Did Jesus descend into hell on Saturday between His death and resurrection?
I was asked this question several times over the weekend by multiple people. I think there are several reasons this question gets into our minds:
(1). The phrase “Jesus descended into hell” is in one (not all) of the versions of the Apostle’s Creed.
(2). If I understand correctly, many Catholics hold to this teaching.
I guess you know my answer. No, I do NOT believe Jesus descended into hell between the time He died on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
First of all, let’s look at the 2 passages in 1 Peter:
3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (emphasis mine)
4:4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. (emphasis mine)
Peter NEVER says in these verses that Jesus preached in hell. He also never says He went there between His death and resurrection. In fact, the context of the chapter 3 passage clearly points to the fact that Jesus preached through Noah to those who did not enter the ark – who are now in prison. Peter has already alluded to the fact that the Spirit of Christ was alive and well through preachers in the Old Testament. So, Jesus did not go and preach to them in hell. Rather, he preached through Noah – during the time of Noah – to those who are NOW in prison (i.e., “hell”).
Likewise, in the chapter 4 passage, the line of thought in verse 6 goes like this: “For this is why the Gospel was preached (past tense) even to those who are dead (present tense).” You see? Jesus preached the Gospel through His servants. Obviously, they rejected the message. They are now dead, in hell. Peter never says Jesus went to hell to preach the Gospel. He preached the Gospel to those who are now dead in hell.
There is no biblical evidence, whatsoever, that Jesus descended into hell on Saturday of Holy Week.
Second, consider the HUGE biblical evidence of where He DID go:
What did Jesus tell the repentant thief on the cross just before their deaths? “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Not, “next week.” Not, “when I return to earth the 2nd time.” TODAY. Want to know where Jesus was between His death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter? Paradise with the repentant thief. Considering what Jesus says about hell throughout the Gospels, it’s not paradise. Jesus was not in hell.
There is no biblical proof that Jesus descended into hell when He died. There IS, however, glorious biblical evidence that He was in paradise with the Father and the newly converted burglar.
Aren’t you glad?