CCC635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live". Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and under the earth."

The Catechism teaches that Jesus preached the Gospel to all souls who are in hell or even to the depths of the dead. CCC632 to CCC634 had supporting teaching or explanation on this. It would mean, that the word hell or hades pre-Jesus descent into hell was composed of all souls both the imperfect souls undergoing purification and the damned souls but not the place of of the demons. (Note:The Abraham bosoms is a different place and its not hell but paradise.)

After Jesus had preached to all the souls in hell, some of the souls heard the Gospel and they live according to CCC635, and some of the damned souls still rejected the Gospel and suffer eternal death.

These damned souls after Jesus had preached the gospel in hell still manifest their rejection and deserved to be thrown on the "real hell" where the demons where situated. But since, the "real hell" of the demons was locked, Jesus had to open it having the Keys too not only in the place of "Death but even the Hades" for all the damned souls to finally enters the "real hell" where the demons are.

According to Catholicism, did Jesus open the gates of hell, the "real hell" of the demons for all the damned souls to enter as their just punishment?

  • 1
    Is there a scripture that speaks of the “real hell”?
    – Kris
    Sep 27, 2019 at 12:33
  • Book of revelation description of hell is different from the gospel of Luke description of hell describing the story of the rich man & Lazarus. Book of revelation is the real hell of the damned and demons. Sep 27, 2019 at 12:41
  • 1
    So when you say real hell are you referring to the lake of fire? Or tartarus? I have not read a translation that uses real hell. So cite a scripture that refers to what you call the real hell.
    – Kris
    Sep 27, 2019 at 12:46
  • 1
    Why would Christ open the gates of hell, when we see in the New Testament that Satan and the demons were already quite active?
    – Ken Graham
    Sep 28, 2019 at 1:12
  • 1
    Can you source where you got the idea that the hell of the demons was locked? This goes against Catholic tradition.
    – Ken Graham
    Sep 28, 2019 at 1:23

3 Answers 3


The answer is NO. Not sure why you skipped CCC633 in your research where you can find the answer.

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him. CCC633

  • 1
    i did not skipped CCC633, look at my question I stated further explanation can be found in CCC632 to CCC634. The CCC635 stated the risen Christ has the keys to Death and Hades. Sep 27, 2019 at 14:36
  • Well, Ok. Does CCC633 answer your question?
    – Grasper
    Sep 27, 2019 at 14:46
  • 1
    Not quite because the gray areas in that article are not expounded. Look again and discern the wordings. Is the "hell of damnation" the lake of fire in Revelation20:14-15? Sep 27, 2019 at 14:50
  • The catechism doesn't say it so we don't know either way. Right now, it's part of the mystery. But from the private revelations we know there are already souls in hell with demons which means the damned souls might have dropped deeper into the "real hell" after the moment when Jesus descended.
    – Grasper
    Sep 27, 2019 at 15:09
  • 1
    Thats why I asked the question because the wordings are mysterious or veiled. I simply want to know is the "hell of damnation" was still closed before Jesus death and when he descended into hell, did he open it so that all the damned souls can now enter and join the demons in their eternal torments. Sep 27, 2019 at 15:14

My short answer:

The NT does not mention Jesus breaking down the gates of Hades. Only in one text, namely 1 Peter 3:16-18, does one have a hint that Jesus descended into Hades in order to preach to those who died during the time of Noah's flood. 1 & 2 Peter were written during the first quarter of the 2nd century; hence, it is no surprise that Jesus' descent was not found clearly expressed anywhere else.

On the basis of this one text, the notion of Jesus' mission in Hades gradually attracts more attention and ultimately arrives at the place where, in the 3rd century, Jesus not only preaches to those in Hades but he also defeats the pagan god Hades, the King of the Underworld, and breaks down the "gates of Hades."

My longer answer: How the mission of Jesus in Hades expanded during the first three centuries

enter image description here

Most of those entering the church during the second and third centuries brought with them their confidence that they had an “immortal soul.” They also brought with them their notion that, following death, the souls of those departed entered into a place called Hades. Hades was the mythical abode of the dead -a borrowing from Hellenistic culture—and should be understood as quite distinct from what the medievalists later identified as “hell.” The original intent of “he [Jesus] was not abandoned to Hades [εἰς Ἅιδην]” in Peter’s sermon in Acts (2:31) was to reinforce the reality of the death of Jesus prior to his resurrection. In the early part of the second century, however, church pastors began to give a positive spin to the three days that Jesus spent in Hades. We will explore this shortly.

Hades is the name given to the place and to the Greek god assigned to rule the underworld. In popular Hellenistic folklore, Hades has no intentions of judging or punishing those who have died; rather, his role is limited to guarding the gates such that the dead cannot return to the land of the living. From the Greek perspective, the souls of all the dead went to Hades no matter where they died or what they believed about life after death. In Greek literature, Hades is normally presented as a dark, damp, and joyless place.

