You are here

The Harrowing of Hell: Salvation for the Dead in Early Christianity

TitleThe Harrowing of Hell: Salvation for the Dead in Early Christianity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsPaulsen, David L., Roger D. Cook, and Kendel J. Christensen
JournalJournal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture
KeywordsConversion; Doctrine; Early Christianity; Hell; Missionary Work; Postmortal Life; Salvation; Salvation for the Dead

One of the largest theological issues throughout Christian history is the fate of the unevangelized dead: Will they be eternally damned? Will they be lesser citizens in the kingdom of God? Will they have a chance to accept Christ postmortally? These issues are related to the soteriological problem of evil. The belief of the earliest Christians, even through the time of the church fathers Origen and Clement of Alexandria, was that postmortal evangelization was possible. One of the origins of this belief is seen in apocalyptic Judaism, in which righteous gentiles are not left to suffer eternally but, however, are given a lesser status than righteous Jews. Early Christian doctrine goes even further through the belief of Christ’s preaching in Hades—all people have a chance, through accepting Christ, to be save in the same state. Later, however, many Christian theologians such as Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin rejected this doctrine and contended that righteousness and unrighteousness are fixed at death.