James Christopher Smith wrote (Things to Come, 11(12):138-139, December 1905):


The Ages: Past, Present, and Future. 5. The Main Cause of the Apostacy.


In all God’s ways with men, effects follow causes with precision and fitness; and the question will come up, viz., Could such a catastrophe as the Flood, involving the destruction of the whole race (save one family) be caused by the sin of members of the race, as such, either individually or conjointly? Or, Do we find that there was another agency at work, another source of mischief operating; using the members of the race, unwittingly, to accomplish their undoing?


Surely a fair treatment of the verses 6.1-8 leaves no doubt as to the true answer to these questions.


When Satan fell, doubtless many angels fell with him, and that event must have happened before the creation of Adam; but no one can say that other angels would not fall, nor say how far Satan might tempt others to fall. And though one cannot definitely say so by the Word of the Lord, yet one’s conviction, from analogy is that the Temper somehow induced these angels to leave their proper habitation as he had tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God…


…The devil and his angels, and the legions of demons are not shut up in Tartarus, nor yet bound in chains, but they are very much at large indeed, both in heaven and earth. Who, then, are these imprisoned angel-spirits who have a special repressive measure meted out to them? Who, but “the angels that sinned” in the days of Noah, who went after human flesh which for them was “strange (or different) flesh,” and left behind them a progeny great in stature and mighty in mischief?


And this was not the only instance of the same thing. It distinctly says, in Gen. 6.4, that “after that” (i.e. after the flood), the same thing happened: and this is referred to in Numbers 13.33, as accounting for the presence of these Nephilim, or fallen ones, who “come of the Nephilim” (see R.V.), in the land of Canaan. And here, again, we have the root cause for the extermination of the Canaanites. It was not at all a matter of unjust cruelty or vengeance on the part of Israel; but it was a matter of moral necessity for the well being of the human race, as such; and hence it was a command of God. In this case the sword was the instrument of judgment. Joshua beginning the work, and David ending it…


…Let no reader imagine that this is a new, twentieth-century interpretation… that these “sons of God,” by creation, were angels, was pointed to in some MSS. of the LXX, where the reading.. angels of God is found; and it was held by such representative men as Philo, Josephus, Justin Martyr, Clement, Tertullian, Luther, Rosenmüller, Ewald, Delitzsch, Kurtz, Hengstenberg and Alford, and it is held, today, by many of those who lead us in Bible study…


… the punitive justice of God was to preserve the race from absolute extinction, and secure the fulfillment of His Word and Will in the coming of the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3.15).



Col. G. J. van Someren wrote (Things to Come, 20(6):64-65, June 1914):


When that hour is about to sound, the great red dragon, Satan, shall be cast out of the heavenlies (Rev. 12.7-9), and will summon all his forces for the last great campaign of the war that he has waged continuously with the woman from the day he won the first battle over her in the Garden of Eden.


Himself reproducing the sin that brought the Flood on a world filled with a hybrid race (Gen. 6:1-13; Jude 6.7; 2 Pet. 2. 18-20; 1 Pet.3.18-20), he will set forth his own child the antichrist, thus claiming for himself the seed of the woman, and will bring up his own false prophet, who helped by the spirits of wonder working demons, shall set forth the things concerning the Antichrist work, [lying] miracles and cause all to worship the man of sin (Rev. 13.11-17; 16.13-14). Thus will the great dragon, Satan, complete the blasphemous imitation of The Father, Son, and holy spirit, but the mingling of seeds will but hasten the day of wrath and the doom that awaits him, his offspring, his principalities and powers and his unhappy human dupes. The stroke falls on the fourth Kingdom, the power of the Gentile, controlled and energized throughout by Satan and more manifestly so in its closing days, collapses; and the “God of Heaven” sets up a Kingdom which endures, the long foretold Kingdom of Heaven. Then, and not till then, “shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” “the law shall go forth from Zion” “the city of the great King,” the promise to Abraham that “in him should all nations of the earth be blessed” will be fulfilled, for then “in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,” and all things in heaven and earth and under the earth “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”



E. W. Bullinger wrote (Things to Come, 10(9):104-105, March 1904):


Questions and Answers.


Question No. 347 “They Shall Not Rise”


D.L. London. “Please explain Isa. 26. In verse 14 it says the dead shall not rise; and in verse 19 it says they shall rise. To whom do these words refer?”


The difficulty is only apparent, and arises from the fact that the English Versions translate the words and do not tell you what the Hebrew is. Even Newberry, who tells you in verse 19, does not so in verse 14.


To see the beauty of the passages, as well as to have the difficulty removed, it is necessary to see the structure of the “song” which occupies the whole chapter (Isa. 26). You might easily make this for yourself. And if you tried, you would find that it has two subjects: the righteous and the wicked, which alternate throughout the chapter, and form five pairs (or ten numbers in all):


A1/1-4. The Righteous. Their Salvation.

            B1/5,6. The wicked. Brought down.

A2/7-9. The Righteous. Their way.

            B2/10,11. The wicked. Devoured.

A3/12,13. The Righteous. Their God.

            B3/14. The wicked. Rephaim. No Resurrection.

A4/15-19a. The Righteous. Nation increased, and Raised from the dead.

            B4/19b. The wicked. Rephaim. No Resurrection.

A5/20. The Righteous. Preserved.

            B5/21. The wicked. Destroyed.


To see the structure of Isaiah 26 in 4 versions (2 in spanish and 2 in english)

The word translated “dead” in verse 14, and in the last clause of v. 19, is Rephaim, and refers, not to men, but to the Nephilim of Gen 6.4. The Nephilim were the fallen ones; the awful progeny of the fallen angels, and are so called from the Hebrew Naphal (to fall) (compare Gen, 6.1,2, with Jude 6-8 and 2 Pet. 2.4,5). These had to be destroyed by the Flood. But there was a second irruption “after that” (Gen. 6.4). This second progeny had to be destroyed by Israel. These Rephaim are called Nephilim in Num. 13.33, where (wrongly following the Vulgate) the word is translated “giants”; they are also called Rephaim after a notable one named Rapha (2 Sam. 21.16,18,20,22; 1 Chron. 20.4,6,8). They were identical with the Canaanites (Gen. 15.20, Josh. 17:15). These had to be destroyed like the former Nephilim. But a flood was not necessary. Israel was used as God’s sword: although today, poor “wise” man condemns God as cruel for this merciful interposition and necessary judgment.


It is clear from these two verses of Isa. 26 that they will have no resurrection. Verse 14 declares:


“The dead shall not live again.

The Rephaim shall not rise.”


It will be otherwise with the Righteous, the righteous nation. Verse 19:


“Thy dead shall live.

Thy dead bodies shall arise.

Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust:

For thy dew is as the dew of herbs.”


It is otherwise, however, with the Rephaim for the next line says:


“But the earth shall cast forth the Rephaim.”


The words “cast forth” have nothing to do with resurrection. The Hebrew is Naphal, to fall (as in verse 18). The meaning of the word is the very opposite. It means to cast down, not to cast up. See Num. 35.23; 2 Kings 3.19 (to fall. So Ch. 6.5). Job 6.27 (overwhelm, marg., cause to fall); 29.24; Ps. 140.10; Jer. 3.12; Ezek. 32.12, 39.3; Dan. 8.10. Hence, the Nephilim are the fallen ones. The word occurs only in Gen. 6.4, and Num. 13.33 (twice).


The Rephaim are the same evil progeny, but they got their name from a prominent one named Rapha. The Hebrew word Rapha (often translated plural) occurs in Gen. 14.5, 15.20; Deut. 2.11,20, 3:11,13. Josh. 12.4, 13.12, 15.8, 17.15, 18.16; 2 Sam. 5.18,22, 23.13; 1 Chron. 11.15, 14.9, 20.4,6,8. Is. 17.5.


