The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 6, 2011


1) 1 Peter 3:18-20 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Peter 3:18-20
by Tom Edwards

In 1 Peter 3:18, Peter writes, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the  unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."   The KJV speaks of this sacrifice in 1 Peter 3:18 as having been offered "once."  "Once" is from the Greek work "hapax," which Vine defines as "once for all"; and it is so rendered in the NASB.

When we think of Christ's sacrifice in contrast to the numerous Old Testament sacrifices, we are made to realize of how supremely sufficient it was.  As the Hebrew writer states in Hebrews 10:11,12,14: "Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD...  For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."

Jesus was the just one, dying for the unjust, as Paul shows in Romans 5:6-10, in pointing out that "...while we were still helpless...Christ died for the ungodly," which is a demonstration of God's love toward us, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us...."  

It is through that death that we are brought to God; but being made holy and blameless by that reconciliation also involves are need to "continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel"  (Col. 1:21-23).   Christ Himself had said, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (Jn. 12:23), which has reference not to His ascension, though that was also necessary, but to His crucifixion, as the verse goes on to show: "But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die" (v. 24).  Jesus was nailed to a cross and then lifted up from the earth to let the weight of His body pull upon the spikes that had been driven through his hands and feet.  So on the cross, Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth.  

Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 3:18 that Jesus was "put to death in the flesh."  This refutes the "Swoon Theory" that views Christ as only having fainted on the cross and then taken down.  It also refutes the Docetist theory (that branch of the Gnostics) who believed that Jesus did not take on real flesh and blood -- it only "seemed" that way.  To the contrary, however, as Hebrews 2:9,14,15,17 points out, Jesus had to take on the actual body of a human being in order that He could die for us; and, thus, atone for our sins.  For the atonement required the actually death of Jesus, not merely his suffering.  When we, therefore, speak about being saved by the "blood of Christ," we are also implying the Lord's death -- and not merely blood He shed, such as when being scourged prior to His crucifixion, or the blood that ran down His body while He was still suffering on the cross.  For we can think of that "blood" as standing for the Lord's life; and, therefore, whether we express that the Lord shed His blood for us or gave His life, we are saying the same thing.  Notice, for instance, Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement."

Jesus was not only put to death in the flesh, but also "made alive in the spirit," as Peter also includes in 1 Peter 3:18.  The KJV uses the word "quickened" for "made alive."  It comes from the Greek word "zoopoieo."  Thayer shows one of its definitions to mean "to cause to live, make alive, give life."  This, of course, has reference to the Lord's resurrection in 1 Peter 3:18.  Albert Barnes observes that, "In the NT, these words are never used in the sense of maintained alive, or preserved alive."  Rather, we see them expressing an imparting or giving of life.  For instance, we find it used twice in John 5:21, "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes."  This Greek word is also used in Romans 4:17, where God is spoken of as being one who "GIVES LIFE to the dead...."

Notice, now, what Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 3:19: "in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison."  The "in which," this verse begins with, is referring back to "the spirit," with which verse 18 closes.  So it is by that spirit that the message was given.  Keep that in mind.  The "now" in the phrase "the spirits now in prison" is in italics, so it wasn't in the original; but it does help the reader to understand the passage.  For these people were not preached to while in prison.  Rather, they were preached to during Noah's day; but since that time, they have now long been in "prison" -- which is "Tartarus" (the torment side of the hadean realm).  

That these were the rebellious people of Noah's day can be seen in the next verse (1 Peter 3:20): "who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water."

Did Jesus ever personally come to earth, in some physical form, to preach to these people who lived during Noah's day, while Noah worked on the ark?  The Bible doesn't show that He did.  

Did Jesus ever go into the hadean realm to preach to these departed spirits?  Jesus did go to the hadean realm, but He went to the Paradise side of it: For the Lord had told the thief on the cross (who repented and sought Jesus' help), "...'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise'" (Luke 23:43.  See also Acts 2:31).  

While Jesus and this former thief (but now forgiven) would be in Paradise (the blissful side of the hadean realm), these departed spirits of Noah's day would be in Tartarus (the torment side).  These two sides are also referred to in Luke 16:19-31.  For while the rich man was in torment, Lazarus was in Paradise; and there was no crossing over.

