Did Jesus go to hell (did Jesus descend to hell)?

Many have found the eighth line in the Apostles’ Creed, which states “he descended into hell,” quite controversial. Some hold that since it is not explicitly stated in the Bible, the statement cannot be held at the same level of authority. Others believe it is accurate, as supported by numerous Bible verses and accounts of people who walked and talked with Jesus. So, did Jesus go to hell?

1 Peter 3:18-20 seems to support what is declared in the apostle’s creed, that Jesus went to hell, as it talks about Jesus preaching to spirits imprisoned from a long time ago.

But where does the Bible indicate that Jesus went to hell? How long did he stay there, and why did he have to go to hell? Read on to find the answers to these age-old questions.

Where in the Bible does it say Jesus went to hell?

The apostles’ teaching, including Paul in Ephesians, suggests that Jesus went to the abyss or prison. For instance, Ephesians 4:9-10 (ESV) states, “In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”

Similarly, in 1 Peter 3:19-20(ESV), the Bible says, “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison because they formerly did not obey when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah.”

In these verses, Jesus is implied to be in hell, where disobedient spirits were held captive.


did Jesus descend to hell?
Exactly how long was Jesus in hell? See below

How long did Jesus stay in hell?

Most scholars believe Jesus was in hell for only a short time because he went to paradise the day that he died, as he promised the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43 (ESV), where he says, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Most agree that he was not abandoned to languish in Hades, an opinion they support using both Acts 2:31 about Psalm 16:10-11(ESV), “ For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”

We can surmise that when he took enough time to preach to the imprisoned souls, as suggested in 1 Peter 3:19-20.

So, exactly how long was Jesus in hell? The Bible does not state it in hours or days. What is clear is that he was with the spirits that had disobeyed for some time between when he died and his resurrection on the third day. 

Did Jesus go to hell?
What does Jesus descending to hell represent? See below

According to the New Testament, why did Jesus descend to hell?

1 Peter 3:18–22 and 1 Peter 4:6 (ESV) state, “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” – seems to suggest that Jesus went to hell to preach to the dead, also referred to as imprisoned souls.

Other scriptures, such as Philippians 2:10–11 appear to imply that by descending to hell, Jesus was proclaiming victory over death, evil, and Satan. Matthew 27:52 implies that he sets the captives free from the bondage they had been in for many years. 

Where do Bible scholars believe that Jesus went after he died?

Having placed his body in the tomb, the question that Bible scholars grapple with when they ask, “Where was Jesus?” is not about his body but his essence.

Some scholars, such as the Zondervan academy, believe that Jesus went to Sheol after he died. According to them, Sheol is the term used and translated as the realm of the dead in the Hebrew Scriptures. This belief seems to be supported by the scripture in Ephesians 4:8-10 which talks about Jesus leading a host of captives, while one Bible version states it as leading “captivity captive.” Most Bible scholars interpret this to mean that Jesus went down to the prison and preached to the souls in captivity. Luke 23:43 also suggests he went to paradise on the day he died.

So, where did he go after he died? According to the scriptures, he was in Hades for some time, preaching to the spirits there. He set the dead free from Sheol. They were seen by many in Jerusalem after his resurrection. Jesus then ascended to heaven. However, these widely accepted beliefs are not held in common by all scholars.


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