Christ’s Example of Unjust Suffering: Alive by the Spirit
1 Peter 3:18
1 Peter Lesson #109
November 2, 2017
Our Father, we are so very grateful that we have the time, the opportunity, to study Your Word. We’re thankful for the great opportunity this city has to celebrate with the victory of the Astros. I know many people in this city were praying for them, praying for a win. And we’re thankful that we can experience that and just have that great joy. Father, as it brings so many people out together in the celebrations, we pray that there will be opportunities also to talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and to share our faith with other people.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity that we have to study Your Word. We pray for those who aren’t here. There are some that are in this congregation facing very serious illnesses. We pray for their strength, for their courage, for their trust in You, for their witness and testimony to their friends and family. Father, we pray for those who take care of them, that they will help them and encourage them with Your Word. And that they would have a great tenacity in persevering in caring for those that are having such difficult end-of-life issues.
“Now, Father, we pray for us, that we might be focused on Your Word tonight and encouraged as we study Your Word. In Christ’s name. Amen.
We are in 1 Peter. But before we get into our passage, there is something else that we need to talk about. And that is what this day is. Today is November 2nd. I asked the question Sunday morning about what else was going to happen on October 31st. Most people think it’s Halloween, but it’s Reformation Day. And I said, “What else happened on October 31st?” Two people came up to me, and they were close. They were close; they were on the paper, but they weren’t in the bull’s-eye.
What’s significant about October 31st is related to today. Today is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration.
Here is a slide with the picture of Sir Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary for England during the time of World War I. He was a member of the War Council of the British government. Actually, the verbiage that was put into this letter was finally voted on and approved by the Council on October 31st. Lord Rothschild, Lionel Rothschild, one of the major leaders in the Jewish Federation, the Zionist organization in England at the time, was sent this letter in response to a question that the leadership of the Jewish community in England asked. Because at this time in World War I the British troops were coming up from Egypt. They would cross the Sinai, and it looked like they would be coming into historic Palestine at that particular time. Back in June they asked the government, “What are you going to do if you seize control of this territory in the Middle East away from the Ottoman Empire?” Because this had not been an autonomous country since the time the Romans destroyed Judea back in AD 70. It had always been part of some other government: part of the Roman Empire, later, part of various Muslim empires. But it was never an autonomous region. They wanted to know, “What are you going to do with it?” This was a response to this, expressing their desire. It was not a legal document. It was basically a policy statement.
It was sent on November 2, 1917, 100 years ago today. Then, it was first published in the paper on November 7th. So that’s a week-long period where I would hope that a lot of people are reading about this.
Now, some people are reading about it because, for example, Al Jazeera published an article last week that shows their propagandized version on the history of Israel and what was going on during this particular time and what was really behind—according to them—the Balfour Declaration. Of course, they get it all wrong and they don’t understand their history, like a lot of people.
If more people understood history … and you don’t just understand history by reading secondhand history. You have to read the primary documents—what those people who were involved said and did, so that you understand firsthand accounts.
In this letter Balfour writes, “I have much pleasure in conveying to you [that is, to Rothschild and the Jewish community], on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations.” Now Zionism is simply a movement that focused on the return of the Jewish people to their historic national homeland. It had to do with nothing else other than that the Jewish people have an historic homeland that God gave them—gave to Abraham—and that they were removed from by the Romans in AD 70. That was the second removal. And that they had an historic right to their national homeland.
This was in an era at the end of the 19th century with the rise of nationalism. “Nationalism” is a really good word that’s being perverted by some today. It’s a biblical idea. In Acts 17 Paul says that God gave people certain boundaries and established those. God is the One Who established nations and established borders. And those borders are designed to provide security to individual national groups. That’s biblical.
So this was part of that general movement. The Germans had united under Bismarck, various German states, back at the end of the 1800s. The Italians in 1870 united as well. And other ethnic groups united and established their own nations. And at the same time, the Arabs had a great movement for Arab nationalism, to be independent of the Ottoman Empire and also of any European. So that’s the background.
So, the statement goes like this. It was approved by the Cabinet of England. And it says, “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …” Now “Palestine” was not a technical term. There was no nation. There was no border. It was just a general region that was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was called Syria, Palestine. Part of modern Palestine, Israel, part of modern Jordan—all of this was part of this sort of anomalous region in the Middle East. And they were to establish, in Palestine, “a national home for the Jewish people.”
“… and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine (that would be the Arabs and Druze and others), or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” So that’s the heart of it.
Now what you’ll usually hear from people who are anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-Zionist—which are basically synonymous concepts—is that this had no legal status. You’re exactly right: no legal status at all. It was simply an expression of British desire.