The plural occurs in Job 26.5; Ps. 88.10; Prov. 2.18, 9.16, 21.16; Is. 14.9, 26:14,19.



E. W. Bullinger wrote (Things to Come, 12(2):23, February 1906):


J. S. We thank you for your very kind letter re 1 Pet. 3.19-20. we do not, however, see with you that this passage can be separated from 2 Pet. 2.4 (and Jude 6). In 2 Pet. 2.4 the sin of those angels is associated with the days of Noah, as in 1 Pet. 3.19-20. It is true that the words “cast them down to Tartarus” are not in 1 Pet. 3. There we have en phulakh (en phulakç) instead. But can this really make any difference? True in 2 Pet. 2.5 the verb Oulasso (phulassô) is used. But while the verb means to keep, or guard, the noun (as in 1 Pet.) is always used in a bad sense. It occurs 46 times in the New Testament, and is rendered prison 35 times; imprisonment 2; hold 1; ward 1; watch 6; cage 1. This, we think, should settle the point. The question is: Can we, in the face of this fact, take the word in 1 Pet. 3:19 in a good sense, when in every other place it is used in a bad sense? For our part we dare not do it.


And, further, we dare not take “spirits” as meaning other than angels, inasmuch as the word is never elsewhere used of men in any form or condition. Man has a spirit, but he is not a spirit. Moreover, we see good men marrying bad women, and vice versa, every day: but we see no race of violent monsters calling down the special judgment of God.


We quite agree that all this does not affect us who experimentally know and enjoy our position in Christ – the Mystery! But surely it concerns us to have a right understanding as to all that God has written for our learning.



E. W. Bullinger wrote (Things to Come, 11(10):110-111, October 1905):


“S” and “s” or THE USE AND USAGE OF pneuma in the New Testament.


1 Pet. 3.19. “By (or in) which [resurrection body] to the-in-prison-pneumata also, he went and made proclamation”


…These angels “once were disobedient;” and this disobedience here, is set in contrast with the obedience of those “angels” spoken of in verse 22 as being “subject” and therefore obedient unto Christ.


In Jude 6 we are told that “they kept not their first estate, but left (apoleipw, apoleipô, to leave completely, or, leave behind. Compare 2 Tim. 4.13,20) their own habitation (oikhthrion, oiketerion, used only here and 2 Cor. 5.2 of a spirit-body).” What this means, or what it involves we cannot tell; and no one can tell us. Whatever it was it made their sin possible; which, otherwise, with our present knowledge, seems to us impossible (in Luke 8.29 a pneuma could tear and rend a man).


That it was thus possible for them to sin as recorded in Gen. 6.1-4 is clearly implied in Jude 7, where their sin is compared to the sin of “Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them IN LIKE MANNER giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange (eteroV, heteros, different in kind) flesh, are set forth as an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”…


So awful was this progeny, and so monstrous in every sense of the word, that it doubtless became the basis of the heathen mythology. That mythology did not have its origin in the imagination of man, but it had its historical bases in fact; and that fact the Scripture thus explains to us…


So terrible were the results of this fall of the angels… so universal was it, that only one family was found untainted…


Infidels never tire of charging God with cruelty, not knowing the awful ancestry, or the nature and character of this corrupt race. The judgment executed by Israel was a mercy (Ps. 136.20) to the whole human race.


It was the sight of these horrible creatures that so frightened the twelve spies (Num 13.28-33). And it was the first great victory over them that makes the destruction of “Og, king of Bashan,” so celebrated in Israel’s history (Num 21; Read Josh. 12; 13; 15.8; 17.15, 18.16, Ps. 136.20.) David completed the work of destruction (1 Chron. 20.4,6,8. Compare 2 Sam. 21.16,18,20,22)…


The context of 1 Pet. 3.18-22 shows that the passage is the continuation of what precedes, as it commences with the word “For.”


The scope of the passage shows that those to whom Peter was inspired to write, were suffering great and heavy trials (See 1 pet. 1.7, 2.20-23, 3.14-17, 4.12-19.) and needed encouragement to enable them to endure their suffering for well doing… FOR Christ also suffered… But, He was raised again from the dead, and thus had a glorious triumph…


This is the scope of the passage-and no other explanation of “the-in-prison-spirits” will satisfy the whole context, of which this verse is only a part; being introduced by the word “for,” which connects it indissolubly with what precedes.   



Mr. W. H. Bacon wrote (Things to Come, 21(4):41-42; 21(5):57-58 and 21(6):79, April 1915):


Spiritism is by no means a new thing, but is a repetition of that which has been before; the present phase of the evil, however, has not yet come to a head, although it is fast hastening thereto.


The first detailed account of the outbreak is recorded for our learning in Genesis 6.1-8… every family, therefore, with the solitary exception of Noah’s, was thoroughly contaminated through the wickedness of the unlawful marriages referred to in v. 2.


Now, that the same sin is to mark the end of this dispensation is fully set out in the Lord’s own words: “As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24.37-39).


There is no sin in eating or drinking, or marrying or giving in marriage… and we must consequently look for some more reasonable explanation of these marriages that are to precede the coming of the Son of man; and since the Lord compares them to the marriages that preceded the flood, we shall not have much difficulty if we are discerners of the times…


Knowing what I did of Spiritism, I venture to say that, whereas the purpose of Satan in the first and second irruptions of the fallen angels was to thwart the purpose of God, concerning THE SEED which is CHRIST, the next attempt, which is verily near at hand, if not already accomplished, is the bringing into the world “the mistery of iniquity,” Satan manifest in the flesh, the personal Antichrist, who will for a time pose as the Messiah, and whom the Jews will receive as such.


The Antichrist… is, I conceive, to be born by the agency of Spirit Materialization…


That spiritist materialization is no fiction the writer well knows from personal experience before his conversion to God.


Many Christians deny the possibility of materialization on the ground-they say-that materialization is creation and that God alone can create. It is perfectly true that God alone can create, i.e., “bring into being out of nothing,” but materialization is the reducing of something which already exists to a state of matter of which our senses can take cognizance…


Here are absolute proofs of the possibility of Spirit Materialization-angels actually appearing and being, therefore, regarded as men…


The fact that angels (spirits) could and did materialize goes far to prove that spirits-although fallen-may have still the power to materialize and de-materialize, and we think it probable that herein is the meaning of the expression of Jude 6, “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” their evil object being to cohabit with the daughters of men, which we are thoroughly convinced is the ultimate object of the spirits today, not, of course, those who are spoken of in 2 Pet. 2.4, who are imprisoned, “reserved into judgment,” but another host of rebellious angels who will fulfill the prediction of the Lord in Matt. 24.37-39…


Indeed, through the grace of God, in the manifestation of His goodness and mercy to me in October, 1887, in Instantaneously Delivering me from demonic possession which had come about through my tampering with Spiritism, I was led by the Spirit of god to true repentance and to follow on to know the Lord… it may well be imagined, therefore, that I am deeply anxious not only to preach the gospel of the grace of God, but also to warn all against the diabolical evil of Spiritism-Spiritualism so-called-but which in dread reality is demonism, root and branch…


…I was easily beguiled into Spiritism by a “religious” aunt, in whom I had then great confidence, as being assuredly a good woman. She had lost a son, and upon my paying her a visit she amazed me by stating that she had attended a “séance” where she was able to communicate “with him”… I have seen… materialization of spirit in the process, and de-materialization also.


