Who are these “spirits in prison” and what did Christ preach to them?
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 which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; (1 Pet. 3:18-19 KJV)
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:45 NKJ)
Upon physical death the human soul of God the Eternal Son was “quickened” by the Holy Spirit and He became a “life giving spirit” (John 6:63). Enveloped and quickened in Holy Spirit the man Jesus descended into Hell (Eph. 4;9) and preached to the spirits in prison.
Christ’s preaching to spirits in prison took place between the crucifixion and His ascension. He preached to those who “once disbelieved” (544 ἀπειθέω apeitheo) Noah’s preaching; that God would forgive their hybrid angel-human nature and save them. From Jude 1:5-6 and Genesis 6:4 its clear the “spirits in prison” are the offspring of angels, both Nephilim Fallen Angels and the “Sons of God” who had died in physically in the Flood (Gen. 7:21-23). Human flesh to angels is equivalent to “strange flesh” of animals to humans. The Hybrid Elohim-humans refused to believe Noah’s preaching:—that God would forgive their “Frankenstein flesh”, the corruption of the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) in them was not their fault (Ezek. 18:2-9).
4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,
6 And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman,
7 And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment;
8 He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man,
9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 18:4-9 KJV)
Christ preached the gospel to them, correcting their error and they repented. That is implicit in their response to the Gospel “giving the pledge of a good conscience to God” which is an antitype or “corresponding like figure” to the church’s belief in the Gospel and subsequent salvation:
20 They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water.
21 It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now — not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience given to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand, with angels, ruling forces and powers subject to him. (1 Pet. 3:20-22 NJB)
Our LORD Jesus is fully God and fully man, The Eternal Son of God and Son of Man. His Person subsisting in two natures. Only Christ’s human nature is affected here, put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit. Only the fleshly body died, not His human soul.
Like all humans (Heb. 4:15) upon death of the body Christ’s human soul became weak having been separated from God’s animating Spirit-breath (Eccl. 3:21) operating within His flesh body (Gen. 2:7); The soul separated from animating Spirit becomes a “shade” of its former self which is why the righteous are carried by angels to be gathered to their people (Lk. 16:22; Gen. 25:8). The Dead are represented as “sleeping” (John 11:11) “resting” (Rev. 6:11), “in Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; Rev. 14:13). But this is not “soul sleep”, they are aware (Rev. 6:9-10) but can do little on their own (Isa 14:10). When Christ’s human flesh was put to death God’s animating Spirit enveloped His soul animating it so it could accomplish the feat of preaching to the spirits in prison. Once “quickened in God’s Spirit”, His soul descended into Hell and preached.
From the Theology of the Old Testament:
Body, Soul, Spirit
Man, like all beings endowed with life, originated from two elements,—namely, from earthly material (עָפָר, אֲדָמָה), and from the Divine Spirit (רוּחַ), Gen. 2:7, comp. Ps. 104:29 f., 146:4. As in general נֶפֶשׁ, soul, originates in the בָּשָׂר, the flesh, by the union of spirit with matter, so in particular the human soul arises in the human body by the breathing of the divine breath (נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים) into the material frame of the human body. But although the life-spring of the רוּחַ, from which the soul arises, is common to man and beast, both do not originate from it in the same way. The souls of animals arise, like plants from the earth, as a consequence of the divine word of power, Gen. 1:24 (תּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ). Thus the creating spirit which entered in the beginning, 1:2, into matter, rules in them; their connection with the divine spring of life is through the medium of the common terrestrial creation. But the human soul does not spring from the earth; it is created by a special act of divine inbreathing; see 2:7 in connection with 1:26. The human body was formed from the earth before the soul; in it, therefore, those powers operate which are inherent to matter apart from the soul (a proposition which is of great importance, as Delitzsch rightly remarks). But the human body is still not an animated body; the powers existing in the material frame are not yet comprehended into a unity of life; the breath of life is communicated to this frame directly from God, and so the living man originates….
Thus the substance of the human soul is the divine spirit of life uniting itself with matter…
(4). But as the soul sprang from the spirit, the רוּחַ, and contains the substance of the spirit as the basis of its existence, the soul exists and lives also only by the power of the רוּחַ; in order to live, the soul which is called into existence must remain in connection with the source of its life. “God’s spirit made me” (רוּחַ אֵל עָשָׂ֑תְנִי), says Job. 33:4, “and the breath of the Almighty animates me” (וְנִשְׁמַת שַׁדַּי תְחַיֵנִי, with the imperfect). The first sentence expresses the way in which the human soul is called into being; the second, the continuing condition of its subsistence. By the withdrawing of the רוּחַ the soul becomes wearied and weak, till at last in death it becomes a shadow, and enters the kingdom of the dead (comp. § 78); while by the רוּחַ streaming in, it receives vital energy. With this explanation the Old Testament usage in connection with the terms נֶפֶשׁ and רוּחַ becomes intelligible. – Oehler, G. F., Day, G. E. (1883). Theology of the Old Testament (pp. 149–151). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.
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