Protestants: Was Jesus in Hell?


I have heard references by CATHOLIC Apologists in the past about Protestants believing, as part of the atonement, that Jesus had to suffer in Hell…this is serious news if its true, if its FALSE then then talk like that should stop.

Im asking Protestants if they believe this…AND Catholics who make that accusation to cite some “authoritative” material.


Jesus decended to Hell is in the Creed however the word used in the Creed indicates The Spirits in Prison as in the Limbo of the Fathers, not the Hell of the Damned.


It was good you mentioned this. Yes, I agree the Catholic understanding is that Jesus didnt go to the place of Hellfire but to a “prison” where the OT saints were held (cf 1 Pt 3:19).

This is not the same as what Im talking about, what I have heard is that people like Luther believed Jesus had to suffer Hellfire.


The only time I have ever heard this is when the protestants misinterpreted the passage in the Creed.


As I have heard it explained, the actual greek word that was used was prison, not hell. And that the paradise referred to was not heaven but limbo. And the explanation was, Jesus went to purgatory and brought the souls out and opened the gates of heaven.


Calvin wrote on this in his Institutes, Book 2 Chapter 16 paragraphs 10-12. This is the source for many Protestants believing He went to the place of the damned.

This isn’t really an issue I’ve given any thought to.


As I recall, Dante wrote the Inferno section of the Commedia to reflect that Christ did, indeed, descend to Hell to rescue the OT saints.If that’s the case, Dante may have been a source of that line of thinking, too.

It’s been years since I studied it, but I seem to recall a bridge in hell that was destroyed at that time (perhaps it was destroyed by the earthquake that occured at Christ’s death). Also, it’s possible that, in Dante’s work, the OT saints were in the “vestibule” of hell, where the virtuous pagans were left (Limbo, as he calls it).

I should read it again…maybe this summer vacation.



I actually have a Non-Denomination Protestant Minister admit that Jesus was in hell during a Bible study session. I knew he was wrong and didn’t felt the need to embarrass him.

I knew that Jesus was in hades or hell but not the Hell of the Damn. Jesus descended into the Prison of the Spirits, or Limbo just as Br. Rich indicted.


Note that in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man [Luke 16] there is an unbridgeable divide between Abraham’s bosom and the place of punishment.
For a discussion of Jesus’ visit see Office of Readings for Holy Saturday - scroll down past the psalms to the second reading.


So the idea that Christ had to suffer in Hell is true, at least for Calvin, I looked up that passage here:10. …
Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. …

Im pretty sure this is heretical. His Passion and Death were sufficient…
Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. … …But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man.
Im at a loss for words, he is basically saying the “corporeal” death was nothing compared to the tortures his soul had to face in hell.11. In this sense, Peter says that God raised up Christ, “having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible he should be holden of it,” (Acts 2:24). He does not mention death simply, but says that the Son of God endured the pains produced by the curse and wrath of God, the source of death. How small a matter had it been to come forth securely, and as it were in sport to undergo death. …

This is clearly an abuse of that passage… Christ then praying in a loud voice, and with tears, is heard in that he feared, not so as to be exempted from death, but so as not to be swallowed up of it like a sinner, though standing as our representative. And certainly no abyss can be imagined more dreadful than to feel that you are abandoned and forsaken of God, and not heard when you invoke him, just as if he had conspired your destruction. To such a degree was Christ dejected, that in the depth of his agony he was forced to exclaim, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The view taken by some, that he here expressed the opinion of others rather than his own conviction, is most improbable; for it is evident that the expression was wrung from the anguish of his inmost soul. We do not, however, insinuate that God was ever hostile to him or angry with him. How could he be angry with the beloved Son, with whom his soul was well pleased? or how could he have appeased the Father by his intercession for others if He were hostile to himself? But this we say, that he bore the weight of the divine anger, that, smitten and afflicted, he experienced all the signs of an angry and avenging God.

What I see here is a contradiction, on one hand Calvin says God must carry out the worst torment on the soul of Jesus yet on the other hand he says God cannot be angry with Jesus. In some ways this reasoning denies the relationship between the Father and the Son and I consider it blasphemous. 12. Here some miserable creatures, who, though unlearned, are however impelled more by malice than ignorance, cry out that I am offering an atrocious insult to Christ, because it were most incongruous to hold that he feared for the safety of his soul. And then in harsher terms they urge the calumnious charge that I attribute despair to the Son of God, a feeling the very opposite of faith. First, they wickedly raise a controversy as to the fear and dread which Christ felt, though these are openly affirmed by the Evangelists. For before the hour of his death arrived, he was troubled in spirit, and affected with grief; and at the very onset began to be exceedingly amazed. To speak of these feelings as merely assumed, is a shameful evasion. It becomes us, therefore (as Ambrose truly teaches), boldly to profess the agony of Christ, if we are not ashamed of the cross. And certainly had not his soul shared in the punishment, he would have been a Redeemer of bodies only.

This is amazing, he tries to turn this around on Catholicism yet he is the one in error. Calvin seems to think every time suffering is talked about in the Bible the real suffering had to do with the torture the soul of Jesus would have to put up with. I see the last sentence as clearly teaching that the soul of Jesus went through a torture either that of hell or an equivalent (if there is such a thing).




