Sorry it’s taken me so long to write anymore. I’ve been fighting strep throat for the last week. Well that and I have no bloody idea of how to deal with this part of the Apostles Creed.
This is the phrase that has always bugged me. I have gone over the gospels time and time again, but I have found nothing. I had no idea of what this phrase meant in terms the Bible. Like, where did it come from, and why does it matter? Being stuck, I decided to email one of the pastors at my church.
Pastor Eric replied saying,
The main Bible passage is 1 Pet 3:18-4:6, where the descent into hell is mentioned twice. The first time seems to speak of the descent as a triumphal march, as if Christ descended in order to demonstrate his victory over sin and his Lordship as Judge. The second time seems to speak of the descent as a missional journey, as if Christ descended "to preach the gospel even to those who are dead" so that none will be excluded from God simply because they were born at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Those are the two main interpretations of what "he descended into hell" means.
This makes sense to a certain extent. I mean, I have heard about the idea that he kicked down the gate of Hell and rescued the faithful who had no way into heaven without him. I have heard the idea that he went to hell to show his power over sin. Neither of these understandings really satisfies me though.
I was talking about this with Tyler, the other intern, and my friend Rachel last night after the middle school youth group. Tyler presented a very interesting idea about it. He was saying that the way he has understood Jesus’ decent into Hell as part of the atonement for our sins. It’s like the cross was a microcosm for what was really going on. His suffering on the cross wasn’t enough, so he had to be punished in Hell as well. I think this makes the most sense to me. We liken Jesus to a lamb lead to the slaughter. Well, think of the cross as the original killing of the lamb, and the decent into Hell is like when the good parts of the lamb are burned in honor of God. Just killing the Lamb isn’t enough. There is another step that needs to be taken to complete the atonement.
I’m still not totally comfortable with this part of the creed, but it makes more sense now. I’m sure over time it will be fine.