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Did Jesus Descend Into Hell? Apostles' Creed - Michael Heiser

Updated: Aug 27, 2023



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Did Jesus Descend Into Hell? Apostles' Creed - Michael Heiser

The Apostles Creed

Traditional Version

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried;* the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at 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 Spirit, the holy catholic** church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


Ecumenical Version

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, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again 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.

*Traditional use of this creed includes these words: "He descended into hell." **universal


Christ’s Descent to the Dead

"The doctrine of Christ’s descent to the dead holds that after Christ’s death, his body remained in the grave and his soul remained in the place of the (righteous) dead, until his resurrection, not suffering but proclaiming the victory achieved by his penal substitutionary death to all those in the place of the dead. This did not extend the offer of salvation to those who had already died, but it was a sign of hope to the righteous and a sign of judgment to the unrighteous.

SUMMARY The doctrine of Christ’s descent to the dead is that Christ, in remaining dead for three days, experienced death as all humans do: his body remained in the grave, and his soul remained in the place of the (righteous) dead. He did not suffer there, but, remaining hypostatically united to the divine nature of the Son, proclaimed the victory achieved by his penal substitutionary death to all those in the place of the dead—fallen angels, the unrighteous dead, and the OT saints. This doctrine should be held because it has both biblical and historic support, although the doctrine was called into question by some during the Reformation. This doctrine allows us to further identify with our incarnated and empathetic Lord, lends additional meaning to the waters of baptism, and helps to remind believers that Christ is now ruling and reigning, holding the keys to death and Hades himself.

The doctrine of Christ’s “descent” is confessed in the Apostles’s and Athanasian Creeds and celebrated by Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, but evangelical churches rarely give it much attention. Indeed, where the Apostles’s Creed is recited at all, many evangelicals just leave out the clause, “he descended into hell/the dead.” So just what is this doctrine? Biblically and historically, the descent means the following:..' from the article: Christ’s Descent to the Dead


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