Thank you my dear friend for this very important question. As it turns out, this portion of Scripture is central to our Christian faith, as it demonstrates clearly that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, the Christ of whom King David spoke so long ago in Psalms 16. I am guessing that the focus of your question has to do with the use of the English word “hell” in verse 31. In the Old King James, the term hell is used both in Acts 2:31, and also in Psalms 16 in David’s prophesy. In actuality, the term “hell” is very non-specific, and has been used in several different ways, despite the fact that each different use of “hell” derives from different Greek words, each one referring to entirely different concepts. The better Greek term for hell used in Acts 2 in most modern translations is “hades,” or “sheol” in Psalms 16, referring to the grave, or the place of disembodied spirits. Now, to confuse things further, I realize that there are some who teach that the Lord Jesus, when He died on the cross, went down into a place of punishment in the lower parts of the earth to interact with departed spirits who were being held. In one of the old Christian Creeds, I believe the Apostle’s Creed, the phrase is used, “He descended into hell…,” and I believe this has confused many as we have  become accustomed to using the general English term “hell” to refer to that place of torment, though generally the word “Gehenna” is the Greek word that would be used to specify that particular place, and yet, Gehenna is not used in the portions I have cited above. Additionally, consider that we do read in Luke 23:43 that the Lord Jesus said to one of the malefactors who was crucified next to Him, that one who did at length repent and believe, “…Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise…”, so it seems clear at least to me that our Lord was not in any place of punishment in the lower parts of the earth; He was in paradise, and the malefactor was with Him there; it was His lifeless body that was in the grave for three days. Please note that while in that grave, His body did not decompose, and this all goes together with His resurrection from the dead to demonstrate clearly that Jesus is in fact the Christ, the Son of God.

But now, why was Peter preaching about this matter in the first place? The situation was the day of Pentecost, after our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection from the dead. It was on this very day, Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on those present with Peter, and so to all who would listen, Peter was explaining what had just happened.  Those speaking in tongues were not intoxicated but had received the Holy Spirit as the prophet Joel had predicted (see Acts 2:16-18). Then in Acts 2:29-31 we read how Peter attempted to connect the dots for those assembled as to who Jesus really was. He was in fact, the Christ of God! We read, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre 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 soul was not left in hell, neither His flesh did see corruption”.  Peter was making the connection that this Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, was in fact that Holy One of whom David prophesied of old who would one day sit on his throne. Thus, Peter quoted lines from Psalms 16:10-11 as follows: “For Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell (hades); neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore”.

Now, as a further proof that Jesus was the Christ, by lineage through His mother Mary and also Joseph, Jesus was clearly in the line of King David (see Matthew 1); and now, He had died, and had risen again from the dead, as so many there had witnessed (Acts 2:32-33). Thus, Peter used Psalms 16 to demonstrate that David was clearly not referring to himself as the one who would not be left in the grave nor would see corruption-David did in fact die, and Peter pointed out that his grave was known to them all. So, in fact, Peter quoted this Psalm to show that this Jesus of Nazareth was the One to whom the prophesy of Psalms 16 referred.  Jesus had been crucified, but then was raised up, and now was seated at the right hand of God. His body was not left in the grave, nor did it experience corruption, but he was resurrected from the dead. Therefore, given all of this, the Lord Jesus is the One who would one day sit on King David’s throne in Jerusalem, there to reign in justice and righteousness. Now, there was a call to repentance and faith as we read in Acts 2:36: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”. Thus, many gladly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ on that day and were saved, and about 3000 souls were added to the body of Christ, the church.

And now, my dear friend, have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? It is the prayer of my heart that you have. In John5:24 we read, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life”. The Lord Jesus is in fact the Christ, who came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15); and indeed, He is the only One to whom we can come for salvation (Acts 4:12).  (SF)  (502.2)