Where did Jesus go when He died? Did he descend into hell, or did He ascend into heaven? Did Jesus suffer God’s wrath only while on the cross, or did He suffer in the grave as well?
Some believe that God’s wrath was completely poured out on Christ on the cross. Jesus stated on the cross that it was finished, paid in full, John 19:30. So it seems that when Jesus dismissed His spirit He had already satisfied the demands of God’s wrath against sin. In fact, the epistles tell over and over again about the triumph of the cross, not Christ’s time in the grave.
According to Psalm 16, we should believe that He went to the grave at some point in time. At first glance, Psalm 16 doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with our theology of where Christ went upon His death. But Peter’s preaching in Acts 2:24-32 should secure the fact that this can be considered foundational for our teaching on where He went upon His death.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
My flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
Or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Not only should this psalm teach that Jesus went to Sheol, or Hades, or the grave, we should also see the end portion as His final destination. Christ rose to the place at the right hand of the LORD. Those pleasures are the true pleasures that we should desire. Since He is there, we should set our affections on things above, Colossians 3:1-4. This passage in Colossians should also play into our doctrine on the end times. So Christ did not stay in the grave, but wound up at the right hand of the Father. But when did that happen? Did He descend into the grave, and then immediately ascend into heaven, and then come back to earth to rise again on Resurrection Sunday? Or was He in the grave the entire three days?
What other passages would play into our teaching on this subject? Where in the New Testament can we go? It seems that there is nothing overly clear, but we have to kind of piece it together from several scant references. Ephesians 4:8-10, Colossians 2:15, I Peter 3:18-22 are all cited to show Christ’s activities while in the grave, or while He was in the realm of the dead. But there is nothing overly specific about these passages.
In the OT, we can turn to certain psalms, but there it seems that this teaching is slightly veiled as well. Psalm 40, 69, and 116 are all good places to turn, but I don’t think we can be overly dogmatic about them. The psalmist asked for deliverance from the grave, and this could be prophetic of the Messiah in the same way that Psalm 16 is. But our theology remains a bit fuzzy even after studying them.
There is one passage in the NT that should help us out, though.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Here is seems that Jesus was in the grave, Hades, Sheol, or whatever pertinent term you want to call the realm of the dead for the entire three days and three nights. It makes me wonder why it had to happen this way, but God determined this before it even occurred. So He must have His reasons. There is one very interesting Old Testament passage that may shed a little light on this for us. The language is vivid. See if you can guess where it is from.
I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
And He answered me;
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And you heard my voice.
Then I said, “I am driven away
from your sight;
Yet I shall again look
Upon your holy temple.”
At the roots of the mountains
I went down to the land
Whose bars closed upon me forever;
Yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
And my prayer came to your,
Into your holy temple.
Come on, prophecy students. Where is it from? In couple of days I will leave the answer in the comments if no one gets it. And no cheating either. Use only your knowledge of the Bible.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman