Death!

“For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does” (I Peter 4:6).

The Bible speaks of three kinds of death. First, there is spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-3). This is the person who is separated from God and possesses no spiritual life, even while they are physically alive. Second, there is physical death (Hebrews 9:27). This is the person whose soul is separated from their physical bodies. This kind of death is experienced by the saved and the unsaved. Third, there is eternal death (Revelation 20:11-15). This is eternal separation from God, also referred to as the Second Death. This is experienced by the unsaved only. Please note that death is not annihilation but rather separation.

The only answer for the problem of death, in all its forms, is the Gospel. The Gospel teaches that (1) God exists; (2) Sin exists; (3) One Savior, Jesus Christ, exists; and (4) Salvation exists in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel message not only declares that Jesus Christ delivers the sinner from the penalty, power and presence of sin, but also that Jesus Christ delivers the sinner from spiritual, physical and eternal death.

Jesus said, ““I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Peter was teaching his fellow believers that the Gospel is the only hope we have. He was proclaiming that this Gospel was preached in the past to those who were now presently and physically dead. Even though believers will experience physical death, this neither undermines the reality of their spiritual and eternal life, nor their eventual physical and glorified life (I Corinthians 15).

One pastor explains, “The preaching of the gospel not only offers a rich life (I Peter 3:10), a ceasing from sin (I Peter 4:1), and a good conscience (I Peter 3:21), but also an escape from final judgement. Peter had in mind believers who had heard and accepted the gospel of Christ when they were still alive, but who had died by the time Peter wrote this letter. Some of them, perhaps, had been martyred for the faith. Though these were dead physically, they were triumphantly alive in their spirits (Hebrews 12:23). All their judgment had been fully accomplished while they were alive in this world (in the flesh), so they will live forever in God’s presence.”

Too often we live lives focused on the here and now, rather than eternity. All too often we focus on the physical rather than the spiritual and the eternal. All too often we tend to focus on the difficulties in our earthly life rather than the promised blessings of our eternal, heavenly life to come.

Difficulties will come, perhaps even persecutions for our faith in Christ, but we must focus our attention not exclusively upon the here and now, the physical and the earthly, but rather upon the spiritual, eternal and the heavenly. I Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Prepare to meet your Judge.

But they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (I Peter 4:5).

I have heard many testimonies from people about their faith in Jesus Christ. I have often given my own, personal testimony of my conversion of faith in Christ as my Savior and Lord. During those occasions, Jesus may be referred to as one’s friend, guide, or some other descriptive and biblical term. However, I rarely hear people speak of Jesus as Judge. Yet, this is how Peter describes Jesus in I Peter 4:5.

The verse is a contrast to what Peter has said in I Peter 4:3-4. He again specifically speaks about unsaved people who are surprised and then malign former friends who now follow Christ. His words in vs. 5 are not only an encouragement to the believer but also a warning to the unbeliever.

Peter refers to the unsaved with the phrase “but they.” Ultimately, the unsaved will no longer be surprised and slander those they know who no longer want to participate in sin. Rather, they will be doing something else with their speech. What is that?

They will actively give an account sometime in their future. The word account (λόγος; logos) is a statement or a reason for what they have done here on earth. The word literally means, “To give an accounting of an account.” Peter says the unsaved will give an accounting for the sum total of their lives; perhaps lived as the apostle described in I Peter 4:4. To whom will they give this accounting? To Jesus, who is ironically identified as the Logos in John 1:1-14. In effect, Peter is saying that the unsaved will give an accounting of the accounted sum total of their lives here on earth to the Sovereign Accountant of the universe.

Jesus is the one who is ready (ἑτοίμως; hetoimos) and prepared to judge (κρίνω; krino) and make a legal decision not only regarding the living but also the dead. Jesus will judge the spiritually living regarding their service for Christ (I Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10). This is referred to as the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. The Savior will evaluate the service of the saved.

But Jesus will also judge the spiritually dead at the Great White Throne Judgement recorded in Revelation 20:11-15 which says, 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

One theologian explains it this way. “Those who have spent their lives in indulgence and idolatry will someday give account (apodōsousin logon, lit., “give back a word or an account”; cf. Matt. 12:36; Luke 16:2; Acts 19:40; Heb. 13:17). Peter warned that these people must one day face the One who is ready (i.e., willing) to judge. No one will escape this final judgment of the words and works of his earthly life, when Christ will judge both the living (zōntas) and the dead (nekrous) (cf. Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9; 1 Thess. 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:1).”

