A Question I Was Asked:

We Know that Jesus Temporarily Went to Hell. For How Long, and which Hell?

We know that Jesus temporarily went to Hell after being on the cross. But for how long, and which hell?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, please remember that 'hell' - in the New Testament - is the translation of a few Greek words. In this case it was 'hades,' meaning the grave. Mostly the New Testament use of 'hades' suggests a neutral resting place, but in just a few cases, the suggestion is that punishment can start there. In Luke 16 in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Lazarus is in Heaven after his death, yet the rich man is in the grave (hades), and his punishment appears to commence there (however the rich man is not necessarily finally lost since only 'gehenna' has this sense). See Luke 16:19-31, esp vs 23. Of course, it could be asked, if Lazarus apparently went straight to Heaven, why did not Jesus? Apparently our Lord did spend a short time in the grave. We don't finally know why but Scripture suggests that He was able to preach to departed souls, including those lost in the Flood during His very short sojourn there. See 1 Peter 3:18-20 and also this article.

So Jesus was in the grave (hades) from his death upon the cross, until the resurrection. There seems to have been a three-hour period of suffering in bearing our sins from noon until 3PM on the day on which He died. At noon He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But about 3PM He said, "it is finished" ('paid in full' or 'account settled.' So at this point -the satisfaction of the debt of sin was accomplished. The phrase 'it is finished' (Gk: tetelestoi) was the word also used in a debtor's prison; when a person was cast into prison for a debt, the 'outstanding bill' was posted outside the cell door, when the debt had been fully repaid, the bill was removed from the door, stamped with 'tetelestoi' on it, and handed to the ex-prisoner as proof he was FREE - his debt had been 'paid in full' - I am grateful to my fellow apologist Glenn Miller for this particular insight.

So we conclude that the payment for sin was COMPLETE when Jesus said, "Tetelestoi." This would appear to be the conclusion of the suffering period.

After the resurrection, when Jesus first appeared to certain of His disciples, He had not yet ascended to Heaven to be received by the Father. See John 20:17. (This must not be confused with the visible ascension to Heaven at Pentecost in view of numerous believers which came 40 days later). His first ascension to be received by the Father occurred on Sunday, the First Day of the week, later on the day of the resurrection. This had long been typified by the wave sheaf offering on the first Sunday of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:10-12.

Another Question:

There is still a further question which is sometimes asked surrounding the timing of all these things. Why had Jesus said to the man on the cross whom He saved, 'Today you will be with me in paradise'? Let us look at it:

41. We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. 42. Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43. Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:41-43).

One might think that Jesus had rather a lot to do that particular day! Also, the resurrection was not until very early on Sunday, so not really "today." But we must remember that the Greek of that time did not include punctuation marks, these were put in later. More likely Jesus actually meant something like this: "I tell you truly today that you will be with me in paradise." So the word 'today' probably refers to the first part of that sentence, not to the timing of when the dying man would enter paradise , but the man was - and is - saved and that is all he needed to know.

Robin A. Brace. April 4th, 2018.