1 PETER 3:18-20
WHO WERE THE SPIRITS IN PRISON VISITED BY
THE CHRIST YESHUA?
(1 Peter 3:18-20)
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
We can rest assure that Apostle Peter did not just invent a theory, but that he was simply relaying what he heard from The Savior himself. Who could be these ‘spirits in prison’ who were visited by The Messiah? What resulted from the preaching of The Christ unto them? When did this take place?
THE SPIRITS VISITED BY GOD'S SON
Before we dig deeper unto the truth about these spirits who were imprisoned, let us first deal directly with the second question posted above: What resulted from the preaching of The Christ unto these spirits who were in prison?
The reference of Apostle Peter to these spirits as those “who formerly were disobedient” (v20) only presents the fact that the preaching of The Savior Yeshua unto them was effective, have caused a significant change of heart and made them repentant of their former disobedience. After all, none other than the very Begotten Son of God, the very Word of God, was the One who preached unto them.
THE TIME OF VISIT
There is no doubt that The Savior went into the prisons wherein the spirits mentioned by Apostle Peter were imprisoned. When could have The Christ Yeshua visited them in their prison? The Savior himself can shed light on this issue:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
As foretold by The Messiah, he will be in the heart of the earth for ‘three days and three nights’. After his resurrection in the flesh, it was most likely that The Christ has told them of his whereabouts, and of what really occurred at the time when he was supposed to be dead for three days and three nights. It makes much evangelical sense to believe that the preaching of The Messiah to the imprisoned spirits occurred during this time. In other words, while those who have known or heard about him thought him to be dead (and contained in his burial place), he was actually doing his other-worldly task of visiting the imprisoned spirits in the earth’s spiritual realm.
WASN’T HE DEAD DURING THE THREE DAYS?
Many other preachers may contend that this could not be possible as The Messiah was dead during this time, and so could not do anything. It is understandable for them to reason out this way as this very well be the same understanding of all the people during that same period of time. However, could God’s Word ever die? Could God’s Word ever be killed by any weapon of man? Of course, not!
Who then died on the cross and was presumed dead for three days? It was not The Word and Son of God, but rather the Son of Man (Prophet or Messenger) or flesh that The Word has become (Jn. 1:1, 14). As clarified by The Messiah himself he is both The Son of God and The Son of Man (Mat. 16:13-17). After all, the only process by which a sacrificial death can take place is when that which is immortal (God's Word/Son) took on man's life which is mortal.
Apostle Peter understood the distinction between these two roles of The Messiah - that of being The Son of God as well as that of being The Son of Man. Fact is, it was him among the twelve who was given this understanding by God as validated by The Lord:
13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The fact that Peter clearly understood the distinction of The Savior's role of being The Word and Son of God from that of being The Son of Man is shown when he specifically pointed to The Savior's death as 'death in the flesh' (1 Pet. 3:18) - and simply because God’s Word and only Begotten Son could never die nor could He ever be killed! If so, then it would only make logical sense to believe that God's Word and Son was indeed doing his other-worldly task of preaching in the earth’s spiritual realm during his three-day absence on earth – the time when everyone else thought of him as dead!
WHO WERE THE IMPRISONED SPIRITS?
Many preachers from different church groups will contend that the imprisoned spirits are those of men who died and were rejected from heaven’s gate. The Catholic Church would readily point to these spirits as the spirits of men who are temporarily stationed in their invented dogma of the PURGATORY, while some groups chose to stay silent on this topic. Is any one of them correct in their understanding that those imprisoned spirits were of men?
WHY CAN’T THEY BE SPIRITS OF MEN
Let us first try to understand the scriptural sense of the spirit of man which the first man Adam received from God:
7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
8 But there is a spirit in man,
And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
The spirit of man is the ‘breath of life’ (Gen. 2:7), the breath of God (Job 32:8) that gives man life. How is this scriptural fact concerning man’s spirit as his life attested by The Savior himself?
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
The Savior validates the fact that the term spirit in the context of man means life. What happens to man’s spirit when his life on earth expires? Would it make sense to believe that some spirits of men, particularly those whom many would count as wicked men, go down to the spirit prison when even the spirit of those people were breaths of the Almighty (Job 32:8)? Would any of God’s breath ever become imprisoned spirits? This would not make any logical nor scriptural sense.
What then happens to the spirit of man when he dies?
7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
As the spirit or life of man is God’s breath it would only make scriptural sense that it will go back to the Endower or the Source and not to any other place like a spiritual prison. From this scriptural understanding, we can arrive at a conclusion that the spirits in prison preached by God’s Son for them to also repent and have a change of heart are not the spirits of men who have died.
