The Harrowing of Hell--What was Christ doing in Hell? What "preaching" was he doing there? Was he saving people? What happens to all those people today who die without ever hearing the Gospel? Do they really go to Hell...forever? Why are some saved and not others?
In six essays, published in the Concordia Theological Monthly during 1945-6, Theodore Engelder confronted the prevalent, and still persistent belief and false hope, that there is a "second chance" or further hope for salvation for those who die in unbelief.
[Here is a brief introduction to Engelder and his work.]
The reason these essays are still so helpful today is that they deal with issues and questions that every generation asks and every pastor (and probably every parent) must be prepared to deal with: Why some are saved and not others? Can a gracious God really send people to Hell? Is there truly no more hope for those who died in unbelief? What about those who "never heard," who didn't "totally reject the Gospel," etc.?
In Part I, "The Hades Gospel", Engelder exhibits quotes from the proponents of those believing that Christ preached the Gospel to and saved many souls in Hades (Hell). They believe that people even today may yet come to faith after death. Engelder points out that they proudly "glory" in this "gospel of the hereafter" and castigate the opposition as, "the narrower thoughts of a later, less loving and less hopeful time..." Engelder also notes their fondness of Origen, though admits that they do not in large part accept his most radical views on the subject.
Though the quotations of the proponents of the "Hades Gospel" are extensive, reading them gives one a sense of how critical they feel the issue is and how zealously they attack those who hold the traditional (biblical) view.
I have gone through each of the essays and will put up commentary on a weekly basis over the next month and a half (on Saturdays). So that you can read ahead if you wish, below are all six essays, in order, linked to the online articles.
Part I: "The Hades Gospel"
CTM May 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 5)
Part II: "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel"
CTM June 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 6)
Part III: "The Evil of The Hades Gospel"
CTM September 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 9)
Part IV: "Some Remarks on the Question of the Salvation of the Heathen"
CTM December 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 12)
Part V: "The Protestant Purgatory"
CTM June 1946 (Vol. 17, No. 6)
Part VI: "The Hades Gospel and the Apocatastasis Gospel"
CTM September 1946 (Vol. 17, No. 9)
Get Read Level: Pastors: 8/10 Laymen: 3/10
If you are a pastor who isn't comfortable speaking to this issue and the questions surrounding the life hereafter, then you probably need to, um, "supplement you knowledge" about basic Christianity. (Read: get it straight, fast. You should know this already!) There is a decent amount of German and other foreign language references in the article. However, the layman who is grounded in the Catechism and Scriptures and takes a plunge will indeed be rewarded with much good food for thought and reflection.