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Having understood Peter’s comparative style of writing, we can be sure the verse, “he went and preached to the spirits in prison” certainly does not mean that Jesus had been to Hades to preach the gospel to the spirits who died in the flood but are now imprisoned in Hades waiting for judgement. From the main passage, we will notice there are two groups of people in Peter’s comparisons: one group belongs to the time of Noah; the other group belongs to the time between Christ’s death and the rapture of the church. This period is also known as the Period of Grace and we belong to this group. As long as we know which group of people did the Lord preach to, the difficulties in the passage can be resolved.

The “spirits in prison,” actually refers to the people mentioned by the Lord in John 8:34, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” We are precisely the “spirits in prison” that have lost our freedom under the dominion of sin and have become slaves and prisoners of sin. “Through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison …” refers to the work of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in John 16:8 & 13-14, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes… by taking from what is mine and making it known to you… when he comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.” When Peter said “through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,” he was actually saying, that after the Lord had ascended to heaven, He came to preach the gospel through the Holy Spirit to the people of this world whose spiritual lives had been made prisoners and slaves of sin. The result of the gospel preached to the people today is similar to the response of the people during Noah’s time. In the Final Judgement, only a small number of people will be saved and the majority will perish. This was what Peter actually meant. The Lord had never been to Hades to preach the gospel to the spirits because the fate of all the souls in Hades was sealed. No amount of preaching of the gospel could change the outcome.

In summary:

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.[After the Lord’s ascension to heaven, He came and preached the gospel to the world through the Holy Spirit. These people in the world are the spiritual slaves of sin. However, they too responded in the same manner as those during the time of Noah - while the Lord was patient with them, they had chosen to remain unbelieving. Those that were saved by water from entering the ark were few – only eight in total. In contrast, the number of people that are saved today are comparable to the time of Noah, only a very small percentage will be saved.]And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”