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Did Jesus descend into Hell after the Cross to suffer there and finish our redemption?
Thank you for asking this question. I am hearing this teaching quite a lot these days, and I consider this idea that Jesus descended into Hell, after the Cross, for the purpose of finishing our redemption to be a false teaching.
I imagine this teaching began with the "Apostles Creed", which begins:
"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;"
Now, I have no problem with what the Apostles Creed says here, because both Matt 12:40 & Eph 4:7-10 state that Jesus descended to "Hades", commonly translated as "Hell", during the three days His body was in the tomb. Hades is the place, in the heart of the earth, where both saved and unsaved men and some of the fallen angels were held, before the Cross. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He removed the Old Testament saints from hades and transferred them to the third heaven, where they reside today. Unsaved humans and the angels who sinned in Genesis chapter 6 are apparently still there, in "hades" today.
What I have a problem with is the idea that Jesus had to "suffer" in "Hell" to finish our redemption!
It is abundantly clear that Jesus FINISHED His redemptive work ON THE CROSS - I believe He even said so, in John 19:30 "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost".
Redemption and forgiveness of sin points to the Cross! Not to "Hell" or "Hades"!
In Col 1:20, "reconcilliation" and "peace" were accomplished on the Cross: "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven".
In Col 2:13 and 14, our trespasses and the handwriting of ordinances that was against us (which I take to be the Old Testament Law), were NAILED TO THE CROSS: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
It is the CROSS that is the power of God: 1 Cor 1:18 "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
In Eph 2:16, Jesus reconciled both Jew and Gentile together BY THE CROSS: "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby":
I do not find a single word about any portion of redemption or reconcilliation provided by the descent of Jesus into "Hell" or "Hades".
Matt 12:40 states that Jesus descended into Hades for three days and three nights:
40 "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth". (That's where Hades is said to be)
Eph 4:7-10 Is another mention of the descent of Jesus into Hades and the transfer of the O.T. Saints to the third heaven. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive (transfer of O.T. Saints to the Third Heaven), and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
We know that Jesus descended to hades for three days, but what does the Scripture say He "did" there?
I see two reasons for the descent of Jesus into "Hades", commonly translated as "Hell", during the three days His body was in the tomb, first, to proclaim some "good news" and secondly, some "bad news" to the inhabitants of hades. He proclaimed the "good news" of His strategic victory on the Cross to the Old Testament saints, and that He was going to transfer them to the third heaven when He ascended. And, He proclaimed the "bad news" to the angels in chains, that they would have to stay there. 1 Pet 3:18 and Jude verses 6 and 7 indicate that these "extra bad" angels are still in hades.
Jesus Himself gave us some insight into "hades" before the Cross, in Luke 16:22-31. "Hades", in the heart of the earth, is where all the souls who died before the cross were held. It had two sections, Paradise and Sheol. The Old Testament Saints were held in the Paradise section, and the unsaved men and some of the fallen angels were held in the Sheol section.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: (the Paradise section of Hades) the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell (Hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (In Paradise).
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that [would come] from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
(Of course, one DID rise from the dead, and still men choose not to believe).
1 Pet 3:18-20, and Jude verses 6 & 7, speak of the time, described in Genesis chapter 6, when Satan attempted to pollute the whole human race, before the Great Flood, by having some of the disobedient angels take on human form and mate with human females. They were subsequently taken out of the angelic conflict and held in chains in Hades until the Great White Throne judgement. (Rev 20:11-15). God had to destroy the whole human race, except Noah and his family, because of this angelic pollution.
1 Pet 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; (Hades) 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
Jude 6&7 Speak of the fallen angels who mated with humans to try to spoil the pure genealogy of Eve to Jesus and the cross:
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, (The angelic realm) but left their own habitation, (Their angelic bodies) he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as (like) Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving (They, the fallen angels gave) themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Genesis chap 6 has more about this subject. Ancient mythology quite often has a factual basis! Jason and the argonauts, the one eyed cyclops, mixtures of humans and animals, all could very well have a factual basis! The "Sons of God" in Genesis 6, is the Hebrew phrase "Beneha Elohim", which always speaks of the fallen angels. We see these "Beneha Elohim" in Job 1:6 & 7, where Satan and the "Sons of God" must "report in" to the throne of God periodically.
Since Jesus transferred the O.T. saints to the third heaven, as far as we know, only these fallen angels in chains, and all unsaved mankind are in Hades at the present time, awaiting the Great White Throne judgement, at the end of the 1000 year Millennium.
Matt 27:51-53, The Old Testament saints were transferred from Paradise to the third Heaven by Jesus: 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Psalm 68:18 is a prophecy concerning Jesus strategic victory on the Cross and his transfer of the Old Testament Saints to the Third Heaven after His resurrection. "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them".
This passage is a glorious picture of Jesus leading a triumphant procession of Saints from the Paradise section of Hades, to the Third Heaven!
There are other Greek words translated "hell" in the New Testament, but the one in the "Apostles Creed" and this study is "hades", the place Jesus spoke of, where Lazarus and the Rich Man were, where both saved and unsaved men and some of the fallen angels were held, during Old Testament times.
Jesus clearly went there while His body was in the tomb for three days.
But to say that our redemption was not finished on the Cross, and to add anything to the work of Jesus on the Cross, I consider to be not just "bad" teaching, but false teaching.
I sincerely hope this answers your question, and please don't hesitate to write again if you need clarification or have another question :-)
May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones in every way!