1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Matthew 8:28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 30Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

Did the demons worry about being imprisoned by Jesus? Was there a prison for demons at Peter's time?

  • The same text is referenced in Jude who also quotes Enoch. Enoch 10:5-9 (depending on version) is where in fact this imprisonments subject comes from. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 3 at 1:04

Are the imprisoned spirits in 1 Peter 3:19 human spirits or fallen angels?

Did the demons worry about being imprisoned by Jesus? Was there a prison for demons at Peter's time.

The apostle Peter identifies these spirits as those who had “once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days.” (1 Peter. 3:20) Clearly, Peter was referring to spirit creatures who chose to join Satan’s rebellion.

2 Peter 2:4 (DARBY)

4 For if God spared not [the] angels who had sinned, but having cast them down to the deepest pit of gloom has delivered them to chains of darkness [to be] kept for judgment;

Jude writes:

Jude 6 (NASB)

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper dwelling place, these He has kept in eternal restraints under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

Clearly, Jesus preached to the spirits after being made alive in the spirit, Jesus made a proclamation to the wicked spirits regarding the fully justified punishment they are due to receive. It was not preaching that held out any hope for them. It was preaching of judgment. (Jonah 1:1-2) " The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me."

1 Peter 3:18-19 (NASB)

18 For Christ also [a]suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in [c]which He also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison,


The spirits were fallen angels, they were already in chains of spiritual darkness kept for judgment. What they feared was the proclamation regarding the fully justified punishment that they are due to receive. Revelation 20:1-3, 10, 14


I believe the reference is to human spirits, for at least three reasons:

#1 People who died in the flood

I believe the 1 Peter passage makes a straightforward reference to people who died in the flood—it is helpful to consider verse 20 in its entirety to capture the contrast:

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The fate of Noah and his family is contrasted with that of the people being discussed just before—these are people who were disobedient during Noah’s day and were not saved in the ark.

This then sheds light on the passage from 2 Peter 2:

4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes...

He’s citing 3 different examples to establish a point—that God can and does punish sin—and since those who died in the flood are separated in Peter’s list from the angels in verse 4 the same way Sodom and Gomorrha are separated from those who died in the flood, the logical conclusion is that these are three different groups. (Otherwise we’re left trying to combine all three groups and explain how the wicked at Sodom & Gomorrha are the same as the people who died in the flood).

Peter’s examples also appear to be listed in chronological order. This is further substantiated if one holds (I do) that Isaiah 14:12-15, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6 (see also the Book of Enoch quoted by Peter & Jude), teach about the fall of Lucifer (and those who followed him) before the earth was created.


Preaching to the dead is made more explicit in 1 Peter 4:6:

For 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.


#2 Disobedient long ago…in the days of Noah

“[T]o those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah” would be a very straightforward way to refer to people who were disobedient and died in the flood; it would be a very convoluted way to refer to beings who had been disobedient on the earth before that time, during that time, and since.

As noted above in the discussion of the parallel passage in 2 Peter 2, the angels in Jude 6 appears to be a reference to an event prior to the flood. The evil spirits in Matthew 8 may well be referencing the judgement of Rev 20, but I do not see any reason to tie them to the individuals in 1 Peter 3:19-20. The evil spirits of Matthew 8 were clearly still being disobedient in the present, and would not be referred to as “disobedient long ago…the days of Noah.”


#3 The angel/human distinction

This one is more general; but at least tangentially interacts with the OP’s questions. I am not persuaded that a clear angel/human distinction is warranted by the Biblical texts. As noted by Gina here, the Hebrew “malak” and the Greek “aggelos” mean “messenger”, which can have a wide variety of applications. See also Jay Adam’s comments here regarding the influence of mythology on how some texts about angels may have been misread.



I recognize that there are those who for a variety of reasons do not believe that the dead are conscious—some of my thoughts offering the opposite perspective are found here.

I suggest the dead are conscious as disembodied spirits and, absent a compelling reason to believe otherwise, texts such as 1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:6, and probably Isaiah 9:2 as well, which refer to preaching to the dead, say what they appear to say: the Gospel is preached to the dead. This then suggests the proclamation of 1 Peter 3:19 is not one of the arrival of condemnation, but one of good news (the meaning of “gospel”).

As I argued here, I understand that salvation is to be offered to all whether in this life or the next (doesn't say all will accept it). Some in the days of Noah apparently had no such opportunity in life.

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