Tonight, we are going to take a break from 1 Corinthians to discuss a subject that has been cause for much controversy. We always say that God loved us so much that he gave His son to die on the cross but how many of us really stop to think about it? We all know Jesus died and rose again three days later but most people don’t really think about the time in between.
Ask congregation what where they believe Jesus went when he died.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
The simple fact of the matter is that not only did God send His Son to die on the cross but He also sent His Son to Hell for three days. Now, I want to clarify when I say Hell. I am not referring to a place of torment that we know it as. In English, we are very limited in our wording as we covered in a previous lesson regarding our 1 word for love versus the 4 words in Greek. When I say Hell, I am actually referring to Hades, the Greek abode of the dead. As a whole, Hades did not refer to a place of suffering nor did it refer to a place of peace. It was simply the storage location, or abode, of the dead.
Despite having never sinned, Jesus was viewed as having the sin of the world on him. Obviously, he wouldn't be able to enter into Heaven while viewed in this state by the Father. The only other place for him to have gone during those three days was Hell. Imagine how happy Satan must've felt when he thought he had triumphed only to be proven wrong a few days later. Ever wonder what Jesus went through during those three days? If we really stop to think about it we can see that God loves us beyond our comprehension!
Some may ask why God would send His only begotten Son to Hell for even one day let alone three. I’m not one to guess why God set up the timeline the way He did but I am willing to bet the three days wasn't meant to "work off" any sin as if he were in some form of purgatory.
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Jesus bore the sins of the entire world. He was condemned as guilty and unsanctified despite having committed no crime. Because of this, He died and went to Hell. God's timeline said three days later he would rise. I don't know why He picked 3 days but He did and that's that. Jesus' judgment was Hell just as any other’s would have been. God had His plan for Jesus to rise. After he had risen, he was no longer viewed as being filthy with sin. He had already died and received judgment. Now, Jesus was alive for the second time. It was an entirely new life. It was a life that would never again see the sting of death.
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
As it is appointed unto man once to die. Jesus had defeated death, risen from the grave, and visited his disciples one last time before rejoining his Father in Heaven. I say rejoined because he was there since the beginning.
To understand why Jesus went to Hell, we must understand the reasons people go to Hell:
1) They do not trust in Christ as their savior. They do not believe that he was the Son of God that died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day.
2) They cannot enter Heaven blemished with sin.
3) They have not asked Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice for them and cover their sin as it happens.
A friend once attempted to prove this wrong by saying it was the blood of Christ that washes away our sins. In and of itself, this is correct theology. The point he was trying to make was that since Christ had already shed his blood, he no longer had a need to go to Hell because his blood covered it all while he was still on the cross. The same argument was used for the thief on the cross. The problem with this is that the new covenant wasn't established until Jesus had risen from the dead. The thief on the cross died under the old covenant as did anybody else that died within those three days. We can believe Jesus was who he said he was all we want but unless we also believe that he conquered death by rising from the grave on the 3rd day then one is not truly saved. That is a vital part to our salvation!
Jesus did not have to deny God or himself. The reasons I gave previously were all reasons why men go to Hell. Numbers one and three cover number two now that he is raised but since that had not happened yet, Jesus was still stuck with number two. Yes, he had already died but he had not yet risen. He died just as any other man under the old covenant. It was once he had risen that the new covenant began and he was brought up into Heaven.
Now that we have a Biblical understanding of what the requirements of entry into Heaven are, we can focus on the Biblical support for Jesus in Hell.
(Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
“Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s Bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’”
During the times of Jesus, it was a normal belief that Hades was located deep within the Earth. Hades was broken into two parts. There was a place of torment and a place where there was peace. Before the death and resurrection of Christ, the faithful went to a temporary holding place of peace. The unfaithful went to a place where there was torment and suffering. This temporary holding place was not purgatory. It was not meant to work off the sins of the flesh. We also know Heaven is a place of eternity and not merely temporary. This place was meant to act as a holding area for those Old Testament saints awaiting the death and resurrection of Christ so that they might gain access to Heaven. This place was known as Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom. Those with faith were in Paradise and those without faith were in Gehenna.
Some have tried saying Matthew 12:40 was probably speaking of a cave or a tomb in which Jesus’ body was kept. This is not even remotely close to being accurate. The tomb of Jesus would have been more of a cave. The heart of the Earth is hardly a hole in a mountain. The word used for ”heart” is the Greek word kardia. It was used in the sense of being the center of the Earth and to say the entire Earth comes from it. Kardia is certainly not being used to speak of a tomb. It speaks of the center of the Earth. The kardia of the Earth is referencing Hades.
We all remember the story of the thief on the cross. Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” The thief went with Jesus, as well as all the rest of the Old Testament saints, to Hell. Yes, they went to Hell. No, they did not go to Gehenna. As Jesus told us, they went to Paradise; the non-torturous part of Hades, the abode of the dead.
