Jesus is God the Son who became human while remaining fully God. As the only God-man Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of humanity’s sin. His dead body was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. On the morning of the third day after His death Jesus was restored to life. Where was Jesus’ while His body lay in the grave?
The simplest answer to this question comes from the words of Jesus Himself. In the final moments before His death Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Since Jesus entrusted His spirit into the care of God, the only reasonable conclusion is God the Father received His spirit into Heaven. God the Father was pleased with the life and service of His Son. God audibly declared His pleasure at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration. Jesus said He came to do the will of the Father (John 6:38), He glorified God in all things and finished the work God gave Him to do. (John 17:4) Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience. (Hebrews 4:15; 10:7) God the Father was pleased with the life and death of His Son. He would not refuse to take the spirit of His beloved Son. When Jesus died His spirit was received into Heaven by His loving Father whom He had perfectly obeyed in His life and death.
The Bible does not teach that Jesus went to hell after His death. First Peter 3:19 causes some to conclude Jesus did go to hell because it says that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” Some have concluded that after His death Jesus went down into Hell and spoke to those held there. However, First Peter 3 clearly says Jesus spoke to imprisoned spirits by “the Spirit.” “The Spirit” is not referring to Jesus’ human spirit but to God the Spirit. In other words, Jesus preached to the disobedient people of Noah’s day through the Holy Spirit. The human agent of this preaching was Noah, “the preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) First Peter 3 does not teach that after His death Jesus descended to Hell to preach to imprisoned souls.
Jesus had no need to go to Hell after His death. He paid the entire penalty of sin on the cross. When He said “it is finished” (John 19:30) He declared nothing else was required for sin to be forgiven. Jesus did not have to suffer more in hell for men to be saved. All the work of salvation was accomplished on the cross. When Jesus died it was done.
Jesus’ dead body was placed in the grave to wait for the resurrection. Jesus’ spirit went directly to Heaven to wait for the resurrection and the reunion of His spirit with His body. This is exactly what happens to the Christian at death. The body of the believer goes into the ground to wait for the day of resurrection. The spirit of the Christian goes directly to Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8) to wait for the day of resurrection. Because Jesus rose from the dead the Christian is assured of a future resurrection when he will be given a glorified body, and his spirit and body will be reunited together to never again suffer the severing of death.