Some metaphors are just that: metaphors. Images that are useful for thinking or working our way through something. They are a roadmap – not the road but the map. The image of Christ’s Descent into Hades, though it provides a metaphor, is more than a metaphor. Christ truly died, truly descended into Hades, truly trampled down death by death, and truly rose again from the dead. I have to say that lest anyone think that referring to the Descent into Hades is merely a metaphor.
But as metaphor, it is also descriptive of Christ in our lives – or Pascha as we live it day by day.
Christ descended into Hades without an invitation from those in Hades.
Christ smashed the gates of Hades without asking permission.
Christ “bound the strongman” (Matt. 12:19) and “spoiled his house.”
Christ made a way for all in His resurrection from the dead.
If I take just these few observations then I can draw as well some conclusions about Christ in my daily life. For it is also true that my daily life (metaphorically speaking) is very much like Hades, at least in certain aspects of my sinfulness.
In my sinfulness I find myself in prison, in the dark, in torment, with no sense of how to get out. (If your experience of sinfulness is different than mine, I hope it’s better).
But looking at Christ’s descent into Hades I can conclude that though I find myself in prison, there is Another who has entered my prison even though I may not have invited Him.
Whatever gates there may have been that “trapped” me in that prison have been smashed even without my permission.
Whatever “strongman” has kept me bound in my sinfulness, he has been bound.
And best of all, there is a way out by Christ’s resurrection.
Putting all of that together says that my experience of a personally created Hades is but a delusion. The gates are smashed, the strongman bound, and the way out exists. It is left for me to follow Christ into the joy of His resurrection.
As a metaphor this is very useful. It makes it quite clear that God’s action in saving us is initiated by Him and not us. for “Christ first loved us.” He is for us and not against us. I even have some sense that I can say (pray) “Drag me out of here,” and He will hear me.
Drag on, Lord Jesus. Drag me home!