What Happened Between Crucifixion and Resurrection?

The purpose of this post is to quantify some things that likely did not happen between Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection. Having grown up in the ’80s and as a young adult in the ’90s with pentecostal teachings common around me, I often heard the teaching that Jesus went to hell after he died and was “beaten up on” by Satan until the time of his resurrection and ultimate conquering of hell. The argument goes that Jesus not only took our punishment by dying in the flesh, but he took our punishment by experiencing hell as well. Once he had had “enough” then God turned the tables and brought him back in power. This has a logical sound to it, so I never thought too much about the correctness of it for the longest time.

Before I go too far, I want to review what I have decided likely happened. I acknowledge it is rather difficult to determine exactly what happened, but the vagueness of the question does not leave open unending possibilities, either.

I think John Piper’s church has a pretty good view regarding what transpired. As noted in their article found here, we must first realize that previous to Jesus’ death on the cross, the heathen who died and those who died in (the future) Christ (i.e., the old testament righteous) went to Sheol. In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place of the dead, both for the righteous (like Jacob, Genesis 37:35, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:13–14) and the wicked (Psalm 31:17). Sheol is under the earth (Numbers 16:30–33), is equated to a city with gates and bars (Isaiah 38:10)(Job 17:16) and is a land of darkness, a place where the shadowy souls of men dwell (Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). It is the land of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12), where no work is done and no wisdom exists (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Most significantly, Sheol is a place where no one praises God (Psalm 6:5; 88:10–11; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18). From those scriptural hints, it really does sound like a “waiting area.”

The new testament sheds further light on Sheol (known as Hades in the new testament). The story of the rich man and Lazarus lets us know that those who were righteous and had the hope of the future Christ went to “Abraham’s side” or Abraham’s bosom where they were comforted. But those who did not have that future hope were indeed in torment and in flames. There was a chasm between the two, but it appears that the two sides were in view of each other and communication could be made across the chasm. Journeying across, though, was not possible (see Luke 16:19-31).

So this tells us what existed as far as where dead people were at the time of Jesus’ arrival on the scene – either in torment and fire (but not the final hell, as judgment has not yet come) or in comfort at Abraham’s side (and similarly, not in heaven). These two places seem to be two halves to a whole with a chasm between the two. Per the words of Jesus to the thief next to him, Abraham’s side may also be called “Paradise.” (See Luke 23:43).

As the author at Piper’s site continues, “Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).”

Jesus leads the righteous out of that place so it is assumed that the former and current dead (since the time of Jesus) are no longer within sight and hearing of the place of torment. “Paradise” (after Jesus ascended) is also referred to as the “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Now, Christians who die are immediately in the presence of the Lord in Paradise (see Philippians 1:23). Eventually, those still in torment in Hades will be given up for the final judgement where they will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire. This is known as the “second death” (see Revelation 20:13-15). Those in Paradise with Jesus will ultimately be judged and taken to heaven.

It is reasonable to assume that while dead in his fleshly body, Jesus was working in Hades to set the captives free. Matthew 12:40 says that while Jesus’ body was in the tomb, He was in the “heart of the earth.” The old testament descriptions of Sheol would suggest that the “heart of the earth” was indeed Sheol/Hades. 1 Peter 3:19-22 (KJV) says that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison” which would make sense considering all of the above.* It is also important to note that 1 Peter 3:18 specifies that he 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,” (italics mine). This does not say he suffered further after his death in the flesh – or that he suffered torment in hell.

*it is noted that some believe that the “spirits in prison” were the demons in chains referenced in Jude 6, but I disagree with this “na na na na na na” sounding proposition. Since we all have spirits who will live eternally, it makes more sense that Jesus preached to those at Abraham’s bosom so that they could be officially born again into the new covenant brought forth by Jesus’ crucifixion.

What’s interesting to me is the extra belief that I mentioned at the onset of this article, that Jesus was “beaten up on” by Satan and his demons for some time. As the study outlined above doesn’t really seem to allow for this post death suffering, I want to look to see if the more common prosperity teachers (to lump some of the more common televangelists into one grouping) in fact do teach this ideology. My memory tells me they do, and if they do, what biblical evidence do they use to support the notion. Below, I will look at the teachings of a few ministries I know personally (I’m not searching the internet for the whacko I’ve never heard of). These are ministries I have on occasion or in the past studied from and/or are ministries actively followed by people I know and respect. I will not be naming all the ministries discussed, as that is not the purpose of this article – google is the friend to those who want to search these things out on their own. I want to further say that just because I find a ministry teaches this (I now believe) incorrect doctrine does not mean I am otherwise speaking bad of the ministry – that too is not the purpose of this article. Some of the ministries I researched are ministries I do believe to be deceivers in our time, but others are likely God-fearing ministries who have been incorrect on this one point. Haven’t we all be incorrect at times? We all see as in a mirror, dimly, remember. As I’ve stated before, the purpose of this site is my metanoia – the clearing out, specifying, and scripturally proving of what I believe to be correct. This article is simply a part of that process.

The first popular multi-billion dollar ministry I looked at states the following on its website, in response to the question, “did Jesus go to hell?” (as of 12/30/2016):

After the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb, and His Spirit went to hell. There Jesus suffered all the torments of hell that we would have suffered. Jesus’ submission to death was complete. He experienced it to the ultimate degree so mankind would never have to be punished (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I have to note that 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – this ministry, which I heard often while growing up, really stretches this verse into something it simply does not say. The Amplified Bible says for this verse:

He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].

