What Bible verses proves that Jesus went to hell for 3 days? I hear it a lot but don't really see it in scripture. Can someone provide scriptures and elaborate?


Peter, in his testimony on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:14 ff, speaks of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and he quotes Psalm 16:10 where David the psalmist prophesies :

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. [KJV]

Peter speaks the Greek word hades Strong 86 when quoting the Hebrew word sheol Strong 7585 which David uses, sheol being the place of the dead, either meaning the grave where the body is laid or meaning the place of spirits which are deceased.

Paul makes this clear when he, also, refers to Jesus' death :

Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? [Galatians 4:9, KJV] :

the 'lower parts of the earth' bearing the same meaning as sheol in the Hebrew, Peter clearly expressing that after his death and before his resurrection, Jesus - first - 'descended'.

Again, Peter writes of this in his first epistle, I Peter 3:19 :

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.

[The matter of preaching to the spirits in prison is a considerable subject in itself, Jude 1:6 and I Timothy 3:16 also being included within its scope.]

But there is no hint in scripture of the other Greek word gehenna Strong 1067 which is (in the KJV, at least) also translated 'hell' - being the lake of fire - there is no hint that Jesus could have descended into that since it has not - yet - been kindled.

John makes that clear in his record of the visions given to him, when, after - first -

I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened [Rev 20:12] . . .

. . . John records what was revealed to him regarding the end of time and after the resurrection of the dead :

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, every one according to their works. Then death and hell (hades in the original) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.[Revelation 20:13-15 KJV]

Here, death and hades are cast into the lake of fire, indicating that they are two different things, and indicating that one precedes the second.

(In the above I am referring to the Received Greek Text and quoting the King James Version throughout.)


The text most commonly appealed to is 1 Peter 3:19:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18–20, ESV)

To this, usually is added another 1 Peter text a few verses later:

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. (1 Peter 4:6, ESV)

I don't find these texts particularly compelling. The statement that Jesus descended to hell was a late addition to the apostle's creed (documented by Grudem here). I will leave it to others to defend the argument that these verses do in fact teach that Jesus was in hell between his death and resurrection - but these verses are where the discussion must start.

  • And our modern English concept of "Hell" is not equivalent to the Greek this verse is translated from.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 7 '19 at 4:16
  • 1
    Even the Latin wording used for "hell" is not clear. "Descendit ad inferos" from the Apostle's Creed could mean hell or simply the "lower regions" such as limbo or purgatory.
    – Ken Graham
    Feb 7 '19 at 5:49

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