WHERE WAS JESUS DURING THE THREE DAYS BETWEEN HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?”
Thank you for submitting this question. The concept is best understood by remembering that every human can be divided into an “inner/inward man” and an “outer/outward man.” This is the language of 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Ephesians 3:16. The outer man is the physical body (visible). The inner man is the spiritual body (invisible), and it can be divided into two parts—soul and spirit. (For more information, see our study, “What part of us is justified at salvation?,” linked at the end of this article.)
So, your original question can be refined so that it reads, “What happened to Jesus’ body, His soul, and His spirit, during those three days and three nights?” Each part of Jesus went to a different place.
1. WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS’ PHYSICAL BODY?
It stayed in the tomb, lifeless and motionless, during those three days and nights. The Prophet Isaiah wrote the following Messianic prophecy some 700 years B.C.: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9). As a carpenter, Jesus was a poor man. His family was so destitute that they could not purchase a tomb for Him! We read about a “rich man,” “Joseph of Arimathaea,” a disciple of Jesus, who begged Governor Pilate for Jesus’ corpse. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, “and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock” (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:46).
Psalm 16:9-10 contains two more Messianic verses, written by King David over 1,000 years before Jesus Christ spoke them to the Father concerning His death: “ Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Strangely, the Bible says there was not the slightest evidence of decomposition (“corruption”) on that body. After four days in a similar rock tomb, or cave, Lazarus’ carcass began to stink (John 11:39). Only dead for three days, Jesus’ body never emitted a foul odor. Once those three days and three nights expired (cf. Matthew 12:39,40), the Lord Jesus Christ burst forth, alive and well! God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus’ physical body from the dead (Romans 8:11).
2. WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS’ SOUL?
The soul is the “real” us. Jesus said that the repentant thief crucified on a cross next to Him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus’ soul went down into the heart of the Earth: “ But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40). This was called “Abraham’s bosom” in Luke chapter 16. Existing only prior to Calvary, it was a place in the center of the Earth where all souls went who died having the faith of Abraham. It was place for believers, not lost people. These were the saints of old who lived in anticipation of God’s earthly kingdom being established through Israel. Exactly what Jesus’ soul did in the spirit world for the three days and three nights, the Scriptures do not say. For more information, see our study, “Did Jesus Christ die and go to hell?,” linked at the end of this study.)
3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS’ SPIRIT?
The last statement Jesus uttered from the cross of Calvary is found in Luke 23:46: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Once Jesus gave up His spirit, it went back to the third heaven, to God the Father who gave it. “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21). “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The spirit is that which gives life to the physical body, and the spirit is the part of man that communicates with Father God.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE RESURRECTION
At the resurrection on Sunday, Jesus’ soul and spirit reentered that physical body in the tomb, and the tomb was vacated. That body lived on planet Earth for some hours before appearing to Mary Magdalene and then ascending to the Father in heaven (John 20:11-18). Jesus came back down to Earth for doubting Thomas to touch Him eight days later (John 20:24-29). About 30 days after that, Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand to stay there permanently (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11)—Jesus spent 40 days total on Earth post-resurrection (Acts 1:3). The Lord Jesus Christ has physically been at His Father’s right hand in the third heaven for the last 2,000 years (Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1).
SUPPLEMENTAL: DID JESUS PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THOSE IN HELL?
Certainly not! It is a common view but it is not Scripture. It is tradition. As far as the Bible record goes, Jesus Christ did not preach to anyone in the afterlife. He did not proclaim that His blood had now been shed to pay for believers’ sins. That information would not be revealed until Paul’s ministry over a year later. Also Jesus did not give lost people in hell’s torments a second chance to go to heaven. These erroneous views are partly based on a faulty interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-21. In that passage, Peter was not talking about Jesus Christ preaching post-death. If you read these verses closely, you will learn that he was teaching that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, was the same Spirit who had preached through Noah during the days just before the Great Flood.