The concept that Jesus went to hell after His death on the cross comes primarily from the Apostles’ Creed, which states, “He descended into hell.”
Some teach that Jesus went to “hell” in order to further be punished for our sins. This idea is completely unbiblical. It was the death of Jesus on the cross that sufficiently provided for our redemption.
In the OT, the word used to describe the place of the dead is sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead.” The New Testament Greek equivalent of sheol is hades. Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicate that sheol/hades is a temporary place, where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection and judgment. Revelation 20:11–15 gives a clear distinction between hades and hell, the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the permanent and final place of judgment for the lost. Hades, then, is a temporary place. Many people refer to both hades and the lake of fire as “hell,” and this causes confusion.
In the New Testament, the most extended depiction of the afterlife is found in Luke 16:19–31. There we learn that the biblical Sheol has two compartments: Hades proper (Luke 16:23) and “Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22). Hades proper is a place of torment, where unbelievers are imprisoned prior to judgement then hell. Abraham’s bosom, on the other hand, while within shouting distance of Hades, is separated from it by “a great chasm” (Luke 16:26).
Christ preached "in spirit" through Noah as Noah built the ark. This was a message of repentance and righteousness, given to unbelieving people who were then on earth but now are "spirits in prison" (i.e., in hell). It is supported by 1 Peter 1:10-12, which speaks of the Spirit of Christ in the prophets who spoke.
All dead souls go down to Sheol/Hades, but Sheol is divided into two distinct sides, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. The righteous who died prior to Christ dwelt in Sheol with Abraham, and though they were cut off from the land of the living, they were not tormented as the wicked were.
Psalm 16:10-11 as translated in the King James Version:
“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . . . Thou wilt show me the path of life.”
“Hell” is not a correct translation in this verse. A correct reading would be “the grave” or “sheol.” Jesus said to the thief beside Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43); He did not say, “I will see you in hell.” Jesus went to be with the blessed in sheol/hades. Unfortunately, in many versions of the Bible, translators are not consistent, or correct, in how they translate the Hebrew and Greek words for “sheol,” “hades,” and “hell.”
As Jesus neared death, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His suffering in our place was completed. His soul/spirit went to hades (the place of the dead). Jesus did not go to “hell” or the suffering side of sheol; He went to “Abraham’s side” or the blessed side of sheol. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension.
Did Jesus go to hell? No.
Did Jesus go to sheol? Yes.
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