“Jesus Christ…descended into hell” – or did he?
[This month’s post is the text of a booklet written a number of years ago. I had been asked by several different people about the statement in the Apostles’ Creed that Christ descended into hell. What did the Creed mean by that? And was it correct? What follows is my attempt at an answer. With Easter next month it seems an appropriate time to consider the matter afresh.]
“Jesus Christ…descended into hell” – or did he?
What this is all about
When Christians repeat the Apostles’ Creed they affirm their belief that Jesus Christ ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, he descended into hell’. Our purpose in what follows is to examine whether the Scriptures teach that Christ did in fact descend into hell.
We are going to do this by addressing the following question: Where did Christ go between his death and resurrection? His body remained in the tomb till the moment of the resurrection. But where did his human spirit go – that spirit which at the point of death he committed into his Father’s hands? It is a question to which widely differing answers have been given. Our task will be to firstly take a survey of these answers and then secondly to frame a Biblical response to them.
A Survey of the Various Answers that have been given to this question
A number of different answers have been given to our question and we are going to notice six of them. When we come later to frame a Biblical response to them we will see that it is the sixth of these answers that alone is the correct one.
1). Christ went to the abode of the Old Testament saints in order to release them.
According to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, believers who died before the resurrection of Jesus did not enter heaven. They went instead to what is known as the limbus patrum. The Latin word limbus means ‘fringe’ and was used because the limbus patrum allegedly was situated on the fringe or outskirts of Sheol. (‘Sheol’ is a Hebrew word. Its Greek equivalent is ‘Hades’.)
In Roman Catholic thinking, Sheol was the place to which all departed spirits – good and bad – went after death. But not everyone went to the same part of Sheol. According to Catholicism, Sheol was divided into two parts. There was the part where the wicked went and suffered the torments of God’s punishment and there was the part where the righteous went. This latter part was located on the fringe or outskirts of Sheol. It is allegedly the place referred to in Scripture as ‘Abraham’s bosom’ or ‘Paradise’. In Roman Catholic theology it is known as the limbus patrum.
The limbus was a place of rest and joy. But the joy was not perfect. For that the righteous had to wait until they were admitted into heaven – something that in turn required the suffering and death of Jesus. Not until Jesus suffered in the place of sinners could the Old Testament saints be released from the fringe of Sheol and be welcomed into heaven.
That release is said to be an accomplished fact. When Paul writes in Eph.4:8 that Jesus ‘ascended on high’ leading ‘captives in his train’, Catholicism understands these ‘captives’ to be the Old Testament saints who had been in Sheol. Jesus went to them between his death and resurrection, released them, and then conducted them safely to heaven.
There are evangelicals who believe much the same thing. The Anglican W. H. Griffith Thomas, for example, says that ‘great changes were wrought through the finished redemption of our Lord. The Sheol of the Old Covenant was emptied of the saints of the former dispensation and on our Lord’s ascension he carried them with him in triumph’1. Until Calvary actually happened the full benefits of it had not been experienced. In concrete terms, the Old Testament saints had not been admitted into heaven. They dwelt in a certain part of Sheol until Christ between his death and resurrection came and released them and then conducted them to glory.
2.) Christ went to the abode of fallen angels to proclaim his victory
In Gen.6 we are told that ‘when men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they married any of them they chose’ (vs.1&2). In the opinion of some Christian writers these ‘sons of God’ were fallen angels and that as a punishment for this sin, ‘they were put into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment’ (2 Pet.2:4).
Before he rose from the dead Christ, it is alleged, went to these ‘gloomy dungeons’ to proclaim to the fallen angels his victory. In support of this, appeal is made to 1 Pet.3:18-20: ‘Christ was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom he also went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built’. According to the proponents of this view, the ‘spirits in prison’ to whom Christ is said to have preached were the fallen angels who sinned in the days of Noah, and the time when he preached to them was between his death and resurrection. And his purpose? To proclaim to them his victory. ‘It was an official proclamation of his triumph over evil’, says one writer, ‘a declaration that he had struck a decisive blow against all his enemies (them included) and was on his way to his triumphant coronation. However inadequate the analogy, it might help us to think in terms of a champion athlete doing a lap of honour prior to receiving his trophy’2.
