Hell: Did Jesus Christ go there?
Please note what this passage says. You may have never seen it before or understood it, but what is it telling us?
31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. [Emphasis added]
Some people believe Christ went to hell to suffer in our behalf, but there’s no record in Scripture of that. It didn’t happen! So, what is this passage about? Did He actually go to hell? If He did, for what purpose would He have gone there? We find that in Old Testament times King David spoke about this event.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. [Emphasis added]
This is the passage Peter was quoting at the time of Acts 2:27 & 31. However, there’s no record that David or Jesus Christ ever did any suffering in that place. Therefore, what is this “hell” spoken of in these passages?
We find that this place called “hell” had two compartments. The one we typically think of was one of great suffering. But both are spoken of in our Lord’s story of a rich man and a man named Lazarus.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. [Emphasis added]
Yes, hell had two compartments. One was a place of intense suffering but the other was not. In Old Testament times, those who expressed faith in the Lord JEHOVAH, the God of Israel, could not go to heaven until after provision was made through Jesus Christ for that to occur. In other words, Christ had to first go to the cross and bear our sins.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man [speaking of Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; [Emphasis added]
Having “sat down on the right hand of God” means His sacrifice was acceptable to God. This next passage explains in more detail what happened on that occasion.
II Corinthians 5:19
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [Emphasis added]
The next verse from that passage shows the objective of His work.
II Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
It is Christ’s righteousness being applied to our deficient account of righteousness that provides and settles our salvation. It is then and only then that salvation occurs. But at the time of Luke 16 the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ had still not occurred. Therefore, when a person of faith died, they went to this that we may call a “holding place” called “Paradise.” If they died without faith, they went to this other compartment in hell that is sometimes spoken of as “Torments.”
Again, Luke 16:23
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [Emphasis added]
As a sidenote, please realize that the rich man didn’t go to Torments because he was rich, just as the poor man didn’t go to Paradise because he was poor. Their economic level had nothing to do with it. The issue was faith vs. the absence of faith. Then notice what happens next.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. [Emphasis added]
Please notice that at death this rich man goes immediately to this place of torment. Notice also that he doesn’t go to a place some call purgatory. That’s because such a place does not exist. There’s no reference to it in any of the 66 books of the Bible. At the time of one’s physical death, this whole matter is settled right then once and for all. I can certainly understand why people would want a second chance, but such is only wishful thinking. This is one very important reason why it is so urgent for people to accept by faith God’s provision for their salvation before they die. Securing one’s salvation is not something to be put off.
Please notice also that there is a great gulf fixed between the Torments side and the Paradise side of hell. Unbelievers could not leave the Torments side and go to Paradise, and the believers in Paradise could not access the Torments side. Again, the matter was completely settled for all people at the time of their death as to where they’d then go.
People often wonder where hell is located. The Bible always speaks of it being downward. Notice what King David says about it.
15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. [Emphasis added]
We have other passages that tell us the same thing.
16 I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.
17 They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen. [Emphasis added]
There are even more passages that tell us this [Job 11:8; Proverbs 15:24; Isaiah 14:9 &15]. Therefore, we can conclude that hell is in the heart or center of the Earth. Notice our Lord’s words about it during His earthly ministry.
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Emphasis added]
Even this place called Paradise was in the heart of the Earth at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion. Note His words to the thief who was also there on a cross.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. [Emphasis added]
Please notice that He does not say he’ll be with Him in Heaven. This place called Paradise and Heaven are NOT the same. Both Paradise and Torments were then located in the heart of the Earth, but they were separated from one another. As we saw in Luke 16:26, a “great gulf” separated them. No hellfire or suffering is identified with this place called Paradise. All Christ’s suffering occurred through the process of His execution, not in hellfire. It was when He was on the cross that He suffered, paying the full price for our sins there in a three-hour period.
45 Now from the sixth hour [noon Jewish time] there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour [3 PM].
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [Emphasis added]
There are other passages that predicted He’d make this statement [Psalm 22:1; Isaiah 53:10-12].
It is often taught that the souls in Paradise were then removed and transferred to heaven during this time. Here’s the passage used to teach that.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he [the resurrected Christ] ascended up on high, he led captivity captive [believers who had been held captive in the compartment of Paradise located in “hell”], and gave gifts [spiritual gifts] unto men.
9 (Now that he [Christ] ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth [speaking of the compartment in “hell” known as Paradise]?
10 He [Jesus Christ] that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill [PLEROO = fulfill or complete] all things.) [Emphasis added]
We also find that when Christ went there to transfer these believers to Heaven, He made a victorious proclamation to the demons [a group of fallen angels that are still held there] to tell them that their plot to destroy true humanity had not succeeded.
6 And the angels [the fallen angles (or demons) who were involved in this plot] which kept not their first estate [having had sex with women on earth], but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. [Emphasis added]
The activity of that plot was carried out in the days of Noah when some angels procreated with women on Earth. The children who were then born to them were half human and half angel. This is why their offspring are spoken of as having been “giants” [or mighty men] in that day.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God [a term used here for these fallen angels (as in Job 1:6 & 2:1)] came in unto the daughters of men [having sexual intercourse with them], and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men [“giants” who were half human and half angel] which were of old, men of renown. [Emphasis added]
Having discovered that through birth God would provide a Savior, it was Satan’s plot to destroy true humanity so that this could not occur. All this is a part of the reasoning for a need for God’s judgment of the universal flood in Noah’s day.
The “heavens” are divided into three areas. The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere. The second heaven is what we speak of as space or outer space. The third heaven is now the eternal home every member of the Body of Christ has to look forward to occupying forever. We now know that this place called “paradise” is now in the third heaven where God the Father dwells. The apostle Paul uses the terms “paradise” and the “third heaven” interchangeably.
II Corinthians 12:2-4
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago [Paul is speaking of himself], (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. [Emphasis added]
During the time of this present Dispensation of Grace hell is no longer divided. Hell is now a place for only unbelievers, ones who have rejected God’s provision for their salvation. The Paradise side of hell is now located in the third heaven.
22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, [Emphasis added]
Therefore, the “great gulf” no longer exists. Hell applies only to people who die without salvation. All who die with salvation go immediately to their new home in Heaven.
II Corinthians 5:6-8
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. [Emphasis added]
Just as our Lord is now in Heaven, the day will come when we as believers will enjoy being present there with Him.
You may have noticed that many modern translations refuse to use the word “hell.” In fact, many use words like “grave,” “Sheol,” or “Hades” instead. This appears to be simply an attempt to play down or water down the teachings of Scripture. You need not pay any attention to them. Hell is a real place every unbeliever should fear. Every believer should see all this information as good reason to faithfully present to unbelievers the gospel, the good news message of the cross and resurrection of Christ. For it is only by faith in this which God has graciously provided through Jesus Christ that eternal salvation can be gained. If you’ve not made that decision to put your faith in Him alone, I hope you will now as you complete your reading of this article. I assure you that such will be the most important decision you’ve made in your entire life. Why not make that decision to receive Christ as your Savior right now?