I have seen materialized spirits purporting to be dead friends but still “alive,” and I have proved them to be merely LYING SPIRITS, and not the deceased person whom they pretended to be…


…The dead… are dead; so dead indeed, that the dead know not anything, as it is written: “For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun” (Ecc. 9.5-6)…


Spiritism in its present phase could not exist a single day, if all believed the Word of God concerning them that “sleep”-neither could Romish purgatory-but as long as men prefer Satan’s lie to God’s truth, Spiritism will grow and develop until it covers the earth,as it did in Noah’s days…


…Prove from the Scriptures the fact that death is death, for only by this means can Spiritism be successfully combated. [Note from the Editor: The blessed Hope of the Second coming of Christ will transform the mortal bodies of the born again believers living in that moment, and will raise from the death the born again beleivers that will be already at death in that moment, and all of us will have a spiritual body: immortal, eternal, similar to the one that Christ Jesus have now.]



194.      “THE SPIRITS IN PRISON” (1 Peter 3:19).

(Appendix of the Companion Bible)

A correct understanding of this passage may be obtained by noting the following facts:

1. Men are never spoken of in Scripture as “spirits”. Man has a spirit, but he is not “a spirit”, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones”.  In this life man has “flesh and blood”, a “natural” (or psychical) body.  At death this spirit “returns to God Who gave it” (Ps. 31:5.  Eccles. 12:7.  Luke 23:46.  Acts 7:59).  In resurrection “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him” (1Cor. 15:38).  This is no longer a “natural” (or psychical) body, but a “spiritual body” (1Cor. 15:44).

2. Angels are “spirits”, and are so called (Heb. 1:7, 14).

3. In 2Pet. 2:4 we read of “the angels that sinned”; and in 1Pet. 3:19, 20 of spirits “which sometime were disobedient ... in the days of Noah”.  In 2Pet. 2:4 we are further told that the fallen angels are reserved unto judgment, and delivered into chains (i.e. bondage or “prison”).  Cp. Jude 6.

4. The cause of their fall and the nature of their sin are particularly set forth by the Holy Spirit in Jude 6, 7.

        a. They “left their own habitation”.

        b. This “habitation” is called (in Greek) oiketerion, which occurs again only in 2Cor. 5:2, where it is called our “house” (i.e. body) with which we earnestly long to be “clothed upon”; referring to the “change” which shall take place in resurrection. This is the spiritual resurrection body of 1Cor. 15:44.

        c. This spiritual body (or oiketerion) is what the angels “left” (whatever that may mean, and this we do not know). The word rendered “left”, here, is peculiar. It is apoleipo = to leave behind, as in 2Tim. 4:13, 20, where Paul uses it of “the cloke” and the “parchments” which he left behind at Troas, and of Trophimus whom he left behind at Miletum.  Occ. Heb. 4:6, 9; 10:26.  Jude 6.

        d. They “kept not their first estate (arche)” in which they were placed when they were created.

        e. The nature of their sin is clearly stated. The sin of “Sodom and Gomorrha” is declared to be “in like manner” to that of the angels; and what that sin was is described as “giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh” (Jude 6, 7).  The word “strange” here denotes other, i.e. different (Gr. heteros = different in kind.  See Ap. 124. 2)  What this could be, and how it could be, we are not told.  We are not asked to understand it, but to believe it.  (see further in App.  23 and 25).

5. In Gen. 6:1 ,2, 4 we have the historical record, which is referred to in the Epistles of Peter and Jude. There these “angels” are called “the sons of God”.  This expression in the Old Testament is used always of “angels”, because they were not “begotten”, but created, as Adam was created, and he is so called in Luke 3:38 (cp. Gen. 5:1).  It is used of angels eight times:  Gen. 6:2, (*1) 4.  Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7.  Ps. 29:1 (R.V.m.); and Dan. 3:25.  In this last passage there is no article, and it does not mean “the Son of God”, but “a son of God”, i.e. an angel who was sent into the furnace (Dan. 3:28), as one was into the den of lions (Dan. 6:22).  In one passage (Hos. 1:10) the English expression is used of men, but there the Hebrew is different, and it refers only to what men should be “called”, not to what they were.

6. Returning to 1Pet. 3:19, the expression “the spirits in prison” cannot be understood apart form the whole context.  The passage commences with the word “For” (v. 17), and is introduced as the reason why “it is better, if the will of God should (so) will, to suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. FOR (v. 18) Christ also suffered for sins once (Gr. hapax) - a Just One for unjust ones - in orderr that He might bring us to God, having been put to death indeed as to [His] flesh, but made alive as to [His] spirit.”  This can refer only to His spiritual resurrection body (1Cor. 15:45).  In death His body was put in the grave (or sepulcher, i.e. Hades), Acts 2:31; but His spirit was “commended to God”.  Not until His spirit was reunited to the body in resurrection could He go elsewhere.  And then He went not to “Gehenna”, or back to Hades but to Tartarus (2Pet. 2:4.  See Ap. 131. III), where “the angels who sinned” had been “delivered into chains”.  To these He proclaimed His victory.

7. The word rendered “preached” is not the usual word euangelizo (Ap. 121. 4), but the emphatic word kerusso (Ap. 121. 1); which means to proclaim as a herald.  Even so Christ heralded His victory over death, and the proclamation of this reached to the utmost bounds of creation.

It was “better” THEREFORE to suffer for well doing than for evil doing.  He had suffered for well doing. He suffered, but He had a glorious triumph.  “Therefore” (runs the exhortation), “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye” (vs. 14), and it concludes “Forasmuch then as Christ suffered on our behalf as to the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for He that hath suffered in the flesh hath done with sin; no longer to live [our] remaining time according to men’s lusts, but for God’s will... For to this end, to those also who are now dead, were the glad tidings announced, that though (Gr. men) they might be judged according [to the will of] (*2) men, in [the] flesh, yet (Gr. de) they might live [again] according to [the will of] God, in [the] spirit” : i.e. in resurrection (1Pet. 4:1, 2, 6).

The above is suggested as the interpretation of the expression “the in-prison spirits”, in the light of the whole of the nearer and remoter contexts.

(*1) In the first passage (Gen. 6:2) the Alexandrine MS of the Septuagint has “angels” (not “sons”), showing how it was then understood.

(*2) For the supply of this ellipsis see Rom 8:27, 28, and cp. 1Pet 4:19.



E. W. Bullinger wrote the booklet “The Spirits in Prison” (1 Pet. 3.17 – 4.6), p. 141-163 (1960, Lamp Press, London).


[Note of the editor: This is a big “fragment” of the original article. The greek words have been written with the font symbol, present in every Word processor, all the accents have been omitted from them. To see the proper accents go to the original document or to the greek document, like an interlineal greek-english]


…An interpretation… which is to be accepted as satisfactory:


  1. Must take all the words in their natural meaning and Scriptural usage.
  2. Must be uniform and consistent in its translation.
  3. Must give due weight to the inexorable laws of grammatical construction.
  4. Must give the passage its logical place in the context.
  5. Must harmonize it with the general teaching of the whole Epistle, and not merely cleverly explain it as though it were an isolated passage; but must show that it is absolutely necessary to the argument.


…Our fist duty, therefore, is to seek for the design and scope of the Epistle. In doing this we notice that by a general consensus of scholars it was written not earlier than A. D. 63, and not later than A. D. 67. It was written to the dispersed of Israel, scattered abroad by great persecution; as before, when “there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad” (Acts 8.2). Gentiles also seem to be included, for we read (1 Pet. 2.10) that those who were addressed, “in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God”. This is a reference to Hosea 2.23, which is quoted in Rom. 9.25 for the purpose of proving that God would call a people “not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Rom. 9.24).


