Highlight: The Harrowing of Hell doctrine

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed the entire course of our lives. This is especially true for sinners who died prior to Jesus’ sacrificial work on earth.

Professor Brad Sickler points out that this is especially true for sinners who died prior to Jesus’ sacrificial work on earth. He helps us gain further insight into the Harrowing of Hell doctrine found in the Apostles’ Creed.

“The traditional Harrowing of Hell is that when after Jesus died, he had paid the price for our sins. So at that point, a transaction had been completed and the Harrowing of Hell doctrine says, ‘He presented himself to the rebellious persons who had died prior to his sacrificial work, and offered them a chance at salvation,’ and then led them forth as captives in his train; led them out of captivity where they had been spirits in prison waiting for the final judgment.

“That offer of gospel salvation through Christ’s sacrifice had to be made to everybody, and obviously they weren’t alive to hear about it and so they had to receive it the special way.”

This doctrine can help us understand the salvation of those who had not yet received the gospel message, but also applies to those who have yet to receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Professor Sickler points out that the Harrowing of Hell portion is meant to reveal the validity of Jesus’ death and affirm the invitation that we all have to follow Christ.

“The whole point of that part of the Apostles’ Creed is to say that Jesus really did die, just as we do. All of this is pointing to us being the ones who ultimately will follow in his train, going through the same process of death, burial and resurrection as we typify in baptism.”

Jesus experienced everything that we experience here on earth, including death, and He presents Himself to anyone in need of a Savior before our final day of judgment. Professor Mark Muska reiterates the importance of the Apostles’ Creed,

“It’s hard for us to identify with this, but there really was a historical reality here that had to be verified and that was Jesus really did die, this isn’t something that was made up, and then he really did rise again. This is at the very foundation of all of Christianity, that if that’s true, everything has changed.”

Ask the Professor: On the 3rd Thursday of every the month we invite Bible professors from the University of Northwestern into the studio and open the phone lines for your questions on the Bible, faith and the church. Call-in during the live show, or submit your questions via email on Connecting Faith’s show page.

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