"Forgotten Books of Eden"

In the "Forgotten Books of Eden," Adam and Eve are given the covenant and a promise that Christ will come and raise them from hell. How they are given the covenant and how they are "raised" up to life in the Garden, and how they are "raised up" or "harrowed" or "resurrected" from their graves (the pit, underworld, hades, limbo, purgatory, etc.), is interesting:

"And if thou saidst, 'Give me of the Water of Life that I may drink and live'-- it cannot be this day, but on the day that I shall descend into hell, and break the gates of brass, and bruise in pieces the kingdom of iron. Then will I in mercy save thy soul and the souls of the righteous, to give them rest in My garden. And that shall be when the end of the world is come." The next two verses is derived from old Christian lore that Adam's grave was traditionally believed to be under Christ's cross, hence the "water of life" that the pre-incarnate Christ offers Adam and Eve, is a type of baptism that their remains will be given, when Christ's blood flows down onto their remains: "For My blood shall be the Water of Life unto thee, at that time, and not to thee alone, but unto all those of thy seed who shall believe in Me; that it be unto them for rest for ever." (See: The Lost Books of The Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden, (USA, Newfoundland: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1926 and 1927), The First Book of Adam and Eve, pp. 5-28, see Book One, chapters 3-15 and chapter xlii, verses 5-8, p. 28).

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" (Ephesians 4:7-10)

Salvation for the dead - LDS Version

In contrast to historic Christian versions of Christ, his Apostles, and John the Baptist preaching the gospel in the spirit prison; we have this from an earlier LDS prophet, Joseph F. Smith: "[The Savior] was sent not only to preach the gospel to those dwelling in mortality, but he was foreordained and anointed of God to open the doors of the prison house to those in bondage and to proclaim his gospel to them." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th edition, (1939), p. 460).

Oct. 3, 1918, during Joseph F. Smith's vision of Christ's descent, he says that "there was gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality.... [And while] rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful; And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.... I percieved that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them; But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead." (See: Doctrine & Covenants 138:1-32).

Joseph F. Smith also wrote: "I have always believed, and still do believe with all my souls, that such men as Peter and James and the twelve disciples chosen by the Savior in his time, have been engaged all the centuries that have passed since their martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus Christ, in proclaiming liberty to the captives in the spirit world and in opening their prison doors [see D&C 138:38-50].... Their special calling and anointing of the Lord himself was to save the world, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to those who were bound in chains of darkness, superstition, and ignorance." (Gospel Doctrine, 460-61; see also: Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1998), pp. 408-415).

Early Christian Baptismal Fonts

 12th Century Baptismal font of Renier d'Huy of Liege.

Beasts and dragons under baptismal fonts, represent demons' powers in the under-world; being crushed by saving grace of baptism.


Mormon Temples and Baptism for the Dead

Baptism for the Dead

Paul asked the rhetorical question in 1 Corinthians 15:29,

"Else, what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead"(KJV).

The LDS believe the ancient biblical injunction that all must be baptized to enter into the Kingdom of God and it would be universally unfair unless some way or means exists to offer this ordinance vicariously to those who died without it.

The Latter-day Saints do believe, with the Apostle Paul, that, under certain circumstances, living people can be baptized vicariously for those who did not receive this saving ordinance while living and are now deceased. Baptism for the Dead is just one of the ordinances performed vicariously in the LDS Temples. Vicarious means for and behalf of someone else in much of the same way that the Savior's atonement was a vicarious act for the Salvation all of mankind.

Krister Stendahl, a Lutheran bishop, a preeminent theologian the dean of the Harvard School of Theology discusses the practice in ancient times. He states, "the text seems to speak plainly enough about a practice within the Church of vicarious baptism for the dead. This is the view of most contemporary exegetes." ( Krister Stendahl, "Baptism for the Dead," in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 1:97.)

In a clip from the LDS documentary 'Between Heaven and Earth,' Bishop Stendahl speaks about the LDS practice of vicariously baptizing those who have died without having received this essential ordinance.

Clement of Rome [30-100 A.D.], hints to this when he wrote: "Thou shalt raise me up, and I shall confess unto Thee;" (Psa.28:7), and again I laid me down, and slept; I awaked, because Thou art with me;" (Compare Psa.3:6), and again, Job says, "Thou shalt raise up this flesh of mine, which has suffered all these things." (Job. 19:25-6).

