Imagine the devastation the followers of Jesus must've felt the day after they laid his body in the grave. No hope that tomorrow would bring anything to calm their grief. No hope that they would see Jesus again. No hope that Rome would ever be defeated. No hope that love would win the day. Jesus' mother was likely unconsolable, no parent wants to bury their own child.
The miracles? Memories.
The sermons? Silent.
I'm sure their minds traced back and forth, I doubt anyone got any sleep, and I'm sure nobody was smiling.
In the midst of the sadness and pain of loss, Jesus was laying waste to the gates of hades. His descent into hades signifies to us that there is nowhere he won't go to be with us, to reach us, to save us.
The text really doesn't tell us that Jesus descended "into flames" or "into fire", because hades isn't a place of burning in mythology. It was a place of darkness, where all souls go post mortem. It was a place of fear and trembling, where the souls of the ages eagerly awaited the King of Glory.
"The light shines in the darkness".
The light of the world sent to the darkest place the world "knew" existed? What darkness can stand in that presence? "Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess" just might be historical commentary as well as eschatological prophecy, as Jesus was preaching to the souls gone before. In the darkness of humanity's rage and self deceit, the man of sorrows, the lover of our souls began to preach.
And what do we think he preached?