Some skeptics claim that the death of Jesus is not sufficient to pay the enormous price of the sins of all of humanity. After all he was only dead three days and then came back to life. What kind of punishment is that? It's pretty small in a sense. Doesn't that simply grant someone else a three day reprieve from death?
The apologist will respond and say that the three days is not the issue. It was the act of dying that redeemed mankind.
I could buy off on that as an evangelical, but then why would Jesus go to Sheol for a few days? Why not just rise and be done with it? Well apparently he had to go preach to those that had already died. Seems kind of odd. God can do whatever he wants, right? It's not like he has to play games to get himself into Sheol and communicate with the dead right? Yet it sort of seems like God can't get through to Sheol without dying like a human in kind of a Trojan Horse move.
God has his ways I guess. If that's the way he wants to do it then what can you say?
On the other hand let's consider this through a different paradigm. Let's just suppose that C.S. Lewis kind of has the right idea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. God is sort of stuck with these weird rules and he has to trick his opponents into making mistakes. Here's a way to look at it. And I'm not arguing for it. I'm just saying consider this paradigm and see how it illuminates early Christian texts.
Let's suppose that the goal is to defeat death. Death resides in hell. But who goes to hell? Only dead people. So how can God make his way into hell? He has to take the Christ and give him a human form and likeness. The Christ is not human. He only has a human likeness. But if God can trick the demons into thinking that the Christ is human maybe they'll kill him, which will translate him into hell where he can basically plunder hell and crush death. How do some early Christian texts look in light of this paradigm?
Who does Paul think is responsible for the death of Jesus. Is it the Romans? When did Jesus die for Paul? Was it a few years back in Palestine? Or was it before the creation of the world? Was Jesus fleshly or is flesh inherently sinful and corruptible? I'll look at these in subsequent posts, but for now consider how the above paradigm makes sense of the following texts. Two are from The Ascension of Isaiah, which is an early Christian text, and one is from I Corinthians.
13The Lord will indeed descend into the world in the last days, (he) who is to be called Christ after he has descended and become like you in form, and they will think that he is flesh and a man. 14And the god of that world will stretch out [his hand against the Son], and they will lay their hands upon him and hang him upon a tree, not knowing who he is. 15And thus his descent, as you will see, will be concealed even from the heavens so that it will not be known who he is. 16And when he has plundered the angel of death, he will rise on the third day and will remain in that world for five hundred and forty-five days. 17And then many of the righteous will ascend with him, whose spirits do not receive (their) robes until the Lord Christ ascends and they ascend with him.
8"Go out and descend through all the heavens. You shall descend through the firmament and through that world as far as the angel who (is) in Sheol, but you shall not go as far as Perdition. 9And you shall make your likeness like that of all who (are) in the five heavens, 10and you shall take care to make your form like that of the angels of the firmament and also (like that) of the angels who (are) in Sheol. 11And none of the angels of that world shall know that you (are) Lord with me of the seven heavens and of their angels. And they shall not know that you (are) with me
I Corinthians 2
6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.