QUESTION 52: OF CHRIST'S DESCENT INTO HELL
We have now to consider Christ's descent into hell; concerning which
there are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether it was fitting for Christ to descend into hell?
(2) Into which hell did He descend?
(3) Whether He was entirely in hell?
(4) Whether He made any stay there?
(5) Whether He delivered the Holy Fathers from hell?
(6) Whether He delivered the lost from hell?
(7) Whether He delivered the children who died in original sin?
(8) Whether He delivered men from Purgatory?
Article 1: Whether it was fitting for Christ to descend into hell?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was not fitting for Christ to descend into hell, because Augustine says (Ep. ad Evod. cliv.): "Nor could I find anywhere in the Scriptures hell mentioned as something good." But Christ's soul did not descend into any evil place, for neither do the souls of the just. Therefore it does not seem fitting for Christ's soul to descend into hell.
Objection 2: Further, it cannot belong to Christ to descend into hell
according to His Divine Nature, which is altogether immovable; but only
according to His assumed nature. But that which Christ did or suffered in
His assumed nature is ordained for man's salvation: and to secure this it
does not seem necessary for Christ to descend into hell, since He
delivered us from both guilt and penalty by His Passion which He endured
in this world, as stated above (Question , Articles ,3). Consequently, it was not
fitting that Christ should descend into hell.
Objection 3: Further, by Christ's death His soul was separated from His body,
and this was laid in the sepulchre, as stated above (Question ). But it seems
that He descended into hell, not according to His soul only, because
seemingly the soul, being incorporeal, cannot be a subject of local
motion; for this belongs to bodies, as is proved in Phys. vi, text. 32;
while descent implies corporeal motion. Therefore it was not fitting for
Christ to descend into hell.
On the contrary, It is said in the Creed: "He descended into hell": and
the Apostle says (Eph. 4:9): "Now that He ascended, what is it, but
because He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" And a
gloss adds: "that is---into hell."
I answer that It was fitting for Christ to descend into hell. First of
all, because He came to bear our penalty in order to free us from
penalty, according to Is. 53:4: "Surely He hath borne our infirmities and
carried our sorrows." But through sin man had incurred not only the death
of the body, but also descent into hell. Consequently since it was
fitting for Christ to die in order to deliver us from death, so it was
fitting for Him to descend into hell in order to deliver us also from
going down into hell. Hence it is written (Osee 13:14): "O death, I will
be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite." Secondly, because it was
fitting when the devil was overthrown by the Passion that Christ should
deliver the captives detained in hell, according to Zach. 9:11: "Thou
also by the blood of Thy Testament hast sent forth Thy prisoners out of
the pit." And it is written (Col. 2:15): "Despoiling the principalities
and powers, He hath exposed them confidently." Thirdly, that as He showed
forth His power on earth by living and dying, so also He might manifest
it in hell, by visiting it and enlightening it. Accordingly it is written
(Ps. 23:7): "Lift up your gates, O ye princes," which the gloss thus
interprets: "that is---Ye princes of hell, take away your power, whereby
hitherto you held men fast in hell"; and so "at the name of Jesus every
knee should bow," not only "of them that are in heaven," but likewise "of
them that are in hell," as is said in Phil. 2:10.
Reply to Objection 1: The name of hell stands for an evil of penalty, and not for
an evil of guilt. Hence it was becoming that Christ should descend into
hell, not as liable to punishment Himself, but to deliver them who were.
Reply to Objection 2: Christ's Passion was a kind of universal cause of men's
salvation, both of the living and of the dead. But a general cause is
applied to particular effects by means of something special. Hence, as
the power of the Passion is applied to the living through the sacraments
which make us like unto Christ's Passion, so likewise it is applied to
the dead through His descent into hell. On which account it is written
(Zach. 9:11) that "He sent forth prisoners out of the pit, in the blood
of His testament," that is, by the power of His Passion.
Reply to Objection 3: Christ's soul descended into hell not by the same kind of
motion as that whereby bodies are moved, but by that kind whereby the
angels are moved, as was said in the FP, Question , Article .