It must have been written immediately before, or actually during the progress of the first great persecution. For the great persecution under Nero began in November, A. D. 64, and ended with his death in A. D. 68. Mosheim has conclusively shown that this was a general persecution-not confined merely to Rome, but extending more or less over the whole empire.


At the commencement, therefore, of this awful persecution, the Holy Spirit by peter sends forth the words of this Epistle to prepare the hearts of the Lord’s people, to encourage their hope and strengthen their faith. In this fact we have the key to many expressions with which the Epistle abounds:


1.6. “Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness (luphqenteV, having been thrown into sorrow: R.V. put to grief) through manifold temptations (peirasmoiV, trials, R V. margin)”


1.7. “That the trial (dokimon, test: R. V. proof) of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, tough it be tried (docimazomenou, tested: R. V. proved) with fire,” etc.


2.12. “whereas (marg., and R. V. wherein) they speak against you as evildoers.” kakopoiV is a doer of some particular evil thing, the evil being prominent. It occurs only in Peter, and John 18.30, where it is used of Christ by his enemies. It is worse than kakourgoV, which is an evil-worker, the action being prominent. This is the word used by the Holy Spirit of the malefactors, in Luke 23.32,33,39.


2.19. “This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God (suneidhsin Qeou, conscience of God. This denotes the consciousness of God, and of one’s relation to Him as a joint heir with Christ which involves suffering and enables one to endure it) endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”


2.20,21. “If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called.”


3.14-17. “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy (makarion, blessed-Matt. 5.11) are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God (R. V. Christ as Lord) in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer (etoimoi proV apologian, ready for a defence-Acts 22.1; Phil. 1.7,17; 2 Cor. 7.11) to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear: having a good conscience (suneidhsin econteV agaqhn; having a clear conscience, see Acts 23:1; 1 Tim 1:5,19; 1 Pet. 3 .21), tat, whereas (R. V. wherein) they speak evil of you (R. V. ye are spoken against), as of evildoers (see above, 1.12), they may be ashamed that falsely accuse (ephreazntoV only here, Matt. 5.44, and Luke 6.28) your good conversation (R. V. manner of life) in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so (ei qeloi to qelhma tou Qeou, if the will of God were so to will), that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered (died) for sins, the just for the unjust.”


4.4. “they…speaking evil of you.


4.12-19. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial (purwsei, burning: Prov. 27.21, LXX. Furnace; see also Ps.66.10, and Zech. 13.9) which is to try you, (lit., concerning the burning which is taking place among you for your trial) as though some strange thing happened (sumbainontoV, pres. part. were happening) unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (see 1.6,7). If ye be reproached for he name of Christ, happy (makarioi, blessed) are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody (r. V. meddler) in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (R V. in this Name). For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely (moliV, with difficulty) be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing (agaqopoiia, the word occurs only in this place in the N. T.) as unto a faithful Creator.”


5.9. “Whom resist (antisthte, R. V. withstand) stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished (epiteleisqai, pres. inf. are being accomplished) in your brethren that are in the world.”


Who can fail to see in all these passages a constant reference to the false accusations and terrible persecutions which were beginning to rage around them?…


[Note of the Editor: Then, Bullinger quotes Tacitus (Ann. 15.44), Juvenal (Sat. 1.155), Seneca (Ep. 14), Suetonius (Neron c.16) referring the evil actions inflicted against Christians by the roman emperors]


Who can fail to see the wonderful adaptation of the comfort administered by the assurance, repeated again and again, that after the “sufferings”, “glory” was to be revealed (1.11, 4.13, 5.1)? This is the one, great, all-pervading subject which fills the whole Epistle; and with this ever-present thought all the various parts must agree. Throughout the Epistle we have references to the terribly false accusations which were brought against them… (compare with this, 5.8 and 2 Tim. 4.17)…


It was in the midst of such scenes that exhortations like these came home to their hearts: “Fear not their terror, but sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, and be always ready with a defence (apologian) to every man that asketh an account (logon) of the hope that is in you” (3.14-16 R. V.)…

Thus then is the setting of the passage before us: this is the immediate context in which we find it. Let us now turn to the consideration of its words, and note first, the words “flesh” and “spirit”, 3.18, and 4.1,6. we have, five times, the same dative case repeated in precisely the same connection. The renderings, therefore, must be uniform, and they are so in the R. V., being in each case translated “in the flesh”, “in the spirit”. The A. V. translates sarki “in the flesh” (3.18); and, reading the article, tw, before pneumati, it renders it “by the spirit”. But this article is omitted by all the Critical Greek Texts and the R. V. If it be rendered “in the flesh”, then it must be because it is what is called the Dative of “the Sphere”, i.e. the sphere in which a certain thing is done. Closely connected with this is the Dative of “Reference”, denoting that in reference to which any action is done, or any state exists. Especially is this dative used after intransitive verbs; we have many such examples. In this very Epistle we have one in ch. 5.9, “the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren”; i.e. with reference to, or as regards your brethren; the brethren being the sphere in which the afflictions were accomplished; and their persons the sphere in which they were shown or seen.


1 Cor. 14. 20. “Be not children in (as regards, or in the sphere of, your) understanding”.


Rom. 4.20. “Was strong in (as regards) faith”. (R. V. through faith.)


Matt. 11.29. “I am meek and lowly in (as regards the) heart” (i.e. the heart being the sphere in which the meekness and lowliness have their source and root).


Acts 7.51. “Uncircumcised in (as regards the) heart”.


Matt 5.3. “Poor in (as regards his) feet”, the feet being the sphere in which the impotence was manifested and seen.


Acts 20.22. “Bound in (as regards the) spirit”.


1 Cor. 7.34. “The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in (as regards the) body, and in (as regards the) spirit.”


Matt. 23.31. “Ye be witness unto (with reference to) yourselves”. (R. V. ye witness to yourselves.)


Gal. 1.22. “Unknown by (as regards the) face”


Rom. 6.20. “When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from (as regards) righteousness” (here the margin reads “Gr., to righteousness”: R. V. in regard of righteousness).


Rom 12.10. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with (as to, or as regards) brotherly love (marg. in the love of the brethren), in (as to) honour preferring one another.”


Col. 2.5. “Though I be absent in (as regards) the flesh, yet am I with you in (as regards) the spirit.”


Eph. 4.18. “Having the understanding darkened” (lit. darkened as regards the understanding. R. V. darkened in their understanding).


Eph. 2.3. “And were by (as regards) nature the children of wrath.”


Now, applying this to the passage before us, we arrive at the conclusion that though as regards His flesh, Christ was put to death, yet as regards His spirit, He was quickened or made alive… as it is written, Rom. 8.10,11, “If Christ be in you, [though indeed], the body is dead because of sin [yet] the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you”.


In 1 Cor. 15.39 the word “flesh” (sarx) is used as an equivalent for this “mortal body”. So likewise, in 1 Cor. 15.45, and 1 Peter 3.18, “spirit” (pneuma) is used for the immortal body. For in 1 Cor. 15.44-46 it is plainly declared, “It is sown a natural body (swma yucikon); it is raised a spiritual body (swma pneumatikon). There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul (yuchn zwsan); the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (pneuma zwopoioun, a life-giving spirit). Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual (pneumatikon), but that which is natural (yucikon); and afterward that which is spiritual”.


