We are in Lesson 8 of our walk through 1 Peter. And as we are considering Peter's Words of encouragement and instruction for Christians living in times and cultures of growing persecution, we come to a passage of Scripture today, and another in the chapter ahead—both of which Peter uses to draw us deeper into the understanding of Christ's suffering for us, referencing an event that has often been confused or misunderstood by many. But placed with numerous, clear Scriptures describing the same event, they give us the wonderful story of Jesus' journey during the three days His body was lying in that dark tomb. Let's take a short detour today from our continuing journey through 1 Peter, and look at this awesome event Peter refers to in his Epistle.
Let's open exactly where we left off last week as Peter tells us to do good to others, even in the face of mistreatment because it is better to be punished for following God in love, at any cost than to be punished for striking back in anger and malice. And as justification for his stance, here Peter reminds us that Christ suffered for our unjust actions rather than strike back, so He might save us as we should others. In this statement about Christ's Work of Redemption, Peter gives us a glimpse of an unusual event in Jesus' Ministry: 1 Peter 3:18-20. Peter tells us some of the details of the events which occurred while Jesus' body was in the tomb, but He was alive and well in the Spirit. When He went and preached to those "spirits" in prison who were disobedient in ancient times past. In this unusual passage, we have two questions that need answering in order to understand this event: what spirits, what prison? Who: spirits. Peter again, in his next Epistle (2 Peter) seems to reference these "spirits" in prison with even more detail, giving solid evidence for both, humans and angels: 2 Peter 2:4-9. Similar passages in other parts of the New Testament write about this same event in Jesus' Ministry. There seems to be solid evidence for both: Jude 1:6-7. These passages tell of a place where the fallen souls of men and a band of especially corrupt fallen angelic spirits of the pre-flood days of Noah were locked away, reserved for the coming day of Final Judgment in the future.
What: prison (and where is it?) Where: We need to first look at a story which Jesus Christ Himself told to a large group, mixed from Pharisees and Scribes, to lowly sinners. I don’t believe this particular story was just a parable but an actual event because Jesus uses real names and people to which they all could relate—which He does not do in any other parable. Listen to the final destination each of these two very different characters finds himself after death. Remember, this is before Christ’s redemption: Luke 16:22-26. We see from Jesus' words that all of the dead—faithful and unfaithful—were sent to a place other than Heaven or Hell before Jesus' gift of Salvation was completed at the Cross and before the final Judgment of the lost (Great White Throne). This place was divided into two separate abodes with a great gulf between them. The abode called, "Abraham's Bosom" where faithful dwelt. The abode called, "Hades" where the unfaithful dwelt. This is not just a place of waiting for those lost and imprisoned, reserved for future Judgment, but a place of the faithful souls who have died up to that moment as well—waiting for redemption. And just as the statements from Peter and Jude gave further testimony of the lost that are in Hades before the Final Judgment, the Book of Hebrews (probably Paul) gives further testimony to the faithful souls in "Abraham's Bosom" before Christ's Redeeming work in waiting: Hebrews 11:13, 14, 16. These were faithful, assured followers of God who had not received the promises of Jesus' Salvation at their death because Christ had not yet bought their freedom with His very life.
Let's next look at the similar and related passage which we will come to in our very next lesson—just one chapter away—so we will understand it when we get there next week—and most importantly—because it will catapult us into the final point we need to grasp from all of this. Just a few verses from where we started today in 1 Peter, Peter is still talking about those who are bringing suffering to them for their faith and what their ultimate destination will be: 1 Peter 4:5. This part makes sense because we know there are some deceased people who are awaiting God's Final Judgment of the unfaithful. 1 Peter 4:6: Here is where many Christians get confused or even go off on strange tangents that contradict Scriptures, sometimes claiming this verse proves people can accept Jesus Christ after death. A good rule of thumb is if Scriptures seem to contradict themselves—study closer—God knows what He is saying. In the light of all of the Scriptures we have just read and are about to read, the meaning of this passage becomes so clear. This passage is speaking of a time when after Christ's Redemptive work on the Cross—His Good News of Salvation, His single-most important act in mankind's history—could be shown to all mankind, even, and especially to those who had already been judged according to the sins of the flesh in their graves bodily. Hebrews 9:27-28: to the unfaithful (such as those to which Peter was referring)—this preaching would testify of the great love of God they had rejected so their judgment according to their works could be justified but to the faithful (Lazarus, and those Faithful in Hebrews). This preaching brought them the unfathomable news that Jesus Christ had died to take back the keys of death and Hell so He could set them free, and take them home: Revelation 1:18.
