Lesson 32: On Secret Service

He descended into hell.

On Good Friday afternoon our Lord’s soul left his body: ~ he died. His body was buried, as yours and mine will be when we die. His living soul went to that place which lies between earth and heaven, and is neither; the place to which all departed souls go at death.

The Creed calls this place Hell. Nowadays this word means the place of torment and punishment, where the devil and the wicked will always be. But when the Creed was written it did not mean this at all. It meant “the hidden place, the covered place, the place out of sight.”

The Bible, in the language in which it was first written, had two different names for the two different places of departed souls. Gehenna; which meant the place of eternal punishment for the wicked, as we now mean by Hell. Then there was Hades: which meant the place of waiting for those not yet fit to go to heaven, but who one day will be. Hell in the Creed means the second, not the first. Of course it would be unthinkable that the sinless soul of Jesus should go to the place of the wicked to be punched.

Hades has other names. The Jews in our Lord’s day called it Abraham’s Bosom (St Luke 16,19 to 31). Our Lord’s name for it was Paradise (St Luke 23, 39 to 43); a Greek word meaning a garden. The Church to-day also calls it Purgatory; that is, a place of purifying, making clean (42).

There, on that first Good Friday night and Holy Saturday, our Lord visited all the good people who had died before he came and “mended the bridge” to heaven (30). He gave his life for them, as well as for every one else. He made Atonement for them also. So, naturally, he went and told them what he had done, and how the way to heaven was now open to them (1 St Peter 3, 19).

So in what, perhaps, looks like either cotton-wool or steam, but is meant to be clouds, you write the hidden place.