|Dr. Couch, I still hear there are teachers that argue Christ went to hell when He died. Where do they get this idea?|
ANSWER: Most use 1 Peter 3:19 that reads: Christ "also went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah ..." They say "the prison" was hell where the unsaved were confined.
Some charismatics argue that He had to go to hell because He was a sinner and had to suffer there to placate God in order to rid us of our sins. Those who take this position or argue that the Lord was confined for a period in hell miss the context completely. "Made proclamation" is "karruso" and is the common word "to preach, proclaim." He did this with those who were disobedient (or disbelieving) while the ark was being constructed by Noah. Check out the full context of the passage. So this is not a general statement that indicates Christ is somehow being judged or seen as a sinner in hell. The "prison" could be the place of waiting for the final stage of judgment for the lost. The Lord is not being confined there as if He is a sinner.
By the way, "to proclaim" can mean "to herald," "to cry aloud." The Lord Jesus was making clear what the disobedient people in Noah's time had given up. Christ was telling them this.
The "spirits in prison" have been interpreted as confined evil angels in relation to Genesis 6:1-4. I am glad to see the comments of William Baker in my Commentary series on 1 & 2 Peter. We agree that these spirits in prison are humans and not fallen angels.
Baker writes what I hold to: He says "My opinion is that Genesis 6:1-4 is connected primarily with Genesis 5, which lists the genealogy of Adam and his descendants; thus, the reference to 'sons of God' and 'daughters of men' is to Adam's descendants." Baker goes on and writes: "Based on my interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, I reject the interpretation of 'spirits in prison' as angels and understand them to be human beings who were disobedient during the period of Noah's preaching."
To conclude: Christ was sharing what was true with the generation that was rejecting the revelation of Noah, but this does not mean He was somehow "judged" or confined in hell, as some try to argue.
It is good to see Bible scholars "think" and not just follow what they've heard others say!
This 1 Peter passage is difficult but my interpretation, along with Baker's, is right and makes common sense. Do not go to the flamboyant and "way-out" interpretations, and don't simply quote what someone else has said.
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch (8/10)