Updated: Jun 18, 2022
There are some that incredibly claim Jesus went to hell for three days and nights for our sins. This is bizarre but I think I know where the teaching is derived from; through the misinterpretation of certain passages in Acts. But Jesus went to hell during His three days in the grave no more than the belly of the whale being an actual literal "belly of hell" (Jon. 2:2) – the place of torment.
It doesn’t make any Biblical sense, nor does it line up with the truth of the gospel. God made hell for the devil and his angels and subsequently for all who die in their sins, not for those who repent and believe in His Son and definitely not for His Son. Jonah did not go into the flames of hell; nor did Jesus. He did not go to hell to suffer for our sins. It was on the cross itself where Christ was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). It was then that the holy Father turned away from Him and Christ cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The Bible tells us that in the three hours of darkness, the Lord Jesus took the wrath of God that we deserve and after the three hours He cried "it is finished"! He took not just the vinegar but the cup of the wrath of God. Gods wrath was poured upon Jesus at the cross, not in Hell. It was at that point that redemption was finished, completed. The finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. The vail was rent in two, at that very moment (Mk. 15:37-38 cf. Jn. 19:30), marking completion of Christ's atonement and the path open for all to enter into the Holy of hollies, not just the Jewish high priest, and become "heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17), our High Priest. If Jesus still needed to go to Hell to complete man's redemption from sin (which would really be the only reason for that, and what they typically teach that believe this), He wouldn't have prematurely cried "it is finished", nor would the veil have rent in twain at that point. There was no atoning price left to pay by Jesus in hell.
The Bible never says anywhere that our sins were taken to hell. And it actually tells us where they were taken. Our sins were covered and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary (1 Pet. 1:19), and then nailed on the cross (Col. 2:14), for "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," and "by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24), taking our "trespasses . . . out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (Col. 2:14). Clearly, Christ paid the atonement for sin on the cross itself by His death and blood (Rom. 5:8-9). The Levitical sacrifices teach us that it is the blood that makes the atonement (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22), not Hell.
One thing is absolutely certain—our sins were not taken to Hell, nor were we healed by the Lord Jesus Christ going to a burning Hell of torment for three days and nights to suffer for man’s sins. It is on the tree that that they were redeemed for, not in hell. There would be no other reason for Him going to the torment of hell.
I don't believe the passages that are typically referenced teach this, which are Ps 16:10 and Ac 2:27. I believe the context and the words found therein mean something else.
I believe this view is espoused upon: (1) a misinterpretation of the word “hell” in the OT and NT, and (2) a misinterpretation of Ps. 16:10 and Ac. 2:27.
1. First of all, the latter. I am convinced that upon a careful reading and following the context that precedes and follows both these passages in Ps. 16 and Ac. 2, it is king David speaking mostly of himself (read carefully Ps. 16:1-9, 11 and Ac. 2:25-26, 28) and is specifically referring to himself as being delivered from "Hell" in these two passages (Ac. 2:27; Ps. 16:10). In Ac. 2:25-26 we see the personal pronouns of whom is in mind here:
"For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw . . . HE [Jesus] is on MY right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did MY heart rejoice, and MY tongue was glad; moreover also MY flesh shall rest in hope",
at which point we enter into v. 27 with the first tense continuing:
"Because thou wilt not leave MY soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer THINE Holy One to see corruption."
This is exactly the same as Ps. 16:10:
"For thou wilt not leave MY soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer THINE Holy One to see corruption."
We see the voice tense transition of David in this passage from himself (the first half) to the Lord Jesus (the second half). The personal pronouns are unmistakable. The first half is clearly David still speaking of himself, while the second half is David clearly speaking of the Lord Jesus, who is God's "Holy One.” The "corruption" of Christ's body (v. 27b) is referring to what normally takes place in a decaying body, after three days of death. Christ's body was resurrected on the third day, so He did not see "corruption,” while God could have raised Him after three days if He had wanted to, like He did with Lazarus (four days). The point and prophecy was however, NO corruption. Jesus had to rise in three days, just as the sign of Jonah’s time in the great whale (Jon. 1:17-2:2). If we continue reading the next verse (Ac. 2:28), we see that the context and voice tense changes back to David speaking of himself:
"THOU [God] hast made known to ME the ways of life [Jesus obviously already knew the “ways of life” for He is the way and the life and the truth – Jn. 14:6] thou shalt make ME full of joy with THY [God's] countenance."
In Ps. 16, it is exactly the same, with many more personal pronouns concerning David. Then in Mk. 12:35-37, Jesus says that this is how the conversation went concerning who was speaking.
So in summary, we see the context of Ac. 2:25-28 clearly starts with David speaking of himself: "For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw . . ." which then continues on with him referring to himself ("MY" and "ME") 7 times, including v. 27, "Thou wilt not leave MY soul in hell" which refers, seen contextually, to being delivered from the paradise section of hades, the meaning of hell here, and my next point.
