by Eusebio Tanicala

This is series #3 of four articles. The first one contains the wordings of 1 Peter 3:18-20 taken from 31 Bible Versions. It is suggested that one reads the 31 versions before digging deep into each of the four series.
The ten questions in this series are the following which should be connected together to get a clear answer to the problems contained in the title:
Q#1: How should too pneumati be rendered –small s OR capital S, and will the preposition be “by” “in”
“through” OR “according”?

Q#2: Who went to preach to the spirits in prison in the passage under study?

Q#3: What is the meaning of the term “preach” in the passage under study?

Q#4: What is the content of the act of preaching in the passage under study?

Q#5: What is the intention of this act of preaching in the passage under study?

Q#6: Where did the preacher go preach in the passage under study?

Q#7: When did the preacher go preach in the passage under study?

Q#8: Who were in the audience in this act of preaching in our passage?

Q#9: How is the preaching period related to the disobedience period in our passage?

Q#10: How should the flow of events contained in our passage be arranged?

Questions to be explained in this series #3 are Questions #4, #5 and #6.

Question #4: What is the content of the act of preaching in the passage under study?

This question is related to what shade of meaning is attached to the meaning of ekeruksen (preached). Related to this message content would be where and when the preaching was done. If ekeruksen is attached to the work of the apostles and first century Christians, then the content would be the gospel (death, burial, resurrection) of the Lord Jesus Christ as the basis of man’s salvation. Following the idea of the Mormons, a second chance is given to the spirits of dead relatives in whose name living relatives are baptized in their behalf so that the spirits of the dead would get out of the place of torment.
But since we in the Churches of Christ don’t believe in a second chance for the dead because it contradicts Luke 16:19-31, those who believe that the preaching was done by Christ through the Holy Spirit who inspired and moved Noah and that the preaching was personally done by Noah during the construction of the ark, then 2 Peter 2:4-5 tells us that it is “righteousness.” It is a general subject matter of righteousness as opposed to wickedness. Genesis 6:5-7 informs us of the utter corruption of makind. If Noah did the preaching, his general topic was righteous living.
On the other hand, if the preacher (proclaimer, herald) is Christ, and Christ gave the proclamation in Paradise (the upper section of Hades), then the content of his message was His victory over Satan, the fusion of humanity and deity in His person (see Col. 2:9 and 1 Tim. 3:16) and his death that pays the debt of humanity’s sins. The sight of His glorious presence in the company of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist was sufficient testimony of the truth of God’s promises in the OT. As much as a visual appearance of a transfigured Jesus in the presence of the spirit persons of Elijah and Moses left a vivid impression in the mind of Peter, James and John as recorded in Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:27-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18. And if Christ ever spoke any words, he could have done what Abraham did in Luke 16:19-31. He could have directed his short message to all those in Tartarusas, especially the generation of Noah which is believed to be the wickedest of all generations on earth. He could have just said, “Children, you enjoyed all the worldly pleasures while you were on earth, but now you are in torment, but those who believed and obeyed God, they are comforted.”

Question #5: What is the intention of this act of preaching in the passage under study?
One school of thought says that the act of preaching (proclaiming) was to give a second chance to that generation of Noah. The Mormons would say that Christ gave a second chance to those spirits in Hades, therefore, today they also offer a second chance for the relatives of those believers in their church by undergoing a baptism for the dead. A sort of second chance is also taught by the Roman Catholic Church in the idea of a Purgatory by promoting prayers and penance in behalf of dead relatives.
However we in the Churches of Christ don’t believe in the dogma of second chance. Life on earth is the only opportunity to choose our eternal destiny. That preaching or proclaiming act of Christ, therefore, was not for the purpose of persuading the wicked spirits to repent of their corruption and make them move out of the place of torment. The intention was to declare Christ’s victory over Satan. It was intended to show that Christ’s deity is inextricably fused with his human spirit which is a mystery but shows God’s love for mankind. It was intended to show the doubters and unbelievers that God’s dealing and promises and prophecies in the OT are true. The message was intended to display God’s love and God’s truth.

Question #6: Where did the preacher go preach in the passage under study?
One belief says that the place was Mesopotamia in the Middle East around the general area of Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Noah’s ark after the flood waters subsided settled on top of Mount Ararat in Turkey. Those who believe that Christ’s preaching was done through the Holy Spirit and in turn through Noah, the locality of preaching was Noah’s home ground.
A second belief points to Hades, the abode of the disembodied spirits, as the place of preaching or proclamation. Our passage says that the audience were spirits in prison. 2 Peter 2:4-5 says that the rebellious spirits are imprisoned as a consequence of their disobedience. Christ said in Luke 23:43 that He would be in Paradise that same day of the crucifixion. It is logical that the spirits of the wicked people in Noah’s days went to Tartarusas, the lower section of Hades. This is taught in Luke 16:19-31. Moreover, Psalm 16:8-11 and Acts 2:25-28 teach that Christ’s soul went to Hades but won’t stay there long.
I prefer the second explanation above.
There’s a 4th and final installment in this lesson series. Please find time to read it to complete the picture of our explanation on the ten questions listed above. Thank you very much. ##