1 Peter – Chapter Three XXXII

by Ed Urzi

“in which He also went and preached to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the great patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons [Noah’s family], were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:19-20 AMP).

One interpretation of 1 Peter 3:20 associates these incarcerated spirits with the demonic entities who promoted the moral corruption that characterized the world prior to Noah’s flood. One source offers a helpful synopsis of this view: “Christ’s announcement of his victory over evil to the fallen angels who await judgment for their role in leading the Noahic generation into sin; this proclamation occurred sometime between Christ’s death and ascension.” (1)

This suggests that a select group of fallen angels has been imprisoned, while others maintain a degree of freedom. The following exchange between Jesus and a group of malevolent spiritual entities may serve to identify that prison: “…they begged [Jesus] that He would not command them to go out into the abyss” (Luke 8:31).

The Scriptures associate this abyss with “the abode of demons,” a place so deep that it defies measurement. In fact, the word “abussos” in the original language of that passage means “bottomless.” (2) The Abyss seems to be a place of incarceration for some exceptionally wicked demons. Revelation chapter nine also identifies this abyss as the departure point for a menacing group of creatures that tormented those who had rejected God. Thus, it appears to be a terrifying place, and the demonic entities of Luke 8:31 acknowledged Jesus’ power and authority to send them there.

The New Testament book of Jude also appears to shed light on this place of imprisonment when it speaks of “…the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6). Peter himself will make a similar declaration in the Biblical book we know today as 2 Peter…

“God didn’t spare the angels when they sinned but cast them into the lowest level of the underworld and committed them to chains of darkness, keeping them there until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4 CEB).

Thus, it is possible that Jesus entered this “penal institution” following His crucifixion to proclaim His triumphant victory over sin as well as judgment upon these members of the demonic realm. We will close our extended look at these verses with some concluding thoughts next.

(1) NET Bible notes on 1 Peter 3:19 https://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=1Pet&chapter=3&mode=print

(2) Abyss, The. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor