(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)(Ephesians 4:9-10) NKJV
Who descended and what are the lower parts of the Earth? Fortunately this isn’t a mystery and we’ve already done the work needed to resolve both issues.
After the crucifixion Jesus Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth, the grave, and gathered up the OT saints. He also preached to the disobedient spirits in prison, the molten core of the earth, what we call hell.
Let’s begin by establishing that it really was Jesus who descended into the lower parts of the Earth. The passage above is an excerpt from Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts and the context makes it crystal clear that the subject of the passage, “He ascended” is Jesus Christ. Here’s how it’s rendered in the NKJV:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)(Ephesians 4:7-10) NKJV
We’ve also been told that Jesus preached to the dead. And where could the dead be but in the lower parts of the Earth?
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.(1 Peter 4:6) KJV
Who of the dead is this referring to? Not just any dead, but those who had been dead since the great flood of Noah.
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.(1 Peter 3:19-20) KJV
Any Christian brave enough to go this far is then faced with the issue, what did they do for the 1,000s of years that may have passed from the time that they died to the crucifixion? Thanks to gravitational time dilation, it wasn’t very long at all. This is how we resolve the conundrum of the sign of Jonah.