Christ Preaching Through Noah: 1 Peter 3:19-20 In The Light Of Dominant Themes In Jewish Literature -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 07:2 (Fall 1986)
Article: Christ Preaching Through Noah: 1 Peter 3:19-20 In The Light Of Dominant Themes In Jewish Literature
Author: Wayne Grudem


Christ Preaching Through Noah:
1 Peter 3:19-20 In The Light Of Dominant Themes
In Jewish Literature

Wayne Grudem

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Deerfield, Illinois

Near the end of chapter 3 in his first epistle, Peter writes:

18. For Christ also died for sins once for all, 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;

19. in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,

20. who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

The difficulty of this passage has resulted in a variety of views, especially about the meaning of verse 19, in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison.

The issues where commentators differ are at least these:

1. Who are the spirits in prison?

unbelievers who have died?

OT believers who have died?

fallen angels?

2. What did Christ preach?

second chance for repentance?

completion of redemptive work?

final condemnation?

3. When did he preach?

in the days of Noah?

between death and resurrection?

after resurrection?

Among all the possible answers to those questions, the following five views have been the most commonly held (the italicized words indicate the identity of “the spirits in prison” in each view):

View I: When Noah was building the ark, Christ “in spirit” was in Noah preaching repentance and righteousness through him to unbelievers who were on the earth then but are now “spirits in prison” (people in hell).1

View 2: After Christ died, he went and preached to people in hell, offering them a second chance of salvation.2

View 3: After Christ died, he went and preached to people in hell, proclaiming to them that he had triumphed over them and their condemnation was final.3

View 4: After Christ died, he proclaimed release to people who had repented just before they died in the flood, and led t...

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