Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Sunday afternoon Bible study. This is study #1 of Jonah, chapter 2, but let us start by reading the last verse of Jonah, chapter 1, in Jonah 1:17:
Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Then it goes on to say in Jonah 2:1-10:
Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O JEHOVAH my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered JEHOVAH: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of JEHOVAH. And JEHOVAH spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
I will stop reading there. We know the historical setting is that Jonah was fleeing from the Lord to Tarshish. Then God stopped him by raising up a storm at sea and the mariners cast lots to determine for whose cause the storm had risen up against them; and the Lot fell on Jonah. They asked him directly, in Jonah 1:8-9:
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear JEHOVAH, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
Then they asked him in Jonah 1:11-12:
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
We looked at how God, in His determinate counsel, worked out the circumstances when Christ entered into the world to demonstrate what He had done from the foundation of the world; everything worked together to “force” Christ to go to the cross. He had to go to the cross because that was the will of God and it was the reason that He came to earth, so the Lord controlled all circumstances to make it happen, just as God controlled all the circumstances to lead the mariners to the point of throwing Jonah overboard. That was according to the will of God. God wanted him to be thrown overboard. We know this is true because it says, “Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” If Jonah was not going to be thrown overboard into the sea, what was the point of preparing a fish? God knew in advance and He controlled all the happenings aboard the ship. The sea men were reluctant to throw him overboard and they rowed harder to try to bring the ship to land, but after a while they relented, especially when Jonah had told them that this was the only way the sea would be calm to them. Finally, reluctantly, they did so. It says in Jonah 1:15-16:
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared JEHOVAH exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto JEHOVAH, and made vows.
The sea points to the wrath of God and these men are types and figures of God’s elect. The wrath of God rages against all people for our sins. These people had Jonah on board and there may have been other ships on the sea in this storm, but they did not have a prophet on board. This ship did and the mariners point to all those against whom the wrath of God rages, because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, but there are certain individuals that the “sea” ceases to rage against because God has worked salvation in their lives. The wrath of God ceases to rage against them and, as it says in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” This is true no matter what sin a person has committed – it could be murder or adultery. King David is an example of these sins. It could be harlotry, like Rahab. It could be blasphemy, like the Apostle Paul committed. God forgives all manner of evil that His people commit. As soon as Christ and His atoning death is reckoned (imputed) to that person’s account, in that moment the “sea” ceases to rage. The sea is a picture of the Law of God that demands satisfaction for sin, but it ceases to rage because it has received payment through Christ and Jonah is a type and picture of the Lord Jesus. When he was cast into the sea, the sea immediately ceased to rage and it became calm. Regarding the believers, it says in Psalm 123 that the Lord is our shepherd and he leads us by “still waters” and “green pastures.” There is no raging sea.
It says in Jonah 1:17:
Now JEHOVAH had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Of course, we know from chapters 2 and 3 that Jonah survived the experience of being swallowed by a great fish – maybe a whale. There could have been an enormous fish of some kind that was not a whale, but it was big enough to swallow a man whole and it was big enough for him to continue to live inside the fish for a period of three days and three nights. I do not know how that was done, but God had His hand on him. Although we know he lived, historically, the picture of him being within the fish’s belly is a picture of “death” or the “grave,” as Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:38-40:
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The “heart of the earth” is a figure of speech that represents “hell” or the “grave.” It is interesting that Christ’s experience of “hell” or being in the grave began on that Thursday evening in the Garden of Gethsemane, while He was still alive. If we have time, we will look at some of that language as He is praying to the Lord that the cup might pass from Him and great drops of sweat, as blood, fell from Him and He was in great agony. There is language to indicate that He is greatly suffering and He had begun to experience the “lowest parts of the earth,” or the “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” It had to start Thursday night in the garden, because that would include Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night, which would be three nights. On that Friday He went before Pilot and went to the cross and then Saturday He went to the tomb and early Sunday morning He rose from the dead, so there are the “three days and three nights.” It had to begin Thursday evening in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ began to suffer the wrath of God. Jesus likened that experience to what Jonah went through inside the great fish for three days and three nights, so that means Jonah’s experience was like being “in the heart of the earth.”
