Augustine. Ad Euodiam, ep. 99 ? ?The spirits shut up in prison are the unbelievers who lived in the time of Noah, whose spirits or souls were shut up in the darkness of ignorance as in a prison. Christ preached to them, not in the flesh, for he was not yet incarnate, but in the spirit, that is, in his divine nature.? Calvin taught that Christ descended into the underworld and suffered the pains of the lost, but not all Calvinists hold with him here. See Princeton Essays, 1:153. Meyer, on <451007>Romans 10:7, regards the question ? ?Who shall descend into the abyss?? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead) ? as an allusion to, and so indirectly a proof text for, Christ?s descent into the underworld. Mason, Faith of the Gospel, 211, favors a preaching to the dead: ?During that time [the three days] he did not return to heaven and his Father.? But though <432017>John 20:17 is referred to for proof, is not this statement true only of his body? So far as the soul is concerned, Christ can say ?Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,? and ?Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise?
Zahn and Dorner best represent the Lutheran view. Zahn, in Expositor, March, 1898:216-233 ? ?If Jesus was truly man, then his soul, after it left the body, entered into the fellowship of departed spirits. If Jesus is he who lives forevermore and even his dying was his act, this tarrying in the realm of the dead cannot be thought of as a purely passive condition, but must have been known to those who dwelt there. If Jesus was the Redeemer of mankind, the generations of those who had passed away must have thus been brought into personal relation to him, his work and his kingdom, without waiting for the last day.?
Dorner, Glaubenslehre, 2:662 (Syst. Doct., 4:127), thinks ?Christ?s descent into Hades marks a new era of his pneumatic life, in which he shows himself free from the limitations of time and space.? He rejects ?Luther?s notion of a merely triumphal progress and proclamation of Christ. Before Christ,? he says, ?there was no abode peopled by the damned. The descent was an application of the benefit of the atonement (implied in kh>ru>ssein ). The work was prophetic, neither high priestly nor kingly. Going to the spirits in prison is spoken of as a spontaneous act, not one of physical necessity. No power of Hades led him over into Hades. Deliverance from the limitations of a mortal body is already an indication of a higher stage of existence. Christ?s soul is bodiless for a time ? pneu~ma only ? as the departed was.
?The ceasing of this preaching is neither recorded, nor reasonably to be supposed, indeed the ancient church supposed it carried on through the apostles. It expresses the universal significance of Christ for former
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