Did Jesus descend into Hell?

Apostles' Creed 2

Q. The Apostles’ Creed said, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to hell.” Did Jesus descend into hell? Or is the creed wrong?

A. No, I don’t think He did, as I think the problem is with the old English usage, not the creed itself. This misunderstanding is reinforced by Acts 2:31 in KJV:

Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption.

However, if you use the NASB, you will read:

Acts 2:31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

Quoting from Vines Expository Dictionary of NT Words, Hades is “the region of departed spirits of the lost, including the blessed dead in periods preceding the ascension of Christ. It corresponds to “Sheol” in the OT. In the AV of the OT and NT; it has been unhappily rendered “hell”.

Many scholars believe the creed comes from the Roman Symbol (or Creed) written in the first or second century. The phrase “He descended to hell” was not in the Roman Symbol, but added later. The English word “hell” in the creed translates the Greek word κατώτατα, which literally means “lower” i.e. He descended to the “lower parts”, or the “underworld”. As such, the original simply meant He went to the “world of the dead”, with no implications of suffering in “hell” as we understand the word today.

But the positive reason why I believe Jesus did not go to literal hell (Greek Gehenna or Tartarus) is:

Lk 23:42-43 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

The criminal crucified beside Jesus repented and was forgiven, so he went to be with Jesus in Paradise. So if Jesus was in Paradise, He was not in hell. Even if you interpret Paradise to be “that part of Hades which was thought by the Jews to be the abode of the souls of pious until the resurrection”, it is still not hell as understood today.

People in Heaven Know What’s on Earth?

Luke 10 15 a

Q. My beloved husband passed away last year in an accident. My pastor’s wife comforts me by saying that he is still with me in spirit. Is that true?

A. It is very hard to lose a loved one, and your pastor’s wife is very kind in trying to console you. However, I think she has gone beyond what the Bible said. I believe people in heaven know what’s happening on earth, but are not physically with us here. My opinion is based on the following:

Lk 15:10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
The text did not say the angels rejoiced, but “there is joy in the presence of the angels”. Who are those who rejoiced in heaven? I believe they are the people of God, since the four living creatures and elders were not mentioned specifically. I don’t know how much they know, but as a minimum they know when one sinner repents on earth, and rejoice.

Lk 16:23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
If the rich man in Hades can see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, and Abraham answered his cries, it is not unreasonable to assume that Christians in heaven knows something about what’s happening on earth.

Lk 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.
There is a chasm between Hades and Abraham’s bosom, so that no one can cross from either side to the other. I infer from this that there is a similar barrier between heaven, earth, and hell, so that no one can cross over without special permission. That’s why I believe your husband’s spirit is in heaven and not beside you.

Revelation 6 10 a

Rev 6:9-10 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Those who had been slain because of the word are martyrs, and they knew that the Lord had not yet judged and avenged their blood. So God’s people in heaven know at least when sinners repent, and also whether God had executed justice on earth to avenge them.

They may not know everything, but are not ignorant of earth’s events. I don’t know how much they know about the mess we’re in, but even if they did it won’t affect their joy because they’ll be seeing things from a holy perspective. The Bible does not give us much detail about what folks in heaven know, but enough for me to formulate the above hypothesis. For sure you will meet your loved ones again, and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Rev 7:17, 21:4). In that you can be comforted.