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Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective

It is of value to consider faith perspectives unfamiliar to western influenced Christians, particularly as many Eastern Orthodox Christian communities are far more articulate about universal salvation than Western Christian communities.

Bishop Hilarion, an Eastern Orthodox theologian and pastor, explores Christian Universalism with a focus primarily on Eastern affirmations of Christ’s decent to Hell (1Peter 3:17ff, et al.), while including Western affirmations. Hilarion provides an extensive exploration of Biblical (including Apocrypha) texts, early Christian poetry, Patristic traditions, and worship practices that embrace God’s salvation of all through Christ.

Having theological training is helpful for this exploration. At times such an extensive study can demand considerable concentration; yet the book is both well-written and easily read by the curious and open student of Christian Universalism.

In my decades as a preacher of, and listener to, many sermons, I have failed to speak of, or hear comment on, Christ’s descent into Hell. This book is insightful not simply to better understand the scriptural, patristic, and liturgical influences on Christian Universalism, but also to explore Christ’s decent to Hell as supporting Universalistic perspectives.

Ultimately the concluding sentence of Hilarion’s work expresses well the author’s intent: “salvation has been granted to all people….is the never extinguished hope of all those who believe in Christ, who once and for all conquered death, destroyed Hell, and granted resurrection to the entire human race” (p. 218).

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