Article 2: Whether Christ went down into the hell of the lost?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ went down into the hell of the lost,
because it is said by the mouth of Divine Wisdom (Ecclus. 24:45): "I will
penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth." But the hell of the lost
is computed among the lower parts of the earth according to Ps. 62:10:
"They shall go into the lower parts of the earth." Therefore Christ who
is the Wisdom of God, went down even into the hell of the lost.
Objection 2: Further, Peter says (Acts 2:24) that "God hath raised up Christ,
having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that He should be
holden by it." But there are no sorrows in the hell of the Fathers, nor
in the hell of the children, since they are not punished with sensible
pain on account of any actual sin, but only with the pain of loss on
account of original sin. Therefore Christ went down into the hell of the
lost, or else into Purgatory, where men are tormented with sensible pain
on account of actual sins.
Objection 3: Further, it is written (1 Pt. 3:19) that "Christ coming in spirit
preached to those spirits that were in prison, which had some time been
incredulous": and this is understood of Christ's descent into hell, as
Athanasius says (Ep. ad Epict.). For he says that "Christ's body was laid
in the sepulchre when He went to preach to those spirits who were in
bondage, as Peter said." But it is clear the unbelievers were in the hell
of the lost. Therefore Christ went down into the hell of the lost.
Objection 4: Further, Augustine says (Ep. ad Evod. clxiv): "If the sacred
Scriptures had said that Christ came into Abraham's bosom, without naming
hell or its woes, I wonder whether any person would dare to assert that
He descended into hell. But since evident testimonies mention hell and
its sorrows, there is no reason for believing that Christ went there
except to deliver men from the same woes." But the place of woes is the
hell of the lost. Therefore Christ descended into the hell of the lost.
Objection 5: Further, as Augustine says in a sermon upon the Resurrection:
Christ descending into hell "set free all the just who were held in the
bonds of original sin." But among them was Job, who says of himself (Job 17:16): "All that I have shall go down into the deepest pit." Therefore
Christ descended into the deepest pit.
On the contrary, Regarding the hell of the lost it is written (Job 10:21): "Before I go, and return no more, to a land that is dark and
covered with the mist of death." Now there is no "fellowship of light
with darkness," according to 2 Cor. 6:14. Therefore Christ, who is "the
light," did not descend into the hell of the lost.
I answer that, A thing is said to be in a place in two ways. First of
all, through its effect, and in this way Christ descended into each of
the hells, but in different manner. For going down into the hell of the
lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to
shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to them who were detained in
Purgatory He gave hope of attaining to glory: while upon the holy Fathers
detained in hell solely on account of original sin, He shed the light of
In another way a thing is said to be in a place through its essence: and
in this way Christ's soul descended only into that part of hell wherein
the just were detained. so that He visited them "in place," according to
His soul, whom He visited "interiorly by grace," according to His
Godhead. Accordingly, while remaining in one part of hell, He wrought
this effect in a measure in every part of hell, just as while suffering
in one part of the earth He delivered the whole world by His Passion.
Reply to Objection 1: Christ, who is the Wisdom of God, penetrated to all the
lower parts of the earth, not passing through them locally with His soul,
but by spreading the effects of His power in a measure to them all: yet
so that He enlightened only the just: because the text quoted continues:
"And I will enlighten all that hope in the Lord."
Reply to Objection 2: Sorrow is twofold: one is the suffering of pain which men
endure for actual sin, according to Ps. 17:6: "The sorrows of hell
encompassed me." Another sorrow comes of hoped-for glory being deferred,
according to Prov. 13:12: "Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul":
and such was the sorrow which the holy Fathers suffered in hell, and
Augustine refers to it in a sermon on the Passion, saying that "they
besought Christ with tearful entreaty." Now by descending into hell
Christ took away both sorrows, yet in different ways: for He did away
with the sorrows of pains by preserving souls from them, just as a
physician is said to free a man from sickness by warding it off by means
of physic. Likewise He removed the sorrows caused by glory deferred, by
Reply to Objection 3: These words of Peter are referred by some to Christ's
descent into hell: and they explain it in this sense: "Christ preached to
them who formerly were unbelievers, and who were shut up in
prison"---that is, in hell---"in spirit"---that is, by His soul. Hence
Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii): "As He evangelized them who are upon
the earth, so did He those who were in hell"; not in order to convert
unbelievers unto belief, but to put them to shame for their unbelief,
since preaching cannot be understood otherwise than as the open
manifesting of His Godhead. which was laid bare before them in the lower
regions by His descending in power into hell.
