21. I was reading the third chapter of the first epistle of Peter and when I arrived at verse 19 I was a little perplexed because it’s not very clear to me; furthermore the concept is confirmed in Peter 4:6. 1 Peter 3:19-20, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 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”. 1 Peter 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”
Sister, the above mentioned words of Peter refer to the descent of Jesus (by the Spirit) into the lower parts of the earth after His death, for immediately before verse 19 we read: “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”. I have said ‘into the lower parts of the earth’ because Paul says that Jesus after His death descended into the lower parts of the earth; here are his words: “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:9). As you can see, Paul calls the place where Jesus went after His death ‘the lower parts of the earth’.
However, Peter calls it prison, for he says that Jesus went and preached unto the spirits in prison. What spirits does he speak of? He speaks of those spirits that in the days of Noah refused to heed Noah’s message, who is called “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) by the Scripture. Therefore Jesus, by the Spirit, went to preach to the dead of a specific generation, and not to the dead of all the past generations. Some say that this preaching of Jesus refers to the preaching of Noah, through the Spirit of Christ speaking in him, to the people of his generation; but the above mentioned passages do not support this thesis for they affirm that the preaching took place after Jesus was put to death and that the message was addressed to some spirits or dead people. Therefore, we must accept those words of Peter just as they are written.
What did Jesus preach to those dead people? The Gospel, for Peter states: “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” (1 Peter 4:6). That ‘also’ confirms what I said before, that is to say, the Gospel was not preached to people who were physically alive but spiritually dead, but to people who were physically dead.
Now let me
explain the reason why Jesus went to preach the Gospel even to the dead.
Peter says that the reason is this: “That they might be judged according to
men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). I confess
it is not easy to explain these words of Peter because they seem to say that
those dead people were saved, thus those people after their death had another
chance to repent of their sins. However, we can’t accept this interpretation
for the following reasons; first, because according to what the Scripture
teaches, after death a man has no chance to repent and to believe in order to
be saved, as it is written: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but
after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27); and secondly because if God had
given that chance to those people who had died in the days of Noah, excluding
all the other people who had died in their sins during the other generations,
He would have committed an injustice. For instance, couldn’t Jesus have gone
to preach the Gospel even to the inhabitants of