There’s a lot of controversy concerning Jesus going to hell. Yes, Jesus went to hell after the crucifixion. He went to hell because he experienced death. The end result of death is the grave. Part of hell is actually the grave. The Greek word for the phrase ‘o grave’ is translated as hades, which is the same word for hell; 1 Cor. 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” The grave or hell is a place where departed souls are judged. Because Jesus actually died on the cross for our sins, he experienced death (hell) for all of mankind.
The grave (hell or hades) is only one aspect of hell. It is a temporary judgment chamber. Guests do not reside there; they are only processed there and move on to their final destinations. Hell has another side and it’s called ‘ge-heena’. This is the aspect of hell where individuals are punished. Prior to the return of Christ everyone will experience hell (death, grave) but only those that are un-repented will experience ge-henna.
Now that we have established that Jesus did actually go to hell, the next question is how long were He in hell? From scripture, we know that he was not there the entire time between His death on the cross and his physical resurrection from the grave. Jesus told one of the thieves on the cross that He would see him the same day in paradise; Luke 23:43, “…..Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Because Jesus died approximately 3 pm, we know that He could not have spent more than 3 hours in hell. This reasoning is based on the fact that in Jewish culture, the next day begins at evening or around 6pm. If the thief on the cross was to see Jesus that day, then there is only a three-hour window between Jesus being in hell and Jesus seeing the thief in paradise.
Scripture tells us that mankind is judged soon after death; Heb. 9:27, “… as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” When Jesus died on the cross, He entered the hell (grave). After death comes the judgment. Jesus did not commit any sins, therefore He was not guilty, signifying hell could not hold him. He went to paradise immediately after being judged, where He waited for the repented thief on the cross to arrive. The un-repented thief on the cross, needless to say, did not see Jesus in paradise when he was judged.
Jesus entered hell at death, but he did not remain there, because he was sinless. Jesus conquered death and hell because He was victorious over the law of sin and death. He was not guilty of death; therefore hell could not detain Him. Jesus’ victory over sin and death substantiates the fact that Jesus is alive; Rev. 1:18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Death has no more dominion over Christ or over His followers.