3.) Christ went to the abode of lost sinners to proclaim their condemnation
This view takes us back to Sheol, but not to the area on the fringe of it where the righteous allegedly were, the limbus patrum. The focus is now on the other area where lost sinners were held and were suffering for their sins. Between his death and resurrection it is held that Christ went to this part of Sheol and preached to its inhabitants. This is the view taken by R. C. H. Lenski, for example, in his commentary on 1 Peter. In his exposition of the same text from Ch.3 we have been considering above, Lenski identifies the ‘spirits in prison’ to whom Jesus preached not as angelic spirits but as human spirits. They are lost sinners. His purpose in preaching to them, however, was not to offer salvation – Lenski is emphatic on that – but to proclaim his victory. ‘The proclamation’, he writes, ‘was not evangelical but damnatory’3. Another writer explains it thus: ‘He proclaimed to them that he had triumphed over them and that their condemnation was final’4.
4.) Christ went to the abode of lost sinners to preach the Gospel to them
Here again the key text is 1 Peter 3:18-20. And now we have a third interpretation. The spirits in prison are human spirits, lost sinners in Sheol, and Christ is preaching to them between his death and resurrection. But the preaching – to reverse Lenski’s words – is not damnatory but evangelical. He is there to offer salvation to them. William Barclay, for example, says that this passage contains ‘a breath-taking glimpse of nothing less than the gospel of a second chance’5. These people had died and were suffering for their sins but when Christ came and preached to them there was an opportunity for them to repent and be released. Nor did it end there. To quote from another writer, ‘the preaching of Christ begun in the realm of departed spirits is continued there…so that those who…on earth did not hear at all, or not in the right way, the good news of salvation through Jesus, shall hear it there’6.
5.) Christ went to the abode of lost sinners and did so for the benefit of saved sinners
This was the view of the 17th century Anglican Bishop, John Pearson, the author of a massive commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. He tells us that Christ’s ‘soul went to the place where the souls of men are kept who died for their sins…; but because there was no sin in him, and he had fully satisfied for the sins of others which he took upon him…God…left not his soul in hell, and thereby gave sufficient security to all those who belong to Christ, of never coming under the power of Satan, or suffering in the flames prepared for the Devil and his angels’7. In other words it was for the benefit of his own people that Christ descended into hell. Because he went to the abode of the lost and emerged again, Satan having no power over him, we can be assured that if we are Christ’s we will never come again under Satan’s dominion. We are in no danger of suffering in the flames that have been prepared for him.
We have looked, then, at five views of where Christ went between his death and resurrection. Before we come to the sixth and final one, we must return to the statement in the Apostles’ Creed that Christ ‘descended into hell’. Randall Otto, in an article in the Westminster Theological Journal, points out that ‘no consensus has been or apparently can be reached on the meaning of this statement’8. It means very different things to different people. We can illustrate this from the five views considered above. Each of them has been put forward as an explanation of what the Creed means when it says he ‘descended into hell’.
And they are not the only explanations. Calvin, for example, and in this he is followed by the Heidelberg Catechism, took it to mean that Christ suffered the pains of hell when he was on the cross. He not only suffered physically when he died. ‘It was expedient at the same time for him’, says Calvin, ‘to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgments’9. Others have understood the Creed to mean that Christ continued in the state of death until his resurrection. The Westminster Larger Catechism, for example, says that ‘Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death until the third day; which hath been otherwise been expressed in these words “He descended into hell”’ (Answer to Q.50).
You see the problem! The words mean radically different things to different people. Unfortunately the history of the clause doesn’t offer us any help. Its first occurrence is in a version of the creed which appeared in the year A.D. 390. There it occurs as a substitute for the words ‘and buried’. In the Creed of A.D. 390, then, we confess ‘He was crucified, dead, descended into hell’. It is generally accepted that in this version of the creed Christ’s descent into hell is the equivalent of his burial.
Its next appearance is in a version of the Creed dating from A.D. 650. By this time it is in addition to the words ‘and buried’: ‘was crucified, dead, and buried, he descended into hell’. And in that form it has remained. In the standardized version of the Apostles’ Creed Christ is represented both as being buried and as descending into hell.
The most natural way to understand this is that the descent into hell is something distinct from Christ’s death and burial. It is a reference to something that Christ did after his death and before his resurrection. And as we have seen, at least five suggestions have been made as to what that something was: He went to the abode of Old Testament saints in order to release them. He went to the abode of fallen angels in order to proclaim to them his victory. He went to the abode of lost sinners to proclaim to them their condemnation. He went to the abode of lost sinners to preach the gospel to them. He went to the abode of lost sinners for the benefit of his own people.
Before attempting to frame a Biblical response to these views mention must be made of a sixth answer to our question:
6.) Between his death and resurrection Christ went to Heaven
According to this sixth view, when Jesus said to the criminal dying beside him, ‘today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43), he meant by Paradise heaven. That was where Jesus himself was going and it was there that this man would join him. On the cross Jesus was finishing the work his Father had given him to do. He was offering there the perfect sacrifice that would take away sin. Consequently, when his suffering was over and he breathed his last, his spirit, which he committed into his Father’s hands, was able to enter the heaven from which the Lord had come and remain there until the moment of his resurrection.
