The Old Testament speaks of a place called Sheol in Hebrew. This place is known as Hades in the New Testament and it is in the heart of the earth. Everyone who died before the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, went to this place. Hades/Sheol had two parts to it.
The Holy Bible contains an interesting story about two men in the Book of Luke chapter 16: one named Lazarus and another man simply known as “the rich man”. These two men knew each other and in the process of time, they both died and went to Hades. When Lazarus died, the angels carried him into Sheol/Hades/the place of the dead, to the side called Abraham’s bosom: a place of blessing and comfort. When the rich man died, he too went to Sheol/Hades/the place of the dead, but he went to the side called hell: a place of fiery torment. Interestingly, the rich man could see Lazarus in the distance (Luke 16:23). They were both in the same general area, yet there was a great chasm separating them from each other. The chasm was so great, that no one could cross to the other side.
Luke chapter 23 also shares a story about two men: Yahshua Jesus the Son of God and a thief who died next to Him on another cross. The thief asked Christ to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Christ promised him: today you will be with Me in Paradise. They both died together that day and went to “the place of the dead” known as Sheol/Hades. The reason “the thief on the cross” went to the side of blessing/comfort, is because he placed his trust in Christ for deliverance before he died. The place Christ called Paradise and the place called Abraham’s bosom must surely be the same place, for both Lazarus and the thief on the cross were men of faith in Almighty YaHVeH at the time of their death.
John 14:6 says, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life: no man comes unto the Father but by Me.” You see, before Christ died on the cross, no one could go to the place called heaven, because CHRIST IS THE WAY to the Father in heaven. Sheol, known as Hades, and also known as “the place of the dead” was the place all dead people went to before Christ died on the cross. People of faith in YaHVeH went to the side of Sheol/Hades called Paradise or Abraham’s bosom and people of unbelief went to the side of Sheol/Hades known as hell. Now this is where it gets really interesting. When Christ died on the cross as a human being, He too went to Sheol/Hades/the place of the dead.
In Revelation 1:18 Christ said, “I am He that lives and was dead and behold I am alive forevermore amen, and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Apparently while Christ was in Hades, He snatched the keys of death and hell away from Satan. Christ had only moments before paid for the sins of mankind in full on the cross. By giving His sinless life for mankind, He thereby satisfied the sin-debt of man along with the penalty of death. When Christ rose from the dead, He broke the power of death, hell and the grave over mankind. But let me digress for a moment.
It seems that Christ also preached deliverance to the righteous captives in Hades. You see, all people who had died with faith in Almighty God went to the part of Hades known as Paradise or Abraham’s bosom; and even though it was a place of blessing and comfort, they were confined to that place. In a manner of speaking, they were held captive to that place by death and the grave. Apparently Christ preached deliverance to them.
Luke 4:18-, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to preach deliverance to the captives; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
To preach deliverance would seem to be the same thing as preaching Himself to them. The Gospel is all about Christ dying and rising again to deliver us from our sins and from eternal damnation. Because Christ is the only way to the Father, these people who had died in faith could not go to heaven until the plan of salvation was finished. Christ finished the plan of salvation by dying on the cross and rising from the dead.
Ephesians 4:8-10, “Wherefore He said when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things.”
Of course everyone that had died in faith listened and received the message of deliverance that Christ preached to them in the lower parts of the earth. After they embraced His message of deliverance, Christ Himself took control of their captivity and lead them to the Father in heaven. No man goes to the Father but by Yahshua Jesus. Now that Christ has died and risen from the dead, whoever puts their faith in Christ goes straight to the Father up in heaven when they die.
When Christ arose from the grave, He so utterly defeated death, that some of the graves burst open in the “Year of our Lord” 33. (33 A.D.) Matthew 27:51-53 says, “And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom and the earth did quake and the rocks split and the graves were opened. And many bodies of the saints that slept arose and came out of the graves after His resurrection and went into the Holy City and appeared unto many.”
What an astonishing passage. Christ indeed IS the resurrection. Apparently as Christ was leading captivity captive, many of the ones who had just escaped the place of the dead busted open their graves and were seen in Jerusalem. How can that be? you may ask. I want you to know, that Christ is not finished yet. He is coming back for His blood-washed Church and the graves will open again. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for our God YaHVeH is faithful to perform all He has promised for them that love him.