Anglican Morning Devotion for 12 April 2021
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide.
Article 3 of the 39 Articles of Religion (1662, 1928 BcP) – The Descent of Christ into Hell
As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed that He went down into Hell.
The subject of Hell has become controversial in the modern church. The modern worshipper is usually at church to be entertained, to make business contacts, or for social and political purposes. Biblical humility is rare in the modern church. But there is a real Hell of which the Bible speaks, and it is often omitted in preaching because, like Joel Osteen, they do not want their worshippers to be unhappy – what egregious error.
Off the top of my head, I can reference several verses on Hell that most modern versions delete. Why would Jesus make his comments in the Gospel of Mark 9:43-47 if there were no such place? Well, there is such a place and it will be the eternal abode of the wicked. In Isaiah 14, God speaks of the wicked being cast into Hell – even Lucifer himself.
It is important to know about Hell. It is an assurance of the justice of God. It’s reality is used of the Holy Spirit to draw the elect to Christ. Fear and trembling is the first understanding a sinner has is that he needs salvation. Hell is a FINAL PENALTY.
But there is certainly a Heaven, too, and it is the most glorious promise of God. Hell is the justice every man born of woman deserves; but Heaven is the gift that no man deserves but is a free gift of grace to God’s chosen. In Article 3, we believe Christ descended into Hell. FOR WHAT PURPOSE? He finished his work of atonement on the cross – “It is finished!” (John 19:30) No further work was required.
The most contentious text asserting our Lord descended to Hell would be:
FOR “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” (1 Peter 3:18-19)
What does that mean? I do not believe God has revealed the full mystery to us.
I do know that Christ paid every price and bore every burden for us. The ancient Fathers of the Church held strong faith in the proposition above. I believe that Christ did indeed descend to the gloomy gates of Hell and broke down its iron bars of legalism for those Old Testament churchmen who clung by faith to the promises made to Abraham.