Are you ready to meet your Judge? Whether we are saved or unsaved, we will stand before the Lord who will judge the living and the dead. Are you to be judged for your service for Christ, who is your Savior and Lord, or are you to be one who will be judged for your sinful rebellion as an enemy of the Lord (Romans 5:10)?

If you are a believer in Christ, ask God to help you evaluate your service so that it pleases and glorifies the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ, repent of your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior (John 1:12-13). Do so today!

Soli deo Gloria!

Peer Pressure!

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” (I Peter 4:3-4).

Peer pressure! Going along with crowd. Or as one youth leader once remarked, “If you run with skunks you’re going to smell like a skunk.” I Corinthians 15:33-34 says, “33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”

Prior to my conversion to Christ in October 1974, I associated with a group of people who attended the college I was attending. We were all aspiring writers and/or journalists. We worked on the school newspaper together, often attended the same classes, and sometimes got together to party. Alcohol was a predominant part of our after school get-togethers. I actively participated.

However, when I was converted that behavior soon lost its appeal. I became increasingly uninterested in attending such gatherings as before, and found myself making excuses to my friends why I could no longer attend. Eventually, I began to share my faith in Christ to them. Except for a few, most of my college friends did not want to hear what I had to say about Jesus Christ and they weren’t bashful about telling me so. I had changed, they said, and they did not like the changes they were seeing in me.

Peter makes reference to this in I Peter 4:4. He says lost people are surprised (ξενίζω; xenizo) when any friend of theirs no longer wants to do what they previously did prior to their conversion. The individual’s friends experience an unexpected feeling of wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to party and have fun like the world says you should.

They are surprised, Peter continues, when you do not want to participate in what the apostle says is a “flood of debauchery.” This phrase refers to senseless, reckless and extreme sinful behavior. How well I remember my friends reacting that way when I no longer wanted to participate in their parties.

However, surprise soon gave way to being maligned. To malign (βλασφημέω; blasphemeo), from which we derive our English word blasphemy, means to slander, defame and defile. It means to speak about someone in a way which will injure them or their reputation. This is not a pleasant experience when former friends treat you this way, and say negative things about you behind your back, because you have accepted Christ.

What do you do when this happens? Find new friends who not only love you, but also truly love the Lord. You will find them in a Bible study group, Sunday school class, and in a church. You may find them at school, at college or even at work.

However, even when you feel very alone, remember that Jesus will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6). How often do I thank the Lord for that precious promise.

Soli deo Gloria!

Live for the Will of God.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (I Peter 4:1-2).

When last we met, we discussed the meaning of the Apostle Peter’s statement in I Peter 4:1 when he wrote, “For whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” We submitted several different interpretations to the particular phrase “has ceased from sin.”

Some interpret it to mean the character building effects of suffering. Or it may mean that all those in union with Christ in His suffering and death are considered not to be sinful since Christ has died for their sin and taken its penalty ( I Peter 2:24; 3:18; Romans 6:7).

However, in light of what Peter wrote in I Peter 2:24, we believe that what he means is that believers are no longer living for sin but rather increasingly living for righteousness. We have ceased to have sin be our desire to fulfill but rather we seek to be holy in all we do. I Peter 4:2 supports the interpretation that the believer in Christ is striving to no longer live for sin but rather to live to be holy as the Lord is holy.

Peter writes “so as to live for the rest of the time.” The word “live” (βιόω; bioo) means our conduct in daily living. “For the rest of the time” is a phrase taken from the Greek word χρόνος; chronos, from which we derive our English word chronology meaning things as they happen. Peter says that our conduct in daily living as a Christian from this point on as things happen in our lives should be for one singular purpose.

That purpose is that while we live on this earth we no longer live for human passions (ἄνθρωπος; anthropos; ἐπιθυμία; epithymia). Human passions are lustful cravings. John calls them the lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (I John 2:15-17). This describes the sinner’s desires prior to conversion to Christ.

