1 Peter 3:19

Read Introduction to 1 Peter

"By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison"


In 1 Peter 3:19-21 Peter focuses on two great judgments:
1) the judgment of Noah’s day and
2) the judgment of fallen angels.
Peter presents the ark of Noah’s day as the type of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In verse 21 he gives the antitype (the reality behind the type) as salvation by Christ’s baptism at Calvary.
By whom also
The remainder of this chapter is very difficult to interpret. The best interpretation is that Christ descended into Hades after his resurrection to proclaim to fallen angels that their fall was unnecessary (2 Peter 2:4-5). This interpretation would equate the fallen angels with the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1-2.
”By whom” refers to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit transported Jesus to Tartarus and enabled him to preach to fallen angels.
He went and preached to the spirits in prison
“He” refers to the Lord Jesus.
”Went” — to be transported. The Holy Spirit transported Jesus to Tartarus, the residence of fallen angels. Tartarus is not hell but an underworld for demons (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
We better translate the word “preached” as, made an official announcement. This is different from the usual word to preach. It means to make an official announcement by a public crier. The issue is not the gospel here but a victorious proclamation to fallen angels that they did not have to fall because Jesus did not fall. Verse 20 clearly indicates to whom he made the announcement.
Jesus here asserts his triumph over the sin issue. Jesus came to undo the original fall — the fall of angels. Angels were tested and failed. Jesus was tested and succeeded.
“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
“To the spirits in prison” — fallen angels of Genesis 7 (2 Peter 2:4). This was an angelic infiltration into the human race. These angles could not repent but they were brought to subjection (verse 22).
God will one day vindicate Himself.
God demonstrates His vindication of Christ in the resurrection. In His ascension, God seated Him above all angelic powers. As we embrace new life in Christ, we too overcome what brought the angels down.

31 Responses to “1 Peter 3:19”

  • Thank you for such a direct and instructive interpretation of a difficult verse.

  • Thank you for this iterpreation.

  • Charles D Foresythe

    Does 1 Peter 3:19 deny the existance if hell as a place of fire and brimstone in which unrependent sinnes will reside throuhoiut eternity?

  • Charles, no, it does not deny it or affirm it. This passage is dealing with a different subject than hell per se. Other passages such as Revelation 20 or 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9 deal with hell as a place of fire.

    Thanks for your question.

  • Grant,

    In a commentary I read recently it also said that He preached to the off spring of fallen angels that were created during their time on earth during Noah’s time. Now this is getting into sketchy territory and sounding like the book of Enoch. I was wondering if you had any input and verses that would prove or disprove that.

    Thanks so much :)

  • I am out of town until next week. Will reply then.

  • Thanks Grant :)

  • Here is a little Study that I put together about 1 Peter 3:18-20 so enjoy!

    1 Peter 3:18-20 (New King James Version)
    18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,

    Many sadly take these verses and misapply the preaching to Jesus, When infact it is the Holy Spirit doing the preaching through Noah! For it says: BY THE SPIRIT, BY WHOM ALSO HE WENT AND PREACHED! {BY THE SPIRIT, BY WHOM}.
    2 Peter 2:5
    5…. Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness,2 Peter 2:5

    20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

    Next lets look at the spirits in prison, Now that we know that the Holy Spirit Preached or Spoke through Noah to the Antidulvian World then it would go to say that these Spirits in prison are infact the Antidulvians! For it says {Who formerly were disobedient}

    Compare with (Spirits) in prison!

    1 Corinthians 14:31-33 (New King James Version)
    31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

    1 John 4:1 (New King James Version)
    1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

    Proverbs 16:2 (New King James Version)
    2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    But the LORD weighs the spirits.

    The Holy Spirit Instructs as in the days of Noah!

    Nehemiah 9:20 (New King James Version)
    20 You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
    And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth,
    And gave them water for their thirst.

    Ezekiel and Noah both were used by the Holy Spirit to speak with the people!

    Ezekiel 11:5 (New King James Version)
    5 Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me, “Speak! ‘Thus says the LORD: “Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind.

    The Holy Spirt Prophesied and Spoke by the mouth of David and Did the same through Noah!

    Acts 1:16 (New King James Version)
    16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;

    The Holy Spirit Spoke through Isaiah/Noah!

    Acts 28:24-26 (New King James Version)
    25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying,‘ Go to this people and say:
    “ Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
    And seeing you will see, and not perceive;

    The Spirits in (Prison) is referring to those who are bound by sin and are its captives and slaves!

    Psalm 69:33 (New King James Version)
    33 For the LORD hears the poor,
    And does not despise His prisoners.

    The Lord gives freedom to those who are held in the prison of sin!

    Psalm 146:6-8 (New King James Version)
    6 Who made heaven and earth,
    The sea, and all that is in them;
    Who keeps truth forever,
    7 Who executes justice for the oppressed,
    Who gives food to the hungry.
    The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.
    8 The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
    The LORD raises those who are bowed down;
    The LORD loves the righteous.

