He Descended into Hell

Jon Brown

READ : Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (v. 1)

Here is a question. “Why does the creed add, ‘He descended into hell’?” It seems like a good question to me. The creed never intended to cover all the details of Jesus’ life. It does not mention his baptism or any of his miracles, nor does it consider his teaching or bouts with the Pharisees. So why does the creed add, “He descended into hell”?

Here is an answer. “To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.” That is the way the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism explain how Christ descended into hell.

When Jesus prays Psalm 22 on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he gives voices to the “unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul” that would be ours if he did not suffer, if he was not crucified, if he had not descended into hell. He cries out so that we will not have to. He prays from the depths of despair so that despair will not consume us. He was forsaken so that we will not be. Thank God that “He descended into hell.”

PRAYER

Jesus, thank you for enduring the anguish. Amen.