There are several sayings that "Jesus went to 'hell' after His death to save the then present people in hell". I do find it hard to believe this. A few questions then conjure themselves to mind that "if Jesus really went to hell, did He feel the 'torments' and 'searing heat' that people there feel?... Why did He 'save' those there at the time?...and who where they (hell inhabitants)? I want the FULL light of this truth; any insightful answer is very appreciated.


The Apostle's Creed (believed by Catholics, Orthodox, and orthodox Protestants) states:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 3 says:

17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

From this second passage, it seems that Jesus visited the prisoners (presumably in Hell) AFTER he was made alive. Some believe that Jesus experienced the torments of Hell, but since Jesus had already been "made alive", his suffering was over, so it is likely that his visit to Hell did not cause him torment. All the torment he experienced was on the Cross.

A translation of a 1583 Catholic catechism states (as see here: http://biblelight.net/prison.htm):

The Fifth Article

Q. What is the fifth article? A. He descended into hell, the third day he arose again from the dead.

Q. What means, he descended into Hell? A. It means, that as soon as Christ was dead, he descended into Limbo, to free the holy fathers who were there.

Q. How prove you that? A. Out of Acts ii. 24, 27. 'Christ being slain, God raised him up loosing the sorrows of hell, as it was foretold by the prophet,' Psalm xv. 10. 'Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption.'

Q. What other proof have you? A. Ephes. iv. 8, 9. 'He ascending on high, hath led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men; and that he ascended,' what is it but because he descended into the lower parts of the earth?

Q. Did he not descend to purgatory to free such as were there? A. It is most probable he did according to 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20. 'Christ being dead, came in spirit; and preached to them also that were in prison, who had been incredulous in the days of Noah, when the ark was building.'

While I do not subscribe to a belief in limbo, one common understanding is that prior to Jesus' death on the cross, no one could enter Heaven, because none were forgiven for their sins yet. Thus all people were in the place of the dead, separated into two categories, those who would enter Heaven after Christ paid the price, and those who would be sent to Hell for final judgment. Some call this place of waiting where the faithful people were kept "Abraham's bosom", recalling the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+16:19-31).

However, since Scripture is very short on details concerning this question, one should consider the matter carefully before coming to a conclusion as many fanciful embellishments have popped up over the years which lack any basis.

For one perspective on this issue, see http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell

  • I'm not sure who "orthodox Protestants" are, but there are many Protestants who accept the Apostles Creed and reject your analysis of it. Mar 25 '16 at 18:44
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    Orthodox Protestants are those who accept the seven ecumenical councils and the creeds that they produced, including the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. Mar 25 '16 at 19:48
  • @Nathaniel, I welcome new perspectives on this matter. I am a Baptist and have faithfully related what I have learned, also I have quoted from a Catholic source to introduce their views. On what point do you have a different notion? The factuality of the descent into hell? Whether Christ's suffering ended on the cross or continued during his visit to Hell? The possibility that the faithful did not enter heaven prior to the resurrection? Or some other point? Mar 25 '16 at 20:00
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    My point is only that this is a very controversial passage, and that though you make a good attempt at treating it at a high-level, there are still significant gaps. The problem is not with your answer so much as with the question; it's a Truth question that should be closed and (ideally) left unanswered. Mar 25 '16 at 21:23
  • Sigh. You and Pontius Pilate must be best buds. ;) Mar 28 '16 at 12:37

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