At the time they had no control. Their military had not conquered this territory. It was simply a hope and a dream. What gave it value was something that few people understand. At the end of World War I, just like at the end of any war, you basically have a closing statement. Like when you buy a house.
Part of what happens when you close on a house is that there is going to be survey of the property to make sure your property lines are all correct and in order. They make sure there’s a title search so that the accurate title for this property is on record and filed and that you have a clear deed of title to the place. And that’s what happens at the end of a war.
You have World War I between Germany and Austria-Hungary and the allies—France, Belgium, and Holland, and England, and the Japanese. The Italians, as well, are fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany and, initially, Russia. So that’s the issue.
So what has to happen at this point, at the end of the war, is that they have to decide who now owns what real estate and redraw all the boundary lines. Which is what they did in Paris; they redrew all the boundary lines in Germany and all of these. And that’s the legal procedure.
Since the Ottoman Empire was allied with the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they too had to be broken up. It was falling apart. So those nations were given the authority by all of the powers that won to redraw the borders in the Ottoman Empire. They didn’t have time to do that in Paris in 1918 and 1919. So they met in 1920 in a place in Italy call San Remo.
This was all part of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
In that Covenant that was established in 1919, it said that these peoples who were in these areas where there hadn’t been any nations or national government or anything before, that they would come under a tutelage of these European powers whose responsibility it was to help them organize and become self-governing. They were called “Mandatories,” because they were given a legal mandate by the UN to rule those nations.
So when they came together in 1920 at San Remo, you had the four principal powers of the allied nations plus the US as an observer. Because we had never declared war against the Ottoman Empire, so we weren’t part of that. It was just Japan and Italy, France, and Britain. And they came together.
Part of what came out of that was the British Mandate. It’s a legal document. There was a French Mandate that was given to the French. The French were given authority over Lebanon and Syria. And the British were given authority over Palestine and Mesopotamia, which we now call Iraq.
This is from the preamble. And it’s important to know who wrote the preamble. The preamble was written by Arthur Balfour. In the preamble, he quotes specifically from the Balfour Declaration. He says, “the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory (that would be Britain) should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said powers...” In other words, until this point, it’s just a wish and a dream and a policy statement. But at this point the verbiage is taken in total by this document, which is voted on and approved by 56 nations in the League of Nations. At that point it becomes international law.
It goes on to say that there would be, “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” And it goes on to define—-quotes it verbatim. There was one change that was made in this document.
Fifty-one nations signed off on this. And in the preamble, there was one change that was made.
Here it quotes it verbatim and it says, “… a national home for the Jewish people.” But when it is described later on in the document ... Balfour says … This was the original language that they had wanted, but the cabinet debated it and they took it out and changed it. It was originally designed to say, “reconstituting.” What does that imply? That implies that they had an historic right, that it was previously their country.
“Reconstituting their national home in that country.” That defines “national home” as being the ancient nation. And when they were asked when they had these interchanges …. I believe it was the Italian minister who asked Lloyd George and said, “What do you mean by “Palestine?” And Lloyd George’s response was, “from Dan to Beersheba,” which is the biblical term describing the borders of Israel, from Dan in the far north to Beersheba in the south. And they would’ve just pulled out a Bible map at that time to show what that meant. It was a return to the biblical boundaries of the nation.
This is what was established by the Balfour Declaration. It is abused by a lot of people who don’t like it, because it was a recognition, i t was a legal document incorporated into the San Remo resolutions, incorporated into the British Mandate. And the British Mandate is still in effect.
During World War II when the League of Nations was coming to a close and was going to be replaced by the United Nations. In the documents closing down the League of Nations and going to the UN, the UN charter says that they are bound by all legal treaties that had been entered into by the League of Nations. Which meant that they were bound by international law to uphold this. The problem is—they never did.
The British had been ignoring it for about fifteen years. And this is what’s happening in our world today—if people don’t like the law, they just ignore it. We’ve gone from moral relativism to legal relativism, and that is wrong. We are a people. What makes us civilized, coming out of our Judeo-Christian heritage, is that we are a people of law.
If you don’t like the law, there are ways that are set forth in the law to change the law. That’s how we get amendments to the Constitution. You go through these legally defined ways to change the law. We’ve done that many, many times in the history of this nation.
But when you just violate the law and nobody calls you on it and nobody holds you accountable, that is barbarism. That is uncivilized. That just leads to mass chaos and disorder. And this is happening. This is why we have all these problems in the Middle East, because the powers that should have insisted on legal obedience didn’t have the guts to do it and they backed off. So everything just deteriorates, and nobody is in charge.
