Did Jesus have to stay in Hell longer than 3 days?

hellI know Jesus’s sacrifice was a propitiation for our sins, but the part that stumps me is that Jesus only had to die physically.  He didn’t experience eternal separation from God as I would. Jesus only went to Hell for 3 days, so who is serving my “life sentence” there if Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father?

Jesus’ time in the grave was not a payment for our sin or the reason we avoid eternity in Hades. As the question points out, Jesus was dead for only three days, yet God’s word decrees an eternal death (i.e., separation from God) for any who reject Christ and die in sin. In reality, Jesus’ time spent in the grave served an entirely different purpose in God’s plan.

First, the wording of the question assumes that “spending eternity in hell” is similar to serving time in prison for a crime. Such a comparison falls short of explaining why the unjust are sent to the Lake of Fire. To know Hades true purpose, we must begin by understanding what Jesus’ death accomplished on our behalf.

When Adam was instructed not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God promised that if he disobeyed, Adam would die. Later in Revelation 20:14 we learn that the death God was speaking about in Genesis is the “second” death, which is an eternity spent in the Lake of Fire. This is God’s promised outcome for sin. It is not a period of restitution or “paying off our debt.” Rather, it is the future existence God decreed for any who disobey His word.

Secondly, Scripture says that God’s perfect character must display wrath against unholiness, and, therefore, our very sinful nature demands that we receive God’s wrath. Men remain subject to His wrath for as long as they exist in sin, and those who die in their sins without placing their trust in Jesus Christ remain eternally sinful. Therefore, they remain eternally subject to God’s wrath because the sin nature of the unbeliever follows them into the grave. They must live forever in Hell (and later the Lake of Fire) because there is no solution to their sin if they reject Christ.

Jesus Christ addressed both these issues on our behalf by His sinless life and sacrificial death on the cross. First, Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. He had no sin of His own, scripture says. Since He lived a sinless life, Jesus did not warrant God’s wrath nor did He deserve death. Therefore, His perfect life is available for God to credit to us by faith. When we believe in the God’s word, we are given Christ’s righteousness. Paul expresses it this way:

Philippians 3:9 (NKJV)

and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

So, believers in Jesus Christ are made righteous by our faith. We have “put on” Christ, Paul says in Romans 13:14, meaning we are covered in His righteousness, which was given to us by the Father through faith in Christ. Therefore, we enter Heaven because we are righteous by faith.

Secondly, Jesus’s death on the cross gave an opportunity for God’s wrath to be satisfied for sin. Though we deserved God’s wrath for our sin, Jesus took God’s wrath on our behalf. His death on the cross was the moment God’s wrath for sin was poured out on Jesus, as He became our propitiation or payment.

1 John 2:2 (NKJV)

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Take note that God’s wrath for sin was satisfied in the death of Christ alone. God’s did not require that Jesus spend time in Hades to satisfy His wrath because as we said earlier, the Second Death is not a “payment” to satisfy God’s wrath. It is the dwelling place assigned to those who exist in sin eternally. Since Jesus had no sin of His own, He had no reason to live in Hell (or the Lake of Fire) forever.

Therefore, believers avoid eternal death not because Jesus took our place in Hades; we escape that punishment because by our faith in Christ we become eligible to live in Heaven. Our entrance into Heaven requires both a payment for our sins and we being made righteousness. Christ accomplished both for us by His life and death. By Christ’s sinless life, we have been credited with Christ’s righteousness, and by Christ’s death on the cross, God’s wrath for our sin has been appeased.

So why did Jesus spend three days in the grave after He died?

First, Jesus spent three days in the grave to prove He was the Messiah, risen from the dead in fulfillment of scripture:

Psalm 16:9-10 (NKJV)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope (dwell securely).
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to (decay) see corruption.

Hosea 6:1-2 (NKJV)

A Call to Repentance

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind (bandage) us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.

Matthew 12:38-40 (NKJV)

The Scribes and Pharisees Ask for a Sign

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus remain dead for three days to fulfill scripture and to demonstrate He was the Messiah. The three-day period Jesus spent in the grave precluded anyone charging Jesus “faked” His death. Three days was enough time to establish beyond any doubt that Jesus was truly dead so that when He resurrected, everyone could know He kept His promise to abolish death.

Secondly, Jesus used His time in the grave to preach to those in Sheol, the holding place of the dead prior to the resurrection. Sheol is two parts: Abraham’s Bosom and Hades. You can read about these two places in Luke 16.

Prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, Old Testament saints (i.e., believers ) who died were unable to enter Heaven. Though they were righteous by their faith even before Christ’s death on the cross (e.g., Romans 4:9), until Jesus blood was spilled, God’s  wrath had not been satisfied. Therefore, the Lord made a place of comfort for OT saints to wait until the Lord’s coming.

After His death, Jesus descended into Sheol, to Abraham’s Bosom, which is the side of Sheol reserved for the saints. It is not a place or torment. Jesus never experienced “Hell” or torment during the time He was in the grave. Instead, Peter says that Jesus used the three days in the grave to “preach” to the Old Testament saints and to the unbelievers held in the other side of Sheol, Hades, which is a prison for unbelievers as they await their judgment day:

1 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

Continue reading

Will We recognize each other in Heaven?

                                                                                     In heaven, will believers recognize one another as we do on earth?


We know for certain that our identities will continue into the Kingdom age when we occupy new bodies. We know this for two reasons. First, Scripture makes reference to the identities of individuals in the Kingdom. For example, Scripture tells us that David will rule over Israel as Prince:

Ezekiel 34:23-24 (NKJV)

23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

Speaking of the Kingdom, the Lord says that Jesus will be the God for all Israel and He will set His servant David as prince over the people of Israel. David is called “prince” and not king because Jesus will be King over all the earth in that day. Nevertheless, the fact that David will be known as prince over Israel tells us that David’s identity will be known among those on Earth. So if we can know David’s identity in the Kingdom, it stands to reasons we too will retain our identities.  Continue reading

The Rapture Happens Pretribulation – Part 4

Is the Rapture a Pretribulation Event?

The timing of the rapture (or Resurrection) of the church is a hotly debated question, yet one that can be easily resolved from scripture. The source of our confusion is taking verses and words of the Bible out of context while ignoring the whole counsel of scripture.

Meanwhile, the wrath Paul is talking about in 1 Thessalonians is not a specific reference to the Bowl Judgments. Rather, Paul is talking about the wrath of all Tribulation. In 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul is comforting the church that they did not miss the resurrection, as some false teachers had been claiming. Though the church was suffering great persecution at the hands of the Jews and Romans, nevertheless their experience was not the Tribulation as some feared.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (NKJV)

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

11 Therefore comfort (encourage) each other and edify one another (build one another up), just as you also are doing.

Paul says that the Church is not appointed to experience God’s wrath. He meant that the Church need not fear they had missed the resurrection and were therefore  experiencing the Tribulation. Paul had taught the Church earlier that the Rapture must precede the Tribulation, yet other false teachers had convinced them that they were presently enduring the Tribulation. Therefore, the church was concerned that the arrival of Tribulation meant they had missed the resurrection.

Paul responds by reassuring the Church that they are not appointed or destined to wrath, meaning the wrath of Tribulation. Therefore, they could be comforted knowing that their resurrection was still to happen.

The key to interpreting this passage properly is in understanding that the entire seven years of Tribulation is considered the “wrath of God.” The Bowl Judgment are just the final and greatest outpouring of wrath during those seven years, but the wrath of God is evident in all the judgments of Tribulation, as Revelation teaches us:

Revelation 15:1 (NKJV)

Prelude to the Bowl Judgments

15 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete (finished).

Notice, the Bowl Judgments are the called “the last” because they “finish” the wrath of God in Tribulation. They are not the entirety of God’s wrath. They are the finishing of God’s wrath. Similarly, we find even the first judgments of Tribulation, the Seal Judgments, called judgments of wrath in Revelation:

Revelation 6:17 (NKJV)

17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

After the sixth Seal Judgment, the people of earth declare that the great day of “wrath” has come upon them. Clearly, God’s wrath comes to earth long before the Bowl Judgments appear. The Bowl Judgments are just the final outpouring of His wrath.

So, if Paul says the Church is not destined (or appointed) to experience wrath at all, then this means we cannot experience any of the judgments of Tribulation. That’s why Paul teaches that the coming of the Lord for the Church (i.e., the Rapture) rescues us from this coming wrath:

1 Thessalonians 1:10 (NKJV)

10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

This Is one of many places we find the scriptures teaching that the Church has nothing to fear regarding the Tribulation. It is not appointed for the Church, since it is appointed for entirely different reasons.






“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”