Did The Father Really Forsake the Son?

We've all recited the Apostles Creed at some point, and wondered about the line declaring that Jesus "descended to hell." Given that "hell" is a place of complete separation from God, some understand Jesus' cry ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?") as depicting his descent into hell. But we have to be careful here.

First, understand that Jesus was actually calling those watching to remember Psalm 22, the first line of which is "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" In that day the Psalms were not numbered and folks referred to them using the first line. If you read the Psalm you will find several elements that correspond to Jesus' scourging and crucifixion. His point? What they were watching was not a cosmic tragedy bringing an end to their hope of God's promised redemption. Rather, the cross had already been determined and planned by God as part of his redemptive decree. Despite his pain and their anguish, they should find refuge in the sovereign saving activity of their God.

Second, the line in the Apostles Creed has been shown to be a 7th century insertion and not part of the original writing. Just why it came into the Creed is uncertain. The Reformers understood it to mean that, on the cross, Jesus withstood the wrath of God to the fullest in the place of all those who would ever believe. They never accepted it as a declaration that he actually entered into a place of total separation from God the Father.

Third, to accept that the Tri-Unity of the Godhead was somehow ontologically ripped apart is to destroy the foundational understanding of the Godhead itself. The Trinity (or Tri-Unity) of God cannot change, for God is immutable. And while we cannot fully understand the inter-trinitarian relationship of the 3 persons of the Godhead, we do know for sure that it could not - even for a millisecond - become the Di-Unity.

So, did Jesus "descend to hell?" No, if by that is meant separation from God the Father and God the Spirit. But "yes" if we mean he willingly withstood the weight of the law, and the full, unobstructed wrath of God for our sin. He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him!