Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Did Jesus Descend To Hell After His Death?

The question of Jesus Christ descending into hell is a popular one among Christians but there is credible reason to believe otherwise.  Several conservative Christians, pastors, and theologians like Wayne Grudem and John Piper have argued that the belief is based bad interpretation of the biblical text driven by an assumption about the Apostles Creed.

Likewise, former Seattle-based Mars Hill Church pastor, Mark Driscoll rejects the belief that Christ descended to hell and I am leaning towards that conclusion myself.  Jesus' emphatic and unmistakable declaration that He would be with the thief in Paradise today and His confession that It is Finished! certainly makes it difficult to fit in a visit to the abyss.

Likewise, the belief that Jesus descended into hell between His crucifixion and resurrection has led to some very dangerous, wrong, and even heretical beliefs.  Here are just two of them.

1)  Postmortem Evangelism - Many have unfortunately taken this event and made the argument that everybody gets a second chance to either reject or accept Jesus after death.  Prominent theologians like Dr. Molly Marshall-Green affirms this. She has written:
Because faith comes by hearing fides ex auditu, the Gospel is preached even to those thought beyond the scope of Christ's redemption--the dead. The iconography of the church portrays a scene of liberation as forbears overcome corruptible death through Jesus. St. Ephrem the Syrian proclaims: "By death the Living One emptied Sheol. He tore it open and let entire throngs flee from it."

The only appropriate response is voicing the Alleulia that has fallen silent during Lent. Although we will experience death in the flesh we, like Jesus, will be made alive by the Spirit.
2)  Ransom Theory of the Atonement - Popular among Charismatics, many argue that at the cross Jesus paid a ransom to Satan.  I have huge problems with that.  Regardless many see Jesus' descent into hell as part of that ransom where Satan, demons, and the powers of hell tortured Christ.  Although this is not the traditional teaching on this subject, many have taken it and corrupted it.  Turn on TBN and you will see what I mean.

So though these are just two extremes one could point to when it comes to this subject, this isn't the best reason for rejecting the belief that Jesus descended into hell.  However, one must admit that taken to its logical end, these two wrong ideas are reasonable, though clearly misguided and wrong.

Here is Doug Wilson on the subject:

Here is Mark Driscoll on the subject from a few years ago.

Molly Marshall-Green - He Descended into Hell
Wayne Grudem - Did Jesus Descend Into Hell?
Russell Moore - Evangelical Feminism Lurches Leftward:  Is Molly Marshall an "Evangelical" Feminist? 
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