The Descent Of Christ Into Hades (Fifteen)

It is written:

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Throughout the intertestamentl period, the phrase “the dead” came to have reference not only to death-but to the world of the dead.

“In other words, when the New Testament speaks about “the dead,” it has a specific background, one that affirms “the [place of the] dead” as a location containing the disembodied souls of both the righteous and unrighteous (albeit in separate compartments). 32 This lends credence to the idea that when the NT writers and later the creeds speak about Christ’s resurrection “from the dead,” they mean not only from the state of being dead but from the place of the dead and from among the dead ones (disembodied souls). Particularly important in this regard is 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter, in which Paul explicates the importance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, contains many references to “the dead.” Especially pertinent to our discussion are verses 20 and 27. In 1 Corinthians 15: 20, Paul speaks of Christ being raised “from the dead” (ἐκ νεκρῶν), a phrase that typically indicates the location of the place of the dead. Further, Paul goes on to speak about Christ’s subjection of all rulers and authorities through his death and resurrection, a subjection that appears both to have already happened (1 Cor 15: 27) and to happen consummately at his return (1 Cor 15: 24-28). Here Paul appears to be saying that through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor 15: 3-5), he has put death under his feet. We see this again in 1 Corinthians 15: 54-57, where death is defeated because of the work of Christ. This will be important later when we ask what happened at the descent, but for now it is important to note that Christ’s victory is accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection, a resurrection that brings Christ up from the place of the dead (ἐκ νεκρῶν).” (Matthew Y. Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday, 29-32 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

Therefore, when Paul spoke of Jesus resurrection from the dead, it implied not only the state of death-but the realm of the dead ones. This is another passage which speaks of Christ’s descent into (and Return from) Hades.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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