In a broad sense the term “hell” refers to any place where one goes to after death before the resurrection of Christ. This includes Limbo which is a more specific term used to refer to both the place unbaptized infants were believed to go (We know God cannot leave them as they’re innocent of personal sins) and where our dead patriarchs went after death including Abraham, Moses, etc since none of them could actually enter heaven until Christ resurrected.
1. The first meaning is that Christ experienced death as every man. This is the first meaning the Apostles had in mind when they preached.

2. Where Christ actually went isn’t the “Hell” of the damned, but to “Limbo” to set free all the holy ones who had died before his coming. The word “Hell” was also used to speak of “Limbo” in the ancient times since they all are deprived of the Vision of God, however those in Limbo were at rest.

3. Jesus destroyed the power of death to bring life to all who believe in him:
CCC 635 says:

 "Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."  Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."

28 Comments

  • Peter R says:

    I respectfully disagree with this statement. The creed is clear. Should we doubt the reference to three days? We cannot pick and choose which statements in the creed are metaphors and which ones should be taken literally. While I find it abhorent to even consider that our Lord and Savior descended into hell, perhaps that should be one of the mysteries

    • Chris says:

      Peter R – I agree that things that are mysteries need to stay mysteries, but let me ask this first, what is hell?

    • Tim T says:

      We must remember that the Creed is not in English. We get the translation of this. They are just explaining the ancient meaning of hell. We need to stop thinking of everything in our modern mindset and put ourselves in the mindset of those times.

    • John says:

      my understanding is that jesus descended into the pit, and left it three days later with the keys to death

    • Lux Gavrilo Fegarido says:

      1 Peter 3:18-19 English Standard Version (ESV)

      18 For Christ also suffered[a] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which[b] he went and proclaimed[c] to the spirits in prison,

      Footnotes:

      1 Peter 3:18 Some manuscripts died
      1 Peter 3:19 Or the Spirit, in whom
      1 Peter 3:19 Or preached

      For me, it is clear that Jesus went to a place of the imprisoned spirits, whatever you call it , within those days after His death and before His resurrection.

  • Ed Layson says:

    How do you explain Moses and Elijah meeting Jesus in the Transfiguration if they were in ‘hell’?

    • jeri rahill says:

      I agree Ed, How did Moses and Elijah (the Carmilites Holy One/founder) meet Jesus come up from Hades?? Also perhaps we Catholics don’t have “all” the answers; just most. After all God is God, and always mysteries! Also, there are many levels of purgatory as heaven as I recently discovered! Don’t judge, just observe!

    • Jim Lesperance says:

      Good question, Ed. I always thought that Jesus went there to offer everyone a chance to accept Him as the Redeemer…or not! Apparently, this says it was to gather up those who had been ‘locked out of Heaven’ waiting until Jesus defeated Satan and death.Did Elijah go up to Heaven in a “flaming Chariot”?Moses’ body was never accounted for in Scripture. Did God simply raise them up to Himself?? He’s God…He could do whatever He wanted.

      • Lea Leger says:

        According to scripture, Enoch and Elijah may have been assumed into heaven before the time of Jesus. In Genesis 5 v 24 says only that God ‘took him’ but doesnt say where. Sirach 44 v 16 and 49 v14 make it clear that he was taken up from the earth and Hebrews 11 v 5 adds so that he should not see death. 2 Kins 2 v 11 Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.Both Elijah and Enoch were assumed into Heaven, but the Church teaches that heaven was not yet opened to the saints because christ has not yet come. Maybe they (Elijah, Enoch, Moses etc.) went to the abode of the dead, where the souls of the righteous were waiting for Messiah to open Heaven.Abode of the dead or she’ol is pictured in OT as being down.

  • D. Shawver says:

    How can unbaptized babies stay in limbo? They have not sinned. My priest told me our God is not like that, all babies shall enter the Kingdom of our Lord.

