1 Peter 3:19-20; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons were brought safely through the water, (NASB).

Now my points are; was the gospel actually proclaimed to those fallen angels? If yes, why should the gospel be preached or proclaimed to them? If not, what exactly was proclaimed? My expectation is that we will have a healthy contributions so that we would be a blessing to the body of Christ.

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I think the tense of the Greek verbs πορευθεὶς (poreutheis, here translated "went") and ἐκήρυξεν (ekēruxen, here translated "made proclamation") is the key to this passage. Many English translations use simple past tense, although the Greek is pluperfect, indicating earlier events than those of verse 18 (i.e., Jesus "being put to death" and being "quickened"). The verb tenses indicate that Peter is describing a "going to" and "preaching to" spirits that preceded Jesus' death and resurrection, and not--as is taught in some word-of-faith circles--an appearance of Jesus in hell after his death on the cross.


It is not a literal translation, but the paraphrase of The Message bible does capture this implication of the Greek verb tenses: "He went and proclaimed God's salvation to earlier generations who ended up in the prison of judgment because they wouldn't listen."


Once we understand the time frame being referenced, then it is clear that verse 20 is there to give us an example of the kinds of people Peter is talking about. Folks like the by-standers in Noah's day, who the Spirit of Christ preached to through Noah; they refused to heed the warning and are now held in the prison of death awaiting the final judgment.


This passage has no relation to the fallen angels discussed in 2 Peter 2:4.

Fine.But Is it not contradictory to preach the gospel to the dead? Let's assume some may repent, how can this reconcile the fact that there is no repentance in the grave?
Does the idea that the gospel of salvation, if it is, was preached to the spirits in prison contradict the Scripture?

Your analysis of the subject under discussion is quite rich in theological insight. As i was reading i kept on nodding my head in one accord. You reminded me of a teaching i was preparing but later dropped, because of the spiritual level of those concerned. I was to teach about the four compartments of Hades.

With fine doctrine communicators like you the people are privileged in this dispensation..

Reverend, Your post is loaded with divine viewpoint. I am so pleased and wishes you the greater grace of God.


My real point, Brother Watson, was that the tenses of the verbs used implied that the events of verse 19 actually preceded the events of verse 18. If my reading of the passage is correct, then verse 19 is not meant to convey that Christ--after his death and resurrection--preached to angels in Tartarus, to saints in Paradise, or to sinners in Gehenna.

I find myself reading the passage as though verse 20 is revealing who was the audience of Christ preaching in verse 19. That is to say, clearly Peter asserts that “spirits now in prison” were preached to in verse 19:

…in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,…

but just as we wonder who he is speaking of, he then identifies those “spirits now in prison” in verse 20:

…who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water…

I believe we are given verse 20 to tell us who was preached to in verse 19. However, tenses make it unlikely that the traditional reading of the passage—that Christ died and was resurrected [verse 18] and then appeared in Gehenna and preached to the souls lost during the great flood [verses 19 and 20]—was Peter’s intent. (Not that grammar is the only evidence. As you wisely argue, when we consider the whole counsel of God, we must be suspicious of an interpretation that says Christ preached to some lost human souls after they died.) If the Greek grammar is to be trusted, verses 19 and 20 are parenthetical to the phrase “was made alive in the Spirit” from verse 18. It is like the verses that follow 18 should be set apart in large parentheses and understood to be discussing that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.


I think it is Peter’s point that it was the Spirit of Christ who preached to the antediluvian lost—not in Gehenna through the person of Christ, but at the time of Genesis 6 through the person of Noah. Of course, Peter isn’t really even focusing on the lost, but on the eight who responded to the preaching and were brought through water (a prefigured baptism, verse 21 tells us): He sets up Noah and his family as a picture of Christian believers… having responded in faith to the Spirit’s proclamation, and having even partaken in a symbolic baptism when the ark went into the water.


This is a passage of diverse and overlapping images, which makes it rather difficult to understand. Being one of the toughest sections of Scripture to interpret, I will confess that I could be on the wrong track here. But I really don’t think Peter was referring to Christ proclaiming anything to angelic beings…  that interpretation would do nothing to tie together verses 19, 20 and 21. It would be as if Peter was writing “stream of consciousness” without a cohesive thought if, while discussing the resurrection of Christ, he digressed to talk about angels, and then veered back onto the topic of human salvation.

Reverend Watson made a distinctive key point concerning this so-called difficult passage in Peter's epistle.That the Apostle speaking under the anointing of God the Holy Spirit never make use of the Greek word evangelizo but choose kerusso, if we are to understand key points of the Apostolic epistle. We must allow the Scripture to speak for itself. Objectivity rather subjectivity.  

Unarguably, the gospel preaching is meant for the living. Now when Christ visited the prison in the spiritual world, His proclamation became necessary because those spirits in prison never witnessed the coming of the Messiah to the human habitation. Let's remember that those fallen angels' mission on earth was to corrupt the entire humanity.So that there won't be a true humanity through which the Christ would eventually come into the world. Their mission was aborted when God intervened.

