Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Hell
(1st Peter 3:18-20),
Question #1: Dr. Luginbill, Grace and peace to you. You continue to be a source for my indoctrination into His Word. I would like to talk to you about 1 Peter 3:18-20. In a nutshell my belief is that the Bible does not teach salvation to sinners once they have died and gone to hell whether it be in O.T. times or after the cross. But there is a fellow in our group who poses this following question:
I believe it was to relate to the demons in prison there the victory and their eventual destination into the Lake of Fire. This person's logic is based on your specialty, word etymology. According to him, the word "preach/proclaim" (Kerusso) is only used to relate the Gospel and that based on that understanding, Jesus must have been trying to preach/proclaim salvation to sinners in hell.
Response #1: Your assessment is indeed correct: 1st Peter 3:19-20 is relating our Lord's proclamation of His victory on the cross to those fallen angels incarcerated in Hades at that time.
A good rule of thumb is that whenever someone tells you a word has to have a certain precise technical meaning that person is most likely mistaken. The words employed in the New Testament often do take on technical meanings, but Greek existed before long before it was ever applied to the Bible, and most of the basic vocabulary has secular (or pagan) base meanings, making it very difficult to make the case that a particular NT technical meaning must always apply. The word kerusso means to "herald"; it is a verbal formation coming from the noun keryx, a herald, in classical times an individual with sacrosanct status on state business (special ambassador would be a loose equivalent); and that idea of official proclamation is present in this root everywhere this root usually translated "preach/proclaim" occurs. All the legitimate things being preached/proclaimed in scripture may have some reference to the gospel or the truth of God (and could anything Jesus would say in this creation not relate in some way to the gospel and not be entirely the truth of God?). But that does not mean that kerusso for that reason must bear the specific and technical meaning of giving a "gospel appeal" wherever it is used. This complex of words in the NT does generally refer to the gospel as the object of preach/proclaiming, but not always. For example, we find Noah "preach/proclaiming" righteousness (2Pet.2:5); John "preach/proclaiming" a baptism of repentance (Mk.1:4); and we are also told that Moses has those who "preach/proclaim" him (Acts 15:21). Further, the unbelieving Jews of Romans 2:21 "preach/proclaim" not to steal (i.e., the Law; cf. 2Cor.11:4; Gal.5:11), so that in this final case we see that also unbelievers can be the subject of the "preach/proclaiming, just as it is clear that sometimes the object is not technically the gospel (as just shown above; cf. also Rev.5:2).
If we take the standard meaning of the word, "proclaim", we need only understand that Jesus did tell the fallen angels incarcerated in Hades about His victory on the cross (bringing salvation not for them but for the believers they spent their time above trying to destroy) – being locked away in the darkness of the Abyss, they were the last find out that their own hopes for victory had been dashed by the victory of the One who died on our behalf. So on the question of etymology alone, we can say that in the absence of a specific object in our text for the verb kerusso, we have to get what it was that Christ "proclaimed" from the context; i.e., it doesn't say here that He proclaimed "righteousness" or "a baptism of repentance" or "the gospel", and it would have to be proved that this is what He did if this is what He did. On the other hand, the context of 1st Peter three shows clearly that Jesus' proclamation was to demons, not to human beings. This is clear enough from what we find in verse 20 where the "spirits" in question are further described as "those were disobedient in the days of Noah at the time when God patiently waited while the ark was being built". So it is at the very least clear that these individuals cannot be all unbelievers generally, but would be, if human, only a very select few (i.e., limited to the days of Noah). In fact, as you surmise, this a reference to the fallen angels who were involved in spawning the Nephilim. Rather than rehearse the rather detailed discussion of the Nephilim in part 5 of The Satanic Rebellion, I invite your attention to the following link: "Satan's antediluvian attack on the purity of the human line (the Nephilim)".
