In this study, we want to find out what happened during the three day period after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. One of the most exciting events in the history of the world took place during this short period of time. We are going to look at the scriptures about the journey that Jesus took from the cross to the throne.
First stage of the journey – from the Earth to Hades:
The journey starts at the cross. We read, “And crying with a loud voice, Jesus said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. And when He had said this, He breathed out the spirit.” (Luke 23:46) What the people saw on earth, was a body taken down from the cross, wrapped in grave clothes and laid in a tomb. However, in the unseen spirit world, something very different was happening. Jesus left His body and descended into the lower parts of the earth. We read, “Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:9)
The three meanings of the word ‘hell’:
There are three different Greek words used for the word ‘hell’. (a) Hades (Luke 16:23) (or “Sheol” (Psalm 16:10) in the Hebrew language) (b) Gehena (Matt 5:22) and (c) Tataroo (2 Peter 2:4)
What does the word ‘Hades’ mean? It says Jesus first descended into the lower parts of the earth, and then He led captivity captive. He went to a place called ‘Hades.’ which is the ‘lowest parts of the earth.’ To understand this place called Hades, we need to read, the story about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:22-26.
“And it happened that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich one also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, there is a great chasm fixed between you and us; so that they desiring to pass from here to you cannot, nor can they pass over to us from there.”
It is clear from what we have just read that there are two sections to the place called Hades. The first section is called paradise or Abraham’s bosom. This was a place reserved for the righteous that died before the resurrection of Jesus. The first occupant who went there was the righteous Abel who was murdered by his brother Cain and the last person to enter was the thief on the cross. As he was dying Jesus said to him “today I will see you in paradise.”(Luke 23:43) The other section of Hades was called “hell,” a place where the un-righteous souls went to after death. We see that those living in these two sections could communicate with each other, but they could not cross over because there was a huge gulf between these two sections. All those who died before the cross went to either one of these two sections.
Up to that time, no one had yet entered into heaven, because the Blood of Jesus had not yet been given. The Bible says, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12) It is only through the Blood of Jesus that one can enter into heaven. Hades was like a huge waiting room and was only a temporary place. King David said, “For You will not leave my soul in Hades nor will You allow Your Holy One to suffer corruption.” He was saying that he would only be in Hades temporally and that Jesus would be there such a short time, that His body would not decay on earth. (Acts 2:27)
After Jesus brief visit to Hades, He showed Himself to the righteous in paradise and possibly also to those in hell. We read that Jesus “… preached to the spirits in prison.” (1 Peter 3:19) After His brief visit to Hades, He began His upward journey from Hades to earth with all those in paradise. The Bible says, “He ascended on high, He lead captivity captive and gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8-9) We then read, “He who has descended is also the One who ascended far above the heavens…” (Ephesians 4:10)
However, although Jesus led the righteous out of Hades almost 2000 years ago, the unrighteous would remain there and still would be going there until time of the “Great White Throne Judgment” which will still take place in the future, after the millennium. (Revelation 20:7&11) They would then be transferred to another place called the Lake of fire or Gehena which is the second Greek word for hell. This is a place that God has specially prepared for the devil and his angels. Up to this point, the devil and his angels dwell in the second heaven and have not as yet gone to hell. (I will explain later.)
This brings us to the third word for “hell” which is the Greek word “Tartaroo.” We read, “For if God did not spare sinning angels, but thrust them down into Hell (Tartaroo), and delivered them into chains of darkness, being reserved to judgment.” (2 Peter 2:4) This is a temporary place where the rebellious angels that followed Satan are being kept. They have been there before the time of Adam. They will be taken out of this place at the end of the millennium and join the unrighteous in the lake of fire or Gehena.
Second stage of the journey – from Hades to Earth:
Jesus would now relocate all those in paradise to a new home called “heaven,” so He begins the second part of His journey, from Hades to Earth. When He arrives at Jerusalem, His Spirit enters His body and His body is resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit. He then meets with Mary Magdalene at the tomb. We read, “… she turned backward and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, Woman, why do you weep? Whom do you seek? Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, Sir, if you have carried Him away from here, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away. Jesus said to her, Mary! She turned herself and said to Him, Rabboni! (which is to say, Master!) John 20:14-16
We read that this took place early in the morning. (John 20:1) Jesus said to her “Don’t touch Me, I must still ascend to My Father.” (John 20:17) However in the evening of the same day He returns (John 20:19) and appears to His disciples and now they can touch Him. What happened that day? Why could Mary not touch Him in the morning, but the disciples could touch Him in the evening?
I am going to explain this later, but first we must look at another interesting phenomenon. We can read in Matthew 27:52, “… the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;” The inhabitants of Jerusalem saw the graves open and many of the saints of old walking around. It was obviously the same group that Jesus led out of Hades. While they were waiting for Jesus to return from the tomb, they decided to pay a temporary visit to Jerusalem. Many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem saw and recognized some of them as they made their brief appearance.