The wisdom of God must be proclaimed to all principalities and authorities. From the earlier observation, it is apparent that our Lord didn't preach the gospel but instead went to declare a poignant message of His victory to those fallen angels in prison. That their antediluvian inordinate ambition to abort the plan of God has been fulfilled. That he is the Messiah, fully human and deity, God in hypostatic union. I think also that Christ was ridiculing their madness, lust and unfulfilled selfishness. Paul says in 1Tim. 3:16, (paraphased) He who was revealed in the flesh, Beheld by angels.


Brother Godson, kērussō is often used in the New Testament as a synonym for evaggelizō, as it is in these examples:


And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching [kērussōn] the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. [Mat. 4:23]

Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached [kēruchthē] in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. [Mat. 26:13]

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest [kērussōn] a man should not steal, dost thou steal? [Rom. 2:21]

And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach [kērussō] among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. [Gal. 2:2]


But I would agree that had evaggelizō  been used in 1 Peter 3:19, there would have been no doubt that the audience of the "good news" were humans, whereas a proclamation of God's word could theoretically be made to angels or men. 

i agree with you that the two words may be used interchangeably. However, if evaggelizo is used in the context under discussion that would have been strange.

It is very obvious that it was not the gospel of salvation that our Lord proclaimed to those fallen angels in prison. Is the Scripture silent on what he might have proclaimed to those spirits? And why did those angels, according to Genesis, choose to cross their boundary? What did they have in mind? I think we might figure out what our Lord proclaimed if we are able to wrestle with the questions.


Brother Watson, I think you have not read what I have written carefully. Maybe I just haven't written it clearly.

I will state it plainly in hopes that it stands out better:


1 Peter 3:19 is not saying that Jesus preached to dead sinners in Gehenna.

1 Peter 3:19 is not saying that Jesus preached to dead saints in Paradise.

1 Peter 3:19 is not saying that Jesus preached to angels in Tartarus.

I was arguing that the Greek verbs translated "went" and "preached" in the King James are in tenses that are meant to indicate that those actions occurred before the actions described in verse 18. The preaching in verse 19 predated (I believe happened many centuries before!) the death and resurrection of Christ in verse 18.


Now, I disagree considerably with your reading of the passage, but I hope you can see that I in no way contradict what was written in Hebrews 9:27. If you can wait an hour or so longer, I will post more specific comments on your post, at least walking you through reading of 1 Peter 18-21.

Now I may finally get caught up. Thank you for your patience, Brother Watson.


  • Question 1: Who are the "spirits" in 1 Peter 3:19?

The context argues that Peter is discussing the antediluvian neighbors of Noah. The very next verse begins with a clause--"which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah--which describes those "spirits" that were preached to. As to the question of why Peter may refer to them as "spirits" here--I believe Peter is describing them as what they are now rather than what they were when they were preached to... that is to say, now they are disembodied souls being reserved in the prison of death until the final judgment.


  • Question 2: Who is in the "prison" that Peter is writing about in 1 Peter 3:19?

The "spirits" are now in prison: that prison is called Gehenna. But I do not believe Peter is saying they were in Gehenna when they were preached to, I believe he is discussing them as they are presently situated.


  • Question 3: Are the "spirits," as it is used in 1 Peter 3:19,, human beings? If yes, prove it Scripturally. If not, why not.

I don't know what you would constitute "scriptural proof," but there is no other passage I know of that specifically talks about the present locale of the people who perished in the flood. I also know of no other scripture that says Jesus proclaimed anything to the angels in Tartarus, as you believe this one verse is saying.


  • Quetion 4: How can you argue that 1 Peter 3:19 is describing a preaching event that took place "centuries before"? If you are arguing that the Spirit of the pre-incarnate Christ was speaking through Noah in the Dispensation of Conscience, then what Scriptural evidence do you have to back this interpretation up?

What do you think it means that Peter describes Noah as "a preacher of righteousness" [2 Peter 2:5]? I understand righteousness as the condition of being acceptable to God. Do you agree? Can one be a proclaimer of the condition of being acceptable to God, and yet NOT preach Christ?

I wasn't positing the belief that the "spirit of the pre-incarnate Christ" took possession of Noah's mind, or any such thing. I don't know what the mechanism was. However, 1 Peter 1:11 makes it clear that "the Spirit of Christ which was in" the Old Testament prophets and "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." I believe the preaching of Noah was one of those instances (although I admit I am speculating, since the bible doesn't specifically record what Noah preached).


I won't comment about your analysis on the correlation of "angels" and "spirits" in scripture, other than to agree with you that pneuma is frequently used to describe fallen angels in scripture. But this is obviously not always the case, and in some rare instances pneuma even represents disembodied souls (as discussed above).  


