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In Christian theology, the Harrowing of Hell is the triumphant descent of Christ into Hell between the time of his Crucifixion and his Resurrection when he brought salvation to all of the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world.
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Of course, this offer would not only be extended to those born around or after the time Christ became incarnate, so it would make no sense for Him to leave the righteous dead out of His redemption of mankind.

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Thus, following His death, Christ descended into hell, not because He was slave to sin or because He deserved hell. Rather, He freely chose to descend to hell in order that He might rescue the just and faithful from their imprisonment and bring them with Him into heaven at His Resurrection.

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And so, when Christ descended into hell He delivered the holy Fathers from thence. And this is what is written Zech. The harrowing of hell shows that no matter how far from God we are, He is always working to bring us into His fold.

Did Jesus Descend into Hell? Proof from the Bible

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Holy Saturday: The Harrowing of Hell – The Torch | Boston College's Catholic Newspaper

Related Articles. Mark's Basilica. See the description page. Follow the link for the description page. Deimling , II, lines , lines Benson , line York Mystery Plays , line Chester Plays , II, lines Consequently, they who were such as those who are now in Purgatory, were not set free from Purgatory by Christ's descent into hell. But if any were found such as are now set free from Purgatory by virtue of Christ's Passion, then there was nothing to hinder them from being delivered from Purgatory by Christ's descent into hell.

The harrowing of hell and the victory of Christ

Scripture holds that upon his death Christ "descended first into the lower parts of the earth" where he "preached to those spirits that were in prison. They are, so when Christ arrives he conquers Hades and takes them up to Heaven. The Anastasis images follow the details in the Nicodemus quite closely. In the text the angels announce Christ's arrival with words King David recognizes as his own prophecy: "Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in.

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Some images will also show Satan below his feet, bound in chains just as described in the text. In both text and image Adam is always the first to be rescued.


Christ takes him by the hand, and the others follow behind. King David and John the Baptist are often identifiable among the throng or to the side, and sometimes Isaiah, whom the text also credits with having prophesied this day. The iconography does differ from the Nicodemus in a few details.

The Harrowing of Hell

Hades, a character in the narrative who discourses with Satan at length, is pictured as a chasm below the gates, not as a person. Eve is absent from the text but the images always put her at Adam's side, and some add a youthful King Solomon at David's side too.

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  • Some images add details from scripture. In the picture above, keys scattered around the chasm reflect Revelation , "behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross.