Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Did Jesus Go to Hell?

Something I preached last Sunday is bothering me. In fact, when we returned home I did more research and could not find scripture to back up my statement. See what you think.

We read the Apostle’s Creed which says,

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.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places

The Apostles’ Creed wasn’t written by the twelve, but is a summation of their teachings. It first appears in the 4th century. Here’s what I said about it on Sunday.

More than any other Christian creed, it may justly be called an ecumenical symbol of faith. That means that all Christians believe these basic things regardless of their denominational preference. The Apostles’ Creed is our watermark on the paper of doctrine, and our benchmark for declaring the tenets of our faith. No part of it can be omitted.”

On the drive home Husband and I had a rigorous discussion. He rightly challenged one line and I now need a clarification, if not a retraction. Where does the Bible say that Jesus “descended into hell”?

When I couldn’t find scripture, I attempted logic. (Bad idea.) Hell is where sinners go. Jesus took my sins to the cross, so he surely suffered the entirety of my punishment. Immediately my seminary professor’s face loomed into view. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Rom 6:23)

Death, not hell.

So what exactly does the Bible say about hell? Did Jesus go there between his death and resurrection? Here’s what I determined…

There are two Greek words for the abode of the dead. Hell, or Geenna is also known as the Lake of Fire. It was made for Satan and his minions (Matt 25:41) and will be occupied by the unrighteous after the final judgment. (Rev 19:20-21) There is no biblical evidence that anyone has gone there or will go there until after Jesus’ Second Coming. Not even Jesus Himself.

The other Greek word is Hadas, from which we get the English word Hades. This is the region of the dead. Before Jesus’ ascension, the spirits of all people went to Hades. Since Jesus’ ascension, only the spirits of unbelievers go to Hades, while the spirits of believers go directly to be with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:1-8)

Jesus entered Hades after his death. (Acts 2:25-31) Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. Romans 10:7 refers to Jesus being in “the abyss” while he was among the dead. Revelation tells us that after the final judgment, Hadas will be cast into Geenna.

The correct scriptural answer is that Jesus descended into Hades, but not into Hell.

After hours of study I know one thing for certain—Jesus went where he needed to go and did what he needed to do to assure my eternal life.