The First Epistle of Peter

Extracts from the Bible Study Monthly on a New Testament book Part 5

Camphire provided the women of the land with a delicate perfume; from the leaves they made a dye to ornament their finger‑nails. So with the adornment of 1 Peter 3:4 “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Nov/Dec’79

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

Jesus called into requisition the power of the Lord of heaven and earth by means of prayer…The Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, are the first to escape the condemnation… These hear the word of reconciliation, and in response to the invitation: “My son, give me thine heart,” they take away their (unwitting) allegiance to the god of this world, Satan, and give their heart‑loyalty to the heavenly Father (Prov.23:26; Col.1:8‑13). God is then able to use them to accomplish further features of his purposes, and to send his operative power through the medium of their prayers. (Col.4:3; 1 Thess.3:10; 1 Pet.3:12; Phil.1:19) ME

1 Peter 3:18 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

By the grace of God, so many of His paths are paths of mercy (Psalm 25:10 to such as keep his covenant). Long ago, the Father of Mercies made provision for our need. He sent down from heaven a Saviour, who, by His death, can save His people from their sins. Himself without sin, yet in His compassionate love for men, became Himself the bearer of their sins. He gave Himself, the “just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet.3:18). He reconciled us by His death; He now lives to save us by His living, loving care (Rom.5:10.) The path of mercy, from our first feeble Christian days, till now, is hedged about by His precious blood. It is a scarlet trail, for precious blood made possible our first faltering step in Grace, and precious blood has made safe our every further step. Aug’40

Jesus came to reconcile men to God. There was no possibility of reconciliation before He came, for there was no basis upon which true reconciliation could be made. Man, imperfect, fallen, sinful, could not so much as stand in the presence of One who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, so the “way into the Holiest of all was not made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.” (Heb.9:8). Jesus came to open that way. It involved his own death, a willing sacrifice, the “just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet.3:18), but that death did open the way for all of earth’s millions, “whosoever will”, to enter, in due time, into the eternal inheritance God has prepared for them (Matt.25:34). The coming of Christ and the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ was for all men, and upon the day that He ascended triumphantly on high, having led captivity captive (Eph.4:8), He began to set in motion the mighty forces which are destined to have spread their energy over the long span of three thousand years before they will have completed the achievement of the Divine purpose, the reconciliation to God of all who will, and the subjection of all things to Christ, that at his Name shall every knee bow, whether of things in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth (Phil.2:10) Nov/Dec’81

The elementary statement that Christ since his ascension is seated at the right hand of God is a figure of speech which provides a convenient visual image to the mind but does no more than sketch a very broad outline of the basic truth involved. No instructed Christian nowadays believes that God exists in the form of a venerable aged king seated upon a great throne set somewhere in the midst of the stellar heavens, with the Lord Christ eternally passive upon a somewhat lesser throne beside him. It may be a closer approach to the reality to picture him as a radiantly glorious being “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto,” but even so we cannot with our human minds hope to formulate a picture which comes anywhere near the truth. The nature of the Divine Creator remains for us an impenetrable mystery. And to some extent the Person of Christ must share that mystery. We should no longer think of him in the form of the Man who was crucified, rather as the “Lord…that Spirit” (2 Cor.3:17, 1 Pet.3:18 NEB, RSV) partaker of the Divine glory. Jan/Feb’81

“So….is the resurrection of the dead”…. “It is sown a natural (physical, terrestrial) body; it is raised a spiritual (celestial) body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body”. The Greek is more forceful; “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Cor.15:42‑44). And here he crowns his argument with a fact which cannot be gainsaid. “And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life‑giving spirit” (1 Cor.15:45 A.V. & Diaglott) (after his resurrection; as in 1 Pet.3:18RSV). “Christ…being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit”. Resurrection to another world involves being “clothed upon” to use Paul’s words in 2 Cor.5:2 with a new and fundamentally different body. We cannot take the old one with us into that other world. Flesh and blood cannot inherit that world and that kingdom. Jan/Feb’89

The essential nature of the resurrection of the Lord’s followers, his Church, is that like him (1 Pet.3:18) they meet their death in the flesh, on this earth, and awaken in the resurrection in the spirit, in the celestial world, and find themselves with the Lord, and this is the same experience whether the particular believer is one who died at the beginning of the Age or is still living at the time of the Lord’s Advent at its end. Jan/Feb’89

“…put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which he also went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient….in the days of Noah”(1 Pet.3:18‑20).

When it is realised, that the “spirits in prison” are not dead human beings… An understanding of Genesis 6 and the nature of events at the time of the Flood makes it clear that these spirits are the rebellious angels who apostasised from their lawful estate and assumed human form to live on the earth as men, and were condemned, after Divine judgment had been passed on them, to remain in the imprisoned state, neither on earth nor in heaven, which St. Peter describes in 2 Pet.2:4. as “tartarus” (hell in the A.V.) to await final judgment and sentence. “Tartarus“, its only occurrence in the Bible, is not hell or Hades. It is the term employed in Greek mythology to describe the prison of the Titans, semi‑gods who rebelled against the chief gods and were overthrown…. It is a condition of existence rather than a place and is probably synonymous with the “abyss” or “bottomless pit” of Revelation and the “deep” of Luke 8:31. To the Bible student it is obvious that the myth of the Titans is a traditionary reminiscence of the historical event recorded in Genesis 6, especially so in that these Titans were said to have been the offspring of Uranus the heaven‑god and Gea the earth goddess, just as the nephilim of Gen.6 were the offspring of the celestial sons of God and the terrestrial daughters of men.

It may be taken then that Peter is saying in this text that after his death Christ preached to the imprisoned fallen angels. Where and in what manner did He do this?

