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Did Jesus go to Hell?

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by Jason Smathers on April 11, 2009

Tomorrow we celebrate on the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection. Yesterday was the anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion. What was Jesus doing today about 2000 years ago?

Matthew 12:39-40 makes it clear that Jesus’ body was in the grave these three days:

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (ESV)

We know that Jesus’ soul was in Paradise the day of His crucifixion as He told the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43 “today you will be with me in Paradise.” (ESV)

A frequently misused verse is 1 Peter 3:19: “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison” (ESV) However, prison here does not speak of hell. According to Barnes “The word rendered ‘prison,’ (φυλακῇ phulakē,) means properly ‘watch, guard’ – the act of keeping watch, or the guard itself.” Calvin has a similar explanation and these meanings are among those listed in Strong’s Greek Dictionary. In light of this meaning of “prison” and the context of the verse, we can interpret this verse accurately as meaning that the spirits that were promised salvation such as those on the ark were in a place watching for that salvation which was finished at the cross. Jesus gave these people on watch the good news.

Another misused verse is Acts 2:31: “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. “ (ESV) In the King James, Hades is rendered as Hell, however, the word is actually Hades. The place of eternal torment is Gehenna, not Hades, although there is no distinction between the words in the King James. This has resulted in some confusion on the issue. Jesus went to Hades, but was not left there as he went to Paradise the same day. Jesus was in the section of Hades known as Abraham’s Bosom where the saints waited and watched for the cross as described in the above discussion on 1 Peter 3:19.

So, no, Jesus was not in hell this day about 2000 years ago, but was in Paradise after a visit to Abraham’s Bosom.

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