Though some translations erroneously use the English word “hell” and much tradition suggests Jesus went to hell, they are mistaken.
Matthew 16:18 (NASB95) says, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” One enters Hades at the time of death. Jesus is saying His death will not prevent His building the church. Sadly the ESV uses the word “hell” and puts “gates of Hades” in a footnote. Hades is the correct word in this passage.
Acts 2:30-31 (ESV) says, “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” This passage does not say “hell” in correct translations, since hades is not gehenna or hell. Jesus went instead to Hades.
The Greek New Testament in both passages uses the word hades but does not use the word “gehenna” or hell. Hades is the place where departed spirits go when people die; it is different than hell. No one will enter gehenna or hell until after Judgment Day at the end of time. To confuse the two words, “hades” and “gehenna—hell,” is to mislead people into error.
Hades (the unseen place or the never filled up place) refers to a place where human spirits go when their bodies die (Luke 16:19-31). We should not suppose that all of Hades is a place of torment. Lazarus went to a place of comfort, not to hell. When faithful saints die, they go to that unseen place of comfort and are separated from those who are in torment.
The place of torment in hades contains fire and misery, but it is a temporary holding place until Judgment Day. Gehenna or hell, on the other hand, is an eternal place of torment people enter after their resurrection and Judgment.