The idea that Christ would preach to unbelievers in hell in order to get them to accept Him is ludicrous on a number of levels. For one thing, everything we know of scripture tells us that this life is our chance to come to the Lord, and that after it is over only judgment awaits (Heb.9:27). For another, such a situation would of course guarantee salvation for everyone, since there is no way that a person in hell would stay in hell if there were any way to get out – and that is especially true if all one has to do is believe at that point (so once again such a policy would invalidate everything we are told about salvation and faith as it applies in this life). Finally, such an interpretation of 1st Peter 3:19-20 runs afoul of what Jesus Himself does say about Hades at Luke 16:19-31. In that passage, the rich man in hell pleads with Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, a request that would be unnecessary if there is going to be a way out presently; and Abraham's response is also clearly indicative of the fact that there is no way out of Hades, for not only does he not reassure the rich man, he also makes it clear that the issue is one of faith in life: "if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not believe (i.e., while yet alive) even if One rises from the dead". On this passage it is also of note that the rich man who did not give himself to God while alive is now very willing to be receptive – after experiencing the torments of Hades. This proves that there can really be no free will decision in hell, because no one would ever choose to continue to experience hell, so that any "decision" made there could have absolutely nothing to do with one's true attitude towards God.
Please see also:
Hope this is helpful - I congratulate you and encourage you to continue in your defense of the truth of Jesus Christ.
I'm having difficulty on this word. Preach is Strong's #2784 in reference to Matthew 26:13, etc: kerusso, kay-roos'-so; of uncert. affin.; to herald (as a public crier), espec. divine truth (the gospel):-preach (-er), proclaim, publish. Has preach always meant "publish"? the word from which preach comes from, Kerusso, is more to do with a herald's proclamation From the online etymology dictionary: publish "to make public," from M.E. publicen (c.1300), altered (by influence of banish, finish, etc.) from O.Fr. publier, from L. publicare "make public," from publicus "public" (see public). The meaning "to issue (a book, engraving, etc.) for sale to the public" is first recorded 1529. Publisher in the commercial sense is attested from 1740. hat do you think? thanks in advance!
Two things on this. First, the verb is derived from the noun (i.e., it is a "denominative") keryx, or "herald". The keryx was the quintessential Greek ambassador whose special staff put him under the protection of the gods as he went upon ambassadorial missions from one state to the other. Heralding the Word of God also of course has a particular meaning in the Old and New Testaments (i.e., John is Jesus' "herald" or "messenger", different word but same idea as is clear from Matt.3:1 where John is said to kerusso about the coming of the kingdom of God).
Secondly, in the Bible, the NT in particular, when the subject is the gospel what the "herald" heralds is the proclamation of the "good new" or the gospel, which in turn refers to the message of salvation through faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and by extension to the entire revealed truth of God in scripture, since it is all about, from, and of Jesus Christ, and is in fact "the mind of Christ" (we see one example of this in 1Pet.3:19 where the proclamation does refer to Christ's victory but is not an example of "giving the gospel" since fallen angels are beyond hope of salvation and that was not the purpose of our Lord's spiritual visit).
So I think "proclaim [God's gospel truth]" gets closest to what kerusso really means in the New Testament in most instances – that is certainly what it means in the verse you ask about, Matthew 26:13, where the "the gospel" is indeed what is being proclaimed. The last point I would wish to emphasize here is that it is usually a mistake to restrict the term "gospel" to merely the basic information about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ – that is certainly the entry point into the family of God but the terms as actually used in scripture never envision any "walling off" of the initial information which the Spirit uses to bring a person to saving faith from the entire realm of truth about Jesus that we ought to learn, believe, and apply (i.e., the entire Bible which is all about Him).
The reason I dislike "preach" as a translation should be obvious to all partakers of this ministry: to contemporary American readers it is impossible to disassociate the word "preach" from the word "sermon", and there is often very little about the Bible in sermons, certainly not enough in the average Sunday illustration and story packed bit of entertainment to produce much spiritual growth in a "month of Sundays".
In our Lord Jesus.
