Jesus Preached To The Dead?
1 Peter 3:18 “…He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,
(3:19) through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison
(3:20) who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built…”
That passage can only be appreciated and understood if the entire pericope is considered during interpretation. The following is the entire pericope to help us understand if Jesus preached to the dead.
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,
(3:19) through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison
(3:20) who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,
(3:21) and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
(3:22) who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
Jesus preaching to the dead is a major issue. If Jesus can preach to the dead, that means, there is opportunity to be saved after dying and exiting this life as a sinner. It is also a major issue since it will contradict clearer Bible texts on the state of those who are dead. Did Jesus preach to the dead?
Ecclesiastes 9:5 “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.
(9:6) Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.”
If Jesus preached to the dead, then, it will be a contradiction of other clearer Bible texts. Yet the Bible does not contradict itself! To correctly interpret the Bible, we first establish what the clearer texts of the Bible claim on a particular subject, then proceed with that understanding to unravel the not-so-clear texts on the same subject.
Clearer texts of the Bible emphasise that death is sleep and that the dead cannot make choices to change their fate as of at the time of death. The dead are not gathered anywhere beyond this world for them to be preached to. According to the Bible, when people die, their souls don’t gather in paradise or hell, the soul dies and ceases to exist. Did Jesus preach to the dead?
Let’s look at our passage today.
(1) 1 Peter 3:18 -informs us that Jesus died a physical death in order to save us. He died physically but the power of the Spirit resurrected Him. Made alive refers to resurrection and not continuous existence after death.
(2) Body is the physical visible part of the living. Body was created from dust. Spirit is not a person, but the essence of life from God. Human beings and animals and anything living have a spirit or essence of life from God according to Ecclesiastes 3:19-21. You are only a human being if you are referred to as a soul. Soul according to Genesis 2:7 is combination of Body and Spirit. Spirit and soul are two very different things. In many local languages, spirit and soul are translated using the same word thus creating confusion. Soul is the living person, identified as a particular person. Spirit is the essence of life that cannot and never be identified with a person or animal. According to Ecclesiastes 12:7 at death body goes to the dust it came from. Spirit goes back to God who gave. Soul obviously which was a combination of the separated body and spirit, ceases to exist. At death no more soul existing anywhere.
(3) 1 Peter 3:19 – It is through the Spirit and not himself, that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. All of us who preach even today preach through the Spirit. Jesus told disciples not to venture into evangelism unless they have the Holy Spirit through whom all preaching is done, Acts 1:4,8. Spirit in reference to people refers to their still possessing the essence of life from God. When people are referred to as spirits, it means they are still alive, they still have the essence of life from God. Prison refers to bondage of sin. All sinners are in a prison, Romans 6:19-23. This verse therefore refers to Jesus using Noah by the power of the Holy Spirit to preach to living people of Noah’s time, during Noah’s time, who were slaves to sin, or imprisoned by sin.
(4) 1 Peter 3:20 – the spirits in prison, or living sinners during Noah’s time, were preached to by Jesus through Noah by the power of the Holy Spirit. But after the preaching that was done when the ark was still being built, only eight of the spirits in prison were saved and accepted to enter the ark, that is Noah’s family.
(5) 1 Peter 3:21 – water that kept the ark afloat and thus the eight were saved is here seen to symbolize baptism. The purpose of baptism is to clear the conscious of sin and not clean dirt from the body. Resurrection of Jesus is what makes our salvation effective. Baptism symbolizes resurrection of Jesus. The effectiveness of that resurrection was made alive by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 3:18), who was in Noah preaching to living sinners of his time, but only eight were saved.
(6) 1 Peter 3:22 – Jesus resurrected and is in heaven with ultimate authority. Among those in heaven with Jesus, none is a human being of Noah’s time. The sinners who rejected Noah’s preaching are not in heaven or alive anywhere. Noah’s family of eight who were saved during the flood are not listed among those in heaven with Jesus. Because no one remains alive in any form to be in heaven or to be preached to after death.
(7) Peter’s Theme In The Entire Section – Jesus though away in heaven, is still effective by the power of His resurrection and through the Holy Spirit to help us overcome sin and be saved. Peter tells His audience that Jesus used the same Holy Spirit during Noah’s time and He is still using Him even today to save those who accept the gospel. While sinners during Noah’s time were not disadvantaged by the physical absence of Jesus, neither will we be disadvantaged by the same absence. The Holy Spirit who served them also serves us. The resurrection they never witnessed and we never witnessed is still effective by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Conclusion – Jesus did not preach to the dead. Jesus preached and still preaches to everybody using people by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus used Noah, and today He uses preachers. Spirits in prison are not dead people, but sinners who were alive during the preaching of Noah. Dead people are not in heaven, only angels are with Jesus in heaven.
All of us who are still in sin are spirits in prison. Jesus through the Holy Spirit and through preachers you regularly meet, wants to set you free from prison, into freedom of happiness and blessings. May we be set free, in Jesus name. Amen! (C)firstname.lastname@example.org (do not delete any part of this post, including this. You are free to share these posts but don’t edit the authorship or content… thank you and be blessed!)