Jesus Christ - He Descended into Hades
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Sunday, January 25, 2009 -

JESUS CHRIST - HE DESCENDED INTO HADES - “We 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 Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We 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”

Last week we notes two points regarding this controversial mention of Jesus “descending into hades.” First, some kind of message was proclaimed to these fallen, disobedient spirits, and it seems tied to Jesus’ death and resurrection. And second, it doesn’t seem likely, especially from the text in 1 Peter 3:18-19, that this proclamation took place between Jesus’ death and resurrection, as the creed seems to indicate. The texts we consider today are the same: 1 Peter 3:18-20, 2 Peter 2:4-6, 9, Jude 5-6. Today we consider two more points - numbered 3 and four.


The context of the 1 Peter text actually makes this quite clear. Peter says Jesus “went and proclaimed to the spirits now in prison” (3:19). That word proclaimed literally means to publish or announce. It can be used for any message whatsoever. Sometimes it is used to refer to the gospel of grace. Sometimes it is used in the pronouncement of judgement. Peter tells us the nature of Jesus’ proclamation in this very chapter: 1 Peter 3:21-22 - “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, [this is why I think the proclamation to these spirits comes after Jesus’ Resurrection rather than before) [22] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”

The proclamation is one of an official declaration of final and complete victory over all competition and all obstacles. The accomplishment of the cross is verified by the Resurrection. Then it is announced to all principalities and powers.

There is simply no room allowed in the Scriptures for a second chance to repent and be saved after death. Hebrews 9:27 - “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment....”

Forgiveness must come before death. This is the time for sins to be forgiven. This is the time for grace to be embraced. But the time for grace passes. Death ushers each person into judgment. The eternal state is fixed by one of two things in the Scriptures: The book of Hebrews fixes our spiritual state at the time of death. The book of Revelation fixes our spiritual state when Jesus comes again: Revelation 22:11-12 - “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy."[12] "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”

So the important point here is this proclamation of Jesus to these wicked spirits in prison - whether angelic or human - was not a message of grace and pardon. It pronounced His triumph over all authority and power in His Resurrection from the dead.


Many of you have probably never heard an entire sermon on this part of the Apostle’s Creed. It’s one of those difficult to handle articles of theology that doesn’t seem to have much to do with living life in the real world today.

But I think some of the New Testament writers would tell us to slow down a minute and take another look. I want to wrap up this teaching by looking at the way the Apostle Peter worked this teaching into the practical, encouraging instruction he gave to the church (see 1 Peter 3:13-22).

These Christians are having a very tough time. They are being persecuted for their stand for Christ. They are going through a time of intense trial. And it doesn’t look like there is any quick end in sight. And Peter doesn’t promise them a quick end to their trials. He offers them something else. He talks to them about Jesus and about Noah. And both of those men had something in common. There was a time in each of their lives when nobody would have thought they would come out winners. For each of them, it looked like they were hopelessly outnumbered. There was a time for each of them when the odds looked stacked against them.

But, Peter says, God judged the whole world and saved Noah. And Jesus announced His total triumph over every principality and power in the whole universe: 1 Peter 4:12-13 - “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. [13] But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

You and I won’t always get justice in this world. We won’t always be loved and liked in this world. We don’t always feel like the rules are fair in this world. It’s amazing how often we can be mistreated and still be surprised when we are. Peter says all of us need to shift our greatest expectations away from the pain and suffering and wrongs we suffer in this life. We need to plant our hope firmly in the world to come.

And, I have it on very reliable authority, the announcement has already gone out throughout the world above and the world beneath: Jesus Christ is victor over all.