. Today is the day we must be resolved to enter that rest. Hebrews chapter 4 warns us, however, that there are some who won’t enter that rest because of continued disobedience. We must, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3:40, states, “Let us test and examine our ways.” As we test our ways, we are to let the sword of the Word of God sever anything that will prevent us from entering into that rest (Hebrews 4:11-13). We can “hold fast” to “our confession” because of what the writer of Hebrews tells us in 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Let us strive, therefore, to enter that eternal rest with this passage from Romans 8:11 constantly in mind: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Image by He Qi (See He Qi Arts)