Remember that Jesus told His disciples that He would spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth (see Matt. 12:40). This does not seem to be a likely reference to His body being in a tomb for three days, as a tomb would hardly be considered to be at “the heart of the earth.” Rather, Jesus must have been speaking of His spirit/soul being deep in the earth. Therefore we can conclude that His spirit/soul was not in heaven between His death and resurrection. Jesus affirmed this at His resurrection when He told Mary that He had not yet ascended to His Father (see John 20:17).
Keep in mind that that Jesus also told the repentant thief on the cross that he would be with Him that very day in Paradise (see Luke 23:43). Putting all these facts together, we know that Jesus’ spirit/soul spent three days and nights in the heart of the earth, and at least part of that time He was in a place He called “Paradise,” which certainly doesn’t sound like an acceptable synonym for the place of torment called Sheol/Hades!
All of this leads me to think that there must be a place in the heart of the earth besides Sheol/Hades, a place called Paradise . This idea is certainly buttressed by a story Jesus once told of two people who died, one unrighteous and one righteous, the rich man and Lazarus. Let’s read the story:
Now there was a certain man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received the good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:19-26, emphasis added).
Of course, both Lazarus and the rich man were not in their bodies once they died, but they had traveled to their respective places as spirits/souls.