Did Jesus Visit Hell?Posted: June 23, 2009
Did Jesus go to hell after He was crucified, to defeat satan or to preach to dead souls?
I question whether Christ went to hell while his body lay in the tomb, or at any time before his Ascension to heaven. The popular doctrine that Jesus descended into hell while his body lay in the tomb, where He preached the gospel to lost souls, “led captivity captive,” and took from satan the keys to hell and the grave, does not necessarily stand up to close exegetical scrutiny.
In Ephesians 4:9, “the lower parts of the earth” to which Jesus descended before ascending to heaven need not refer to hell but to the grave, or more likely, to earthly existence itself.
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
In 1 Peter 3:19-20, Christ via the Holy Spirit “preached to the spirits in prison” through Noah, the implication being not that Jesus preached during his 3 days in the tomb to those who had died in the Flood and were then in hell, but that He had already preached to them through Noah before the Flood.
“The keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18) taken into possession by the exalted Christ need not refer to literal keys but to Christ’s figurative and/or spiritual victory over death and the powers of hell through the Atonement; nor does the statement necessarily imply an excursion into Hades.
Moreover, the presumption that Christ had to be condemned to hell in order to pay the debt for sin to God the Father (i.e., Satisfaction Theory) encounters serious objections on many counts, and is not well founded in Scripture.
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