Where in scripture may I find answers to where Jesus’ spirit was and what He was doing after His body was laid in the tomb and before His resurrection?
Hi, Christine @Mail2christine! Great question! The best place to start is Jesus’ own words to the repentant thief on the cross in Luke 23:43: "And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (NKJV). So we know that Jesus was going to be with the thief in “Paradise” right away. The question then becomes, what did Jesus mean by “Paradise”? If we look at 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul brings up Paradise in reference to the higher heavens or the “third heaven.”
Because of what is stated in some of our creeds, some people are misled to think that Jesus descended into hell, and the word “hell” comes with its own misconceptions and is better understood as what the Greeks called Hades, which refers to the place Jesus talks about in his teaching in Luke 16:19-31 about Lazarus and the rich man. People believe that Jesus descended there and preached because of a misunderstanding of the passage in 1 Peter 3:18-20. Here is an article that explains that passage quite well, in my opinion: https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=10&article=851
If Jesus would have been referring to Hades when speaking with the thief, it would have been written that way, but it was not. The text specifically states Jesus said “Paradise,” which, according to 2 Corinthians, refers to heaven.
This is as far as my knowledge goes. Perhaps @SeanO or @RoySujanto may know something more, but as far as I can ascertain, these are the best verses to look to in looking for where Jesus was after his death and before his resurrection.
Let me know your thoughts!
I believe the verse you are looking for is in 1 Pet 3:18-20 (NASB)
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
Hope that’s the right verse you meant.
Edit: oops @psalm151ls answered first. Yeah, you are right. No where did the bible say Jesus goes to hell. He goes to Hades, where it is a waiting place in the realm of the dead, where they were awaiting judgment.
Rev 20:11-15 described the after-death judgment S.O.P clearly.
Thank you for your in-depth reply. The scripture references are the same passages that I have researched which is great confirmation. Your apologetics site is perfect!
Thank you for your insight.
Blessings to you.
Thank you for your scripture references and reply.
Ha, hey there, Roy. Up until now, I thought that Jesus went and preached to those in Hades as well, but take a look at the article I reference and let me know what you think, will you? I don’t think Jesus went and preached there, especially since he clearly told the thief “today you will be with me in Paradise.” Paradise, though cases have been made for its referring to “Abraham’s Bosom”, does not actually refer to that if we look at biblical references.
What do you think?
I totally agree with you that Jesus would indeed fulfill His promise of paradise visit, and secondly, He absolutely didn’t preach (the gospel), if you are suspecting the notion of Jesus giving a second chance at redemption to those in Hades(not Hell, if that’s what you suspected), the realm of the dead waiting judgment. (If that’s not what you suspected, forgive me, but in case anyone else is wondering, let me continue building my case against “2nd Chance” theory, as in Jesus preaching/evangelizing to the dead spirit)
For the Hades or Hell point, Jesus definitely didn’t go to hell, as many churches have wrongfully taught. Hades is a totally different place to hell. As I mentioned in my earlier post, that the Bible clearly distinguish between Hades and the lake of fire(hell) in Rev 20.
For the “preaching” point, He wasn’t evangelizing, but proclaiming His victory(probably) over death and Hades, since He now holds the key (Rev 1:18).
The word “made proclamation” (NASB version of 1 Pet 3:19) is from the root word kérussó (#2784) is actually more accurately meant to herald or proclaim type of preaching. Compared to euaggelizó (#2097) which translate to evangelize, as in bring good news or preach redemption, in our context.
Plus, in 1 Pet 3:19’s context, he was proclaiming to the wicked “disobedients” during Noah’s period (Gen 6:11). Some scholars pointed out that they were those sons of God(aka angels) or nephilims (Gen 6:2-4) and that fallen angels cannot be saved (Jud 1:6).
Col 2:15 NASB,
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
As evidenced from the above verse, one may come to the conclusion that was what really happened in 1 Pet 3:19. He was disarming the rulers and authorities of evil (the fallen angels) and now holds the aforementioned key in Rev 1:18.
Thanks for the this interesting discourse @psalm151ls and the opportunity you gave me to clarify any misleading points I might have made. Feel free for anyone to CMIIW.
Blessings in Christ,
Just reread your article closely, and I think I may have totally missed the point you were trying to raise in your reply to my post.
Could it be about the technical precision of the terminology being used? Like is it Hades, or Paradise, Abraham’s bosom, or Heaven, or Hell, or whatever else is out there?
I’m sorry for this area I will politely step back and not try to make any assumptions I’m not convicted to substantiate.
I hear some people say paradise is equivalent to heaven, some say they are a separate place and paradise is like a waiting place for the saints to be taken to heaven when Jesus redemptive work is finished. I definitely don’t agree Hades is equal to Hell though.
I’m just trying to attribute a name to the place where 1 Pet 3:19’s prison is located. But since it is the place of spirits of bygone, they must be in the realm of the dead, whatever the precise terminology is.
Once again, let me retract then, in light of this, that I wasn’t asserting it is definitely Hades precisely. Feel free to fill in the blank for the place where the said spirits are imprisoned. The location isn’t mentioned in the Bible, but what happened is definitely mentioned. But for sure, I believe it didn’t happen in hell or the lake of fire. That was my point.