In the Ethiopic document known as the Testament of Our Lord and Our Savior Jesus Christ 38–39, Jesus tells his apostles, "For this reason I descended and conversed with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with your fathers the prophets, and I announced to them, in Sheol, the rest in the heavens where they shall come. With my right hand, I gave them the baptism of life, pardon and remission of all sin, as I did for you, and (as I shall do) hereafter for those who shall believe in me." He then tells them that he who believes "shall come out of the prison and will be delivered from chains, from punishment and from the fire," to which the apostles respond, "O Lord, you have truly given us joy and rest, for because of their faith and their confidence, you have announced to our fathers and to the prophets; also for us and for all (who believe in you)."

Symbolism of the LDS Baptismal Font

Glen Leonard in his book, Nauvoo: a Place of Peace a People of Promise, explains how before the Nauvoo Temple was built, "in his letters and sermons on baptism for the dead, Joseph Smith pointed out that the objective of the doctrine was to offer salvation to all of humankind. This one great union of all of God's righteous children was not just between generations but from one gospel dispensation to another and between this life and the next." (D&C 128:15-18; Hebrews 11:40; Malachi 4:5-6.)
"In the rite of baptism and in the use of the temple font, Joseph Smith described a religious symbolism that further united the living and the dead. The baptismal font, he explained, was placed below ground to remind the Saints of the grave. In both baptism and the resurrection, the corrupt body rises to a new spiritual life. (D&C 128:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:29.)
The Nauvoo Temple font consisted of a basin supported on the backs of twelve life-sized oxen, a reference to a similar basin, or "molten sea," in Solomon's temple. (1 Kings 7:23-26.)
For the Latter-day Saints, the oxen represented Israel's twelve tribes, whose physical and spiritual gathering was being accomplished through missionary preaching and the rite of baptism." (1 Peter 3:18-21; 1 Peter 4:6; 1 Corinthians 15:29.)
(by Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise; Ch. 10-The House of the Lord. Link at GospelLink.com - subscription required.)

Eight and Baptism - The Age of Reason

The LDS Church does not have infant baptism but uses the age of eight as the appropriate age for a child to be baptized because that is the age that they are capable of understanding. It is referred to as the 'age of accountability.' Children are fully capable at this age to understand discernment...also known as the 'Age of reason.' The exact number of eight is due to a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1831, part of which says, "And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands." (Doctrine and Covenants 68:27)
There are several other scriptural references explaining that little children cannot receive baptism until they have reached an age when they understand right from wrong. Before this, they are innocent because they do not understand. These verses include Moroni 8:5-26 in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants 29:47 and 137:10.

Age of reason (canon law)
In the Roman Catholic Church, the age of reason, also called the age of discretion, is the age at which children become capable of moral responsibility. On completion of the seventh year a minor is presumed to have the use of reason (canon 97 §2 of the Code of Canon Law), but mental retardation or insanity could prevent some individuals from ever reaching it. Children under the age of reason and the mentally handicapped are sometimes called "innocents" because of their inability to commit sins: even if their actions are objectively sinful, they sometimes lack capacity for subjective guilt.

While in the Eastern Churches, Confirmation (also known as Chrismation) and Eucharist are bestowed on the infant who has just been baptized, in Latin Rite Catholicism, confirmation (except in danger of death) may be lawfully conferred only on a person who has the use of reason (canon 889 §2), and Holy Communion may be administered to children only if "they have sufficient knowledge and (are) accurately prepared, so that according to their capacity they understand what the mystery of Christ means, and are able to receive the Body of the Lord with love, faith and devotion. The blessed Eucharist may, however, be administered to children in danger of death if they can distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion with reverence" (canon 913).

This picture is of the octagonal Baptismal Font at Pisa.

The font itself is of a design stretching back to earliest times--the octagon. Baptismal fonts of octagon form are found all over the world, their eight-sided shape symbolizing regeneration and rebirth. No one is sure just how this custom began, but it is exceptionally ancient. One possible explanation is that the number eight represented one more than the "perfect"number seven, and therefore represented beginning over. Recall that God created the earth in six days and then on the seventh, "He rested." The "eighth" day would be the beginning over or the start of a new week.

The eight-sided shape of these types of fonts could also be symbolic of the age of accountability.

