“…What, then, does this tell us about where Jesus was on Holy Saturday? Based on Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, some Christians believe, that after his death, Jesus’s soul went to heaven to be in the presence of the Father. But Luke 23:43 doesn’t say that Jesus would be in the presence of God; it says he would be in the presence of the thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), and based on the Old Testament and Luke 16, it seems likely that the now-repentant thief would be at Abraham’s side, a place of comfort and rest for the righteous dead, which Jesus here calls “paradise.”
Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).
After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).
Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren’t merely carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15).
Good News for Us
But as Psalm 16 makes clear, Jesus is not only like us, but different. Jesus’s body was buried, like ours, but it did not decay. Jesus’s soul went to Hades, like the Old Testament saints’, but wasn’t abandoned there. God raised him from the dead, reunited his soul with a now-glorified body, so that he is the firstfruits of the resurrection harvest.
And this is good news for us, because those in Christ now bypass the land of forgetfulness, where no one praises God. Instead, when we die, we join with the angelic choir and the saints of old to sing praises to the Lamb who was slain for us and our salvation.
The Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.”