The First Letter of Peter: Chapter 3:18-22

Study No.13: (1 Peter 3: 18-22)

In the previous study we discovered another aspect of suffering, not suffering for doing evil   but suffering for doing good. Peter had been dealing with how to conduct our personal relationships and how to maintain them with others whether they are saved or unsaved. He also spoke about the blessing bestowed by God upon His people who ate eager to do good to others and concerning the importance of giving the Lord Jesus the control centre or the driver’s seat of our lives and that this would give us a powerful testimony to all those who ask us to give the reason for the hope that we have, and that we should answer them with gentleness and respect. Peter also knew the importance of standing together as a unified body of believers in times of persecution which was increasing in frequency and intensity even as he wrote his letter. Peter now focuses on what the Lord Jesus accomplished on our behalf at the cross and what He did in the Spirit during His time in Sheol while His physical body lay in the tomb for three days and nights. Let’s now look at this…

Exposition: (1 Peter 3:18-22)

(Vs.18-20) “For Messiah died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,”

“For Messiah died for sins once for all” The Lord Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins was a once and for all time sacrifice that was never to be repeated (Hebrews 1:3; 7:27; 9:12, 25-28; 10:12, 18). The author of the Book of Hebrews clearly repudiates the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation in the Mass where the bread and the wine become the literal body and blood of Messiah and that it is a perpetual sacrifice that must be repeated. The sacrificial death of the Messiah our Lord Jesus put an end to the need for any more sacrifices and offerings to atone for sins as prescribed in the Old Testament before the incarnation of the Lord Jesus. He was the perfect sacrificial Passover Lamb whose pure and untainted blood fully atoned for our sins and cleansed us from them when we were born again.

Until the Temple was destroyed in 70AD by the Romans sacrifices for sin continued to be offered in the Temple. The Judaism practiced today is not the Mosaic Judaism of Moses as taught in the Torah. There is no high priest or a temple. In Israel they do have some bred red heifers which apparently qualify for the animal sacrifices and a blueprint for a rebuilt temple but as yet no temple or high priest. However, when a temple is built and sacrifices and offerings are made they will be an abomination in God’s sight because those offering them up to atone for sin are rejecting the sacrifice made once and for all time by our Great High Priest the Messiah our Lord Jesus.

We do know from the prophets Zechariah and Ezekiel that sacrifices and offerings will be offered up in the Millennial Temple on the original site of Mt Zion when the Messiah our Lord Jesus reigns from Jerusalem, but these sacrifices and offerings will be memorials to what the Lord Jesus accomplished at the cross in the previous age.

Just as the sacrifices and offerings in the Old Testament looked forward to the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah to come in the future, so In the Millennial kingdom the sacrifices and offerings in the Millennial temple will look back to the ultimate sacrifice that occurred in the past at the cross. In the Millennium there will be people born who will need to be taught about what the Lord Jesus did to atone for sin in order to establish the new and everlasting covenant.

In eternity in heaven, where time as we know it down here on earth does not exist, the central focus of worship is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world standing in the centre of the throne (Revelation 5:6). The apostle Peter it is believed along with Rabbi the apostle Paul were martyred during the persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 A.D., a few years before Mosaic Judaism ceased to exist when the temple was completely destroyed with not one stone left upon another as the Lord Jesus had predicted 40 years before it happened.  And then we read…

“…the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you (us) to God” At the cross there was an exchange that took place. Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”(2 Corinthians 5:21) (Philippians 3:7-9). On the cross the Lord Jesus became our substitute and God laid upon Him our sin and its consequences in order that He might bestow on us the righteous nature of the Lord Jesus which is received by faith (Romans 3:22). God treated the Lord Jesus as a sinner even though by nature He was without sin, that God might treat us as righteous ones, even though by nature we are sinners. We could render the text in this way; “He who knew no sin was made to be sin with our sin, that we might be made righteous ones with His righteous nature.” Spiritually God credited Jesus righteousness to our account and credited our sin to the Lord Jesus.

On the cross the Lord Jesus was separated from God His Father. His eternal relationship to God the Father as God the Son, and being equal with Him in nature, did not change, otherwise the Lord Jesus would no longer have been God and equal with God if this was the case. As it is written; “God was in Messiah reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It was His broken Fellowship with the Father that caused Him to call out “My God, My God, what have You forsaken Me?” His eternal relationship with His Father was not broken but His fellowship with His Father was, as “God cannot look upon sin” (Matthew 27:46) (Psalm 22:1-2, 6-8, 12-21) (Habakkuk 1:13). When the Lord Jesus cried out in agony at His broken fellowship with His Father, God was silent.

