Out of curiosity i have had to look into what Jesus did just after he died on the cross. What happened between the time interval from when he died and when he was resurrected? Many christians would say ‘He took the keys of the gates of Hades from the Devil then he ressurected’. Do people really know the source of this common doctrine? Is it really written anywhere in the Bible that Jesus took the keys to the gates of Hades from the Devil? Well, it was because of all these questions i looked at the clues the Bible givs about Jesus going to Hades after he died.
Firstly, what is Hades(In the greek) or Sheol(in Hebrew). Hades or Sheol has been described in the Bible as the place of the dead or the pit.
Ezekiel 31:16 says: 16I will make the nations quake at the sound of its fall when I cast it down to Sheol with those who descend into the pit, and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all [the trees] that drink water, will be comforted in the netherworld [at Assyria’s downfall].
Ezekiel 26:20 also says: 20Then I will thrust you down with those who descend into the pit (the place of the dead) to the people of olden times, and I will make you [Tyre] to dwell in the lower world like the places that were desolate of old, with those who go down to the pit, that you be not inhabited or shed forth your glory and renown in the land of the living.
So not only do we know from the first verse that Hades or Sheol is the place of the dead or the pit, we also know from Ezekiel 26:20 that this place of the dead is in the ‘lower world’.
Let’s remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man that Jesus himself told in the Bible. Both men died and after they died Lazarus was carried by the angels to ‘Abraham’s bosom’. Luke 16:23 says: 23And in Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.
We already know that Hades, is the realm/place of the dead, and is in the ‘lower world’. This verse finally adds to our knowledge of Hades. Hades includes two parts. The good part is referred to as ‘Abraham’s bosom’ by Jesus and the bad part is where the flame is according to Luke 16:24. The two parts also appear to be very far away from each other in Hades. But still, someone in Abraham’s bosom would still be able to see someone in the ‘bad part’ with the flame and speak to them(Luke 16:24).
Again, Jesus himself gave a clue to where he was before he resurrected. In Matthew 12:40 he says: 40For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
So Jesus said he was going to be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Remember the Bible refers to Hades as being in the ‘lower world’.
Jesus also said to the thief on the cross just before he died in Luke 23:43: 43And He answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
For Jesus to have said to the thief he was going to be in Paradise with him, it had to be that paradise was in the heart of the earth, because he had already said he would be in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. Jesus didn’t go to heaven after he died. He went to Paradise which was in the heart of the earth. He ascended to Heaven after he resurrected. Could Paradise be the same as ‘Abraham’s bosom’ which is in Hades(in the lower world)?
Another clue is from 1 Peter 3:18-20:
For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God. In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit,
19In which He went and preached to the spirits in prison,
20[The souls of those] who long before in the days of Noah had been disobedient, when God’s patience waited during the building of the ark in which a few [people], actually eight in number, were saved through water.
These verses say after Christ died, he went and preached to the spirits in prison and the souls of those who long before in the days of Noah were disobedient. Now, i don’t believe ‘preach’ in this verse means he was trying to persuade them to accept Him because the people from Noah’s flood time had already been condemned to destruction. They were in prison and this ‘prison’ had to be the Flame in Hades where the rich man in Luke 23:43 went to after he died. I believe when the Bible says ‘preached’ it meant Christ’s declaration of his victory to the spirits in Hades.
Ephesians 4:8-10(AMP) also says: Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men.
9[But He ascended?] Now what can this, He ascended, mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?
10He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).
These verses can be very hard to understand hence the various interpretations from many christians. The way i understand it, considering all the other verses i’ve seen above is, Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth(Hades) and led captivity captive when He went there. Leading captivity captive to me means He defeated things that held man in captivity like sin, the devil and death. Yes, by the way, Satan once had the power of sin and death.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says: 14Since, therefore, [these His] children share in flesh and blood [in the physical nature of human beings], He [Himself] in a similar manner partook of the same [nature], that by [going through] death He might bring to nought and make of no effect him who had the power of death–that is, the devil—
15And also that He might deliver and completely set free all those who through the [haunting] fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives.
So the devil once has the power of death. But through His death, Christ brought to nought and made to no effect the devil. Now, we don’t have to live in fear of death throughout our lives. For Satan to have had the power of death he most likely had the keys of Hades and Death. Jesus declares in Revelation 1:17b-18- I Am the First and the Last 18And the Ever-living One [I am living in the eternity of the eternities]. I died, but see, I am alive forevermore; and I possess the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead).
Jesus had to die, to possess the keys of death and Hades. And maybe that is why he says in that verse ‘I died, but see i am alive forevermore and i possess the keys of death and Hades’.
The last issue i would like to discuss is what happened to the old testament prophets. They went to Paradise/Abraham’s Bosom after they died. Jesus confirms this when he says in John 3:13- And yet no one has ever gone up to heaven, but there is One Who has come down from heaven–the Son of Man [Himself], Who is (dwells, has His home) in heaven.
So no man had ever gone to heaven. You might be thinking ‘Oh elijah went to heaven didn’t he?’, but anyway that’s another discussion for another post. Elijah didn’t go up to heaven but was only transported by the chariots of fire to somewhere else on earth. Elijah died like the others. So did Enoch. No man was Holy enough to enter into the very presence of God but Jesus changed that when he bore all the sins of the world on the cross. Jesus was the firstborn of the dead(Revelation 1:5). So what happened with the old testament prophets?
Hebrews 2:16 says: 16For, as we all know, He [Christ] did not take hold of angels [the fallen angels, to give them a helping and delivering hand], but He did take hold of [the fallen] descendants of Abraham [to reach out to them a helping and delivering hand].
I think the verse above is a clue to what happened. I also believe that when the Bible talks about descendants of Abraham it means the bloodline running from Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses etc up till Jesus. Ishmael wasn’t a part of the promise. All believers come under the ‘descendants of Abraham’ because we are in Christ, and Christ comes through the bloodline of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
That was a really long post but this is almost the shortest i can make it. Christ didn’t just ‘sleep’ when he died. He was doing something for you and I. He died, that you and I may live 😀 Tomorrow is not about tears, but about victory! Victory from sin, death and the devil! God Bless you all! 😀