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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles – part 16

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From the Word: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the stomach of the giant fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles – part 17

IV. That the Son became man in this manner: he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, without the cooperation of man, and was born of the pure, holy, and virgin Mary. Afterwards, he suffered, died, was buried, descended to hell, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God, will come to judge the living and the dead, etc., as the Apostles’ Creed, as well as that of St. Athanasius, and the Catechism in common use for teaching children.

Pulling It Together: The force of Luther’s writing up to this point is that the German reformers and the church in Rome held to the same basic, credal beliefs. As we shall see, how those beliefs were put into practice, or what they were interpreted to mean, would make a great difference. Nonetheless, these are important points of doctrine, and needed to be stated, even if Rome agreed.

Let us address just one point, however, because it bothers some folks. Jesus descended into hell. It should be a great comfort to everyone that Jesus descended into hell, but some just cannot stomach the idea of Jesus being in hell. Take a moment and consider that hell could not contain him. Jesus had to overcome sin and death—and that means conquering hell and its devil. It is good news that hell could not keep him because that means it cannot keep you who believe in him who rose from the place of the dead. Because Jesus conquered hell, that place may not have you. Just as the great fish could not suffer Jonah, Jesus spent only a few days in the belly of the earth—long enough to rescue the faithful who had awaited that day for so long.

Prayer: Help me appreciate all you endured, Lord, for a sinner like me. Amen.

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