THE SPIRITS LIBERATED BY GOD’S SON
Apostle Peter specifically referred to the spirits in prison as those “who formerly were disobedient… in the days of Noah.” From this statement of Peter we can derive an understanding that these imprisoned spirits were already in existence in the days of Noah. In fact, they could very well be the reason why God decided to end the presence of mankind and save just the family of Noah of eight souls.
How is this understanding validated by early scriptural accounts?
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
The sons of God who cross-bred with the daughters of the early people and produced mutant offsprings in the form of giants or N’filim (Gen. 6:4 CJB) were the same disobedient spirits in prison visited and preached by God’s Begotten Son at the time when his humanity was dead for three days and three nights. This disobedience on the part of God’s sons, and the cross-breeding of two different creations of God has become a great part of man’s corruption in his early existence. This has given grief unto God that He even felt sorry for creating man. He could have wiped out man from the face of the earth except that He found pleasure in one man, Noah. And so, he allowed humanity to continue to exist by saving Noah and his household.
Some Christian groups would discount our presentation as fallacy by desperately referring to the mentioned ‘sons of God’ as the offsprings of Adam and Eve after Cain was driven away from their land, while the ‘daughters of men’ were supposed to be the offsprings of Cain with the other daughter/s of Adam and Eve. This presentation would present both the ‘sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of men’ to be of the same genetic background and therefore, both are of the human race. Herein lies the dilemma with this limiting argument: If both groups were of the same human race, why is it that they keep producing offspring that are giants, known by the Hebrews as N’filim (Complete Jewish Bible) or Nefilim (Orthodox Jewish Bible) in Genesis 6v4?
How does the Scripture confirm the validity of our understanding that the sons of God who cross-bred with the daughters of men were indeed not from the human race?
6 To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Just as we have already mentioned above, God has multiple sons. A Son of God is referred in the Scriptures as a Morning Star, and they all already existed even before the foundations of the earth were established. Fact is, while The Christ Yeshua is a Son of God and the Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), so was the devil or satan (Isa. 14:12-15). From this scriptural perspective, we can come to an understanding that the Sons of God who cross-bred with the human race are heavenly creatures and were the spirits in prison whom God’s Begotten Son visited and preached unto so that they will also be given a chance to return unto God. If God gave mankind a chance to be reconnected with Him, how could He not give His Spirit-Sons a chance?
WHY WERE THEY GIVEN A CHANCE?
The Almighty God’s Only Begotten Son, in the person of Yeshua, gave a chance to the other sons of God who were guilty of disobedience and were imprisoned in the spirit realm. What is the reason behind this noble act of The Messiah? Why does he have to visit them in the ‘heart of the earth’? He has to warn them of the coming into reality on what has been prophesied by Isaiah:
9 “Hell from beneath is excited about you,
To meet you at your coming;
It stirs up the dead for you,
All the chief ones of the earth;
It has raised up from their thrones
All the kings of the nations.
10 They all shall speak and say to you:
‘Have you also become as weak as we?
Have you become like us?
11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
And the sound of your stringed instruments;
The maggot is spread under you,
And worms cover you.’
12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
God has foretold of the time when satan will be brought down unto the lowest depths of the Pit in Sheol. Isn’t this the same HEART OF THE EARTH that The Messiah declared that He will be present for three days and three nights (Mat. 12:40)? When will satan be cast down to the lowest depths of the Pit take place?
5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
In the vision of Apostle John, when The Child, in reference to The Christ Yeshua, “was caught up to God and His throne” (verse 5, also Mark 16:19 / Ps. 80:17) the woman fled into the wilderness and a war in heaven broke out between the divine angels led by Michael against the dragon and his evil angels. This was the war when the dragon or satan was finally cast out from heaven and was cast to the earth’s bottomless pit and bound. This was the event that would surely happen when once and for all God’s Begotten Son will sit on the right hand of God in His throne (Ps. 80:17). This was the reason why he went and preached to the imprisoned spirits of God’s other sons in order to give them a last chance to return to God.
So, while many of the imprisoned spirits were implied by Apostle Peter as having had a change of heart, spirits “who formerly were disobedient” who were recruited by The Christ Yeshua and saved from a complete destruction at the appointed time of God. While those who remained proud and disobedient are understandably the ones who will become part of satan’s army and legions who will face the final battle against God’s angels who will be led this time NOT by Michael the Archangel but by God’s Only Begotten Son, His very own Word, at the apocalyptic time appointed by God. And we know who won in this final battle as already envisioned by John the Apostle in his apocalyptic vision.