Augustine, however, furnishes a better exposition of the text in his
Epistle to Evodius quoted above, namely, that the preaching is not to be
referred to Christ's descent into hell, but to the operation of His
Godhead, to which He gave effect from the beginning of the world.
Consequently, the sense is, that "to those (spirits) that were in
prison"---that is, living in the mortal body, which is, as it were, the
soul's prison-house---"by the spirit" of His Godhead "He came and
preached" by internal inspirations, and from without by the admonitions
spoken by the righteous: to those, I say, He preached "which had been
some time incredulous," i.e. not believing in the preaching of Noe, "when
they waited for the patience of God," whereby the chastisement of the
Deluge was put off: accordingly (Peter) adds: "In the days of Noe, when
the Ark was being built."
Reply to Objection 4: The expression "Abraham's bosom" may be taken in two
senses. First of all, as implying that restfulness, existing there, from
sensible pain; so that in this sense it cannot be called hell, nor are
there any sorrows there. In another way it can be taken as implying the
privation of longed-for glory: in this sense it has the character of hell
and sorrow. Consequently, that rest of the blessed is now called
Abraham's bosom, yet it is not styled hell, nor are sorrows said to be
now in Abraham's bosom.
Reply to Objection 5: As Gregory says (Moral. xiii): "Even the higher regions of
hell he calls the deepest hell . . . For if relatively to the height of
heaven this darksome air is infernal, then relatively to the height of
this same air the earth lying beneath can be considered as infernal and
deep. And again in comparison with the height of the same earth, those
parts of hell which are higher than the other infernal mansions, may in
this way be designated as the deepest hell."
Article 3: Whether the whole Christ was in hell?
Objection 1: It would seem that the whole Christ was not in hell. For Christ's
body is one of His parts. But His body was not in hell. Therefore, the
whole Christ was not in hell.
Objection 2: Further, nothing can be termed whole when its parts are severed.
But the soul and body, which are the parts of human nature, were
separated at His death, as stated above (Question , Articles ,4), and it was
after death that He descended into hell. Therefore the whole (Christ)
could not be in hell.
Objection 3: Further, the whole of a thing is said to be in a place when no
part of it is outside such place. But there were parts of Christ outside
hell; for instance, His body was in the grave, and His Godhead
everywhere. Therefore the whole Christ was not in hell.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Symbolo iii): "The whole Son is with
the Father, the whole Son in heaven, on earth, in the Virgin's womb, on
the Cross, in hell, in paradise, into which He brought the robber."
I answer that, It is evident from what was said in the FP, Question , Article ,
ad 4, the masculine gender is referred to the hypostasis or person, while
the neuter belongs to the nature. Now in the death of Christ, although
the soul was separated from the body, yet neither was separated from the
Person of the Son of God, as stated above (Question , Article ). Consequently, it
must be affirmed that during the three days of Christ's death the whole
Christ was in the tomb, because the whole Person was there through the
body united with Him, and likewise He was entirely in hell, because the
whole Person of Christ was there by reason of the soul united with Him,
and the whole Christ was then everywhere by reason of the Divine Nature.
Reply to Objection 1: The body which was then in the grave is not a part of the
uncreated Person, but of the assumed nature. Consequently, the fact of
Christ's body not being in hell does not prevent the whole Christ from
being there: but proves that not everything appertaining to human nature
Reply to Objection 2: The whole human nature is made up of the united soul and
body; not so the Divine Person. Consequently when death severed the union
of the soul with the body, the whole Christ remained, but His whole human
nature did not remain.
Reply to Objection 3: Christ's Person is whole in each single place, but not
wholly, because it is not circumscribed by any place: indeed, all places
put together could not comprise His immensity; rather is it His immensity
that embraces all things. But it happens in those things which are in a
place corporeally and circumscriptively, that if a whole be in some
place, then no part of it is outside that place. But this is not the case
with God. Hence Augustine says (De Symbolo iii): "It is not according to
times or places that we say that the whole Christ is everywhere, as if He
were at one time whole in one place, at another time whole in another:
but as being whole always and everywhere."
