The ‘Jesus Died Spiritually’ Doctrine of the Word Faith Teachers

Geoff Toole
Moriel Japan
Oct 2010

Special thanks to Mike Oppenheimer, Let us Reason Ministries. For a more detailed review of this doctrine see ‘Another Gospel, Another Jesus’

For those who don’t know, the ‘Word Faith’ movement is a movement within the Pentecostal and Charismatic church which emphasizes miracles and money above the cross. There are many aspects to the Word Faith movement, but they seem to all agree on one false teaching. ‘Jesus died spiritually’.

The False Teaching

According to most of the well known ‘prosperity gospel’ teachers, Jesus did not complete his work of redemption upon the cross. He took upon himself the nature of Satan. He went to hell and suffered there for three days in torment. Then Jesus was born again  in hell. After that He defeated the devil and returned to the Father. The following quotes illustrate this view.

Quote  by Kenneth Hagin

“spiritual death means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan’s nature… Jesus tasted death–spiritual death–for every man.” K. Hagin, The Name of Jesus,  1981) p.31.

“…just as receiving eternal life means that we have the nature of God in us, spiritual death means having Satan’s nature.” K. Hagin, Redeemed, Tulsa, OK, Faith Library, 1966, p.29

“He (Jesus) tasted spiritual death for every man. And his spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? PHYSICAL DEATH WOULDN’T REMOVE YOUR SINS. He tasted death for every man. He’s talking about spiritual death.” (how Jesus obtained his name tape # 44HO1 side 1)

Kenneth Copeland

“When Jesus cried “It is finished!” He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne. He was referring to the Abrahamic Covenant. Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption” (Kenneth Copeland, “Jesus – Our Lord of Glory”, ( Believer’s Voice of Victory, April, 1982, p. 3).

“He [Jesus] allowed the devil to drag Him into the depths of hell….He allowed Himself to come under Satan’s control…every demon in hell came down on Him to annihilate Him….They tortured Him beyond anything anybody had ever conceived. For three days He suffered everything there is to suffer.” (Kenneth Copeland, “The Price of It All,” 3.)

“For three days He suffered everything there is to suffer. Some people don’t want to believe that. They want to believe that after His death, Jesus just stayed in that upper region of Sheol that the Bible calls paradise, but they’re mistaken! If He had simply stayed there, there would have been no price paid for sin.” (Believer’s Voice of Victory, Vol. 19, No. 9, Sept. 1991)

“… Jesus died two deaths. He died physically and He died spiritually. When Jesus was made to be sin, He was separated from God… When His blood poured out, it did not atone. It did away with the handwriting of the ordinances that were against us… Jesus spent three horrible days and nights in the bowels of this earth getting back for you and me our rights with God…” (doctrinal statement dated March 12, 1979)

Fred Price.

“Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid our price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God” (Frederick K. C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1990, p. 7).

Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers and other Word Faith teachers have all expressed this false doctrine at one time or another.

Why is it a false teaching?

The ‘Jesus died spiritually’ doctrine is false because it is un-biblical. Consider the following scriptures. As you read them ask yourself the question, Where did Jesus atone for our sins? On the cross by his blood, or in hell being tormented by the devil?

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Rom 5:9.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace  Eph 1:7.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:13.

and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Col 1:20.

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Heb 9:14.

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Heb 9:22.

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Heb 13:12.

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18,19.

To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood Rev 1:5b

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Rev 5:9.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:8.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Pet 2:24.

Clearly Jesus made atonement for our sins upon the cross, not in hell. As he was about to die he cried out “it is finished!”(John 19:30). A Greek term meaning “the debt is paid in full”. This would have no meaning if atonement had not yet been made. Kenneth Copeland states that this referred to the end of the Abrahamic covenant. Kenneth doesn’t seem to realize that the Abrahamic covenant is an everlasting covenant! It didn’t finish when Christ died upon the cross. God’s promises to Abraham’s descendants are as true today as they ever were. Christ fulfilled the Mosaic covenant upon the cross. What was finished was God’s wrath poured out upon Christ in our place. Compare this to Revelation 16:17 when the final angel pours his bowl of wrath upon the earth in the Day of The Lord. “It is done”. Now that the debt had been ‘paid in full’ Christ could pray “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

What did Jesus do in Hades?

There are no passages at all in the bible which teach that Jesus suffered in hell to atone for our sins.

1 Peter 3:18,19 says

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

(Notice here he is put to death in the flesh, but in the spirit he is made alive, not tortured.)

(in the spirit)…in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,

Christ went to Hades to preach the gospel to those who were there, presumably explaining to them the mystery of the cross. To the wicked, (Peter mentions the angels in chains who sinned in the days of Noah), and to the righteous (He led captive a host of captives) Eph 4:8. Christ took those who had been waiting with Abraham with Him to the right hand of God.

The Nature of Satan?

The Word Faith teachers claim that Jesus took upon himself the nature of Satan, yet the scriptures teach the opposite.

