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What the Bible says about 'the Spirits in Prison'
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Peter 3:19

Jesus could not have preached to anyone, dead or alive, while His dead body lay in the tomb. Why? Because He was dead! If He was not dead during those "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40), then His sacrifice for the sins of humanity was in vain!

Scripture says that, when Jesus died on the cross, like all men His "spirit [returned] to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). The spirit of a human is not conscious in death, for Solomon tells us plainly that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Thus, the spirit of a dead person cannot do anything: "for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). As the psalmist writes, when a man dies, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [thoughts, KJV] perish" (Psalm 146:4; see also Job 14:20-21; Psalm 104:29).

Jesus, in order to taste death like every man (Hebrews 2:9), had to die just as every man does. He was completely dead for three days and three nights; He was without life and consciousness both in body and in spirit. He could do no preaching to anyone, much less "to the spirits in prison," whoever they are.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'

1 Peter 4:6

Having read what Peter writes in I Peter 3:19, many have assumed that the "dead" in I Peter 4:6 are the souls of dead people who are "lost" in terms of salvation. However, this is not the case—in fact, the only real connection between "the spirits in prison" and "those who are dead" is that they appear in the same paragraph! In taking the latter verse apart and seeing it in the flow of the apostle's thought, one realizes that the "dead" are individuals who actually heard the gospel while they were alive, embraced it, and suffered and died for it, whom God accounted worthy of eternal life. Therefore, since they are not the lost dead, I Peter 4:6 is not a clarification of I Peter 3:19 and "the spirits in prison," as is often supposed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'


 




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