In medieval Christian thought, Hades gets transformed into the place where the damned are tormented while awaiting the Final Judgment. Instead of Hades, Satan is in charge and the fallen angels find their amusement in tormenting the damned. In this study, I will use the term “hell” to designate this latter development within Christian circles.

enter image description here

In my early religious formation, the Ursuline Sisters at Holy Cross Catholic Grade School used the Baltimore Catechism to introduce us to the notion that Jesus visited Hades following his death on the cross.

Q 85. Where did Christ's soul go after His death? A. After Christ's death His soul descended into hell.

You can notice here that ᾅδης (Hades) is here translated as “hell.” This causes lots of misunderstanding today because Christians are routinely taught that only unrepentant sinners go to hell. The phrase “descended into Hades” would have been more appropriate here, because second-century converts brought their notion of ᾅδης (Hades) with them when they entered the Jesus movement. According to their understanding, the “immortal soul separates from the body at death” and “the soul migrates into the realm of Hades.” Whether one was a Greek or a Jew, an Egyptian or a Persian, male or female, great or unimportant, virtuous or filled with vices, this made no difference. Every soul was warehoused in the final resting place known as Hades.

The Church Fathers had two choices. They could condemn Hades as a pagan superstition unworthy of their attention, or they could offer a narrative whereby Jesus took an active role in refashioning Hades. After carefully considering their pastoral options, the Church Fathers chose the second course of action.

In the Gospels, Jesus says absolutely nothing about his preaching mission in Hades. Even when Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day and was making appearances to his disciples, still Jesus is absolutely silent regarding his presence and/or his successes in Hades. Accordingly the early Church Fathers were entering into brand new territory when they began to preach to their congregations about how the soul of Jesus descended into Hades as soon as his body died on the cross. Why would Jesus want to visit Hades? Various reasons were brought forward. I present three distinct responses to this issue in chronical order.

Phase #1: Jesus preaches to those drowned at the time of Noah

Within ancient Judaism, the living had no contact with the dead; hence, in principal, Jesus had no possibility of preaching to those who drowned at the time of Noah’s flood. During the first quarter of the second century; however, a new epistle, 1 Peter, was first circulated that gave an entire new slant to the efficacy of the death of Jesus. According to the author of this epistle, Jesus’ death afforded him the opportunity to offer his message to those who had died and were abiding in Hades (as shown in the pic) awaiting the general resurrection of the dead on the last day. In 1 Peter, one finds the phrase “Christ also suffered for sins” (3:18) being used in connection with the explanation that “he was put to death in the flesh . . . and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison [ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν] who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah” (3:18-20). The phrase “spirits in prison” makes reference to the those whose souls were imprisoned in Hades after their deaths.

In Acts 2:23, Peter says that Christ “was not abandoned by God in Hades [οὔτε ἐνκατελείφθη εἰς Ἅιδην].” This is Good News indeed. If Jesus “was not abandoned by God” in the realm of the dead, then the possibility exists that still others might be able to escape the terror of Death. In Acts, a late first-century document, Peter says nothing about Jesus preaching in Hades. In 1 Peter, however, those to whom he preached are expressly identified as those who “did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark” (3:20). The death of Jesus thus afforded him access to Hades wherein he “made a proclamation” of the Good News to those who drowned at the time of Noah’s flood. The implied meaning here appears to be that those who died in the flood without the benefit of a prophet’s warning were now being given a “second chance,” for, in their midst, the Jewish prophet Jesus who had just died and who was well disposed toward Gentiles was calling upon them to return to the ways of the living God. It is almost as if Jesus (or someone acting in his name) was aware that there was an injustice done in so far as God failed to send them a prophet to warn them; hence, Jesus was continuing “his Father’s work” by rectifying this oversight. More on this will be offered later.

Phase #2: Jesus preaches to all Israelites who died before him

Justin Martyr (d. 165 C.E.) makes reference of Jesus’ mission to those who had died. In this case, however, it is not the sinners of Noah’s generation who are recipients of the Good News but the Jews who had died prior to the coming of Jesus: “The Lord God remembered his dead people of Israel who lay in their graves, and he descended to preach to them his salvation” (Dial. 72.4). The intent here appears to be that the good news of the soon-to-arrive Kingdom of God was being shared with the hundreds of thousands of those Jews from Abraham to John the Baptist. Even though they are admittedly dead, “laying in their graves,” they receive the message of God’s future salvation intended for those “sleeping” in hope. Here again the presumption is that Jesus died and, as a result, he had an opportunity to preach the Good News to those who had died without having the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus. Justin Martyr is thus strongly influenced with the Greek perspective on the condition of the dead but he retains the Jewish notion that the dead “lay in their graves” (as opposed to having their souls gathered in Hades) .