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
I have a question concerning 1Peter 3:18-20. I came across the previously mentioned in past studies and wanted to get your view on it. Peter states Christ went and preached to the souls in prison. Because it makes reference to the unrepentant men and women of Noah's time I take it that Christ went down to hell to preach the gospel to those who were disobedient in Noah's time. Was it perhaps to give them the opportunity to accept him as their Lord and savior? If not what is the purpose of preaching? Is it not to bring men unto repentance and accepting Christ as their savior? What about all of those who were disobedient prior to the beginning of Christ's ministry? Luke 16:19-31 speaks of the rich man and Lazarus and how after both men have died, the rich man was in hell being tormented and Lazarus being in Abraham's bosom being comforted. It mentions a great fixed gulf, where the rich man was he wasn't allowed to go where Lazarus was and vice versa. The rich man asks if Lazarus could go back from the dead and warn his brothers to repent of their ways so they wouldn't share the same fate, but Abraham told the rich man that they had Moses and the prophets and to hear them. Hebrews 9:23 states that it is appointed unto men once to die and then judgment. Hopefully you can see why from the previous passages that I'm trying to find meaning in 1 Peter 3:18-20. I know the word of God doesn't contradict itself; it flows harmoniously through old and new testaments. If you look at 1 Samuel 28:7-20 King Saul consulting the witch of Endor and how through a special circumstance God allowed the spirit of Samuel to appear to pronounce judgment upon Saul for turning his back on the Lord. From the above listed scriptures I get the impression that once dead you face God's judgment. I'm just not clear on Christ's purpose of preaching to the soul's in prison. In using the term prison, is it referring to Abraham's bosom or hell (place of torments). It seems they are both in a similar location, but separate. I'm thinking that Christ went to preach to those in torments. If not why does Peter make reference to those who were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited during the time of Noah. I realize that the Bible gives us a limited bit of information on certain topics or issues, but doesn't completely expound on them. For example Genesis 1:1-2 as you can see that there is a gap in time. If God creates something it is perfect, but then in verse 2 it is void and without form covered in darkness. By reading that it gave me the impression that something catastrophic occurred, but the scriptures don't go into details about it. Any help or insight on the 1 Peter 3:18-20 topic would be greatly appreciated. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you.
This one is really a question of Greek vocabulary and English translation. If 1st Peter 3:19 had been translated "proclaimed to the [fallen] angels incarcerated [in the Abyss]" rather than "preached to the spirits in prison" by the KJV, the true meaning would be more obvious. The word "preach" is the Greek kerusso, which is often translated (poorly, in my view) as "preach". A better translation generally and here in particular is "proclaim". The verb is a back-formation from the word keryx, the Greek "herald", that sacrosanct official, carrying a special wand identifying his status, who was immune from being killed or imprisoned as he treated with the opposite side in any sort of combat or conflict (similar in a way to ambassadors with immunity today, but taken more seriously by the Greeks). The word only means "preach" in the sense of "giving the King's message as His royal ambassador" (cf. 2Cor.5:20). The connotations of the word "preach" as it is used in contemporary Christianity have little if anything in common with the word kerusso as it is actually used in the Bible.
There are three compartments in the netherworld, all discretely separated one from another, any one of which or all three collectively are sometimes referred to as "hell" or "Hades": 1) paradise, the place of residence for believers after death until our Lord's ascension to the 3rd Heaven (that is where we go now after death to await resurrection); 2) Torments (or hell or Hades proper), the place of unbelievers then and now and until the final judgment when they will be thrown into the lake of fire), and 3) Tartarus or the Abyss, the place of incarceration for fallen angels who have for one reason or another been temporarily put out of action for some offense (as in the case of those involved in spawning the Nephilim in Genesis six).