It also says regarding Jesus’ experience, in Ephesians 4:9:
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
This kind of language identifies with “hell.” Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights and then it says in Jonah 2:1-2:
Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
But where was Jonah? Was he in hell or was he inside a fish? He was inside a fish, literally, and it is the same word translated as “belly” when it refers to the “fish’s belly” and the “belly of hell.” God is likening being in the fish’s belly to being in hell. Jesus said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” We could substitute “hell” for “belly,” and we can see the equivalency God makes between the “belly of hell” and the “heart of the earth.”
We learned a few years ago, by God’s grace, that the actual payment for sin that God’s Law demands is “death.” That is what it says in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.” We know that and there are many reasons why we have been corrected as far as the idea that there is an eternal place of torment called “Hell,” where (unsaved) men will be forever and ever. Hell is the “grave.” Where do they put you when you die? They put you in the grave.
Let us look at a few Proverbs. It says in Proverbs 5:5:
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.
You will see this, again, and again. It says in Proverbs 7:27:
Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
It says in Proverbs 9:18:
But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.
Again, “death” and “hell.”
It also says in Proverbs 23:13-14:
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
The first part of the verse uses the word “die” and the second part of the verse uses the word “hell,” because they are synonymous. If you correct your child, he will not die (go to hell) and he will not experience the wages of sin, which is death.
It says in Isaiah 28:15:
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement…
In other words, you can use either word: death or hell. You know, in the Old Testament, there is only one word that is translated as “hell” and I believe it is translated that way thirty-one times. It is the Hebrew word “sheh-ole” and every time you see the word “hell” in the Old Testament, it is that Hebrew word and that word is also translated as “grave” thirty-one times. So, the word “sheh-ole” is found sixty-two times and it is evenly translated thirty-one times as “hell” and thirty-one times as “grave.” Anywhere you see that word in the Old Testament as “hell,” you could substitute the word “grave.” The translators determined to translate it as “hell” because of context or even because of their own theological ideas, so they translated the word “sheh-ole” as “hell.”
Let us go to Genesis 37, where Jacob thought Joseph was dead. It says in Genesis 37:35:
And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
That word “grave” is the word “sheh-ole,” or “hell.” They could have translated it that way, but they did not. Why not? They knew that Jacob was a true believer and the context indicated that he was grieving over his son and talking about his own physical death. Think about that. Can true believers go down into “hell”? Yes, they can. Do we not know true believers that have died recently? How about Mr. Camping? Where did he go? He went down into “hell.” We do not like to say that, but it is the word “sheh-ole,” and with everyone that dies physically, their bodies go into the grave and the word “grave” is the same word for “hell.” The Bible does teach that no one can go to heaven unless they first go to “hell.” Christ went into “hell” or the grave. All the elect that are now in the grave in their physical bodies and awaiting the end of the world at the last day. They are presently in the grave or in “hell” in their physical bodies. Their spirits are with the Lord in heaven, but their physical bodies are in the ground because they have seen corruption. The worms may have eaten their bodies away and their bodies may have turned to dust because they are in “hell” or the grave. But on the last day, God is going to raise up all the bodies of the elect. He will raise them up out of “hell” to be exalted into the heavens. You see, that is when they are declared sons of God.
However, the Lord had a problem with the living elect that would be still alive on the earth at the time of end and this is the reason there could not have been a rapture before Judgment Day because the living elect had not died physically and they had not yet gone into “hell” or the grave, but everyone must go to “hell” first before they can be lifted up. We are following the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ and being made conformable to His death. As Robert read in the earlier Scripture reading in Romans 6:5: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:” If you are not positioned properly into death, you cannot be raised to experience the resurrection. Everyone in the grave is positioned properly. They are in place – they are in the graveyard. They are not suffering, but their bodies are dead and in the ground, properly positioned for that last day of the resurrection. But if the Lord raised up His people that are living and had never experienced death and “hell,” that brings about a problem. We know that even if the Lord should tarry and He waits for another sixteen years before He ends the world, there would still be elect alive on the earth at that time. Some people that were saved as young children could be in their 20s, 30s or 40s by then, so how will the Lord solve that problem? His solution was to bring the world into the condition of “hell” or “death.” On May 21, 2011 when God shut the door of heaven and put out the lights of the Gospel, He made the world dark. Look up the word “darkness” in the Bible and you will see that “death” will be somewhere in view when you read about darkness. The world is in the condition of spiritual darkness or “death” and God has sealed the fate of all the unsaved. Therefore, He has brought His people into a world that is in the condition of hell to properly position them for the last day when the Lord Jesus comes and raises up His people.
