Right before Jesus’ death, Jesus promised the repentant thief who was crucified next to Him that both He, and the thief, would that day be in “paradise” (Luke 23:43). Obviously, Jesus knew immediately after His body would be dead, His soul would be in Paradise.
Jesus Went to Paradise, but Did Jesus Go To Hell?
Paradise does not have the same connotation as “hell.”. The souls of both Jesus Christ and the repentant thief went to Sheol. The Hebrew word Sheol means “the place of the dead”.
Sheol was the place where all of the souls of the Old Testament humans went after they died. Before Jesus’s death, and His resurrection, no one could enter the gates of heaven and go into God’s presence.
It was only after Jesus’ resurrection, which we commemorate on Easter Sunday, could the souls of New Testament believers enter heaven directly after their physical bodies died. But sheol was a place with two vastly different compartments for two types of people.
The Story of Lazarus
Before answering the question, “Did Jesus go to hell?” , the place of hell must be defined. Jesus did so beautifully.
While Jesus was alive, He provided an explanation of sheol, the place of the dead, when He told the story about Lazarus the beggar and the rich man recorded in the Bible verses found in Luke chapter 16, verses 19-31. The vast majority of Bible scholars believe this is not a parable of the rich man and Lazarus, but rather a factual account since Jesus used specific names.
Jesus referred to “a certain rich man” and “a certain beggar named Lazarus” (Luke 16:19 and 20) quoted from the King James version of the Bible. The words of Jesus in this story of Lazarus are an actual account of the reality of hell.
Both the rich man and Lazarus died. Both their souls went to the place of the dead – sheol. But Jesus made it clear that although there was one place for dead souls, this area was divided into two distinct compartments.
There was the torment side “hell,” where the unbelieving rich man found himself, very much alive and in misery. But there was also the paradise side, where the righteous Lazarus was joyfully carried into the comforting and welcoming bosom of his ancestor Abraham.
The comfort side of sheol is sometimes referred to as “Abraham’s side” or “Abraham’s bosom”. Between the paradise side and the torment side was, according to the King James version of the Bible, quoting Abraham:
“…a great gulf fixed so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26) (KJV)
These two vastly different compartments, the place of torment on the bottom versus the place of comfort on top, seemed to be positioned in a stacked configuration with a great chasm separating them since the rich man in verse 23 looked “up” to observe Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham.
The requests of the rich man in the place of torment are interesting. He pleaded with Abraham for mercy and asked in Luke 16:24, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (KJV).
When Abraham sorrowfully but firmly denied his request, even referring to the rich man as “son”, the rich man then begged for Lazarus to go to his brothers and warn them of the place of torment, urging his brothers to repent. Abraham’s final words to him are recorded in Luke 16:31 “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (KJV)
The rich man did not ask for a second chance or to be released from his place of punishment. Perhaps he knew such a request would be futile.
Where is the Garden of Eden Today?
Answering the question of where the Garden of Eden is today relates to the question, did Jesus go to hell?
God created Paradise when He created “the heaven and the earth and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:11) (KJV). God then placed Paradise in the Garden of Eden as a gift for mankind, in particular, for Adam and Eve.
After they sinned, they were expelled from this paradise garden. To keep them and everyone else in the ancient world out, God placed “Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24) (KJV).
The particular location of where the Garden of Eden, -Paradise – was located while it was on earth is unknown. The flood of Noah changed the entire topography of the whole earth.
The scriptural reference of Ezekiel 31:6 “I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.” (KJV).
But before the time of Noah and the flood of Noah, God needed a place of rest for the souls of the righteous Old Testament believers, starting with Abel. So God placed Paradise “the trees of Eden” into the nether parts of the Earth, the word “nether” meaning “beneath”.
Paradise was then located in the lowest parts of the earth, but it was a place of comfort, for “all that drink water”. This was the destination of the souls of Old Testament believers, including Abraham when he was “gathered to his people” Genesis 25:8 (KJV).
It seems, knowing the story of Lazarus, that after Abraham went there, he soon got the job of greeter – greeting all of the newcomers with a huge bear hug, therefore the term, Abraham’s bosom. What a joyful reunion it must have been for Abraham to personally greet his Friend Christ Jesus when He arrived at Paradise!
Christ’s Descent into The Lower Regions of the Earth
Jesus’ body was dead, but His soul descended into the lower regions of the earth, for three days and three nights. The answer to the question, “Did Jesus go to hell?” is a definitive YES. But He did not go to the torment side of hell, just the Paradise compartment.
According to 1 Peter 3:19, Jesus Christ preached to the “spirits in prison” (KJV) a reference to those in paradise, who, at that time, were not able to go to heaven. But with His atoning blood, He opened both the way to heaven and access into God’s presence.
Then after Jesus’ body was three days and three nights in the tomb, with His spirit in Paradise, “He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8) (KJV).
When Christ took Paradise itself and all those in it, out of the lower parts of the Earth, He took both it and them to heaven, the third day after His death. But He left the torment part and the souls there in the place of eternal torment which we call hell.
This action by Christ explains the prophecy in Isaiah 5:14 “Hell hath enlarged herself.” (KJV). The place of torment is vastly larger because the paradise side is no longer there.
Just as the paradise part of sheol was relocated to heaven, so, too, will the torment part of sheol be eventually relocated to the lake of fire as promised in Revelation 20:14: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (KJV). This is a scriptural reference referring to the final judgement.
In the future, at the great white throne judgment, hell, with all the human souls residing there, along with all those whose names are not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire, the place of eternal punishment.
So, yes, when Jesus died and was buried, Christ’s descent was to the heart of the earth, to the place of the dead, but not to the place of torment of the flames of hell.
Because of the sacrifice of His perfect blood that Jesus shed on the cross, He reconciled all things to Himself, including paradise and all who was there (Colossians 1:20) (KJV). Then Christ triumphantly carried it and them, into heaven, the dwelling place of God Himself.
Because of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, there is now no need for the waiting area of paradise. Now, at the physical death of every believer, we have the sure promise, the good news of eternal life, that all of the souls of repentant, forgiven believers will be immediately after death, alive in the presence of God.
This is described in 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (KJV) Praise God for His wonderful gift of eternal salvation!