Did Jesus descend to hell after dying on the cross?

Pastor Jeff Struecker

We are studying theology, and we’ve been tackling some heavy stuff over the last couple of weeks. We talked about the extent of the atonement and who John the Baptist refers to as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. These are significant discussions, but they’re also profoundly theological.

Today, we’re going to answer the question of what happened between the time that Jesus died on the cross and the time that he was raised again on Easter Sunday morning.

Where did he go?

What happened to him?

Did Jesus actually go into hell and rescue people?

Now I got some words from 1 Peter that I want you to read and commit to memory. In this verse, Peter is describing here who Jesus sets free, what he did, and who he did it for between the time of his death on the cross and his resurrection.

Memory Verse

This is a long verse, but if you read that last phrase, he made a proclamation to the spirits in prison. Now that phrase has humped people up for 2000 years. In fact, if you grew up in a church that recited some of the creeds publicly, chances are you recited the Apostle’s Creed.  

He was buried and rose again.  

Some of those creeds said he went to the cross, descended into the grave, went into hell, and then rose again on the third day. Most of our views of Jesus going into hell come from the Nicene Creed.  It’s the way that the early church fathers helped form that Creed and wrote those words understood 1 Peter 3:19. However, I think they’re wrong. Please don’t misunderstand; I am not putting myself above these brilliant minds that wrote the Creed. I think they just didn’t properly understand what Peter is saying here.  

Peter is saying, my soul, your soul is in prison, and it is in prison to sin, and it must be set free. Jesus’s death was the prison payment. It was the thing that allowed the prison sentence to be paid for.  But then the Bible also declares that when Jesus came out of the grave, he broke the power of death. The power of death that God pronounced way back in the garden of Eden when Adam sinned.  

He broke the power of death and the grave with his resurrection. And that means even though you die, you will live again if you know him and you have been set free by him.

Did Jesus physically descend into hell?  

What I’m trying to say is. 

Did Jesus physically descend into hell?  

Did he spiritually go into hell, grab some people, and set them free between his death on the cross and his resurrection?  

No, he set all his people free by his death on the cross and his resurrection. That’s the proclamation of setting prisoners free that Peter is referring to.

And now I got a serious question that I want to ask you. Is there something going on in your life that you’re really struggling with? Is there something that you really don’t have power over?


Because if Jesus has power over sin, if he has power over death, if he has power over the grave, then certainly he is powerful enough to set you free from whatever it is that you’re struggling with right now. And instead of trying to fix it yourself, why don’t you just lay it down at Jesus’s feet and trust him with it? And I am convinced if you’re really serious about trusting him with it he’ll set you free from it.