Recently, I was asked what I thought about the belief of some people that Christ was preaching to the “lost souls” that were imprisoned in “hell” while he was entombed.
First of all, we should never depend on “our ideas” or “our thoughts” as to what the Scriptures say, but rather, let the Bible interpret itself.
I hope to clarify this false idea that some, in their lack of understanding, have promulgated about a passage of Scripture found in I Peter 3:18,19 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19. By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison;”
I’ll address this topic by asking, “Did Christ go to hell?”
After doing a study of these verses, I can see where some might reach a wrong conclusion about the true meaning of it because they have not taken time to examine the original language in which it was written.
Let’s look at this Scripture thoroughly, along with another verse given here: Verse 20 “Which sometimes were disobedient, WHEN once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
I will give you four points to help you in your understanding in these verses here:
It doesn’t say Christ preached to these “spirits” when He was in the grave! In fact, these were not “spirits” of human beings. (In Ecclesiastes 12:7, it states that the human “spirit shall return to God who gave it”). It remains dormant or asleep until it is awakened in a resurrection, as many Scriptures prove. These “spirits” Christ preached to were demon spirits.
Verse 20 shows it was in the days of Noah when He preached to these demon spirits. (These demons wanted to kill Noah, but Christ warned and restrained them.)
The wicked angels followed Satan in his rebellion against God: (Isaiah. 14:12 “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! 13. For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. 14. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Read Ezekiel 28:12-17). Jude 6 “And the angels (demons) which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
As a background, we need to understand the meaning of the word “hell”.
II Pet. 2:4 “For if God spared not the angels that sinned (demons), but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” This word, “hell”, here in II Pet. 2:4, is from the Gr. “Tartaroo” and is the only place it’s used in that sense. It only refers to the restraint of demon spirits. It’s never used in conjunction with humans.
I Corinthians 15:3 & Revelation 1:8 show that Christ died, and the dead know nothing! Ecclesiastes 9: 5 “--the dead know not anything---” Ver.10 “---there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Psalms 146:4 “His breath goeth forth, ---in that very day his thoughts perish.” ; Psalms 16:10 “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” The words “grave”, in Ecc.9:10 and “hell”, in Psa.16:10, are both from the Heb. “sheol”, meaning grave or tomb. The Gr. equivalent in the N.T. is from “hades”. Another word translated “hell” is from the Gr. “Gehenna” and denotes a fiery, consuming punishment.
No, Jesus Christ was not “preaching” to the “spirits” of lost human beings suffering in some torturous “hell fire”. He was dead and buried for three days and three nights just as He said He would be. Don’t believe Satanic lies that arise from false teachers that have no understanding at all of what God and his Plan for mankind is all about.