Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia

Descent into Hell.

The doctrine of the descent of Christ into hell is based primarily on 1 Ptr 3:18–20, a difficult passage. Various interpretations hold that Christ went to the realm of the dead, or to the prison of wicked men and angels. Some Calvinists say His descent included the sufferings on the cross, others that it took place after death; the prominent Luth. view is that it took place after vivification. It is regarded as having taken place according to the soul; according to body and soul. It is held that Christ preached to souls who had had no chance in life, or to the damned and the evil angels. Some say His preaching was Gospel, others say it was Law, judgment, and a proclamation of victory. Augustine of Hippo,* Thomas* Aquinas, T. Beza,* et al. held that 1 Ptr speaks of a sermon of Christ before His incarnation.

The descent into hell did not take place immediately after death, because the soul of Jesus went to paradise (Lk 23:43). It is gen. regarded as taking place before Christ left the tomb. In 1 Ptr 3:19 “prison” (Gk. phylake; on this word see also Rv 18:2; 20:7; cf. 2 Ptr 2:4; Jude 6; it is used many times in the NT for an earthly prison) designates the abode of lost souls and evil angels to whom Christ proclaimed His victory (Cl 2:15).

See also Presbyterian Confessions, 3; Protestant Episcopal Church, 5.

G. Stoeckhardt, Kommentar über den Ersten Brief Petri (St. Louis, 1912), pp. 134–181; F. W. Farrar, Mercy and Judgment (New York, 1881), pp. 75–81; J. Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, new ed. (London, 1880), pp. 346–386; FC Ep and SD IX; J. T. Mueller, “Notes on Christ's Descent into Hell,” CTM, XVIII (August 1947), 610–617; M. H. Scharlemann, “He Descended into Hell,” CTM, XXVII (February 1956), 81–94.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

Stay Connected! Join the LCMS Network:

Contact Us Online
(Staff Switchboard)
(Church Info Center)
1333 S Kirkwood Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63122-7226 | Directions


Featured Publication

The Lutheran Witness

LCMS Communications

Interpreting the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.
Visit TLW Online