Jesus Spent 3 Days & 3 Nights in Hell

Pastor Anderson's Blog

November 24, 2016

The Bible teaches that Jesus spent three days and three nights in hell between his physical death on the cross and the resurrection, but for some reason, this doctrine has become unpopular. Some have tried to use this teaching against me for shock value because most people nowadays have never even heard of it. I don’t care if the whole world stops believing that Jesus’ soul went to hell, I will continue to preach on it since it is so clear in scripture. David prophesied about it in Psalm 16, and the passage is interpreted in the New Testament in Acts Chapter Two:

“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Psalm 16:10

“He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” Acts 2:31

Jonah also foretold of the three days and three nights Christ would spend in Hell:

"And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." - Jonah 2:2

“The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.” Jonah 2:5-6

Notice how some of the above passage is referring to Jonah’s actual experience in the whale’s belly, while other statements are clearly symbolic. In case there was any doubt that Jonah was prophesying about Jesus’ experience in hell, the association between the two events is confirmed in Matthew 12:40:

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

The Oxford dictionary website lists the second definition for the word heart as: “the central or innermost part of something.”

I often use an artichoke heart as an example of this definition of heart. Also, when we talk about a person’s heart metaphorically, we are referring to the very core of their being. When the Bible talks about Jesus being in the heart of the earth, it is referring to hell. A sepulcher perhaps a few feet below ground level is not anywhere near the heart or center of the earth.

A common objection people will make is that they will bring up what Jesus said to the thief on the cross. Yes, he told the thief he would be with him in paradise that day because God is omnipresent, meaning he can be in more than one place at once.

“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” Psalm 139:8

Some will try to go back to the Greek and claim that hell doesn’t mean hell. They’ll try to say hell in Acts 2:31 is referring to paradise or what some wrongly refer to as “Abraham’s bosom.” (Paradise in the Bible is actually synonymous with Heaven.)

Acts 2 and Psalm 16 would not make sense if Jesus was enjoying himself since he clearly did not want to be left in that place. Hell means hell and the time Jesus spent there was a part of the sacrifice.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me on this. I am not saying that one must believe that Jesus went to hell to be saved. The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection. (The reason Jehovah’s Witnesses are not saved is because they don’t believe in the bodily resurrection.)

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9

As if Psalm 16, Acts 2, Matthew 12:40, and Jonah 2 weren’t enough, this doctrine is alluded to in literally hundreds of verses! What about all of those burnt offerings in the Old Testament? The animal sacrifices were all pointing to Jesus Christ. Why did those symbolic offerings include fire and burning if Jesus Christ did not also have to go through the fire?

Even though our understanding of this doctrine is not a salvation issue, we should not ignore the spiritual component of Jesus’ death. Realizing more of what our Lord went through gives us a greater appreciation for what he did for us. We know that the price of sin is a physical death as well as a spiritual one, and we are thankful for every aspect of the salvation plan.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Here is the sermon where I discuss this subject in more detail.

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