“Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell”
In this article of the creed, we confess the historicity of Christ’s work of atonement. The theological term “atonement” can easily be understood simply by adding some hyphens: at–one–ment. It is an act that enables two alienated parties to be “at one” again.
This is what Christ’s suffering accomplished for the elect. Because of our sin, we deserve to suffer eternal torments in hell. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus suffered those torments in our stead, that we might be reconciled to God. The crucifixion is therefore central to our hope. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
The cross is also central to history. The specific mention of Pontius Pilate ties the crucifixion to the first century A.D. (Anno Domini, the year of our Lord). This proves that the gospel is not a myth, legend, or mere philosophy. It is a dateable historical event that continues to affect the world and all who dwell therein.
If you confess that your sins have alienated you from God, and if you see in the cross God’s provision for atonement, then you can be reconciled today by placing your trust in the one who suffered in your stead: Jesus Christ