In the Apostles’ Creed Prayer a sentence says: “He descended into Hell.” Is this the same Hell we will descend into if we are in the state of mortal sin and have been a bad person when we die?
No, it’s different. Tradition holds that Jesus went to the abode of the dead, but not the Hell we think of prepared for the devil and for all those who reject God (to live in mortal sin is to reject God). In fact, if you look at the missalette in the pew, and find the Apostles’ Creed (not the Nicene Creed we say on Sunday), it says Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.” There is no word “Hell”. So where the heck did “Hell” go from the Apostles’ Creed? I guess some modern translations use the word “the dead” instead of “Hell” to make a distinction. Yet peaking at the latest translations that will be coming out in a few years, it looks like the word “Hell” might be returning. I don’t know if that is good or bad.
The Apostles’ creed in Latin says Jesus descended “ad inferos”. Cracking out my dictionary of ecclesiastical Latin, that word means “underworld, hell, infernal regions, abode of the dead, Sheol.” Sheol is the Hebrew word for the underworld. Hades is the Greek word. In any of these cases, it was a sort of Hell because those there were deprived of the vision of God. Before Jesus opened the way to Heaven, everyone whether evil or righteous went to the realm of the dead (call it what you will), but there must have been a difference within it because when Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he described two different places of the underworld, a place of torment and a place of comfort in “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk 16:19-26). Traditionally we believe Jesus descended into this “hell”, the place of the underworld for righteous people, to preach the Gospel to them and bring them into the paradise of Heaven. Jesus did not go to the place of Hell that is a place of eternal damnation (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #633).
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