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God’s Word for You

Obadiah 9-10 The descent into hell

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, March 31, 2018

9 The warriors of Teman will be broken,
  and everyone from Esau’s mountains
  will be cut down in the slaughter.
10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
  you will be covered with shame;
  you will be cut off forever.

Through the prophet, God pronounces sentence on Edom. He says “Teman” but he means all of Edom. Grammatically, this is where “the part stands for the whole” (synecdoche; Jesus does the same thing in the Lord’s Prayer when he invites us to ask for all of our necessities by saying “our daily bread”). In the parallel line, Obadiah summarizes Edom by saying “everyone from Esau’s mountains.” Throughout the book, “mountain” is always in the singular form har, but har can also mean “hill country” (cp. Jeremiah 32:44; Nehemiah 8:15), so we translate it as a plural here in Obadiah. The region has many mountains and high hills.

The judgment is severe; more than the defeat of an army. Shame will cover the people, and they will be “cut off” (NIV “destroyed”) forever. This is the very same language used for those who are condemned to hell.

When Peter describes Jesus’ descent into hell, he says: “Christ… suffered once for sins in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous,  to bring you to God. He was put to death in flesh [a reference to his state of humiliation; Romans 1:3] but was made alive in spirit [a reference to his state of exaltation; Romans 1:4], in which he also went and made an announcement to the spirits in prison. These spirits disobeyed long ago…” (1 Peter 3:18-20, Evangelical Heritage Version). When Jesus went to preach, he did not preach the gospel of forgiveness, but the verdict of judgment. What that verdict sounded like is summed up here by Obadiah: “You will be covered with shame; you will be cut off forever.”

Jesus went to make this pronouncement after his death on the cross, not while he himself was nailed to the cross. Paul describes the scene this way: “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15). Jesus’ payment for sin was completed, and now, having come back to life in the tomb, in his glorified body—like the one you and I will have when we are transformed and raised from the dead on the Last Day—Jesus briefly descended into hell to proclaim his victory over Satan, death and hell. He announced this judgment and then return to our earth for a short time. For forty days he appeared to his followers, once to more than five hundred at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6), but he began right outside the tomb to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-17). This is the very essence of the difference between law and gospel. On the one hand there is condemnation and the bitter eternity of punishment and suffering. On the other hand there is joy, resurrection, and everlasting peace. It is faith in Jesus that makes all the difference—faith which itself is the gift of God. Thank him for what he has given you.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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