A glorious resurrection, therefore, is the “living hope” to which they had been begotten “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1.3). Christ is Himself the source of all hope and encouragement. Though He was put to death as regards the flesh in His human body, yet He was made alive as regards the spirit in His glorious resurrection body. This is the force of the “men ... de”, the former of which is left untranslated in this passage, both in the A.V. and the R.V. But we cannot spare it. These two words express a mutual relation between two opposed, or rather contrasted, clauses: men is the first thing, de is the second; men is indeed, de is but; men is on the one hand, de is on the other hand; men is though, de is yet. See Matt. 3.11, 9.37, 16.3, 20.23, 22.8, 23.27,28, 26,41; Luke 3.16, 10.2; John 16.22, 19.32,33; Acts 21.39, 22.3; Rom. 2.25, 6.11; 1 Cor. 1.18, 9.24, 11.14,15, and many other passages. Also Winer’s Greek Grammar (Moulton), 3rd ed., p. 551.


Let us confine ourselves to examples from this very Epistle.


1.20. “Who verily (men) was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but (de) was manifest in these last times for you.”


2.4. “A living stone, disallowed indeed (men) of men, but (de) chosen of God,” etc.


2.14. “For the punishment (men, indeed) of evildoers, and (de, but) for the praise of them that do well”. Here the men is left untranslated, the de is weakened down to “and”, thus the argumentative contrast is lost!


4.14. “On their part (men) he is evil spoken of, but on your part (de) he is glorified”.


Now when we come to 3.I 8 and 4.6. Why is not the force of these inspired particles to be taken into account? And why are they to be ignored in the translation? In 3.18 the sense clearly is this: Though indeed (men) Christ was put to death as regards the flesh, yet (de) He was made alive as regards the spirit, and thus exchanged his flesh, in which alone He could suffer, for a glorious, spiritual, immortal body in which He could no more suffer and die. The argument being, that even so those who were now suffering and being put to death in the terrible persecution then raging, would have a like blessed issue. They had been “begotten again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1.4). When the Holy Spirit “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ”, He bore witness also to “the glory that should follow” (1.11). “Wherefore (these suffering saints were exhorted, 1.13) gird up the loins of your mind, be sober (nhjonteV, be calm and collected, see 4.7, 5.8) and hope to the end (R.V. set your hope perfectly) for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”


This is the great burden of the whole Epistle. This is the encouragement that was so much needed: and therefore it is the very comfort that was thus sent. But there was more than this. Resurrection was not the only result of Christ’s being put to death. There was another “glory” to follow. There was Triumph as well! The Holy Spirit goes on to reveal not merely the glory of resurrection, but the glory of the triumph which Christ immediately received: He went and preached even to the in-prison spirits.


In order to understand the nature of this triumph, we must note that the word rendered “preached” is ekhruxen. Now khrux is a herald, pursuivant, marshal, crier (akin to ghruV, a voice; ghruw, to utter a sound, make a noise); and kurussein means to be a herald, to proclaim after the manner of a herald, “always with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed”. (Grimm.) Hence it means generally, to publish, to proclaim openly, without any reference as to the terms of the proclamation. Used by itself, this is its only meaning. If the subject of the proclamation is not clearly implied in the context, it must be distinctly stated, if we are to know what it is. If it is the proclamation of the Gospel, then it must say so, and the word “Gospel” (euaggelion) must be added, as it is in Matt. 4.23, 9.35, 26.13; Mark 1.14, 13.10, 14.9, 16.15; Gal. 2.2; Col. 1.23; 1 Thes. 2.9. From a careful examination of all the passages where the word is used, it is perfectly clear that (when it is used as it is here, alone, without any reference to the terms of the proclamation) in no sense is the Gospel, or Salvation, a necessary part of its meaning. Indeed, the contrast between 1 Pet. 3.19 and 4.6, is conclusive; for in the latter passage, where the preaching is to men, and for the purpose of salvation, quite a different word is employed (euaggelizomai), which means, exclusively, to preach or carry good news; hence, to preach the Gospel-the word “Gospel” itself being verbalized. This prepares our minds to receive the key to the whole passage.


But we must note one further preliminary point, which is raised by Rotherham (in his New Testament Critically Emphasized, edition of 1872) where he calls attention to the marked emphasis of the expression kai toiV en julakh pneumasin, which he prints thus: “EVEN TO THE SPIRITS IN PRISON”, and adds, “This clausule is made emphatically prominent, as though it were something surprising for our Lord to journey and make proclamation TO THEM:-TO THEM THERE! for additional stress is laid on the place (or state). Literally: ‘TO THE IN- PRISON SPIRITS’. Exact exposition should endeavour to account for this”.


This is what we propose to do.


Let us bear in mind the object of the illustration which the Holy Spirit by Peter is about to use. The encouragement to suffer, and, if need be, to die for well doing lies in this, that Christ, though (men) He suffered and died as regards the flesh, yet (de) had a glorious resurrection in a spiritual body. And He had more than this! He had a glorious triumph also! For God “raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory” (1.21). Indeed, His triumph was so complete, and the proclamation of it was so far-reaching that it extended “even to the in-prison spirits”.


The question now arises, Who are these in-prison spirits? The answer to this question solves the whole difficulty: and the structure of the Epistle gives the key to it. In seeking for the structure it was soon observed that the passage 3.17-4.6 formed one distinct member, complete in itself. But the whole Epistle had to be examined in order to be sure that we were not arbitrarily dividing it to suit a particular purpose. This examination showed that 3.17-4.6 was only a part of a larger member, viz. 2. 11-4.6, as will be seen by looking at:




A/1.1,2. EPISTOLARY.                                                                     

B/1.3-12. INTRODUCTION. Thanksgiving; foreshadowing the subject of                   the Epistle.                   

                        C/D/1.13-2.10. EXHORTATIONS (GENERAL) in view of “THE END,”                                      as to Hope in the Fiery Trial.

                                    E/2.11-4.6. EXHORTATIONS (PARTICULAR) AS TO                                                        SUFFERINGS AND GLORY.

                        C/D/4.7-19. EXHORTATIONS (GENERAL) in view of “THE END”, as                                to Joy in the Fiery Trial.


            B/5.10,11 CONCLUSION. Prayer; embodying the object of the Epistle.

A/5.12-14. EPISTOLARY.


An examination of this will show that the whole Epistle partakes of the perfection of all the works of God; and, like the snowflake or the flower, is perfect in all its parts. It is a complex structure in which one member answers to, or corresponds with another the whole being perfectly balanced. We must not stop to explain it, beyond remarking that the letters A., B., C., A., B., C., etc., are arbitrarily used, merely for the sake of convenience, and for reference; and that they are not necessary, beyond this, to the structure itself. It must be remembered that the subject-matter of A. corresponds with A.; and that of B. with B., etc. The letter in italic type always answers to the corresponding letter in roman type.


We thus see that the subject of the member marked E. (2.11-4.6) consists of particular exhortations in connection with “sufferings” and “glory”. All these members are capable of being expanded, having structures of their own, thus:


EXPANSION OF D (1.13-2.10)


General Exhortations in view of “the End”, as to Hope in the Fiery Trial


D/F/1.13. Exhortation to sobriety in view of “the end”. (Positive.)

            G/1.14-17. Comparison, “obedient children”.

H/1.18-21. Reason. Because ye are God’s People, and redeemed                            by the blood of Christ (the Lamb).

    F/2.1. Exhortation against malice, etc. (Negative.)

            G/2.2,3. Comparison, “new born babes.”

H/2.4-10. Reason. Because ye are God’s People and built as                           “living stones” on Christ (the Stone).


EXPANSION OF E (2.11-4.6)


Particular Exhortations as to “Sufferings” and “Glory”


E/I/2.11. Exhortations. (Personal.)

J/2.12. Calumnies, and how to refute them. “Having” (econteV). “That whereas, etc.” (ina en w katalalousin umwn wV kakopoiwn). “Conversation honest” (anastrojhn kalhn).

K/2.13-3.7. Submission to man for the Lord’s sake. “The will of God” (2.15). Reason: and example of Christ (2.21-25).