If we go back to the Book of Jonah, we see it says in Jonah 2:1:
Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish's belly,
We could understand Jonah to represent the Lord Jesus. He is praying. What diligence and faithfulness it shows that Christ prays under the most extreme conditions possible. Jonah is praying as he is cast into the sea and he is inside the great fish. You know, it is not always true that when we are in tough circumstances, we immediately turn to God and pray. Often, our difficult circumstances “swallow us up” and we are so overcome by them that it is not easy to pray when things are going badly. We cannot imagine a worse day than Jonah is experiencing as he finds himself inside a fish. Talk about darkness – it would have dark and stinky. When we walk past a fish in the supermarket aisle, there is a pretty strong odor and that would have been magnified inside a fish’s belly. It would have been disgusting and ugly and extremely difficult circumstances.
You know, I like to get comfortable when I pray. I take a seat or I get on my knees and I might put a little pillow under my knees and my hands on my bed, nice and comfortable. But that was not the situation with Jonah. We do not know how he was positioned inside the fish’s belly. It would not have been “comfortable,” but he was praying. The Lord tells us in John, chapter 17 that Christ was praying while He was under the wrath of God and going through the wrath of God. It says in John 17:9:
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
Christ prayed for His people. He is going through death on their behalf and He is suffering for their sake, but He is praying for them because the whole experience was for them. Of course, He was not praying for everyone and this verse refutes the idea that God loves the world and everyone in it, as many churches teach. Christ specifically prays for “them” and when you read the rest of the Bible we know it refers to all who were predestinated to receive salvation and whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The Lord Jesus Christ personally prayed for us. Did He know our names? Yes, He knew everything about us. He knew about every sin we would commit. He knew us intimately.
Jonah was not Christ. He was a man and he was praying on a different track, historically. He was praying about things that were personal between God and him, but the illustration is of what Christ prayed for. So, let us look at Jonah 2:1-2:
Then Jonah prayed unto JEHOVAH his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto JEHOVAH, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
Jonah prayed from within the fish and God heard him, but, again, it is typifying Christ praying while He was under the wrath of God. In the first instance, He prayed at the foundation of the world because when we think about Jonah’s experience and the “three days and three nights,” it is teaching us about the atonement.
And there are two different ways of looking at the atonement:
So, Jonah cried unto the Lord and God heard him. Notice it said, “out of the belly of hell,” and we wonder why the Lord uses that kind of language. Why did He refer to the “belly” of hell? Was it just because Jonah was in the fish’s belly? That is true, but it could have said, “out of hell cried I.” But God intentionally used the word “belly” and that is because the word “belly” can also be translated as “bowels” or “womb.”
First, let us look at where it is translated a “bowels” in Psalm 71:6:
By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
Here, it is the word “bowels” and not the word “womb,” but it is synonymous with “womb” in this verse.
It is translated as “womb” in Ruth 1:11:
And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
The womb is in the belly, so it makes sense that it would be synonymous with “belly,” but it is interesting that as Jonah is praying to the Lord and he said, “out of the belly of hell cried I,” we could substitute “womb,” because the Bible allows for that. It would say, “out of the womb of hell cried I,” and does that help us in any other areas of the Bible? Does it assist us in some other direction? Let us look at Psalm 139:13-15:
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Who is this that is speaking? It is King David and he refers to his mother’s “womb.” Then he said, “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and we often think of this in conjunction with the knitting together of human beings as God fashions and forms us in the womb and then a living human being is born. But it is rather odd that he says he was “made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” Is that what the belly of a woman is? Where have we heard that language regarding the “lowest parts of the earth”? It was in Ephesians 4, verse 9 that said of Christ: “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” Jesus said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” David can be a type of Christ and his name means “beloved,” so we can understand that this is Christ speaking when it says, “thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” Then it goes on to say in Psalm 139:16:
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written…
What book is this? It is the Lamb’s Book of Life. Is that in 1Corinthians, chapter 12 where we find that God says we are members of His body? It says in 1Corinthians 12:12-14:
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.