Article 4: Whether Christ made any stay in hell?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ did not make any stay in hell. For
Christ went down into hell to deliver men from thence. But He
accomplished this deliverance at once by His descent, for, according to
Ecclus. 11:23: "It is easy in the eyes of God on a sudden to make the
poor man rich." Consequently He does not seem to have tarried in hell.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says in a sermon on the Passion (clx) that "of
a sudden at our Lord and Saviour's bidding all 'the bars of iron were
burst'" (Cf. Is. 45:2). Hence on behalf of the angels accompanying Christ
it is written (Ps. 23:7,9): "Lift up your gates, O ye princes." Now
Christ descended thither in order to break the bolts of hell. Therefore
He did not make any stay in hell.
Objection 3: Further, it is related (Lk. 23:43) that our Lord while hanging on
the cross said to the thief: "This day thou shalt be with Me in
paradise": from which it is evident that Christ was in paradise on that
very day. But He was not there with His body. for that was in the grave.
Therefore He was there with the soul which had gone down into hell: and
consequently it appears that He made no stay in hell.
On the contrary, Peter says (Acts 2:24): "Whom God hath raised up,
having loosed the sorrows of hell, as it was impossible that He should be
held by it." Therefore it seems that He remained in hell until the hour
of the Resurrection.
I answer that, As Christ, in order to take our penalties upon Himself,
willed His body to be laid in the tomb, so likewise He willed His soul to
descend into hell. But the body lay in the tomb for a day and two nights,
so as to demonstrate the truth of His death. Consequently, it is to be
believed that His soul was in hell, in order that it might be brought
back out of hell simultaneously with His body from the tomb.
Reply to Objection 1: When Christ descended into hell He delivered the saints who
were there, not by leading them out at once from the confines of hell,
but by enlightening them with the light of glory in hell itself.
Nevertheless it was fitting that His soul should abide in hell as long as
His body remained in the tomb.
Reply to Objection 2: By the expression "bars of hell" are understood the
obstacles which kept the holy Fathers from quitting hell, through the
guilt of our first parent's sin; and these bars Christ burst asunder by
the power of His Passion on descending into hell: nevertheless He chose
to remain in hell for some time, for the reason stated above.
Reply to Objection 3: Our Lord's expression is not to be understood of the
earthly corporeal paradise, but of a spiritual one, in which all are said
to be who enjoy the Divine glory. Accordingly, the thief descended
locally into hell with Christ, because it was said to him: "This day thou
shalt be with Me in paradise"; still as to reward he was in paradise,
because he enjoyed Christ's Godhead just as the other saints did.
Article 5: Whether Christ descending into hell delivered the holy Fathers from thence?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ descending into hell did not deliver
the holy Fathers from thence. For Augustine (Epist. ad Evod. clxiv) says:
"I have not yet discovered what Christ descending into hell bestowed upon
those righteous ones who were in Abraham's bosom, from whom I fail to see
that He ever departed according to the beatific presence of His Godhead."
But had He delivered them, He would have bestowed much upon them.
Therefore it does not appear that Christ delivered the holy Fathers from
Objection 2: Further, no one is detained in hell except on account of sin. But
during life the holy Fathers were justified from sin through faith in
Christ. Consequently they did not need to be delivered from hell on
Christ's descent thither.
Objection 3: Further, if you remove the cause, you remove the effect. But that
Christ went down into hell was due to sin which was taken away by the
Passion, as stated above (Question , Article ). Consequently, the holy Fathers
were not delivered on Christ's descent into hell.
On the contrary, Augustine says in the sermon on the Passion already
quoted that when Christ descended into hell "He broke down the gate and
'iron bars' of hell, setting at liberty all the righteous who were held
fast through original sin."
