There is a great deal of confusion in regards to this question. The concept that Jesus went to hell after His death on the cross comes primarily from the Apostles’ Creed, which states, “He descended into hell.” There are also a few Scriptures which, depending on how they are translated, describe Jesus going to “hell.” In studying this issue, it is important to first understand what the Bible teaches about the realm of the dead.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.”
The New Testament Greek equivalent of sheol is hades, which also refers to “the place of the dead.”
Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicate that sheol/hades is a temporary place, where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection and judgment.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
This passage gives a clear distinction between hades and the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the permanent and final place of judgment for the lost. Hades, then, is a temporary place. Many people refer to both hades and the lake of fire as “hell,” and this causes confusion. Jesus did not go to a place of torment after His death, but He did go to hades.
Sheol/hades was a realm with two divisions—a place of blessing and a place of judgment
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
The abodes of the saved and the lost are both generally called “hades” in the Bible. The abode of the saved is also called “Abraham’s bosom” (KJV) or “Abraham’s side” (NIV) in Luke 16:22 and “paradise” in Luke 23:43. The abode of the unsaved is called “hell” (KJV) or “Hades” (NIV) in Luke 16:23. The abodes of the saved and the lost are separated by a “great chasm” (Luke 16:26).
When Jesus died, He went to the blessed side of sheol and, from there, took the believers with Him to heaven
This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
The judgment side of sheol/hades has remained unchanged. All unbelieving dead go there awaiting their final judgment in the future.
Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes, according to Ephesians 4:8–10 and 1 Peter 3:18–20.
Some of the confusion has arisen from such passages as Psalm 16:10–11 as translated in the King James Version: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . . . Thou wilt show me the path of life.” “Hell” is not a correct translation in this verse. A correct reading would be “the grave” or “sheol.” Jesus said to the thief beside Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43); He did not say, “I will see you in hell.” Jesus’ body was in the tomb; His soul/spirit went to be with the blessed in sheol/hades. Unfortunately, in many versions of the Bible, translators are not consistent, or correct, in how they translate the Hebrew and Greek words for “sheol,” “hades,” and “hell.”
Some have the viewpoint that Jesus went to “hell” or the suffering side of sheol/hades in order to further be punished for our sins. This idea is completely unbiblical.
It was the death of Jesus on the cross that sufficiently provided for our redemption. It was His shed blood that effected our own cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7–9). As He hung there on the cross, He took the sin burden of the whole human race upon Himself. He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This imputation of sin helps us understand Christ’s struggle in the garden of Gethsemane with the cup of sin which would be poured out upon Him on the cross.
As Jesus neared death, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His suffering in our place was completed. His soul/spirit went to hades (the place of the dead). Jesus did not go to “hell” or the suffering side of hades; He went to “Abraham’s side” or the blessed side of hades. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension.
Did Jesus go to hell? No.
Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes.
Special thanks to gotquestions.org