Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Therefore, I don’t believe that Christ “descended into hell” after He died. Instead, he went to heaven to be with the Father (verse 46), and the thief went with him.
But I do believe and confess with all my heart that Christ our Savior “descended into Hell.”
On the cross.
I believe that on the cross, Christ suffered the fullness of God’s wrath, and that is hell.
You see, if Christ “descended into hell” after his death then his soul suffered hell, but not his body. This would mean then that there is no atonement for our bodies, and we are only half saved.
That is not what the Bible teaches us. We read in Matthew 27:45-46,
There was darkness over all the land… Jesus cried out with a loud voice… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In the Old Testament, darkness is a sign of God’s displeasure and judgment (Exodus 10:21-23; Amos 8:9). It is a vivid picture of the great and horrible torments that Christ suffered for us on the cross.
And then our Savior’s anguished cry… Psalm 22:1 from his mouth.
We can only conclude that, on the cross, cursed and forsaken, our Savior went to the lowest depths of hell and suffered the fullness of God’s wrath as our substitute, body and soul. On the Cross, the Sinless One who bore our sins “descended into hell.”
Therefore, united with Christ by faith, we have full confidence and rest. In him, we have total and complete salvation, body and soul.