After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—1 Peter 3:19-20a NIV
to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
For parts of three days, from his death to his resurrection, Jesus’ body lay in a tomb. But what about his spirit? Where was it during that time when his body was dead?
It has been common throughout much of church history to picture Jesus as spending that time in hell. The Apostles’ Creed, developed sometime between the third and fifth centuries, says that Jesus “was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day, he rose again from the dead.” But this is nowhere explicitly taught in the pages of the Scripture. 1 Peter 3:19-20 is frequently used as support for a stay in hell. But does it really teach that?
This passage teaches that after his resurrection, Jesus proclaimed something to some imprisoned spirits. Who were these imprisoned spirits? The common Jewish belief at the time (see 1 Enoch) was that they were the sons of God from Genesis 6:1-4, fallen angels, who were then chained in Tartarus awaiting judgment (2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 1:6).
And if that is the case, and I think it is most likely, then what Jesus proclaimed to them was judgment. Jesus had triumphed over them on the cross (Col. 2:15). And now their doom was sealed.
So, back to that original question, where was Jesus during that time? The best answer comes from Luke 23:43, where he told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”