The same thing is happening in Europe with the influx of all these illegal so-called “refugees.” The same thing is happening here in the United States. There has to be the rule of law. And the law—whether you like it or not—has to be followed and it has to be enforced. Otherwise, you’re just no better than barbarians in chaos.
That’s the value of the Balfour Declaration. And we celebrate its 100th anniversary today.
Now let’s turn in our Bibles to 1 Peter 3:18–22. As I stated last week in my introduction to this section, this is a really difficult passage to interpret. That doesn’t mean that what you have heard being taught in this passage is not true, but there are difficulties.
I made a comment last week about Martin Luther saying, “This is a strange text and certainly a more obscure passage than any passage in the New Testament. I still do not know for sure what the apostle meant.” And there are a lot of scholars who could go along with that. Millard Erickson, a contemporary theologian and scholar, has said that there’s at least 180 different exegetical combinations.
Now exegesis is when you look at this passage and you have to break down the words in terms of understanding the word meaning. C ould the word mean this? Could the word mean that? You look at the grammar. You look at the syntax. You look at the phrases like in the flesh and by the Spirit. In the original Greek those are dative nouns. In what sense are they to be understood? What’s the nuances there? That is what you have to decide as an exegete.
There are about—depending on the grammar you’re looking at—twenty-two to twenty-eight different uses of the dative. You have to make those decisions. So there’s a lot of debate that goes on there.
There’s also a little textual problem here where it says “bring us to God”. In the Textus Receptus, which is the basis for the King James translation, it says “bring you to God”. It is probably “bring us to God,” because of various things. The witnesses are split. The Byzantine documents support one; some support the other.
So, contextually, it’s probably “bring you to God”. It should be “bring you to God”, as you have in the New King James. The Textus Receptus is a minority set of Majority Text documents. The majority of those would go along with “bringing you to God”. That’s what Paul is talking about here—how this applies to those to whom he is writing.
Now, let’s review just a little bit about the background here. If you look at the previous verse, verse 17, Paul ended the previous paragraph by saying, “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” That’s the principle. That’s a hard principle for a lot of people and a lot of Christians to apply, because we would rather do a right thing a wrong way, operating on pragmatism, thinking that the end justifies the means.
But what Peter is saying here—and what the rest of Scripture emphasizes—is a right thing has to be done the right way, or you’ve destroyed your integrity in the process. You can’t violate principles of ethics because you think that the end justifies the means.
Jesus did not do that. That’s what the important point here is. He immediately goes into an explanation at the beginning of verse 18, and it begins with a Greek phrase which means that he is explaining 1 Peter 3:17 and why it’s the will of God to suffer for doing good rather than doing evil. And that includes what you do, and why you do it, and how you do it.
That’s one of the greatest difficulties in modern relativistic Western civilization, is this idea that the end justifies the means. I used to have fascinating arguments with students and professors when I was in seminary. Usually it was Tommy Ice and me going into these kinds of things. Because people get the idea that, well, if you do something and it brings a lot of people to church, it must be the right thing, because look at those results.
But the way you’re doing it can violate your basic principles of Scripture. So they would often have a right goal, but they’re going about it the wrong way. They think that methodology—how you do what you do—is neutral. But there’s nothing in God’s creation that’s neutral. We have to look at whether the way we do it is right or wrong.
Americans have no clue about this. They have become pragmatists since the end of the 19th century. For too many Americans and businessmen it’s all about: Is it successful? Does it get more people? Does it make more sales? If it does, it’s right, and if it doesn’t, then it’s wrong. If it builds a big church and attracts a lot of people, then it must be the right thing to do.
The only problem is when you get into the Bible, you see the more Jesus teaches about truth, the more people leave. So by the time you get to the Garden of Gethsemane, He’s got eleven men left. Because He’s doing the right thing the right way, and people don’t want that. They want Him to bring in the kingdom and destroy the Romans. That would be doing a right thing in a wrong way—that is, freeing the people. He’s going to free them spiritually, and they just don’t understand it. They want to have the crown without the Cross.
Jesus does everything right, and everybody leaves. And in modern pragmatism, what 99.9 percent of churches and pastors operate on is, He had to be doing things wrong. Because if He did it right, He’d have a big church.
But the reality is that the reason we have so many big churches today is that they are doing things wrong. They don’t teach the Word. Other than if they do, it is just skimming the surface. They don’t dig down into the deep things of the Word of God. Because the more you teach what God expects of people, the fewer people will hang around and listen.
So we need to get into these particular areas. We have to understand that what we do and how we do it is just as important as our end goal.
