Hell. “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
In the movie the Princess Bride, one of the heroes, Inrigo Montoya, responds to one of the villains’ continual use of the word “inconceivable”. Each time the villian, supposedly a genius, says, “Inconceivable” what occurs actually is very conceivable. Finally, Inrigo says the famous line, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Same could be said for “Hell”, when it is professed in the Creed: “He descended into Hell…”
Is there a Hell? Is there more than one Hell? If so, which “Hell” do we profess that Jesus went to? Why did He go to “Hell”, anyways?
Here is a quick primer on what we mean when we profess that “He descended into Hell…”
- The Apostle’s Creed confesses that Jesus “descended into Hell” (CCC 631).
- The Gospels tell us that Jesus was “raised from the dead” (Act 3:15; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20); Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead, but with one big difference: Jesus descended as a Savior proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there. (CCC 632).
- Scripture calls the abode of the dead, “hell”: Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek.
- All who are in “Hell” are deprived of the vision of God; but all are not the same.
- Some, Jesus tells us in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26), are in the bosom of Abraham, comforted yet deprived of union with God, waiting for the Savior.
- Others, are like the Rich Man, tormented by flames in the Hell of Damnation because of their sinful and unjust lives (CCC 633).
- Jesus liberates the righteous and leaves the unrighteous to their hideous plight, the plight that they have chosen in their selfishness.
- Jesus still frees those who are righteous and believe; those in mortal sin remain.
Many today think of “hell” as inconceivable. It is not. It is Scriptural and part of the formal teaching of the Catholic Church.
Now, unlike the villain in Princess Bride, you do know what the word means.