Last November I wrote Hell, What, Where, Who’s Been There. My conclusions included the following;
There have been a number of people who have claimed that they went to hell and then returned to tell about it. Personally I don’t believe any of those claims because I have not been able to find any references in Scripture of anybody going to hell and then returning. I haven’t even found any references of anybody going to hell.
I know that many people say that Jesus went to hell and preached to souls but I don’t believe that Scripture says that Jesus went to hell at all.
1 Peter 3:18-20 (NLT)18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.19 So he went and preached to the spirits in prison--20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.
Editor's Note: See my post How Were People Saved Before Jesus to see why there was no reason for Jesus to go the Hell to preach to those spirits in prison. It they were not saved by faith before their death there is no second chance before of after the cross.
In the post I didn’t say why I don’t believe that Jesus went to hell because at the time I didn’t think that I could adequately describe my reasons in that post at the time. Today I read an argument , based on scripture, that substantiates my belief that Jesus never went to hell. (For more background read my Hell, What, Where, Who’s Been There, and How Were People Saved Before Jesus posts)
Did Jesus Descend into Hell?
We know from Jesus’ statement to the thief that when one dies they enter the presence of God immediately. Luke 23:42 states, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” This statement also tells us that Jesus went to His Father upon death.
Beyond this we know very little about where Jesus was for three days. One must be careful not to read too much detail into a parable or story....
The passage of Scripture most referred to by those holding to the hell theory is 1 Peter 3:18. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” The words they point to are “in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.” Supposedly, Jesus descended to hell and preached to lost souls. But why? Nowhere in the bible is there any statement that a lost soul who has died can have a second chance. Did Jesus go to hell just to torment the lost souls more? There is a more reasonable interpretation of this passage.
Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but was made alive by the Spirit. The word “made alive” is passive, meaning that someone other than Jesus made Him alive. Either Jesus was made alive by the Spirit, or in His spirit. Either way the Spirit must have been involved. Then the passage continues by telling us who these souls in prison are, they are those who did not listen to Noah (who was preaching repentance in the Spirit’s power to the world at the direction of God). Thus, the same Spirit who raised Jesus as a testimony “in order that He might bring us to God” also had spoken in Noah’s day to those souls now in prison; and they are in prison because they did not listen at the time of the preaching. In fact, only eight people listened and were saved--”brought safely through the water.” The idea of “prison” is figurative. The Bible does indicate that lost souls are removed and restrained in Luke 16:26: “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus went to hell during the three days. Actually, very little is said about what went on. The normal assumption is that Jesus’ fleshly body remained in the tomb, just as ours will remain in the grave. He went to the presence of the Father, and three days later the Spirit resurrected His body (in the same way that our bodies will be resurrected--the first-born from the dead in Colossians 1:18). The difference is that God did not allow Jesus’ body to decay....
Taken from "What Happened After Jesus Died?" by Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.