The third stage of the journey – from Earth to the Second Heaven:
Jesus now begins the third part of His journey, from earth through the Second Heaven to the Third Heaven. Paul speaks about being caught up to the Third Heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2) So, if there is a Third heaven then there must also be a First and Second heaven. I believe, with many Bible commentators, that the Second Heaven is where Satan and his demons live, and the Third Heaven is where God and the angels live and the First Heaven is the Earth, our natural world. The Bible says that Jesus passed through the heavens. (Hebrews 4:14) He went from Earth, through the Second Heaven, to the Third Heaven.
One of the greatest events in the history of the universe took place that day, when Jesus passed through the Second Heaven. We read about this in Colossians 2:14, “Having stripped rulers and authorities, He made a show of them publicly, triumphing over them in it.” The word in the Greek for the word “stripped” or “disarmed” is the word “apekduomai.” It is a Latin word used in a Greek text. It is the word that was used when a Roman General conquered the enemy signed the victory papers with the leader of the defeated army.
The tradition was that both armies would gather on the battle field and face each other after the battle. A table was then placed between them and the Roman general and the leader of the defeated nation would sit at opposite ends of this table to sign the terms of peace. A document would be drawn up saying, “All the people of the defeated nation are now under the authority of Rome. All their possessions now belonged to Rome and that they have no more privileges and rights.” Both leaders would sign this document.
Then the Roman general would get up from his seat, walk to the other side of the table and begin to publicly humiliate the other leader. He would tear off his medals, tear his clothes, throw his sword on the ground and make a public spectacle of him. This was a public demonstration to all who watched, to convince them that Rome had won the battle and was now in total authority over the defeated nation. This tradition was called “apekduomai.”
This is exactly what Jesus did to Satan and his defeated kingdom. Though the cross, Jesus had totally defeated the devil and his kingdom and now has all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18) The Bible says “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”(Hebrews 2:14) In fact, Satan never knew that Jesus would actually defeat him at the cross, for it says in the word. “… which none of the rulers of this world knew (for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory). ” (1 Corinthians 2:8)
Jesus put on such a powerful demonstration as He passed through the second heaven, that all who were present had no doubt that He had totally defeated the devil and his kingdom. It is now clear to them that Jesus is now King of kings and Lord of lords, and is seated far above all principality and power. (Ephesians 1:20)
We can imagine that Jesus walked up to Satan and said to him, “Devil, I now remove your authority to put sickness and bondage on My people. You have no more authority over those who belong to Me. They now belong to Me and when they declare My name and use My blood, you and those in your kingdom will have to submit to them. You and your demons are now guilty of murder and I now condemn you to the Lake of Fire forever and ever”.
What Jesus did that day, was for us and we need to live as though we really believe it! We are now seated with Christ in heavenly places, (Ephesians 2:6) at the place of highest authority. When we use the name of Jesus or the Blood of Jesus, Satan and his demons remember this awesome event called “apkduomai” and tremble before the name of Jesus. We can now resist the devil, and he will flee from us. (James 4:7) The Greek word to ‘flee’, is the word, ‘to flee in terror!’
The fourth stage of the journey – from the Second Heaven to the Third Heaven:
The final stage of the journey is to the Third heaven, the place where God dwells. Jesus leads this huge multitude of Old Testament saints to the gates of heaven. As they approach the gates of heaven they cry out to the angels at the gates, “Lift up your heads, O gates; even lift up, O everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” (Psalms 24:9) Jesus now marches victoriously into Heaven with this huge group of people to meet with His Father and to present His blood as atonement for our sins. We read, “Nor by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered once for all into the Holies having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12)
The Father accepts the sacrifice of his blood and we read, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) The Father then says to Jesus, “Sit down Son, Your work is complete, I accept Your sacrifice.”
The fifth stage of the journey: Jesus returns to Earth for a short period of time
Jesus then returns to earth and appears to his disciples that very same day in the evening, we read, “Then the same day at evening, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace to you!” (John 20:19) They are now allowed to touch Him because He has been to the Father and His blood had been offered for their sins.” (Luke 24:39) Jesus now tells His disciples, “As the Father sent Me, I now send you.” (John 20:21) It is your turn to go and tell others what I have done.” After spending forty days with them, He finally ascends into heaven and is now seated at God’s right hand having imparted His power and authority to us.
Now all those who die in Christ, will go straight to heaven and will meet with Jesus in heaven. The first person to enter directly into heaven, was Stephen the martyr. As he was dying he looked up and saw Jesus in Heaven at the right hand of His Father, “And he said, Behold, I see Heaven opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” (Act 7:56)
At the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ, all those in Hades and Tartaroo will be cast into Gehena, the Lake of fire. We read in Revelations 20:7, 13&14, “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison … The sea (the hell that was reserved for the angels) gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead … Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Finally, all those whose names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, those who had rejected Jesus, will also be thrown into the Lake of fire. Those whose names are in the book of life will be rejoicing in heaven and experiencing wonderful eternal life with Jesus. Amen