Liturgy Lesson: Christ's Descent into Hell

Liturgy Lesson: Christ's Descent into Hell


The Apostle's Creed is our most ancient summary of the Faith, frequently linked to the Apostles themselves. In this “Cliff’s Notes” of Christianity, there has always been questions about the statement “He descended into Hell,” referring to Christ’s entry to the nether regions after His death on the Cross. To some, the descent into hell represents the physical agony of death upon the Cross. To others, the word hell means Hades or Sheol, the collective abode of the dead, divided into Paradise or Abraham's Bosom—the state of God-fearing souls—and Gehenna, the state of ungodly souls. Thus the descent into hell suggests the Son conveyed the sins of the world to hell; or preached the Good News of deliverance to the godly dead such as Lazarus beggar and the repentant thief. A third-century Syrian Creed speaks of Jesus, "…crucified under Pontius Pilate and departed in peace, in order to preach to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the saints concerning the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead." Still others believe the descent provides God's justice by providing an opportunity for all mankind—in eternity as well as in time—to hear the message of redemption from the Word Himself. Whatever interpretation we accept, we should study the Scripture this teaching derives from closely. Some of the standard texts are Job 38:17, Psalm 68:18-22; Matthew 12:38-41; Acts 2:22-32; Romans 10:7; Ephesians 4:7-10, 1 Peter 3:18-20, and 1 Peter 4:6. However we approach it, we must remember the outcome—Christ came forth, leading captivity itself captive, and holding the keys of Death and Hell. He is our victory and life—and will never leave us!

Collect for the 16th Sunday After Trinity

O LORD, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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