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He Descended into Hell

If you were raised in a Christian church, Protestant or Catholic, then you are familiar with these next few words, if not, read them slowly and from the heart.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come 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.

These words are a beloved declaration of our belief system. Our Church Fathers from the fourth century developed this creed, called the Apostles’ Creed, with simplicity, order, and reverence. It was originally written to refute Gnosticism which taught that salvation could be received by a secret or hidden knowledge. That heresy, and others, needed to be refuted so our Church Fathers developed this clear and concise statement of faith. Last week I wrote that we would be discussing the truth that Jesus visited the underworld after His crucifixion; “He descended into hell” from the creed. Let’s begin.

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:40 NLT)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were insisting that He prove His authority with a miracle. Jesus told them that the only evidence they would see was the sign of the prophet Jonah. As Jonah was swallowed up in a great fish, a type of hell, if you will, similarly the crucified Messiah would be swallowed up in death and hell. Why is that important to a Christian? Why would the Church Fathers include that phrase in our statement of faith? I believe Jesus desires His followers to continually remember His authority over sin, death, and hell. He physically descended into She’ol, the lower parts of the earth, and therefore provided evidence that He was the living Conqueror. In three short days He proved He was Who He said He was.

Unlike Jonah, who turned and went in the opposite direction, Jesus willingly descended into hell to announce His judgment. I don’t know how it all went down but I do know that it’s important to a believer because it verifies His victory. Each year we celebrate His resurrection but we don’t typically spend too much time contemplating what happened in those three days that are crucial for us. Next week we’ll look at some of the scriptures that give us a birds-eye view of those divine three days.

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One Response to He Descended into Hell

  1. Jan says:

    I am looking forward to next week. I have not thought of those 3 days before!

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