Sorry @psalm151ls , if I’m making claims that may not be accurate or debatable, or for losing your point, for that matter.
Edit: Let’s summon @SeanO hahaha, forgive me Sean, but I’ll love to hear and learn from the grandmaster himself too.
@RoySujanto I think the confusion over the word paradise revolves around the confusion between the Heaven where God dwells and the new heavens and new earth. Ultimately, we will dwell in an entirely new world. But right after we die we go to be with Christ in paradise - whatever exactly that means.
Regarding the passage in Peter, the NET Bible has a good note. Regarding @Mail2christine’s point, I do not think we know all of the details on this one.
And preached to the spirits in prison . The meaning of this preaching and the spirits to whom he preached are much debated. It is commonly understood to be: (1) Christ’s announcement of his victory over evil to the fallen angels who await judgment for their role in leading the Noahic generation into sin; this proclamation occurred sometime between Christ’s death and ascension; or (2) Christ’s preaching of repentance through Noah to the unrighteous humans, now dead and confined in hell, who lived in the days of Noah. The latter is preferred because of the temporal indications in v. 20a and the wider argument of the book. These verses encourage Christians to stand for righteousness and try to influence their contemporaries for the gospel in spite of the suffering that may come to them. All who identify with them and their Savior will be saved from the coming judgment, just as in Noah’s day. NET Bible
Yeah you are right, @SeanO about paradise.
So nothing definitive is known of the location of 1 Pet 3:19 then? Only what happened.
Thanks for sharing your thought.
@RoySujanto It is my current understanding that the Heaven where God dwells is spiritual - God is spirit. So it may not be inside the physical universe? Quite a bit beyond what I know. Likewise, the place where those who reject God await the day of judgment - probably similarly a spiritual place? A lot of unknowns here…
Yeah, reading your thought on Heaven is God’s dwelling as spirit and ours is physical, reminds me of a great video from The Bible Project, which so far best describe these unknowns, in such a simple to understand way. (I like that you acknowledge what is unknown to you.)
It may seem out of topic, forgive me, but I think this video might give some understanding in regards to these different realms.
So, I’ll just leave the video here:
@RoySujanto @psalm151ls @SeanO
Thank you, thank you for your continued dialog on my question! Your attention to scripture and discernment of understanding, even humility in acknowledging there are some mysteries we will not understand, impresses me.
The scripture passages you have referenced and explained I am in agreement with. However 1Peter 3:19-20 is an unanswered passage and I will continue to ask the Lord to teach me the truths for understanding according to His will.
Again, thank you all for your diligence and support. I am thankful to the Lord for you, for this outlet to discuss and discern matters of scripture and Christianity.
Today I was reading in Ephesians 4 where it seems that Paul gives a glimpse of where Jesus went between the tomb and the resurrection. That reading has led me to contribute to this post. Look at the middle of this section:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Italics in the above are mine). Is this a verse that relates to this subject? Or am I misreading it? The overall context of this first half of chapter 4 is Unity in the Body of Christ. The scripture Paul is quoting is Psalm 68:18.
Although there is much dispute over the meaning of this, my search says it’s likely the reason for the “descended into hell” in the Apostle’s Creed. Note that many versions of the Apostle’s Creed use “descended to the dead” and does not specify a location.
Also in the searches related to the part of the creed I found 1 Peter 4:6 is mentioned:
1 Peter 4:6 (ESV)
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.
I recognize that I’m not clearing up any confusion here, but I do think these verses add to the idea that between death and resurrection, Jesus had a mission that is encapsulated in him “bringing all things unto himself.” The key word seems to be “all.” I’m wondering if that includes all time, meaning those also who died prior to the gospel.
Can anyone add light to this? I freely admit I’m in over my head with these verses. Thanks @Mail2christine for this discussion. I was really struggling with the Ephesians 4:9 verse when I read this post and thought it might relate.
There is another possible answer to your question it comes from an understanding that Peter was using a story out of the book of Enoch as an analogy for Jesus. To understand this you have to have some back ground on 1 Enoch. I am not advocating that 1 Enoch is inspired but 1 Enoch was a book that was familiar in the 2nd temple period,
That book filled in lots of details about what happened at the time of the flood, especially the episode in Genesis 6:1–4, where the sons of God (Enoch calls them watchers) produced children (the Nephilim giants) with human women. When both Peter and Jude wrote about angels who sinned in the days of Noah (2 Pet. 2:4–5; Jude 6), they were alluding to ideas in 1 Enoch that are not part of the biblical flood story. The Genesis flood account, for example, never tells us that the divine sons of God were imprisoned in the underworld realm of the dead until the end of days, but 1 Enoch does (1 Enoch 6:1–4; 7:1–6; 10:4, 11–13).