2. Secondly, on the former. What I have written above, does not ignore or undermine the truth that Jesus went to "the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:40), "the lower parts of the earth" (Eph. 4:9), pictured by Jonahs three days and nights in the belly of the whale, the only sign given to the sign-seeking Jewish religionists. I believe the misunderstanding of where Jesus went can be cleared up by a study of the Greek word Hades and Hebrew word Sheol (both translated as Hell or grave in their respective inspired Testaments) including in their proper contexts and bearing in mind that salvation has always been exactly the same, OT or NT.
In the OT the word "hell" is translated from the Hebrew “sheol,” which has two meanings. Sometimes “sheol” means the place where the bodies of the dead are laid, that is “grave" (Ps. 6:5; Ecc. 9:10; Is. 38:18-19) but most of the time it refers to the place where departed spirits go, whether saved or lost (Gen. 37:35; De. 32:22; Ps. 9:17; 30:3; 55:15; Pr. 9:18; 15:24; 23:14; Is. 5:14; 14:15; Ezk. 31:16; 32:21, 27).
The NT equivalent to “sheol” is the Greek word “hades,” the word used in Ac. 2:27, when Peter quotes from Ps. 16:10. The “sheol” of the OT is the “hades” of the NT. That “sheol”/“hades” had two compartments seems apparent from the fact that both the saved (David in Ps. 16:10a; Ac. 2:27a) and the unsaved (e.g. "The wicked . . . and all the nations that forget God." – Ps. 9:17) went to “sheol,” and also illustrated in the NT by the rich man and Lazarus – where we see both sides could see and talk to teach other, although there was "a great gulf fixed" between them, which is the bottomless pit (Lk. 16:23-26). Both paradise and hell torment were in the same place, obvious by the account in Lk. 16, which is in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40).
This is what Paul is referring to in Eph. 4:9, where we read that Christ descended “into the lower parts of the earth.” There is a place of comfort called “paradise” (Abrahams bosom) and a place of torment in “sheol” or “hades” separated by a huge gulf (Lk. 16:26). All of the dead saved and lost went to “sheol”/“hades” prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The saved were waiting in Abraham's bosom (“paradise”) for the payment for sin to be made. When it was made, Jesus "went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:19) and announced His victory to the unsaved – the disobedient (1 Pet. 3:18-21), and “He led captivity captive" (Eph. 4:8), taking the saved to heaven as the first fruits of His victory (Eph. 4:8-9; 1 Cor. 15:20-23). He emptied Abraham's bosom which doesn't exist anymore. But the lost are still in the torments part, waiting to be cast into hell (Rev. 20:14), because the lake of fire isn’t ready to receive them yet. Jesus did indeed go to hades when He died, where David had been promised deliverance from (Ps. 16:10; Ac. 2:27a), which was the paradise part of Hades. We know that because of Lk. 23, where Jesus told the repentant thief, "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." That was Abraham's bosom, where Lazarus had gone, one of the two parts of hades. Jesus is actually telling us in Lk. 23 exactly what part of hades He is going to, paradise. The thief would be with Him there, that day yet.
So the OT saved went to Abraham’s bosom (paradise), which we see with the repentant crucified thief (Lk. 16:23), and the unsaved go to the “lowest hell” from which David was delivered through salvation (Ps. 86:13) but the rich man not (Lk. 16:24). The "lowest hell" was a place of torment where unsaved souls await the judgment for their works at the Great White Throne at the end of the Millennium. All, whether OT or NT, are promised deliverance from this "lowest hell" at salvation. The "hell" that David was promised not to be left in (Ps. 16:10a; Ac. 2:27a), was not the same "lowest hell" (Ps. 86:13) but paradise (the same word is translated both paradise and torment) which we know because of the context, which determines the meaning (Ps. 16:1-9; Ac. 2:25-26). When Jesus rose from the dead He raised all the OT saints ("he led captivity captive" – Eph. 4:8-10) who awaited the completion of the work of redemption. Christ was the first fruits of them that slept (died) and after His resurrection the OT saints also rose (Matt. 27:52-53) —some even appearing in Jerusalem. So when Christ ascended, He took captivity captive (Eph.4:8-10) and led Paradise into the third heaven where God dwells (2 Cor. 12:1-4). After Christ arose, hades contained only one part — a place of torment. Since that time hades is only for the souls of the unsaved who await the Great White Throne judgment to receive the degree of hell fire punishment for their works. Gehenna is the lake of fire — everlasting fire “prepared for the Devil and his angels” — only resurrected unsaved souls go to “gehenna.” At the second advent, the Antichrist and those who follow him in the Tribulation, will be given their resurrection bodies and cast into the lake of fire (Dan. 12:2; Matt 25:41; Rev. 19:20).
Jesus did NOT go to hell for the redemption of man’s sin. This is not only erroneous, it is heretical and worse, blasphemous. If you believe this, you need to urgently repent of believing such a horribly bad teaching.