Did Jesus Christ have to go to to
hell to pay for our sins? Where was Jesus while His body lay
in the tomb for three days? In order to find the answer to
these questions, a few background facts in the Bible have
to be understood first.
Before Jesus Christ ascended to heaven (Acts
1:9), God's children went to a place called "Abraham's
bosom" when they died rather than going straight to heaven.
When Jesus told the person next to him on the cross, "Today
you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke
23:42) it is most likely that “Paradise”
referred to “Abraham's bosom”. Jesus' account
of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26)
gives us a contrast between Abraham's bosom and the place
where the unsaved go, a place the Bible calls "hell".
The Bible seems to indicate that when Jesus died He "descended
down into the earth" (Ephesians
4:9) to Abraham's bosom and "led captivity captive"
(Ephesians 4:8); that is, He
led everyone in Abraham's bosom to the presence of God in
heaven. Ever since Jesus ascended to heaven, God’s children
go straight to heaven rather than going to Abraham’s
bosom when they die.
The place the Bible calls “hell” is where all
the unsaved people wait for the final judgment at the end
of time, after which they will go to "the lake which
burns with fire and brimstone" (Revelation
21:8). One fact that is often overlooked is that the
lake of fire is the final destination of the unsaved, not
the place the Bible refers to as "hell" (the New
Testament Greek word Hades and the Old Testament
Hebrew word Shoel are both translated "hell"
in English). The Bible seems to indicate that nobody has been
to the lake of fire yet. Even fallen angels are waiting in
hell for the final judgment: “For if God did not spare
the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered
them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment...”
(2 Peter 2:4) After the "Great
White Throne" Judgment (Revelation
20:11) the unsaved will be cast into the lake of fire:
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was
cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation
The passage that states Jesus descended “down into the
earth” has led some to think that Jesus had to go to
hell to pay for our sins; but the differentiation between
“hell” and the “lake of fire”, along
with passages in Hebrew chapter 9, clear up this misunderstanding.
Rather than going to hell to pay for our sins, the book of
Hebrews states that Jesus went to "the Most Holy Place"
in heaven, and there He offered "His own blood"
to pay for our sins and obtain "eternal redemption"
for everyone who trusts in Him (Hebrews
9:12). The steps of Jesus into "the Most Holy
Place" in heaven were foreshadowed for 1,500 years during
Israel’s annual Day of Atonement when the high priest
entered the “the holy place made with hands” (Hebrews
9:24) in the temple in Jerusalem and sprinkled blood
from an animal sacrifice on the mercy seat (Leviticus
We can’t be certain what the Bible means when it says
Jesus descended “down into the earth”, but one
fact that we can be certain of is that Jesus Christ bore the
penalty for our sins on the cross. He "bore our sins
in His own body on the tree..." (1
Peter 2:24) All the Old Testament animal sacrifices
were a foreshadow of the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
That is why Jesus Christ was called "the Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world." (John
1:29) The book of Hebrews explains how the final sacrifice
of Jesus Christ replaced the Old Testament sacrifices: "But
Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with
the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands,
that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats
and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy
Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For
if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer,
sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the
flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through
the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse
your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ...
... once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away
sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for
men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was
offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly
wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin,
for salvation." (Hebrews 9:11-28)