Does the Bible Tell Us Where Jesus Was the Three Days Between His Death and Resurrection?

by Jack Wellman on April 5, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

When Jesus died, did He immediately go to heaven?  Did He descend into hell to free those held captive by sin?  Was He in a state of limbo, purgatory, or in hell?  We know that Jesus’ died, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected, but where was He in between the days of His death and burial and His resurrection?

Where Did Jesus Go After He DiedWhere Did Jesus Go After His Death on the Cross?

The Apostle Peter makes reference to Jesus going to preach to those “imprisoned spirits” in 1 Peter 3:18-20:

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; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 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.”

Jesus was put to death “in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” means that death could not hold Him.  He was sinless and death are the wages of sin (Rom 6:23) but since Jesus never sinned, His spirit remained alive, even though He suffered death “in the flesh”(1 Peter 3:18).  Death can not truly occur to a Spirit Being, like Jesus was and is God.  The grave has no power over sinless flesh and that is why those who are Christ’s will be raised to eternal life because His righteousness is accounted to those who believe in Him.

The interesting thing here is that Peter writes that Christ made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.  Was this the proclamation of the gospel?  Did Jesus proclaim the gospel to those who had perished in the flood or to those of Noah’s family who were saved but awaiting Jesus’ redemptive work at Calvary?  Did Jesus do this while His body was in the grave?  There are many complexities in these verses.  Some believe that Jesus preached (proclaimed) the gospel to those who died in the flood and had never heard the gospel and those killed in the flood could now here it since Jesus had not yet died to save them.   Those who died in the flood had the judgment of God on them through the flood, however this is inconsistent with many Scriptures in the Bible like Hebrews 9:27 which says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  It does not say after death they will have another chance.  Were these who perished in the flood the ones that Peter referred to as the ones being “in prison?“  It does not seem to fit in these verses or in the context of biblical doctrine.

Still others feel that Jesus went to those old saints of the Old Testament who were in Paradise but not yet in heaven because Jesus had not made atonement for them yet.  We remember that Jesus said to the Thief on the Cross that “Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43)” and Jesus didn’t say “Today you will be with me in heaven.”  Are Paradise and heaven the same place?  What is Peter talking about in these verses?  It does not appear that the Old Testament saints needed to hear a proclamation from Jesus since there are all mentioned as being secure in God’s redemptive plan in the so called Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.

Jesus’ Proclamation to the Demons

Jesus was said to have made a proclamation “to the spirits now in prison.”  No where in the Bible are humans referred to as “spirits” so this seems to refer to demon spirits that are bound in the abyss and these demons are the fallen angels who were permanently bound because of heinous wickedness.  This is what John MacArthur’s Study Bible (ESV) has in their study notes (p 1894).  This seems to fit Jude 6-7 which says, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.  In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

More support for this is found in 2 Peter 2:4-5, For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness [some manuscripts read, “gloomy dungeons” or “abyss“] to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others.”  In both Jude 6-7 and 2 Peter 2:4-5, these fallen angels are in a prison, a kind of holding tank, until the day that they will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).  They are bound with “everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 6) and this proclamation “to the spirits now in prison” was where Jesus apparently was for at least part of the time between the day of His crucifixion and death and His resurrection.  How long of a time it was is not clear.  No wonder then that the Apostles Creed states that Jesus descended into hell as part of their Creed.   These fallen angels bound in prison were sent to hell (2 Peter 2:4) and so Jesus must have went there and proclaimed His victory over the Devil and all his fallen angels (demons).  Jesus may have well ascended into heaven after this and remained there until His resurrection on the third day. I could find no other Scriptures to give an account for his whereabouts during the remaining time of His death on the cross and the resurrection.

