18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,
I'm especially interested in how C.S. Lewis used this passage in his fictional story, The Great Divorce, about a bus trip from Hell to Heaven. Having taken the bus trip, Lewis is now having a conversation with his mentor, George MacDonald, asking him why the blessed don't go down to Hell to persuade people there to come to Heaven. MacDonald explains that Hell is too small for the blessed to enter:
"All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste."
"It seems big enough when you're in it, Sir."
"And yet all loneliness, angers, hatred, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good. If all Hell's miseries together entered the consciousness of yon wee yellow bird on the bough there, they would be swallowed up without trace, as if one drop of ink had been dropped into that Great Ocean to which your terrestrial Pacific itself is only a molecule....For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouth for food, or their eyes to see."
"Then no one can ever reach them?"
"Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend -- a man can sympathise with a horse but a horse cannot sympathise with a rat. Only One has descended into Hell."
"And will He ever do so again?"
"It was not once long ago that He did it. Time does not work that way when once ye have left the Earth. All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending. There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach."
If what Lewis wrote is true, and all moments are present in the moment, and if Jesus descended into Hell to preach to the damned, is He there still? Does being Emmanuel -- God with us -- mean being with us, even in Hell? And for how long? Until all are saved? Or at least all those who will be saved? Until He ascends on high, leading a host of captives? (Ephesians 4:8)
I know that Jesus has already risen from the dead and ascended on high and sits at the right hand of God the Father. Yet we know that Jesus is also with us now and will never forsake us. If it is possible that Jesus is with us here on Earth, while He is also with the Father, is it possible that Jesus is also with the damned in Hell?