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  1. #1
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    1 Peter 3:19 ...descent into hell?

    There are some pretty strange interpretations of 1 Peter 3:18-20, so it is only right we should look at it more closely to determine just what it is saying.

    For example: is it teaching a descent into hell by some spiritual form of the Christ after his death on the cross yet before the resurrection of his body? Or, is it teaching something entirely different? It is fair to say, that whatever it is saying, it ought to fit into the context of Peter’s letter. Secondly, it ought to fit into the other teachings of Scripture as well. The rule, first, is: that for any word, phrase, or clause that might be taken in more than one way, that the one way which harmonizes with the immediate context is the preferred one. And the second is: that for apparently obscure or ambiguous passages, doctrines ought not to be founded on them that are not more clearly taught in other parts of Scripture. These are the general hermeneutic rules of CONTEXT and PARALLEL PASSAGES agreed upon universally by Christians as well as secular literary scholars.

    Here is the text in the KJV: 18 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: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 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.”

    Because of the almost universal familiarity of the Apostles Creed, the phrases: “…Suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven…” seems to impel us to interpret Peter as explaining this event. But does this notion of Peter’s meaning fit his context?

    I think it is obvious that, it is this fabrication of Peter’s meaning that effectually makes Peter’s context appear inscrutable. It is this preconceived notion that renders Peter’s words unclear and ambiguous, and that accounts for some pretty wild theories that have no support from all the rest of Scripture. I would simply ask: how does a spirit Christ speaking to spirits in prison advance any of Peter’s previous points or support any of his points that fallow? Peter’s previous and fallowing allusions to the Spirit of Christ’s appealing, all have to do with salvation and the ability to die as it were to sin and live unto him a new life in resurrection power discounting opposition and having a lively hope. How would this imported meaning explaine Peter’s next statement? 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: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” I think if you try very hard and seek to be consistent you will see the difficulty. Spirits in prison do not get saved they are there because they rejected the appeals of the Spirit of Christ in the first place when they refused to believe Noah, Methuselah, Enoch, and others who preached to them.

    Here is what God said about the appeals He made unto them and how he proposed to handle it in Genesis 6: 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” Now it is an abundant and clear teaching of Scripture that in preaching it is not preachers but the Spirit of Christ that appeals to sinners and saints alike, and that appeal is in his words which he puts into the preachers mouth. Peter has mentioned this already in chapter 1: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Also, the very words that were written come to us as to them, 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you,” by the same Spirit. So it is clear in Scripture that Christ by his Spirit before the flood went and preached to these people who died in the flood. They being disobedient then, like people who mock and despise believers are disobedient today, were judged in the flood. It is appointed unto man once to die then the judgment. Presently they are spirits in prison; they know the ark made a difference. Now the figure of baptism makes sense.

    By being baptized we identify with the death of Christ which has quenched the fires of God’s wrath against our sin and sins, just like the ark floated above the waters of God’s wrath then. In Christ there is no condemnation. Also we identify with his resurrection, and in Christ there is ability to live as he did here, new creatures. Just like Noah and the 7 others lived, so do saints; baptism is just a public proclamation of that fact, and it preaches just as the ark floating preached. Just like that world then mocked, rejected, and persecuted so will men today. This fits the context neatly. Further more there is ample Bible teaching in support of every notion raised in this interpretation. Christian baptism condemns the world; they will not like it. Just like Noah’s building the ark condemned the world that then was, so your baptism is an outward act showing forth your security in the death burial and resurrection of Christ. This is not a subjective clear conscience; it is objectively the answer of a good conscience toward God. It shows forth the gospel.

    Lastly there is power to withstand trials and persecution in this: 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” These are the preceding verses and now the context of Peter is not at all foggy.

    Now there is another verse in 1 Peter affected by the interpretation of this verse it is in chapter 4: 6 For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” Prison spirits do not get saved, but our brothers and sisters who have passed away before us did. Even if men judge us in the flesh and condemn us in persecution, we have eternal life. This, the Spirit of Christ in his word and preaching did in us as it came unto us quickening us in the power of the gospel; it did the same for our brethren that are dead.