Jesus Descends into Hell

Second Peter 2:4 says, For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, [Greek for hell is Tartarus] putting them in chains of darkness [literally gloomy dungeons] to be held for judgment.” Peter intentionally uses the Greek word for hell in verse 4, Tartarus, which in Greek mythology is a place lower than Hades itself and is reserved for the most despicable and evil of all human beings, god, and demons.  Peter was emphasizing that this was the worst place in all of God’s creation of eternal torment and suffering (MacArthur’s Study Bible, p 1905).  The Jews used this term as the abode of the lowest of the low – the deepest pit there was.  The demons that were there then and must by necessity be there now, had to have been the most evil of all fallen angels. Even the demons begged and pleaded with Jesus not to cast them into the abyss when instead Jesus allowed them to go into the swine in Luke 8:31.  Jesus went down to hell to proclaim His victory but did not go there to suffer because, in reality, Calvary was a living hell in itself, since hell is the absolute absence of God and Jesus was for a time separated from the Father.  He went in spirit to hell to proclaim His victory over evil and His conquering of the grave too.  This seems to fit the meaning of the verses in 1 Peter 3:18-20.

Many Bible scholars and theologians believe that these bound demons will be released during the Great Tribulation mentioned in Revelation 9 even though we know there are many demons now roaming the earth under the sway of Satan (Rev 12:7-9).

The Abyss Opens Up in Great Tribulation

The abyss mentioned in Luke 8:31 and Matthew 8:29 is opened up for all of the most evil and destructive of these fallen angels (the worst of the demons) to punish those who refused to repent before the Great Tribulations began.  The church is gone by now.  Revelation 9:1-3, 10-11 speaks of these wicked spirits: The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.  When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.  And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).”

These now incarcerated wicked spirits (demons) are awaiting their final judgment and know that they will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire along with Satan (Rev 20:10) so they will be filled with sheer rage when they are released because they hate humans.  Their can not harm the believers so they take out their insane anger on the unrepentant, who are also ultimately headed to the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).

Hell Was Not Made for Humans

Jesus clearly states that hell was not originally intended to be the abode of humans.  In Matthew 25:41b Jesus says that the eternal fire [is] prepared for the devil and his angels.” No one has to go to hell. They have a choice.  God never puts anyone into hell…they put themselves there by their rejection of God’s One and Only Son (John 3:18).  Jesus died for all those who would place their trust in Him and promises to deliver them from the lake of fire (John 3:16).  If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ today – that is if you have not placed your trust in Him and received the faith that saves, – you are headed to hell.  He is not forcing you to go there, you are going their by your own choice. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 18:32) and He most certainly doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Pet 3:9), so come to Him today and ask for His forgiveness, repent of your sins, confess them, and you will be saved.  That is my prayer for you because if He comes again in the Second Advent before you are saved, I hate to think of your eternal destiny and the future fate of yours for time without end.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

terria brewer April 5, 2012 at 9:37 am

thot u wud like this. I love u my sister

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Mabel Jacome April 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Fantastic article! In a time when “everyone” writes & preaches on lovydovy religiousity, which is what people only want to hear, it takes boldness to write the very sad truth. There is no salvation without Jesus Christ and TRUE repentance. Which by the way would be a great topic for an article! Since people are deceived by what TRUE Christianity is! Everyone wants to believe in heaven & God’s Mercy, Love, Grace & Rewards, but they really don’t want to hear about hell or God’s wrath, which is as real as His Love! This goes for all of us, especially christians; who think is all about going through the motion of the moment, “accepting” Jesus, baptizing & then going on with your old unholy life! Most preachers today, that is exactly what they preach: “Accept Jesus as your Lord & Saviour, Confess your sins, get Baptized AND MOVE ON WITH LIFE! (Oh, and don’t forget to congregate, the pastor needs to make a living too!) They ALWAYS forget to mention the part about “by their fruits they will be known” Putting the concept of “right & wrong” in a very relevant position, in order to accomadate their lifestyle. So new age! Congratulations!

