(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 17)

The Death of Christ and His Descent Into Hell

Lord's Day 16

Psalter No.148 St. 1 & 3
Read Hebr. 9:11-28
Psalter No. 123 St. 1-3
Psalter No. 422 St. 6
Psalter No.425 St. 2,3,6


    Once a year, on the day of atonement, the high priest of the Old
Testament went into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for himself
and for the people. For himself the high priest also needed
atonement for he was a man as all men. He, too, needed to be washed
in the blood of Christ, of which the blood that he had to sprinkle
seven times with his finger eastward on the mercy seat, was a type
and a pledge. After this he had to kill the goat of the sin offering
that was for the people and bring his blood within the veil, and
also sprinkle that upon and before the mercy seat.
    This entrance of Aaron and his successors into the holy place
pointed to the entrance of Christ into the holy place, not made with
hands. He, the true High Priest, needed no atonement for His own
sins, for He had neither original nor actual sins. "Such an high
priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from
sinners." He went into the sanctuary, having brought about an
eternal reconciliation, only for His elect. He did not enter the
sanctuary made with hands. He was not a high priest after the order
of Aaron; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation
of the world, as the high priest of the Old Testament had to bring
his sacrifice every year. But Christ entered heaven itself, now to
appear in the presence of God for His people. In the heaven of
heavens He sits at the right hand of His Father, presenting day and
night before His Father the sacrifice He once brought to cover
perfectly all the sins of His people. No repetition of the sacrifice
of Christ, the only High Priest is necessary, nor possible. For "now
once in the end of the world He appeared to put away sin by the
sacrifice of Himself." The sacrifice brought by Him on the cross put
away sin because by that sacrifice the debt of His people is paid
and God's righteousness is fully satisfied. Moreover by His
sacrifice, He removed the filth of sin from His people to present
them to His Father as a chaste virgin without spot or wrinkle. That
which the annually repeated sacrifices of the Old Testament were
unable to do was done by the only High Priest, Christ. By His
sacrifice God is satisfied with His people, and that people find by
faith everything necessary to be restored into communion with God.
    To do so it was necessary for the Son of God to humble Himself
unto death. God's righteousness demanded His death because He had
given Himself as Surety for the sins of the elect. He not only died
a natural death and confirmed it in His burial, but in His suffering
and death He even descended into hell.
    We must now discuss that death and descent into hell according
to the explanation of the sixteenth Lord's Day of the Heidelberg
    Lord's Day 16
Q. 40: Why was it necessary for Christ to humble Himself unto death?

A. Because with respect to the justice and truth of God,
    satisfaction for our sins could be made no otherwise, than by
    the death of the Son of God.

Q. 41: Why was He also "buried"?

A. Thereby to prove that He was really dead.

Q. 42: Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?

A. Our death is not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an
    abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life.

Q. 43: What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and
    death of Christ on the cross?

A. That by virtue thereof, our old man is crucified, dead and buried
    with him; that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no
    more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a
    sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Q. 44: Why is there added, "He descended into hell"?