"Powerful Evidence of a Restoration"

Jeff Lindsay on his excellent website, LDS Baptism for the Dead: Answers to Common Questions tells how:
Baptism for the dead is a powerful evidence that Joseph Smith was a real prophet and the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored. The LDS practice has long been derided as absolute fiction and an abomination, and based on a terrible misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 15:29. However, long after Joseph Smith restored the practice through revelation, dozens of ancient documents have turned up showing that early Christians (at least some) indeed believed in and practiced baptism for the dead much as we do today. Hugh Nibley has an excellent article, "Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times," with numerous references showing that this was a real practice in the early Church that was one of the first to be lost in the great apostasy when priesthood and temple ordinances perished. If you have Lost Books of the Bible, you can read in the Pastor of Hermas a wonderful description of the practice, though somewhat metaphorical. (See....Similitude Nine of III Hermas online; also read the Pastor of Hermas in the Early Church Fathers section of ccel.org.) This reference did exist during Joseph Smith's time, but was not widely known. There is no way he could have restored the original practice given what he knew if he were a fraud!

BTW, the modern evidence for baptism for the dead in ancient times is now so strong that a relatively new translation of the Bible, the New English Bible (published by a group of English and Scottish churches with absolutely NO LDS ties) has a footnote for 1 Cor. 15:29 saying something to the effect that modern evidence shows that some early Christians did practice proxy baptism on behalf of those who had died without baptism. (I'm 99% sure it was the NEB where I saw that - with my own eyes.)

Baptism for the dead (and the whole concept of God's grace being extended to all his children who will accept and follow Christ) is one of my favorite things about the Church and is evidence to me not only that the Church has been restored, but that God is a just and loving God.

The revelations that give information on this practice are found in the Doctrine and Covenants, primarily Section 128. It is also mentioned in D&C 124:29, 33; D&C 127: 5-10; and D&C 138: 33.

Historical Christian Art and the Gospel Preached in Hades

Early Christian Art:
The depiction above is of "The Resurrection and the Preaching of St. Baptist in the Hades" (8th picture down) Note how Christ grips the hands of those being resurrected out of hades.

The ordinance of 'Baptism for the Dead' is an early Christian teaching and it shows up not only in art work but also several of the early Church Fathers mention how John the Baptist went to Hades to preach the gospel before the Savior descended there to liberate the souls.
Historical Christian art depict the different themes associated with this teaching, such as the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets and saints are there to greet the glorious King upon his descent into Hades. Common reappearing elements are Christ standing on the broken down doors to hell, many times in the shape of a cross and with Satan under the doors, as he liberates the faithful, depicted by the hand or wrist grips as he leads them out of captivity. The hand and wrist grips are a common element not only in the harrowing of hell but also in other gospel themes, such as the creation of Adam and Eve as well as in the ascension motifs.

Harrowing of Hell in Historical Christian Art (slide show)

"I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." (Isaiah 42:6,7)

"O crucified One, thou leader of the mystical dances! O this spiritual wedding feast! O divine Pasch that passes from heaven to earth and rises up again to heaven! O joy of the universe, honour, ecstasy, exquisite delight by which dark death is destroyed, life returns to all and the gates of heaven are opened! God appeared as a man and man rose up as God when He shattered the gates of hell and burst the iron bolts thereof. And the people that were in the depth arise from the dead and announce to all the hosts of heaven: The thronging choir from earth is coming home." Hyppolitus of Rome (d. c. 236)

Hand and Wrist Clasps in Ancient Writings

In the Epistle of Barnabas, the hand clasp is mentioned in connection with Christ's descent to redeem the spirit prisoners out of darkness, (citing Isaiah 2:6-7): "I, the Lord Thy God, have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thy hand, and will strengthen Thee; and I have given Thee for a covenant to the people, for a light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, & to bring forth from fetters them that are bound, and those that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." Note the words that are so often illustrated in art works, how that the Lord "will hold Thy hand."
(Isa.lxi I, 2.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1: p.46, Ep. of Barnabas, chap. xiv.)

Melito, [A.D. 160-170-177], bishop of Sardis, said that Christ arose from the dead and cries to us saying, among other things: "I lead you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the Father who is from the ages, I will raise you up by my right hand."
(Robert M. Grant in collaboration with David Noel Freedman, The Secret Sayings Of Jesus, p. 118; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, pp. 750, 756-8.)