Rather, the believer in Christ now lives for the will of God. In other words, that which God purposes as right, good and holy should be what the believer continually pursues each and every day.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that living in such a way is counter cultural. In fact, the world hates this type of living. People who live biblically right, good and holy lives interfere with those who desire to live for sin. When the two different lifestyles converge, at home, work or school, there is bound to be conflict and suffering. We have seen in I Peter that we must never cause suffering, and at the same time we are to be biblically prepared to receive it.

This will require the believer to possess a strength and courage to persevere. Thanks be to God that He gives this strength to each believer through the Holy Spirit. Have a blessed new day as you strive to live for the will and glory of God.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Arm Yourselves!

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” (I Peter 4:1).

As Peter begins what we understand to be chapter four of his epistle, he again introduces a conclusion by the use of the word “therefore.” I Peter 4:1 also includes a cause and effect structure. The idea is that since Christ has demonstrated a particular behavior, we are in response to demonstrate a corresponding behavior. Let’s look and see what Peter has to say.

The behavior Jesus Christ demonstrated is that he suffered in the flesh. Jesus experienced suffering (πάσχω; pascho) in an active, complete and, by the cross, in a way unique to Him and only Him. His suffering on our behalf secured eternal salvation for the elect of God (Ephesians 1:3-10). Jesus knew the pain of physical persecution while also bearing the sins of many thereby receiving God’s righteous wrath (Romans 1:18).

In light of this truth, God commands believers to arm themselves. To arm (ὁπλίζω; hoplizo) means to personally prepare yourself and be ready. Ready for what? Suffering! Suffering for the Christian faith. Suffering for Jesus Christ (John 15:18-19).

Preparation for suffering for Christ begins with our thinking (ἔννοια; ennoia), which is not just knowledge but also our attitude. Suffering, as we have said several times in this series, is never easy. However, it we have the right biblical attitude, we can not only survive the suffering we face for Jesus but also we can thrive by striving to bring Him glory as we trust Him every step of the journey.

Peter then makes a statement that has solicited many interpretations. What does the apostle mean when he writes, “For whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” The word cease (παύω; pauo) means to stop some activity or behavior. Is Peter teaching sinless perfection while the believer is on this earth because they suffer for Christ? I John 1:8-10 teaches otherwise. So, what does Peter mean?

Some interpret it to mean the character building effects of suffering. Or it may mean that all those in union with Christ in His suffering and death are considered not to be sinful since Christ has died for their sin and taken its penalty ( I Peter 2:24; 3:18; Romans 6:7).

However, in light of what Peter wrote in I Peter 2:24, we believe that what he means is that believers are no longer living for sin but rather increasingly living for righteousness. We have ceased to have sin be our desire to fulfill but rather we seek to be holy in all we do.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The passage speaks of the believers’ desire not to sin because of their real identification with Christ, which gives them power and motivation to not sin. The bent of believers’ lives should be toward a progressive ceasing from sin.”

How is your progress in becoming less and less sinful and more and more holy? I know, sometimes it seems to be one step forward and two steps back. Many days it may appear that you are making no progress at all. Take heart! You are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for one another as we do.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Gone Into Heaven.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (I Peter 3:21-22).

The Apostle Peter describes the Ascension of Jesus Christ as follows: “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God.” The phrase “gone into heaven” is respectively from the Greek words πορεύομαι (poreuomai) and οὐρανός (ouranos). The word “gone” or “go” means to travel or go away. In the context, the place Jesus traveled to was the dwelling place of God: heaven.

However, Jesus’ ascension was not an act which He actively brought about, but rather was an event in which He was a passive recipient of the actions of God the Father. The Father exalted His only-begotten Son as a reward for His faithfulness. Jesus is now at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:1-2) where He reigns as Lord of heaven and earth (Colossians 1:15-16; 2:14-15).

Who is subject (ὑποτάσσω; hypostasso) or subordinate to Jesus’ authority as King and Sovereign? Peter mentions three categories of beings: angels, authorities and powers. Angels (ἄγγελος; angelos) are God created supernatural messengers who dwell with Him in heaven. Authorities (ἐξουσία; exousia) are those angelic powers God has given authority to rule over nations. See Ephesians 1:21-23. Powers (δύναμις; dynamis) is another word for those who possess supernatural power. This may refer to fallen angels or demons. Peter is saying that even evil powers are under Jesus’ authority.

The application is simple: Jesus is in total control of everything and everyone: in heaven and on earth. We do not need to fear anything that happens to us. God has it firmly under His sovereign authority. What an awesome truth.

Thank God today that He is in charge and that He is trustworthy.

Soli deo Gloria!

Ascension.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (I Peter 3:21-22).

As important as the death, burial and resurrection are to the message of the gospel and the Christian faith, the ultimate work of Jesus Christ was His ascension into heaven. It is unfortunate that the current evangelical church largely ignores the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

The biblical author and historian Luke records the Ascension of Jesus in Acts 1:6-11. 6 “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Why is the ascension so important that both Luke and Peter record it? First, the ascension depicts the way Jesus Christ will return. The angels (Acts 1:10) told the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way that departed: visibly, bodily, gradually and in the clouds.

I Thessalonians 4:16-17 says, 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

Regardless of the various interpretations as to exactly when the events Paul wrote about in I Thessalonians 4 will actually occur, one indisputable fact remains: Jesus Christ, the Lord Himself, will descend from heaven.

Secondly, His ascension, along with His return, is a declaration of Jesus Christ’s glory following His humiliation. He is the sovereign God of the universe. The Apostle Paul wrote, 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (I Timothy 6:13-16).

One author writes, “Jesus is indeed coming from heaven at the end of the age to consummate His plan and bring a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21). But He is not coming back to establish His kingdom and take His throne, for as Matthew 24:1–31 and Acts 1:6–11 inform us, Christ took this throne when He ascended on high and judged the city of Jerusalem in the first century. Jesus is reigning now, and because He is king, we can serve Him in confidence of His final victory.”

Today, let us celebrate that Jesus Christ is currently the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is in control.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Repent and Be Baptized.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 3:21).

When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost and his hearers were convicted of their sin, he said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The act of repentance would involve not only turning from one’s sin, but also then turning to faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Baptism would immediately follow as a visible and public demonstration of one’s true repentance and faith, but never the basis of one’s repentance and faith. That object and basis of our faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, along with His virgin birth, sinless life and substitutionary death, and not water baptism.

If this is so, then why do Presbyterian and Reformed churches baptize infants? Are they not doing the same thing as Catholics and Lutherans? Is this also a water baptism which saves ceremony?

Not at all. In the case of Presbyterian and Reformed churches baptizing infants, it is a symbol of the parent’s dedication to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is also a sign of the covenant of salvation that the child in question would be brought to saving faith in Christ. It mirrors what many evangelical churches call baby dedication. The baptism in these cases is not for the purpose of saving the child from their sin. That is only accomplished through faith in Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-26 these words, “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Four times the apostle uses the word faith, or its verb equivalent believe. Faith, or believing, is a trust, dependence, commitment and worship of Jesus Christ alone and is the instrument God uses to apply His gracious salvation by the person and work of Jesus Christ to the elect sinner. Baptism pictures this grace, but is never the means of God’s grace.

We must never trust in anyone, or for that matter anything, other than the person and work of Jesus Christ to deliver us from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin. To do so is to depart from the true message and meaning of the gospel.

May we remain vigilant to God’s truth.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Baptism.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 3:21).

Is water baptism the means by which God saves sinners? This question continues to be debated within churches, and among Christians, even to this day. One church or person says baptism saves, while another church or person says no. Who is right? Can we know for sure the answer to this dilemma?

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that water baptism it is the entrance into a covenant relationship with God, or the first means (among many)  of God’s grace to the sinner. Most Lutheran churches agree, as do the Disciples of Christ denomination.

At the same time, there are many evangelical churches and believers who teach and preach that baptism is only an outward sign of the sinner’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. It is a beloved sacrament or ordinance of the church, the Lord’s Supper being the other, and which serves as a public testimony of one’s faith in Christ as Savior and commitment to Christ as Lord. Therefore, while water baptism is important it does not save.

One proof text cited as evidence that water baptism does indeed save is I Peter 3:21. On the surface, it would appear that this verse is undeniable proof that water baptism is the way by which God saves sinners. But is this what the Apostle Peter means? Let’s find out.

The verse begins with the word baptism. Our English word baptism is derived from the Greek word βάπτισμα (baptisma) which means to be immersed in water in a religious ceremony symbolizing purification from sin on the basis of repentance. Peter explains that water baptism is a type or picture paralleling the deliverance God provided Noah and his family during the flood.

One theologian writes, “Baptism represents a complete break with one’s past life. As the Flood wiped away the old sinful world, so baptism pictures one’s break from his old sinful life and his entrance into new life in Christ. Peter now applied to his readers the principle he set forth in verses 13–17 and illustrated in verses 18–20.”

Well, if this is the case that baptism is only a picture or symbol of salvation, then why does Peter say in vs. 21 that “baptism…now saves you?” We must remember the context in which this verse is found.

Peter is exhorting believers to have the courage to commit themselves to Christ as Lord by taking a public stand for Christ through water baptism. The act of public baptism would “save” them from the temptation to sacrifice their good consciences in order to avoid persecution (I Peter 3:13-17). For a first-century Christian, baptism meant the believer was following through on his/her commitment to Christ, regardless of the consequences.

Peter explicitly says this when he writes that baptism, or being immersed in water, is not for the purpose of taking a bath to become physically clean, but rather it is an appeal to God for a good or beneficial conscience.

One Bible teacher comments, “Baptism does not save from sin, but from a bad conscience. Peter clearly taught that baptism was not merely a ceremonial act of physical purification, but (alla, making a strong contrast) the pledge (eperōtēma, or “appeal”; cf. nasb) of a good conscience (syneidēseōs; cf. v. 16) toward God. Baptism is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior (cf. Rom. 6:3–5; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12). To make the source of salvation perfectly clear Peter added, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:3).

More to come!

Soli deo Gloria!

Between Death and Resurrection.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water” (I Peter 3:18-20).

Where Jesus Christ was and what did He do between His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave? The Apostle Peter gives us a brief glimpse as to what our Lord was doing during this time.

Peter says that Jesus went (πορεύομαι; poreuomai) or travelled and then proclaimed (κηρύσσω; kerysso) or made an announcement to a group identified only as “the spirits in prison.” The noun spirits (πνεῦμα; pneuma) is in the plural form. Therefore, it refers to more than one spirit thereby eliminating this group being a reference to the Holy Spirit. Whoever these spirits are, they are in a prison (φυλακή; phylake) which is securely locked.

Why are they in prison? I Peter 3:20 says it is because they were disobedient or “they formerly did not obey” the demands from an authority. The authority seems to be God for Peter then writes, “When God’s patience waited in the days of Noah.” Peter then describes the days of Noah as being when Noah was building the ark in which eventually he and his family safely survived the Flood (Genesis 6-8).

So we’re back to our original question and a few additional ones. Where and what was Jesus doing between His death and resurrection? Who were the spirits in prison? What did Jesus preach to these spirits in prison?

There are at least five main interpretations given to explain and answer the question of where and what Jesus Christ did between His death and resurrection. They are as follows.

First, the “spirits in prison” are the people to whom Jesus Christ preached during his earthly ministry, for His work involved proclaiming liberty to the captives (Luke 4:16-21). This would seem to indicate that these people were deceased and perhaps Jesus preached to them while they were in Paradise, as He promised the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43).

Second, Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit preached through Noah (2 Peter 2:5) to the people before the Flood (Genesis 6-8). Noah called them to repentance, but they disobeyed and are now in prison. One commentator explains, “The point of Peter’s argument would then be that as God vindicated Noah by sending the judgment Noah proclaimed, He (God) will vindicate Christians when He judges the world according the Christian proclamation (of the gospel).”

Third, Jesus Christ preached in the short interval between His death and resurrection during a “descent into hell.” It is said that Christ announced His victory to the spirits of Noah’s wicked contemporaries confined in the realm of the dead.

Fourth, Jesus Christ preached and proclaimed His victory to fallen angels, often identified with the “sons of God” of Genesis 6:1-4; Job 1:6; 2:1) in their place of confinement. This fourth view seems to be most widely held interpretation.

Fifth, Jesus Christ proclaimed His victory, over sin, death and hell, to fallen angels after the resurrection, at the time of His ascension into heaven.

One Bible teacher says, “The point of the last three interpretations is that just as Jesus was vindicated, so will Christians be vindicated.”

The primary point that I derive from these five efforts to understand this text is that Jesus Christ achieved victory of sin, death and hell.

Praise the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!