Within the pages of the New Testament, we read of Jesus Christ appearing and reappearing in numerous different scenarios throughout the course of His earthly life and ministry. When He wasn’t preaching to and feeding large masses of people, chastising the religious leaders of the day, or comforting the sick, He was demonstrating His tremendous power over Nature (Matthew 8:26, 14:25), curing people of all manner of disease and infirmities (Mark 6:56, Luke 4:40) in addition to bringing 3 people back to life from the grips of death itself (Mark 5:41, Luke 7:14, John 11:43).
When we remember the fact that, “History does indeed repeat itself”, as there is “No new thing done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), we see this same Jesus in the pages of the Old Testament record appearing and reappearing unto mankind as the 2nd Person of the Trinity as “Jehovah”, “I Am”, the “Angel of the Lord”, and a host of other names.
For it was this same Person, whom we now call Jesus, who before His God/Man Incarnation at Bethlehem, had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:8), summoned Noah and his family into the Ark (Genesis 7:1), on numerous occasions appeared to Abraham (Genesis 12:1,7, 17:1, 18:1), physically wrestled with Jacob at Peniel (Genesis 32:24), had led Israel through the Wilderness (Acts 7:36,37), and talked with Moses “face to face” (Exodus 33:11). Later we read how He had also met with David on the threshing floor of Ornan (I Chronicles 21:28), twice fed Elijah during his times of need (I Kings 19:5,7), and saved Daniel’s 3 friends from their ordeal in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25). This is all in addition to a host of other physical encounters with mankind throughout the pages of the Old Testament record.
When we consider the actions of the 2nd Person of the Trinity within both the Old and New Testaments, it can certainly be said that from man’s perspective the idiom, “Now you see Him, and now you don’t”, can be applied, whether as Jehovah God in the Old Testament, or as the God/Man Jesus in the New Testament. For it is Jesus the Son who constantly appears and reappears unto mankind throughout the entire Biblical narrative, and not God the Father as is often thought (John 1:18).
Where Was Jesus While His Body Lay For 3 Days in the Tomb
One of the most misunderstood and disputed theological questions concerning these appearances and reappearances is, “What was Jesus doing during His 3 days of absence between His death on the Cross and his physical resurrection here on earth?” While Scripture may not be entirely clear on this issue, I hope to be able to add some clarity on this topic.
The confusion that exists concerning these three days stems largely from the teachings of the Scofield Bible, which taught that Jesus after His death went deep beneath the earth (Ephesians 4:9) to a place known as Sheol or Hell and had preached to the departed spirits who were there awaiting their release from captivity (Ephesians 4:8) in a compartment known as Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31). It was also taught that another compartment within this place contained the souls of those who were awaiting eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire in addition to many demonic spirits who had been sent there for their actions during the days of Noah (I Peter 3:18-20).
There are numerous problems associated with this interpretation of Scripture, including:
- Old Testament saints upon their departure from the earth were said to go to be with God in Heaven not in the “lower parts of the earth”, as in the case of Elijah (II Kings 2:11) and Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24). In Scripture, the “lower parts of the earth” does not refer to places deep underground, but can signify a cave, a tomb, or even the womb of a woman (Psalm 139:15). It is a phrase that simply indicates that “the earth is lower than heaven”.
- As the prominent theologian Norman Geisler has stated, “No one who is in Heaven should be said to be held “captive” (Ephesians 4:8).
- “Abraham’s Bosom” is never mentioned in the Old Testament record and comes from a New Testament parable (Luke 16:19-31), which indicates that it may not even be a literal place, but a literary tool used to indicate amongst other things that part of the hellishness of hell is that those who will be consigned there will have to eternally witness the blessed existence of those residing in Heaven (Luke 16:23).
- Upon His death, Jesus dismissed His Spirit onto His Father, who is in Heaven (Luke 23:46).
- The idea that Jesus “descended into Hell” is a concept that does not come from Scripture, but rather from the Apostle’s Creed. It was not in the original Apostle’s Creed but was added by the Roman Catholic Church in the 4th Century, likely to enhance their paganistic doctrine of “purgatory”.
- Jesus had said to the repentant thief on the cross, “Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paradise in Scripture refers to the 3rd Heaven, the place where God resides (II Corinthians 12:2-4), and not to “Abraham’s Bosom”.
- The theological view of Jesus going to hell during the days after His Crucifixion is largely based upon I Peter 3:18-20, which reads:
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
Although this passage of Scripture is somewhat vague and abstract, a recent modern paraphrase presents a much different interpretation than that of, “Jesus going to hell to preach during the 3 days after the Crucifixion”. It reads as follows:
“Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but he was made alive in the Spirit (it was through this same Spirit that Jesus had long ago preached to those who are right now in prison—– those souls who disobeyed during the time of God’s great patience when Noah was building the ark).”
According to this view or interpretation of I Peter 3: 18-20, Jesus, as the 2nd Person of the Trinity, had preached via the Spirit through the Prophet Noah, to the people of Noah’s day, while the ark was being prepared in much the same way that Jesus now speaks to the world through the Spirit and the Church.
An unfortunate aspect of believing that Jesus went to hell during the three days after the Crucifixion is the fact that it has served to obscure what occurred immediately after Jesus had returned from Heaven to enter His newly resurrected “spiritual body”, which had been transformed from His earthly body. In the initial encounter that Jesus had with His followers after the resurrection with Mary Magdalene, He told her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father; and to my God, and to your God” (John 20:17). Here we see Jesus acting in His role as our High Priest. Just as the High Priest in the Old Testament was not to be touched by human hands before he brought the blood offering into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, lest he be defiled, so too was Jesus, acting as our High Priest, not to be touched before He “bodily” ascended up to His Heavenly Father to presumably offer up His blood in the Heavenly Holy of Holies.
When we come to a later encounter of Jesus with His other disciples, He had told them to freely “handle” him (Luke 24:39). This signified that He had at that time returned from the Heavenly Holy of Holies, and that His blood offering had been accepted by God the Father.
It should also be noted that Jesus referred to His new resurrection body not as “flesh and blood”, but rather as “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Evidently the life of the new spiritual resurrection body no longer needs to have blood in order to sustain life (Leviticus 17:11). One might also assume that the precious Blood of Jesus was to forever remain in the Heavenly Holy of Holies in remembrance of Jesus eternally securing our salvation.
Another interesting aspect of all these events is the fact that what we call the “Second Coming” should more accurately be called the “Fourth Coming”, for the actual 2nd Coming was when Jesus returned to the earth after 3 days absence in Heaven to receive His resurrection body, and then thereafter Jesus’ “Third Coming” took place when Jesus had once again returned from Heaven to be with His disciples after He had offering His Sacrificial Blood unto the Father in the Heavenly Holy of Holies!
Perhaps the most important aspect of what will occur when Jesus returns to set up His Millennial Kingdom is the fact that during the Millennium, and then on into the Eternal State, we will no longer have to deal with, “Jesus, now you see Him, now you don’t.” For the Prophet Hosea taught that during the Millennium, believers will continually “live in His sight” (Hosea 6:2).
Then later in the Eternal State, Jesus will still constantly be with us, for it was Jesus who taught:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to
prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that
where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3
The Apostle Paul also taught that in the Millennial Kingdom and throughout Eternity believers would forever remain in the Presence of the Lord. In his first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, he wrote:
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the
archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to
meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:16,17
In the Book of Revelation, John once again testifies that throughout eternity, the Presence of Jesus will remain with us, “forever lighting our way”:
“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God
did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” Revelation 21:22,23
No more, “Now you see Him, now you don’t !!!”
To God be the Glory !