So Peter explains this. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust.” Don’t tell me that you’re justified in acting a certain way because you’re a victim. Nobody was a greater victim of sinful man than Jesus. And Jesus didn’t protest. Jesus didn’t strike back. In fact, as we have seen in our study in Matthew, when Peter strikes out and cuts off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant, Jesus picks it up and says, “Is it okay if I put this back?” And puts it back on the guy’s head and he is perfectly healed. He is not out to justify Himself. And that is a problem today in the way many things are handled.
So, Jesus is the pattern. He is the One Who suffered once for sins. We talked about that. It’s not like the Jewish sacrificial system, where you have sacrifice after sacrifice all year round. It’s not like the Roman Catholic system where you have Christ being re-sacrificed every time there’s a Mass. It’s a once for all death on the cross. He is the Righteous One Who dies for the unrighteous ones, for the purpose of bringing us to God. And we covered the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and reconciliation.
That brings us to the last part of this phrase “that He might bring us to God,—that’s reconciliation—being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” Now what I’ve done underneath this is that I’ve got one line here that’s the Greek; underneath that I have the transliteration of the Greek. Now, I know you can’t read the Greek, but you can pick up what I’m going to say in just a minute. And down here [bottom of slide] is how it should be translated.
The Greek says, THANATOTHEIS, which is a passive verb meaning “to be put to death.” It has what we call a particle. You have a MEN; then here you have a DE. Whenever you have a MEN-DE construction, what that means is you are offering two contrasting things. You’re saying, “On the one hand, this; but on the other hand, that.” So, it indicates a clear contrast.
So it’s saying He was put to death on the one hand. There’s no article here. It’s just the noun from SARX for “flesh,” and it’s in the dative case. Well, a dative case can mean location: in the sphere of the Spirit. It can mean sphere; it can mean means, “by means of the Spirit.” It can mean reference, “with reference to the Spirit.” There are about twenty-two different options technically, but only about four or five are really possible, really would make sense. And it is set up here.
In the next line that’s exactly parallel to it, you have a verb that’s the opposite of THANATOTHEIS. THANATOS means death. ZOOPOIETHEIS means to be made alive. So you have on the one hand, put to death by the flesh, or with the flesh, or in the flesh, and on the other hand made alive with reference to the Spirit, in the Spirit, by the Spirit, to the Spirit, something of that sense. I indicated that kind of translation down here [bottom of slide].
So when I talked about how Millard Erickson says there are 180 different exegetical options, if you know probabilities and things, you can translate this dative one way, you can translate that dative another way. You’ve got about eight options to translate the first one one way, eight options to translate the other way. Then you work out all the probabilities, and all of a sudden that gets you maybe twenty-five or thirty different options. And that’s just for those two words.
There is a huge amount of debate and discussion about how these should be understood. One of the big mistakes done here is that they think that because there’s this parallelism—even though it’s antithetical parallelism—that they should be translated in the same way. But that makes a bit of a mistake. That’s a bit of a problem and causes people to go off into some rather strange areas of interpretation.
Now one of the things that I want to point out here as we go through this is that when I teach, I like to go into these kinds of details. Now, some people don’t like it when pastors go into details, and there’s a problem with that. Why is it important for a pastor to go into these kinds of details and explaining why he translates the passage a certain way and why you should come to understand that? And that takes us all back to when we were kids.
One of my favorite things—you know I’m being sarcastic—is math. We all know that at some point in our education you have to take math tests. So you’re given a math problem to solve. Now, sometimes, if you’re somewhat intuitive, or you’re bright with numbers or something, you might look at that and you might say, “I know what the answer is.” You just write down the answer, and you get the answer right. You turn your test in, and the teacher takes off because you didn’t what? You didn’t show your work.
See, what I’m doing here is that I’m showing the work. It’s the same thing. Because there are a lot of pastors who sometimes, when they look at a passage … Right now I’m writing a technical paper for Pre-Trib on the Olivet Discourse, and there are a lot of dispensational Pre-Trib theologians and pastors who have the right theological framework. But if they showed their work, it’s really bad. They come, eventually, to the right conclusion in terms of their broad theology, but they will misinterpret the passage and mishandle it, because they’re getting the right answer from their theology, but they’re not doing the right thing when they show their work. So it’s important to understand that.
Now, why is that? It’s because the Bible tells us somewhere—like five verses ago or three verses ago. See, I’m numerically challenged. Four verses ago. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense—an answer—to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,” in verse 15. Now to “give an answer” means to explain why you did something. So the Bible tells you that we’re to show our work! You know, you just can’t go to church and say, “Well, I just want to know the bottom line, Pastor.” And if a pastor responds and says, “Okay, I’m just going to give you the bottom line,” which is what 99 percent of these churches do, then he’s violating Scripture because he’s not showing his work! Part of the problem is because:
a) a lot of pastors aren’t trained to show their work and
b) they don’t know how to show their work.
