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DOCTRINE QUESTION 108
What does 1 Peter 3:19 mean where it says, "Jesus preached to the spirits in prison?" Does this not teach a second chance?
To determine the meaning of this verse we must ask ourselves three simple questions: how did He preach? What did He preach? To whom did He preach?
The previous verse tells us "how" He preached. He was put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:18. The "spirit" in this verse wouldn't seem to be the Holy Spirit, since it is contrasting the life of our Lord before He was crucified and after. He was in human form when He died but was in "spirit" form when raised. There is a natural (human) body and there is spiritual body, 1 Corinthians 15:44. It was while in this form that He is said to have preached. He was in that form for three days during the time His body lay in the tomb. He later raised in that same form and was "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39) and then had a "spiritual body". The word "which" in 1 Peter 3:19 implies He went in "spirit" to do this preaching.
What did He preach? The word "preached" is the word used for announcing something or somebody. It is not the word normally used for preaching the gospel of salvation. Since He is to be acknowledged as "Lord of All" Philippians 2:11, and since He is to be the "Judge of all" (Acts 10:42) maybe this announcement had something to do with it.
To whom did He preach? The "spirits" that were disobedient in the days prior to the flood of Noah's day. Why just these of that day? The word "spirits" is never used of men only in Hebrews 12:23 and that of departed saved people in heaven. It is always used of angels. Hebrews 1:14. They were likely the "spirits" of the "sons of God" (Genesis 6:1-2) who in other parts of the 0ld Testament were angels. (See 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6).
All comments and questions to: Harold Smith
Updated July 2009, by Shelly Allen