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Jack April 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Amen Mabel. We can’t tell people about the good news without telling them the bad news too. I agree that confession, repentance, find a church home, baptized, and bear fruit worthy of repentance for no good tree puts out bad fruit nor bad tree good fruit and it is written, “you will know them by their fruits.” I, like you, resist the urge to preach (at my church) the real good, feel good, we’re all good gospel because Jesus spoke on hell more than heaven. I believe it is more than “accept Jesus” but it is confess, profess, and possess. Thank you for your zealous comment Mabel.

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Jane Dowden April 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Thank you so much for always backing up your articles with scripture. I gave a Bible study yester to a group of women on friendship. Your atricle on friendship helped me so much. Did I miss your article on (Can Christians be cremated)?

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Jack April 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Thank you so kindly Jane for your words of encouragement. It is awesome that you lead a Bible study. So good to hear. I did do an article on whether Christians can be cremated. It is at this link:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/should-a-christian-be-cremated/

Thank you so much Jane for your visit and the edifying words you left.

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Roselle March 26, 2013 at 5:31 am

really nice

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Albert Colaco November 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Thank you for telling it the old fashioned way.Nobody can be saved except thru’Jesus and turning away from sin and evil. Only repentance and acceptance of the shed blood of Jesus washing away our sins and accepting His lordship will save us.

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Pastor Bright March 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for your explanation about the where about of Jesus during the three days of His death. The truth is what you mension that He went to Hell to proclaim His victory over the Demons, Not that He was there to suffer like the fallen Demons. I love that , God bless you and God will continue to release more facts to you as you keep on making research .

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Jack Wellman March 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Thank you so much Pastor Bright. That means so much coming from another pastor. When I behold all that our Savior did for us, made a spectacle for us, who are all most unworthy, I can not even describe the breadth, depth, and width of such love. Indeed, no human words can express the unfathomable love that He has for us. May God richly bless you, your family, and your ministry Pastor.

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Albert Colaco May 14, 2013 at 1:09 am

This theory about Jesus going to hell to preach during the three days he was dead before he was resurrected is flawed. The fact is that Jesus gave up his spirit to the Father just before his death! And he rose again on the third day,and after spending time with his disciples for forty days,he went to heaven. What we are missing out,is that no man can go to heaven until he is resurrected on the last day. The spirits of all men return to God till the resurrection or the day of judgement! The early church never taught about going to heaven at death.That came later from the apostate church. Paul makes it very clear that all the dead in Christ are asleep till Christ returns to take his saints home on the last day.(1Thess.4:13-17)

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Francis Light June 13, 2013 at 4:08 am

dear pastor Jack i’m new born christian underground a former muslim from south east asia, not know much about our Jesus the way of life just a beginner only. Now I have a question can we pray asking to Jesus going to hades share a gospel to our relative non believer there I know its very difficulties to do. But above your article got a a quote from bible about Jesus going to hades for preaching. Is it Judas Iscariot has been save? Because Judas Iscariot hang himself early than Jesus died on the cross.

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Jack Wellman June 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Hello again Francis…I am trying to answer all of your questions and its hard to keep up as you ask several every day and I also have made about 6,000 comments and answered about 4,000 different people too.

We can not pray people out of hades or hell once they die for the Bible says that “It is appointed for man once to die, then after this, the judgment.” Jesus may have went there to preach to the old saints from the Old Testament who were already saved by their trust in God (read Hebrews 11 to see what I mean). He may have went there to tell them that He lived a sinless life, died for them, and was raised again so that they could be in Paradise. No, Judas Iscariot was not saved. He was never a believer but only wanted the money from their missions.

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Michael Sauers June 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Thank You for the clearest teaching on this subject that I’ve read so far. I’ve wondered for many years where Jesus was for those three days and I think you have it as close to being right as can be interpreted.

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Jack Wellman June 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Mr. Sauers…that is one of the nicest things I have ever had said to me…but surely, God is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise for without Him and the Holy Spirit I would know nothing! Even so, thank you so much sir.

