This next part of The Apostles' Creed has proved, perhaps, the most controversial over the years: "He descended into hell."
First, an admission: this line did not become part of the Creed until the fourth century. However, that does not mean that it does not find its foundation in the New Testament.
There are at least two Scriptures from which this doctrine is drawn. The first hint of this comes in 1 Peter 3:18-20....
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
The words in italics have been interpreted in various ways. However, I and many others in the Church down through the ages have interpreted this verse to mean that between his death and resurrection Jesus went and preached to the spirits in hell. This interpretation seems to be confirmed just a few verses later, in 1 Peter 4:6 where we read:
For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.As I have noted in my book, Mere Theology...
Lewis believed in the reality of Christ’s descent into hell and preaching to the dead, suggested by 1 Peter 3:19 and confessed by most Christians in the Apostles’ Creed. He believed that this action took place outside of time andI love what Lewis says there in The Great Divorce. To me, this line of the Creed, also suggests that Jesus descends into each of our individual hells. For if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that often our spirits are in prison. Thankfully, Jesus preaches, offers, and effects release for all of us.
included those who died long before the Son of God’s Incarnation, as well as those who died long after it.
In The Great Divorce, Lewis asks MacDonald whether anyone can ever reach the damned souls in hell. MacDonald says that only God can make himself small enough to enter hell. The higher something is, the lower it can go down. Lewis asks whether God will ever go to hell again. MacDonald tells Lewis that God doesn’t need to do this because all moments were present in the moment of his descending. There is no spirit in prison to whom Christdid not preach.