Then it says in 1Corinthians 12:16-17:
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
We are Jesus’ body and we are members of that body. Some are the feet. Some are the hands. Yes, we have fingers, toes, legs arms and various parts of a body, but it points to being members of the one body of Christ.
After it says that Jesus was “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth,” it goes on to say in Psalm 139:16:
…and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
In other words, they did not yet exist. They were not alive. They had not been born yet. Why? At what point did Christ experience the wrath of God? When did Jesus go to “hell?” It was at the foundation of the world. What man was alive? What man could claim any credit or add anything to it or do any work? No one existed. The world had not yet been created and, yet, the body of Christ and its various members were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and they “came together” in some way in God’s mind and in His understanding. God knew them all and Jesus had died for all of them and every sin they would ever commit in their lives was paid for and they were saved in the sense that God had obligated Himself to save them; there would still be the matter of the application of that salvation through the Word of God: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
So, the body of Christ was already formed, and, yet, they did not yet exist. Therefore, the “belly of hell” or the “womb of hell” was the place of the formation of the Son of God, in the first instance, because it says in Romans 1:3-4:
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
The way God wrote these verses, it contains so much information that it is very hard to see, especially when God hide things. But just read the first part where it says, “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” and then read the last part, “by the resurrection from the dead.” He was declared to be the Son through the mechanism of having risen from the dead. And we know why, because it tells us in Colossians 1:17-18:
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead…
He is the firstborn Son of God. He is the “only begotten Son,” as God called Him. It says in Revelation 1:5:
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead…
When you are dead, where are you? You are in the grave and what is the grave? It is “hell.” He is the first begotten from “hell.” He is the firstborn from -“hell”_ because “death” and “hell” are synonymous. So, from the “belly of hell” or from the “womb of the grave,” Christ was fearfully made and “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.”
First, He was being “formed,” as it were, to be born Himself. When He rose from the dead, He was the “firstborn Son of God.” Where was his womb? His formation took place in death or in the grave and it was through the resurrection that he was like a baby coming out of the womb and being born. And then there was the declaration that He was the Son of God.
But it is also said of Christ, in Romans 8:29:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
So, all the brethren must experience the birth and declaration. How do we get to the point of being declared sons of God? We must rise from the dead or rise from hell. That is what it means to be dead. You must come from death in order to be like Jesus and be conformed to the image of His death, as it says in Philippians 3, verse 9. It also says in Romans 6:5:
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Therefore, all the physically dead that are elect are in the proper position “in the grave,” ready to be resurrected and to receive that declaration: “You are sons of God.” This is in following the pattern of Christ as the firstborn from the dead. As far as the living elect, we have been positioned by God in the spiritual condition of hell. If you do not think that “hell” can be a spiritual condition, then what happened to Satan at the time of the cross? He was bound for a thousand years in the bottomless pit and it says in 2Peter, chapter 2 that this was the condition of hell. And, yet, Satan never went anywhere and he was not cast into a physical place.
Also, when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and before He had died, He was in the “lowest parts of the earth” for three days and three nights. You cannot say it was at the cross because then we do not have the “three days and three nights.” It had to begin in the garden while He was still living physically, but He was in the condition of hell. The whole world has been placed in the condition of hell at this time.
Let us go to Job 14:12-14:
So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
Here, notice that Job is being moved by the Spirit of God to speak of being hid in “hell.” It is the word “sheh-ole.” Again, it says, “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time,” and then it speaks of God remembering him and his change coming at an appointed time.
This is very similar to what we read in Isaiah, chapter 26 where it also mentions being “dead” in verse 19. Then it says in Isaiah 26:20:
Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
So, Job says to hide him in the grave until God’s wrath be past and Isaiah says until the indignation is past. That is because Isaiah 26 is referring to the living elect that will be raptured, but Job is referring to the physically dead elect that will be resurrected on the last day after Day of Judgment is past and the wrath of God has been poured out. On that last day, both groups will “rise” out of the grave or out of the condition of hell.