  • Lastly, the gist of your argument appears to be based on the meaning of two Greek verbs, "went," and "preached." I checked my Greek sources, including the Novum Testamentum Graece, and my conclusion is that you may be, unnecessarily, splitting semantic hairs.

Could be. I'm fallible.


  • Since 1 Peter 3:18 states that He (Jesus) was quickened by the Spirit, meaning that His body was resurrected by the Holy Spirit, (See: Romans 8:11), then it may be safe to argue that it was the post-Pentecostal Jesus that preached to the "spirits" in Tartarus. The chronology is clear here, if my exegesis is correct. 
If there is intended to be a strict chronology of events between verses 18 and 19, why isn't there one between 19 and 20? If we are supposed to read the passage as, first, Jesus was put to death and then quickened, second, Jesus preached to the angels in Tartarus--then what do we make of the unchronological mention of the Noahic flood in the next verse. Most translations have punctuation that combine verses 18, 19 and 20 into a single run-on sentence. Translators see the three verses as expressing one complex thought. In the midst of this thought Peter clearly abandons chronology by mentioning Noah as he does in verse 20. That's why I don't think there is even a chronology meant from verse 18 to verse 19.

Brother Watson, I have to reply to these posts a little slowly these days; got some real life concerns that are crimping my intellectual pursuits. Here is the answer to your previous post. I'll have to take a little time to read through your latest one.


  • Human beings are never referred to as spirits, because human beings are not spirits. Human beings have spirits, but are not spirits in and of themselves. Surely you must see this as Biblical truth.


Brother Watson, you may be one of those critics of Strong’s Concordance, but I use it often to learn of the multiple meanings of many Greek words—I find it pretty exhaustive. One of the entries for pneuma (spirit) in Strong’s reads as follows:


3) a spirit, i.e. a simple essence, devoid of all or at least all grosser matter, and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting

a) a life giving spirit

b) a human soul that has left the body  (emphasis mine)


This above use of the word to mean a disembodied soul is rare (that is why it gets only a tertiary entry in Strong’s). However, it does make its appearance elsewhere in scripture. Dr. Luke writes that the disciples believed they were seeing a “spirit” when Christ first appeared in their midst after his resurrection [Luke 24:37]. In this sense, Luke means that they thought they saw a disembodied soul. This is the same sense in which Peter uses the word pneuma in 3:19.


  • …it was not the water that saved Noah and his family in 1 Peter 3:20. It was the Ark that saved them from drowning in the Flood. In other words, they were not saved in the sense of their souls being saved from sin, but saved from death and from drowning in the Flood. The reason why I state this is because your statement concerning a "prefigured baptism" implies that there is saving power in water. Again, the water did not save Noah and his family, the Ark saved them.


Brother Watson, look again at what I wrote. I didn’t claim that the baptism in the floodwaters “saved” Noah and his family. I don’t believe baptism saves modern believers either. Baptism is self-identification with the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a ritual that symbolically represents his death, burial and resurrection. When I wrote that the  ark “prefigured” baptism, I only meant that Noah's experience was also symbolically representative of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.


  • I'm also somewhat troubled by your statement, "He sets up Noah and his family as a picture of Christian believers...having responded in faith to the Spirit's proclamation, and having partaken in a symbolic baptism when the ark went into the water." I read that statement over and over again, and for the life of me, I have absolutely no idea where and how you came up with that scenerio. How could the Ark go into the water, when, initially, there was no water for it to go into? There is no indication of symbolic baptism there at all.


Peter said there was a correspondence between the experience of Noah and the Christian ritual of baptism right there in verse 21:


The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ [KJV]


… or can we choose it in a more contemporary English translation?


 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ [NLT]


Peter says the experience in the ark is the antitypos (the “like figure”; the “picture”) of baptism. I say further that Peter is setting up Noah as an antitypos of the Christian believer, in how Noah personally responded in faith to the message from God and in that he was even identified with Christ in a type of baptism. The point about his responding in faith I get from Hebrews 11:7, the point about his sharing in baptism I get from verse 21. I don’t think I’ve overreached here.


On the final point, you and I would disagree mightily about the meaning of Genesis 6 (just who were the sons of God and the daughters of men), but why go there… that’s worthy of a thread of its own. It will suffice to say that you're right that 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6,7 are addressing the same issue. Both apostles flatly state that fallen angels have been "imprisoned" (we learn from Peter that the place of their internment is called Tartarus). But I disagree that Genesis 6 gives us the reason of they were punished (any more than, say Revelation 12), and I don't think 1 Peter 3:19 is indicating that Jesus appeared in Tartarus to proclaim anything to them. What would he have had to say to them? And why would Peter talk about it parenthetically in this passage? (Hey, those are rhetorical questions... if you answered them in your latest post, don't repeat the answers... I'm reading that post next.)


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