(1 Peter 3:19). Appendix 194 To 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 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" (Psalm 31:5. Ecclesiastes 12:7. Luke 23:46. Acts 7:59). In resurrection "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him" (1Corinthians 15:38). This is no longer a "natural (or psychical) body," but "a spiritual body" (1Corinthians 15:44). 2. Angels are "spirits", and are so called (Hebrews 1:7, 14). 3. In 2Peter 2:4 we read of "the angels that sinned"; and in 1Peter 3:19, 20 of spirits "which sometime were disobedient . . . in the days of Noah". In 2Peter 2:4 we are further told that these fallen angels are reserved unto judgment, and delivered into chains (that is to say, bondage or "prison"). Compare 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.
It is used of angels eight times: Genesis 6:2,¹ 4. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. Psalm 29:1 (Revised Version margin); 89:6 (Revised Version margin); and Daniel 3:25. In this last passage there is no article, and it does not mean "the Son of God", but "a son of God", that is to say, an angel who was sent into the furnace (Daniel 3:28), as one was into the den of lions (Daniel 6:22). In one passage (Hosea 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 1Peter 3:19, the expression "the spirits in prison" cannot be understood apart from the whole context. The passage commences with the word "For" (verse 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 (verse 18) Christ also suffered for sins once (Greek hapax)—a Just One for unjust ones—in order 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 (1Corinthians 15:45). In death His body was put in the grave (or sepulcher, that is to say, 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 (2Peter 2:4. See Appendix 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 (Appendix 121. 4), but the emphatic word kerusso (Appendix 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" (verse 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 (Greek men) they might be judged according [to the will of]² men, in [the] flesh, yet (Greek de) they might live [again] according to [the will of] God, in [the] spirit": that is to say, in resurrection (1Peter 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 (Genesis 6:2) the Alexandrine Manuscript of the Septuagint has "angels" (not "sons"), showing how it was then understood.
² For the supply of this ellipsis see Romans 8:27, 28, and compare 1Peter 4:19.
|a.||They "left their own habitation".|
This "habitation" is called (in Greek) oiketerion, which occurs again only in 2Corinthians 5:2, where it is called our "house" (that is to say, 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 1Corinthians 15:44.
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 2Timothy 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. Occurs Hebrews 4:6, 9; 10:26. Jude 6.
They "kept not their first estate (arche)" in which they were placed when they were created.
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
over to fornication,
and going after
here denotes other,
that is to say,
(Greek heteros =
different in kind.
Appendix 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
5. In Genesis 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 (compare Genesis 5:1).