It has often been suggested that this “preaching” was by force of example, that the imprisoned spirits, witnessing our Lord’s loyalty to the Father while on earth, observing his devoted life and unresisting death, and his subsequent exaltation to the highest pinnacle of celestial glory at the right hand of God, were thereby recipients of a powerful sermon in action. It is thought that thereby at least some of them might have been influenced to repentance and conversion and therefore reconciliation with God. Col.1:20 is definite that Christ will reconcile some apostates from the celestial world in addition to men upon earth. There is therefore nothing unreasonable in this suggestion, unless it be the fact that Peter presents the preaching as being after our Lord’s death whereas the “sermon in action” would have been made largely during his life on earth before his death.

There is one factor in the text which seems to require an alternative explanation. The A.V. says He “went and preached”. The Greek is poreutheis which is the aorist (Greek classical tense denoting simply occurrence) form of the verb poreuomai, to go or to pass from one place to another. It implies that Christ definitely went to the imprisoned spirits for the purpose of this preaching. The A.V. rendering of the text is not so accurate as it ought to have been; “quickened by the spirit, by which” should be “in the spirit, in which“; it is so rendered by every reputable translation aside from the A.V. Perhaps the N.E.B. has it best “in the body he was put to death; in the spirit he was brought to life. And in the spirit he went and made his proclamation to the imprisoned spirits“. The Greek word en properly means “in” but not “by means of”. For the more scrupulous the literal rendering of the Greek text is “….being put to death flesh but being made alive spirit, in which also to the spirits in prison having gone, he preached“.

Our Lord was in the grave three days. On the third day He rose from the dead. It was only then that He was “made alive spirit”. Only then did He resume his former spiritual glory and re‑enter the world He left at the commencement of his humanity. Only after that time, the time of his resurrection, could the statement in this text be true. It is at least possible that after his resurrection, perhaps after He left his disciples and ascended to the Father, our Lord did in fact go to the spirits in prison and proclaim his evangel to them. Perhaps at that point they did for the first time have the door of salvation through repentance opened.

The judgment of both men and angels is to take place simultaneously in the day of the Church’s triumph (1 Cor.6:1‑3). Maybe this present Age and the future Messianic Age constitute a period in which not only men, but angels, have the grace of God offered to them by his messenger, and can, if they will, turn from sin to serve the living God. Mar/Apr’78

The identity of the “spirits in prison” is easily established. Peter himself refers to them again in his second epistle; “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell” (Gk. Tartarus) “and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment….” (2 Pet.2:4) and so does Jude “the angels 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” (Jude 6). (For full explanation of this subject see BSM Mar/Apr 1989 article “The Nephilim”. Ed.)

Jesus died on Friday; He was raised from the dead on Sunday. It was then that He re‑entered the celestial world from which He had originally come. But not until another forty days had elapsed did He return to his Father, at the Ascension. In the meantime He appeared from time to time to his disciples, not the man Jesus of Nazareth they had known, but now materialising in human form on each occasion in similar fashion to the angelic appearances recorded in the Old Testament. But all those recorded appearances could not have aggregated more than twenty‑four hours. Where was He for the rest of the time? Does Peter’s remark supply a partial answer to that?

The answer lies…in the foundation principles of the Divine Plan. God will “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim.2:4). “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezek.33:11). This is the Lord’s attitude and desire. and to accomplish this intention He has appointed the coming Millennial Age…under the supervision of Christ and his Church…. Jan/Feb‘90

The history of witchcraft and spiritism (spiritualism) through the ages since has been largely the history of these rebellious spirits endeavouring to break through the restraints that have bound them, and continue their evil ways. Sept/Oct’78 The Gadarene Swine

1 Peter 3:21 The like figure where unto even baptism doth also now save us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ

It is because the surviving records of those far‑off days are so scanty that we are not able completely to trace this aspect of the doctrine of baptism back to its probable origin…The Apostle Paul, whose knowledge of ancient lore was almost certainly far more profound than we today can easily realise, referred to something of this when he wrote in 1 Cor.10:2 of Israel, passing through the Red Sea, being “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea”. That was not a baptism of cleansing; it was a baptism of separation, of dedication to the purposes of God that they might be a chosen people, a Royal Priesthood, ultimately to become an instrument in God’s hand for the reconciliation of fallen man to himself and the accomplishment of his purposes with them. To accomplish that end they must of necessity pass through the waters that separate between fallen man in a sinful world and the eternal life that can only be achieved in God’s world.

Peter must have seen something of that when he likened Christian baptism to the historical incident of the Flood. In the days of the Ark, he says, a few were saved by water—were carried through the water and saved when all others perished—”The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ“. (1 Pet.3:21). He meant something very much akin to Paul’s words about Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea. Noah and his family were forever separated from an evil world, where sin reigned, by the waters of the Deluge, and they came forth into a new world which to them was a world of new and Divine life, a world where the Spirit of God could have full scope for the exercise of beneficent power and the righteous live according to the dictates of their own pious hearts with none to make them afraid. The fact that in after days the world relapsed again into evil does not spoil the picture of the new, renovated world into which Noah and his family entered when they emerged from the Ark, nor of the fact that we who by baptism are separated just as surely from a doomed and dying world come forth to a new order of things. July/Aug’84

“Far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” (Eph.4:10). This is a more profound and comprehensive truth than the simple and matter‑of‑fact statement in 1 Pet.3:22 “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” but both texts refer to the same thing. The words of Peter are capable of interpretation in terms of space and time and open up to view a picture of Christ sharing the glory of the Father in heaven, the while He is waiting for the “due time” in human history when He is to return to earth again, and that is about the easiest manner in which human beings can grasp the great truth. Jan/Feb’81