Christ's Descent Into Limbo

Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:19

The story of Christ's descent into Hades and his delivering the righteous who were in the bondage of death is told in the Acts of Pilate and the Gospel of Nicodemus, two of the ancient apocryphal texts which throughout the ages have formed part of the spiritual reading of Orthodox Christians. They are not part of the canonized scriptures but are a part of the New Testament Pseudepigrapha.

Christ and the Ressurection

"And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:44-46)

Loss of the Belief in Redemption For The Dead

Justin Martyr [A.D. 110-165], wrote a polemical work that responded to some of the early anti-Christian Jews. He accused some of them having removed from some of the copies of the sayings of Jeremiah a prophecy that predicted Christ's descent. "The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation."

Lundy gives another translation of this prediction as it was recorded by Irenaeus: "`And the Lord remembered His dead saints (Israel) who slept in the land of sepulture; and He went down to preach His salvation to them, and to rescue and save them.'" (Justin Martyrs, Dialogue with Trypho, LXXII, 4)

Non-LDS Quote on Baptism for the Dead

For this . . . reason, because everybody must give an account to God, the gospel was preached even to those . . . now dead. This has been interpreted as referring to (a) those who are spiritually “dead in sin,” (b.) those who heard and believed the gospel but have since died, (c.) those who died without hearing or believing the gospel. Barclay preferred the third interpretation, assuming that 1 Peter 3:19 refers to Christ’s preaching to the dead. Consequently he believed that here “was a breathtaking glimpse of a gospel of a second chance.” (Walvoord J. F. @ Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:853). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

James L. Barker mentions a source that says that: "The idea that hearing the gospel and baptism is necessary for salvation of the righteous dead of pre-Christian times is common." (James L. Barker, Apostasy From The Divine Church, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Kate Montgomery Barker, 1960), p. 63, note 20, citing Lake, footnote 1, in his translation of the Shepherd in Apostolic Fathers, Vol. II, p. 263, in The Loeb Classical Library).

Gospel Taken To The Souls In Hades

An early Christian work that was even among the earlier canonical books of the New Testament for some time, but was later taken out, was the second century apocalypse known as the Shepherd of Hermas. Had this book been retained as part of the canon, there would have been more references to baptism for the dead in the scriptures besides 1 Cor. 15. John P. Lundy wrote that that the Shepherd of Hermas "was the most popular of books in the Christian community, i. e., from the second to the fifth centuries" (Monumental Christianity, by John P. Lundy, Pub., in N.Y., J W Bouton, 1876, p.196).

"The Shepherd of Hermas was treated by some of the early fathers as if it formed part of the canon of scripture,..." (Butler's Lives of the Saints, revised edition by Herbert Thurston, S.J., and Donald Attwater, Vol.III, July . August . September, Pub. P.J. Kenedy & Sons, N.Y., 1956, p.678).

In the Ninth Similitude of Hermas: "...And I said, `Why then, Sir, did these forty stones also ascend with them out of the deep, having already received that seal.' He answered, 'Because these apostles and teachers who preached the name of the Son of God, dying after they had received his faith and power, preached to them who were dead before; and they gave this seal to them.. But these went down whilst they were alive, and came up alive; whereas those, who were before dead, went down dead, but came up alive. They went down, therefore, into the water with them, and again come up Through these therefore, they received life, and know the Son of God; for which cause they came up with them, and were fit to come into the building of the tower; and were not cut, but put in entire; because they died in righteousness and in great purity only this seal was wanting to them. Thus you have the explication of these things'".

Nibley notes an ancient Christian belief, that I've also seen illustrated in historic Christian art works, that of how John the Baptist was believed to have continued his mission as a prophet and baptizer even after John had been martyred. Others descended after that, such as Christ & the Apostles, where they preached the gospel and baptized too. (See: Codex Vaticanus 3848, cited by Nibley, in his Mormonism and Early Christianity, see note 115; see also: Sheperd of Hermas, Sim. III, 9, 16; Max Dressel, Patrum Apostolicorum Opera (Leipzig, 1863), 548-49, & 631).

