The Biblical Concepts of Hell Part I ~ Humanity Healing


Introduction

“His body was put to death, but he was brought to life through his spirit. And he preached to those souls, who were held in Sheol”
~ 1 Peter 3:18-19

The theme of a soul journeying to inferior planes is recurrent in many instances of ancient literature and we can easily pinpoint similar content in many religious and wisdom stories. From Greek mythology to the Judaism traditions, even passing through the Buddhist imagery, we find many texts that report the descending of an enlighten soul to the depths of the earth in order to rescue others or redeem itself.

The Descent of Jesus to the Underworld

In the particular case of Christianity, there are only a few sources that reference the passage reporting the passing of Jesus’ soul to “hell” for the accomplishment of the prophesy and the release of the Captives, those who are bound there. The Nicene Creed, from which the Apostles’ Creed is derived, is the Symbol or Profession of Faith in Christianity which narrates the significant parts of the life of the Master Jesus and says in its verses:

“…Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead;…”

In the Book of Enoch, it is reported how many angels became prisoners after the fall. It is in this book that we can identify the root of the theological concept reported in 2 Peter 2:4 and Judas 1:6.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;”

“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”

In the Testament of Matthew, it is said that at the exact moment of the passing of Master Jesus on the cross, the Veils of the most sacred sanctuary of the Temple[1] in Jerusalem were ripped asunder and that many tombs were opened and many saints[2] were also able to resurrect.

and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appear to many.

Later in the Bible, we again find Peter saying:

“For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” ~ 1 Peter 4-6

These are interesting statements because we see in the prophesies of Isaiah the “anointed” coming to proclaim the good news and to release the captives, being those in actual prisons or those that are “stuck” in the Other-world, such as those mentioned in 1 Peter 3:19.

One of books whose use by Christians was documented in the third century was the Gospel of Nicodemus[3]. It is currently listed in the Apocrypha. It includes an intensive and detailed narration of the journey of Christ through the underworld. Its account tells how Jesus was able to release from Hell the “Just”, the non-baptized people that died before the time Christ himself had walked the earth. It affirms that the non-Just souls had closed the underworld with seven seals. We can see some of the same doctrinal idea in Chapter VIII of the Apocrypha titled The Liberation of the Patriarchs:

“And the Lord stretching forth his hand, said: Come unto me, all ye my saints which bear mine image and my likeness. Ye that by the tree and the devil and death were condemned, behold now the devil and death condemned by the tree. And forthwith all the saints were gathered in one under the hand of the Lord.”

[1] Called the Second Temple, it was rebuilt by Herod the Great in the first century BCE.

[2] In this reference, “saints” referred to righteous individuals

[3] The Gospel of Nicodemus was originally called the Acts of Pilate.

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