The Day Jesus Went to Hell

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March 23, 2022

1 Peter 3:18-19 NIV

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits

CONSIDER THIS

I grew up in a church that said the Apostles Creed every Sunday. Even though I didn’t fully understand it, I said it like I believed it and it felt like it mattered. It feels even more so like it mattered now. Let’s affirm this ancient creed of the Apostles now.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius  Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. On the third day he arose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, Amen. 

I’ll never forget the first time as a kid I was in another church where they, too, said the Apostles Creed. It kind of made me feel like I belonged there too. Anyway, all was going well as I declared the ancient words from memory, until we came to this line: “crucified, dead and buried.” At this point, as I was about to boldly declare, “On the third day he arose from the dead,” the people around me headed in a completely different direction. They all said, 

“He descended into Hell.” 

What the . . . Heck . . Ok you know what I wanted to say there?! My small Methodist Sunday School mind had been blown. Did they just say the word “hell”? In unison? In church? And did they just declare with gusto that Jesus had gone there? Where on earth did they get this? It had to be wrong. 

“He descended into Hell.” 

After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits

This is the place the Old Testament calls Sheol. It is the place the New Testament often refers to as Hades. It was understood as the place of residence of the souls and spirits of the departed dead. In the ancient mind, it was thought of, in at least a spiritual geographical sense, as under the earth. We can get into some pretty esoteric speculation quickly on this point, as again we are dealing with unknowable and unverifiable realities, so I will avoid that here. 

On that first Holy Saturday, Jesus descended into Hell to liberate the captive Saints and to bring them into the the Communion of Saints—the great cloud of witnesses. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, (and Leah), the Hebrew midwives, Moses and Aaron, Hannah and Samuel, David and Bathsheba, and on we could go. 

“He descended into Hell.” 

In the next chapter, Peter adds this bit:

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. 1 Peter 4:5-6

He descended into Hell. On the third day he arose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. From thence he shall to come to judge the quick and the dead. 

See you back in Hell tomorrow. ;0) 

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for descending into Hell. Thank you for setting the captives free. Thank you for your justice. And Thank you for your mercy which is even greater than your justice. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

Has the Apostles Creed been a part of your life? Would you like it to be? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

4 COMMENTS

  1. J D, I was raised in one of those “other churches “ who spoke the entire Apostles Creed but never gave it much thought about why Jesus went to hell. It was after I started hanging out with Methodists that I realized that y’all didn’t recite that line. I asked one of the pastors why, but he didn’t have an answer and never got back to me. So I researched it and found out that as Protestant, we didn’t really deal with what the Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches refer to as Holy Saturday. For us it’s just a non-day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. When I learned about the Harrowing of Hell, it made me realize we’re missing out on something important.

  2. When I was about 11, my family started attending a Presbyterian church where we all said the full Apostles Creed. It was really more passionlessly mumbling it than profoundly proclaiming it. I gradually got where I could rattle it off. When, as a freshman in college, I encountered and surrendered to the living Jesus, I noticed the creed became very inspirational to me. When I would visit my home church, I would say it with passion and fire in my soul. People would look at me like they thought I was nuts. (And I was.) I was crazy about Jesus. (Still am!)

  3. Absolutely and it will always be. it keeps me grounded in THE FAITH. If it had not been for the ongoing nature of THE FAITH, I would have walked away from Christianity a long time ago!

    It is interesting that you present a biblical documentation of Jesus literally descending into Hell. When I encountered the phrase previously via the Heidelberg Catechism the people elaborating on the Heidelberg either ignored it or minimized it!

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