A Biblical Response
An attempt must now be made to frame a biblical response to these views. This will be done by focussing on a number of the key texts that are either said to relate or do relate to this subject and drawing out some conclusions from them.
1.) Ephesians 4:7-10: ‘But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe).’
The key question concerns Christ’s descent. What does Paul mean when he speaks in v. 9 of Christ descending to the ‘lower earthly regions’? Does he mean the abode of departed spirits, good or bad? Or what?
In an interesting footnote in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (in which there is a whole section on our present subject that is well worth reading), a writer quoted says that ‘in modern exposition the reference of this passage to the descent into hell is almost without exception rejected’10. There is a much more natural and obvious interpretation and that is that the reference is to Christ’s incarnation. In order to become flesh and make his dwelling among us, he descended from heaven to the ‘lower earthly regions’ i.e. to the earth below. And when his work here on earth was done he ascended to the place where he had been before from whence, ever since, he has been giving gifts to the church.
Similar language is used in the Gospel of John. In Ch.3:13, for example, Jesus says of himself, ‘No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven.’ It is a reference to his descent from heaven to earth that he might become incarnate. Again in Ch. 6, after describing himself as having coming down from heaven (that is to earth), he goes on to ask, ‘What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? (v.62)’ The Lord is speaking about returning to the heaven from which – in order to live as a man on earth – he had at the first come forth.
The words of the Apostle Paul in Eph.4 are best interpreted in the light of these sayings. He is not thinking about a descent to an abode of departed spirits, good or bad. He is thinking rather about the incarnation, about the great stoop that the Lord Jesus made when he came from heaven to earth to do his saving work. Additionally, he is perhaps thinking about the depths of self-humbling that the Lord plumbed when he did so, not only being found in appearance as a man, but becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil.2:8).
2.) 1 Peter 3:18-20: ‘Christ was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom he also went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built’.
We have noted already the use to which this passage has been put. Those who advocate a descent of Christ to the abode of fallen angels or a descent of Christ to the abode of lost sinners with either a damnatory or evangelical message appeal to Peter’s words for support. What are we to make of these opinions?
(a) Is Peter referring to Christ proclaiming his victory to fallen angels?
It has been argued that ‘the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah’ are necessarily fallen angels, and for this reason: the word spirit when it stands, as it does here, on its own, without an indicator as to whether it is human or angelic, never refers to a human spirit – always to an angelic spirit. In an invaluable appendix to his Tyndale Commentary on 1 Peter, Wayne Grudem demonstrates that that is simply not so and insists that we determine the identity of the spirit(s) in question from the wider Biblical context.
In the case of the ‘spirits in prison’, this requires an examination of the Genesis narrative. Is there anything there that points to angels disobeying while the ark was being built? There is not (the ‘sons of God’ of Gen.6:2 being best identified as believers, not angels).
There is, however, much that points to humans disobeying while the ark was being built. When we take into account that Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet.2:5), and that God‘s Spirit during that time was striving with sinners (Gen.6:3), and that the ark which spoke of coming judgment was a long time in being built, and that in spite of everything only Noah and his family went into the ark, the evidence points in the direction of humans being disobedient during that time. These spirits in prison of whom Peter writes were once living men and women like ourselves. They heard the word of God as the ark was being built, but refusing to repent of their sins they perished in the waters of the flood.
(b) Is Peter referring to Christ proclaiming to lost sinners their condemnation?
The idea of such a thing is hugely problematic. For one thing, if that is what Peter meant, we might have expected him to state it clearly. Would there not be something in the language he uses to indicate that Jesus was announcing the condemnation of these sinners? Instead, he not only uses a general word for proclamation, but one that is used frequently in both the New Testament and the Greek version of the Old Testament for evangelistic preaching – preaching that calls upon men and women to repent.
Again, if the preaching in question was the preaching of condemnation, why was it only to those specific sinners – to those who disobeyed in the days of Noah? One would have expected that if Christ was going to descend into hell to preach a damnatory message to the lost, it would have been to all the lost rather than just a portion.
Once more – to quote from a contemporary author – the preaching of a damnatory message to the already damned ‘is not consistent with the rest of Jesus’ preaching. While he certainly spoke words of harsh criticism and even condemnation of the Pharisees, it is difficult to find parallels to Jesus “lording it over” persons who were already in prison and incapable of harming or misleading others’11.
(c) Is Peter referring to Christ preaching the gospel to lost sinners?
