Apostle’s Creed-part 7
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Luke 24:5-6
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead …
“He descended into hell” is the most controversial statement in the Apostles’ Creed. I’ll say a few basic things about this phrase. First, the Apostles’ Creed is a basic summary of belief. In its basic nature, much is left unsaid. For all these things we go to the Bible which is our authority and teacher. My understanding of what the Apostles’ Creed is seeking to affirm here is that Christ truly died and truly spent three days in the realm of the dead, from which He arose again to eternal life. Where Jesus was, exactly, during this time is not revealed to us. It is important that we hold back speculation where Scripture does not speak.
The Old and New Testaments use various words to describe the realm of the dead. The Old Testament word is sheol, and the New Testament word is hades. Both words refer to the temporary realm of the dead who are awaiting final judgment. The New Testament uses the additional word gehenna to speak of a place of eternal torment and punishment for those who died without the salvation of Jesus. However, the translation of hades into Latin and then to English often is rendered as “hell.” This can be confusing. The Bible is clear that Jesus died and entered the realm of the dead but does not say that He entered Gehenna (the place of torment and judgement). Some verses that relate to this subject: 1 Peter 3:19, Luke 16:19-31, Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:29-31 (which quotes Psalm 16:10).
From this real death Jesus rose up on the third day, never to die again. A real death and a real resurrection. In Colossians 1:18 Paul writes of Jesus as “the firstborn from the dead.” This means that Jesus is the first to be raised from the dead unto eternal life. By His living power, he has overcome the final and inescapable enemy of all humanity – death. Jesus had spoken of His coming death and resurrection often with His disciples, but they did not understand what He meant. This was in part because what He spoke of was completely impossible according to the normal course of natural life. The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the defining event of the Christian faith. Because He lives, we also shall live!
On the third day after His resurrection, Jesus is walking down the road to Emmaus with two disciples. They are despondent, thinking Jesus is dead and their hopes are dashed. But, (not aware that Jesus is speaking to them) Jesus says to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scripture the things concerning Himself” Luke 24:25-27.
Sending of Jesus as Savior had always been the plan of the Father, and now the plan was accomplished! The resurrection of Jesus radically energized the disciples and powerfully validated the message of Jesus. There was no more talk from Jesus of “telling no one.” Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to go and bear witness to the entire world that He had risen from the dead. We still carry that message today!
This resurrection power of Jesus Christ also relates directly to the doctrine of regeneration and new birth. It is by the same power that raised Christ from the dead that spiritual life comes to our souls and our nature is made new (regenerated). If this power does not really reside in Jesus Christ, it cannot be given to us as well. His immeasurable power toward us who believe, is the same power that worked in Christ to raise Him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). It is an “immeasurable” power! So great that no unit of measure can comprehend or quantify the glorious power of God bringing one lost sinner from death to eternal life. What a glorious salvation we have in Jesus! A salvation that begins now, will be worked out in this life by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and one day be completed in glory!
We serve a risen Lord Jesus!
< This is part seven in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. If you have missed previous articles, they can be found on the church blog. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >