Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 30, 1964

Bible Answers

Gene Frost, 1900 Jenny Lind, Fort Smith, Arkansas

QUESTION: How did Christ preach to the spirits in prison?

ANSWER: This question refers to 1 Peter 3:18-20: "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 sometimes 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."

Jesus before coming to earth, as God (theos) was a Being of spirit. (John 1:1, 4:24) When He came to earth He took on flesh and was made in the image of man. (John 1:14, Phil. 2:5-8) In death the spirit of Christ separated from the body. (James 2:26) The body was placed in the tomb and the spirit entered into hades. (Acts 2:27) But death was not able to hold Him and He was resurrected. (Isa. 28:14-16, Matt. 16:18, Acts 2:31) He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, i.e.; by reason of an eternal spirit was able to come forth from the grave victorious. (Cf. Heb. 9:14)

By this same spirit He went and preached to spirits in prison. The pivotal question of this passage is, when did Jesus in spirit preach to spirits in prison? The text tells us: "when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah." How did Jesus preach in the days of Noah? Peters tells us in the first chapter of this epistle: "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify . ..." (1 Peter 1:10-12) God had sentenced man because of his wickedness: "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth...." (Gen. 6:7) Yet man could be delivered from this prison of conviction in which he waited for the divine execution. "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." (Gen. 6:3) Christ in the spirit preached to the antediluvians through Noah, a preacher of righteousness. (2 Peter 2:5; cf. 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Cor. 2:7-13, 2 Sam. 23:2) In other words, when the people were disobedient in the day of Noah, Christ preached to them through Noah. By this same eternal spirit, Himself Deity, He was able to come forth from the grave.

Peter does not suggest that Christ went into hades to preach, as some have supposed. Nothing is said of hades. Nothing is said of Christ preaching after His death. Rather when Christ preached was in the days of Noah. To whom He preached were the disobedient souls in prison, i.e.; under sentence from God. How He preached to those then, we are told, was by the spirit, the same spirit by which He was made alive following His death. That Christ did not go into hades and preach to anyone we know by the fact that after death one's condition or state cannot be changed. It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment — there is no second chance in between. (Heb. 9:27) Furthermore, in hades there is a great gulf fixed so that there is no crossing over. (Luke 16:23-26) Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2)

Those who obeyed the preaching of Noah were saved from the sentence of death in the flood; in fact, only eight souls. This was the effect of his preaching of righteousness. After a true likeness, Christ preaches to us today, not in the person of Noah but through His apostles and prophets. (Eph. 3:3-5, Matt, 28:19-20, 2 Cor. 5:20) And as by water Noah and his family were delivered from death, even so "baptism doth also now save us," i.e. by baptism those under the sentence of death (Rom. 3:23, 6:23) are delivered. (Acts 2:38, 22:16, 1 Cor. 12:13, Col. 1:13)