A. That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly
    comfort myself in this, that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His
    inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies, in
    which He was plunged during all His sufferings, but especially
    on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of
    This Lord's Day speaks of the death of Christ and His descent
into hell; and shows us
      I. the necessity of Christ's death,
     II. the proof of Christ's death,
    III. the benefit of Christ's death, and
     IV. the hellish agonies in His suffering before His death.
    The sixteenth Lord's Day is the last one to speak of the state
of humiliation, and shows us the causes and the fruits of the death
and burial of the Lord. Brief and to the point is the answer to
Question 40: "Why was it necessary for Christ to humble Himself even
unto death?" Because with respect to the justice and truth of God,
satisfaction for our sins could be made no otherwise than by the
death of the Son of God." With respect to God's justice and truth,
therefore, the Mediator had to humble Himself unto death. God's
justice demands a full payment for sin, and that payment is made
only in bearing the judgment of death to its fullest extent. Hence
it could be no other way than that the Mediator entered death in the
place of His people. Sin must be punished. God cannot surrender His
justice, not in the least bit. That would injure His divine essence.
A god who can toy with his perfections is no god. May we be
thoroughly convinced of this against those who deny the
substitutionary, mediatorial work of Christ, because they have not
any notion neither of sin, nor of God's justice. May we understand
this rightly that God must punish sin because He is perfect. The
necessity of punishing lies in the essence of God, not in
compulsion, exercised upon Him. (How could that be?) God is under no
compulsion. It is His eternal delight to glorify His righteousness
in revenging sin. Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness;
and from the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity. In the fourth
Lord's Day we were clearly taught that God will punish sins in His
just judgment temporarily and eternally as He has declared, "Cursed
is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in
the book of the law, to do them." And that punishment of sin, being
the punishment of death came for the elect, and for them only, upon
Christ. Therefore He had to humble Himself unto death. Moreover,
God's truth demanded that death. Among men it is said to be poor
pedagogy to threaten punishment without fulfilling the threat; but
what kind of a conception do they have of God who think that the
punishment He threatens need not to be executed; that God is a God
of yea and nay? How very differently does God testify of Himself? "I
am the Lord, I change not." Because God never diverges from the word
of His mouth, Christ had to die, since the Lord had spoken, "In the
day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
    Hence, both because of God's justice and because of God's truth,
the Mediator had to be humbled unto death. Since the covenant of
works was broken in its power to achieve eternal life, although the
demand of perfect obedience remained undiminished. there was but one
way by which the sinner could be reconciled with God, and atonement
for sin could be made, namely, by the death of the Son of God. God's
people learn to know that experimentally. A person, even with an
orthodox confession, disregards the impressions of his conscience,
as if he need not appear before God's judgment seat, notwithstanding
the fact that both God's justice and truth have sentenced him to
death, and that sentence must be executed. For God's elect a moment
will come in their lives that they are not only confronted with
their sins, but they see themselves placed before God's justice and
before the sentence of death pronounced upon them, and they learn to
know themselves as utterly lost before God. Oh, in what a terrible
state they find themselves, out of which no deliverance is possible.
Even the mercies of God cannot comfort them, unless God's justice is
satisfied and the sentence of death, according to His truth, is
executed upon One Who, as a Surety, will pay for them. This often
makes them cry out, "There is no soundness in my flesh because of
Thine anger, neither is there any rest in my bones because of my
sin." All ground upon which they wanted to build is fallen away.
They cry out, "My heart panteth, my strength faileth me." They learn
to despair of everything outside of Christ. Only by His death is
death swallowed up in victory; spiritual death, which consists in
separation from God's favour is destroyed; eternal death is changed
into eternal life, and temporal death becomes a passage into eternal
life. Justice and truth demanded the death of the Son of God; they
are glorified in that death, and demand the salvation of the elect.
Deliverance from the three-fold death rests upon the justice and
truth of God. Nothing shall ever prevent that salvation. This is the
firm foundation for the salvation of God's elect. They are purchased
with Christ's blood, and by His death satisfaction is given to
justice and God's truth is maintained. Behold, that is the great
mystery which the Holy Spirit reveals to His utterly lost people and
of which He wants to assure them. How everyone who has truly been
made to see his sins should seek to build on that foundation only,
so that he would find all his salvation in the death of Christ, in
which God's justice and truth are glorified perfectly. With nothing
less than the death of the Son of God could the violated perfections
of God be satisfied. That death was necessary. The precious Surety
not only had to suffer but also to humble Himself unto death to take
away God's wrath for His people. He has really died and proved it in
His burial, as we, in the second place, hear of the instructor as he
shows us the proof of Christ's death.
    That proof is given us in His burial. The Catechism points to
