[quote=LSK]In reality, the ‘hell’ that Jesus descended into is a poorly translated idea of the old Hebrew belief of (and I am probably going to spell it wrong, so look it up in the Catholic Encyclopedia online) Shaol.
Jesus gave a parable about two places: the bosom of Abraham, and hell. So it had some divisions or levels.
Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.
This was before Jesus opened heaven.
Here is a verse which refers to a “prison” where Christ descended to preach to the souls from the times of Noe:
2 Peter 3:19 In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison: 20 Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.
This shows that there is a place that is temporary for holding souls, and that it is not heaven. What is interesting is that He “preached” to them.
The Catechism says that the main point being made is that Jesus really did die, and go where all the others who had died had gone.
Paragraph 1. Christ Descended into Hell
632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.477 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.478
633 *Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.*479 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:480 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."481 *Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.*482
634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.” 483 The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment. This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.
635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."484 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."485 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."486
636 By the expression “He descended into hell”, the Apostles’ Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil “who has the power of death” (Heb 2:14).
637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.