That the man would be with Jesus in paradise is a fact, but whether it would be on that same day is debatable.
Some Christians believe that Jesus went to hell after dying on the cross, whilst others believe that this idea is heresy. So what’s the truth? If we keep an open mind, what can we learn from the Bible? We’ll begin by looking at two verses which would seem to indicate that Jesus did not go to hell, and find out if these verses could be interpreted any differently. Firstly there is the words which Jesus spoke to one of the criminals who was crucified with Him, “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This verse seems to make it very clear that both Jesus and the criminal would be in paradise ‘today’. But you need to remember that the original Greek text did not have punctuation, if you simply move the comma that is before the word ‘today’ to after the word ‘today’, the verse takes on a different meaning: “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise“. That the man would be with Jesus in paradise is a fact, but whether it would be on that same day is debatable.
Did Jesus mean that His work was now complete, or did Jesus mean something different?
The other thing that seems to indicate that Jesus did not go to hell are Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished“. Did Jesus mean that His work was now complete, in which case He just needed to be dead for a bit and then rise again, or did Jesus mean something different? In order to answer that, we need to find out if Jesus’ work was indeed finished at that point. In Hebrews 9:12 in the Amplified Bible we learn that, “He went once for all into the [Holy of] Holies [of heaven], not by virtue of the blood of goats and calves [by which to make reconciliation between God and man], but His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption (an everlasting release for us)“. This very clearly happened after Jesus’ death – so as death approached, there was more to be done. Which brings the question: If Jesus’ work was not fully complete at that point, just what was finished? The answer, is the Old Covenant with it’s animal sacrifices. Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, it was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. There was now no further need for animal sacrifices, Jesus’ death had rendered that system obsolete.
We seem to have this idea that hell is off somewhere in some kind of different dimension, but is that really the case?
We have shown, to those who have kept an open mind, that two of the main biblical obstacles to Jesus going to hell do not necessarily mean what you may have thought they meant. Now let’s find out what else we can learn. Firstly, where exactly is hell? We seem to have this idea that it is off somewhere in some kind of different dimension, but is that really the case? Let’s look at some Biblical evidence. Numbers 16 records how Korah led a rebellion against Moses & Aaron. The story comes to a dramatic conclusion in verse 32-33, “The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation”. This passage seems to indicate that hell (or ‘the pit’) is beneath us (and we know that the centre of the Earth is certainly a hot place), so are there any other verses that back this up?
- “Life ascends to the heights for the thoughtful— it’s a clean about-face from descent into hell.” (Proverbs 15:24, The Message)
- “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15, King James Version)
- “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” (Ezekiel 31:16, King James Version)
If Jesus went to hell, we would need to see verses talking of Jesus going down or descending.
These verses talk of descending, or going down, into hell. Therefore if Jesus went to hell, we would need to see verses talking of Jesus going down or descending. So the question is, are there any such verses? To begin with, notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:40 (English Standard Version), “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth“. Jesus Himself said that He would spend time “in the heart of the earth“, which would involve going down. Ephesians 4:9 in Young’s Literal Translation, also refers to Jesus going down, “And that, he went up, what is it except that he also went down first to the lower parts of the earth?“. Acts 2:27, which quotes Psalm 16:10, says, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption“.
There is an argument that agrees that Jesus went down after His death, but disagrees that He went into actual hell.
At this point, I will refer to the argument that agrees that Jesus went down after His death, but disagrees that He went into actual hell. Those who take this point of view, argue that Jesus went to the region of the dead. They say that as this was not hell, Jesus did not suffer there in any way. Now I realise that the verse I am about to quote is unlikely to convince those who are firmly planted in the “this is heresy” camp, but it should help if you are open minded. Acts 2:24 in the New Century Version says, “God raised Jesus from the dead and set him free from the pain of death, because death could not hold him“. If Jesus had merely been in the region of the dead known as paradise, there would have been no ‘pains of death’. But for Jesus, there most certainly was pain – because Jesus was deep in the pit, suffering for our sins.
What happened when Adam & Eve ate the fruit, was that they died spiritually and became separated from God.
That is the reason that Jesus went to Hell – so that we don’t have to. He was dealing with the separation from God that occurred when Adam sinned, and which has affected Mankind ever since. Genesis 2:17 in the Common English Bible says, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!” But of course we know that Adam & Eve did not die physically when they ate that fruit. What happened when Adam & Eve ate the fruit, was that they died spiritually and became separated from God. Their spirits still existed, they still functioned, but separation from God is spiritual death. There was nothing they could do to remove what was separating them from God. The way to God was now blocked, and there was no way back. That is the reason that we needed to be born again, to be made ‘new creations’. As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46). So why had God abandoned Jesus? Because Jesus was made to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and when that happened, Jesus died spiritually and became separated from God for the first time ever. Jesus died spiritually, just as Adam had died spiritually; then Jesus died physically, as Adam had died physically. After that, Jesus suffered in hell, as Adam and all his descendants should have suffered in hell.
As we conclude, let me say that accepting that Jesus went to hell is in no way vital to secure the new birth. If you have received Jesus as your Lord & Saviour, you will go to Heaven whether you accept that Jesus went to hell or not. However, for those who can accept it, it gives a deeper understanding of just what Jesus went through to secure our salvation.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
If you have never received Jesus as your Lord & Saviour, if you have gone away from God, or if you have any doubts regarding your salvation. I encourage you to click on the link below. Clicking on the link will not secure your salvation, but praying the prayer you find, from your heart, will.
For the salvation prayer, please click here.