Clement of Alexandria (d. 215 C.E.) further extended the mission to the dead. In his way of thinking, Jesus preached his Good News to the righteous Jews in Hades (as just noted), but then, by way of extending the mission to the dead, Clement tells us that the Apostles, following their own deaths, descended into Hades where they preached to the pagan philosophers who had lived righteous lives (Strom. VI, 6:45, 5). Thus, 1 Peter, Justin Martyr, and Clement of Alexander form something of progressive stepping stones whereby the efficacy of Jesus’ prophetic message was gradually understood to have reached backward in time to liberate progressively larger groups of those righteous persons who had died without the saving benefit of have heard the Good News preached by Jesus. What is evident here also is that Jesus is not able to preach to the dead by virtue of his divinity. If this were the case, then the Apostles would not be able to preach to the dead philosophers.

Phase #3: Jesus completes a commando raid that binds Hades

Within Greek mythology, Hades, as the god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reluctant to swear oaths in his name, and averted their faces when sacrificing to him. Since to many, simply to say the word "Hades" was frightening, thus euphemisms were pressed into use. Since precious minerals come from under the earth (i.e., the "underworld" ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of these as well, and as such the Greeks referred to him as Πλούτων (Greek Plouton; Latin PLVTO, Pluto, "the rich guy").

The third-century Gospel of Bartholomew offers the first instance wherein Jesus’ foray into Hades was fully dramatized. The Gospel portrays the “King of Glory” as menacingly descending the stairs of a thousand steps leading down into the depths of the underworld. Hades, the god of the underworld, is depicted as trembling uncontrollably as he becomes aware of who is descending. Having arrived, Jesus “shattered the iron bars” of the gates of Hades and then challenges the god Hades himself and pummels him “with a hundred blows and bound him with fetters that cannot be loosed” (19). Thus, the god who produced trembling whenever his name was mentioned was now being depicted as shaken up by the approach of Jesus. And this trembling was for good reason—Jesus totally decommissions Hades.

In sum, the Gospel of Bartholomew dramatizes the commando rescue operation undertaken by Jesus in order to save “Adam and all the patriarchs” (9). When Jesus meets Adam, Jesus specifically says to him, “I was hung upon the cross for your sake and for the sake of your children” (22).

Hades is the pagan god assigned to guard the underworld. Hades has no role in judging or punishing those who have died; rather, his role is limited to guarding the gates so as to prevent the dead from returning to the land of the living. By destroying the gates and the gate-keeper, Jesus demonstrates that he now has divine powers that enable him to violently bind Hades and to replace his administration over those who have died.

enter image description here

The earlier preaching missions of Jesus in Hades enabled those who trusted in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to cultivate that “faith in Jesus” that would guarantee their pardon at the final judgment. Until then, however, they were sequestered in Hades. Now, however, from the third century on forward, (a) Jesus would proclaim his complete victory over Hades and Death, (b) Jesus would extend his saving grace all the way back to Adam and Eve, and, (c) with the gates of Hades shattered, Jesus would exit Hades on Easter Sunday, not alone, but accompanied by an untold number of his “holy ones.”

What is plain to observe is that the Gospel of Bartholomew firmly centers the efficacy of Jesus upon his preaching mission—“that I might come down on earth to heal the sin of the ignorant and give to [all] men the truth of God” (sec. 65). Secondly, the Gospel of Bartholomew tacitly acknowledges the earlier affirmation of Clement of Alexandria that the souls awaiting the resurrection in Hades are not abandoned by God but to them is revealed the fullest extent of God’s plan to offer salvation to all his children. Thirdly, when Jesus takes the souls of many of the righteous with him into Heaven, this acts like an added insurance that many of the righteous will not remain in Hades but will ascend into Heaven to prepare themselves to be with Jesus at his Parousia. Those who remain in Hades will eventually be reduced to only the damned. As of yet, however, the souls of the damned are not yet being punished in Hades, but this too will gradually change (as will be explained shortly).

enter image description here

[The medieval art shown here presents this event. One can see the gates that Jesus has torn off their hinges. Jesus walks over the defeated body of Hades as he reaches out to take hold of Adam in order to free him from his captivity in Hades. The king of the underworld is crawling in the dust as a defeated and naked fallen angel who is powerless to oppose Jesus.]

The Gospel of Bartholomew marks a high point in so far as the efficacy of Jesus’ preaching gets extended backward in time all the way to Adam. This would imply that those who did not hear the Good News during their lifetime would now be given the opportunity, never the less, to hear it in the afterlife, either from Jesus himself or from his disciples.