I answer that, As stated above (Article , ad 2), when Christ descended into
hell He worked through the power of His Passion. But through Christ's
Passion the human race was delivered not only from sin, but also from the
debt of its penalty, as stated above (Question , Articles ,3). Now men were held
fast by the debt of punishment in two ways: first of all for actual sin
which each had committed personally: secondly, for the sin of the whole
human race, which each one in his origin contracts from our first parent,
as stated in Rm. 5 of which sin the penalty is the death of the body as
well as exclusion from glory, as is evident from Gn. 2 and 3: because God
cast out man from paradise after sin, having beforehand threatened him
with death should he sin. Consequently, when Christ descended into hell,
by the power of His Passion He delivered the saints from the penalty
whereby they were excluded from the life of glory, so as to be unable to
see God in His Essence, wherein man's beatitude lies, as stated in the
FS, Question , Article . But the holy Fathers were detained in hell for the
reason, that, owing to our first parent's sin, the approach to the life
of glory was not opened. And so when Christ descended into hell He
delivered the holy Fathers from thence. And this is what is written Zach.
9:11: "Thou also by the blood of Thy testament hast sent forth Thy
prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water." And (Col. 2:15) it is
written that "despoiling the principalities and powers," i.e. "of hell,
by taking out Isaac and Jacob, and the other just souls," "He led them,"
i.e. "He brought them far from this kingdom of darkness into heaven," as
the gloss explains.
Reply to Objection 1: Augustine is speaking there against such as maintained that
the righteous of old were subject to penal sufferings before Christ's
descent into hell. Hence shortly before the passage quoted he says: "Some
add that this benefit was also bestowed upon the saints of old, that on
the Lord's coming into hell they were freed from their sufferings. But I
fail to see how Abraham, into whose bosom the poor man was received, was
ever in such sufferings." Consequently, when he afterwards adds that "he
had not yet discovered what Christ's descent into hell had brought to the
righteous of old," this must be understood as to their being freed from
penal sufferings. Yet Christ bestowed something upon them as to their
attaining glory: and in consequence He dispelled the suffering which they
endured through their glory being delayed: still they had great joy from
the very hope thereof, according to Jn. 8:56: "Abraham your father
rejoiced that he might see my day." And therefore he adds: "I fail to see
that He ever departed, according to the beatific presence of His
Godhead," that is, inasmuch as even before Christ's coming they were
happy in hope, although not yet fully happy in fact.
Reply to Objection 2: The holy Fathers while yet living were delivered from
original as well as actual sin through faith in Christ; also from the
penalty of actual sins, but not from the penalty of original sin, whereby
they were excluded from glory, since the price of man's redemption was
not yet paid: just as the faithful are now delivered by baptism from the
penalty of actual sins, and from the penalty of original sin as to
exclusion from glory, yet still remain bound by the penalty of original
sin as to the necessity of dying in the body because they are renewed in
the spirit, but not yet in the flesh, according to Rm. 8:10: "The body
indeed is dead, because of sin; but the spirit liveth, because of
Reply to Objection 3: Directly Christ died His soul went down into hell, and
bestowed the fruits of His Passion on the saints detained there; although
they did not go out as long as Christ remained in hell, because His
presence was part of the fulness of their glory.
Article 6: Whether Christ delivered any of the lost from hell?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ did deliver some of the lost from hell,
because it is written (Is. 24:22): "And they shall be gathered together
as in the gathering of one bundle into the pit, end they shall be shut up
there in prison: and after many days they shall be visited." But there he
is speaking of the lost, who "had adored the host of heaven," according
to Jerome's commentary. Consequently it seems that even the lost were
visited at Christ's descent into hell; and this seems to imply their
Objection 2: Further, on Zach. 9:11: "Thou also by the blood of Thy testament
hast sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water," the
gloss observes: "Thou hast delivered them who were held bound in prisons,
where no mercy refreshed them, which that rich man prayed for." But only
the lost are shut up in merciless prisons. Therefore Christ did deliver
some from the hell of the lost.
Objection 3: Further, Christ's power was not less in hell than in this world,
because He worked in every place by the power of His Godhead. But in this
world He delivered some persons of every state. Therefore, in hell also,
He delivered some from the state of the lost.
