Crowder came out with a new album and my first listen through I misheard part of the lyrics. In All We Sinners, he was singing of Heaven’s gates open, I heard:
Saved, we are saved
The gates of hell wide open
Saved, we are saved
The keys to the grave have been stolen
This brought back memories of a Buechner quote*1 and my pondering of Christ’s time between the cross and the resurrection. There is great debate over what happened during that time, but some early church tradition and a difficult passage in 1Peter 3 *2, put forward the idea that Jesus descended into Hades or Hell. I will be honest, I do not know what happened between the cross and resurrection. Yet, the lyrics I heard sent my imagination running, as Jesus declared “it is finished” and breathed his last…
He fell into the darkness. Into sulfur and heat. All had wondered what would happen, but his arrival brought the answer. There he stood – marked crucified. The demons began to dance. Their shouts echoed Death’s great victory. The ashes of souls stared at the arrival, any hope defeated.
Then came a sound not heard in Hell, he breathed. In and Out. The Ashes stepped back, fearing to be blown away. Instead cool and solid passed over them. As the wave passed the choking heat returned, but demons grew quiet and a murmur began, “he is not ash.”
Then he whispered, but all heard it in their own ears, “It is finished.” Words once spoken on the cross, but now their meaning changed. Death’s victory was in fact… his hand opened and there was a key. All turned to the gates… wide open.
His gaze – beyond what we can understand – caught all eyes at once. His eyes even reached to Judas, whose ashen neck was still twisted and snapped. This gaze reached into all hearts and spoke, “follow me.”
Then he turned and walked out.
I hope, by grace, everyone followed him. As I hope all do today.
My imagination runs wild. Often. But the truth is that God’s grace – leaving Heaven for all the world – is bigger than my imagination. And no matter what you believe about yourself – His love will accept you. Even if you once sold him for 30 pieces of silver – the love of Jesus is open to you.
*1 Frederick Buechner on Judas and Jesus meeting in Hell, “It is a scene to conjure with. Once again they met in the shadows, the two old friends, both of them a little worse for wear after all that had happened, only this time it was Jesus who was the one to give the kiss, and this time it was not the kiss of death that was given.” — Peculiar Treasures, 94
*2 1Peter 3:18b-19 “He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits…” The passage continues by referring to Noah and the flood – only 8 being saved. It is a strange passage – not one to gain core theology. There is also Ephesians 4:9 “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (though I have read this referring not to Hell, but to the lowest part of humanity) and the Apostle’s Creed, which includes “he descended into Hell” (not all early versions have this line). So, again, not core theology. God and Faith are big enough to have many unknowns. Grace covers our confusion, because whatever happened on Saturday, Christ rose on Sunday.