Did The Lord Jesus Christ Go To Hell?


By Dr. Ken Matto


(1 Pet 3:18-20 KJV) 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: {19} By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; {20} Which sometime 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.


Here we have three verses which have been very misunderstood and really used in outrageous ways. I have heard these verses misused for over 35 years by those who insist that after Christ died, He went to Hell to preach to the spirits in prison, those of the fallen angels and unbelievers. However, this is far from Biblical truth. When the Lord Jesus died on the cross, He committed His spirit unto His Father and His body went into the grave.



(Luke 23:46 KJV) And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.



(Luke 23:53 KJV) And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.


There are no contradicting Scriptures which teach that anything else happened. If there were conscious souls in Hell at that time, there would be no purpose in bringing them the Gospel, since they would all be under condemnation and could never be saved.

Christ did not go to Hell but He endured the equivalency of an eternity in Hell to pay for the sins of the Believers. One thing we must realize that God never does anything which lacks purpose. The key to understanding this passage is found in verse 20. There we read about Noah who is called “preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5)


(2 Pet 2:5 KJV) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;


While Noah was preparing the ark, he was also preaching about the coming judgment. This is why he is called “a preacher.” There is one great principle found in verse 20 and I have it pasted in my Bible when I clipped it out of something many years ago, “Noah was faithful to God’s message even though there were no results.”


This is something that we must keep in mind. Many of us want to see instant results when we witness to someone. This is not always the case. Sometimes it does happen but very rarely. We are to remain faithful and vigilant even if there is no visible fruit. Now what does it mean that Christ preached to the spirits in prison? Jesus did not walk the earth at that time, so how could He have preached to the spirits in prison? The answer is simple. The Spirit of Christ was in Noah!


(Rom 8:9 KJV) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.


Let us look at the very end of 1 Peter 3:18, “but quickened by the Spirit:” Isn’t every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ quickened (made alive) by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? We read this in Romans 8:9. The same Spirit quickened the Old Testament Saints as well as all those on the New Testament side of the cross. The Lord Jesus is not walking on earth today, yet He is preaching to the world through His regenerated Saints by the quickening of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is called the “Word of God” and it is through the Word of God we bring the Gospel.


Remember That Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord


(Gen 6:8 KJV) But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.


Grace in the life of a person is what? Salvation! Noah was a saved individual who preached the word of Christ to his generation. So then what is the prison that is in view? In Isaiah 14, we read about Satan, that he would not open the house of his prisoners.


(Isa 14:12-17 KJV) How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! {13} For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: {14} I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. {15} Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. {16} They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; {17} That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?


Isaiah 14:12-17 speaks about Satan and his desire to be like God. In verse 17, the Bible states that he did not open the house of his prisoners. Did Satan have a physical place where he locked up all his prisoners? The answer, of course, is no. The prison being spoken of here is the prison of unbelief. Satan will not allow any of his prisoners to hear and understand the Gospel.


(2 Cor 4:3-4 KJV) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: {4} In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.


Satan’s desire is to keep all those who are unbelievers as unbelievers by blinding their minds to the truth of the Gospel so salvation will not take place. While Satan will control many people until the last day, God has committed to save many and those that God will save will hear the Gospel and become saved which means they have been removed from the prison house or the power of Satan.


(Col 1:13 KJV) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:


Now let us go back to the time of Noah. What does this translate into? It means that Noah was preaching to all the unbelievers for the duration of the building of the ark. We have seen that those in spiritual prison are the unsaved. When a person becomes saved, they become free.


(Rom 6:22 KJV) But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.



So the prisoners that Christ was preaching to were all the unbelievers at the time of Noah, through Him indwelling Noah with the Holy Spirit. They were not in any special place but were all walking around the earth. How does this apply to us today? Well, it is the same principle, because all the unbelievers are still in spiritual prison and the only way a person becomes free from that prison is by receiving a full “Heavenly Pardon.” Once this takes place, they are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God. (Col 1:13 KJV) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: When we look at 1 Peter 3:18-20, we see how much deeper they are than just a “homily in hell.” These verses speak of the beauty of salvation which we can all thank God for this day. For we were once a prisoner but now we are set at liberty.