    Isaiah 42:6-7 (New King James Version)
    6 “ I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
    And will hold Your hand;
    I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
    As a light to the Gentiles,
    7 To open blind eyes,
    To bring out prisoners from the prison,
    Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.

    For they would not walk in His ways,Nor were they obedient to His law and are inprisoned by sin!

    Isaiah 42:21-24 (New King James Version)
    21 The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake;
    He will exalt the law and make it honorable.
    22 But this is a people robbed and plundered;
    All of them are snared in holes,
    And they are hidden in prison houses;
    They are for prey, and no one delivers;
    For plunder, and no one says, “Restore!”
    23 Who among you will give ear to this?
    Who will listen and hear for the time to come?
    24 Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers?
    Was it not the LORD,
    He against whom we have sinned?
    For they would not walk in His ways,
    Nor were they obedient to His law.

    Jesus came to set the Prisoners and those in Darkness Free!

    Isaiah 49:8-9 (New King James Version)
    8 Thus says the LORD:
    “ In an acceptable time I have heard You,
    And in the day of salvation I have helped You;
    I will preserve You and give You
    As a covenant to the people,
    To restore the earth,
    To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;
    9 That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’
    To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’
    “ They shall feed along the roads,
    And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.

    Isaiah 61:1-3 (New King James Version)
    1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
    Because the LORD has anointed Me
    To preach good tidings to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives,
    And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
    2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
    And the day of vengeance of our God;
    To comfort all who mourn,
    3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
    To give them beauty for ashes,
    The oil of joy for mourning,
    The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
    That they may be called trees of righteousness,
    The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

    We are either Prisoners to Jesus or Prisoners to Sin! This was the Case with the Antidulvians they were Spirits in prison!

    Ephesians 3:1 (New King James Version)
    The Mystery Revealed
    1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—

    John 8:31-36 (New King James Version)
    31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
    33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
    34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

    Romans 6:15-17 (New King James Version)
    15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

    Conclusion: The Holy Spirit Preached through Noah to the Antediluvian World for a 120 years for God was long suffering toward them and where in only eight persons were saved! The Spirits in Prison were those trapped by there sins and wouldn’t repent!

  • Thanks a lot, God bless you.

  • who are sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4 then?
    does God have more than one son?

  • Wow Isaac. Deep and beautifully written. I’m gonna copy this for fugure reference

  • I have been racking my brain over this verse. Its does seem very plausible that the spirits in prison were indeed the angels from Genesis 6. However, I can see somewhat of a connection with Isaiah 61:1……..
    "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound"
    The word "preached" in 1 Peter 3:9 could be translated "proclaim" so some feel this is the righteous people in hades (bosom of Abraham) that Christ brought to heaven in Ephesians 4:8-9
    There are just so many ways you can look at that verse…..its hard to be certain

  • Kris, I join you in racking your brain about this verse. It is indeed a difficult verse to interpret. :)

    From a methodological method in interpretation it is dangerous in import a Scripture to interpret another Scripture. Although in systematic theology there is some justification for this, it is important to not make this a primary way of interpreting Scripture. The passage itself must stand on its own and its extant statements.

    The Greek word "preached" means to make an official proclamation, thus, Jesus did not speak with the purpose to convert but to make an official statement about something.

  • When did this happen?  I have heard Bible teachers say that Jesus did not go to hell but to paradise between the cross & resurrection…

  • Maggy, Jesus went to Hades (not Hell) between His crucifixion and His resurrection. Hades is a temporary hell which will be dumped into hell at a later time (Re 20). His purpose was not to persuade these people but to make an official proclamation (note Greek term) that what they did they did not have to do. He demonstrated this by His life. 

  • Grant: Thanks for your ministry
    maggy asks a great question with 'when' .. you see there in lies the problem. In the internal spiritual dimension there is no 'when' as far as our sense of time. This was a problem for Peter as it is for us.. to comprehend events in eternity as God sees them. 
    Jesus may have been gone from our time line for 3 days and there is much debate over what and when he traveled. That he made a proclamation to these spirits is clear  to Peter by divine inspiration, but a mystery to Peter as well.. these things we will understand better when we are there and not stuck in our limited space-time web. 

  • Claude, we know the timing was before the ascension and after the cross, but as you say, not the specific time within that time period. The timing was clearly not in eternity or in an eternity system of orientation.

  • It is interesting to note that in the original Greek, the word used in v.18
    "For Christ … being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the SPIRIT"

    is the word 'pneumati', which refer to the word 'spirit' as in the spirit of evey man…
    so, basically, what this is saying is that Christ was put to death in the flesh, but was quickened IN THE spirit…. meaning, His spirit was alive…
    (of course we know that He was made alive BY THE HOLY SPIRIT (which is in the Greek word: "Pneuma Hagion" – pneuma: Spirit, hagion: Holy)

  • Becky, note that I dealt with pneuma in the previous verse. The "spirit" in 3:18 refers to Christ's life. The Greek word pneuma literally means breath of life and refers to His coming alive again in the resurrection.