Clement of Alexandria, who lived about 150 A.D.: "And the Shepherd, speaking plainly of those who had fallen asleep, recognizes certain righteous among Gentiles and Jews, not only before the appearance of Christ , but before the law, in virtue of acceptance before God- as Abel, as Noah, as any other righteous man. He says accordingly,'that the apostles and teachers, who preached the name of the Son of God, and had fallen asleep, in power and by faith preached to these that had fallen asleep before.' Then he subjoins `And they have them the seal of preaching. They descended, therefore, with them into the water, and again ascended. But these descended alive, and again ascended alive. But those, who had fallen asleep before, descended alive, and know the name of the son of God. Wherefore, they also ascended with them, and fitted into the structure of the tower, and un hewn were built up together; they fell asleep in righteousness and in great purity, and wanted only this seal.' 'For when the gentiles, which have not the law do by nature the thing of the law, these having not the law,are a law unto themselves.' according to the apostle." (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata III, 6, in PG 9:268; Stromata II, 9, in PG 8:980; Hermas, Sim. 9, 16).

After the beheading, St.John the Baptist opened the gates of Hades and preached the coming of Christ there, according to the Dismissal Hymn which says: "...Hence, having championed the truth, rejoicing, bring the glad tidings to those in Hades of God made manifest in the flesh, taking away the sins of the world... ".

Gospel Preached in Hell by Christ and his Disciples

We will find that the early Christian writers held no such narrow view, insisting that the Gospel had to be preached to the spirits in prison. And they did not stop at the pitifully small amount of information Peter gave. They preached a doctrine remarkably similar to the Latter-day Saint belief that the gospel was not only preached by Christ in the spirit world, but by His disciples, as well, after they died.

Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria insisted that it wouldn't be right for God to condemn those who hadn't heard the gospel:

"Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrection equally with those righteous men who were before them, namely Noah, and Enoch, and Jacob, and whoever else there be, along with those who have known this Christ, Son of God....(Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 45, in ANF 1:217.)

For it is not right that these should be condemned without trial, and that those alone who lived after the advent should have the advantage of the divine righteousness. But to all rational souls it was said from above, "Whatever one of you has done in ignorance, without clearly knowing God, if, on becoming conscious, he repent, all his sins will be forgiven him."
(Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:6, in ANF 2:491.)

Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Hermas all testified of the fact that Jesus did, indeed, preach to the spirits in prison, some even claiming that the departed disciples of Jesus now continue the preaching work:

"It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching His advent there also, and [declaring] the remission of sins received by those who believe in Him. Now all those believed in Him who had hope towards Him, that is, those who proclaimed His advent, and submitted to His dispensations, the righteous men, the prophets, and the patriarchs, to whom He remitted sins in the same way as He did to us, which sins we should not lay to their charge, if we would not despise the grace of God. For as these men did not impute unto us (the Gentiles) our transgressions, which we wrought before Christ was manifested among us, so also it is not right that we should lay blame upon those who sinned before Christ's coming. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:27:2, in ANF 1:499.)

"And it has been shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades.... For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge.... If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the Gospel, as He did descend; it was either to preach the Gospel to all or to the Hebrews only. If, accordingly, to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there....(Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:6, in ANF 2:490.)

"...when He became a soul, without the covering of the body, He dwelt among those souls which were without bodily covering, converting such of them as were willing to Himself, or those whom He saw, for reasons known to Him alone, to be better adapted to such a course.(Origen, Against Celsus 2:43, in ANF 4:448.)

"...These apostles and teachers who preached the name of the Son of God, after falling asleep in the power and faith of the Son of God, preached it not only to those who were asleep, but themselves also gave them the seal of the preaching. Accordingly they descended with them into the water, and again ascended." (The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:16, in ANF 2:49.)

"What then, does not the same economy prevail in Hades, so that there, too, all the spirits might hear the gospel, repent and admit that their punishment, in the light of what they have learned, is just"
(Clement ot Alexandia Stromata. :VI,6, in PG 9:272.)

"We ask you first of all to tell us some of the Scriptures which you allege have been completely cancelled." [Justin quotes some passages which the Jews evidently removed from Esdras and Jeremiah.] And again, from the sayings of some of Jeremiah these have been cut out: "The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation." Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 71-72

Baptized for the Dead

"Now if some of them are 'baptized for the dead,' can we not assume that they have a reason for it. Certainly he[Paul] is maintaining that they practiced this in the belief that the ordinance would be a vicarious baptism and as such be advantageous to the flesh of others, which they assumed would be resurrected, for unless this referred to a physical resurrection there would be no point in carrying out a physical baptism."
(Tertullian, De Resurrectione (On the Resurrection) 48, in PL 2: 864.)