    I/3.8-15. Exhortations. (Collective.)

J/3.16. Calumnies, and how to refute them. “Having” (econteV). “That whereas, etc.” (ina en w katalalwsin umwn wV kakopoiwn). “Good conversation” (anastrojhn agaqhn)

K/3.17-4.6. Submission to man for the Lord’s sake. “The will of God” (3.17, 4.2). Reason: and example of Christ (3.18-22).


Here we find, not only what these particular exhortations are, but that they have special reference to the great persecution then raging around those to whom the Epistle was written. The member E. consists of two divisions, each comprising three corresponding members, arranged alternately: In the first we have Exhortations to suffer for righteousness’ sake (in I. Personal, and I. Collective); in the second we have the Ground of these exhortations, given in almost the same words in J. and J. while in K. and K. we have the Reason why it is better thus to suffer, fortified in each case by the example of Christ (in K. by His sufferings, and in K. by His death and the glory which should follow). This at once tells us that in interpreting any particular verse we must have regard to the structure of the whole passage in which it occurs. The point, for example, of K. is this-that glory and triumph are the reward of suffering at the hands of man for the Lord’s sake. This last member K. may be also expanded; for like the others, it has a structure of its own. But as this is the member in which the passage under consideration occurs, it will be necessary for us to see its structure displayed in full, that we may the better compare it with its key, which follows below on “The Member K. in Skeleton (3.17-4.6)”. We give the translation of the Authorized Version, with a few alternative renderings in parentheses.


An examination of this structure of K. (3.17-4.6) shows that each smaller member has another member corresponding with it: L. corresponding with L.; M. with M.; N. with N.; O. with O.: while the subordinate members likewise correspond, a. with a.; b. with b.; c.1 with c.1; c.2 with c.2, etc.


Now a reference to d.2 shows us that its subject-matter is the subjection of angels as part of Christ’s triumph. Here, then, we have the key to the meaning of the word “spirits” in d.1; and we learn that the insubjection of the spirits in verse 20 was really the disobedience of angels (or the “fall of the angels”) so frequently referred to in other Scriptures. Again, c.1 and c.2 have as their common subject Christ’s new life and triumph. In c.1 it is Resurrection, and in c.2 it is Ascension. The word poreuqeiV (having gone) in verse 19 (he went) answers to the same word repeated in verse 22 (is gone; R.V. having gone), and proves the perfect correspondence between the two members.


It is indeed strange that, without any warrant whatsoever the word pneumata (“spirits”) should ever have been understood as applying to men in any form, state or condition. It never is so used in the Word of God when standing alone without any qualifying words, as it does here. The only passage which is thought to be adverse is Heb. 12.23: “The spirits of just men made perfect”. But this completely establishes the point in question: for the word “spirits” here, does not stand alone, as it does in 1 Pet. 3.19, and other places: it is followed by certain qualifying words which expressly define these “spirits” as pertaining to “just men”. There are no such defining words in I Pet. 3.19, and we yet wait for one passage where the word “spirits” standing by itself refers to men in any state or condition. In Heb. 12.23 we are left in no doubt: the “spirits” there pertain to men, and must be either the spirits of the “just men” themselves, or the “their angels” of Matt. 18.10, i.e. the “ministering spirits” of those just men who have finished their course (teteleiwmenwn). The expression occurs in verses 22-24, which refer to the Heavenly host, in contrast to verses 18-21, which refer to Earthly things.





Resurrection and Triumph, the reward of suffering for the Lord’s sake.


K/L/a/3.17. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for

                   evil doing.

            b/3.18a. For Christ also hath once suffered (died) for sins, the just for the unjust,  

            that he might bring us to God, being put to death (indeed) in (as regards) the flesh,

                        M/N1/cl/3.18b-19. but quickened by (as regards) the spirit: By (in) which

                        also he went (poreuqeiV) and preached (proclaimed) unto (even to) the

                        spirits in prison (the in-prison spirits, i.e. “angels”-see verse 22);

d1/3.20a. Which sometime were disobedient, when once the  

longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was

a preparing,

                                                O1/3.20b. wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved

(escaped) by (means of) water.

                                                O2/3.21. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also

now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

                           N2/c2/3.22a. Who is gone (poreuqeiV) into heaven, and is on the right

   hand of God;

d2/3.22b. angels (i.e. “spirits”, see verse 19) and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

            L/b/4.1a. Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered in (as regards) the flesh,

L/a/4.1b. arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered (as regards) the flesh hath ceased from sin;

                        M/N1/c1/4.2. That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh

to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

                                    d1/4.3. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought

the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:             O1/4.4. Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with     

them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

                                                O2/4.5. Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge

the quick and the dead.

                          N2/d2/4.6a. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that

are dead, that (though) they might be judged according to (the will of)     men in (as regards) the

c2/4.6b. flesh, but (yet they might) live according to (the will of) God    in (as regards) the spirit.




Resurrection and Triumph, the reward of suffering for the Lord’s sake.


K/L/a/3.17. Our suffering as regards the flesh.

b/3.18a. Christ’s sufferings as regards the flesh. (Dative of reference.)   

(peri amartiwn epaqen ... qanatwqeiV sarki).

M/N1/c1/3.18b,19. Christ’s new life and triumph as regards the spirit

(zwopoihqeiV ... pneumati) (poreuqeiV)

d1/3.20a. Reference to time past (the days of Noah). The

insubjection of “spirits” (angels. Heb. 1.7,14. Acts 8.26,29,30).

O1/3.20b. The salvation of men, then (past). The ark (type). Means (water).

O2/3.21. The salvation of “us,” (now.) Baptism (antitype). Means (Resurrection of Jesus Christ).

      N2/c2/3.22a. Christ’s new life and triumph (poreuqeiV).

 d2/3.22b. Reference to time present and future. The subjection of

  “angels” (spirits).

L/b/4.1a. Christ s sufferings as regards the flesh. (Dat. of ref.) (paqontoV uper hmwn sarki). (R.V. omits uper hmwn)

     a/4.1b. Our suffering as regards the flesh.

M/N1/c1/4.2. The saints’ new life and triumph as regards the spirit,

according to “the will of God”.

d1/4.3. Reference to time past. The flesh working the will of men.  (gar.)

O1/4.4. Men’s judgment of “us”, (now).

O2/4.5. God’s judgment of men, (future).

      N2/d2/4.6a. Reference to time past. The flesh suffering death according

      to the will of men. (Dat. of ref.) (gar.)

        c2/4.6b. The saints’ new life and triumph as regards the spirit, 

                                according to the will of God. (Dat. of ref.) (zwsin pneumati.)

Note.-We complete our analysis by giving the following:-


EXPANSION OF D (4.7-19).


General Exhortations in view of “the End”, as to Joy in the Fiery Trial.


D/P1/4.7a. The end of all things.

Q1/4.7b-11. Exhortation: in well doing to glorify God in all things.

    P2/4.12. The Fiery Trial.

Q2/4.13-16. Exhortation: in well doing, to glorify God in suffering.

    P3/4.17-18. The beginning of judgment.

Q3/4.19. Exhortation: in well doing to commit their souls to God in suffering.


Man was made, and up to the time of his death he continues to be a “living soul” (yuchn zwsan, 1 Cor. 15.45, compare Gen. 2.7); his body is a natural body (swma yucikon, 1 Cor. 15.44). After death men are still called “souls” (yucai): “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God” (Rev. 6.9); “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and the word of God” (Rev. 20.4). It is only after resurrection that the word “spirit” (pneuma) is used as a brief term for man’s spiritual body (swma pneumatikon), in 1 Cor. 15.45.


