Summary: Did Jesus go to Hell as is commonly thought? Where was He between the time of His crucifixion and Resurrection?
Did Jesus go to Hell
1 Pet. 3:18-20
Throughout the course of church history, many people have taught and believed that Jesus’ spirit descended into hell after His death on the cross. Basing this idea on Ephesians 4:8–10 and 1 Peter 3:18–20, most of those who have taught that Jesus’ spirit went to hell after His death have also said that He went there to proclaim judgment to sinners and/or rescue the saints of the Old Testament.
Faithfulness to all of Scripture, however, requires us to deny that Jesus’ spirit went to hell after He died.
Treasure hunters must be willing to dig to find gold. The same is true for Christians searching for spiritual gems in the Bible.
There are many Bible passages used to support the idea that Christ descended into hell be-tween his death and resurrection. I have listed a few of them.
1. Acts 2:27
This is part of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, where he quotes Psalm 16:10: “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead [KJV: “leave my soul in hell”], nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
"Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption": David spoke beyond himself. This was perceived by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, who said that these words went beyond David who was obviously dead, buried in a grave, and whose body had long ago decayed into dust (Acts 2:25-31).
In quoting and applying this passage from Psalm 16 to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Peter showed a remarkably understanding of the work of Jesus on the cross. He under-stood that because Jesus bore our sin without becoming a sinner, He remained the Holy One, even in His death. Since it is incomprehensible that God's Holy One should be bound by death, the resurrection was absolutely inevitable. As Peter said: It was not possible that He should be held by death (Acts 2:24).
The fact that Jesus remained God's Holy One despite the ordeal of the cross demonstrates that Jesus bore the penalty of human sin without becoming a sinner Himself. It also shows that this payment for sins was perfect and complete, they are only a type of payment a Holy One could make. In these ways (as Peter understood), the resurrection proves the perfection of Jesus' work on the cross.
Does this mean Jesus entered hell? Not necessarily. Peter is using David’s psalm to show that Christ’s body did not decay—he is therefore unlike David, who “died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day”
2. Romans 10:6–7
These verses contain two rhetorical questions, again Old Testament quotations (from Deut. 30:13): “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”
But this passage hardly teaches that Christ descended into hell. The point of the passage is that Paul is telling people not to ask these questions, because Christ is not far away—he is near—and faith in him is as near as confessing with our mouth and believing in our heart (v. 9).
3. Ephesians 4:8–9
We are going to consider three questions:
What is the descent that Paul is thinking about when he says, "he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth" (verse 9)?
What is the captivity that Paul is thinking about when he quotes, "He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men" (verse 8)?\
What is the leading that Paul has in mind in that same quote, "He led captivity captive" (verse 8)?
Paul is quoting from Psalm (Psalms 68:18) and taking this as a prediction of the ascension of Christ. Paul adds that this ascent to the highest heaven should be considered together with a prior descent into the lower parts of the earth.
This lines up with Paul’s teaching that Christ "was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures" (1Corinthians 15:4). Notice that Paul does not teach that Christ “descended into hell”. He says Christ "descended into the lower parts of the earth" (Ephesians 4:9). The descent that Paul has in mind is the fact that Christ died and was buried.
But people are not satisfied with that, and they say, “Yes but what about his soul or spirit? When his body was buried, didn't his soul go into hell?”