Q: #73. Where did Jesus go for the 3 days between His death on the cross and His resurrection?
A: Christians are somewhat divided on this point, but it seems the majority believe that after Jesus died, His body remained in the grave, but His spirit and/or soul descended into Sheol (or the heart/lower parts of the earth). Sheol was made up of two places: Paradise and Hades. All of the people who died in the Old Testament went to one of these two places. Believers went to Paradise, and non-believers went to Hades. We can see a picture of these two places in Jesus’ story of the Rich Man and Lazarus found in (Lk 16:19-31). Lazarus was in Paradise (also called: Abraham’s Bosom), and the Rich Man was in Hades. A great gulf separated these two places. In Hades, the Rich Man was tormented (Lk 16:23-24), and in Paradise, Lazarus was comforted (Lk 16:25).
When Jesus was on the cross, He told the thief next to Him that He would join Him in Paradise that same day because he believed in Him (Lk 23:43).
When Jesus died, He spent 3 days (Mt 12:40) proclaiming His victory and the Gospel to those in Sheol (1 Pet 3:19)(1 Pet 4:6). It was a message of joy for those in Paradise, and a message of sorrow for those in Hades.
However, Jesus’ soul was not left in Hades to see corruption (Ps 16:10)(Acts 2:27,31), but instead, He was resurrected from the dead on the 3rd day.
It is also believed by some that during Jesus’ 3 days in Sheol, He took believers from Paradise to Heaven. Personally, I do believe that Jesus took believers from Paradise to Heaven, but I am not quite so sure it was during these three days. My theory is that it may have been after His resurrection, and His subsequent 40 days on the Earth (Acts 1:3); occurring during His ascension to heaven afterwards. My reasoning is simply based on Jesus’ words to Mary when she met Him after His resurrection and said to her “touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” (Jn 20:17). If Jesus had taken believers to Heaven previously, it seems to me that he would have already ascended to the Father.
I should also add here that there are other Christians who believe that Jesus went directly to Heaven after He died. Various other points of view are given to explain the verses above (i.e. Paradise was Heaven, the heart of the earth was the grave and not Sheol, the Gospel was proclaimed through Noah to his generation prior to the flood and not by Jesus in Sheol, etc…).
It makes for an interesting discussion, but it is not something we should become contentious over.