Friday, June 21, 2013

The Apostles Creed -- He Descended Into Hades

For our 2013 Hymn of the Month we will be exploring the Apostles Creed
With each post we'll look at one of the statements in the creed,
consider its significance, and share an appropriate hymn. 
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 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 sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. 
Jesus' death and resurrection are well-known to us. But what happened to Jesus in the time between? According to the scripture, and declared by the Apostles Creed, He descended into hades, or, as some renditions of the creed say, to the dead. This, to me, is astounding. Do we really know the lengths to which our Savior went to provide full redemption for His fallen creation? It was our sins that put Him on the cross; it was our brokenness that He carried in His own body. Yet after enduring such agony that led to His death, He descended into the place of the dead. Why?

One reason is to show that He was indeed dead. There were those who believed that Jesus swooned but did not really die. The scripture says otherwise. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built (1 Peter 3:18-20). Jesus died. He did so for our atonement; it was His death that restored us to relationship with the Father.

In the interim between His death and resurrection, Jesus preached to people who had lived all throughout time. His sacrifice was for all people!

In his wonderful book, This We Believe! Meditations on the Apostles' Creed, Timothy Tennent says, "Satan thought that the crucifixion of Jesus was his greatest victory over God and his redemptive plan. At the moment of Jesus’ death and the descent to the dead, Satan first realizes that the death of Jesus was actually God’s plan. In Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul describes this when he declares that at the death of Jesus, He 'disarmed the powers and authorities' and 'made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross' (2:15). This verse is not a reference to human, political authorities, but to the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12)." Yes!

I do not believe Jesus was in hades suffering further  agony to accomplish redemption. That had been done on the cross. But He was there to claim victory over that doomed enemy, Satan, and to preach the Gospel -- the Good News -- to those who had not heard! All praise to God for this amazing triumph!

As I have pondered this statement in the Creed, and have read Tennent and chatted with Pastor Ike Timm, I have discovered how significant this often overlooked part of the life and work of Jesus is. Though His body was dead, His spirit was very much alive, fulfilling the work the Father had sent Him to do! Only God would have thought of such a plan, and only His Son could have carried it out.

Reference: Tennent, Timothy  (2011-11-01). This We Believe! Meditations on the Apostles' Creed (Kindle Locations 385-389). Asbury Theological Seminary. Kindle Edition.

You might also be interested in this post for Holy Saturday.

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