Peter’s First Letter to Christians in a Pagan Society – 12 (“The Resurrection Triumph”)



1 Pet 3:19-22

‘’ 19 in which[a] he went and proclaimed[b] to the spirits in prison, 20 because[c] they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, 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 having been subjected to him. ‘’


In the previous week, we dealt with the substitutionary atonement of Christ. We were dealing with the cross, the death, the penalty, and indeed the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ. This is the representation of Christianity, it is the centre, the foundation, the glue that holds the old and new testaments together. It is so fundamental to our faith that any movement, minister, or organisation that deviates from what the bible teaches about the atonement is never to be considered a fellow worker or partner in the faith. Our differences are fundamental and cannot be ignored in the name of unity.

But as amazing and fundamental as the death of Christ on the cross was and is to our redemption, this morning however I want us to see that it was not complete for our redemption. Why do I say that? Because the cross was like an application that one makes, whether for a tender or university or funding etc, the cross was like such an application where all the necessary documents are filled in and submitted in time and by the right individual. But with all applications, there always needs to be an approval. If there is a sacrifice made, there needs to be acceptance of it. This then is where the resurrection of Christ comes in.

 This is what we will be looking at this morning. We can see this necessity of the resurrection in 1 Cor 15:12-19.

‘’12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.’’

Christians forgo a lot in this life hoping for the next life, they suffer and forgo easy ways and shortcuts if they involve immorality, because of the hope that there is a next life. If that is not true, then they are to be most pitied.

Everything falls apart if Christ died but was not raised from the dead. Let us look at this resurrection.

    • THE CELEBRATION(v19-20)
    • THE SALVATION(v21)


Let us look at verse 19-20, here we see that the atonement involved more than just the death of Christ but the resurrection as well, Peter says Christ was made alive in the spirit. Death could not hold him, and his body could not see corruption because he had never sinned. Remember, the wages of sin is death. But since Christ himself had never sinned, death had no hold on him. Let us look at Acts 2:23-28,

23 this Jesus,[a] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

Christ rose from the dead because death could not hold him. He is risen, He is risen indeed!

But also, he rose from the dead to achieve victory for His people. Now in verse 19-20 we find one of the most obscure passages one will probably find in the bible. I will say from the onset that the obscurity of these verses is owing to our fallible nature. Indeed, God’s word is clear, but it is our minds and eyes which are weakened by the sinful nature. There is therefore quite a number of views regarding this passage and I will mention just three for now. The word for spirits is the word ‘pneuma’ which can be used for both humans and angels. These spirits were incorporeal (disembodied), imprisoned and had sinned before the flood.

Now the 3 views are as follows:

  • The first view views these spirits as the humans in NOAH’s day, it goes further to say that Christ’s spirit preached in the days of Noah through Noah to the people of Noah’s day. Then what Peter is talking about actually occurred before the resurrection.

The issue I would have with this view is that in the passage itself we do not get an indication that the timeline spoken of here, when Christ preached, happened in Noah’s day nor are we told Christ’s spirit preached through Noah. The preaching seems to have been done after the resurrection rather than before it. Although there are passages that indicate that Christ’s spirit did work in Old testament saints, we do not have enough in the passage to say that is the case.

  • The second view believes this preaching was done to unbelievers who rejected Noah’s preaching and are now in prison. This view further then asserts that these spirits are being given a second chance. This is the view held by the Roman catholic group. In fact, it is one of the passages they would quote to develop their doctrine of purgatory (a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going into heaven).

This view is extremely problematic compared to the first, in fact it is heretical in its nature. This means it contradicts other plain scriptures in the bible and should by all means be shunned by the church of God. For instance, in Heb 9:27

‘’ 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,’’

We can clearly see that man has but one chance in life to repent and believe in Christ, there is no second chance beyond the grave! Otherwise, why repent at all in this life? Why preach the gospel at all now if people can have a second chance after they die? No, beloved, man has but one chance to repent and thereafter face judgement. Today is the day of salvation, no one should postpone, the message is repent now!!

  • The third view believes that these spirits in prison were fallen angels who disobeyed in Noah’s day and were bound in prison awaiting judgement. The message preached then is a proclamation of victory rather repentance.

This is the view that I hold to. This is because of a few verses. The first one being verse 22 of the same chapter, it shows us that there are angels, authorities etc who submit to Christ as he is seated in the right hand of God. But further, let us look at the following verses which show that there are fallen angels kept in chains awaiting judgement.

 Jude 1:6

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.

2 Pet 2:4    

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment

We can see from these verses that there are fallen angels who are kept in chains awaiting judgement. These I propose then are the spirits to whom Christ proclaimed His resurrection victory to.


 Now as Peter goes through the story of Noah, he picks up a comparison between what happened then and what happens now when people are saved. In the time of Noah, God used the flood to wash away the filth in the world and save only but a few, eight to be exact. Peter picks that principle and compares it with baptism, which is being immersed in water. But to avoid an extreme that views baptism as a work that individuals do to be saved, Peter quicky adds the explanation in verse 21 of our passage; ‘…not the removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a good conscience…’’ The ‘good conscience’ expression is alluding to the forgiveness of sins. Salvation is the work of God that occurs inside an individual and is expressed externally. Baptism then is a representation of what God has already done in the heart. Further, the appeal to God is equivalent to putting one’s faith in God. Therefore, salvation involves putting one’s faith in God for the forgiveness of our sins.

How can God forgive sins just like that? On what basis can we appeal to God for such forgiveness? The answer is the resurrection of Christ! We can be forgiven because the sacrifice for sins has been accepted. How do we know God has accepted it? Because He raised Christ from the dead!!! Beloved, Jesus Christ is risen, and we can be saved! God has approved the application for our redemption!


Then lastly, we see a wonderful truth in verse 22 of our chapter. It is not uncommon to find the new testament writers breaking out in praise when they realise the great work Christ has accomplished. When they see the implications of it all, they break out in praise! Let us look at Paul himself in Phil 2:5-11.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul here was seeking to use Christ as an example to encourage the Philippians to be humble. But he then breaks out in praise of the great Lordship of Jesus Christ!!

Peter in the gospels had seen that Christ is the Lord of nature. Christ himself would say He is the Lord of the sabbath but brothers and sisters, He is Lord over all! He is the Lord of everything in the world, of angels, authorities and of all creatures. And since He is Lord of everything, why should we as his children ever panic? Why should we worry or fear? What could shake us? He is Lord of all! Every knee must bow! We do not make him the Lord of our hearts; we accept him as the Lord of our hearts. He was never voted into power; he was accepted by God into power. He is at the right hand of God. It is the place of power! He holds the universe in his palm. None can remove him from the right hand because none had put him there. Satan has been given some measure of power in the world, but for us as believers, we fear not because we are on the side of King Jesus and He is the Lord of all!

There was a movement back in the day which taught a no-Lordship type of salvation. They taught that Christ is our saviour, but he does not need to be our Lord as well. As such individuals can accept Christ as saviour and thereafter live lives with no submission to Christ as Lord. But beloved, He is Lord whether we agree or not. The same saviour is the same Lord, no one should or can separate the two!


I would beg that each of us consider where we have accepted him as Lord in our own hearts. Is He ruling there? Oh, that we might bow our knees now willingly before the Lord of all, King Jesus! The truth is that Angels, authorities, and powers are subject to him.

In John 10 we are told that none can snatch his sheep from his hand. Therefore, for us believers, we can sleep in peace at night, not because we are mighty prayer warriors but because we are in the Lord’s mighty hand and can never be snatched away.


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