In an article on Good Friday, NPR described Easter inaccurately as "the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere like that, but rather arose into heaven — is on Sunday." The error was corrected that Easter commemorates Jesus' resurrection, but did He go to hell after crucifixion?
NPR corrected it as, "Easter — the day Christians celebrate Jesus' Resurrection — is on Sunday." But the error "practically begged Christians to renew charges that the media is biased against them," an article in The Washington Post commented.
The post referred to the Apostle's Creed, saying it states that Jesus "was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell."
However, the term "hell" in the Creed "refers not to the hell of eternal punishment (Gehenna), but to the realm of the dead, the underworld (OT Sheol, NT Hades)," wrote Bruce Corley, president of the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, in an earlier article in Baptist Standard. "Hence modern translations of both the NT and the Creed read 'Hades,' 'dead,' or 'death.'"
Greek Hades is translated "hell" in the King James Version.
"That Christ in his human soul descended to the place of the dead, until his resurrection, is clearly stated in the NT (Acts 2:31; Rom. 10:7; Eph. 4:9) and underscores the reality of his death," Corley added.
The Bible does not mention anywhere that Jesus "descended into hell."
The 1989 United Methodist Hymnal includes the "likely more accurate" translation, "He descended to the dead," and mentions "descended into hell" only as a footnote, according to United Methodist News Service.
"It means there is no part of human existence to which Christ did not 'descend,'" the Rev. J. Warren Smith, associate professor of historical theology at United Methodist-related Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., was quoted as saying. "It's what it means for Christ to take upon himself ... the punishment of sin, which is death. If Christ really dies, then that means he (journeys) all the way to the place of dead."
"Until A.D. 650 no version of the Creed included this phrase with the intention of saying that Christ 'descended into hell'—and the only version to include the phrase before A.D. 650 gives it a different meaning," Zondervan Academic blog earlier quoted evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem as saying in one of his books.
Writing for DesiringGod, Joe Rigney, a professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary, wrote in 2015, "Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).
"After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).
"Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren't merely carried by angels to Abraham's bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15)."