This side of eternity no one can really fathom what exactly happened at the cross when we are told that the Lord Jesus became sin with our sin in that He was so disfigured in His physical appearance beyond that of any man, and His form marred beyond human likeness, being the effects of the sin that had been laid upon His physical body (Isaiah 52:14). Only in eternity we will know as we are known by God what really took place in the body of our Lord Jesus on the cross. Having said this, on the cross He did not cease to be God the Son as the righteous one dying in the place of the unrighteous ones, even though the weight of the sins of the whole world rested upon Him. We cannot comprehend or even imagine how physically disfigured and almost unhuman He looked in His physical appearance.

The movies and pictures depicting Him on the cross cannot even come close to what He must have looked like bearing in and upon His body the sin of every human being that has ever existed and that will exist in the future this side of eternity. God has laid upon Him the iniquity (our rebellion and sin) of us all (Isaiah 53:6b). The awesome truth is that “God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

In light of this great exchange we are reminded once again that “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). As Peter declared on the day of Pentecost; “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:38-39). And then we read; “

“He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

“He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” The Lord Jesus died physically and rose again from the dead physically and there were witnesses who testified to this great eternal truth. He was no phantom being when He rose again as some suggest. When the Roman spear pierced His side when He was on the cross we are told that blood and water flowed. His physical heart had been ruptured. He was most certainly physically dead. Three days later He burst out of the tomb as a human being with a physical and glorified body that was solid and real but could also pass through walls (John 20:19, 26-29).

It was the Holy Spirit that raised Him to life again, the same Holy Spirit who will also give resurrection life to our mortal bodies at the rapture and resurrection of all of the saints of all of the ages. As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “But if Messiah is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Messiah Jesus from the dead will also give life (and immortality) to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:10-11). Our glorified bodies will be of the same molecular structure as the body of Messiah. As Rabbi the apostle Paul also writes; “But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Messiah, who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21) As the apostle John also writes; “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Messiah appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Messiah is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). Now Peter continues…

“…through whom also He (Jesus) went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” When the Lord Jesus was in Paradise in Sheol under the earth He actually proclaimed to those spirits His total victory over them and over everything Satan had thrown against Him. Primarily He was not preaching but issuing a declaration of victory as a herald announcing an important event. This proclamation carried with it the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed. Who were these spirits? Well Peter tells us that they were around in the time of Noah when God waited patiently while the ark was being built. For 120 years God gave people the opportunity to repent and go into the ark of salvation but they refused to go in and be saved. These imprisoned spirits were either the spirit angelic beings that co-habited with human women and produced fallen offspring as wicked as they were, or these spirits were those spirits of the people who had physically died in the flood and were also imprisoned in that compartment of Sheol where there was torment.

We see in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus this truth (Luke 16:19-31). Lazarus was in paradise and at rest with Abraham and all of the saved saints in the Old Testament, while the rich man was in torment, and between these two compartments in Sheol there was a huge chasm which no one could cross over from one side to the other. When the Lord Jesus died He went to Paradise in Sheol. He took with Him the thief crucified with Him saying “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Nowhere are we told in the Bible that the Lord Jesus went into Sheol to be tormented by the devil for three days and nights. When He was on the cross the Lord Jesus cried out “It is finished!” Redemption had been accomplished, declared and ratified for time and for eternity. The sacrifice was complete and Jesus’ experience of being separated from fellowship with His Father was over. As He died the Messiah our Lord Jesus committed His spirit into the hands of His Father.

Whether these imprisoned spirits were fallen angelic spirits or those spirits of the people who died in the flood the significant thing was the proclamation of total victory over all of the wicked principalities and powers in the unseen spiritual realm in the atmosphere just above the circumference of the earth. We see this exemplified in what Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “When you (we) were dead in your (our) trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your (our) sinful nature, God made you (us all) alive with Messiah. He forgave us all our trespasses, having cancelled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross! And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15).

After His resurrection, when the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, He took with Him to heaven all of the righteous saints confined in Paradise in Sheol (Ephesians 4:8). Those disobedient spirits were left behind in Sheol. Before Jesus’ resurrection no man had ascended into heaven except He the Messiah who came down from heaven but also had direct access to heaven (John 3:13 KJV). At His resurrection many of the tombs of the saints that had died were open and they rose again and physically appeared in Jerusalem to many people (Matthew 27:52-53).