This belief that Christ decended into hell is also captured in Peter's Pentecost sermon in Acts 2: 27, 31. Consequently, the early Apostle's Creed had the, eventually controversial, mention of the descent into hell:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
born of the Virgin Mary.
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand
of God the Father Almighty.
From thence he shall come again to judge the living and the dead...

The Nicene Creed, which followed the Apostle's Creed, removed the mention of the decent into hell.

John the Baptist Preaching in Hell

Early Christian Writings:
From the writings of the Church Fathers during the 3rd century, Origen of Alexandria, a student scholar of Clement of Alexandria, wrote that John the Baptist had died before Christ, "so that he might descend to the lower regions and announce [preach] his coming. For everywhere the witness and forerunner of Jesus is John, being born before and dying shortly before the Son of God, so that not only to those of his generation but likewise to those who lived before Christ should liberation from the death be preached, and that he might everywhere prepare a people trained to receive the Lord."
(Origen, In Lucam Homily (Homily on Luke) 4, in PG 12 :1811.)

John the Baptist Preaching in Hell (picture)

Hippolytus, wrote that John the Baptist had died first that he might prepare the souls in the spirit world for the gospel. John, “first preached to those in Hades, becoming a forerunner there when he was put to death by Herod, that there too he might intimate that the Saviour would descend to ransom the souls of the saints from the hand of death.”
Later, a medieval Easter drama, the "Harrowing of Hell," John descends first, then is there to greet Christ when Christ descended.

Celsus--Ancient Anti-Christian Writer

"Celsus, making fun of the strange doctrine [of the Christians], asks Origen: '"Don't you people actually tell about him, that when he had failed to convert the people on this earth he went down to the underworld to try to convert the people down there?"
Origen's response:
"We assert that Jesus not only converted no small number of persons while he was in the body . . . but also, that when he became a spirit, without the covering of the body, he dwelt among those spirits which were without bodily covering, converting such of them as were willing to Himself."

(Origen, Against Celsus II'' 43, in PG 11:864-65)

Celsus (Greek: Κέλσος) was a 2nd century Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity. He is known to us mainly through the reputation of his literary work, The True Word (Account, Doctrine or Discourse) (Λόγος 'AληΘής), almost entirely reproduced in excerpts by Origen in his counter-polemic Contra Celsum of 248, 70 or 80 years after Celsus wrote.

Ancient Beliefs in Baptism for the Dead

Epiphanius (ca. 310–320 – 403) was bishop of Salamis and metropolitan of Cyprus at the end of the 4th century AD. He is considered a Church Father. He gained the reputation of a strong defender of orthodoxy. He is best known for composing a very large compendium of the heresies down to his own time, full of quotations from them.

At the beginning of the fifth century Epiphanius reports:
"From Asia and Gaul has reached us the account [tradition] of a certain practice, namely that when any die without baptism among them, they baptize others in their place and in their name, so that, rising in the resurrection, they will not have to pay the penalty of having failed to receive baptism, but rather will become subject to the authority of the Creator of the World. For this reason this tradition which has reached us is said to be the very thing to which the Apostle himself refers when he says, "If. the dead rise not at all, what shall they do who are baptized for the dead"
(Epiphanius, Against Heresies 1, 28, 6, in PG; 4:384.)

It is significant to find this practice surviving in those outlying places where, as Irenaeus points out, the pure old Christian doctrine was best preserved.(Irenaeus, Against Heresies III, 4, 2, in PG 7:855–56.)

As to the rest of the church, Epiphanius explains:
"Others interpret the saying [1 Corinthians 15:29] finely [kalos], claiming that those who are on the point of death if they are catechumens [candidates for baptism] are to be considered worthy, in view of the expectation of baptism which they had before their death. They point out that he who has died shall also rise again, and hence will stand in need of that forgiveness of sins that comes through baptism." (Epiphanius, Against Heresies I, 28, 6, in PG 41:384–85.)

Baptismal Font at the Jerusalem Temple

Biblical description of the Baptismal font in the Temple at Jerusalem, Where God the father was being worshiped.

2 Chr. 4: 3-4, 15
3 And under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about: ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast.
4 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.
• • •
15 One sea, and twelve oxen under it.

1 Kgs. 7: 25, 44
25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.
• • •
44 And one sea, and twelve oxen under the sea

Also See:
The Temple Baptismal Font