This is even more problematic. For one thing, if Christ did go to the abode of lost sinners to preach the gospel to them, why only to only those sinners who disobeyed in the days of Noah? Why were they selected since presumably the message of salvation was of relevance to all the lost?
More fundamentally, the whole idea of another opportunity after death to repent and believe is contrary to the teaching of the word of God elsewhere. One need go no further than Luke 16 and the story of the rich man who after death is in torment. Jesus insists that there is no possibility of either relief or release for him. Lazarus cannot cross over to give him relief from his torment and he cannot cross over to Lazarus to escape from it. It is only in the here and now – in this life – that there is an opportunity to repent and believe. That is why we have to be so earnest in our evangelism.
Peter’s words are best understood as a reference to something that happened in the days of Noah. Christ, in and by the Holy Spirit, preached through Noah to the men of that time, calling them to repentance. But it was to no avail. Refusing to heed the Lord’s gracious call, they persisted in their rebellion until they perished in their sins. Peter can speak of them as ‘spirits in prison’ because that is what they were at the time he wrote his letter. Long before, the people whose spirits they were had rejected the preaching of Christ that had come to them from the lips of Noah. And ever since, as a punishment, they had been locked up in prison. (For a very helpful exposition of Peter’s words see the appendix to Wayne Grudem’s Tyndale Commentary on 1 Peter12.)
3.) 1 Peter 4:3-6: ‘…you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do…They think it strange that that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.’
The key question here is, ‘Who are the dead to whom the gospel is said to have been preached?’ Are they sinners in hell to whom Christ went between his death and resurrection? Some have argued that they are. ‘The most natural interpretation’, writes C.E.B. Cranfield, ‘is surely to connect it with 3.19 and to understand a reference to the spirits in prison’13. Such a position, however, is liable to the same objections that were raised in connection with I Pet.3.19 itself – especially in regard to the unavailability of any opportunity to repent and believe the gospel after death.
To what, then, does the passage refer? The most satisfactory interpretation relates it to believers. In view of the coming judgment to which Peter refers in v.5, they had had the gospel preached to them and in response to it had believed. Consequently, though at the time Peter wrote his letter they were dead, it was well with them. Believers in their position had – and have – nothing to fear in regard to future judgment. They ‘live according to God in regard to the spirit’ i.e. they enjoy God’s blessing in the unseen spiritual realm. They are in no danger of condemnation.
4.) Luke 16:19-23: ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was a laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longings to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.”
We were thinking earlier about the Roman Catholic view of Sheol (or Hades, to give it its Greek name). It was divided into two areas or compartments. There was the area where the wicked went and where they suffered the torments of God’s punishment, and there was the part where the righteous went – the limbus patrum – which was located on the fringe or outskirts and referred to in Scripture as ‘Abraham’s bosom’.
The point to be established from the Luke 16 text is that is not how the Bible views things. The rich man and Lazarus are said here to be in two very different places.
The rich man is in a place of suffering; Lazarus, to use the language of the King James Version, is in ‘Abraham’s bosom’ (v.22). If Roman Catholic theology was correct, we could say that both these men were in Sheol/Hades (since Christ had not yet died on the cross). The rich man was in one part of it and Lazarus was in another.
But that is not what Jesus teaches. He certainly says that the rich man was in Hades (the place that is translated ‘hell’ in v.23), and that Hades for him was a place of suffering. But Lazarus was not in Hades. Lazarus was elsewhere, at Abraham’s side. The contrast is not between two parts of Hades – one pleasant and the other horrible. It is between Hades and another place altogether, a place of rest and peace and happiness to which Lazarus was carried by angels.
Luke 16, then, gives no countenance to the Roman Catholic two-compartment theory of Sheol/Hades with its upper and lower levels. As a place of departed spirits Hades is clearly portrayed as having but one compartment and that for lost spirits – for men and women who died in their sins and who are awaiting the final judgment at the end of time.
That being so, the notion of Old Testament saints being released from a certain part of Hades needs to be dismissed. They were never there in the first place. They received in their lifetime the benefits of Christ’s future Calvary work. They were given new birth. They were justified. They were sanctified. They persevered in grace until the end. And there is no theological reason why they may not have enjoyed the further blessing of entrance into God’s presence when they died. It is true that the Old Testament has little light to shed on this. But what little information it does give points in that direction. ‘Returning to the divine simplicity of Scripture’, says Bishop Moule, ‘we find no evidence for a change of place and condition of the old saints at the Lord’s death, but rather allusions to their rest and glory from the first’14.
5.) Acts 2:27-31: ‘…you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.’
