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Q&A: Did Jesus go to Hell?

Question: I heard that the Catholics have a prayer that says that when Jesus died on the cross, his spirit descended down into Hell. How is that possible that God would send Jesus to Hell and punish him then bring him back to life? This does not make sense.

When the angels in heaven rebelled against God, He created a spiritual prison called Sheol deep down in the earth (Numbers 16:30-33: Luke 16:22). Those angels that mated with human women and created Nephilim or giants are kept in the deepest parts of Sheol known as Tartarus. The other angels are confined in the heavens above the earth. God has temporarily allowed Satan to use this area as his kingdom until the Second Coming of Christ. At that time, all the unrighteous people of the earth still alive after the tribulation period, all fallen angels, demonic spirits, and Satan himself will be confined in Sheol or the Pit for the next one thousand years. When Adam or mankind rebelled against God, He created a second level down in the earth and divided it with a great gulf. He then confined the human spirits of the righteous dead on one side, and the spirits of the unrighteous dead on the other. The side which contains the righteous spirits was referred to as Paradise (Luke 23:43; Genesis 37:35; Psalm 31:17; I Samuel 28:13-14).

The Hebrew word Sheol was translated to the word Hades in Greek and later Hell in English. This place is often confused with the Lake of Fire. The Lake was originally created by God as the final resting place for the unrepentant angels who rebelled against Him. But it will now also be used to contain all the spirits of humans who refuse to repent of their sins against mankind and acknowledge God as their Creator. Scripture tells us that ultimately the Antichrist and False Prophet will be thrown into this Lake along with Satan, death and Sheol or Hell (Revelation 20:10). As for now, there is no one currently in the Lake of Fire.

At His death, Jesus’ spirit descended down into the righteous side of Sheol (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27). There He preached or proclaimed the Gospel or Good News to those righteous human spirits waiting to arise from Sheol and into the presence of God (I Peter 3:19; II Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6-7). People such as Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, David plus many millions of other spirits world wide deemed righteous by God because of their faith in Him, were in a temporary holding pattern waiting to be freed. These spirits were being held in Sheol until Jesus atoned for their sins (Genesis 15:6). It was only right that the righteous dead were the first to hear that the promise of eternal life first made to them by the prophets, had in fact been fulfilled through Christ on the cross. Jesus remained physically dead with His spirit in Sheol or Hell for three days. This was because the Jews believed this was the amount of time necessary for the spirit to fully disengage from the body and leave the grave site. He was the first person to ever arise out of Sheol and return to life in a resurrected and now immortal body. Later, on the evening of resurrection Sunday, He went back down into Sheol and led those held captive up into heaven (Ephesians 4:8). Thus He was in the heart of the earth 3 days and 3 nights.

So while it is true that Jesus was spiritually in Sheol or Hell for three days, He was on the Paradise side, proclaimed the Good News to the righteous spirits, and late on resurrection Sunday led them from there into heaven. Jesus did not proclaim salvation to the unrepentant spirits in Sheol both human and angelic. Jesus came only to those who obeyed, or at least tried to obey God's commands. Jesus took all the Old Testament Saints out of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 68:18; 86:13; 89:48). He also took all the New Testament Saints out of Sheol (Hebrews 11:39-40, Hebrews 12:23). Jesus died for the salvation of mankind not the angels. Thus, the fallen angels heard the news that He had nullified the authority of Lucifer, sin and death. They saw that He did have the keys to Hell as they watched Him ascend up from Hell (Revelation 1:18). It was then that they knew that Satan had lost his war against God and that their fate was sealed. Unfortunately, there is no Biblical evidence of an offer of salvation to those who have died. Thus, the final judgement appears to take into account only what a person has done in life and not anything done in the after afterlife (I Peter 1:17; II Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27).

Today, when a believer dies, their spirit is immediately with Christ. (II Corinthians 5:8). Therefore, death for a Christian is seen as a promotion. The hand of death simply frees the spirit once confined in a mortal body, to now experience the exhilaration of eternal life. All righteous spirits now with Christ are awaiting the rapture at which time they will receive immortal resurrected bodies, attend the Marriage and Supper of the Lamb, and return to the earth at the end of the seven year tribulation period to reign with Christ for the next one thousand years (Revelation 1:7-8, 18; Revelation 19:7, 11, 14; Revelation 20:4).

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