Preaching To The Spirits In Prison -- By: Archibald Eugene Thomson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:273 (Jan 1912)
Article: Preaching To The Spirits In Prison
Author: Archibald Eugene Thomson


Preaching To The Spirits In Prison

A. Eugene Thomson

Simpsonville, Kentucky.

“Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing” (1 Pet. 3:18–20).

A solution of the difficulties involved in this confessedly perplexing passage calls for a journey which may at first seem to be far afield. Not a few have thought to find here reason for a hope that to the impenitent dead may be given another opportunity to hear and accept the invitations of divine grace. This passage was a favorite proof-text on the side of what was called the “larger hope” in the “second probation” controversy of twenty years ago, echoes of which can still occasionally he heard. A satisfactory study of the passage should settle the question of the propriety of such inferences. Moreover, there can be no statement given in the word of God which was not intended for the good of man, to impart some valuable and needed truth. The more difficult the passage, the weightier, probably, the truth contained therein, and the better worth our study. An understanding of the passage under discussion can be had only by determining what the “prison “was in which Jesus proclaimed his glad tidings, and who the inhabitants were to whom he spoke, and what their condition.

The Truth About Hades

This lies at the bottom of a correct understanding of the passage in question. In such a study it is vitally necessary to recognize our utter lack of knowledge except as we may gain it from the Bible. No amount of theory or speculation can for a single moment unlock the doors of the under-world and let us see its status.

1. In the Old Testament little is said about heaven ,or hell. They may be inferred, but explicit statements are wanting. The word for “heaven,” שמים (Shamayim), does not mean the abode of the holy dead, but the skies above the earth. God’s

seat of governmental authority was regarded as located there. “The heaven, even the heaven of heavens, is the Lord’s”; “It is as high as heaven, what canst thou know? “It was said of Elijah that he “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” That was all Elisha knew or could tell. Elijah went up into the sky. What became of him Elisha did not know, though beyond a doubt he believed that his master was with God. Probably f...

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