Did Christ Descend to Hell?
Christ did not descend into hell after He died on the cross to preach to spirits. Some hold that 1 Peter 3:18–20 and ch. 4:6 support the doctrine of an immortal soul and of consciousness after death, and that during the interval between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Christ descended into Hades. He went to the figurative realm of the dead (Matthew 11:23), to preach to disembodied spirits suffering there. Let’s look at these verses:
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:18-20). “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6)
The logic of this view demands that the “spirits” here referred to be in some sort of purgatory at the time Christ preached to them and that the purpose of His preaching was to give them a second chance to be saved and thus to escape from purgatory. But most Protestants who believe that Peter here teaches the consciousness of man in death would be horrified to accept the papal doctrine of purgatory and the equally unscriptural doctrine of a second chance. For more on purgatory, check:
Are the Dead Alive?
The Scriptures plainly teach that a man must accept salvation in this present life, if at all, and that his personal probation closes at death. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 also Matthew 16:27; Luke 16:26–31; Romans 2:6; Ezekiel 18:24; Revelation 22:12). There is no second chance for salvation after death.
God’s word also plainly teaches that the dead are not conscious spirits. After death a person: returns to dust (Psalms 104:29), knows nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), possesses no mental powers (Psalms 146:4), has nothing to do with anything on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6), does not live (2 Kings 20:1), waits in the grave (Job 17:13), and continues not (Job 14:1, 2) until the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51–53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
Accordingly, to make these “spirits” out to be disembodied, conscious beings able to hear and accept the gospel, contradicts numerous plain teachings of Scripture. Also, it should be noted that Peter does not say that Christ preached to disembodied spirits. Further, those who maintain that Peter in these passages supports their belief in the so-called natural immortality of the soul must also explain why Christ would be partial to the “spirits” of dead sinners of Noah’s time and not give to those of other generations a similar opportunity. For more on the state of the dead, check the following link:
Rewards of the saints will be given at the second coming not at death. The Bible tells us, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout. … And the dead in Christ will rise. … And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). “We shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye … and the dead will be raised incorruptible. … For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53). At the second coming of Christ, the saints will be raised and caught up to meet Him in the clouds. There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death.
In His service,