[[Article adapted from Dr. Steven Cook, used by permission]]
Where was Jesus between His death and resurrection? Let’s talk about this interesting and important question.
Jesus Accomplished Eternal Redemption
Where was Jesus for the weekend? That is, the weekend after His death? We know that when Jesus completed His work on the cross, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30a). When He said that, He didn’t mean His life was finished; He meant He had accomplished eternal redemption:
“By His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).
Jesus died in our place for our sins. And then “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30b).
Jesus Entered ‘Paradise’ When He Died
A few hours before His death, He told the thief on the adjoining cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus was going to ‘Paradise’ after He died. His body went into the grave, and His spirit went to spirit-regions not fully known to us.
It’s possible, perhaps that Paradise was, before Jesus’ resurrection, in a lower region—the underworld—in a place known as Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22-26), which was a temporary location of happiness for Old Testament saints after death. A chasm was fixed between the blessed dead and the wicked dead so no one could cross from one compartment to the other.
Thomas Constable states:
‘“Paradise’ and ‘Abraham’s arms’ (Luke 16:22–26) are the same place. The word paradise came into English from Greek, but it originally came from Persian. It describes a beautiful garden or delightful park such as the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). Symbolically, it represents future bliss (cf. Isaiah 51:3; Revelation 2:7). The paradise that lies ahead for believers is ideal because God is there (cf. 2 Cor12:4).” (Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Luke 23:43).
Jesus Brought Paradise to Heaven
It’s thought that Jesus moved Paradise to heaven after His death and resurrection. If so, this would explain Paul’s comment about the time he was “caught up to the third heaven…into Paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4). Unlike pre-resurrection believers, we believers today go immediately to heaven after death, for “to be absent from the body” means we are “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8).
Certain Evil Angels are Chained in ‘Tartarus’
The Bible tells us that God has certain spirits chained in an abyss, a prison called ‘Tartarus.’ In his second epistle, Peter wrote, “For if God did not spare the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness to be kept for judgment [Τάρταρος Tartaros–in ancient Greek mythology a term for the underworld reserved for the most wicked] (2 Peter 2:4).
Their angelic sin connected with the days of Noah, in which God,
“Did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).
Jude—the Lord’s half-brother—wrote about these same fallen angels, saying,
“And the angels who did not keep to their first domain (the angelic domain), but forsook their own dwelling (by coming and living on the earth), He has kept in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day (probably the final judgment called The Great White Throne)” (Jude 1:6).
These Angels Went After ‘Strange Flesh’
Jude says their sin relates to immoral sexual behavior. He compared the angels’ sin to,
“Sodom and Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities in like manner, gave themselves to immorality and went after different flesh, they serve as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).
Jesus Preached to the ‘Spirits in Prison’
Possibly, during His time in Paradise, Jesus also entered ‘Tartarus’ and “He also went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). Some Bible students conclude the spirits Jesus preached to were humans. Yet the Bible doesn’t mention any imprisoned human spirits. The spirits Peter mentions were angelic spirits from the time of Noah’s flood (Genesis 6:1-2). When Jesus preached to these “spirits,” it was not to evangelize them but rather to declare His victory over Satan and their sure defeat.
The following list is a likely timetable for Jesus’ journey:
- Jesus went down to Paradise (Luke 23:43).
- He then took Paradise and its occupants to heaven.
- He entered ‘Tartarus’ and preached His victorious message, which sealed their fate (1 Peter 3:19).
- He next returned to earth to His resurrected body (Luke 24:6-7).
- He then ascended bodily back to heaven (Acts 1:9).
The following list outlines Jesus’ future journey:
- Jesus is in heaven now, bodily, seated at God’s right hand, waiting to rapture His Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
- Then, after the seven-year tribulation, He will return bodily to earth at His Second Coming (Rev 19:11-21).
- Then He will establish His future earthly reign (Rev 20:4-6).
- After His thousand-year reign He will judge the wicked angels and humans by their works at the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).