1 Peter 4:5
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

I hope it's OK to put 2 questions based on the same verse.

  1. When the author wrote the sentence that time, he said that God is ready to judge them. My question is : what does it mean "ready" ?

I mean, to me when I read the word "ready" ---> this made me think about the future. So, those "friends" (when the author wrote the sentence) has not been judged yet. This raise a question if the situation is something like (A) because the judgement will take place million years later or (B) because they are not dead yet.

In (A), after they dead - they are not judged yet.
In (B), after they dead - they are judged.

  1. What does it mean "judge the living and the dead" ?
  • This link might not fully clarify the exact meaning of that scripture specifically, but it does explain a couple types of judgement days that are relevant to your questions: What Will Happen on Judgment Day?
    – still_dreaming_1
    Feb 1, 2018 at 5:10

4 Answers 4


There is the aspect of the spiritually dead, who are not in Christ. Those that are in Christ are spiritually alive, the living.

However, 1 Pet. 4:5 was written approx. 64-65 AD before Peter died. It had a first century AD application which was the prophesy Christ had given in Matt. 24 - 25 when He said He would return at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem at which time several things would happen.

  1. He would judge those wicked (spiritually dead) who had crucified Him and persecuted His saints in the persecution (tribulation). (Matt. 24:27-51)

  2. He would bring all the souls who had already experienced bodily death and were waiting in Hades to be separated out. (Matt. 25:31-46)

  3. And, He would fully establish His kingdom, with its spiritual capital city of the new Jerusalem, with its spiritual temple of His body. (Matt. 22:1-14)

All of that was "ready" to happen, about to happen when 1 and 2 Peter were written as the Jewish - Roman war began about 2 years later in AD 67, and the destruction of the temple occurred about 4 years later in AD 70.

The judgment was ready, and was about to happen for that wicked generation, and it was not delayed (Matt. 25:1-30). Peter was reminding those who were waiting for it, who had been promised Christ's second appearance in that generation (Heb. 9:28).

Peter's reminder was repeated with Christ's Revelation to John in AD 66 -68 that all of the things He showed John in the prophesy of Revelation were shortly to come upon them (Rev. 1:1; 22:6, 7, 10, 12, and 20). Christ stated His soon coming to John five times in the last chapter, and He wasn't speaking of a 2,000 year delay.

When Peter said Christ was ready to judge the living and the dead he meant that the judgment was about to come upon that generation soon.

I have addressed the first century AD fulfillment of the prophesies as Christ and the apostles taught at my blog ShreddingTheVeil. I recommend beginning with the ten part series It's Not The End of The World at the bottom right margin in order to see how the time texts of the scriptures have been disregarded and skewed over the last 150 years. And, then read up through the other posts especially to The Signs of Revelation - Part VI: Judgment Day Chap 20; and Frequent Mistakes - Part III: The Last Day.

Matt. 11:13,

" For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John." (NKJV)

"Until John!" All of the prophets of the OT were pointing to John's coming, and then to Christ. The generation in which Christ was manifested on this earth was the generation in which all of those prophesies were fulfilled, including that judgment day that saw the end of the old covenant with the destruction of that earthly sacrificial temple in Jerusalem.

  • Gina, in your answer - do you mean that about "the judgment" in the verse, it is not about a spiritual thing but physical one which is the destruction of the temple ? Thank you.
    – karma
    Feb 9, 2018 at 15:36
  • Yea that is what Gina is saying. It's preterist doctrine.
    – diego b
    Feb 9, 2018 at 18:45
  • It was both. The judgment of the wicked evil ones who were still practicing profane animal sacrifice in that earthly temple at its destruction in AD 70, and afterward the opening of the gates of Hades where all those who died throughout all of the ages had waited for Christ's second appearance. Because after the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, Christ separated all of the souls out of Hades, the sheep to the right, the wicked goats to the left, and He took the sheep home to heaven. He then threw Hades in the lake of fire (Rev. 20). Ever since that day all who die in the Lord go home.
    – Gina
    Feb 9, 2018 at 23:51
  • There is no more waiting in Hades. That was the collective judgment day, the general resurrection day. It is now an on-going process for each individual at our bodily death. Those in Christ are resurrected and taken home to heaven (Rev. 14:13). Those not in Christ are cast out to outer darkness (Matt. 22:13). Please read the info at my blog. The scriptures are clear when you keep them in their proper time and place.
    – Gina
    Feb 9, 2018 at 23:54

I am not quite certain on the two questions thing either, but here goes nothing...

  1. The judgement from God has not happened yet, it still is to happen, although we do not know when it will be. It will be when the Kingdom of God is finished, and it is certain to happen, but no one knows the time. So it kind of is (A), though it may be a day or a million years.(Matthew 24:36)
  2. This is explained in far more detail then I could explain in the Revelation of Saint John the Divine, but basically Christians (Catholics, anyways, I am not sure with other confessions) believe that the dead will be resurrected when Judgement day comes and they will be judged by Jesus as per the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed.

Some commentators understood the living and the dead to refer to those who were spiritually and not physically alive and dead.

Augustine (354-430) wrote:

It does not necessarily follow that we should here understand those who have departed from the body. For it could be that by “the dead” Peter means unbelievers, those who are dead in soul. Therefore we are not obliged to believe that he refers to hell when he mentions the dead in the next verse.1

Augustine repeats this interpretation in City of God, XVII.18.1.

