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Let’s start by focusing on someone who actually did drown—literally—but God rescued him. His name was Jonah, a biblical character known to most people. However, few understand the profound depth of what really happened to him.

You might want to grab your Bible and read “The Prayer of Jonah” carefully (Jonah 2:2-9). Most of that pivotal prayer—seven out of eight verses—is actually a psalm of thanksgiving to God for having answered a previous prayer. Even more surprising—that previous prayer was apparently uttered in hell. You are probably squinting your eyes in skepticism at this point, but check it out in the Bible:

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish's belly. And he said: "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol [out of the belly of hell—KJV] I cried, and You heard my voice (Jonah 2:1-2).

Though it can mean just the grave, the Hebrew word Sheol also refers to the underworld: the spiritual realm of departed souls, both the righteous and the wicked. According to Jesus’ teaching, in that Old Testament era, Sheol contained two chambers: one of fiery torment for the wicked and then, across an impassable gulf, a pleasant but temporary abode for the righteous called “Abraham’s bosom” (see Luke 16:19-31).

So apparently Jonah drowned when he was thrown overboard, and his soul descended into that horrid place reserved for the unrighteous who die in a state of sin. The erring prophet graphically described his plight:

I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever. . .” (Jonah 2:6).

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