One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible is found in 1 Peter 3:18-20 which says “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, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 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.”

What does this verse mean?  Did Jesus preach to spirits in hades or hell?  Or did He preach to fallen angels?  Or does this verse mean something completely different?  How can we understand this passage of Scripture?  When we look at 1 Peter 3:18-20 we must ask a few questions.

  • How did Jesus preach to these spirits in prison?
  • Who are these spirits in prison?
  • And when did He do this?

Thankfully the Bible gives us the answers.

But before we search the Scriptures to discover the answers let us pray…

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you that we can always call on you. Please guide us into all truth, grant us an open mind so that we may we simply take your Bible as it reads.  We ask for the Holy Spirit to teach us and may we learn from your wonderful word today we pray, in Jesus name amen.

Q: How did Jesus preach to these spirits in prison?

Some think that this verse means that when Christ died on the cross that he went to hades and preached to the spirits in prison.  However the word hades or hell is not in the text.  Let’s take the verse slowly and see what it means…

One of the keys is verse 18-19 which says

” 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,”  the question is who is the individual mentioned in the words “by whom” found in verse 19?

If you read the verse it says “by the Spirit, 19 by whom”  Thus the “by whom” is the Holy Spirit.  So with that in mind the verse says the following that Christ by the Holy Spirit “went and preached to the spirits in prison”.    OK that makes it a little clearer.  But that begs the question…

Q: When did Christ preach to these individuals by the Holy Spirit?

The verse says that Christ by the Holy Spirit “went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient,” when?  The verse states ” 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.”

So Christ by the Holy Spirit preached to the spirits in prison in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.  Thus this happened before Jesus came as a man.

Q: But who are these spirits in prison during the days of Noah?

Well the Bible tells us Satan has “made the world as a wilderness
And destroyed its cities, ” and “did not open the house of his prisoners“. (Isaiah 14:17)

So Satan is the one keeping these prisoners.  Prisoners have no freedom.  Who is it whom Satan is trying to take captive?  Humans of course.  Thus, the prisoners are actually humans who are bound to sin.  Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Slaves are not free, and whoever commits sin is a slave or prisoner to sin, they have no freedom.  There is only one who can set us free, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).  Jesus is the only one who can set us free from the prison of sin.  This is His mission.  One day Jesus stood up to read and He declared of Himself…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”” (Luke 4:18-19)

 Praise be to Jesus who can set us free from the prison of sin!

Therefore,  Jesus by the Holy Spirit preached to people who were slaves to sin, during the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared.

Q: Who did Christ by the Holy Spirit use?  Giving a warning of a coming prophetic flood?

The Bible tells us that “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) and that “Noah, one of eight people, (was) a preacher of righteousness”. (2 Peter 2:5)  Thus 1 Peter 3:18-20 tells us this, that Jesus in His great mercy by the Holy Spirit spoke through Noah, in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.  Striving to redeem those humans in prison to sin, while the ark was being prepared.

Q: Does the rest of the Bible confirm or contradict our interpretation?

It confirms it for it is written speaking during the days of Noah

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.” (Genesis 6:3)

It’s clear that the patience of Jesus is great.  By the Holy Spirit He spent 120 years trying to reach the people before the flood came.  The world was warned, but when the message was rejected the flood did come.  Jesus has told us “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:37-39, 44)  Are you ready for the return of Christ?  Do you know what the mark of the beast is directly from the Bible?  To learn more about God’s final message of warning to the world we recommend the below related posts and may the Lord bless you as you choose to follow Him.