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Question

When Jesus died on the cross did he go to hell before rising from the dead?

Answer

Thank you for your question about Jesus descending in to hell. This is a topic that has caused some debate in churches throughout the years. There are a number of points both for and against the idea of Jesus descending into hell.

The main place where people hear the phrase about Jesus descending into hell is not from the Bible, but from the Apostle's Creed. While not scripture, creeds are statements of belief and are helpful to know and think about what we believe.

Speaking of Jesus, the Apostle's Creed says that

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.

While the Apostle's Creed mentions the phrase "he descended into hell", this phrase only appears in copies since the 650AD, much later than the original. It would therefore seem that this phrase is an addition.

It is possible that the original phrase was supposed to read 'he descended into the grave'. This is certainly in line with the Bible, and Paul refers to this event as a first importance matter.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

It is possible that the phrase 'descended into hell' is a metaphorical one. On the cross Jesus suffered a brutal form of execution and was separated from the Father (Matthew 27:46). It is possible that this was like he descended into hell, being full of torment and pain.

On the cross, Jesus' last words before his death were "It is finished" (John 19:30). Whenever Jesus spoke, it was with purpose and he always spoke the truth, never misleading those around him. From this, we understand that there was nothing further that Jesus needed to do. If Jesus were to descend into hell, what would his purpose be? The saving work of Jesus was completed on the cross; there is nothing further that needed to be done.

There are a few bible verses that suggest that Jesus descending into hell. However, each of these passages that use the term 'descending' they can just as easily refer to the grave. The Bible is not direct on this matter and therefore we can conclude that it is not of major doctrinal importance.

In all, whether or not Jesus did descend is a matter for debate and there are verses that talk for and against this matter, although they can be vague. What is clear however is that Jesus died for our sin and rose from the dead in order to show his power over sin and death.

Whether a person believes Jesus descended to hell or not has no bearing on a person's salvation. What matters is that a person has placed their trust in Jesus' saving work on the cross, asking God for forgiveness of their sins.

Have you done this? Have you asked Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Saviour? By accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you can have your relationship with God restored and know his saving power in your life.

I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video

I encourage you to attend a local Bible believing church and speak to the leader about your question. If you want to find a local church, our Church Finder may help you: Find a Church

Please feel free to submit a question to us or to read our answer database: Ask a Question

*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline


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