With this fabulous mission in mind, the phrase, κατάβασις εἰς ἃδου “he descended into Hades,” was added to the Apostles’ Creed during the fourth century. This had the effect of making it appear as though the Apostles believed that Jesus had a mission to preach in Hades. They didn't, of course. Nonetheless, they believed that Saint Peter wrote the two epistles that bore his name. [We now know that he did not.] Hence, the fourth century bishops decided to expand the Apostles' Creed to remedy an oversight of earlier Christians.

If you think about it, this is something like the movement in Congress which expanded the "Pledge of Allegience" to include the phrase "under God" in 1954.

For further study, this might be what you would enjoy:

Wicks, Jared. “Christ’s Saving Descent to the Dead: Early Witnesses from Ignatius of Antioch to Origen.” Pro Ecclesia 17, no. 3 (August 2008): 281–309. https://doi.org/10.1177/106385120801700303.

The article by Jared Wicks allows one to read the primary texts. He studies twelve texts before 180 CE and five texts from 180-300. This is very readable and easy to follow. This article can be found online and this will allow you to discovery the complexity of this issue.


Did Christ open the Door of Hell after he preached the Gospel in the realm of the dead?

The short answer is no.

History sees the work of evil (Satan and his satellites) throughout salvation history and into our modern times. How could Christ has already closed it? Satan runs somewhat freely from the times of Genesis until now. The demons have seemingly always been coming and going. They nevertheless remain condemned to hell.

The demons not in hell, still take their hell with them. The subject of hell is one not clearly understood. Hell could be a state or an actual physical location. We simply do not know everything. Fr. Gabriele Amorth, one of the most famous exorcists in the Catholic Church, in his book An Exorcist Tells His Story, that at the point of liberation of the possessed condemn the possessor to the Foot of the Cross. He make note that most exorcists condemn then to hell from where they come.

CCC635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live". Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and under the earth."

Now if Christ descended to the dead, it was so those in purgatory may be freed and live.

We can see a slight problem with the translation of the Latin word infernum. The English translation could be any of the following: the lower regions, Hades, Hell, underground and so on. As we see it is quite ambiguous so say the least. The word infernum in Catholic thought and tradition simply means the limbo of the just or as some say the Patriarchs or the Fathers. Christ opened the doors of limbo, but the souls bound in hell remain there to this day.

We can simply take a look at the Apostles' Creed. First in Latin:

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae, et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, vitam aeternam. Amen.

To show where I am going allow me to post two English translations that interpret the word infernum differently.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He 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, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

And again.

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 Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose 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.

It goes against tradition to state that Christ descended to the hell of the damned and the damned comprises both the demons and the evil souls of individuals condemned through their sins committed while on earth.

Seeing that you make point of referencing Revelation 20:1-6. Here it is:

20 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

The Book or Revelation or the Apocalypse of St. John is a book containing various visions and revelations that have yet to be interpreted by the Church’s in a definitive manner. It generally deals with future events and the end times. In the end, the Gates of Hell will be closed for good and forever. How to truly interpret this passage, only time will tell. The future is not ours to see.

The Apostle’s Creed – an older and shorter Creed – uses the words: “he descended to hell.” It is imperative to remember that “hell, in this context, is not the place of the damned. Instead, it refers to Sheol. Because “hell” was deemed as a deprivation of God, this word was used correctly here but only in that context – not in the sense that the souls were eternally separated from God. - Christ in Limbo

Christ in Limbo

Christ in Limbo

Nota Bene:

In brief

636 By the expression "He descended into hell", the Apostles' Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil "who has the power of death" (Heb 2:14). - Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For more information seeing the following article(s):

Whether our atmosphere is the demons' place of punishment?

According to Catholicism, it it possible for Satan and/or his satellites to roam the earth, while still being in hell?

  • If Christ holds the Keys of "Death" did he not use it to open the "hell of damnation" for the damned souls who totally rejected the gospel after he preached it to all the dead souls in the Hades? CCC635 stated two different place "Death and Hades" have separate keys which Christ holds. Are the damned souls freely by their own rejection of the gospel able to enter the "hell of damnation"? Oct 2, 2019 at 0:15
  • @ianjoseph198 Quod scripsi, scripsi.
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 2, 2019 at 0:30
  • I clearly stated in the question Christ holds Two Keys one for the place called "Death" and other a place called "Hades". Your answer simply said No, but I have not seen the support in your body of answer. Can you point what particular statement supported your "NO" answer? Oct 2, 2019 at 0:58
  • @ianjoseph198 Quid petitis. I answered your question: Did Christ open the Door of Hell after he preached the Gospel in the realm of the dead?
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 2, 2019 at 1:03
  • 1
    @ianjoseph198, you must understand that the world on the other side has no time and space, at least not as we understand it on Earth. Demons can be roaming the earth but still be in hell.
    – Grasper
    Oct 2, 2019 at 16:12

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