that in Question 41: "Why was He also buried?" "Thereby to prove
that He was really dead." Christ had already testified that He died
when He cried out, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit." He
showed it when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, and it was
confirmed by the action of the soldier who pierced His side with a
spear, causing blood and water to flow out; and by the investigation
of Pilate, which proved that He had really died. By descending into
the grave, Christ also showed that He had really died. He bore the
power of death to the fullest extent; Zion's King struck Satan who
had the power of death, in his heart. In death, his last stronghold,
He eternally destroyed him. He has taken captivity captive so that
He might proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound.
To that end He descended into the grave, although the corruption of
death did not cause His flesh to decay. Here the prophecy was
fulfilled: "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption." So
particularly did God care for the lifeless body of the Mediator,
that the glory of His victorious entrance into death shone in His
burial. Man had appointed His grave with the wicked, there on
Golgotha, where they usually buried those who had been crucified;
there they planned also to bury Him; but God had ordained otherwise.
The burning fire of love in the heart of Joseph of Arimathea and
Nicodemus which had smoldered so long under the ashes of the fear of
man, broke into flame. Even in the Sanhedrin they had taken a lone
stand, and although their vote could not prevent the condemnation,
they did not concur in it. Now, after the sentence is executed, they
cannot remain hidden any longer. They asked Pilate for the body of
Christ, and laid their Lord in a new grave, hewn out of a rock, in
which no one had yet been buried. Let the world mock, they shall
honour Him, Who indeed bore the curse, but not for His own sin, Who
knew neither original, nor actual sin. He was "with the rich in His
    Nevertheless, that burial was a disgraceful humiliation. It is
so for everyone, for in our burial this judgment is fulfilled: "Dust
thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Our body is then given
over to the worms. In the burial the corruption that came over man
by sin becomes evident. His glory is gone, also his might, although
it made thousands tremble, also his fame, envied by many. "His glory
shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his
soul; and men will praise thee when thou does well to thyself. He
shall go to the generations of his fathers; they shall never see
light. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not (that is, has no
spiritual knowledge of Christ and His benefits), is like the beasts
that perish." Oh, that we would think more about it, that one day
our place shall be in the grave, that we may know how frail we are,
and may count our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
    That deep humiliation then, Christ took upon Himself. He entered
that chilly, awful and frightful grave. His lifeless body had to
bear the judgment of sin also in the grave, in order that He might
also sanctify the grave for His elect. He could do so because He is
the Son of God. For even in His death the natures were not
separated. With full consciousness He experienced the descent into
the grave. Just as Jonah was in the fish, so the Son of man was in
the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Thus the Son
of God consciously suffered this bitter humiliation. Thus the
Mediator took away for His people the judgment, the bitterness, and
the shame that lie in the grave. Neither death nor grave shall harm
God's children at all. Oh, that the fear of death and the terror of
the grave were taken away from them more. Their death shall be no
death but a passage into eternal life, and the grave, which is an
abhorring to the wicked, is sanctified to be a bed to "each one
walking in his uprightness." (Isaiah 57.)
    May all those who are unregenerate of heart tremble and fear at
the thought of death. Let their heart shrink whenever they walk on
the cemetery, which is the end of all the living. Their death, if
they do not find a ransom in the mediatorial work of Christ, shall
be so terrible, their grave an abhorring. "Kiss the Son, lest He be
angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a
    Let the upright of heart taste the peace of the cemetery. Let
their eyes pass over the graves of those, who had this testimony
that they pleased God, whose death was gain, and then hear how that
grave cries to them, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from
henceforth." Is there any terror left for them then? Has not the
grave lost all its chill? By His burial He took the curse out of
their grave and sanctified their tomb. It shall be their rest. In
Christ they seek the destruction of death and release from the bonds
of the grave, so that the fear of death and the grave shall be
swallowed up and their soul shall glory in the redemption which is
in Christ Jesus. By His burial the Lord confirmed that He really
died and thus has satisfied the justice and truth of God. Oh, if
this death and burial of Christ may be confirmed to us
experimentally by the application of the Holy Spirit and by the
embrace of faith, the fear of death and the grave is taken away, and
God's people are set at liberty, as Paul says, "To depart and to be
with Christ is far better for me." If we lack the assurance of
Christ's death and burial, death often has such terrors for God's
people. Therefore they should always seek to be assured of their
fellowship with the death and burial of the Lord, by which death is
swallowed up in victory. In His burial the Lord proved that He had
really died. That was important, for without that death there would
be no satisfaction to God's justice and truth. Out of that death of
Christ, God's people receive, as we in the third place consider
the great benefit, that our old man is crucified, dead and buried