Our Lord spent the three days "in Hades" in paradise (Lk.23:43), also known as "Abraham's Bosom", that is, where Abraham and Lazarus (of Lazarus and the rich man), Samuel, and all other Old Testament believers rested until being brought into the presence of the Father in company with our ascending Lord in the wake of His victory at the cross and resurrection (cf. Eph.4:8). His "proclamation of victory", therefore, must have come "by the Spirit" (precisely as 1Pet.3:19 says), for He was on the other side of the "great fixed-gulf (or "chasm" = Gk. chasma)" you mention which separates torments from the subterranean paradise (Lk.16:26), and the nature of the barrier separating Tartarus or the Abyss (i.e., the "prison"; cf. 2Pet.2:14-10; Jude 1:5-7) from paradise below is no doubt similar and if anything even impossible to negotiate (requiring the Spirit's assistance for the proclamation to be heard and received). Thus this proclamation was not an opportunity for salvation but rather a communication which assured the incarcerated fallen angels of their doom. Failing to prevent the redemption of the cross (a major objective in the devil's hopes for frustrating the plan of God and avoiding the carrying out of the sentence passed against him; see the link: The Satanic Rebellion), the days of Satan and his followers are literally numbered, for the cross was the victory in the unseen conflict that explains and was the cause of human history in the first place (Matt.25:31; 28:18; Eph.1:20-21; 3:10; Phil.2:9-10; Col.2:15).
There is no question but that this passage, 1st Peter 3:18-22 is a difficult one. It is so because Peter is making a fairly complicated analogy. The key to the analogy is the Spirit. It is by the Spirit that we are made alive (v.18), and just as Noah and co. were saved temporally by being "baptized" into the ark, so we are saved spiritually by being baptized by the Spirit into Christ . . . the very same Spirit by whom He announced His victory to the very same fallen angels whose disobedience had occasioned the great flood. Thus the Spirit's role is the lynch-pin that ties the two parts of this analogy together biblically; otherwise it would just be a good illustration, but with the Spirit's critical role in both parts of the analogy thus explained, we gain a better understanding of the power of the Spirit and the importance and meaning of our baptism into Christ by Him . . . to such a great degree that any notion of any true significance to water baptism pales in comparison to being entered "into Christ" in a similar way in which the family of Noah were saved through entry into the ark (i.e., the point of verse 21 "not the washing away of filth [for a clean body] but the calling upon God for a clean conscience [i.e., faith unto salvation]").
As I say, this is a difficult argument to follow, and it's very rare to find anyone who has it figured out correctly. For more on that passage, please see the following link:
In our Lord,
Could you tell me what 2nd Peter 2:10 means as not reviling angelic beings. I believe it has some reference to the passage in Jude, where it says Michael rebuked Satan.
I have been chewing over these passages for many years. You are absolutely correct that 2nd Peter 2:10-11 and Jude 1:8-10 are closely related (as are many things in those contexts and in the two respective books generally as well). Jude and Peter were, of course, contemporaries and most likely close confidants from their time together as men of note in the church at Jerusalem, and in these two passages they are both addressing the same problem. Part of what they describe in regard to false teachers, their lusts, their sins, and their methods, is fairly straightforward, but the verses you have focused in on are indeed problematic in the extreme.
The keys to figuring out what Peter and Jude mean are the use by both men of the words "blaspheme" and "blasphemy" to describe the actions of these reckless and audacious false teachers, and the word doxai to describe the who or the what that these evil men blaspheme. In both books, this action is parallel to despising "divinity" or "majesty" (literally "Lord-ship"; 2Pet.2:10; Jude 1:8). From this last reference, one might assume that Peter and Jude are talking about blaspheming God directly, but the word doxai is plural in both books (and additionally the blasphemy is directed against "them", i.e., referring to the doxai, in 2Pet.2:11), and critically we are told in Jude that Michael and in Peter that (holy) angels refrain from committing this blasphemy. Now there is no reason why we would expect a holy angel to bad-mouth God, but it turns out that it is not God who is the object of blasphemy: Jude 1:9 clears that part up by giving us the example of Michael who refrains from rendering a "blasphemous judgment" against the devil, even in a circumstance where we humans would be powerfully challenged to refrain from such an oath. The problem is, since all this is the case, and if as the interpretation so far suggests the objects of all this attention by the false teachers are thus fallen angels, then 1) how in the world can demons be called doxai (literally, "glories"), and 2) how in the world could any verbal abuse against them be considered "blasphemy", and 3) assuming that the "divinity/majesty/lordship" of 2Pet.2:10 and Jude 1:8 is also referring to the fallen angels rather than to God, why is such a term used for these what would then be fallen angels? And even more to the point, what in the world were these false teachers doing or saying to have their activities described in such a way? One would expect them to be bad-mouthing God, His truth, and His holy angels, not Satan and his followers.