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Heb 9:14.

Notice it is Christ’s blood, not his spirit which cleanses our consciences (removes our sins). Also he is offered without blemish. How blasphemous to say that Jesus had the nature of Satan when the bible says he was ‘without blemish’!

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18,19.

We are redeemed not by the nature of Satan (spirit of Satan) but by the “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless”.

Mike Oppenheimer, of Let Us Reason ministries, writes…

“All the animals chosen for the sin offering were types of Christ, according to Lev. 4:3, it was a bull without defect; Lev. 4:23, a goat without defect; Lev. 4:32, a lamb without defect. They were all carefully inspected  for any spot or blemish. In 1 Cor. 5:7, Jesus was the Paschal Lamb. As a substitutional sacrifice in the scapegoat motif the one who offered up the sacrifices would place his hand on the animal, signifying a symbolic transfer of sin and guilt (Lev. 4:4, 24,33) The sacrifice became the covering for the sin, God looked on the blood not the sin itself. Isa. 53:6 “…and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” It was the Father who laid his hand on Christ to be judged in our place. The sacrificial animal did not become sin itself, sin was symbolically charged to it, if it became blemished or in this case sin, it was worthless.”

Kenneth Copeland claims to have discussed the cross with Jesus in a vision. He says…

“The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in his own spirit. And at that moment that He did so He cried, ‘My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?’ You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That use to bug me. I said, ‘Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there – the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?” And the Lord said, “Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.’He (Jesus) said, “I accepted in my own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned out.” (Kenneth Copeland, What Happened From the Cross to the Throne? cassette tape 1990, Side B).

Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a tree. This type of the cross reveals that Christ was cursed of God for our sin while upon the cross. Far from having the nature of Satan, Christ was absolutely obedient to the will of the Father.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:8.

He made him who knew no sin to be sin…

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21.

Christ was accounted as a sin offering. The word ‘made’ here is the same as that used in Mat 7:2 treat others as you would have them treat you. You don’t force them to be good, you treat them as if they were. God the father treated Christ as if He were the sinner and we were the innocent ones.

Where did this doctrine originate?

It has been documented and often pointed out that this ‘Jesus died spiritually doctrine’ comes from Christian Science and ‘New Thought’ teacher E.W. Kenyon. Kenneth Hagin is commonly thought to have simply copied it directly from him. This may be true. Hagin at times copied Kenyon’s writings word for word, even when describing his own ‘personal revelations of Christ’. It must be noted though that even John Calvin alluded to the ‘Jesus suffered in hell’ idea.

Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.16.10.

Some argue that this places Hagin back in orthodoxy rather than heresy, yet we ought to remember that heresy is not a departure from what Christians historically believed, but a departure from the Word of God. To what extent Calvin taught this I am not sure. One thing is certain. This doctrine as taught by Hagin and the ‘Faith Posperity’ teachers, denies the efficacy of the cross. It puts the atoning work of Jesus after the cross. It also assigns to the Pure Holy God, the nature of Satan.

Where does this doctrine lead?

“Why did He (Jesus) need to be begotten, or born? Because He became like we were: separated from God. Because He tasted spiritual death for every man….Jesus was the first person that was ever born again.” (K. Hagin, How Jesus Obtained His Name, Tulsa: Rhema)

Kenneth Copeland takes this doctrine to its logical conclusions. Jesus suffered in hell and was born again in hell. (Of course there are no scriptures to support this). Therefore he won the victory over the devil as a born again man. Kenneth Copeland claims to be a born again man. Therefore Kenneth Copeland could have died on the cross instead of Jesus. Does that sound crazy? Read Copeland’s own words.

“The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, ‘Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.’ He said, ‘Think this way—a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.’ And I threw my Bible down…. I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.’ He said, ‘You are the very image, the very copy of that one.’ I said, ‘Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could’ve done the same thing, ‘cause you’re a reborn man too.” (Kenneth Copeland, Substitution and Identification (Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1989), tape #00-0202, side 2.)

If you had the knowledge…you could have done the same thing as God… Who said that? The Spirit of God or the devil?

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” …Satan. Gen 3:5.

So man is elevated to the position of God. This is in accordance with other aspects of Word Faith theology. Positive confession, our words create reality (which only God can do), God is obligated by the laws of faith to respond to our prayers (they misinterpret or twist Mark 11:22 to mean that God uses faith rather than ‘Have faith in God’).

We must have faith in the blood atonement of Jesus to take away our sins. Every clear New Testament teaching points to that fact, as do all the Old Testament types. To depart from this most important doctrine is heresy, denies the cross and leads to blasphemy and the deification of man.

“Jesus … was raised up a born-again man … The day I realized that a born-again man had defeated Satan, hell, and death, I got so excited …!” (Believer’s Voice of Victory , September, 1991)

“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell” (Joyce Meyers, the Most important decision You will ever make 1991).

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Heb 10:10.