Severus of Antioch (465-538) interprets the living and the dead as the righteous and the unrighteous:

This will happen in the future, when everyone will have to be ready to give an account of himself, and no one will be able to stop him from doing so. For everything will be laid bare before God, who judges the righteous and the wicked. At that time he will judge and separate the ones from the others, as the Savior himself said: He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left [Matthew 25:32-33]2

Andreas the Presbyter (7th to 10th c.) seems to share this opinion:

Some people say that the soul is living and the body dead, but it is impossible for a soul to come to judgment without its own body. Rather here Peter calls the righteous “living,” because they do the works of the life to come, and the unrighteous he calls “dead,” because they are dead in their transgressions and dead works. But the gospel has been preached to both the righteous and the unrighteous, even to those who are dead in their sins, so that they may judge themselves by casting their vote against themselves.3

I think these interpretations make sense, since otherwise 1 Peter 4:5 would be implying that judgment occurs somehow while we are still alive. I think this would contradict many other Scriptures, including Matthew 24:13: He who endures to the end will be saved.

1. Letter CLXIV
2. Catena
3. Catena

  • Thank you for the answer, user33515. To be honest, I still can't get it. I mean it's not your answer which I don't understand - but I thought that "the righteous" = "the believer". And in John 3:18, He who believes in Him is not judged. I think I should make another separate question to know whether there is a difference between "the righteous" VS "the believer" or not.
    – karma
    Feb 1, 2018 at 16:32
  • John 3:18 actually should be interpreted, He who believes in Him is not condemned. κρίνω has two separate meanings depending on the context: (1) to judge (in general); and (2) to pass judgment on (as in, deliver a verdict). They are slightly different. That all will be judged - righteous and unrighteous - is clear from many Scriptures, probably most importantly Matthew 25:31-46.
    – user33515
    Feb 1, 2018 at 17:06
  • Regarding the righteous v believer, these are very loaded terms theologically. Righteousness is understood by some to be something that is declared, by others something that one continually strives for. Similarly, some view "belief" as being equivalent to some sort of pledge of acceptance; by others, again, as something that one must continually struggle to attain, continually improve and keep pure. The Apostles saw this: Lord, increase our faith!, they asked (Luke 17:5). In Greek, faith and belief are exactly the same thing - πίστις.
    – user33515
    Feb 1, 2018 at 17:16
  • Regarding John 3:18 and Matthew 25:31ff, see also Hebrews 9:27: And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment
    – user33515
    Feb 1, 2018 at 17:22
  • user33515, Am I correct if based on your answer, I "catch" your answer is like this : But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead ---> the "they" in the verse is referring to the ghosts (I know it's not a ghost, I use this word just to be easier to understand) of everybody who already died, both the ghosts who are spiritually dead at the time they died and also the ghosts who are spiritually alive at the time they died. Thank you.
    – karma
    Feb 9, 2018 at 15:28

To understand the meaning of “the living and the dead” in verse 5 you need to look at verse 6.

6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Here is the key to understanding the context. Obviously, the gospel was not preached to those who were physically dead. On the contrary, the gospel was preached to those who were spiritually dead or in other words, who had not crossed over from death to life.

As Romans 8:6 puts it:

6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The bible defines those who are carnally minded to be those who live after the dictates of their own heart and will. If you were a Jew, you lived after the Law of Moses and according to Romans 10:3, the Jews went about to set up their own righteousness through attempting to keep the law. The Gentiles, did not have the law, however according to Romans 4, they showed the evidence of the law written on their hearts since they were acting just like the self righteous Jews. The Gentiles were either by “accusing” others (if they didn’t act exactly as the Gentiles thought they should) or by “excusing” those who acted just as they did. In other words, they were showing partiality and that is evidence of living after the law. The bible says to live this way, ie on your own without the faith of Jesus Christ, is to be carnally minded and spiritually dead.

However, if you live by faith and believe that Christ died to atone for your sin, then that faith imputes to you God’s righteousness and by Romans 8:6 you are now spiritually minded. The result of being spiritually minded is life and peace with God.

1 Peter 4:6 then states that the Gospel was preached to those who were living carnally (after the dictates of their own will) so that they could be judged “according to men in the flesh”. To live after the flesh is to live according to the Law of Moses, ie try to attain righteousness (perfection) yourself, by living a moral life. As Romans 7:5 put it”

5For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

Again, according to Romans 4, the Jews were judged by the Law of Moses in order to demonstrate that they could in no way come close to live perfectly by the law. Remember, Deuteronomy 28 tells us that we must do “everything” written in the law in order to receive the blessing of God. That’s how the New Testament tells us that “there is none righteous, no not one”, (Romans 3:10) and as James 2:10 says that if you offend in one point of the law you are guilty of all.

The Gentiles then were also judged by the Law of Moses but not directly. Again, according to Romans 4, the Gentiles “demonstrated” that they had the law written on their heart, the evidence of which was their behavior (ie, either “accusing” or “excusing”). So, whether Jew or Gentile, all are judged after the flesh (the law).

So, as 1 Peter 4:6 rightly states, that the Gospel was preached to everyone in the flesh (since all sin and needs to be saved) so that they might live by faith through the Spirit of God.

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