… Thus refuted, they fly off to another cavil, that although Christ feared death, yet he feared not the curse and wrath of God, from which he knew that he was safe. But let the pious reader consider how far it is honourable to Christ to make him more effeminate and timid than the generality of men. Robbers and other malefactors contumaciously hasten to death, many men magnanimously despise it, others meet it calmly. If the Son of God was amazed and terror-struck at the prospect of it, where was his firmness or magnanimity? We are even told, what in a common death would have been deemed most extraordinary, that in the depth of his agony his sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. Nor was this a spectacle exhibited to the eyes of others, since it was from a secluded spot that he uttered his groans to his Father. And that no doubt may remain, it was necessary that angels should come down from heaven to strengthen him with miraculous consolation. How shamefully effeminate would it have been (as I have observed) to be so excruciated by the fear of an ordinary death as to sweat drops of blood, and not even be revived by the presence of angels? What? Does not that prayer, thrice repeated, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” (Mt. 26:39), a prayer dictated by incredible bitterness of soul, show that Christ had a fiercer and more arduous struggle than with ordinary death?
More reading into the passage something that isnt there, this is amazing. Look at the case he makes, if Jesus was only afraid of physical pain and death then He must have been a wuss! What an abomination!
… It is of consequence to understand aright how much our salvation cost the Son of God. If any one now ask, Did Christ descend to hell at the time when he deprecated death? I answer, that this was the commencement, and that from it we may infer how dire and dreadful were the tortures which he endured when he felt himself standing at the bar of God as a criminal in our stead. And although the divine power of the Spirit veiled itself for a moment, that it might give place to the infirmity of the flesh, we must understand that the trial arising from feelings of grief and fear was such as not to be at variance with faith. And in this was fulfilled what is said in Peter’s sermon as to having been loosed from the pains of death, because “it was not possible he could be holden of it,” (Acts 2:24). Though feeling, as it were, forsaken of God, he did not cease in the slightest degree to confide in his goodness. This appears from the celebrated prayer in which, in the depth of his agony, he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). Amid all his agony he ceases not to call upon his God, while exclaiming that he is forsaken by him. …

It is very clear Christ suffering in Hell is what Calvin is proposing and it is very clear he has a distorted interpretation of Scripture.

The level of blasphemy in his words is so huge I cannot sit back and consider the protestant gospel Christian in any sense. While I believe there are many Protestants who truly love Jesus Im willing to bet they have never read or heard about such “teachings” as what was stated above. The fact is the more I learn about Protestantism the more I realize how much they hide about the details of their gospel (recognizing themselves how abominable they are yet keeping quiet). Yet it becomes clear the more this is exposed that Faith Alone is only the tip of the iceberg, the 90% we dont see is the “theology” behind it.

Thank you Truthstalker for bringing this to my attention, I was trying to stay calm through that passage yet it was so evil and heretical I cant keep silence. I honestly wonder how many Protestants would remain so after reading the above passage.


This OP brought this article to my memory…

Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy: An Exchange



Hell is the complete absence of God’s presence. Jesus cannot suffer from hell because he is God. (How can God be* totally* absent from himself??) “Jesus descended into hell” most likely means that Jesus went to where those who are in hell are, temporarily making it not really hell by his very presence there.


I’ve been having trouble with that article since it was published. I’ve found a lot of what Fr. Oakes has written very good, and a lot of what Balthasar has written is delightful and insightful. But in the end, I feel that to claim Jesus suffered from total abandonment by the father is quite a stretch, I would say contraditory, to historically authentic Catholic teaching.

As Pitstck writes:

Balthasar argues, however, that this doctrine does not do justice to the depths to which Christ went for man’s redemption or, consequently, to his love. Rather, Christ must have suffered after death the full force of what would have awaited sinful mankind without a redeemer: complete rejection by the Father without hope of mercy or reconciliation.

Yet many argue for respecting Balthasar as a Catholic Theologian


The place of punishment that the rich man was in is in fact purgatory. It is understood that those in purgatory and those of Abraham’s bosom were taken by Jesus and into Heaven. The souls of purgatory were taken away because Jesus’ suffering on the cross was given for them, therefore their time in purgatory is spent. The souls of Abraham’s bosom have already completed their time in purgatory, now they wait for Jesus to open the door.


Note that Abraham says

. . , between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

The chasm cannot be crossed. You imply that the souls with Abraham have crossed it. ??


Wow, thanks for that article, it was disappointing to see the way some Catholic “theologians” have turned out. This is one of those issues I feel is so serious that I believe divine punishments will result for those who acknowledge that damnable heretical idea.


Its amazing I agree. I couldnt believe how Pistick became the bad person in that article, what was Fr O thinking? Its scary to realize there are Catholics out there who are “widely respected” who teach what is in fact damnable heresy.


Oh, this is neat. I’m Protestant. I always thought it was Catholics who misunderstood this verse and thought Jesus went to hell.

The Bible actually uses the word “Hades,” which elsewhere could be translated “Death,” “the Grave,” or “the realm of the Dead.” In other words, Jesus died and went to where dead people go (pre-judgment, of course). But He came back.

Various creeds and Bible translations have used the word “hell” for this, and in fact in most people’s English usage, “Hades” is a semi-polite way of referring to hell. But Biblically it doesn’t have that meaning.

Thank you for clearing up for me that Catholics do not believe that Jesus descended to hell … I’ve always heard this accusation made the other way around. :slight_smile:


This is SERIOUS business, I hope this was more that just “clearing things up”…that is a damnable heresy and you should have nothing to do with it.
Now that you know better, I pray you reconsider your theology.

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