The word pneumata (spirits) by itself, without any qualifying description, is used always of supernatural beings, higher than man, and lower than God, without corporeal garb of “flesh and blood”, or “Flesh and bones”. Where there is any doubt as to the kind of spirit referred to, some defining word is always employed. For example, we read of “unclean spirits”, “evil” or “wicked spirits”, “a spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13.11, pneuma asqeneiaV , a spirit causing infirmity).


    “A dumb spirit” (pneuma alalon, Mark 9.17, which Jesus calls in verse 25 a “foul spirit”).


    “A spirit of divination” (Acts 16.16, pneuma puqwnoV, a spirit of Python).


    “Spirits of devils”-i.e. demons-Rev. 16.14.


When there is no doubt as to the kind of spiritual being that is spoken of, the word is used alone, without any qualifying description. Thus:


    Mark 9.20. “The spirit tare him”.

    Luke 9.39. “Lo, a spirit taketh him”.

    Luke 10.20. “Rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you”.

    Matt. 8.16. “He cast out the spirits with his word”.

    See especially 1 Tim. 4.1, 1 John 4.1.


Of angelic beings, it is distinctly stated (Ps. 104.4) that God “maketh His angels spirits”. This is quoted in Heb. 1.7, “And of the angels he saith, ‘Who maketh his angels spirits’.” While in verse 14 we read of the angels that they are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister (eiV diakonian, to do service) for them who shall be heirs of salvation”.


There are other instructive references. In Acts 8.26 it says that it was “the angel of the Lord” who was sent on a special mission to Philip. Immediately afterwards (verse 29) the same being is called a “spirit” - “the spirit said unto Philip”; while in verse 39 the same angelic messenger is called “the spirit of the Lord” (i.e. the spirit sent by the Lord), who finished his mission by catching Philip away to Azotus. This explains the passages, Rev. 1.4: “The seven spirits which are before His throne”, and Rev. 4.5: “The seven spirits of God”. These are evidently angelic beings of some high order or station: either archangels, or the “seven angels” so frequently mentioned in the Apocalypse.


When Jesus appeared to His Apostles after His resurrection “they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit” (i.e. a supernatural or angelic being).... But he said, “handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have”… (See Luke 24.37,39.)


It is said of the Sadducees (Acts 23.8) that they believed in “neither angel nor spirit”, i.e. neither in angel, nor any other spiritual being. Both words refer to the same kind of being; one the concrete, the other the abstract: “angel”, defining the office and character: “spirit”, denoting the nature.


Thus it seems perfectly in harmony with the uniform usage of Scripture to take these “spirits” (pneumata) in 1 Peter 3.19, as spiritual, or angelic beings, who at some time, and for some reason, were put “in prison”. The time we are told: it was once when “the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah”. The reason, too, we are told: they were “disobedient”. What that disobedience was we are not told here, but there are other Scriptures which throw light upon this, and which receive light from it in return.


    We offer the following comparison of four passages:


1 Peter 3.18,19, illustrated by a comparison with other scriptures.


1 Tim. 3.16

1 Peter 3.18,19

2 Peter 2.4-9

Jude 6,7

Christ was-

Christ was-



Manifested in flesh.

Put to death as to the flesh.



Justified in spirit.

Quickened as to the spirit.



Appeared to angels (wjqh aggeloiV).

Went and preached to the in-prison spirits (angels), which (in the days of Noah) were disobedient.

Angels (in the days of Noah) Sinned.

Angels (before Sodom) Kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation


(Therefore “in prison”; see above.)

Cast down to Tartarus.




Delivered unto chains of darkness

Reserved in everlasting chains under darkness.



Reserved unto judgment.

Unto the judgment of the great day.


All but “few” perished.

Spared not the old world.




Noah and seven others saved.




Sodom and Gomorrha destroyed.

Sodom and Gomorrha not spared



Lot delivered.


Preached among nations. Believed on in the world.

Men saved now.

The godly delivered now.


Taken up in glory.

Christ went into heaven, “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Compare Col. ii. 15, “having spoiled  principalities  and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”




By comparing these passages, we learn that before the Flood certain angelic beings “sinned”. They kept not their first estate (R.V. their own principality) but left their own habitation (oikhthrion, only here and 2 Cor. 5.2, where it is used of a spiritual body!). The nature of their sin is stated; it was “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh”. In 2 Peter 2.2,10 also, the angels’ fall is used with reference to “pernicious ways” (R.V. lascivious doings, see 1 Pet. 4.3; 2 Pet. 2.7,14,18; Jude 4); and is spoken of those who “walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government” (margin and R.V. dominion), 2 Pet. 2.10. Who “defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of (R.V. rail at) dignities”, Jude 8.


Now, we ask, may not this refer to Genesis 6.2,4? Have we in Genesis 6. the historical account of these Divine references? May not this be the very sin recorded when “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. . .” and “when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown”. The term “sons of God”, in Hebrew beni-hâ-Elohim  is, in the Old Testament, always used of angels (see Job 2.1, 38.7; Ps. 29.1, 89.6; Dan. 3.25 in the singular). And the Codex A. of the Septuavint in Gen. 6.2 reads aggeloi tou qeou, angels of God. Philo, Josephus, most of the Rabbinical writers, Clemens Alexandrinus, Justin, Cyprian, Ambrose, Lactantius, Luther, and many modern scholars, Kürtz, Delitzsch, Stier, etc. hold this view; while Tertullian and Augustine also explain 1 Cor. 11.10 by a reference to this passage in Genesis 6.2,4.


It may have been in this way, therefore, that these “sons of God”, angels, or spirits, sinned. That such a sin was quite possible is clear from the fact that these angels left (apoleipw, to forsake, desert) their own proper (idioV) spiritual body (oikhthrion, 2 Cor. 5.2). What is certain is, that, if not in this way, then in some other way they sinned, and for their sin were put “in prison”, “cast down to Tartarus”: and “reserved unto the judgment of the great day”. This is some special place of “darkness” (zojoV, a word used only in 2 Pet. 2.4,17 and Jude 6,13). “Tartarus” is never used with reference to men, and only in 2 Pet. 2.4 of these fallen angels. In the R.V. we read “Cast them down to hell and committed them to pits of darkness”. In the margin, “Cast them into dungeons, Gr. Tartarus”. What are these “dungeons”… the “prison” of 1 Pet. 3.19?


But (for this is the argument)-so complete was Christ’s triumph, that He “led captivity captive” (Eph. 4.8); so complete that, “having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2.15): so completely were “angels, and authorities, and powers made subject unto Him”, that His triumphal proclamation reached even to Tartarus-even to these “in-prison spirits”.


Hence the argument is continued in the next chapter (4.1); “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered as regards the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind” (ennoian, occurs only here and Heb. 4.12, where it is rendered “intents”. It means the act of thinking, consideration). Consider Christ! God “raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1.21). See! what a like glorious triumph awaits those who are Christ’s, and suffer in like manner for righteousness’ sake, according to the will of God! Be armed against all these trials by the consideration that as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, so ye shall be also of the glory which Christ received as His reward! Keep this in your mind, and thus be armed against all the assaults of your enemies! This is the logical conclusion of the whole argument.


