Did Jesus Visit Hell?

Did Jesus go to hell after He was crucified, to defeat satan or to preach to dead souls?

~~Joe I.

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.

Send your Bible question to
pastor@cueroassembly.com.

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2 Comments on “Did Jesus Visit Hell?”

  1. jeremiah17 says:

    Yes, I believe He was in hell and praised His father and rose again, overcoming sin, death, the devil, and hell. He walked as a man for a time shedding his godly authority, died and was “numbered with the transgressors.” His faith got him out.

    • biblequestion says:

      Yes, Christ was “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12, Mark 15:28). The passage in context reads, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:10-12).

      All of the above requires Christ’s atoning death, but none of it requires a trip to hell. In fact, since Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30) on the cross, and then immediately gave up his spirit, it seems clear that death for our sin was the completion of his redemptive act, followed by his defeat of death as the “first-fruits” of the Resurrection, followed by his Ascension and Exaltation to the right hand of the throne of God (after 40 days), from which He gave the Paraclete (KJV “Comforter”) and continues to be Lord of the Church through gifts of the Holy Spirit.


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