with Him; that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more
reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of
    We are shown a twofold fruit of the death of Christ: (a) our
death is no satisfaction for sin; and (b) that by the death of
Christ our old man is crucified, dead and buried with Him.
    (a) By His death Christ has swallowed up death in victory and
has destroyed him, who had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Why then must God's children also die, if Christ died for them and
thus destroyed death? Should we not necessarily conclude from the
fact that Christ by His death brought complete satisfaction, that
they would be freed from the threat of death upon sin? Could they
not go to heaven like Enoch and Elijah? God certainly cannot and
will not punish sins twice. If God's justice is perfectly satisfied
in the death of Christ, according to God's immutable justice how can
death come upon the believer? This objection would have force if
God's children had to die to satisfy God's justice. Then either
justice was not fully satisfied in Christ, or God demanded
satisfaction twice, which is contrary to justice. But it is not
thus. Hear the instructor's answer to that objection: "Our death is
not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and
a passage into eternal life." Not a satisfaction for our sin. For
God's elect there is satisfaction for their sins, all their sins,
both original and actual sins. The wrath of God does not burn any
more against those who are in Christ Jesus. "For this is as the
waters of Noah unto Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth; so I have sworn that I would not
be wrath with thee, nor rebuke thee." (Isaiah 54:9). Hence also in
death there is no wrath of God for those that are bought with the
blood of Christ. For those who are unconverted it is indeed so, but
not for God's children. The sting has been removed from death; death
has lost the dreadful characteristic of being the wages of sin;
death is not death anymore for those who die in the Lord. If that
fruit of Christ's death were impressed more upon the soul of God's
people, they would have less fear of death. Often death still has
such a terrifying power for them. That is because of the instability
of their faith. If only their soul were assured that the end would
be peace, there would be less dread of death. Even if they cannot
deny what they have experienced, the doubt whether their matters are
right for eternity, whether they are truly found in Christ, whether
God's wrath is pacified for them, causes them to dread that
all-decisive hour of death. Then it will be the trying hour for
them; then the blow shall fall; then it shall be eternal well or
eternal woe. Even though the consciousness of their state in Christ
lies firm, the separation of soul and body, which death brings,
causes us to fear him as the king of terrors. Even if that fear were
conquered, certainly everyone feels that we need grace to die in
order to be able to die, that grace that makes us loose from all
that is dear and precious on earth, that cuts the last ropes and
sets our ship free to sail into the harbor of eternal salvation. Oh,
do not speak lightly of death. Many of God's people have fought the
most strenuous battle with death, although they were assured of
their interest in Christ. On the other hand, in spite of the fear
which is natural to us as children of wrath, something of the
victory with which Christ conquered penetrates our heart. No, for
the people of God, death shall be no satisfaction for their sins!
Death is no act of God's curse or wrath. Let their soul keep
courage. Have you not heard of the death beds of those, who after
years of strife and doubting, gave a glorious testimony of the
victory over death and departed rejoicing and calling to you, "Still
wait for God, and He will hear, Wait and the Lord shall bring thee
aid; Yea, trust and never fear." The death of God's children is not
decisive; for once the full wrath of God descended upon Christ, and
in His death He swallowed up their death. Although God's children
are not taken to heaven like Enoch, and although God laid the way to
full salvation so that it runs through death, yet that death is not
a satisfaction for their sins. On the contrary, it is "an abolishing
of sin, and a passage into eternal life."
    How has Christ conquered death? By entering into death. How do
His people become partakers of His victory? By going the same way by
which Christ preceded them. In death God's people conquer death.
Their death is gain. In death they lay aside the sin that here on
earth constantly surrounded and cleaved unto them; in their death
they mortify forever the old man, that is, the flesh, that lusts
against the spirit, and they enter into the joy of the Lord. Oh,
tell me, is such dying a penalty? No, certainly not. Death which was
the penalty of sin has become a complete deliverance of all that
distressed the spiritual life, and a door unto eternal life. One day
even the body that has returned to dust shall be loosed from the
bands of death and, having been reunited with the soul, shall enter
eternal life. May that joyful hope of the full salvation cause us to
look beyond death, not fearing the struggle, since the victory is
sure in Christ. "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward
receive me to glory."
    The instructor speaks particularly of the mortification of sin
in Question 43 as we now see
    (b) What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and
death of Christ on the cross? That by virtue thereof, our old man is
crucified, dead and buried with Him; that so the corrupt
inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may
offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving. This then is a
fruit of the sacrifice of the Lord that we may already taste here in
this life, the fruit of sanctification. For the true sanctification
flows out of Christ, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
    Therefore in the crucifixion of the Lord there lies not only a

