21 April 2006

What Did Jesus Do Between the Time of Crucifixion and Resurrection?

Dear Mr. Waddey:
Can you please tell me what Jesus did between the time of crucifixion and resurrection?

Dear Randy:
Thanks for your inquiry about what Jesus did during his three days in the tomb. Your question derives from two verses that are often misunderstood.

Acts 2:26-27, King James Version, where the prophetic words of David are placed in the mouth of Jesus, "Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

I Pet. 3:18-20, KJV, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which were sometime disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah..."

The difficulty is caused in part by the faulty rendering of the KJV. The passage in Acts correctly reads: "because you will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your Holy One see decay..." (Acts 2:27 NIV).

The passage in I Peter is also clarified by the NIV "He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built...(I Pet. 3:18-20).

Failing to note that the original text of the Acts passage reads, "Thou wilt not leave my soul unto "hades," i.e., the place of the dead, and not "Gehenna," the place where the damned are eternally punished, several of the Protestant Creeds teach that Jesus went to hell when he died. Then moving to Peter's passage, they mistakenly add that while in hell he preached to the people there. But neither assumption is correct.

When Jesus died his body was placed in the tomb or grave, that is the proper rendering of the Old Testament term "Sheol." His spirit that he commended to God (Luke 23:46) went to Paradise (Luke 23:43). The only description we have of Paradise is found in Luke 16:22-31, the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. He was thus in a place of joy, comfort, peace and consciousness.

Peter's words taken in proper context teach the following:

When Jesus died on the cross his spirit lived on in the spirit realm.

It was in that same (non-fleshly), spirit state that he had preached to the sinful people of Noah's day during the 120 years when the ark was being prepared.

He preached to those contemporaries of Noah by inspiring with his Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:21), Noah who is described as "a preacher of righteousness" (II Pet. 2:5). We know that all but Noah's family rejected his message of repentance and salvation. Be reminded that then as now, Jesus used his faithful disciples to proclaim his message to sinners.

Those people of Noah's day had long since died and their sinful spirit's were imprisoned in that part of the spirit world reserved for the wicked. That is the place where the sinful rich man of the Luke 16 was sent at death. At the time Peter wrote his letter they were thus imprisoned in that awful place.

When death occurs, whether to the righteous or to the wicked, their bodies go to the grave and their spirits to Hades, the place of departed spirits. The righteous go to a paradise called, "Abraham's bosom." The wicked go to a place of torment.

In paradise or torment all will wait until Christ comes again to raise the dead (John 5:28-29). At that time all will receive a body suited for eternity. The righteous receives a body for eternal life with God their father; the wicked receive a body for an eternity of punishment with their father, the devil (John 8:44).

As to any details of what Jesus may have done while his spirit was in paradise we have no information. One thing we can be sure of he did not give the wicked dead a second chance at salvation. He taught; if we die in our sins, where he is we cannot come (John 8:21).

In the parable of Luke 16, Abraham told the Rich man that there is a great gulf separating them and no one could pass over (Luke 16:26). Heb. 9:27 indicates to us, “it is appointed unto men once to die and after this cometh judgment.” It is the fond hope that those who die lost might receive a second offered of salvation that leads many to embrace the view that Christ went to hell and preached salvation to lost sinners.

A final thought, your Bible study will be enriched if you consult several different Bible translations when you come across difficult passages such as those we have considered.

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