  • thank u so much, such a nice explanation, god bless u,,,keep doing…

  • Grant, you mention that the timing was before Christ's ascension but after the cross.  Verse 18 leads into verse 19 with the phrase that Jesus "…was put to death in the body but made alive alive by the Spirit.",  Also, verses 17-22 are chronologically accurate concluding with Christ sitting at the right hand of God in Heaven.  Given this context, it seems to be appropriate to narrow your timing between the resurrection and the ascension since the text in verse 18 has Jesus alive again before verses 19 and 20.

  • Don, thanks for your suggestion. I wanted to stay away from the explicit timing issue (because of the debate over ?ν) so I made it generic–sometime after the crucifiction. However, I changed it in the text because it is the primary interpretation and that is the way I applied it in the application. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Don, note this article:

    A third participle in 3:19, πορευθε?ς (poreutheis, going), is grammatically linked to 3:18 by the phrase en h? kai. These three participles form a series: Christ was put to death, he was made alive, he went. After intervening verses, the participle poreutheis is repeated resumptively in 3:22 to refer to the ascension. Thus, the three elements of the redemptive event are in view in 3:18–19: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. The relationship between the "going" of 3:19 and the death and resurrection of 3:18 is specified by the prepositional phrase en h?, where the antecedent of the relative pronoun is pneumati. The phrase can be understood as locative ("in the realm of the Spirit he went"), temporal ("at the time the Spirit made him alive he went"), or instrumental ("by the [power of] the Spirit he went"). Achtemeier (1996: 252–53) understands it as instrumental: "In addition (κα?) to being raised from the dead by the (power of the) Spirit, Christ went, by that same Spirit, and in risen form" (emphasis added). Today most interpreters take it to be temporal with respect to the resurrection, meaning that at the time when Christ was made alive in spirit or was in that state, he went and preached (Boring 1999: 140; Dalton 1965: 14; Davids 1990: 138; J.?H. Elliott 2000: 652; Michaels 1988: 205; Reicke 1964: 109; Selwyn 1958: 197). If the phrase "in the spirit" of 3:18 is taken to mean at or immediately after Christ’s resurrection, there is little difference between the locative, temporal, or instrumental sense of the prepositional phrase en h? in 3:19. But since the participles seem to define a sequence of events by which Christ "led you to God" (his death, resurrection, and, as will be argued, ascension), a temporal sense seems most apt. [Baker's Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament]

  • My goodness! So much interpretation to fit man's desires. How about actually reading and accepting God's word for a change? No wonder that there are so many denominations teaching false docturine. There is only ONE docturine.

  • Exjupiter, ignorance is bliss.

  • Alex Higginbotham

    Grant, thankyou for posting all of this.  I lean quite a bit toward the "fallen angels in tartarus being proclaimed to" after reading everything here.  Could you please tackle the confusion in the book of James about being justifed by works too?:  "so we see then that by works a man is justified and not by faith alone."

    I just always read into James that there are 2 "faiths":  one is simple acknowledgement of fact that even demons have and the other "faith" is that acknowledgement coupled with repentance which will of couse lead to good works…but I wish I could string together verses that just clearly explained James in light of Paul in Romans leaving no doubt it is only by faith with works having zero input into our salvation.

    I could go on and just manage to confuse myself even more. :)  thankyou for any thoughts you have.—your friend, Alex

  • Alex Higginbotham, James 2 is not a Salvation passage. James is speaking to believers, he is speaking to the saved, he drops the "My Brethren" very often. He is explaining Justification before man, man can not see ones faith unless he is "doing". Even the Devils believe there is one God, James doesn't say "even the Devils believe on the Lord Jesus Christ", does he? Chapter 2 is about being Justified before man, NOT GOD. – Romans 4:2

    James goes onto say that by faith Abraham in verse 23 – James 2:23

    James Chapter 2 is what you could say, Now you have the faith, now go get the works to go with your faith!

    Faith without works is dead? Who does it profit? Noone. 

    What is dead faith? We all experience dead faith throughout our spiritual growth. You might get outta bed one day and decide to just totally live in the flesh, not read your bible, not say a prayer, not go to church, not do any soul winning or even so much as preach the Word of God to anyone; this is dead faith, because it PROFITS nobody! This is not a Salvation or Lose your Salvation passage.

    I would rather have dead faith than works without faith! which you would call dead works.

    After all, wouldn't you consider the theif on the cross to have Faith without works? Was he not saved?


    God Bless you all!

  • Regegademstr, Thank you for your comment. 

    Alex, go to my studies on James 2. Also, read the Introduction to the epistle of James (link at the top of each page). 

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