There is always a time when you made the transition from the “old man” to the “new man.” That time was chosen by God in eternity and applied by the Holy Spirit when He willed (John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know from where it comes and where it goes. So it is with everyone been born of the Spirit.”) We cannot make it happen; we can only reject the call. Each and every one of us will have that opportunity at some point in our existence (note I did not say life) for during the time Jesus was in the tomb, he descended to the dead.
We say it in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus was “crucified, dead and buried,” and then “descended into hell,” before finishing with “on the third day he rose from the dead.” He rose not from death, but the dead, the place where the dead are. He rose from amongst the dead.
Why is this important. The early Church Fathers believed Jesus preached the Gospel to the dead. I take it a step further. They believed he preached to the Old Testament dead only. There is no scripture for this, only logical deduction since they place that event in the time which it occurred and that time in hell was the same time as here on earth. I, also using logical deduction, believe that he preached to all of the dead, to all those who had not heard or rejected the Gospel from all time, from the beginning of creation to the last person to die at the end. He did this so no one could ever claim they never heard the good news and were never given the choice to accept or reject his offer. But it says something more, something very important. It says to us that the God in whom we live and move and have our being has not forgotten the dead. No, not even the dead. They too will hear the Gospel. They too, will get the choice we were given.
And what happens? In Ephesians 4:8-9 it says “This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He led captives away, and gave gifts to men.” What does “He ascended” mean, except that He also descended to the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the very One who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.” He freed those who were captive to death and hell. Two Psalms attest to this. Psalm 30:3 “O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol…” and Psalm 80:13 “For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
So, while Jesus’ body lay dead in the tomb, His Spirit was in the depths of Sheol, among the dead, preaching salvation to all who would listen and be freed. Time was many were held captive in hell until the time when they were freed by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, made real and actionable by his resurrection from the dead. Only a man who was among the dead can be resurrected, other wise he was just resuscitated. Jesus was resurrected, bringing with him a train of saints freed from the depths of hell.