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Angelica Matta August 2, 2013 at 1:49 am

I love this !! It’s hard to find teachings like this on the internet, teaching with the complete truth. This was great because you backed things up with the bible and it was straight foward and to the point. I’m in AWE of this ! Great Job ! Thank You for clearing this up for me because i was also wondering this same thing. God Bless You Mr. Jack Wellman !

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Jack Wellman August 2, 2013 at 6:24 am

Thank you so much Mrs. Matta for your encouraging comment. Truly we serve an awesome God and to Him be all the glory for I know nothing that I have not received.

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connie September 21, 2013 at 11:55 am

Mr. Wellman, would not the men in the days of Noah be spirits after death? I’m sure their body did not go with them. I thougth Jesus did both preached and set the spirits of man free and also proclaim victory over the demons…(Death)Iit was always my thinking that His action of setting the spirits of men free was the proclamation over death. But I am of simply a mine.

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Jack Wellman September 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Hello Connie, no ma’am, you are not of a simple mind. This is a very good question. Yes, the spirit is currently being held for the second death if they have not had faith in God and today it is faith in Christ after repentance. I believe that the men and women of Noah’s day are being held today and are spirits today “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both the of the just and unjust.”—Acts 24:15. Those who trusted in God like Noah and his family will not face the second death (Rev 20:11-15). Luke 16:19-31 gives an example of Lazarus and the rich man.

The first proof I will offer of this, is, that it has been the constant and unvarying faith of the saints from the earliest periods of time. Abraham believed the resurrection of the dead, for it is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11 verse 19, that he “accounted that God was able to raise up Isaac even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Indeed, “The hour is coming when he will call the dead to judgment, and they shall stand before his throne.” many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

Did this answer your question my friend?

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connie September 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Yes Sir , I guess I can’t understand why Jesus would preach to demons. demons can’t be saved. Is it in the Bible why he did that? thank you for replying! I’m trying to rightly divide

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Jack Wellman September 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Thank you Connie. After carefully re-reading this I see why you might say that I wrote that Jesus did preach to demons but I actually said “this seems to refer to demon spirits that are bound in the abyss and these demons are the fallen angels who were permanently bound because of heinous wickedness.”

In other words, it “seems” that He might have but we don’t know for certain and I can not say that dogmatically so I must say where the Bible is silent, I will be conclusively. It seems that way does not mean that it IS that way so I am sorry about the ambiguity or to put it as concrete evidence, which I can’t. That will be something we will find out someday but the conclusion is that He is still preaching the gospel using men and women by His Word the Bible and in conjunction with the Holy Spirit is still saving souls. I only attempted to shed some light on a possibility but not with certainty. I am glad you are hungering to know more. I have far to go myself. Thank you again.

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Daniel November 11, 2013 at 4:30 am

This is very informative. It’s exactly what a Christian like myself wanted to know. I searched for this information for a long time without finding any answers, but through this site I’ve found very scriptural answers. The information given here is a real blessing to me. God bless you abundantly.

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Jack Wellman November 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

Thank you Daniel for your very kind words my friend. It is astounding that He loved us that much to endure a living hell on the cross at Calvary. Your encouragement has been a blessing to me sir.

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Max January 26, 2014 at 10:12 am

6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above

7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

This question is to undo the work on the cross which is faith, u cause ur brother to sin with this question. Jesus took the keys of hell and freed the captives. God wouldn’t condemn the old world since Jesus hadn’t come yet. He who has the key can lock the door. (The door that no man can open and no man can close) hell is out of business, the fallen come out of the pit and come DOWN to earth. The bottomless pit is in space not earth.

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Max January 26, 2014 at 10:35 am

The past present and future are written already. The problem is the spirit of man (eve) she craves the flesh because the flesh is broken (dead) so she can do whatever she wants, she doesn’t want a new earth suit (God inside Jesus Christ) because her broken one allows her to do whatever she wants to do. She is the whore of Babylon (sin). She can’t do the will of God cause she’s to busy doing her own thing. She needs to let go that’s y her desire is to her husband (flesh). Adam really means shame, eve is the mother of all living (she is life). The lie is free will

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