On the contrary, It is written (Osee 13:14): "O death, I will be thy
death; O hell, I will be thy bite": upon which the gloss says: "By
leading forth the elect, and leaving there the reprobate." But only the
reprobate are in the hell of the lost. Therefore, by Christ's descent
into hell none were delivered from the hell of the lost.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), when Christ descended into hell
He worked by the power of His Passion. Consequently, His descent into
hell brought the fruits of deliverance to them only who were united to
His Passion through faith quickened by charity, whereby sins are taken
away. Now those detained in the hell of the lost either had no faith in
Christ's Passion, as infidels; or if they had faith, they had no
conformity with the charity of the suffering Christ: hence they could not
be cleansed from their sins. And on this account Christ's descent into
hell brought them no deliverance from the debt of punishment in hell.
Reply to Objection 1: When Christ descended into hell, all who were in any part
of hell were visited in some respect: some to their consolation and
deliverance, others, namely, the lost, to their shame and confusion.
Accordingly the passage continues: "And the moon shall blush, and the sun
be put to shame," etc.
This can also be referred to the visitation which will come upon them in
the Day of Judgment, not for their deliverance, but for their yet greater
confusion, according to Sophon. i, 12: "I will visit upon the men that
are settled on their lees."
Reply to Objection 2: When the gloss says "where no mercy refreshed them," this
is to be understood of the refreshing of full deliverance, because the
holy Fathers could not be delivered from this prison of hell before
Reply to Objection 3: It was not due to any lack of power on Christ's part that
some were not delivered from every state in hell, as out of every state
among men in this world; but it was owing to the very different condition
of each state. For, so long as men live here below, they can be converted
to faith and charity, because in this life men are not confirmed either
in good or in evil, as they are after quitting this life.
Article 7: Whether the children who died in original sin were delivered by Christ?
Objection 1: It would seem that the children who died in original sin were
delivered from hell by Christ's descending thither. For, like the holy
Fathers, the children were kept in hell simply because of original sin.
But the holy Fathers were delivered from hell, as stated above (Article ).
Therefore the children were similarly delivered from hell by Christ.
Objection 2: Further, the Apostle says (Rm. 5:15): "If by the offense of one,
many died; much more the grace of God and the gift, by the grace of one
man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." But the children who die
with none but original sin are detained in hell owing to their first
parent's sin. Therefore, much more were they delivered from hell through
the grace of Christ.
Objection 3: Further, as Baptism works in virtue of Christ's Passion, so also
does Christ's descent into hell, as is clear from what has been said
(Article , ad 2, Articles ,6). But through Baptism children are delivered from
original sin and hell. Therefore, they were similarly delivered by
Christ's descent into hell.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rm. 3:25): "God hath proposed Christ
to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood." But the children who
had died with only original sin were in no wise sharers of faith in
Christ. Therefore, they did not receive the fruits of Christ's
propitiation, so as to be delivered by Him from hell.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), Christ's descent into hell had
its effect of deliverance on them only who through faith and charity were
united to Christ's Passion, in virtue whereof Christ's descent into hell
was one of deliverance. But the children who had died in original sin
were in no way united to Christ's Passion by faith and love: for, not
having the use of free will, they could have no faith of their own; nor
were they cleansed from original sin either by their parents' faith or by
any sacrament of faith. Consequently, Christ's descent into hell did not
deliver the children from thence. And furthermore, the holy Fathers were
delivered from hell by being admitted to the glory of the vision of God,
to which no one can come except through grace; according to Rm. 6:23:
"The grace of God is life everlasting." Therefore, since children dying
in original sin had no grace, they were not delivered from hell.
Reply to Objection 1: The holy Fathers, although still held bound by the debt of
original sin, in so far as it touches human nature, were nevertheless
delivered from all stain of sin by faith in Christ: consequently, they
were capable of that deliverance which Christ brought by descending into
hell. But the same cannot be said of the children, as is evident from
what was said above.
Reply to Objection 2: When the Apostle says that the grace of God "hath abounded
unto many," the word "many" [*The Vulgate reads 'plures,' i.e. 'many
more'] is to be taken, not comparatively, as if more were saved by
Christ's grace than lost by Adam's sin: but absolutely, as if he said
that the grace of the one Christ abounded unto many, just as Adam's sin
was contracted by many. But as Adam's sin was contracted by those only
who descended seminally from him according to the flesh, so Christ's
grace reached those only who became His members by spiritual
regeneration: which does not apply to children dying in original sin.