reconciling and justifying, but also a sin-mortifying and soul
sanctifying power. Although these are different from each other,
they are inseparably bound together. There is no justification.
without sanctification.
    The old man: that is the corruption, which because of our fall
has spread itself over our whole being, called by the apostle the
body of sin. From that old man all corrupt inclinations, affections
and desires come and it is impossible that he should ever bring
forth anything that is good in the sight of God. The natural man has
nothing else; all his thoughts and actions are corrupt and are
dominated by unrighteousness. But in regeneration God the Holy
Spirit renews His children after the image of Him that created them.
This entire renewal is perfect in all parts, but not complete in its
steps. In other words, the understanding and the will have become
new, and the body with its abilities are subject to that renewed
will. Still the new man does not attain its full stature on this
side of the grave. In the understanding the darkness of sin remains,
and in the will the fomentation of wickedness. This is the struggle
for God's children till their last breath. How clearly Paul teaches
us about that struggle in Romans 7 and other places. He, the
favoured one who knew himself by faith to be a new creature in
Christ Jesus, and testifies so clearly of that renewal, also speaks
of the flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and that is as a law in
His members bringing him into captivity to the law of sin. The
remnant of the old man in the renewed children of Adam gives them no
rest night or day, and causes all their works to be imperfect in
themselves, and marred by sin. Thence are the many complaints and
their very sad and sometimes almost desperate conditions. Read
David's complaints in Psalm 51 and Heman's in Psalm 88, and that
complaint is heavier when access by faith to Christ is weaker. There
is only one means of deliverance from sin, namely - coming by faith
to Christ and His meritorious sacrifice, which is effective against
all the sins of His elect, and to His death, for in that death sin
is robbed of its dominion, and out of that death flows the
mortification of sin in the believer. "I am crucified with Christ;
nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the
life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of
God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
    This is what the instructor calls the virtue of His death.
Thereby the old man is crucified. Dreadful was the judgment that
rested upon Christ; raging was the power of darkness that nailed Him
to the cross. Neither does the redeeming virtue of the Mediator deal
gently with sin, with the old man. That old man is nailed to the
cross to die a sure death. "Knowing this, that our old man is
crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that
henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6).
    Therefore sin shall no more have dominion over God's people: the
old man died with Christ. That is the benefit of the death of Christ
in His people.
    Oh, that by faith their soul might continually attain to that
benefit, that they do not esteem their sin too lightly. That brings
a leanness to their soul and deprives them of communion with God.
The spotlessly Holy One can have no fellowship with sin, and cannot
tolerate in His people that they, who are purchased from sin by the
precious price of the blood of the Lamb, shall walk in sin. Far be
it from us that we should use this liberty for an occasion to the
flesh. He who deals lightly with the old man, walks in darkness and
misses the comfort of the death and burial of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The benefit that Christ has destroyed the power of sin is for the
contrite who, because they have been renewed, see and grieve about
the activity of the old man. "That so the corrupt inclinations of
the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves
unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving."
    Now our Catechism opens to us the depth in the suffering of the
Mediator as he discusses in the last question
the hellish agonies in Christ's suffering before His death.
    Question 44 reads, "Why is there added, 'He descended into
hell'?" The confession concerning the descent into hell follows that
which has been said in the "Twelve Articles of Faith" about Christ's
suffering, death and burial. That does not mean that the Lord Jesus
descended into hell after His death. That is what the Roman
Catholics say and the Lutherans also. The Catholics say that the
believers who died before Christ were waiting in a vestibule of hell
until He should come to deliver them from there and bring them to
heaven. How foolish! There is no purgatory, no limbuspatrum. Would
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all those that desired a
better country have remained outside of heaven all those ages? Or
have they entered the glory that was prepared for them before the
foundation of the world? Was the security that Christ gave to His
Father in eternity in the Covenant of Redemption not sufficient to
allow all God's elect to enter immediately upon their death into the
salvation that was prepared for them? No, the Lord Jesus needed not
to descend to hell in the sense that after His death He went
personally into hell or into the vestibule, or limbus of the
fathers; that vestibule has never existed. How very differently Paul
teaches us in the letter to the Hebrews: "These all died in faith
... For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a
country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from
whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have
returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an
heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for
He has prepared for them a city." No, Christ never went to hell.
Neither can the Roman Catholics appeal to 1 Peter 3, that Christ
went and preached unto the saints in prison. To these Noah preached
the word of Christ while they were still alive. Neither does
Ephesians 4:9 give them any grounds, but refers to the Lord's
burial. Thus they have not any grounds in Scripture. We must not