(Vs.21) “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Messiah,”

Peter re-emphasise the spiritual reality of our baptism. When we were baptised we were cut off from the Egypt of this world and its overlord Satan symbolised by Pharaoh of Egypt. When Israel passed through the Red Sea with Moses leading them the water cut the Israelites off from Egypt when the waters closed over the Egyptians. The old way of life in Egypt had been severed and their new life had begun. The Cloud of God’s presence then led them as they journeyed through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Rabbi the apostle Paul writes about this. “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was the Messiah” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

In the Bible metaphorically Egypt represents the world with its sinful passions, desires and lures. Pharaoh represents its overlord Satan. Moses represents the Messiah our Lord Jesus. The Red Sea represents our baptism into the Messiah as the Israelites by passing through water were baptised into Moses. The cloud represents the Holy Spirit who baptises us into the Body of Messiah and leads us through the wilderness of this world to our ultimate destiny being heaven itself. The Promised Land represents two spiritual realities. It represents our spiritual fight in this world against spiritual strongholds and living a victorious life in a world where Satanic “giants” (spiritual opposition) and “fortresses” (spiritual strongholds in our lives and in the lives of others) still have to be faced and overcome by the power of the blood of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the Word of God, and by praying continuously in the Holy Spirit. The Promised Land also represents Heaven, being the final and perfect eternal state after the Millennium has finished. So in baptism by water we are cut off from this present evil world and its overlord Satan as we die to sin and rise to righteous living with the resurrection life and power of the Lord Jesus. It is a death, a burial and a resurrection spiritually speaking (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) (Romans 6:4-6).

Just as the remnant in the time of Noah were saved, so in the last days, only a remnant will be saved. As it was in the days of Noah so it will be in the days just before the Second Coming of Jesus. People were living as if God did not exist and knew nothing about what was coming until the deluge came and swept them away. Clearly they had chosen to ignore and reject Noah’s Message to repent and find salvation in the ark. Noah was called a preacher of righteousness and was calling on people to repent or perish (2 Peter 2:5). Now Peter uses the analogy of water. It can be life giving or destructive. The physical water swept away the wicked and drowned them. The water for them was death because it indicated the wickedness of their inner soul. In contrast it was the water by which Noah and his family were saved in the ark of salvation. They were saved because of their faith in God and in His Word which resided in their spiritually regenerated inner spirit giving spiritual life to their souls.

So then Peter uses the analogy of water in referring to baptism by immersion which signifies that the one being baptised has died to their old way of life and risen again to the new way of life (Romans 6:4) (2 Corinthians 5:17). Baptism in itself does not save anyone but just as water removes dirt from the body, so the water of the Spirit removes the filthiness of sin from the sinner by applying the blood of the Messiah and the power of God’s Word to the mind, the heart and the conscience, to purge it from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14) (1 John 1:7-9) (Ephesians 5:26) (Titus 3:4-6).

Water baptism then is the public declaration that we have a clear conscience purged by the blood of the Messiah by faith in Him and in His blood to atone for and to cleanse us from all sin, and that we have died to our old life of sin and unrighteous living, and risen to a new life of obedience to God and righteous living empowered by the resurrection power of the Spirit.

He is the same Spirit that raised our Lord Jesus from the dead and now lives in us who have been spiritually reborn from above by the Spirit, who will also  raise us from the dead  to live with God forever (John 3:3). Jesus resurrection is our resurrection. This would have brought great comfort to these persecuted believers facing a terrible death and severe persecution at the hands of Nero which was starting to increase in frequency and intensity throughout the Roman Empire as it was an imperial persecution. Peter then writes about the absolute power and authority the Messiah our Lord Jesus has over all principalities and powers on earth, in heaven, and under the earth, and in the unseen spiritual realm in the atmosphere. And so Peter writes…

(Vs.22) “…who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.

Right now we have an advocate with the Father, one who sits at His right hand and unceasingly intercedes for us before the throne of God. As the author of Hebrews writes; “But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25). We have a physically resurrected man in heaven with a glorified immortal body, who is fully human and fully divine, who still bears the marks of His wounds in His hands, His feet and in His side. He is our legal representative in God’s eternal law court and the one who has appeased God’s wrath against us because of our sins which have atoned for and cleansed by His blood (1 John 2:1-2). He, as God the Son, stands in the centre of the throne as one with God His Father and there He not only intercedes for us unceasingly, but also controls  the whole universe and has every principality and power both in the physical world and in the unseen spiritual world in submission to Him including Satan himself. There are things that the Lord Jesus allows him to do on earth because man was created with a free will and all those who are rejecting salvation are under Satan’s control.

