An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed - Descent into Hell
9. Descent into Hell
He descended into hell
The Creed does not in fact refer to Christ's descent into hell. The sentence should read, 'He descended to Hades'. Hades in the New Testament is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, which is often used in the Old Testament. And Sheol does not refer to hell. Hades and Sheol refer rather to the place of the dead, the shadowy realm in which those who have died reside.
Christ, the incarnate Son of God, did not only lived our life. He also died our death! His identification with us was not superficial; it was the fullest possible identification, even to the point of death. . . . If Christ did not really die, but only pretended to, then he did not really rise from the dead. If Christ did not really die on the Cross, then his identification with sinful humanity is incomplete. And if this is so, so is the salvation that he offers.
Dr. Roland Chia is Dean of Postgraduate Studies and Lecturer in Historical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Theological College, Singapore.