Let's put all of this together and see what truly happened at Jesus' Death, Burial, and Resurrection in three days. I want you to stop for just a moment, and drink in the intensity of the moment we are about to speak about. All of history on this planet earth; all of the Scriptures, Old and New Testament, ever written; all of God's Plan from the beginning of the creation of time itself; all of His dealings with man through the ages; all of the sin, death, destruction, chaos and pain endured; all of Christ's life spent on earth; all of His sufferings, mockings, torment, torture and death; all of the love He hold for you and I—comes to this one moment—this one event—in all of time: that moment Jesus proclaimed the Words,"Tetelestai" [It is finished] and hung His head in death on the cross. Jesus had told the scribes and Pharisees before His crucifixion: Matthew 12:40. When Jesus was being knitted together in the womb of sweet Mary, was there ever a time He ceased to exist? No way. [Gives serious light to abortion, doesn't it?] When Jesus' body was limp and lifeless on the cross and in the tomb, had He ceased to exist for those three days? Of course not. In light of these passages, we can see what Christ did during these three days in the heart of the earth. These events are some of the most celebrational and important works of Jesus' mission. Jesus, through His Death for His beloved won back the keys to Hades and Death. And with those keys in Hand, with victory in His heart, Jesus Crist stormed the gates of Hades. Where some had waited in anticipation—some in dread and hate—Jesus was there on a two-fold mission. Ephesians 4:8-10. How else could Jesus have first descended into the lower parts of the earth? Where Scriptures only describe one thing being located: Death and Hades dwell, then ascend again bringing freed captives and giving gifts to men? What else do you possibly think Scriptures could be talking about but this moment? These Scriptures strongly indicate that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as His first act of Salvation after the Cross stormed triumphantly through the gates of Hades as the heavenly warrior of the Redeemed to release those Saints of the previous age who had been waiting for their Redemption in His blood. Can you even possibly imagine the excitement those Saints felt as they saw their Redeemer coming to bust open the gates to release them? As they saw the One that had just suffered so horribly to come and be with them? As they saw Jesus' face full of love, excitement and joy? Can you possibly imagine the roar of the masses as He arrived in praise and victory? Here is the second reason Scriptures tell us that Jesus went to Hades: 1 Peter 3:18-20; Colossians 2:13-15 (spectacle). By nature, this action requires a crowd of witnesses which would be excited about the display. And the very structure of this text explains the moment in real-time, "Having disarmed them (at Death), He made a Spectacle!" Is there any other moment in Scriptures that could speak "Past Tense" about Jesus making a "public display and spectacle" over demons that were present before men since the Cross of Jesus? He went to those who rejected Him and especially to those demons who have worked so hard to condemn and destroy you and I to take away our eternal life with Him, to separate us from the One who loves us so much—to proclaim to them in a war cry of victory that they did not win; that He had triumphed over them; that he had won His beloved back to Himself. Can you possibly imagine what He might have said in those moments? What rage and excitement He must have shown? Again, Scriptures say having disarmed them, He made a public display, a spectacle of them. This is why I personally feel He must have crashed the Gates of the Faithful first because He wanted to parade His beloved passed those who tried to destroy them, allowing His beloveds to see, and be a part of the public display of His victory over them on their behalf. I have to wonder: did the train of saints parading towards those imprisoned spirits sing hymns and choruses as they approached? How could they not? Couldn't you just hear them approaching from a distance, growing louder, until deafening? Can you imagine Jesus proclaiming in proud celebration and victory: "You cannot have them; they are redeemed; they are mine. You will never touch them again." And then taking them Home forever more. These events now bring to understanding and give new excitement to verses hard to understand, such as this one: Matthew 27:50-53. The Scriptures are seamlessly bound together, and now those spirits left behind—demons and rebellious men—are still there to this day in Hades. The day of their release is spoken about in these two Scriptures at the Great White Throne of Judgment for the Damned: Revelation 20:10-15.
When you see the Sacrifice of our King on our behalf? When you see the excitement and passion with which He has freed us? When will you understand the love and desire He has to bring you home? When will you see the wrath He has against those who would reject Him and hurt His people in our fallen society today? Why do you even have to contemplate a decision to love and serve Him back, no matter the cost?
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