Did Jesus descend into hell–the place of torment? Were Jesus and the Father separated at the crucifixion? Are creeds biblical? Is universalism biblically warranted? Which atonement theory best captures Christ’s work on the cross? These are loaded questions which require careful unpacking, and Matthew Emerson does just that in his latest book: He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday.
With a keen eye on Church history and how these topics were handled by the Church Fathers, the author has some interesting things to say about penal substitutionary atonement (a very popular evangelical leaning) in relation to christus victor. In his view, both of these atonement theories need the other and should not remain independent, even though they often are unnaturally pitted against one another.
Balanced, articulate, and rooted in the context of the Bible, Emerson explores these questions with grace and poise. But the main reason why you should grab a copy is for the way death and hades and hell are dealt with. Evangelicals in general can be guilty of oversimplifying death as well as conflating hell with hades. This book, if read carefully, is a step in the right direction toward a more solid and robust theology of death, hades, and hell.