However, there are some things God does not allow Satan to do in regards to those who are saved. Satan may persecute God’s people and even kill them physically but they are not dead or under Satan’s power but merely absent from the body but present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Satan is a looser big time, an absolute and final defeat pronounced upon him in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) His end is assured in the lake of fire along with all who have served him in this present age and all who will follow him in his final rebellion at the end of the millennial age to come (Revelation 14:9-11; 19:17-21) (Revelation 20:7-10) (Revelation 21:8).

Now the Messiah our Lord Jesus is not only the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the one who saves us to the uttermost who walk by faith in Him, and our Great High Priest who ever lives to intercede with His Father on our behalf, but also the one who has the power of an indestructible life! (Hebrews 7:16) (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:23-26). Our Lord Jesus was willing to go to the lowest place on our behalf, consequently God His Father has raised Him up to the highest position in the whole universe (Hebrews 1:3) (Philippians 2:5-11). We also as New Covenant believers and individual members of His Body, the faithful Assembly (Church) share in His authority which He has bestowed upon us to have power over Satan and every wicked principality and power in the unseen spiritual realm in the atmosphere just above the circumference of the earth which is Satan’s domain (Job 1:6-7; 2:1-2) (Ephesians 2:1-2).

We sit in heavenly places with the Messiah Jesus and everything that is under His feet is also under our feet as well because we are His Body corporately. This is why the power of Hades will never prevail against us as the Body of Messiah (Ephesians 1:19-33; 2:6-7) (Matthew 16:18). With His authority we have His power at our disposal to heal the sick, to drive out demons, to even raise the dead and most of all to preach the gospel of the kingdom to which the miracles, the signs and the wonders testify to (Mark 16:15-20). As the Lord Jesus Himself said; “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me—or at least believe on account of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:11-13).

We must never forget our position in the Messiah as His spiritual brothers and sisters and who we are and what He has given us authority to do in and by the power of His indestructible life released in and through us by the blessed Holy Spirit, the third person in the Tri-Unity of the Godhead! There will be times when our circumstances do not look good or feel good, and we will find ourselves wrestling against such things as anxious thoughts, conflicting emotions, difficult and trying circumstances, spiritual attacks on the mind, delays in our prayers, bouts of depression, anxiety and opposition and persecution for righteousness’ sake, but we will have the assurance from God’s Word through His unchanging promises that He still has everything under control on earth, under the earth, in heaven, in the unseen spiritual realm and in the whole of the universe itself, and He does you know! He is still in control of angels, principalities and demonic powers of wickedness. He only permits things to happen to us for our good, especially that our trust and confidence in Him might develop and grow stronger (1:5-7) (James 1:2-4).

The believers that Peter was writing to were facing opposition, rejection, alienation from society, loss of employment, loss of family members and close friends, loss of homes and possessions, imprisonment, and in most cases certain martyrdom which we see today in many countries under the heel of Communism and especially Islam and which is coming to the western democracies before our Lord Jesus comes back. The hope of these dear brothers and sisters in the time of Peter was that they would rise again and in the end co-reign with the Messiah in His Messianic Millennial kingdom and then after that enjoy Him and the awesome delights in the New Jerusalem that will descend from heaven to earth (Revelation 5:10; 20:6).

As the apostle John writes; “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:1-4).

In the end the persecuted Body of Messiah will see Nero burn and every other antichrist and all those who serve them burning in the lake of fire along with Satan, his angels, his demons and with the Antichrist and the false prophet themselves (Isaiah 66:22-24) (Revelation 20:10). In God’s perfect timing the martyrs would be heard and avenged by God Himself (Revelation 6:9-11).

To sum up what Peter has told us about what the Messiah our Lord Jesus has done for us we have seen He has died for our sins as our substitute. He was the righteous one dying for the unrighteous ones. He went down into Sheol and proclaimed His victory to those spirits imprisoned there. Through water baptism we experience the spiritual resurrection into a new life and ultimately go to heaven. Through our baptism God has displayed to all publically that we have a clear conscience before Him and because of a thorough confession and repentance of sin. He now intercedes for us and we have all principalities and powers of wickedness under our feet as we co-reign with Him in heavenly places!

Go to Study No. 14