Did Jesus Preach to Spirits in Hell according to 1 Peter 3:18, 19?


Let's read the passage in question: 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:

1 Peter 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

After reading the passage on the surface, several people assume that Jesus went to hell and delivered the gospel to the spirits of the dead. Is this what the verses really mean?


We will discover the following if we read the passage carefully and if we try to understand the context of the passage:


  • It was the Holy Spirit who preached, not Jesus

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:

1 Peter 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

  • The preaching was done to spirits in prison, not spirits in hell.

Throughout the Bible, the terminology "of being in prison" is used to describe people who are bound in the house of sin. (Psa 142:7) "Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me."

(Isa 61:1) "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;"

  • The preaching was done while the ark was being built

1Pe 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

1Pe 3:20 Which sometime 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.

  • Peter is comparing the work of the Holy Spirit in saving people through the flood and the work of the Holy Spirit in saving people through baptism

1Pe 3:20 Which sometime 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.

1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:



This passage is also commonly used to prove the teaching of purgatory and/or salvation after penalty. Problems with this interpretation:

  1. The passage does not mention that Jesus went to hell.

  2. If He went to hell, why did he just preach to people who lived during Noah's time?

  3. Peter talks about being saved by water, not by hell.

  4. If the preaching was done in hell, 1 Peter 3:21 would not make any sense

1Pe 3:21 "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:" Apparently, Jesus did not go hell to deliver the Gospel to the Spirits of the Dead. Instead it was the Holy Spirit who ministered to people who are in prison in the time of Noah.


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