Those who still cling to the popular interpretation that the preaching spoken of refers to a gospel-preaching to men who sinned in the days of Noah, are bound to show in what way the passage is a reason on which to base such an exhortation. It commences with the word “FOR” (oti because, 3.18), and it is introduced for the express purpose of establishing the statement of verse 17, viz. that “it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing than for evil doing-FOR Christ also hath once suffered”, etc. Note the incongruity and inconsequence of the popular explanation, which is to this effect: “Christ also suffered; and, after He died, He went and preached the Gospel to the greatest evil-doers the world has ever seen: so great that their sins brought down the judgment of the Flood”! We ask, What has this to do with the argument of the Holy Spirit in the context? What reason is this, why it is good to suffer for the Lord's sake? What encouragement is there in this for them, or for us to suffer for well doing? Apart from the inexplicable supposition that these greatest of sinners are singled out for special mercy, this interpretation is really at variance with the argument! It would be, indeed, rather an argument for evil doing than for well doing! For why should we suffer for well doing when, even if we do evil, Christ Himself gives us the hope of salvation after death? If the word “FOR” were not there, and if the passage stood perfectly isolated, apart from all reference to any context, then we might grant that we have here a revelation of some peculiar mystery, provided that it did not clash with the general analogy of Bible truth, or with any of the clear statements of Scripture. But this is not the case. The whole interpretation hangs on the word “FOR”. And yet, in the popular view, this word is utterly ignored; while the word men (though) is twice untranslated; the word “Hades” is gratuitously introduced, notwithstanding the fact that “Tartarus” is the place distinctly named in the corresponding passage (2 Pet. 2.4); the word “preach” (khrussein) and the word “spirits” are taken in senses which they do not necessarily bear; and all this is done in order to introduce the new doctrine of probation for men after death, which is foreign to the Word of God; which is repugnant to Scripture truth; which has no relation to the context; and, moreover, is utterly destitute of all logic, being no reason whatever for the statement, which it is expressly introduced in order to prove and establish!


There is a parenthetical thought in the members marked O.1 and O.2; just as there is in 2 Pet. 2.5,7-a thought that heightens the “living hope” which was being so powerfully set before these suffering saints, viz. that even at the very time when God spared not angels, He delivered Noah. Scripture connects these two events together. But it is quite silent as to any such fall of the angels before the creation of man. When He spared not Sodom and Gomorrha, he delivered Lot! Still more will He save “us” out of these sufferings which man is bringing upon us.


Note the accuracy of the words, and the difference between dieswqhsan, used of Noah in verse 20, and the swzei used of “us”, in verse 21. The former, diaswzein, is always used of getting free from, or getting safely through, bodily danger. See Matt. 14.36, “Were made perfectly whole.” Luke 7.3, “Heal.” Acts 23.24, “Bring him safe unto Felix”; 27.43, “Willing to save Paul”; 44, “They escaped all safe to land” (see Jonah 1.6, LXX.); 28.1, “When they were escaped”; 4, “Though he hath escaped the sea.” So here in the only other occurrence of the word, 1 Pet. 3.20, “eight souls were saved (i.e. escaped) through (dia, by means of) water.”


Whereas swzein, though it may be used of physical things, has its more frequent and special reference to things spiritual.


This salvation is part of the great encouragement to these saints in their “fiery trial”; it was the reason why they were not to be ashamed if called to suffer “as Christians”; and why they were to commit the keeping of their souls to their faithful Creator.


But now we come to the corresponding member M., which answers so remarkably to M. which we have just been considering. By a reference to the structure it will be seen that c.1 and c.2 both refer to the Saints’ new life and triumph in Christ; also that d.1 and d.2 both refer to Past time; while O.1 and O.2 refer to Men, as do O.1 and O.2 above. The conclusion of the argument is reached in 4.6: “For, for this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead”. Here, the word “preached” is not the word for a mere indefinite proclamation, such as was used with reference to the fallen angels in 3.19, but it is euaggelizomai, to evangelize, to preach the Gospel- the word Gospel being contained in, and forming an integral part of, the word. And this verb is here, in the first aorist tense, indicating a past, indefinite act; while the word “dead” (nekroiV) necessarily refers to the then present condition of those to whom the Gospel had at some previous time been preached. If the words nekroiV euhggelisqh (preached to the dead) stood alone, there would be nothing to tell us whether the persons were alive or dead at the time when the preaching took place. But the words that follow leave the matter in no doubt. The object of that very preaching is definitely stated, and stated in the most emphatic manner. We have the words “for this cause” (eiV touto) in the first clause, strengthened by the word “that” (ina, in order that) in the second clause. “For, for this cause ... that. . . .” (Or as the R.V., “For, unto this end ...  that . . .” ). That is to say, it was with this special and definite object that the Gospel was preached to them. Indeed, the two clauses of 6.6 correspond so perfectly, and are so wonderfully balanced, as to leave us in no doubt whatever as to the sense:


First Clause.

Second Clause.

for this cause (eiV touto)

.. that (ina)

might be judged (kriqwsin)              

.. might live (zwsin)

[untranslated] men, though               

.. but (de)

This word men, on which so much depends, is inexplicably left untranslated both in the A.V. and R.V. The popular exposition does not know what to do with it; but a correct interpretation cannot do without it.

according to men (kata anqrwpouV)          

.. according to God (kata Qeon)

as regards the flesh (sarki)            

.. as regards the spirit (pneumati)

So also there is a correspondence between:

6.6                                      and                                    3.18

might be judged (kriqwsin)

.. put to death (qanatwqeiV)

as regards the flesh (sarki)

.. as regards the flesh (sarki)

live (zwsin)

.. quickened (zwopoihqeiV)

as regards the spirit (pneumati)

.. as regards the spirit (pneumati)


We thus learn that the “dead” must have been alive when the Gospel was preached to them, because we are expressly told that it was preached for this very purpose, viz. that though they might be judged by man’s tribunal (kata anqrwpouV, according to the will of man) and put to death as regards the flesh, yet (de) they shall live according to the will of God (kata Qeon,) and enjoy a glorious triumph like unto Christ’s. The word (in the accusative) governed by kata measures and characterizes the action of the verb connected with it, not the subject of the action. Compare Rom. 8.27, 15.5; 1 Cor. 12.8, 15.32; 2 Cor. 7.9,10,11; 11.17; Gal. 1.11; Eph. 2.2; Col. 2.8; 1 Pet. 4.14. Here, the act of judging is measured and characterized as being that of mortal men who were the judges. It does not refer to those who were the subjects of that judgment. Note the structure of 1 Pet. 4.2-6 (see above, K. in full and in skeleton), where “the will of man” and the judgment of man are seen to be in marked contrast to “the will of God” and the judgment of God.


True - they might be called to stand in the flesh before human tribunals and be condemned to deaths of the most horrible kind; yet, the Gospel had been preached to them for this purpose, in order that they might - having the blessed hope of a glorious resurrection - commit the keeping of their souls to Him who had created them, and glorify God…!


Observe, it does not say that the Gospel was preached to them “that they might be judged”, but that though they might be judged. This is the true force of the untranslated men, which is thus preserved. This preaching is specially referred to in 1 Pet. 1.12,25. “The God of all grace” (v. 10) sent His blessed Gospel to them with its “living hope” of a joyful resurrection from the dead, and its news of an incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven (1.3,4). He “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1.11). He sent the cheering exhortation, “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (4.13.)


Thus our exposition of the special passage (3.17-4.6) preserves the great design of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle as a whole; it harmonizes also with the immediate context; it gives a uniform rendering to the similar words in the various clauses; it balances the clauses according to their peculiar structure; it throws light on other difficult passages, e.g. Gen. 6.2,4; 1 Tim. 3.16; 2 Pet. 2.4-9; Jude 6,7; 1 Cor. 11.10; Rev. 1.4; 4.5; it rescues the passage from those who would wrest it to support the heresy of the so-called “larger hope”, or probation after death; while it saves those who would combat that error from resorting to inaccurate and untenable expositions.

The Holy Bible, King James Version On line

LA SANTA BIBLIA Reina-Valera 1960 On line

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