Q. Why did God send Jonah to Sheol (hell)? Wasn’t he a godly man and because he disobeyed God he was sent to hell? What will that have to do with my salvation if I disobey God?
A. Sheol is a Hebrew word that simply means “abode of the dead.” The Greek equivalent is “hades”, sometimes translated “hell” in English. Before the cross no one could enter heaven because the animals they sacrificed didn’t cleanse them of their sins, they just allowed God to set their sins aside until Jesus came to die for them.
Therefore, Sheol consisted of two distinct areas. One was a place of comfort where those who had died in faith had a pleasant place to wait for Jesus to come. After the cross Jesus took the believing dead to heaven with Him, so that side of Sheol is empty now. Today, the spirits of believers who die go directly to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
The other was a place of torment where the unbelieving dead still go to wait for the Great White Throne judgment at the end of the Millennium. The unbelieving dead from all ages will remain there until they are called to stand before God and receive their final judgment. Rev. 20:13 says at that time Hades will give up its dead and each person will be judged according to his or her works. The account of the Rich Man and Lazarus gives the Bible’s best description of the two sides of Sheol/Hades (Luke 16:19-31).
I believe the Bible says when Jonah was swallowed by the great fish he died and his spirit went to Sheol (Jonah 2:2). From there he confessed his sin and vowed to do what the Lord had commanded (Jonah 2:9). Then the Lord brought him back to life, his spirit rejoined his body, and the Lord commanded the fish to vomit him onto the land (Jonah 2:10). The Book of Jonah ends with Jonah alive on Earth.
There is no connection between the story of Jonah and the salvation of Church age believers. Our salvation is based on our belief that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, not our obedience to the Lord’s commands. As such it is guaranteed from the time we become believers (2 Cor. 1:21-22, Ephes 1:13-14).