    It is my hope that this will be helpful to every one who reads this and has struggled with these passages. …DGB
    Last edited by xDICEx; 01-10-07 at 09:53 PM.

  2. #2
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    I struggle with the language in the KJV and tend to use the NIV. Your point is good and a little easier (for me) to understand in the NIV.

  3. #3
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    Wow, JP, I just read it in the NIV. It looks even more confusing there and the textuial note Gateway has on it doesn't help the case. "By which" is a literal translation for the GK word there, and answers back to "by the Spirit" in the previous phrase. The idea of quickining, to make alive, has many parallel reffrences in the KJV that explaine it in terms of the ressurrection of Christ and the salvation of sinners. I'll have to look at it carefully in the Greek, and get back.

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    XDicex:

    I find your assessment of the scripture in 1 Peter disciplined, carefully thought out and find much to agree with. However, there are a few other issues that we might also consider.

    We must remember that historically we are standing at a cross roads of God's prophetic plan for man. Everything that has happened to man since Adam, has been based upon Adam's original sin in the garden. A sin for which there was to be no forgiveness for, no redemption from until Christ's death and ressurection. Now Christ, the second Adam, is come to "set the captives free." [Isa 61:1-2]

    All of God's people knew that there was no salvation until Christ was come. So then where did the souls of the righteous go after death? The old testament is not absolutely clear on where the souls of the righteous go, but is much more thoroughly clear on what happens to sinful men. The apocryphal writings, though somewhat confused and conflicted, do suggest a Sheol with "compartments"; one or two for the sinful and one or two for the righteous who had yet not been redeemed from "original sin".

    The Psalms, Job and Isaiah contain verses that demonstrate that the old testament saints believed that a merciful God "would not forget then in Sheol!" Their faith allowed them to trust God even though they knew they would not be immediately with Him in heaven, not until the redeemer should come, die and be ressurrected, a 3 day process in both prophecy and in fact.

    Then there is a marvellous passage in one of the minor Prophets that reads as follows:

    ESCHATOLOGY
    There is no call for putting the remarkable passages in Hos - "After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him" (Hos 6:2); "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol: I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction?" (13:14) - later than the time of that prophet. In them the idea of resurrection is already fully present; as truly as in the picture in Ezek 37:1-10 of the valley of dry bones. The climax is, however, reached in Isa 25:6-8; 26:19, above referred to, from which the individual element cannot be excluded (compare Salmond, op. cit., 211-12: "Theme of this great passage, 26:19, therefore, is a personal, not a corporate resurrection").
    (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

    One additional thought we must bear in mind is that Satan was the lord and ruler of this world, "without restraint," until Christ's death and ressurrection. After that time, Satan was defeated by Christ's sacrifice and is restrained regarding all those who accept Christ as their Saviour. He will not be fully restrained until Christ's second coming, when he will be chained in the bottomless pit for nearly 1000 years and then ultimately thrown into the lake of fire forever.

    Now let us look at those lovely verses from Hosea again.

    After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him" (Hos 6:2); "I will ransom them from the power of Sheol: I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction?" (13:14)

    Since Prophets speak the revealed Word of God and since the Holy Spirit annointing on Peter at Pentecost would certainly have made Peter aware of all scripture teaching, do you think it possible that Peter knowing the words of Hosea, might just be describing exactly what we should see in 1 Peter 3:19? Could it be that for the old testament Saints that were not translated to heaven, there was a period of waiting for the redemption of Christ's death and resurrection for the penalty of Original sin to be satisfied? Christ Himself both set the "captives' free and took them to heaven in fulfillment of both the righteousness of His Father's judgment upon mankind and His satisfaction of that judgment in His death and resurrection? Is that the 3 days that Hosea teaches us?

    After reading much Old Testament Eschatology, I could see Hosea and 1 Peter being in perfect harmony and revealing to us a bit of what Christ did during those "3" days from crucifiction to resurrection.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by DeaconBob3; 01-12-07 at 11:36 PM.

