Descent into Hell: Where Is It in Scripture?

Question: Where in Scripture can one find verses that the Savior brought up from hell all the righteous and repentant?

Answer: About the Savior’s descent into hell the holy Apostle Peter writes: “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: by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah” (1 Pet. 3: 18-20). The same holy Apostle writes about this in different words in the following chapter from his Catholic epistle: “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet 4:6). Certain both ancient and new exegetes see reference to the descent of the Savior into hell in the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians: “Wherefore he saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that He ascended, what is it that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things” (Eph. 4:8-10).

On the basis of these witnesses from Holy Scripture is founded the dogmatic teaching of the Church about the descent of Jesus Christ after death and before His Resurrection to the nethermost regions for preaching the Gospel to pre-Christian mankind.

The holy Apostle conveys the condition of the Savior after death on the Cross in these words: “… being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet 3:18). This corresponds exactly to the Paschal hymn: “In the grave bodily; in Hades with Thy soul, though Thou wast God; in Paradise with the thief; and on the Throne with the Father and the Spirit was Thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Uncircumscribable.” According to the faith of the Church, the preaching of the Savior in hell was preceded there by the preaching of Him by the great Prophet and Forerunner John. This is expressed in the troparion to the Forerunner: “After suffering with joy on behalf of the truth, Thou proclaimest even to those in hell the God Who appeared in the flesh, Who takes away the sin of the world, And grands us great mercy!”


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