Recently, I received this question, “When Jesus died i heard that he sat in hell for the three days but over powered the devil…is this true?” This is a two part question, first addressing Jesus’ visit to hell and second, addressing the devil. The Bible is clear on both of these accounts. Regarding the visit to hell:
For Christ also suffered once for sins…that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh…in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey…
1 Peter 3 18-20
Upon suffering for our sins, Jesus did descend to hell, but only in spirit. His flesh went into the tomb, as we well know. When he was resurrected, three days later, His spirit was returned to His body. Then “Christ [Jesus] was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6.4) and he ascended to heaven where He reigns at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2.33).
This passage, even begs the answer to the second question. Did Jesus have victory over Satan in hell for those three days? There is a major misconception that the Devil is even in hell right now. He isn’t! He is alive and active here on earth. Not to mention, Jesus conquered the Devil’s efforts at the cross. That was the end–the devil doesn’t seem to realize that. We too receive this victory when we choose to follow Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
So what was Jesus doing in hell? As our pastor so eloquently put this past Sunday, He was wagging his finger and saying “na na na na na.” Think about it. The Devil was an angel who wanted to overthrow God and take His throne. So God punished him by sending him to earth to await eternal judgment (See Revelation 19-22). But, that crafty devil didn’t give up there! No, he still saw a way to win. He figured if He could stop Christ from offering redemption, then no eternal judgment would ever come. He missed that mark, but we are told in Revelation that he will raise up an army in the final days in one last attempt to conquer God’s kingdom before he and his army of fallen angels are cast eternally into hell.
So, there was a group on fallen angels who were locked away in the depths–that is hell. They are rooting for the Devil, who is on earth, to win. Jesus went to hell to proclaim to them the message of eternal redemption which had just been sealed by His death on the cross. He went to tell them that He had won. He alone was victorious.