Questions and Answers
Q: What happened to Christ's spirit the three days he was in the tomb? Where is it in scripture?
This is a great and perplexing question and many have contemplated its answer. In order to comprehend the answer, one must first acknowledge the established truth that Jesus Christ accomplished and fulfilled everything necessary on the cross for the redemption of man. We read in John 19:30 that the Lord Jesus cried out the words, "It is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost." The prophet Isaiah wrote concerning the sacrificial death of the Messiah in Isaiah 53 and verse eleven states, "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." That being established, it is noteworthy to recognize that Jesus Christ was not continuing to pay our sin debt after He died physically; that was completed on the cross!
This brings us to the original question. What was the Lord Jesus doing and where was He doing it the three days His body lay in the tomb? According to Luke 23:46, Jesus went immediately into the Father's presence upon His physical death: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." The Lord Jesus presented His precious blood as the eternal payment for our sins to the heavenly Holy of Holies. "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy lace, having obtained eternal redemption for us. . . .For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:12, 24).
Before the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the believers that died went to paradise as described by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31. There are many truths to be gleaned from this passage, but we will remain focused on the question at hand. This passage teaches there are no second chances for salvation after one dies physically (Luke 16:26; Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, Jesus Christ did NOT go into hell and preach salvation to those lost souls. Ephesians 4:7-10 says Jesus Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth. Although Scripture is not crystal clear on everything that transpired the three days Jesus' body lay in the tomb, I personally believe one other thing He accomplished was going into the comforting side of Paradise, Luke 16:22, 25, and presenting Himself and His completed work of redemption to the saved souls of those who had died before the events of the cross. When Jesus was resurrected, He led "captivity captive", Psalm 68:18, transferring Paradise into Heaven itself. Jesus was to be the "firstborn among many brethren", Romans 8:29. Now, when all the saved die physically, we immediately enter into heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:8.
There is much more written on the topic in various works on Systematic Theology by such authors as Wayne Grudem and Lewis Sperry Chafer. This is brief, but hopefully, it has been helpful.
These are some thoughts to ponder.