Did Jesus Preach In Hell?
Waiting for Christ?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard and read the teaching that people of the Old Testament weren’t officially “saved” until Jesus Christ died on the cross. In fact, their souls are said to have waited someplace (some call Paradise – in the earth), where they later received the preaching of the gospel by Jesus Christ Himself unto “official” salvation; then, taken with Him to heaven.
We’re going to just take a moment to look at a few scripture passages to see if this teaching aligns with the Bible.
In the Beginning
Have you ever read Hebrews 11? If not, please take a moment and do so. In this passage, several Old Testament patriarchs are listed that “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” obtained salvation by faith. Note one very interesting observation – those listed are Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob...and yes, Moses and Joshua, but there is no mention of the "LAW" (check out Gal 3:12), and we certainly know Jesus had not come and died on the cross yet. We see some that lived before the flood and those who lived during and after the flood. Most of these “fathers of faith” lived hundreds of years before the Law was ever given to Moses.
When Jesus taught His disciples about life after death in Luke 16, He spoke of a certain rich man (nameless) and a certain poor man/beggar, Lazarus. The rich man went to Hades where he was in torment (note: no prison or chains were mentioned regarding Hades; only flames), while Lazarus went to “the bosom of Abraham”. While there was a great chasm fixed between the two places the rich man could converse with Abraham (yet, he had no conversation with Lazarus). Some call the account of the rich man and Lazarus a “parable”, yet it was not prefaced as such in the Bible (as are all the others), nor was an explanation of this so-called 'parable' given, as was with all the others. In fact, Jesus not only used the word "certain" regarding both of these individuals, He mentioned the names of Lazarus, Abraham, Moses and the prophets. Side note: I wonder if Jesus purposefully doesn't 'know' the names of the unsaved? He knows the names of those written in the Lamb's Book of Life, but will indeed say to many on the day of judgment, "Depart from Me, for I NEVER KNEW YOU" (Mat 7:23). Now, how could Lazarus end up in the bosom of Abraham and the rich man in Hades, if there was yet no such thing as favor (salvation)? And, if Jesus was later to preach to people in Hades (hell) unto salvation, why didn’t Abraham tell the rich man he would eventually have the opportunity to be rescued?
Let’s consider Moses for a moment. Moses sinned, right? He killed an Egyptian for murdering a fellow Hebrew slave (Ex 2:11-12); he smashed the first set of holy tablets containing the 10 Commandments due to his rage (Ex 32:15-19) - for this, he wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land (Deut 34:1-4); AND, while God told Moses to speak to the rock to bring water to the people , he struck the rock instead (Num 20:8 & 11). How is it Moses showed up on the mount of transfiguration with Elijah BEFORE Christ died, if he wasn’t “officially saved”? (Mat 17:1-9). Just some things to think about.
Consummation of the Ages
See, in my hub The Lamb’s Book of Life we saw that Jesus Christ (who was known as the Word of God in the beginning) was predestined to be the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). The Lamb’s Book of Life existed from the beginning of creation. Consider the words of David in Ps 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Wow! I believe that BECAUSE God knew Adam and Eve would sin and that mankind would need that perfect sacrifice of the holy blood of Jesus, our God (John 20:28; 1 Tim 4:10; 2 Pet 1:1), everyone’s names started out in the Book of Life! It was by FAITH in the coming Messiah those in the Old Testament were saved, and it is now by FAITH in the fulfillment of that prophecy those in the New Testament are saved.
What scriptures would confirm this? Check out Ex 32:33; Deut 29:20; Ps 9:5 & 69:28; and Rev 3:5. All of this is about what causes names to be “blotted out” of The Book of Life, nullifying His awesome grace (Gal 2:21). Truly, the Lamb of God came at the appointed time to consummate the Old Testament ages with the New Testament, as shown in Heb 9:26 “but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
That Day in Paradise
Let’s now look at the passages that are used to claim Jesus went and preached to those who died before He did, while His body was in the tomb, thus solidifying their salvation and taking them to heaven.
