“By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison”
In 1 Peter 3:19-21, Peter focuses on two significant 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 challenging 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 [Jesus] went and preached to the spirits in prison
”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 can 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 6 (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 the 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.
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).
Thanks so much Grant.
However I think you did not put this text into the context well. I don’t think “to the spirits in prison” it meant fallen angels! If we consider the context which is one of the key principle of interpretation, these “spirits” we people who had died in the times of Noah (v20).
Walter, I debated the issue that you raise with myself for very long time. In the final analysis my decision came down to the parallel passage usage in 2 Peter 2:4-5 (Gen 6:1-2).
Thank you for your insight on this verse that is used incorrectly by many to preach a different gospel, one of salvation for the dead. In support of your interpretation, the subjects of Christ’s subjection (verse 22) look similar to the adversaries in spiritual warfare described by the apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:12).