What do we know as of now?
1) Jesus was in the grave for 3 days.
2) Jesus descended into the lower parts of the Earth.
3) Jesus was going to be in Paradise the day of his death.
4) Jesus was in the heart of the Earth for three days and three nights.
Based on this information, we can see Jesus spent three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth. Since this was the exact same amount of time his body was in the grave, we can conclude that if he were in Paradise on one of those days, Paradise would have to be in the heart of the Earth. The only way to Heaven is through the Son. It is not simply a belief in the Son that grants us access. It is belief in who the Son is as well as belief in what took place in the death and resurrection. Before this process was complete, man had no way into Heaven. It was not until the resurrection that Paradise was relocated into Heaven and all the saints from that day forth could share in the Glory of God in Heaven.
1 Peter 3:19-20a
In which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient,
What exactly did Jesus do during his three days in Hell? 1 Peter makes mention of Jesus proclaiming the Truth to the spirits in prison. These spirits were characterized as being disobedient. The Old Testament saints that went to Abraham's Bosom certainly were not disobedient. Their obedience & faithfulness was the thing that saved them. They just had to wait for Christ before they could enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Verse 19 also says the spirits were in prison. Prison is a place where you go as a result of wrongdoing. You break the law and you go to prison. The demons and disobedient people of the world both broke the law of God. As a result, they would have been imprisoned in Hell awaiting the final judgment of God when all of Hell is cast into the lake of fire.
2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
The fallen angels are in prison. The NASB uses the word "pits" but, if you look, the KJV uses the word "chains" in their translation. The Greek word for this was σειρά (seira). It literally meant a line, rope, or chain. The fallen angels, as well as disobedient people, are in chains in prison. While some translations use the word “saints” instead of “spirits” in 1 Peter 3:19, this is why I do not believe Jesus preached to the saints at all. I believe this is yet another area of mistranslation that only leads to poor doctrine and theology. I feel the NASB is spot on when it uses the word spirits.
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Jesus conquered death. Death no longer has any hold over a Christian. Sure, we will all die. The difference is that we will live in Heaven because we have been reconciled to God through Christ. Christ is the only way to Heaven. What of the people from the Old Testament? Did they go to Heaven? I would have to say no. They performed sacrifices but this was a continued action. Christ cannot be compared to an animal. He is called the Lamb of God but he was so much more than that. No mere animal could cleanse the way Christ did. I fully believe the Old Testament saints went to Paradise as a place of storage awaiting the death of Christ. Even more, I believe they stayed there until the resurrection. It was not until Jesus rose from the grave that he truly defeated death.
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
This has commonly been misinterpreted to mean Jesus had to remain pure and did not want anyone to touch him. The problem with that interpretation is that it is in direct contradiction with John 20:27 when Jesus told Thomas to touch his wounds. In truth, Jesus was telling Mary not to cling to him. He was telling her to not expect his presence to continue for much longer for he had not yet returned to the Father but would soon be doing so. This brings me to my point. Jesus rose on the third day. Up until this point, he had not yet returned to his Father. He had not rejoined God in Heaven yet. Well, where was he then? He was in Paradise during this time. After the third day, he rose from the dead, saw his apostles along with hundreds of others, and joined God in Heaven.
Looking back, we see a few things:
1) the kardia of the Earth is Hades and not a hole in a mountain.
2) Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.
3) the spirits in prison are the fallen angels and those who rejected God.
4) Jesus had not yet returned to the Father (John 20:17).
The very basis of the disbelief in Jesus going to Hell for 3 days is:
1) People do not want to believe Paradise was a section of Hades.
2) People refuse to believe Jesus (being God) could go to Hades.
There is no Biblical evidence stating that Jesus did not go to Hell. On the other hand, the Biblical evidence is stacked saying he did. Ask yourself these questions: If he had not yet returned to the Father, where was he those 3 days? What spirits in prison was he preaching to? Why would they speak of the center of the Earth?
If he was in a tomb that whole time, he would not have been able to preach to anyone. This is another sign that the kardia of the Earth is not speaking of the tomb of Jesus. Jesus was preaching to the spirits in prison. He was in the kardia of the Earth while doing it. He had not yet returned to the Father. That only leaves one place and it makes perfect sense Biblically.
The doctrine of Jesus in Hades is a very Biblical teaching and a very accurate teaching. I do not believe he went there to suffer in pain. I believe he went there as a result of the sin of the world being on him. It was the same reason any of the other Old Testament saints went there. They placed their faith in God but they still had sin on them. Jesus was spotless up until the point that he became the ultimate sacrifice and took the sin of the world upon himself. He then went to Paradise and rose three days later, defeating death.