The answer to all this I believe has to do with the Gnostic teachings into which many lapsed-believers were falling at this time. Gnosticism as related to angels is warned against as well by both Paul (e.g., Col.2:18) and John (Rev.2:24, i.e., "the deep things of Satan"), though of course this heresy is not referred by that name. Gnosticism was essentially a system of "secret wisdom" which put a great deal of weight upon identifying angelic or quasi-angelic beings by name and function, and which "mythologized" the Bible and other literature into a very complex system of pseudo-spirituality and salvation by works (much like Mormonism and Scientology do). Since we know from elsewhere that angel-worship was a problem in Jewish circles in particular (the book of Hebrews begins by combating this heresy), it should not be surprising to see two of the most prominent believers of whom we know in the Jerusalem church addressing this problem directly. There was apparently no lack of false teachers and false prophets in Judea or anywhere else for that matter who had seized onto this formula for attracting believers by seducing them with this "new and exciting" teaching about mysterious supernatural things that involved angels (a biblical topic) and demons as well. And although these false teachers were really working for Satan, they pretended to be working for God. And although they were in no way interested in doing anything to obstruct the devil, a part of their "shtick" was apparently to perform exorcisms, binding ceremonies, and various other overt "rebukings" of the devil and his minions (cf. the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19). This is the "blasphemy" or "bad-mouthing" both Peter and Jude refer to – but Michael, an angelic person who certainly knows the truth about all this, wouldn't even dare to do such thing, that is, to "render a blasphemous judgment", even against the devil; and if Michael wouldn't dare it, then we certainly shouldn't presume to do so – which means that those involved in these activities are not serving God whom they claim to serve but the devil whom they claim to oppose.
We see many such activities abroad in the world and the church visible today, and I expect that this trend will only accelerate as we draw ever nearer to the Tribulation. As to the words doxai, glories, and "lordships", just as we ought not to curse any man, believer or unbeliever, inasmuch as we are all made in God's likeness (Jas.3:9) and God wants all to be saved (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), so it is not for us to curse or rebuke any angel, elect or fallen, for even the fallen still appear before God from time to time since the day of execution of the sentence against them has not yet arrived (Job chap.1-2; Rev.12:10; and this is true for us of course for fellow human beings: Matt.5:44-45; Lk.6:27-35). Also, because we like the angels share in the image of God, Jesus Himself calls us "gods" in that respect (so that the word "lordships" can in this sense easily apply to fallen angels in this context; Jn.10:34). God gave them free will after the manner of His image; God made them glorious, and they are still "creatures of light" even if they are presently serving the darkness (cf. 2Cor.11:14), and will remain so until they are thrown forever into the darkness of the lake of fire. Since God has not yet seen fit to remove them from the world, far be it from us to curse them. The main effect of the use of the words doxai, "godly or heavenly glories" and "lordships" is, in my view, the desire on the part of both Peter and Jude to tell their readers that this sort of thing, namely, fascination with, speculation about, and particularly any sort of involvement with angels of any sort, should be something about which all prudent believers feel the utmost circumspection and even (salutatory) fear. "These matters are beyond what you may know and are things from which you should shy away" is the import of the use in both these context of the words "glories" and "lordship".
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all the glory forevermore.
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
I have a question that you probably already cover somewhere on your website, about the Archangel Michael. The SDA believe the appearances of the Lord (whom I take to be Jesus) in the OT are the Archangel Michael. I once met some believers from Quebec who were not SDA, but who believed the same thing, telling me the language of their French Bible made that fact much more clear, that the word "archangel" means OVER the angels, not in actuality an angel. However, in some places in the OT, where there is a visitation of God, such as with Samson's parents, they first call the visitor an "angel of the Lord" but then say it was the Lord Himself that they saw (Judges 13:31-32, in 31 he is the angel of the Lord, then in the very next verse they call him God). Were the SDA correct about Michael? Then Michael would not just be a created being?