localize the descent to hell, and let us remember that it happened
before His death. Our Catechism says, in accordance with the word of
God that descent into hell means Christ's suffering. And Luther
then? The Lutherans say that Christ went to hell after His death to
prove His victory. But Christ had proved His victory when He
commended His spirit into the hands of His Father. In spite of all
the powers of Satan, His spirit ascended to heaven, and His body
reposed in the grave. We do not speak of a descent to hell after His
death. When "He descended into hell" follows the confession of His
death and burial, that does not mean that the descent into hell
follows His death, but the Apostles' Creed shows what was in the
suffering and death of Christ before He gave up the ghost, namely
the suffering to which His people with all Adam's posterity are
subject, that is, the pains of hell. When the weeping women followed
the crossbearing Mediator, He said to them, "Weep not for Me." They
did not understand the depth of His suffering; they only saw the
outward humiliation. But there was very much more in that suffering
and death. As the surety He bore what His elect would have had to
bear; He bore the hellish pains to which they were eternally subject
and He rescued them from hell. That descent into hell took place
therefore, before the death of Christ and means that He bore the
pains of hell. Now the Catechism reaches so deep into the meaning of
the descent into hell that he takes the greatest comfort for God's
people from it. The justly praised Westminster Catechism considers
the descent into hell to be His tarrying in the state of death, but
the Heidelberg Catechism goes farther into the depth of that
descent. Both, however, confess, in opposition to the Roman
Catholics and Luther, that it does not mean that Christ went
personally to hell. The Heidelberg Catechism concludes from His
descent into hell "That in my greatest temptations, I may be
assured, and wholly comfort myself in this that my Lord Jesus
Christ, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish
agonies in which He was plunged during all His sufferings, but
especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and
torments of hell." The assaults of Satan can be very fierce, not
only at first in conversion but sometimes also later on the path of
life, and all those assaults have even more power when terrors rob
the soul of rest and strength to flee to God. It seems as if prayer
is cut off. It seems to them as if they will not see the kind face
of their Father anymore. Some of God's children are severely tried
in this awful conflict with the powers of hell and think back to
those times with fear. Take, for example, Job and Paul. The Lord led
them into that conflict only so that by faith they might glory the
more in the victory of Him Who descended into hell, Who bruised the
head of Satan, in Whom they are more than conquerors, and in Whom,
powerless as they are in themselves, they shall triumph eternally.
In Him they left their heads aloft and wear the victor's crown, as
we sing in Psalter No. 422, St. 6
    "Thou art, O God, our boast, the glory of our power"
    Beloved, you are with me and all people by nature children of
wrath. That judgment is not removed by baptism nor by the great
privilege, given us from our early youth till our graying years, of
living under the Word of God. Only communion with Him Who bore the
full wrath of God can deliver us from the eternal judgment of death.
How urgent then is the question whether we truly have received
communion with the suffering of that wrath by the only Mediator
between God and men. God finds His people where they lie in the open
field polluted in their blood. Oh, those people learn to know
themselves as objects of God's wrath, unhappy forever. May you be
given that knowledge, for such unhappy ones are not unhappy. Yet the
whole world and all God's people cannot comfort them. They need a
Surety for their debt; One Who placed Himself under God's judgment,
Who bore the wrath of God and was judicially sentenced to the death
of the cross. Oh, sorrowing souls, unhappy in yourself, the Lord
grant you to know by faith, Him Who in your stead placed Himself
under the wrath of God and put away that wrath for you. Often you
are worried whether the work that is in you is right and saving.
Your concern should be more to embrace Christ by faith. There can be
so many convictions that are not right and have no value for
eternity. We can be deceived by them. But no one will be deceived
with Christ. Seek Him to be your Savior, denying all outside of Him.
In Him salvation is possible for the greatest of sinners. Has your
soul never beheld by faith that great salvation in Him? Did all your
sins bother you then? Would you then not have shouted to the whole
world, "Salvation has been wrought"? Truly, these are matters that
God's people cannot deny. How often the Lord has bound your soul to
Himself with promises. Still your heart can be so worried. What is
still lacking? The acquittal before God's bar. At that bar, in that
judicial sentence, we do not appear robed in our experiences, but as
condemnable sinners, laden with original and actual sins. Then to
God's children the acquittal will be imputed that was given to Him
Who once was condemned by the temporal judge Pontius Pilate so that
He might free His people in the judgment of God. Oh, seek to receive
that acquittal in your heart by the sealing of the Holy Spirit. How
you would marvel in the secret, that you as a sinner are reconciled
with God through Christ, and that not to become a great Christian,
but as a condemnable sinner to have your ground of salvation by
faith in Him Who once was judicially condemned in your stead,
although He had no sin, in order that He might acquit you before the
bar of God's eternal justice. The Lord confirm it in your hearts,
people of God, and build you up in the most holy faith, that Christ
may be all in all. May He grant us that we may remain poor sinners
in ourselves, dying from day to day, so that we may receive of His
fulness grace for grace. Amen.

(continued in part 18...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-17.txt