  5. #5
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    Hello DeaconBob3. Without getting into an analysis of the underworld, the Peter text mentions preaching to spirits in prison which were disobedient in contrast with the eight souls which were saved. The time frame of while the ark was preparing is also given. Two things are evident here: 1) these were not saved or righteous people, they were totally disobedient to the preaching of Noah not only in his righteous words but in his ark building acts (they mocked in unbelief), and 2) the time frame excludes any other prison spirits (thus, this would be a very peculiar subset of all OT spirits such as you suggest in your post).

    Christ in His life giving Spirit truly preaches to antediluvian as well as post diluvium/pre resurrection OT men. John refers to this in his gospel as he explains how it was that the Word was the light of man in his first chapter: “4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Hebrews one also talks about diverse times and sundry ways in times past how God spoke to our fathers in the prophets: “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” If we combine these verses with Gen.6:3, we can say that God in this way strives with men for their salvation, but He will not always so. His patients ran out then, and it will again.

    However, it is the great many that drowned in unbelief, being in this way appealed to for 100 years, who the Peter’s text has in view, and that fits his context. It is Noah’s preaching, like it is today’s believers preaching in their testimonies and their baptisms, that effectually condemns the world that mocks and persecutes them: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11:7).”

    The truth that these disobedient sinners did not listen to or heed the preaching of Christ to them before the flood for 100 years of patient appealing and constant ark building, but remained recalcitrant obfuscators mocking God’s Spirit’s warnings, and that therefore they irretrievably perished in the judgment of the flood is what Peter is reciting for its value to his exhortations and encouragements in this context. Peter is in no way parenthetically accounting for any preaching tour in hell. Though, he did lead many OT saints to glory that resurrection day as well as the thief on the cross, and though, his resurrection was, as the texts you sited said, their hope of resurrection as his death their hope of salvation, that is, not withstanding, not what Peter is saying. The words will not allow it.

    Thank you for the Scripture, for your response, for helping me think this through. I can never look at preaching the same way again; it is so serious a busyness. God be with you…DGB

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    Ok. Now that I go back and read your original post and analysis, I agree with you both in the original and your above response. Peter is NOT saying in 3:19 that Christ descended in to hell to preach to the spirits there.

    However, I see that what I was focusing on was not 1 Peter 3:19 but the words of the Creed and it is there that I believe that Hosea supports the words of the Creed.

    Sorry for taking that out of context and adding confusion, when I thought to be adding clarity.

    I also agree that preaching is a very serious business and we must be disciplined in our study, open to the Spirit's enlightenment and obedient to His leading when preparing and delivering a message.

    Again, I apologize for adding confusion

  7. #7
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    No problem, DeaconBob3. You didn't add confusion. That confusion actualy exists; it was my confusion too. It is like one of thoes visual illusions where one either sees an old lady or a young woman in a line drawing. What we expect in a passage we see, untill we see what in fact is there, and then the other vanishes away. Maybe also like thoes black/white contrast immages which look like random nothing untill the actual immage manafests itself to our eyes, and then we can not see the randomness any more. Thank you brother for concidering this together with me; GBU. ...DGB

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    Excellent stuff brothers......excellent. Enjoyed the reading........Thanks for taking the time to share such.
    Jesus said "I am the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE"......Without the WAY there is no GOING, without the TRUTH there is no KNOWING without the LIFE there is no LIVING....Thats what Jesus said.

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    This is one of the reasons I am so glad to have found this forum. This expanded truth so well articulated. This has been so simply taught that its deeper meaning and interconnections are lost without the studious expansion that you get here. Remember the resurrected saints seen by many after the crucifiction. Thank You All for this.

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    Yes in Matthew 28 it is recorded: "51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

    The earthquake and the torn veil are mentioned in the Talmud. I am not so sure about the appearances; I don't think the Rabbis mentioned this. But it must have been shocking to the authorities as they sought to suppress all this. This mini-resurrection is quite interesting as not much is made of it more than the simple statement of the fact. The torn veil is elaborated in other texts; as the access we have into the Holy of Holies through the sacrifice of Christ and the breaking down of the partition of separation jew and gentile and such things are developed in other places in Scripture. No wonder the authorities, shocked, could only come up with a lame excuse for the missing body, one they could not even legally pursue.

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