Releasing Prisoners

There are certain times in our life when we are unaware of the danger that is before us. On October 10, 2014, at a little past midnight; I woke suddenly from my sleep with a searing pain across my back, left arm, and chest. I was having a heart attack. Not the conventional type that most people have; mine was caused by a small blood clot in one of the veins of my heart.

I had always eaten a healthy low fat diet, exercised, and taken very good care of myself. When the doctors examined my heart I had no plaque from cholesterol in any of the veins of my heart. In the months before, I had allowed myself to become overly stressed and very angry over circumstance that were beyond my control or ability to change. This stress caused my heart to release a blood clot that cut-off blood supply to the muscle at the lower part of my heart and destroyed about 30 percent of my heart-function. If I had not been in such excellent health, doctors informed me that I would have died. Because I have continued to eat a healthy diet, exercise and take my medication, I am healthy today.

There was a danger that was ever before me—which I had no knowledge of.

Thankfully, the Lord knew about what was going to happen, and He saved my life. Doctors told me several times that I should have died. I live on a remote island in the Philippines where we have been helping the desperately poor, for the past five years. It took one hour by ferry and three hours by car, to get to a hospital where I could be treated. By the time that I arrived, the damage was already done and a large part of my heart muscle had perished.

Most people who live in the world today, do not realize the peril that is before us. We are all under a death sentence, according to the word of God. Our situation was so dire that the Son of God had to come to earth and die for us on the cross—or everyone of us would have been lost, eternally.

There are many people who do not believe this, but the evidence for this truth is all around us. We know that we live in a world where evil and sin are a constant part of human life. We see the effects of sin from the time that we are born, until they place our body in the ground. The Bible describes this condition of sin as a fatal flaw. Jesus came to remove this curse and offer us the hope of redemption.

Jesus came to set us free from the curse of sickness and death. All those who place their trust in Him for their salvation, have the assurance that eternal life is theirs. This is possible, not because of anything that we have done to merit such kindness—but solely because of what Jesus has accomplished for us.

As we look at this chapter, we see that Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would “open the prison doors,” to every person who is under this death sentence and held captive by the fear of death.

Isaiah 61:1c “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”

New Testament Fulfillment:

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

Isaiah said that one of the purposes of the Messiah was to set-free, those held captive by sin’s curse. Peter writes in response to Isaiah’s prophecy, describing what Jesus did after He died upon the cross. Jesus entered into the lower parts of the earth and preached to those who had formerly died. Then Jesus opened the chamber where the righteous dead had been waiting and took them to heaven.

For this reason, there is likely a dual meaning to this prophecy from Isaiah 61:1c.

First, Jesus came to set-free all of us who were held captive by our sins. Therefore, we see a universal application of salvation and deliverance by Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah.

Second, it is certain that the reference to the: “captives” of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 61:1, is also a specific reference to all those who died during the Old Testament, believing in the coming Messiah; who were carried to Abraham’s Bosom to await His sacrifice for their sins.

We learn of these captives from Jesus in Luke chapter 16:

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” Luke 16:19-31

Jesus describes both men, alive and conscious—one in Paradise, one in Hell. The unsaved feel pain and are fully conscious, being aware and regretful of their decision to reject Jesus as their Savior, which placed them in this eternal despair. The saved are seen in a place of comfort, waiting for the arrival of the Messiah—who will complete His sacrifice for their sins and set them free upon His resurrection.

The rich man is not in Hell for being rich, but for his apparent rejection of the requirement that God has made—that all men must receive a pardon for their sins by the coming Messiah.

The poor man is not in Paradise, Abraham’s Bosom—because he was poor, but because he apparently received a pardon—by his trust in the coming Messiah and the sacrifice He would make for all sins.

It is clear that Peter was also writing concerning this same group who had died previously and were waiting for the completion of the Messiah’s sacrifice for their sins. The place where the righteous dead were kept, prior to the coming of the Messiah, is described by Jesus as “Abraham’s Bosom.” This place of comfort was separated from the place of the unsaved, by a great gulf or wide expanse that separated the two places.

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

“…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us…”

The unsaved were held in Hades. They remain there to the present day. It is here in Torments, or Hades that Jesus describes all those who have died without believing in the coming Messiah. They will remain in Hades until their final judgment at the Great White Throne, described in Revelation 20.

Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

The important difference between those who are called unsaved in Hades and the saved in Abraham’s Bosom is found in the above verses, from Revelation 20:11-13:

The people in Hades are there because they made a decision, during their life on earth; to refuse the coming Messiah and His sacrifice to take away their sins. Instead, having rejected the only means by which God has provided for the forgiveness of our sins, they have condemned themselves.

Some people believe that if their good works outweigh the bad, and they are a basically a good person—that God will accept them into heaven. This is a false and untrue belief, which is not supported by the word of God.

The Bible teaches that there is no one good, no not one and All have sinned and fall short to of the Glory of God.

Romans 3:10,12 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;…They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

All people, for all time, require a Savior. Either we choose to pay for our sins ourselves, or we appoint Jesus to pay for our sins. Either way, all sins will be judged and punished.

Every person should be made aware that Jesus has paid for all of our sins and there awaits no judgement for anyone who places themselves under the covering of His sacrifice for all sins.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…

The promise of this prophecy from Isaiah is that the Messiah will set at liberty, those who are held captive by their sins, as well as those who were taken to Abraham’s Bosom. When Jesus rose from the dead, He carried all of these captives from the Old Testament, back to heaven where they remain to the present day. Abraham’s Bosom has remained closed since Jesus resurrection and today; anyone who believes in Jesus as their Savior, when they die, they are taken immediately to heaven to be with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8 …to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.