Reflecting on I Peter 3: 18-22
It only comes up in the Sunday readings once every three years, but it’s so intriguing that it catches our ear every time: in the Spirit he went to preach to the spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19).
If that sounds familiar, it’s because we pray it every time we say the Apostle’s Creed: He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.
You read that right. The Church took this portion of Peter’s letter so seriously that it found its way into the creed. Christ actually visited all the just who had lived before the time of Christ and released the spirits in prison.
In fact, a beautiful, ancient hymn sung on Holy Saturday recounts that Christ visited Adam and Eve:
He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds, and Eve, captive with him. He says, “I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”
How does time and space work with God? Had all who died before Christ’s resurrection waited out those thousands of years in “real time”? Or is there perhaps a “wrinkle in time”― a mere blink that separates this life (and death) from eternity?
Be at peace. The God of heaven and earth (and under the earth) will not stop searching for us.
Is it hard to imagine that hell might be empty?