by Kevin Rutherford


There are some who believe that Jesus went to hell and preached to the people in hell for two days.  This misunderstanding is based, in part, on a mistranslation in the King James Version.  The King James Version is an excellent version overall.  However, the KJV does not differentiate between the Greek words, “gehenna” and “hades”.  The KJV translates both words as “hell”. The New King James Version has corrected that error.

This poses a problem in the understanding of a few passages, such as Matthew 16:18.  In this passage Jesus is promising that not even the gates of hades would prevent Him from establishing His church.  When Jesus died He went to paradise, which is a part of hades (Luke 23:43; Luke 16:19-31).  The King James Version says “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

In Acts 2:27 Peter is quoting an Old Testament prophecy about Jesus when he says; ”You will not leave my soul in Hades.”  The King James Version says “hell”.  That is incorrect.  Jesus did not go to hell when He died, but rather He went to hades.

Another passage that is distorted to teach this false view is I Peter 3:18-20.  Some teach that Jesus went to hell when He died, and that while there He preached to the souls that had died in the flood of Noah’s day.  First of all, we know this interpretation cannot be correct because it conflicts with the passages already discussed (i.e. Luke 23:43).  Jesus went to paradise when He died and not to hell.  The correct interpretation of this passage is that Jesus preached to these souls through Noah.  They were not in “prison” but they were alive when preached to.  Now they are in “prison”.  The “prison” would refer to either hades or that portion of hades in which they would be, which is “torment” (Luke 16:19-31).  These people were preached to when they were alive.  They were not given a second chance.

The Bible teaches that heaven and hell are reserved for eternity following the end of the earth.  Men go to hades now when they die (Luke 16).  In hades they are either in paradise or torment.  At the end of time hades will be destroyed and men will parted to their eternal destiny (Revelation 20:14; Matthew 25:46).

The false doctrine of Jesus going to hell to preach to sinners is an attempt to prove there is a second opportunity for salvation after one dies.  If that were the case then everyone would be saved.  What person would spend five minutes in hell and then pass up an opportunity to repent and be released from hell?  The Bible clearly teaches that not everyone will be saved (Matthew 7:13, 14).  There is no second opportunity for salvation after death.  We die and then we await the judgment in hades (Hebrews 9:27).

This life is all we get to prove our desire to serve God (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14). If we prove we want to lovingly serve Him now then we will be blessed with the opportunity to serve Him for eternity in heaven. If we choose instead to serve ourselves now, then we will suffer in eternity.