CHRISTíS DESCENT INTO HELL.
The fact of Christís descent into hell, that is, to the abode of the damned, was a part of the Creed of Christianity since the fourth century, being expressly stated even in the Apostlesí Creed. Some of the church fathers, indeed, understood this fact of Christís soul only, explaining the words in this manner, that the soul of Christ, after His true death on the cross, was separated from His body and went to the kingdom of death. Others rightly understood it of a triumphant pageant of Christ, by which He demonstrated His victory over all His foes.
In our days the fact that the belief in demons, in the existence of devils, has been given up by the majority of higher critics has influenced the attitude of many writers on Christian belief. Some of these have gone so far as to suggest a change in the Greek text, according to which the passage, 1 Pet. 3, 18. 19, would open with the words: It was in the Spirit that Enoch also went and preached to the imprisoned spirits. The passage is then explained according to the text of the apocryphal Book of Enoch as follows: In the days of Jared certain angels descended and married some of the daughters of men, children being begotten out of this unlawful union. Enoch was sent by God to pronounce sentence of condemnation upon the transgressors, who were eternal, immortal beings. Thus it followed that these spirits were bound in prison. Such attempts at solving the mystery of the Word of God are foolish and dangerous, approaching the blasphemous. As we cannot accept such interpretations, we can neither subscribe to the Romish explanation that Christ went to a special department of the kingdom of death, where the souls of the Old Testament saints were awaiting their redemption, and preached the Gospel to them. Nor can we follow those that try to evade the issue by circumscribing the text to read: Christ was restored to life by the Spirit, by which Spirit, inspiring Noah as a preacher of righteousness, Christ, many centuries previously, had descended from heaven and preached to the men of that generation, who in their sin and unbelief were the spirits in prison.
We accept and believe the words as they read. Christ, having returned to bodily life in His spiritual state of being, on the third day, descended, in His glorified body, to the abode of the damned, there proclaiming to these souls the result of their unbelief by demonstrating His victory before them and the devils, to their utter chagrin and discomfiture, and to the further confirmation of their damnation. Thus the words, ďHe descended into hell,Ē are full of glorious comfort to all Christians that place their trust in Christ, their victorious Head. 10)