Quoting from Psalm 16 – a Psalm which gives prophetic expression to the hopes of the Christ in the face of death – Peter says that the Christ would not be abandoned to the grave. In Psalm 16 itself the word translated ‘grave’ is Sheol. In the Greek of Acts 2 it is Hades. Christ’s confidence is that the LORD would not abandon his soul to Sheol/Hades. Does that mean that for a time at least our Lord went to the realm of lost spirits? We have just seen from Luke 16 that Sheol/Hades is a place for lost spirits. Do Psalm 16 and Acts 2 imply that Jesus went there?
Sheol/Hades refers most often in the Bible to the grave. It is certainly used in places to describe the abode of lost spirits. We see that from Luke 16. But the bulk of references are to the grave. And it is to the grave that Psalm 16 and Acts 2 are best understood as referring. The NIV translation of Acts 2:27 captures the meaning well: ‘You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.’ That was Christ’s hope, his confidence, his expectation. And in the event it proved to be well-founded. God did not abandon him to Sheol/Hades. He was not left in the grave. Nor did he experience decay. He remained under the power of death only for a time and then on the third day was raised to life again.
6.) Luke 23.43: ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’
The word that Jesus uses here in this lovely promise to the dying criminal – paradise – is used twice more in the New Testament. In 2 Cor.12, Paul speaks of being ‘caught up to the third heaven… to paradise’, where he ‘heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell’ (vs.2&4). Then in Rev.2:7, Jesus says, ‘To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which in the paradise of God.’ Paradise is heaven.
It was to heaven, therefore, that Jesus expected to go when his work on the cross was finished: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ And it was to heaven that he did go. When he committed his spirit into his Father’s hands, it was to his Father’s presence that his spirit was borne, and there, within a short time, it was joined by the spirit of the dying thief.
There is no evidence in Scripture for a descent of Christ into hell. Neither in his human spirit nor in his body and spirit together [see Appendix below] did he visit an abode of departed spirits – human or angelic – between his death and resurrection. For the entirety of that period, he went to heaven.
This, of course, creates difficulties for the recital of the Apostles’ Creed in its traditional form. There is no question but that the clause ‘he descended into hell’ is to be understood in the sense of Christ visiting an abode of departed spirits – human or angelic – between his death and resurrection either to release them or to preach to them. And that, as we have seen, has no foundation in the word of God. ‘He descended into hell’ should be dropped from the Creed. Jesus went to heaven when he died – no where else.
His experience in this regard is the very opposite of unique. It is instead a pattern experience. Our history in a broad sense will be his. He died, he entered heaven, and he was later raised from the dead. That, if we are believers, will be our experience too. We shall die, we shall enter heaven, and one day we shall be raised from the dead – just like our Saviour.
- W.H. Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology, Church Book Room Press, 1951, p.71
- John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? Evangelical Press, 1993, p.178
- R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter etc. Augsburg Publishing House, n.d., p.168
- Wayne Grudem, Tyndale Commentary on 1 Peter, IVP/Eerdmans, p.204. This is not Grudem’s own position.
- Quoted, Blanchard, op cit, p.177
- Quoted, Blanchard, op cit, p.176
- John Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1877, p.450
- Randall Otto, Westminster Theological Journal 52 (1990)
- Quoted in Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, IVP/Zondervan, 1994, p.587
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, IVP/Zondervan, p.589 n.27
- Millard J. Erickson, Is there opportunity for Salvation after Death? Bibliotheca Sacra Vol.152:606 (Apr.95), p.138
- Wayne Grudem, Tyndale Commentary on 1 Peter, IVP/Eerdmans, pp203ff
- C.E.B. Cranfield, The First Epistle of Peter, SCM Press, 1950, p.91
- H.C.G. Moule, Outlines of Christian Doctrine, Hodder & Stoughton, 1889, p.97
We have been addressing in this article the question, ‘Where did Christ go between his death and resurrection?’ To most of us this question suggests an enquiry as to where Christ’s human spirit went. His body remained in the tomb till the moment of the resurrection. But where did his human spirit go – that spirit which at the point of death he committed into his Father’s hands?
For others the question has to do with Christ’s body and spirit together. In Lutheran theology, a distinction is made between quickening (or vivification) and resurrection. Christ’s human spirit is said to have entered heaven at the moment of death but afterwards it returned to the body for a pre-resurrection purpose. This reunion of Christ’s spirit with his body resulted in a quickening or vivification of the body and was followed by a descent of Christ, in his now reconstituted humanity, into hell. Only after that did he emerge from the tomb.
The absence of evidence from Scripture for any descent of Christ into hell between his death and resurrection – whether in his human spirit or in his body and spirit together –rules this theory out.