Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 55
Christ’s descent is mentioned.
Translation – The Apostolic Fathers, Tertullian
Retrieved from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian10.html on August 11, 2015
CHAP. LV.--THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF THE POSITION OF HADES; THE BLESSEDNESS OF PARADISE IMMEDIATELY AFTER DEATH. THE PRIVILEGE OF THE MARTYRS.
By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, "He died according to the Scriptures," and "according to the same Scriptures was buried." With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself. (This being the case), you must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region, and keep at arm's length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions. These persons, who are "servants above their Lord, and disciples above their Master," would no doubt spurn to receive the comfort of the resurrection, if they must expect it in Abraham's bosom. But it was for this purpose, say they, that Christ descended into hell, that we might not ourselves have to descend thither. Well, then, what difference is there between heathens and Christians, if the same prison awaits them all when dead? How, indeed, shall the soul mount up to heaven, where Christ is already sitting at the Father's right hand, when as yet the archangel's trumpet has not been heard by the command of God,--when as yet those whom the coming of the Lord is to find on the earth, have not been caught up into the air to meet Him at His coming, in company with the dead in Christ, who shall be the first to arise? To no one is heaven opened; the earth is still safe for him, I would not say it is shut against him. When the world, indeed, shall pass away, then the kingdom of heaven shall be opened. Shall we then have to sleep high up in ether, with the boy-loving worthies of Plato; or in the air with Arius; or around the moon with the Endymions of the Stoics? No, but in Paradise, you tell me, whither already the patriarchs and prophets have removed from Hades in the retinue of the Lord's resurrection. How is it, then, that the region of Paradise, which as revealed to John in the Spirit lay under the altar, displays no other souls as in it besides the souls of the martyrs? How is it that the most heroic martyr Perpetua on the day of her passion saw only her fellow-martyrs there, in the revelation which she received of Paradise, if it were not that the sword which guarded the entrance permitted none to go in thereat, except those who had died in Christ and not in Adam? A new death for God, even the extraordinary one for Christ, is admitted into the reception-room of mortality, specially altered and adapted to receive the new-comer. Observe, then, the difference between a heathen and a Christian in their death: if you have to lay down your life for God, as the Comforter counsels, it is not in gentle fevers and on soft beds, but in the sharp pains of martyrdom: you must take up the cross and bear it after your Master, as He has Himself instructed you. The sole key to unlock Paradise is your own life's blood. You have a treatise by us, (on Paradise), in which we have established the position that every soul is detained in safe keeping in Hades until the day of the Lord.