Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, 1 Peter 3:19

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Hard Verses Episode 6: He Preached to the Spirits in Prison (1 Peter 3:19).

Wanted to thank Sam Cook for the Intro work, Jordan Gray (actually Don Garey, sorry) for the suggestion and Alan Caudle for the legal disclaimer at the end.

The Problem.

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.  1 Peter 3:18-20 KJV

Who?

Who is the “he” in “by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison?”

 

What?

Who or what are the spirits in prison?

What did He preach to the spirits in prison?

When?

When did He preach to the spirits in prison?

Where?

Where were the spirits in prison?

Where did Jesus preach to the spirits?

Why?

Why did He preach to the spirits in prison?

Sound Transition

The Solution.

  • The whole purpose of this section is to encourage the brethren about the suffering that was on them.
  • I will give you two “safe”[1] ways to interpret this.
  • Jesus through the preaching of the Apostles and others presented the gospel to those in the same condition as those in Noah’s day. They would be captive and dead in their sin but now multitudes will come to Christ.

 

  • Eph 2:17. And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.   –Jesus did not personally preach to the Gentiles but had his messengers bring the message.
  • Could it be that Noah’s message to the lost was through the Holy Spirit, (the “in which” refers to the Spirit and not Christ) or that Christ would have been the one preaching through Noah?
  • There are three major sets of beliefs with many subsets concerning this including our “safe” way to interpret this.
  1. A more recent view is what is stated by Pulpit Commentary. The preaching is in reference to men “alive after Pentecost to whom the gospel was preached by Christ through the apostles, men in a natural prison house of bandage to sin and Satan.”[2]
  2. An older theory that goes back to the third century AD, is that the spirits who are now in prison are “the disembodied souls of the people who perished in the Flood, and that the preincarnate Christ preached to them through Noah…”[3]
  3. The apparent oldest of the theories identifies spirits in prison as fallen angels. There are writings (unscriptural and uninspired) that indicate that this may have been the belief at the time of Peter’s writings. 1 Enoch predates not only Peter’s writings but even the ministry of Christ.
    1. There is additional support for this in that 2 Peter 2:4,5 and Jude 6 discuss the fate of angels and demons.
      1. There is descriptions of Christ being over spiritual beings.
      2. There are descriptions of angels and demons being reprimanded and subjugated.
    2. Spirit in these contemporary (inspired writings) is generally shown to describe the supernatural unless described additionally as human.
    3. Those early (uninspired) writers all point to the great transgression of the angels as occurring before the flood. (it may be common myth).
    4. According to Hiebert, this theory went into disfavor with the fourth century church.
  • Back to the original questions.

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.  1 Peter 3:18-20 KJV

Who?

Who is the “he” in “by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison?”

  • Most would agree this is Christ even if pointing to the antecedent Spirit (the spirit of Christ).

 

What?

Who or what are the spirits in prison?

  • Disembodied souls of the lost at the time of Noah. (This does not go with other scriptures).
  • The souls in that lost condition of those during the time of the apostles preaching.
  • Angelic beings that were disobedient during the time prior to the ark.

What did He preach to the spirits in prison?

  • Disembodied souls lost at the time of Noah—
    • He really could not preach the gospel because His resurrection was not complete.
    • He would be giving them a second chance even though they rejected the message the entire century that Noah preached to them (not likely).
  • The souls in a lost condition of sin.
    • Preached the gospel to come out of that.
    • They would be encouraged by this message (remember the purpose of this scripture). Only a few survived on the ark but many more are coming to know salvation through Christ.
  • Angelic beings that were disobedient during the time prior to the ark.
    • This would have been a proclamation of victory over them.
    • Preaching is not always the gospel but can be a negative message.

When?

When did He preach to the spirits in prison?

  • Disembodied souls lost at the time of Noah.
    • He would have gone after dying on the cross and before or after His resurrection. (There is much confusion concerning the use of hell in the modern translations).
    • To say that Christ traveled to the side of Gehenna (think of Lazarus and the rich man- the fiery side), would be to add to the word. Jesus stated that He would be with the thief on the cross in Paradise after death, not Gehenna (splitting hairs, maybe?).

Where?

Where were the spirits in prison?

Where did Jesus preach to the spirits?

  • Could the proclamation be made from heaven? Yes. Victory over death and the grave.  All power given unto Him over all things including spiritual.

 

Why?

Why did He preach to the spirits in prison?

  • Was He giving a second chance?
  • To the already departed human and the disobedient angel, there is no second chance.
  • To the men and women still alive, there was a second chance to not be like Noah’s generation that perished.
  • Concerning the proclamation of victory over disobedient angels, this would have been in line with the proclamation that every knee will bow and tongue confess (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10). This proclamation would also be encouraging to those currently suffering for Christ (remember the original intent of the section of scripture).

The lesson for us today.

We can draw encouragement from this scripture as well.  Are we suffering because we are doing God’s will? Keep in mind who is ultimately in charge.

Maybe we need to be reminded of the entire population of the world drowning in a world-wide flood because they would not take the time to hear what God had to say.

If we are lost and still in our sin then we are in bondage to something we have no way of getting out of ourselves.  We must heed the warning and obey the gospel.

 

Call to action.

The links to the articles are here:

http://apologeticspress.org/aparticle.aspx?cid=851

https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/ntesources/ntarticles/bsac-nt/hiebert-1peter3-pt2-bs.htm

Through e-sword (free for download, free to use) I used the following modules:

Burton Coffman

 

Pulpit Commentary

 

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[1] Safe in that one could understand this without wandering from basic theological premises.  Other theories involve the use of more extravagant premises beyond basic theological tenets.  Could not think of another word to describe this (It is late when I am writing this).

[2] The Suffering and Triumphant Christ: An Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22 by D. Edmond Hiebert.  His listing of the three theories is also used.

[3] Ibid.

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