Matthew 27:57-66 or Mark 15:42-47 or Luke 23:50-56 or John 19:38-42; Isaiah 38:10-20; Jonah 2:1-10; Matthew 12:38-42; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Psalms 4, 16 & 24
He Really Did Take Our Place … Completely
(This devotion represents a particular interpretation of the “Descent”; others disagree.)
This is always a quiet day for me. It seems that after Good Friday, Holy Saturday is a day of somber reflection. We know Sunday’s coming, but we refuse to celebrate just yet – it doesn’t seem right just after his passion.
But what is the purpose of this day and why is it important? It is mandated by the fact that the soul of Christ must have gone somewhere during that period of time. Where was it? Well, where the dead go, of course. And hence we arrive at the famous line in the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into hades.” We may say that this first teaches us that when our Lord came to be one of us and take our place, he meant it. He not only became man and tasted death for everyone; he even experienced hell for everyone! But he did not go there as a captive, but as the conqueror over the Evil One, who now has the keys of death and hell (Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelation 1:18).
Scripture also says that Christ preached to the spirits (that is, souls) imprisoned there (1 Peter 3:18-20), so that the gospel was indeed preached to all creation. And finally, it was at this time that the souls of the righteous dead were delivered from the abode of the dead and into heaven. These died looking forward to the promise, and received its fulfillment at Christ’s descent and resurrection. (We should not assume that the righteous dead would have been in the same place or state as the wicked, e.g., Luke 16:19-31.) Some may wonder why these had to wait before they entered heaven. Because it is Christ who opens the gates of heaven for all believers. No one gets there without or ahead of Christ, regardless of how “good” he or she may have been. It is the work of redemption wrought by our Lord that saves anyone, from Abel down to the person who was saved just a minute ago. The Old Testament saints were saved by looking forward to Christ (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40), while we are saved by looking back. But we are all saved by the same One and by the same blood. This is why we say, “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old Testament is in the New revealed”: It’s all about Christ, from Genesis 1:1, where he is the architect of the universe (Proverbs 8:22-36; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2), to Revelation 22:21, where we are blessed with his saving grace, and everything in between. The Father created the world for His Son, and gave the Church to him as a gift. And the Son in turn takes our place and gives us as a gift to the Father, and we are saved in the glorious exchange.