Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Does (1 Peter 3:18-20) teach that Jesus went to hell and preached to dead people?

Answer: No. Please read the following points that expound upon this difficult passage in 1st Peter.

The Passage:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine long-suffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Background of the Passage:
There were many people at this time who were slandering Christians. Christians should not be “troubled” by this (3:14). Instead we should use it as an opportunity to teach about Christ in a gentile, godly way (3:15-16). This does not mean that we will not “suffer”(17), but instead, we can use our suffering for good. In the later part of chapter 3, Peter emphasizes that God is a caring God, and He even cares about those who are persecuting His followers. In (3:18) we read that Christ died for the “unjust”, He “preached” to the unjust (3:19) and that God will provide salvation to those who follow Him (3:20).

Three Important Questions from this Passage:
  • What does it mean that Christ was “alive in the Spirit”?
  • Who are these “spirits in prison”?
  • When did Christ “preach to them”?
What does it mean that Christ was “alive in/by the Spirit”?
Jesus’ flesh was dead at the cross. His dead body was placed in the tomb. His spirit, however, was very much alive. Jesus, as spirit, has always existed (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit was also involved in resurrection of Christ (Romans 8:11). So Peter is saying that either Jesus as an eternal Spirit has always been alive or that He was made to live post death through of the Holy Spirit. Both thoughts reflect the same idea; Jesus, as an eternal being was not killed.

Who are the “spirits in prison”?
In a similar way to Jesus being alive in the Spirit while dead in the flesh, Jesus preached to those spirits “now in prison”. “Now in prison” is assumed to be a synonym with “in the grave”. The people that Jesus preached to in the Spirit, during the time of the writing of this letter were dead. These would be those who died during the flood (vs. 20).

When did Christ “preach to them”?
Keeping the context in mind, Jesus “in His spirit” preached to those spirits who are now in prison (dead). He did not do this during His time in the tomb, but through Noah, during the time of Noah (1 Peter 1:11). Jesus pre-existed and was working in the world prior to coming to earth in the flesh. The pre-incarnate Jesus preached to people (who died in the flood) through the preaching of Noah on Earth.

We as Christians are special people who are partakers of a special salvation. God wants all to be partakers of this salvation. In fact God has always offered salvation to the lost. Through the preaching of Christ through Noah, or Christ’s death on the cross, God wants all to be saved.

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB95