What was Jesus doing those three days He was dead?

I have heard some preachers speak about how when Jesus was crucified, he descended into hell, (and the stories vary from there); Jesus stole the keys from the devil, sent demons screaming, chained up demons, etc., etc. I can't seem to find this in the Gospels. Have I missed something?

Thanks for your time.

My response is in Green:

No I don't think you have missed anything, I think some people make things up in their minds and preach them as truth. The Bible does give us a few hints as to what happened during those three days. Jesus did not have to steal the keys from anyone, He did not have to send demons screaming anywhere and some demons have been chained long before Jesus died.

Okay let me start by showing what the Bible does say and then I will show you why I said some of the things I just said.

The first passage I want to show you is in 1 Peter and it says that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison:

(1 Peter 3:18-19 NIV) [18] For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, [19] through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison...

Now it is important to understand what this means. We can get two very good clues. The first clue is found in what the Jews believed about Hades. They believed that Hades was broken into two compartments. One compartment which they called Paradise is where the believers went when they died. The second compartment was where non-believers went when they died. They believed that both of these compartments were in the bowels of the earth.

Anyway, the spirits in prison would refer to those souls who were awaiting punishment. I will come back to that idea in a few minutes, but let me show you a story that Jesus told which confirms the idea of two compartments in the same place:

(Luke 16:19-31 NIV) [19] "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. [20] At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores [21] and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
[22] "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. [23] In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. [24] So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
[25] "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. [26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
[27] "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, [28] for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
[29] "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
[30] "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
[31] "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

As I said this gives proof to the idea that the two compartments were together in the same place. It also shows us that those on both sides could hear and know what was going on in the other compartment. So now look at where Jesus said He would be (in a round about way).

(Luke 23:43 NIV) Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Now let me get back to the idea that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. We know from what the Bible tells us that you only have while you are alive to make a decision to follow God or reject His offer of salvation. Knowing that, I am sure that what Jesus was doing was explaining to both those in Paradise and those awaiting punishment what God's plan of salvation was. Before this time, people still had to place their faith in God, but they did not know who Jesus was going to be or how God was going to accomplish their salvation. So this would have been exciting news for those in Paradise and painful news to those in prison.

(Ephesians 4:8 NIV) This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."

This passage goes to the very idea of why people were in Hades and not in heaven. I need to quote one more passage to explain.

(Matthew 27:50-51 NIV) [50] And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
[51] At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

Notice that at the very moment that Jesus gave up His spirit (or in other words died) the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The curtain in the temple was what separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place. The Holy of Holies was the place where the ark of the covenant was and on the ark of the covenant was the mercy seat. This is where it was said that God lived with man, He was enthroned between the Cherubim on the mercy seat. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and he could only enter once a year to make payment for the sins of the people. They even had to tie a rope around his leg so that they could pull him out if he died in there.

So this curtain separated the common man from God. That is the significance of it being torn from top to bottom. God tore it, because Jesus had made the 'once for all' sacrifice which covered the sins which had separated man from God. We see this in this passage:

(Hebrews 10:10 NIV) And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Then just a couple of verses later:

(Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV) [19] Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, [20] by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, [21] and since we have a great priest over the house of God, [22] let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

My point is this; before Jesus made the perfect sacrifice for our sins we were still sinful and were precluded from entering into the presence of our Holy God. That included the dead Old Testament Saints. That is why they were in Paradise and not in heaven; the way had not yet been opened for them. Now if you go back to the passage which says that when He ascended He took captives with Him it will make sense. Now when a believer dies they don't go to Paradise they go straight to heaven because Jesus opened the way for us.

So for those three days, when He was dead, I believe Jesus was preaching the gospel to both the saved and the unsaved. One group would have been elated and finally understand the great salvation which was theirs. The other group would have been tormented by the very idea that they had missed such a great and wondrous gift from God, whom they had refused to serve.

I want to now go back to the statements I made at the beginning about what others preach. For example that Jesus was in hell tormenting the demons. The problem there is that the demons were not in hell:

(Matthew 8:28-29 NIV) [28] When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. [29] "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

Also if you notice the demons mention the appointed time. This is speaking of judgment. We see other references to it such as this one:

(Revelation 12:12 NIV) Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.

Also the idea that God ever lost the keys to the earth, or to hell or anything else is ridiculous. In Genesis we read that God is the one who put the curse on all of creation, not Satan. We see in Job that Satan was only able to do what God allowed him to do. No Jesus did not need to get the keys to anything back and even if He had needed to, He would not have had to steal them, He is God He who could resist Him?

As to Jesus chaining demons. There are some demons who are not free to torment man now but that was not done when Jesus died. We are not told what they did to get locked up, but here is the passage which shows some are locked away:

(2 Peter 2:4 NIV) For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

We also know that at least a few are going to be released later:

(Revelation 9:14-15 NIV) [14] It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." [15] And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.

But again this shows that everything is moving according to God's plan, Jesus did not have to fight these demons anymore than He had to fight the demons who were in the demoniac.

I hope that helps. I know there are people out there who preach that Jesus was beaten and tormented in hell for those three days, but again that is just false teaching with no biblical basis at all.

Take care,


E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)

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