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”

  • 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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