The Book of I PETER
James J. Barker
OUR LORD DESCENDED INTO HELL
- This is one of
the most difficult passages in the Bible to interpret.
these verses have been used by many false teachers to support strange and
- For example,
the Roman Catholic Church uses this Scripture to defend their doctrine of
- In the Roman
Catholic Douay Version of the Bible, there is a footnote under I Peter
3:19, which says, "Here is proof of a third place, or middle state of souls: for
these spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach after His death, were not
in Heaven; nor yet in the hell of the damned."
- There is no
intermediate place between heaven and hell. There is no place called purgatory. You will not find it in the
- Our sins were
purged at the cross. They will not
be purged in some magical, mystical, make-believe place called
- "When he had by
himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on
high" (Hebrews 1:3).
- "In whom we
have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to
the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
- "The blood of
Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John
- "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our
sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1:5).
I. CHRIST DESCENDED INTO
II. CHRIST PREACHED TO THE SPIRITS IN
III. CHRIST HAS GONE INTO
CHRIST DESCENDED INTO HELL
- There is much
disagreement over the interpretation of this Scripture.
- Most of us are
familiar with the so-called "Apostles Creed," which says, "He descended into
hell." This creed was not actually
written by the apostles, but was written several generations later.
it reflects the generally accepted view that Christ descended into hell.
- There is some
debate over the word "prison" (I Peter 3:19). Does it refer to
- This same Greek
word is translated "hold" and "cage" in Revelation 18:2. It is also translated "prison" in
- The Greek word
translated "prison" here in I Peter 3:19 and Revelation 20:7 is found 47 times
in the New Testament, and most of the references are to a literal
- But I Peter
3:19 and Revelation 20:7 (as well as Revelation 18:2) are obviously not
referring to a literal prison.
- When the Bible
refers to hell, it often indicates that it is down in the lower parts of the
- Ephesians 4:9 says that our Lord "descended first into
the lower parts of the earth." This is undoubtedly a reference to hell, which at this time is located in
the lowest parts of the earth.
- Deuteronomy 32:22 refers to "the lowest
- Job 11:7, 8 says, "Canst thou by
searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou
do? deeper than hell; what canst thou
- Psalm 55:15 says, "Let death seize
upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in
their dwellings, and among them."
- Psalm 86:13 says, "For great is thy
mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell."
- Proverbs 9:18 refers to "the depths of
- Proverbs 15:24 says, "The way of life
is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell
- Isaiah 14:9 says, "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at
- Isaiah 14:15 says, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to
- Ezekiel 31:16
says, "I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall,
when I cast him down to hell."
- Ezekiel 31:17 says, "They also went down into hell..."
- Ezekiel 32:27
also refers to sinners who have "gone down to
- Our Lord said in Luke 10:15, "And thou,
Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell."
- Second Peter 2:4 says, "For if God
spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell..."
- So according to Ephesians 4:9, our
Lord "descended first into the lower parts of the earth," which is a reference
to hell, in the lowest part of the earth.
- This is only a temporary dwelling
place for the damned, because Revelation 20:14 says, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second
CHRIST PREACHED TO THE SPIRITS IN HELL
- This apparently
took place between our Lord's death and resurrection.
- Who are these
"spirits in prison"? Spirits
usually refer to angelic beings, either elect angels or devils.
- However, in
Hebrews 12:23 the word "spirits" refers to men.
- Therefore, it
is my conviction that I Peter 3:19 teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ descended
into hell and preached to the disembodied spirits of all the lost souls of the
Old Testament dispensation.
- They were
"sometime...disobedient" (3:20), meaning they "formerly were
- This refers to
the Old Testament sinners who disobeyed God and ignored His gracious message of
- The lost
sinners of Noah's day are mentioned as an example of Old Testament sinners who
ignored God's warnings (3:20).
- The days of
Noah are referred to throughout Scripture as a warning to sinners not to ignore
the righteous judgment of God (cf. II Peter 2:5; 3:5,
- Our Lord said,
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the
coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. 24:37).
