Frank Liu – March 3, 2019
He Descended into Hell; on the third day HE rose again from the dead.
Creeds help us define what we believe – what is true. Our faith is not primarily built on a set of beliefs as it is built on the life, death, and resurrection of the man, Jesus.
What does it mean that he descended into Hell? How does this make any sense?
When we think of death, we think of entire annihilation. Death is separation from God/separation from your spirit. Death is either physical death (separation of your body from the spirit) and spiritual death (separation from God from your spirit).
Ephesians 2:1 “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.”
“But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” -Acts 2:30-32
Even though Jesus died, spiritually and physically, what happened while he was dead? What happened in those three days? Jesus descended into hell. Hell is kind of an umbrella word that represents what happens after we die. There are 4 words that get translated as “Hell” in the Bible.
Sheol – Hebrew word used 65 times in the OT. Translated as Hell 31 times. Where the souls of the dead went. It’s described as a physical place “under the earth.” A shadowy place where the souls of men dwell. It’s also used to describe the place where BOTH the wicked and the righteous go. This was understood to be a real and specific place, where the wicked and righteous go to dwell.
Hades – Greek word used 11 times in the NT translated into Hell numerous times in different versions. Hades is best understood in the story of Lazarus in Luke 16. You can read the full story here. The good place was called Abraham’s bosom and the bad place was called Hades where they couldn’t cross between. There is a good place and a bad place in Hades. But when Jesus comes on the scene, he changes that. He changes the nature of death. In Luke 23:42-43, the theif on the cross said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Christ Jesus proclaims the gospel to the souls in Hades and outside Hades.
Jesus leads those in Hades (Abraham’s bosom) to heaven.
“This is why it[a] says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)”
Items in this area of the gospel story are undoubtedly unclear. It’s not something we would bank our lives on, but the resurrection is. The resurrection and Jesus’ death. When he was death, he tore apart the gates of hades and provided a way to life from death. The resurrection is the trimphent confirmation of his victory. He transformed the way we think of death.
We often think of death of something to be feared – that represnts a place of defeat. But not for the Christian. For the Christian, death is no longer the highest power in the earth.
“There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly and the death of the ungodly. Death comes to the ungodly man as a penal infliction, but to the righteous as a summons to his Father’s palace. To the sinner it is an execution, to the saint an undressing from his sins and infirmities. Death to the wicked is the King of terrors. Death to the saint is the end of terrors, the commencement of glory.”