Jesus’ Stay in Hell

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Maker of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
    the holy catholic church;
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body;
    and the life everlasting.


This is the Apostle’s Creed. Most of it reads pretty normal. There wouldn’t be much to argue about with many of these beliefs. But there is one line that feels like it slid its way into the creed, one that the editors of this creed overlooked. It’s reading fine, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried,” and then the early Christians sneak in, “He descended into hell.” What?????? Jesus in hell?????? Blasphemy!!!! Bloody blasphemy!!!!! But that’s what is says. I don’t want to get into a huge debate on all that this statement connotes. But I do wish to mention that this is quite profound. That maybe hell is not out of reach from the arms of God. Maybe God’s love truly goes places that nobody else wants to go. Maybe God’s love truly does extend to the sinner, all sinners. Maybe God’s love reaches the most unexpected people and in the most unexpected of places, in this case hell but not much earlier on earth. Is God’s love truly this great? When the apostle says that there is nowhere to escape the love of God is he serious? Frederick Buechner comments, “The fancifulness of the picture gives way to what seems . . . the inevitability of it. Of course that is where [Jesus] would have gone. Of course that is what he would have done. Christ is always descending and redescending into Hell.” Jesus did say he came to heal the sick, because those that are well do not need a doctor. I can’t think of a bigger leper colony than hell itself. If God was willing to wrap himself in flesh and come to earth, one not go to hell why you’re down there? Maybe when we go looking for God, we shouldn’t be going to the stain-glassed cathedrals in which we worship, maybe we should go to the slums, the living hells in which people reside. And maybe it’s here that we’ll discover Jesus. I mean, where else would you expect Jesus to be?

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