Some questions I know are going to come up, so I’m prepared to answer. “How do we the Bible is true?” “Does the Bible contradict itself?” “Was the world created in seven days?” I know these are coming, I’ve answered them before, someone will ask them again in the future. But last night some church youth caught me off guard. At first I was stumped because I couldn’t believe high school kids sat around and thought about stuff like this. The question was about the Apostle’s Creed, specifically about Jesus descending into hell. Church youth in a Baptist church ask me if that was true. When I came to, I gave a very political answer that allowed me to avoid saying yes or no. But let’s unpack this issue.
My answer was that it depends on your definition of hell. Did Jesus die on the cross and spend three days in a literal hell, burning with fire and brimstone, the place of eternal damnation? No, I do not think so. Jesus did however, experience complete and total separation from God on the cross. He that knew no sin became sin for us. He took our punishment, so God’s wrath toward sin could be carried out. That was hell, but not the place called hell. After the cross, he was placed in the grave. The Old Testament word sheol is one of those things were not 100% clear on. Should it be translated hell, or just the grave? Good question. So, bottom line, I recite the Apostle’s Creed the way it has been recited by countless believers throughout the centuries, and define hell in a way that I can say the Creed and believe it. Can I simply answer a question like “Did Jesus go to hell?” That’s tough.
Where I’m lacking in knowledge is in the area of the writer’s of the Apostle’s Creed. When we study the Constitution, one thing that must be considered is what we call “framers’ intent.” What did the writers mean when the wrote certain words? With the Constitution, I usually have an idea. With the Apostles’ Creed, I don’t know what they were thinking hell meant. I don’t know if anyone does, but I’m willing to hear suggestions.
What would you do with this question?