Down through the centuries, that phrase from the Apostles Creed has generated a great deal of thought and discussion.
It describes what the ancient church believed happened between the time on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, and when on Easter Sunday morning He rose again from the dead.
Images from the ancient church picture Jesus standing on the broken doors of hell, which have fallen in the shape of a cross – to show that by His death, Jesus defeated death and hell.
He holds Adam and Eve by their wrists and is pulling them up out of hell to illustrate that on its own, mankind is unable to defeat sin and death – salvation comes about only by the work of God.
Under the doors, hell is pictured as a chasm of darkness with broken locks and chains strewn about.
Jesus told His disciples that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. Gates are defensive structures. The imagery is of a church on the offense, attacking the gates of hell and bringing release to those held captive by it.
As we prepare to celebrate the most important event in the history of the world . . . the event that resulted in dividing history into BC and AD (or BCE and CE for those who choose not to acknowledge the lordship of Christ) . . . let us not forget that the gates of death and hell open to Him.
Jesus Christ is the Victor who defeats all His enemies and sets the captives free!