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JESUS AFTER DEATH: Where was Jesus while his body was in the grave?

Where was Jesus while his body was in the grave?

According to the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into hell. On the third day, he rose again.” Where and what was this “hell”? According to Ephesians 4:9-10, Jesus “first descended to the dead in the lower parts of the world.” The belief is that he visited and stayed for some time in the realm of those who had died before him. 1 Peter 3:18-20 says, “He was put to death in the body, but was raised to life by the Spirit, and it was then that he went to preach to the imprisoned spirits.”

Among the dead, there were two categories of people: those who were bound for eternal bliss and those who were bound for eternal damnation. He went to the abode of the former, also called “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk 16:19-31) as mentioned in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. So “hell/hades” in the Apostles’ Creed is where all the righteous deceased right from Adam were held until the victory of the Redeemer could be declared. Only when this happened could they enter heaven and see God. Thus, “The gospel was preached even to the dead” (1 Pet 4:6). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment” (484). “He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him” (637).

In the Church of Chora funeral chapel in Istanbul, Turkey, there is a famous icon called, “The Harrowing of Hell.” It depicts Christ’s descent into hell. In this icon, Jesus is standing over the broken gates of hell, fallen in a cross shape over the pit of darkness. The chained devil falls into the pit of darkness. Jesus, in his glorious dress, is lifting Adam and Eve out of their graves by their wrists because they cannot raise themselves. It shows Jesus as a conqueror and redeemer of humanity, represented by our first parents. In that icon, we see kings, prophets and the righteous of Israel, including David, Solomon, Moses, Daniel, Zechariah, and John the Baptist standing beside Jesus.

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