Christ’s Descension into Hades to Destroy Death

The teaching of the Orthodox faith regarding atonement of Christ is that Christ was ransomed by Satan. The so called “payment” that was given was not to God but to Satan. This was no compromise on God’s part. He was not giving power and authority to Satan. Satan had no idea what he was getting. God did not reveal to Satan that Jesus was God until he entered Hades. He had no idea that after the death of Jesus, Jesus would enter into Hades and destroy its bond, taking his people with him.  

 

 

St. Chrysostom ca. 347-407

 It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen! “O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?” (Paschal Homily)

 St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-394

‎”As the ruler of darkness could not approach the presence of the Light unimpeded, had he not seen in Him something of flesh, then, as soon as he saw the God-bearing flesh and saw the miracle performed through it by the Deity, he hoped that… if he came to take hold of the flesh through death, then he would take hold of all the power contained in it. Therefore, having swallowed the bait of the flesh, he was pierced by the hook of the Deity and thus the dragon was transfixed by the hook.” (The Great Catechetical Oration 22-24)

 St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death. By seducing the first man, he slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose, and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, ‘The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day’ [Rev. 5:5]. . . . The devil jumped for joy when Christ died; and by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord. (St. Augustine, Sermons, 261; trans. by Henry Bettenson, ed., The Later Christian Fathers: A Selection From the Writings of the Fathers from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to St. Leo the Great (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, 1977), p. 222.)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

And in order that He might set the human race free from the bonds of deadly transgression, He hid the power of His majesty from the raging devil, and opposed him with our frail and humble nature. For if the cruel and proud foe could have known the counsel of God’s mercy, he would have aimed at soothing the Jews’ minds into gentleness rather than at firing them with unrighteous hatred, lest he should lose the thraldom of all his captives in assailing the liberty of One Who owed him nought. Thus he was foiled by his malice: he inflicted a punishment on the Son of God, which was turned to the healing of all the sons of men. He shed righteous Blood, which became the ransom and the drink for the world’s atonement. The Lord undertook that which He chose according to the purpose of His own will. He permitted madmen to lay their wicked hands upon Him: hands which, in ministering to their own doom, were of service to the Redeemer’s work. And yet so great was His loving compassion for even His murderers, that He prayed to the Father on the cross, and begged not for His own vengeance but for their forgiveness, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do Luke 23:34 . And such was the power of that prayer, that the hearts of many of those who had said, His blood be on us and on our sons Matthew 27:25, were turned to penitence by the Apostle Peter’s preaching, and on one day there were baptized about 3,000 Jews: and they all were of one heart and of one soul Acts 4:32, being ready now to die for Him, Whose crucifixion they had demanded. (Sermon 62)

The Venerable Bede ca. 673-735

 A certain person has interpreted this passage as follows, that the saints resting in the lower world longed for that consolation about which the Lord say to His Apostles, Many prophets and righteous persons have longed to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it (Mt. 13:17), about which the psalmist also says, My eyes have failed at your message, saying, ‘When will you comfort me,” (Ps. 119 (118):82) and that this consolation and encouragement was preached by the Lord when He went down into the lower world even to those who were in prison and were once in the days of Noah unbelievers. He may have aid this. But the Catholic faith holds that when the Lord went down into the lower world and brought his own from there, it was the faithful alone and not unbelievers whom He took with Him to the heavenly kingdom… (Commentary on 1st Peter)

Comments

  1. Great post!

    This concept used to really bother me until I came to understand the Biblical concept of “ransom”, which isn’t defined as a payment by means of extortion. In this context it means a deliverance of the captives with the subsequent destruction of the power of the hostile agent which held them in its power.

    Christ as the new Moses came to ransom us from the power of Pharoah/Satan/Hades:

    Deu 7:8 …but because of Jehovah’s loving you, and because of His keeping the oath which He hath sworn to your fathers, hath Jehovah brought you out by a strong hand, and doth ransom you from a house of servants, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Young’s Literal Translation)

    Pharoah wasn’t paid anything, instead he, along with his army, was destroyed, his captives freed and his kingdom left destitute.

    Hos 13:14-16 From the hand of Sheol I do ransom them, From death I redeem them, Where is thy plague, O death? Where thy destruction, O Sheol? Repentance is hid from Mine eyes. Though he among brethren produceth fruit, Come in doth an east wind, a wind of Jehovah, From a wilderness it is coming up, And it drieth up his fountain, And become dry doth his spring, It–it spoileth a treasure–every desirable vessel. Become desolate doth Samaria, Because she hath rebelled against her God, By sword they do fall, Their sucklings are dashed in pieces, And its pregnant ones are ripped up! (Young’s Literal Translation)

    Perhaps, if we could redefine the meaning of “ransom” along these lines it would help us to truly undertand the Scriptures and the fathers better. This extortionary concept of a ransom payment to the Father or to Satan is what St. Gregory the Theologian contended against. He refutes that concept and puts forward the Biblical one:

    Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. But that brazen serpent Numbers 21:9 was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us, but as a contrast; and it saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live, but because it was killed, and killed with it the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved. And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole.

    Christ is Risen! Truly, He has Risen!!

Speak Your Mind