1 Peter 4:6

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“For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
This verse is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible to interpret. The rules of interpretation that we should keep in mind is that we interpret unclear verses with the clear verses, and the minority of texts with the majority of texts. Neither is this verse clear, nor the majority of texts dealing with this subject.
For this reason
“For” is a term of explanation. Peter is explaining that everyone must give account to God (v.5).
“This reason” means unto this end. For what purpose was the gospel preached? There is a twofold purpose found in this verse:
1. that non-Christians will evaluate Christians as people in the flesh, and
2. that those who accept the gospel will live forever according to God’s norms
the gospel was preached also
The tense in the verb “was preached” is most important (aorist tense [one point], indicative mood [actually happened]). Peter deals here with the historic past. He is not saying that the gospel is in the process of being preached to the dead. The preaching took place when these “dead ones” were still amid the living. This is the only time when preaching is effective — when we are alive physically on earth.
to those who are dead,
There is no verb “are” in this verse. Literally, this phrase would read “to dead ones.” They are dead from the viewpoint of the remaining Christians on earth. The dead Christians of verse six had the gospel preached to them while alive on earth (aorist tense; indicative mood). They became Christians while on earth and are now dead. They heard the gospel while alive and have now passed into eternity before the writing of this epistle. This statement encourages Christians that they have something for which to live beyond this present life.
What is the difference between the “dead” of verse five and verse six? The dead of verse five “will give account” (future tense). Therefore, these persons are spiritually dead, dead in sin. They are eternally out of fellowship with God (Romans 5:12; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). The dead of this verse are Christians who have come to Christ and have their sins eternally paid for by the sufferings of Jesus on the cross.
Christians face an altogether different future than the lost.
Is there a gospel of the second chance? According to this verse–no! There is no second chance. The only time we can come to Christ is when we are alive on earth.
The Bible says that those without Christ are dead while still physically living. They are dead spiritually.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Are you dead spiritually? Would you like to come alive spiritually? All it takes is trust in Christ’s death for your sins to give you eternal life.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
Note that the above passage says that you immediately pass from death (spiritual) into life (eternal) at the moment of belief. Will you now trust what Christ has done for you?
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77 Responses to “1 Peter 4:6”

  • Phouliphan, Saisavanh

    Dear Dr. Grant
    I am student at Mountain View College in Phillippines.  I  come from Laos and I am planing to have my research about this text 1 Peter 4:6. I need more your suggestion about this text and how can I have good research or how can I find sources about this more?  Please help me.
    Thanks and God bless you Dr. Grant !
    Phouliphan, Saisavanh

  • Phouliphan, thanks for your comment. It is a blessing that you will seriously study this passage.

    As you may notice that I did this study in 1997 and I do not remember the resources that I used. I know that I used the Greek text because that is always the basis of my interpretation.

  • I think it is a fairly simple verse if you read 1 Peter chapter 3:18 and forward to this part. Jesus went and preached the gospel during His 3 days before resurrection in the heart of the earth to those who were disobedient in Noah's day.  The Word of God is not complex or difficult to understand. God bless !!

  • PS

    I just saw the comments above and I am not a Mormon. It is a fairly easy verse to understand like I said above. Thank you and keep reading the Word of our Savior Jesus. By His blood alone we are saved. Thanks for the forum here. amen

  • Hi Dr. Grant,

    Please,could you explain to me what these two rules of interpretation means? to

    "interpret unclear verses with the clear verses' and "interpret the minority of texts with the majority of texs"

  • Chris, if there is an unclear passage before us then we chose two rules of interpretation that clarifies the problem passage: 1) what does the majority of texts speak the the issue in the problem passage and 2) what do the clearer passage speak to the problem.

  • i dont think that you understand the verse in the context it was written. Question, what happens to those where the gospel of God never penetrate…what about poeople that never heard about the Gospel or like in Exodus 20…worshiping GOd as idols, what happens to them when they die and never had been given a change to undergo the Gospel…dont you think they also need fair chance to enter heaven to meet their maker.

  • Jayson, your interpretation is purely hypothetical based on a preconceived idea that is not biblical. Interpretation should be based on extant statements of Scripture.

    Your point about those who have never heard is answered in Romans 1 and 10. In Romans 1 people "supress" the truth (Greek: hold down) "in unrighteousness." All they have to do is look at creation and go positive toward the Creator then God will send a preacher (Romans 10).

  • Love you Dr Grant for bearing the hardship unto you. I’ve been reading your explanation and people’s comments, I said it’s a few who can be so kind to reply. I see that you know what you are doing and you are honest gentleman.
    Dr Grant I read the verse and reread it but could not see the meaning of Peter, I said I’ll pray first before coming to it again, but I get some clue by embrancing your explanation. Thanks for your hard work.

  • Epimac, this is a passage that is very difficult to understand. I think I remember reading once that this section of 1 Peter had over 60 interpretations. Those who try to claim that this passage is simple to understand are simply ignorant of the issues.

  • Morning Dr Grant, how are you, today I bring Titus 2:13. Would you help me with more explanations. Thank you

  • Epimac, that passage refers to the Rapture when Jesus comes to claim His church and take them to heaven. That verse also proclaims that Christ is God Himself.

  • Thank you for this helpful explanation of a passage Steve Brown described in a tape I received last week as entirely confusing.  As a brand new reader, I'm grateful to Google for leading me to this site, and for your faithful work in studying, and sharing the Good News



  • This could not possibly have anything to do with 3:19-20. Chapter 3 refers to a different thing: it says "spirits in prison". When a person dies, the spirit does not receive salvation nor condemnation (Ecclesiastes 12:7 KJV
    [7] Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it), IT IS THE SOUL THAT IS SAVED OR CONDEMNED. 

    In chapter 3:19 Peter speaks of a different thing: Jesus going back to proclaim victory before rebellious spirits that rebelled before the flood (Genesis 6:1-2). Those "sons of God" were spiritual beings who left their position in haven out of lustful rebellion.

    1 Peter 4:6 speaks of evangelism for redemption of the soul of men. I agree completely with the commentary shared here. 


  • Also, the people from the Old Testament had the revelation of God. 

    1 Peter 1:9-12 KJV
    [9] Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. [10] Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: [11] Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. [12] 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.

    If they didn't, then Kimg David could not possibly be saved, neither Abraham or Noah, or Moses or the prophets. The revelation then was incomplete, but nevertheless powerful to save if accepted in faith. Romans speaks about this quite a lot. 

  • This is a very interesting explanation you gave, Dr. Grant. I thought about the parallel contrasted in 1Pi.4:6 highlighted by the greek use of "men" and "de". You did spoke a bit about it. I saw the couples : judged – live ; according to men – according to God ; in the flesh – in the spirit.

    The context of the epistle is persecution and martyrdom as you pointed out. The judgment of men of these believers was death (see James Ac.12:2 or Antipas Re.2:13). Here, Peter gives hope to the remaining living believers by adding that according to God, they are now living in the spiritual realm even if they are dead in their bodies.

    So the main point of Peter saying that is to boost the moral of suffering believers seeing the brothers and sisters dying for the beliefs ; yes, they may be judged by men and put to dead in their bodies but for God they are living in his spiritual realm because God is not the God of the dead but of the living, like Jesus said.

  • This is very similar to how I would explain this verse. I have been reading a lot about the Mormon doctrine of ‘baptism for the dead’ and was looking for various explanations for the verses they cite to espouse their teaching. While the doctrine is very attractive; there is no overwhelming scriptural backing to validate it. Thanks for the commentary!

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