Here we have what is probably the most controversial statement in the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into hell.”
When we make this statement, we do not mean that Jesus’ earthly body physically went to Hell, or that He went to some kind of limbo where Old Testament saints were waiting to be let into Heaven.
Rather, we are simply proclaiming that Jesus suffered the full punishment which our sins deserve.
On the cross, Jesus suffered physical torment and earthly shame, but He also suffered the spiritual torment of separation from God and the pouring out of the cup of God’s wrath.
One of the wondrous mysteries of our faith is displayed in Jesus on the cross crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
How is it possible that God the Son was forsaken by God the Father? We can never fully know. We do know that we deserve God’s wrath, and rejection by Him forever, because of our sins. And those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ know that Jesus bore this penalty for us on the cross, so that we might be welcomed by God and have joyful fellowship with Him forever.
We remember Christ’s immeasurable sacrifice on our behalf when we proclaim, “He descended into hell.”