What happened to Jesus between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Did Jesus go to hell?
Psalm 24 gives answers. Let me explain.
Canaanite pagan religion tells a story of how Baal became the greatest of all gods.
Originally, Yam was the god of the sea and reigned over the other gods. Nahar, his son, was the god of the river, and was head of his council as a prince. Mot, the god of death, ruled the underworld.
Baal ascended to Yam and defeated all three of them in battle to become chief god. At one point in the Canaanite story, Baal’s armies cower in fear before the might of Yam’s and Nahar’s armies. They literally bend their heads down in submission.
So Baal shouts to them, “lift up your heads, O you gods!” After this, Baal’s armies muster their courage, kill Yam and Nahar, and win the battle.
To celebrate his victory, Baal constructed a huge palace in his own honor.
This story was Canaanite propaganda to present their religion as superior. It was a demonic lie taught by Satan as he sought the worship of the nations.
The scriptures teach what actually happened.
Baal is Satan. Ezek 28 and Isaiah 14 teach that Satan tried to usurp the throne of God but failed to do so. In judgment, God threw him down where he only had authority over death. When humans fell into sin, death entered the world.
When humans die, they belong to Satan forever.
This is why death is the great enemy of mankind. Not only because of physical death, but physical death represents that moment where sinful humans lose all hope of deliverance from Satan’s domain.
This is also why Psalm 24 is an important Psalm at Easter time. It begins with “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Yahweh is the king over all creation because he’s the one who made it all.
Then references to the “seas” and “rivers” are actually references to Canaanite gods. It says, “he has founded it upon the seas (Heb: yam) and established it upon the rivers (Heb: nahar).” Yam is the sea god and Naham is the river god.
Yahweh is the true King over both.
Then Psalm 24 asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” (V3).
This is what Satan tried to do, but failed. These questions are references to Satan’s failed coup attempt.
Then God gives the answer. The only One welcome in God’s presence is He who has “clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully” (V4).
This is Jesus. Jesus is clean, pure, and true. Jesus is the true Son of the most High God. He walks on the sea like it was nothing because he has authority over the sea. Jesus can ascend the hill of God because he is the true Son.
The devil, however, may not. He may not ascend the hill or stand in the holy place. He lost that right in his rebellion. That privilege belongs only to the true Son of God, and to humans who are his devoted followers.
No one who follows after false gods are welcome in Gods presence. They belong to Satan, the Father of lies and lord of death.
The second half of the Psalm describes God’s assault on the realm of Satan’s dominion, the underworld.
The phrase “lift up your heads, O gates” is a taunt. It’s a reference to the devil’s lie that he was the one who inspired the armies to defeat Yahweh. The “gates” and “ancient doors” are the entrance to the underworld, Satan’s domain.
The “King of Glory” is marching in. He is the Lord, strong and mighty in battle. He has come to rescue people from the power of death, the one area of Satan’s domain.
Jesus defeated death through death.
Physically, he died as a human man.
Spiritually, he was the perfect Son of God, who can never die.
Since he was without sin, Satan has no authority over him. Thus, by his physical death he entered the portal into the realm of the dead.
But in his resurrection, he broke the power of death by the power of his indestructible life. Death was swallowed up in victory. The strong man’s goods have been plundered by one stronger than he.
Psalm 24 anticipated this fact and prophetically goaded the devil into using his one weapon, death, as the very instrument God would use to defeat it. Satan detonated a grenade in his own house.
This is why the apostles creed states, “he descended into hell.” Peter also declares that “the gospel was preached even to those who are dead” (1 Pet 4:6).
This doesn’t mean the dead were given an opportunity to repent, but that they were told the news that Satan was permanently defeated. This is Good News for believers, but bad news for them.
And this is the true account of Christ’s death & resurrection. Satan’s coup failed. Christ entered his domain & plundered his goods.
Thus, by faith, Christians are counted righteous in Him.
We ascend the holy hill. We stand in the holy place with cleans hands and pure hearts.