Where were the souls of these saints which slept in their graves, we might ask. The souls had departed when the person had gone to sleep, as Jesus referred to death as being asleep rather than dead. The Old Testament speaks of a place named Sheol (#7585) in Hebrew. It appears 66 times throughout every period of biblical Hebrew.
In the New Testament written in Greek, we have the word "hades" (#86). Few teachers of the Gospel discuss this important subject because it deals with death. Even though "Sheol" and "hades" refer to a place where souls are kept. There is a marked difference between the two terms. Jesus saw to that. The word "Sheol" refers to a state of death as David lamented: "For in death [there is] no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.." (Psalms 18:5)
God's favorite shepherd boy, knew he would be caught in Sheol, because it is all mankind's final resting place before Jesus was resurrected. "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave." (Job 21:13)
Hannah confessed in 1 Samuel 2:6 that omnipotent God brings us to death. "Sheol" is parallel to the word hell, pit, corruption, or decay. (see Job 26:6, Psalms 16:10, Proverbs 15:11) When Jacob received the news that his son Joseph was most likely dead, "all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him." (Genesis 37:35)
Coupled with David's hope: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," (Psalms 16:10) which means that God cannot go near corruption, we can safely assume that "sheol" is a place of conscious existence.
The Scriptures: Numbers 16:30, Deuteronomy 32:22 and Psalms 9:17, tell us that it is a place where the wicked receive punishment. But Job 14:13 paints another picture of "Sheol" pointing to the resurrection of Jesus which will also redeem Job from "Sheol".
He writes: "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!"
Jesus confirmed that Sheol has two regions in Luke 16:19-31 that "Sheol" is a place of conscious existence after death, one side of which is occupied by the suffering, unrighteous dead, separated by a great chasm and the other side peopled by the righteous dead. In the New Testament "Hades" on the other hand is also considered to be the same region of the departed souls of the lost and corresponds to "Sheol".
The Apostle Peter repeated David's statement in Acts 2:27 that God would not forsake him in "Sheol" and added: "Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.
"Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His [Jesus's] soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:29-32)
In Revelation 1:18 Jesus states: "I [am] He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." (Revelation 1:18) Later in Revelation it is revealed that Jesus again unlocks the door to hell [hades] during the seven year tribulation and releases the prisoners in "hades" into the world and gave them temporary power over a fourth part of the world.
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:8) This proves there were no righteous occupants in "hades" by the time the tribulation arrives.
The fact is, Jesus made it possible for us to be in the presence of the Lord through the Holy Spirit baptism. We become the body of Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God. As the tabernacle of God, we are in His presence in the Spirit. That includes the saints who where held in "Sheol" until the resurrection. Some of their bodies were resurrected out of the graves.
Our bodies will be translated or resurrected, pending the Rapture occurs before or after our death. Reiterating that there is no holding place for believers since Christ delivered the souls of believers, when He resurrected, this Scripture should confirm it: "And Jesus said unto him [the thief on the cross, who knew who Jesus was and believed that he was forgiven], Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Paul states the same promise thus: "We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8) To be present with the Lord cannot mean to be in "hades". Hades is a place for the rebellious souls who follow the adversary and reject the Holy Spirit from entering into their hearts.