Heiser, M. S. (2015). Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters. (D. Lambert, Ed.) (p. 142). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
This is the basic information about 1 Enoch you have to go a little deeper to see the analogy again but you need to keep in mind that Enoch was a righteous man and walked with God he was held in high regard in Jewish writings. Here is the connection, again from Heiser:
Something that happened to these “spirits in prison” in the book of 1 Enoch gave Peter an insight into Jesus. In the 1 Enoch story, Enoch has a dream where the imprisoned spirits asked him to intercede with God on their behalf. After all, Enoch walked with God—who better to ask God to relent and release them? Enoch did so, but got bad news. God’s answer was an emphatic no. Enoch then had to deliver that answer—he descended to the spirits in prison. He told them they were still under judgment.
Heiser, M. S. (2015). Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters. (D. Lambert, Ed.) (p. 143). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
In Peter’s epistle it is Jesus (ultimate righteous one) that goes to the imprisoned rebellious son’s of God and gives them the really bad news, the battle is won death has been defeated and they will be imprisoned until the day of judgement.
Peter used that story as an analogy for Jesus. The point he wanted to get across was that when Jesus died, he descended to the realm of the dead and had a message for the fallen divine beings there. When they saw Jesus enter the place of the dead, they were likely to think their fellow demons had won and they would be getting out of jail soon. Instead, Jesus told them they wouldn’t see him for long—he would rise again. It was all part of God’s plan. They hadn’t won—they were still under judgment and as doomed as ever. That’s why this odd passage ends the way it does, with Jesus “gone into heaven” and seated “at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet. 3:22).
Heiser, M. S. (2015). Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters. (D. Lambert, Ed.) (p. 143). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
I hope this helps.
Wow, thanks @Jimmy_Sellers. That actually makes the most sense out of Peter’s letter.
Thx for pointing us to this revelation knowledge. Always love learning something new.
That was my concultion also. My only hesitation in coming out of gate with this is trying to explain to my brethren why Peter would be reading Enoch and in church the that I attend most folks would be surprised to find out Enoch wrote anything.
Interesting discussion but raises further questions. Brings to mind CS Lewis The Great Divorce. Although just a story, what did Lewis think the bus was going from and what was the intermediary place just outside of Heaven? He coordinated his imagination with scripture would be my guess.
Bringing in the Book of Enoch and Gen 6:1-4 to me adds more questions than solutions. Who really wrote the Book of Enoch and when was it written? There are reasons why it is not considered inspired and not considered scripture.
As to Gen6:1-4, I find it interesting that the Moody Bible Commentary group of scholars completely reject fallen angels mating with human females producing offspring. I recognize that may be more of a minority opinion. Even Christ stated angels were created and do not mate. Am I to believe somehow these fallen angels acquired new abilities? I have left this topic as a mystery to be resolved once in Heaven. So why try to provide clarity with the question just where did Christ make his proclamation by bringing up a controversial area of scripture as to Gen 6:1-4? Just asking.
Can you provide comments as to whether the Book of Enoch should even be considered as a book for instruction and deepening as to my walk with the Lord? Just asking.
To be clear I am not advocating for the book of Enoch as a book that would:
The reason for including the reference was because Mike Heiser the author of the book that I citied believes that 1 Enoch was a popular and familiar book during the 2nd temple period of Jewish history, he is not alone on this position you could add NT Wright and numerous other. The scholarship is there. I hope you know that I was kidding about the authorship of Enoch, it wasn’t Enoch.
The book is a compilation of as many as 5 books and appendices written by authors unknown. It is thought to be written over a period of 300 years. The oldest fragment of the books were found among the Dead Sea scrolls dating them to 200 BC. The dating puts them dead in the middle of the 2nd Temple Period of Jewish history (500BC to 70AD) and the apocalyptic literature of that day. I was taught in my Sunday school this was the 400 years of silence. Here in excerpt from a book I have on Enoch:
As the Book of Enoch is, in some respects, the most notable extant apocalyptic work outside the canonical Scriptures, it will not be inappropriate to offer a few remarks here on the Apocalyptic Literature generally. In writing about the books which belong to this literature, Prof. Burkitt says very pointedly that
they are the most characteristic survival of what I will venture to call, with all its narrowness and its incoherence, the heroic age of Jewish history, the age when the nation attempted to realize in action the part of the peculiar people of God. It ended in catastrophe, but the nation left two successors, the Christian Church and the Rabbinical Schools, each of which carried on some of the old national aims. And of the two it was the Christian Church that was most faithful to the ideas enshrined in the Apocalypses, and it did consider itself, not without some reason, the fulfilment of those ideas. What is wanted, therefore, in studying the Apocalypses is, above all, sympathy with the ideas that underlie them, and especially with the belief in the New Age. And those who believe that in Christianity a new Era really did dawn for us ought, I think, to have that sympathy … We study the Apocalypses to learn how our spiritual ancestors hoped against hope that God would make all right in the end; and that we, their children, are here today studying them is an indication that their hope was not wholly unfounded.
Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (p. ix). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Perhaps a companion question might be should we consider whether Enoch informed the New Testament writers?
I would suggest that if C.S had written his material in the 1st century we might be asking the question of whether or not this Lewis fellow could have informed the New Testament writers.
I hope this clarifies my position.
This is afterthought edit: Here is a link Transscript of podcast on Enoch by Michael Heiser.