Where was the Lord Jesus between His death and resurrection?
Although this question could be answered fairly succinctly from Acts 2:24-32, let us delve into the subject of Jesus’ after-death whereabouts in some detail. As the above portion states, the soul of the Lord Jesus “was not left in hell” (KJV). Our English version isn’t referring to the “lake of fire” here, but rather, the Greek word translated “hell” refers to the temporary abode of souls after death. This Greek word is “Hades,” which is synonymous with the Old Testament word “Sheol.” Hades (Sheol) was the place where the souls of all departed human beings went prior to the Lord’s ascension. This is no longer the case. Now, those who die “in the Lord” go immediately to heaven (Php 1:23).
Before the Lord’s ascension, all who died, righteous or unrighteous, went to Hades. At that time, Hades had two regions. Righteous ones (like Lazarus) went to a region called “Abraham’s Bosom” (Luk 16:22). This area was also called “Paradise,” as that was the destination of the righteous robber after he died, as well as that of the Lord (Luk 23:43). Since we know from Acts 2:27 that the Lord was in Hades before He arose, we assume that Paradise and Hades must be located together. The other region, where unrighteous ones (like the rich man) go, is sometimes termed the “lowest hell” (Deu 32:22). In Abraham’s Bosom, the souls of departed people existed in a state of comfort. By contrast, the souls of the lost in the “lowest hell” endure real suffering. Between these areas was “a great gulf fixed” (Luk 16:26).
Scripture teaches that the location of Hades is in the heart of the earth. For instance, in the account of Saul and the witch of Endor, Samuel was “brought up” from Hades to give Saul the news that he would be slain the following day (1Sa 28:15). Other passages could be cited to affirm that Hades is in the heart of the earth (e.g., Isaiah 14:9, where “hell” translates “Sheol”). However, upon the ascension of Christ, Paradise, the righteous area of Hades, seems to have been transferred to Heaven (Eph 4:8). Note that in 2 Corinthians 12, when Paul was caught up to the abode of God, he referred to it as “Paradise” (v4). Thus it seems safe to say that there remains only one region in Hades, namely, “the lowest hell,” where the unrighteous still reside. From there, they will be delivered to stand before the Great White Throne (Rev 20:14). Note that “hell” there is again a translation of the word “Hades.”
Some believe that between His death and resurrection, the Lord also went to preach to “spirits in prison” (1Pe 3:19-20). However, it is best to understand that this preaching was done when these people were alive “in the days of Noah.”
Keeping in mind, of course, that as God, the Lord Jesus was/is not bound by the constraints of time and place, we can with confidence affirm the following: When the Lord Jesus laid down His life at Calvary, His holy soul entered into the righteous region of Hades (Paradise/Abraham’s Bosom), and it was from there He arose on the third day.