The word "Tartarus" is from the Greek in 2 Peter 2:4.  "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment."  This entire phrase, "cast them into hell," is from the Greek verb "tartaroo."  The noun form of it is "Tartarus."  There are several Bible translations that render this as "cast them down into Tartarus."   There is no preaching that will do any good for those who are in Tartarus.  Their eternal destinations are already sealed (just like that of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31).  They will be lost for all eternity and eventually suffer the torments of the eternal hell (gehenna).  

Though we don't read of Jesus preaching to the people in Noah's day, we do see that Noah preached to them.  And from what Peter also shows, we can infer that Jesus, therefore, preached to those people through Noah.  For consider the following: Peter refers to Noah in 2 Peter 2:5 as having been a "preacher of righteousness."  In addition, notice in 1 Peter 1:10,11 that Peter speaks of prophets who were "seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow."  One of the renderings Strong gives for the Greek word for "prophets" in this passage is "forth-teller." One who proclaimed God's word.  For more than just predicting future events as a "foreteller," the prophets of God simply declared His message to others as "forth- tellers."  Moses, for example, is referred to as a prophet (Deut. 18:15); and though he made some future predictions, he was primarily the law-giver to God's people.  

Noah was also a forth-teller of God's message.  The Lord had spoke to him.  He told him of the coming flood, of the dimensions for the ark, of what he was to take on board.  Would not the Lord also have revealed to Noah what message to preach to the people of his day?  Would we not, therefore, think that Noah also spoke by the "spirit of Christ" just as those other prophets had?  

Through Noah, God was giving the world an  opportunity to repent, to be saved; but, alas, they did not take heed.  Peter speaks of that time of opportunity that the Lord was giving to the world as "the patience of God."  He also says more about that in 2 Peter 3:9,15.  So when people mock the Lord for not yet having sent Jesus to return, they are being very foolish.  For one reason, when God promised to send Him the first time, He did so -- in the "fullness of the time" (Gal. 4:4), which means "the proper or destined time."  And the Lord will keep His word in sending Him again.  Also, this passage shows that what might seem like a "delay" to mankind, or as if the Lord will not be returning at all, is actually for the sake of salvation (2 Pet. 3:15) -- for the Lord is "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (v. 9).

The patience of God in Noah's day can also be seen in Genesis 6:3.  Just a couple verses prior to the account of the wickedness of that time, God's being sorry that He had made man, and the Lord's intention to destroy the world, this verse states, "Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.'"  It was during this 120-year period that Noah worked on the ark, and the Lord continued to extend His patience to the world.  

Peter shows in 1 Peter 3:20 that it was just 8 people who were saved from the flood.  Of course, many more could have been if they merely would have chosen the way of the Lord; but, obviously, they had rejected Him, along with Noah's preaching.  

The account of the flood will, till the end of time, illustrate the seriousness of sin and the narrow way that leads to eternal life, as Jesus also spoke of in Matthew 7:13,14: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."  Think, too, of how many of the more than 600,000 fighting men of Israel were able to enter the Promised Land -- just two: Joshua and Caleb.  The rest died in the wilderness because of their unbelief.  

In this lesson, we have seen that Jesus died for us so that we might be reconciled to God.  For God truly does desire all to be saved and, therefore, He even reached out to the people in Noah's day through his preaching by the Spirit of Christ that they, too, could have that opportunity.  But they rejected it.  May we never do the same!


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for Terry MacDonald who will be having a heart catheterization this Thursday (2/10).

Let us also be praying for the family and friends of Julia Graham (Brittney Hollis' grandmother) who recently passed away.

Though I have preached for a couple years of Sunday 6 PM services for the Park Forest church of Christ  in Baton Rouge (following our 4 PM service in Denham Springs) and taught their Tuesday evening adult class for some time, when they had been without a preacher, today is my first Sunday working for them full-time.  Below shows our location and the time of our services.  If you ever happen to be in the area, feel free to come and be with us.  We would love to have you.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/audioser.html (audio sermons)