HomeAviationTravelPhotosMinistryResourcesBlogFunFilesXtraFilesResumeEmailTemp

General Epistles
Azusa Pacific University
Mr. Matt Hauge
March 2, 2004
"Descent of Christ"

I.   Theology
A.   The Bible is not interested in theology
B.   The Bible, as well theology, are largely dependant on Greek Philosophy
C.   Later people are drawing on Greek Philosophy to create theology in order to explain/understand the Bible
II.   1Peter 3:18-22
A.   Martin Luther: That is as strange a text and as dark a saying as any in the New Testament, so that I am not yet sure what St. Peter intended."
B.   Werver Bieder: "It is a nearly unsolvable puzzle."
C.   Martin H Scharlemann: "The literature on this passage is enormous, a clear indication that one cannot expect any assured results of the exegesis of it."
D.   Paul Achtemeier: "This verse (i.e. 3:19) is one of the shorter, but surely the most problematic, in this letter, if not in the NT canon as whole, and eludes any agreement on its precise meaning."
III.   Structural context of the text
A.   If you take 1Peter 3:15-17, then skip 3:18-22, and then continue on to 4:1-2, it is completely seamless
B.   This leads many to believe that 3:18-22 has been included later
3:15-17, 4:1-2
3:18-22
1Pet. 3:15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.
1Pet. 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.
1Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
C.   Many feel this could have been a logion
1.   Logion defined as a "popular saying" of the day
1Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,
20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark,
20b in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
2.   The structure itself indicates that Jesus is going "down" - as into Hades
3.   This passage is often referred to as the "descent of Christ"
IV.   Five questions raised by the text
A.   Who are the spirits in prison?
B.   Why are they in prison?
C.   Where is the prison?
D.   When did Jesus go?
E.   What did he proclaim to those in prison?
V.   The Descent of Christ (4-primary interpretations of this passage)
A.   The Generation of Noah
1.   Spirits: are tied to the time of Noah
2.   Preaching of Christ took place "in the Spirit"
3.   Christ preached through Noah to Noah's generation; presumably before the flood
4.   "Imprisonment" = Imprisonment to sin (those who were living disobediently during the time pre-flood)
5.   The problem being dealt with here is the question, "what happened to people before Jesus was around."
6.   Problems
a.   Verses 20b-22 have simply been appended to 18-20a
b.   If Christ preached to the living, what about the dead of 4:6
B.   The Efficacy of Salvation
1.   "Imprisoned spirits" = human beings imprisoned by death - the prison is death
2.   Crucified & risen Christ preached to the dead
a.   v. 19 refers to the descent of Christ in sheol
b.   Presumes content of preaching was salvation
c.   Posits unity as passage concludes with his ascent
3.   Not even the dead are beyond the salvific work of Christ - only those
4.   Problems
a.   "Spirits" never refers to the human dead - in the entire new testament
b.   Does not fit the content of 1Peter
i.   Does not encourage Christians to remain faithful (which is the primary theme of 1Peter)
ii.   Implies the wicked receive a second chance in death
C.   Imitation of Christ
1.   Verse 18 provides justification for verse 17 - it fits perfectly where it is
2.   Christ becomes the model for those who are persecuted
a.   Christ preached to the imprisoned spirits of Noah's day - the "worse sinners" ever
b.   Christian should preach to the most resolute sinners
3.   Problems
a.   The passage does not explicitly invite invitation (cf. 2:21-25)
b.   Uniqueness of the suffering of Christ makes it un-imitatable
D.   The Sons of God
1.   "Spirits" nearly always refers to angels, often malevolent (evil) - I don't necessarily by the statement, check a concordance for accuracy
2.   Genesis 6:1-4
Gen. 6:1 When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years." 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also afterward when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.
3.   Jewish Tradition
a.   "Sons of God" = angels
b.   Nephilim = a race of giants and/or noble warriors
c.   Disobedience of the "sons of God" led to the flood
d.   After the flood, angels were imprisoned below the earth
4.   Jesus proclaimed triumph over the fallen angels - in a sense rubbing it into evil itself and say "I have won over evil"
5.   Problems
a.   Severs the link between 3:18-22 & 4:6
b.   It says Jesus preached to the dead as in human dead, not angels
Temp_SideAd3