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Are the dead with Jesus?

Submitted: 12/29/2010
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Question: My comment regarding your answer that we sleep until resurrected is that we are with the Lord in spirit upon physical death, just as those without Christ experience Sheol/Hades as the rich man in Luke 16:23. Consider Jesus made proclamation to the spirits in prison (Tartaroo) before He was resurrected bodily (1 Pet 3:19; 2 Pet 2:4). I believe we are with Him in spirit now and after physical death, yet all will be raised bodily and given new bodies that will never die at the resurrections...one for believers; one for unbelievers, on either side of the millennial reign (Rev 20:5). Blessings.

Answer: Thank you for your comment. You are certainly welcome to believe whatever you wish, but we obviously do not agree with your doctrine. As for your references to 1 Peter 3:18-22 and 4:6), we read that Jesus was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison. We agree that some consider the spirits in prison to be those who have died and are being imprisoned in a subterranean chamber while they await the resurrection. But notice exactly what this passage says.

First, it was the Holy Spirit that made Jesus alive and raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). So it is saying that Jesus went by means of the Holy Spirit (not His human spirit or soul) to preach to these spirits. So no part of His humanity did the preaching; it was the Spirit of God.

Second, the passage specifically identifies the spirits as those “who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah.” So these spirits in prison are not all of the disobedient people from the Old Testament period. They are only those who lived between the time when God told Noah to build an ark and the arrival of the flood.

Who were these “spirits in prison”? They were the people who did not get on the ark. The Bible describes these people this way in Genesis 6:5, 'The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.' Galatians 3:22 says that 'the Scripture has confined all under sin.' The word “confined” means enclosed or shut up together. In other words, people are imprisoned by their sins. This is the idea here. We think a better way of understanding the verses in 1 Peter is that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead was the one that preached to the imprisoned spirits of those disobedient people during the days of Noah, whose thoughts were only evil continually.

In his second letter Peter explained how the Holy Spirit actually did this preaching. 2 Peter 2:5 says that God 'did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly. So during the days before the flood, the Holy Spirit preached to the disobedient people whose spirits were imprisoned in sin through Noah.

The whole point of this passage is to show us that the same Spirit that is now working through Jesus to bring us to God has always been at work, preaching to people of their need to come to God, even way back in the days of Noah.