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From The Pastor's Desk
Did Jesus go to hell?

David Crowder, a talented musician, has a song called I Know A Ghost. It speaks about the Holy Ghost empowering the believer. It has a line that would make some uncomfortable. It goes like this.

The things I thought I wanted, I

Never should have wandered, I

Let the Devil get the best of me

When, oh, my God's paid a debt for me

Now to turn this house into a home

It's the only thing that rattles bones

He went to Hell and back to leave us His own

Jesus and hell is a touchy subject. Half the world refuses even to acknowledge hell, but Jesus spoke about hell a lot! We see in the Apostles Creed similar language.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;

who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven,

and sitteth on 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 Ghost,

the holy catholic Church*,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

We can also see references in the Bible that seem to hint at something that was happening:

Ephesians 4:9-10 (NASB)

(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended afar above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)

1 Peter 4:6 (NASB)

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

Commentaries are a great help in this matter, a way to look at the great teachers of the past, but occasionally Scripture acts as a commentary for us, which is by far better. The Apostle Paul is referencing Psalm 68 here. The psalm helps us to understand the purpose a bit better. The Psalm was about God's triumph of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and the ascent of God up to Mt. Zion. Paul uses this to show us Christ returning from His battle on earth back into the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem with the trophies of His great victory at Calvary. Through His crucifixion and resurrection, Christ conquered Satan and death, and in triumph, returned to God those who were once sinners and prisoners of Satan. The spoils of conquering were the souls saved, but now He also bestows gifts to the redeemed through His Holy Spirit.

Sadly, there has been much confusion around the descent. Much of it comes from a misunderstanding over terms regarding death and hell. The term in the Old Testament is Hades, and it could mean what we think of by grave or cemetery, the place where the body is laid to rest. It also is used in a way regarding hell and all its torments.

So we are left with asking, did Jesus descend to the grave?

Yes! This is what Good Friday is all about but the story doesn't end there.

His body is testified to have laid to rest in the tomb until the glorious third day of which we celebrate every Lord's Day and especially Resurrection Sunday (Easter).

Did He descend into hell (as in torment and fire)? No!

Now consider an updated reading of the Apostle's Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit

and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day, He rose again.

He ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living 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.

*meaning the universal Christian church—all believers in Jesus Christ

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