To go in sequential order, what happened while Jesus was on the cross? The thief said to the Lord, “’Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom’. And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’" Okay, so Jesus went into the tomb, which some claim is Hades. Some say the comma should be moved in the punctuation to read, “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise”. Well, that would contradict the rest of scripture that proves there is immediate life after death for the soul. Some say Paradise must be in the earth (referring to Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom being so close to Hades). What does Paul say in 2 Cor 12:2-4? “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows--was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”
Wait a minute. If Paradise is the third heaven, why does the Bible say that Jesus, before He ascended, went to hell [the lower parts of the earth] (Eph 4:9)? Surely, He couldn’t have been in Paradise and hell at the same time! Really? If you don’t believe Jesus was God in the flesh, you might have a hard time understanding that once out of body, Jesus could be everywhere at once. Did Jesus not say He would raise Himself from the dead (John 2:19)? Do we not have the Spirit of Christ in us? Is not the Spirit of Christ the Spirit of God? Check out Rom 8:9 “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
That Day in Hell
Now, let’s talk about the Lord’s visit to hell [the lower parts of the earth]. First of all, we know that 1 Pet 3:19 states, “He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” This is where people get the teaching that Jesus preached to those who died prior to the flood. Truly, the Greek word used in this verse is kérussó, which means “to be a herald or proclaim”. It could be interpreted as “preaching”, but it wasn’t unto salvation. I can tell you any form of preaching would be torment to anyone in hell.
Did we ever see “prison” in the account of the rich man in Hades? How about Lazarus? He obviously didn’t get sentenced to hell or prison of any sort. Why would Jesus “preach” to the saved, let alone the unsaved in Hades to save or rescue them? Is it possible to get saved after death? Not according to the Word. Heb 9:29 states, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”.
Is there anything in the Bible regarding “spirits in prison”? Let’s stay with Peter’s writings. 2 Pet 2:4 tells us, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…”, based on this verse there were “angels” and “the ancient world” who sinned in the days of Noah. While the rich man (and the wicked who died prior to and in the flood) went to Hades, the angels who sinned went to Tartaroo. Hades and Tartaroo are interpreted as “hell” and for good reason. Tartaroo is defined in the Strongs Exhaustive Concordance #5020 as “the deepest abyss of Hades; to incarcerate in eternal torment: - cast down to hell.” There you go! Incarceration means prison, even chains. Consider Jude 1:6 “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds [chains - KJV] under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
Other Passages to Observe:
What about the passage that states, (KJV) "For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.“ (1 Pet 4:6). First of all, the gospel was preached (past tense); they were "judged according to men in the flesh" (can the dead be judged by men?) ~ and are they living according to God in the spirit? NOW, they are, for they heard the gospel, believed and died in faith. Consider the following versions and even the commentary on this verse:
(ISV) "Indeed, this is why the gospel was proclaimed even to those who have died, so that they could be judged in their mortal flesh like all humans and live in the spiritual realm like God."
(NLT) "That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead--so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit."
Let's address one more passage and what it means: "Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men" (Eph 4:8). Does this indicate Jesus preached and saved those who were dead? Let’s look at the cross-reference. Col 2:15 tells us, “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” Did you know that in Jewish days, whenever a battle was won they would “make proclamation” or “make a public display of the enemy” while “giving gifts” to the victors? What gifts did the victors receive? Praise God, Jesus sent His Spirit and the gifts of His Spirit to us!
In summary, I believe those of the Old Testament were saved by grace through faith in the coming Messiah. The Law was given through Moses as a first type of “mediator” between God and sinful Israel, a foreshadow of the Mediator and High Priest to come, Jesus Christ. If the Law could have made man righteous, God would have given them to Adam. Gal 3:19 confirms, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator [Moses], until the seed [Jesus] would come to whom the promise had been made.” At the appointed time our LORD consummated the Old Testament ages with the New, completing and perfecting His plan since the foundation of the world.
Truly, Jesus did not go and preach salvation to the dead, but proclaimed His victory over His enemies, conquered the grave and desires all men everywhere repent unto salvation (Acts 17:30), for today is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2)! He is coming soon (Rev 3:11). Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? He’s only a prayer away. God bless you!!
Another hub by Judah's Daughter:
- The Location of HELL
Is hell in the depths of the earth or is it some spiritual realm in the heavens someplace? Whether or not you believe in hell, were going to look at some of the clues in the Bible to see if we can shed some light on this hellish mystery.