Preaching to the Spirits in Prison

Written by Pastor Albert Gregg on Apr 21, 2013 in Sermons - No Comments

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: 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. (I Peter 3:18-20)

The Mormons will tell you these spirits were given a second chance to be saved. And if what I have read is correct, Alford, a Bible scholar of the past, also taught this. And it may be that some even thought Christ had to be in the prison to preach to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two schools of thought on this subject. And there maybe variations of ideas in those two thoughts. We certainly will not get into every detail, but we will try to set forth both thoughts.

I. NOAH WAS THE PREACHER.

  1. The idea here is that Noah through the Holy Spirit preached to his generation during the one hundred and twenty years the ark was being prepared.
  2. Because they did not believe him they were cast into prison or hades. (Before Christ ascended back into heaven hades was divided into two sections, Abraham’s bosom and the place of torment, the prison being the place of torment.

    There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. (Luke 16:19-26)

    After His resurrection He carried those in Abrahams bosom into heaven.

    Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
    (Ephesians 4:8-10)

  3. I know this is a simplification of this possession, but perhaps this will help us get to the true meaning of these verses.

II. CHRIST WAS THE PREACHER.

  1. On the surface, this seems to be the logical conclusion.
  2. There is no doubt, in either case, that the preaching was done though the Holy Spirit.

    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: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; (I Peter 3:18-19)

  3. The Greek word for preached is, “kerusso” (kay-roos’-so) and means to herald (as public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel): – preach (-er), proclaim, publish.
  4. Peter used two Greek words for preached in I Peter and the other word was, “euaggelizo” (yoo-ang-ghel-id-zo) which means to announce good news (“evangelize”) especially the gospel: – declare, bring (declare, show) glad tidings, preach (the gospel).

    Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 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.
    (I Peter 1:12, 25; 4:6)

  5. The word in our text is not a word normally used in preaching the Gospel, so the message preached here is simply to publish a message to those in prison, not to give an opportunity to be released from prison.
  6. It is translated “published” in Luke 8:39 and “proclaimed” in Luke 12:3.
  7. The prison is hades and more pacifically, the place of torment.

    And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)

  8. Looking at this verse, we can see Christ would not have to be in the prison to preach to them.
  9. Who are the spirits? Here again there are two ideas.
    1. The lost of Noah’s day.
    2. Evil spirit of Noah’s time.
  10. The word, “spirits” in the plural usually refers to supernatural beings and in at least nineteen out of thirty-two times this term is used in the New Testament, it is referring to evil spirits. (Four times the meaning is questionable and nine times it is identified differently, such as in I Corinthians 14:32, in Hebrews 12:23, one time to the seven spirits before the throne, Revelation 1:4 and three times to the seven Spirits of God in Revelation 3:1; 4:5; 5:6.)
  11. However, I still like the idea that it is the souls of men.
  12. Irregardless the preaching is not giving these spirits in prison a second chance.