    • It is said that when we are born, we automatically obtained the sin made by Adam and Eve that is why we are baptized, to remove the sins we already have. Hence, if a person is not baptized, he/she still have sin, the sin that comes from Adam and Eve. 🙂 It’s my opinion only. 🙂

    • Mitch F says:

      They have to be cleansed from the stain of original sin created by Adam and Eve

    • Now the Church has even done away with the concept of ‘Limbo’ itself. So I’m more confused why is the term still used. Also, the new ‘apostles’ creed’ says that Jesus descended to the ‘dead’. What for is not fully explained and why Jesus spent nearly three days with the ‘dead’

      • Lea Leger says:

        In the apostles creed did not say Jesus spent nearly 3 days with the dead, …, it says he descended to the dead and on the third day, he arose from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father. Maybe Jesus went into hell (abode of the dead not hades) to released the righteous soul and opened the Heaven for them.

  • Edwin L. says:

    Are Jews who don’t believed with Jesus (as what they said that He lacked Messiahnic characteristics) will be saved? Because as what Jesus said: “Even the Pagans are welcomed to my Father’s table.” – after which the Centurion asked for Jesus to heal his servant even He is not needed to appear in his house. For the Centurion said: “I am not worthy to received you under my roof. But if you say the Word, and he shall be healed.”

  • Nick M says:

    Catholic Answers:
    “He didn’t, if you mean by hell the place of the damned. There would have been no purpose in his going there.
    The Apostles’ Creed contains this line in Latin: descendit ad inferos. In older English translations the word inferos was rendered as “hell,” but it was understood not to mean the place of the damned. The term actually refers to “those below”—that is, to the dead. It thus signified that he descended to visit the just who died in pre-Christian times and were waiting for heaven to be opened to them. This place is commonly called the limbo of the Fathers.
    Jesus referred to this place when he said, “As Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days and three nights, so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the Earth three days and three nights” (Mt 12:40).
    The expression “heart of the Earth” doesn’t mean the grave, but the underworld, what the Jews called sheol, which was thought to be located at the center of the Earth. Sheol wasn’t a place of the damned but a place of departed souls both good and bad. It appears from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31) that there was a place within sheol where the wicked were punished and another place where the righteous awaiting heaven were comforted. Jesus went to the latter.”
    Hope this helps!

  • Luann Chavez says:

    Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding.

  • mary ann talley says:

    i can say is that Jesus went into hell gave those suffering souls an option come with me. are you sorry? if they were He gave them eternal life. simple the gates of heaven were closed. jESUS opened up the gates of heaven all who wanted it were forgiven.

  • Jassi Jutt says:

    can i ask the places where our soul goes after death ? believers and non believers soul.

    • Lea Leger says:

      when we die our souls will go to either Hell, Purgatory or Heaven. Those non believers or commit mortal sin and no repentant will go straight to Hell and for those believers, and died of state of grace will go to Purgatory for purification of sins then they will go to heaven. it says in the bible nothing unclean will go to heaven and we are all sinners, in order to access Heaven, we go through “cleansing fire” as stated in the Bible in order to be pure and we can go to heaven.

  • Keith Petrvs says:

    Disagreeing with the article slightly, does not have to specificly mean limbo. Hell in the context of the creed would have been taken from the Greek hades simply to mean place to go after death, ie afterlife. It’s very common to see, however, hades translated into hell in English

  • Andrew says:

    However, time does not “exist” after death.

  • alex says:

    which verse of the Bible that contains the quote ccc 635 above

  • Jon says:

    Instead of reading CCC and all that nonsense, read the Bible, the KJV and pray for God to give you wisdom and understanding

  • Anukanti Chibueze says:

    Jon the no nonsense person, do you even understand who king James was and the reason he translated the bible? Exactly for people like you who transcribe the bible your own way, not needing other people opinion on what who think is the truth or false. For many like you started printing many versions of self opinion. Now Jn 3:13 tells us that “No man ever ascended to heaven except the One who came from heaven, the Sun of Man”…He didn’t say He saw Elijah, Enoch, Moses or Abraham there.

  • Ramon says:

    Why do we ask all these questions? Isn’t our Catholic faith enough to accept and to understand this. Remember and I quote “for those who have faith, no explanation is necessary; to those who do not have faith, NO explanation is POSSIBLE.”

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