- Hebrews 11:7 says, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved
with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned
the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by
- Noah's ark is a "figure" or a type of salvation (I Peter
3:21). Those in the ark were
saved. The water did not save
them. Being in the ark (a picture
of Christ) saved them.
- Likewise, the water of baptism does not save us --
"not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God" (3:21).
- "By the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (3:21b). This is what the apostle Paul
means in Romans 5:10, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God
by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
- His resurrection life.
- Baptism is a picture (or a "figure" -- I Peter 3:21) of
the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans
CHRIST HAS GONE INTO HEAVEN (3:22).
- Our Lord's
ascension into heaven, and His now being seated "on the right hand of God"
affirm His triumphant position.
- At God's right
hand denotes His position of honor and authority.
- His Name above all names
Exalted more and more,
At God the Fathers own right
Where angel hosts adore. -- William H.
- There are many
references in Scripture to Christ's exalted position at God's right
- Because Christ
is now exalted and seated at the right hand of God the Father, He has sent the
- Peter preached
on the Day of Pentecost, "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted,
and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath
shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" (Acts
- Because Christ
is now exalted and seated at the right hand of God the Father, He is in heaven
interceding for us.
- "Who is he that
condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is
even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans
- However, most
of the references to Christ at the Father's right hand signify His power (cf.
FB Meyer said:
The story of the Flood seems to have made a great
impression on the mind and heart of the Apostle; and the event is constantly on
his lips (2 Peter 2:5; 3:5-6). And here he follows closely on the words of his
Master, who compared the days of Noah with those of the Son of
We need not stay to describe in detail the days which
were before the Flood, or the condition of the old world. Its course was
precisely similar to that of the world around us still. "They ate; they drank; they married, and
were given in marriage." The arts and sciences were richly cultivated. Gigantic
engineering and architectural works must have abounded, or it would have been
impossible to construct such a marvellous vessel as the ark. Refinement and
civilization, side by side with abnormal and horrid crimes. The giddy pursuit of
pleasure; the eager search for wealth; the lawless gratification of evil
propensity; the reckless disregard of the claims of God; the rush of the torrent
of evil and unholiness, in spite of the remonstrances and pleadings of the
grey-headed preacher for a hundred years. All these are what we see today around
us in confused and grievous manifestation.
And there is as little need to describe the new world
into which Noah and his children stepped down from the mountain slopes on which
their ark grounded. How delicious the balmy air, the green grass carpeting the
earth, the luxuriant growth of vegetation from the soil enriched and fructified
by the alluvial deposit of the waters! It was a world from which sin, and crime,
and evil, had been purged, and Creation seemed already to anticipate the vision
of the seer: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and
the first earth were passed away, and there was no more
But surely that old world is very significant of the old
life into which we are born by nature; and that new world of the new life into
which we enter in regeneration. And the Flood of water, through which Noah
passed from the old into the new, bearing him onwards on its broad and swelling
bosom, from evil and familiar scenes into new and ecstatic surroundings, is a
type of the blessed experience of which the Epistles so often speak; when
believers through faith in Jesus pass out of the old life of selfishness and
death, into the glorious new life of resurrection blessedness; when they sit
with Christ in the Heavenlies; when they reckon themselves to be dead indeed
unto sin, but alive unto God; sharing the spirit of the Saviour's death, and of
his resurrection: at such times they may be said to repeat the experience of the
patriarch, when he passed from the old world into the
The early Church was accustomed to set forth this
spiritual experience by the outward act of immersion in water. Believers, in
confession that they had passed from their previous life of sin into the blessed
life of fellowship with the risen Saviour, were buried under water in the
likeness of his death, and were lifted again above the water in the likeness of
his resurrection. The water in the pool or river might thus be compared to the
waters of Noah's Flood, because through each there was a passage from the old to
the new, just as in the grave of Jesus there was a passage from the more limited
life of the flesh into the freer life of the spirit. "Though we have known
Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any
man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all
things are become new." Baptism, indeed, has no sacramental efficacy; but there
are no trifles in the kingdom of God; and obedience to a mere outward rite may
make a world of difference between the uneasiness of an evil conscience and the
answer of a good one (Tried by