The ministry gives no other scripture evidence to support its claim.

The second ministry I looked at tells/told a similar story. From a book written by the head of this ministry in 1993:

“Jesus paid on the cross and went to hell in my place. Then as God had promised, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, ‘let him go.’ Then the resurrection power of Almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. On earth his grave where they had buried him was filled with light as the power of God filled his body. He was resurrected from the dead — the first born again man.”

A 1996 version of the same book took out the wording: The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, ‘let him go.’;  but the updated version of the book still said “Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and went to hell in our place”… “His spirit went to hell because that is where we deserved to go”…”He became your substitute and took all the punishment you deserve.” and “He was alone for three days satisfying the courts of justice and conquering the hosts of hell” (italics mine). While this wording is less severe, the implication is still there that Jesus suffered in hell (rather than went to Hades to set the captives free) as part of the redemption process. The only verse used in the book to support this is Acts 2:31, which says “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” – Again, a far stretch for the verse to suggest hellish punishment.

For this minister, it is easy to find audible lessons expressing the horrors Jesus endured in hell, but these, like the books quoted above, are old. I believe in this case, the minister has backed away from the teaching. Searching the current site for this ministry does not reveal such content. Hopefully this popular minister no longer believes the concept to be true and didn’t remove it simply to avoid known controversy.

A third popular ministry also has proposed this same doctrine. From the ministry’s magazine in 2003:

(Jesus) suffered everything He suffered when He was here on this planet. Whipped with the cat of nine tails. Crucified on the cross at calvary. Somebody says ‘Oh that’s suffering’ But He not only suffered when He was in a physical body, His spirit stepped off the cross, went to HELL. The Bible says in the book of acts the pains of hell. Suffered everything that a man could ever suffer. Somebody say ‘What?’ Yep. You better hope He went through everything that you could ever go through, because whatever Jesus did not take on, you and I would have to take on.

While I don’t have the original of this magazine as proof, I believe the words are accurate, as I’ve heard this minister say nearly the exact same thing on television in the past couple of years. This same minister’s current website has the following (as of 12/30/2016):

Jesus took back the authority that Adam turned over to Satan.

  1. When Jesus died on the cross, His spirit went to hell.
  2. Jesus looked like sin when He entered hell, and Satan thought that he had the victory over Him.
  3. After three days, Jesus’ spirit was quickened by God and He revealed His identity to the enemy.
    1. Jesus took back the keys of death, hell and the grave, and released those saints in hell who had died before they had a chance to become born again.
  4. Jesus gained the victory over Satan forever and restored authority to mankind.
  5. You have a right to every promise in the Bible because of what Jesus did on the cross.

While the wording is less obstinate, point number 3 shows that this minister believes that until Jesus’ spirit was quickened by God, Jesus was under submission to Satan, because Jesus looked like sin and Satan thought he had the victory – for a full three days! Jesus did submit to the sin of man, but nowhere in the bible does it say he was ever under Satan’s power or in submission to Satan, as clearly suggested by the first two points above. No scripture references are given to support the false points. This one was hard to search out on the minister’s site as the very popular minister offers no statement of faith that I could find.

In continuing research, there are many others who have expressed this belief. There are some who say that Jesus was the son of God on the cross, but was the son of man in hell, being tormented by Satan for those three days – that there was a separation so that it was fair that Jesus, as man, went to hell as a sinner and suffered under the devil’s thumb (It would not have been fair to the devil if the son of God went to hell – so it had to be the separated from himself son of man) – until God revealed the fullness of who he was and pulled him out. The logic always sounds good when people preach their version of this ideology, but no one seems able to offer sound biblical (or often any biblical) proof to the theology. This belief seems quite popular with many popular tv preachers today, though I have noticed that some, who clearly have video of themselves teaching this theology in the past posted online, have pulled back in their current websites, using more vague wording as to what they believe (in some cases, possibly due to the backlash they’ve received online?).

It is further clear that many of the better known “founding fathers” of the prosperity/faith/health movement clearly taught this ideology. It is easy to search online and find original video of the “Jesus suffered in hell” theology, by numerous “founding fathers” of the faith movement and even by the owners and heads of multi-national christian television ministries. These were the teachings I heard as a child, and having done this research, it is clear why I remember the teachings as being so common. It’s clear this incorrect belief was commonly present.

I’m not sure it is as much today, though, at least with some (but clearly not all) popular ministries. It does seem that a few ministries have backed off on this teaching, or are at least more vague about it, not directly describing the tortures Jesus received by the demons he submitted to. Hopefully this reflects a disbandment of the theology in the hearts of today’s better known tv preachers.

Final thoughts:

At first, this teaching does seem rather altruistic. Jesus took on everything for us (but many turn further and say this was so we could have everything because of Jesus). But to me, this incorrect teaching has much greater implications. It implies that Jesus subjugated himself to Satan, and Jesus never did that, no matter how tantalizing Satan’s temptations were or how dead Jesus was in the flesh. Jesus took on himself our sin, but he did this while being righteous. That was the false accusation leading to crucifixion – that Jesus had blasphemed when in fact his words were true. That was the reason God backed off and let the crucifixion happen (because Jesus was carrying our sins). That was why once he died, he still had the right to go and set the captives free. It was finished on the cross – there was no need of further punishment under Satan’s charge. 1 Peter 2:24 makes it clear: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (italics mine).

Leave a Response