Reply to Objection 3: Baptism is applied to men in this life, in which man's
state can be changed from sin into grace: but Christ's descent into hell
was vouchsafed to the souls after this life when they are no longer
capable of the said change. And consequently by baptism children are
delivered from original sin and from hell, but not by Christ's descent
Article 8: Whether Christ by His descent into hell delivered souls from purgatory?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ by His descent into hell delivered
souls from Purgatory---for Augustine says (Ep. ad Evod. clxiv): "Because
evident testimonies speak of hell and its pains, there is no reason for
believing that the Saviour came thither except to rescue men from those
same pains: but I still wish to know whether it was all whom He found
there, or some whom He deemed worthy of such a benefit. Yet I do not
doubt that Christ went into hell, and granted this favor to them who were
suffering from its pains." But, as stated above (Article ), He did not confer
the benefit of deliverance upon the lost: and there are no others in a
state of penal suffering except those in Purgatory. Consequently Christ
delivered souls from Purgatory.
Objection 2: Further, the very presence of Christ's soul had no less effect
than His sacraments have. But souls are delivered from Purgatory by the
sacraments, especially by the sacrament of the Eucharist, as shall be
shown later (XP, Question , Article ). Therefore much more were souls delivered
from Purgatory by the presence of Christ descending into hell.
Objection 3: Further, as Augustine says (De Poenit. ix), those whom Christ
healed in this life He healed completely. Also, our Lord says (Jn. 7:23):
"I have healed the whole man on the sabbath-day." But Christ delivered
them who were in Purgatory from the punishment of the pain of loss,
whereby they were excluded from glory. Therefore, He also delivered them
from the punishment of Purgatory.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xiii): "Since our Creator and
Redeemer, penetrating the bars of hell, brought out from thence the souls
of the elect, He does not permit us to go thither, from whence He has
already by descending set others free." But He permits us to go to
Purgatory. Therefore, by descending into hell, He did not deliver souls
I answer that, As we have stated more than once (Article , ad 2, Articles ,6,7),
Christ's descent into hell was one of deliverance in virtue of His
Passion. Now Christ's Passion had a virtue which was neither temporal nor
transitory, but everlasting, according to Heb. 10:14: "For by one
oblation He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." And so it
is evident that Christ's Passion had no greater efficacy then than it has
now. Consequently, they who were such as those who are now in Purgatory,
were not set free from Purgatory by Christ's descent into hell. But if
any were found such as are now set free from Purgatory by virtue of
Christ's Passion, then there was nothing to hinder them from being
delivered from Purgatory by Christ's descent into hell.
Reply to Objection 1: From this passage of Augustine it cannot be concluded that
all who were in Purgatory were delivered from it, but that such a benefit
was bestowed upon some persons, that is to say, upon such as were already
cleansed sufficiently, or who in life, by their faith and devotion
towards Christ's death, so merited, that when He descended, they were
delivered from the temporal punishment of Purgatory.
Reply to Objection 2: Christ's power operates in the sacraments by way of healing
and expiation. Consequently, the sacrament of the Eucharist delivers men
from Purgatory inasmuch as it is a satisfactory sacrifice for sin. But
Christ's descent into hell was not satisfactory; yet it operated in
virtue of the Passion, which was satisfactory, as stated above (Question , Article ), but satisfactory in general, since its virtue had to be applied to
each individual by something specially personal (Question , Article , ad 4,5).
Consequently, it does not follow of necessity that all were delivered
from Purgatory by Christ's descent into hell.
Reply to Objection 3: Those defects from which Christ altogether delivered men in
this world were purely personal, and concerned the individual; whereas
exclusion from God's glory was a general defect and common to all human
nature. Consequently, there was nothing to prevent those detained in
Purgatory being delivered by Christ from their privation of glory, but
not from the debt of punishment in Purgatory which pertains to personal
defect. Just as on the other hand, the holy Fathers before Christ's
coming were delivered from their personal defects, but not from the
common defect, as was stated above (Article , ad 1; Question , Article , ad 1).