Question from a reader:
When Jesus died on the cross and descended into hell (Hades), was He still suffering while there or did the suffering end when “it is finished”? 1 Peter 3:18-20 says He went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, was He still in a state of suffering?
Thank you for your question. I found it quite challenging. It prompted me to do further study of 1 Peter 3:18-20, as well as related passages Ephesians 4:8-10, Acts 2:25-35, and Matthew 12:40, and various commentaries. As a result, I am not sure that we can be completely definitive in answering your question about when Christ’s suffering ended. However, I do think that the best clue we have is actually in 1 Peter 3:19, which says, “After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.” Christ’s death occurred while He was still on the cross, and He was still dead when he was slain in the tomb. So, the period of time that we’re talking about is between that point and the point of His resurrection. Verse 19 above says that He proclaimed to the imprisoned spirits (in Hades), “after being made alive…” So, He was “made alive” before He descended into Hades. Therefore, I believe that it’s reasonable for us to assume that His suffering ended at the point of His death on the cross, and that He no longer suffered after His resurrection. In other words, I believe the chronology would look like this:
– Suffering on the cross – Death – suffering ended – Lain in the tomb – Resurrection (a glorified body) – Descent into Hades – Ascent into Heaven
Also, note that some Bible scholars would say that when Jesus died, his soul went to Hades for three days, but his spirit went to heaven.