To take the Judges passage first, what we have there is indeed a "Christophany", an appearance of our Lord before His incarnation. The term "the angel of the Lord" always has this meaning (see the links: "The Angel of the Lord [in HH]" and "The Trinity in the Old Testament [in BB 1]"). The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, of course. Translations into French or any other language cannot be used to "back interpret" based upon some translator's choices. The word "angel" in Hebrew means "messenger" (as does the Greek word from which we get "angel", angelos). We use the word "angel" in a technical sense in English, and that is fine, but it is a mistake to think that is so in Hebrew (or Greek). Arch-angels are most certainly angels, a definite category of angelic rank apparently existing in a college of seven (with Michael and Gabriel being the only two mentioned by name in scripture). You can find more about this in the study "Bible Basics 2A: Angelology", and see in particular the following links:
In terms of the concept of Christophany, I think John settles the issue decisively when he refers to Isaiah's famous vision of the Lord in Is.6 as being a vision of Jesus Christ.
I think these will get to all the aspects of your question, but do feel free to write me back about any of this.
In our Lord,
Hello again Dr. Luginbill,
I have a question regarding Jehovah's Witnesses. I was discussing angels with a woman who converted to be a JW from formerly being a Baptist (going from bad to worse). I was talking with her about the similarity of the SDA belief of Jesus being the archangel Michael in both SDA and JW doctrines and she agreed there is similarity. I told her I disagree with that doctrine, to which she asked me in return "then why can angels become flesh as they did when the Nephilim were being formed in women by the angels sexual encounters with women which necessitated their being able to father children?"
I told her that my belief is that they could take the "form" of men, but still did not consist of flesh any more than a jello in the form of a man would suddenly then because of it's form being "like" men suddenly also being flesh.
But the question still left me unsettled and would like to know your further thoughts on the subject. Thank you for all you do,
In our savior and blessed redeemer, the Lord over all,
I think that your comments are right on the mark. Indeed, angels do not have true corporeality in the way that human beings do, and this was apparently a prime consideration in Satan's platform to seduce as many angels as possible to follow him in rebellion against God (see the link in SR1: "Satan's Revolutionary Platform"; and see also the e-mail responses, "Angelic Issues" and "Angelic Issues II"). Angels are of course able to do a wide variety of things (subject to God's overruling will and the restrictions He has placed especially on the fallen angels) that can make them appear to be capable of more than they really are, as for example when they eat the meal prepared by Abraham in Gen.18, or when they physically pull Lot back into the house in Gen.19: in the first case they don't really have a body to process the food and it is doubtful they can "enjoy" it as we can; and in the second case their sensory experience of things is no doubt somewhat mechanical and far short of what we experience. So while angels can affect and interact with the material world, that does not mean they have or can assume bodies that are comparable to ours, even though they were allowed in Genesis 6 to produce the Nephilim (this was clearly an "unnatural" process as both 1st Peter 3:19-20 and Jude 1:6 make clear; see the links: "Nephilim", "Doubts about the Nephilim", and "Dinosaurs and Nephilim"). Thus their temporary materiality is not the same as our true corporeality, and this is so to such a significant degree that many angels were seduced by Satan's promise to provide substitutes, and even now the demons are very keen on possessing physical bodies for themselves, the better to try and duplicate what it is like to actually have a body in the way that we do (cf. the "legion" possessing the Gadarene demoniac who begged to be allowed to enter the bodies of the swine).
In the Old Testament, our Lord appeared in "angelic-like form" as the Angel of the Lord on many occasions, and yet He still had to take on a genuine human body in order to bear our sins. And it while is also quite clear from Matthew 22:30 ("At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven") that in spite of Genesis 6 and the Nephiliim, angels do NOT have the ability to procreate with other angels.
The bottom line is that the ability to mimic something is a far cry from the God-given possession of something. We are blessed to enjoy true corporeality (albeit for the moment corrupt) at the same time as we also possess true spirituality (albeit for the moment greatly restricted in its expression on account of the corrupt nature of our flesh). And as much as we are the envy of the angels now, what we shall have when we put our eternal resurrection bodies will be infinitely and inexpressibly more wonderful.
On Michael, please see the following links:
In our Lord Jesus,