Did Jesus go to hell after His death to collect the keys of life and death?

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Jesus did not go to hell when he died to receive the keys of life and death because the Bible teaches that hell takes place only at the end of the world:

“So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:40-42). Judgement takes place at the last day “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Sinners will be cast into hell fire only at the great judgment day at the end of the world–not when they die. God would not punish a person in fire until his case was tried and decided in the heavenly court. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9). Therefore, hell does not exist today.

The verse you are referring to is this: “(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:9,10). Here, the word “descended” means Jesus descended to the earth by touching the very depths of human experience, thus making His ascension to the throne of glory all the more glorious. After His victory over the devil, Jesus ascended to heaven and received from His Father “the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18).

And the phrase “Lower parts of the earth” is referring to the earth itself. This passage speaks specifically of the death and burial of Christ. It was this humiliation of Christ that led to His exaltation (Philippians 2:5–11). By entering into such an experience He became an understanding and effective high priest, acquainted with all the experiences of human life, even death itself (Hebrews 2:14–18; 7:25–27).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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