They’re kind of like I am solving a quadratic equation—they’re pretty helpless. We have to show our work. And a pastor should show his work. Because if I’m going to stand in the pulpit and say, “This is what the Bible says,” you should be asking me, “Well what about this?” and “What about that? How can you say this is what the Bible says?” So I’m showing you. And I go into these details from the original languages to help us work through this, because it’s not necessarily simple material.
One of the questions that we have to resolve is when you see this word here “Spirit.” This, right here, is the word in the original language. Now, is that capitalized in the Greek? No, it is not capitalized. Does that mean anything? No, that doesn’t mean a thing. Because in Greek they didn’t capitalize. You had some documents that were called minuscule, where we get our word “minus,” and it means “smaller.” And they’re just all lowercase letters. There is no space between the words; it’s just all lowercase letters.
You have other ancient manuscripts that were called uncials, and that refers to all capitals. So they didn’t just capitalize some words, like at the beginning of a sentence, or a proper noun. They either capitalized every letter, with no spaces in between, or they just put lowercase letters.
So when you look at this word in the original language, you have to decide, is this talking about one of eight different ways in which the word PNEUMA is used in the Greek New Testament? It can refer to a person’s attitude. It can refer to the way a person thinks. It can refer to the immaterial part of man, which just summarizes everything—his soul and spirit. It can refer to that part of his immaterial nature that is regenerated when he trusts in Christ, which we would call the human spirit. It can refer to the Holy Spirit. It can refer to demons and fallen angels, as it does in the very next verse.
So you have to go through and say, “Well, what is that? Is that talking about the Holy Spirit or the human spirit?” Now, I’ll tell you something and I’m not being critical of him, because I’ve appreciated his ministry and I’ve learned a lot from him. But there are some disagreements among good men on different things. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. Fruchtenbaum takes this as a lowercase “spirit.”
This is kind of an interesting case. It’s a case where a person comes to a right conclusion the wrong way. This is a position that’s out there on this verse, and that is that on the cross Jesus was put to death in the flesh. He also died spiritually. Between 12 noon and 3 PM, Jesus is separated from the Father when the Father imputes the sins of mankind to Jesus. So Jesus is separated from the Father; that’s the basic definition of spiritual death.
But then, the idea of this translation and interpretation is that before He dies physically, at 3 PM the punishment for sin is ended. At 3 PM God the Holy Spirit regenerated Jesus, or brought Him back into fellowship with God, and He is, as it were, born again. He’s not really born again—that’s a bad term because there’s a whole “born-again Jesus” heresy movement.
But what he is saying is that this “made alive in the Spirit,” that is, His human spirit, He is now in a spiritually restored relationship with God that occurred on the Cross. And so between the time that His body goes in the grave and the time of the resurrection, Jesus went to Tartarus and made this victorious proclamation.
Now, see, a lot of that we can agree with. At the bottom line, he’s got some points… Jesus, after He pays the penalty for sin, goes and announces that the payment is made to those demons that are incarcerated in Tartarus. But He gets there by what I would consider to be a questionable translation of PNEUMA here. In 1st Peter, Peter primarily uses PNEUMA to refer to the Holy Spirit. So you’d have to give a convincing rationale as to why this would not be a reference to the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the very next verse says, “by whom—that is, by this human spirit … by this spirit—He also went and preached to the spirits in prison.” Now, I have trouble making that work if this is talking about Jesus’ human spirit being restored to fellowship with God, that by it He goes to preach to the spirits in prison.
The other problem you get into is probably 80 percent of scholars will say that however you handled this dative, it has to be the same for this dative. But there are a few people who argue, “No, that’s not necessarily so.” There’s no grammar rule written anywhere that says that. There’s nothing that mandates that.
If you look at the whole phrase … That’s one of the things that has really happened in biblical language studies in the last thirty years with computer studies. We used to primarily just do word studies. What does this word mean? Where is it used? You get out your concordance. You look up the word for “righteousness.” You see that it’s DIKAIOSUNE, and you’re going to look for every use of DIKAIOSUNE in the Greek text.
Or you see it’s a word for love. There are different words for love. For a verb there’s AGAPAO, there’s PHILEO, PHILOS, or AGAPE. You look that up. But how would you look for a phrase? How would you look for every time that the Bible uses faith, hope, and love, like it does in 1 Corinthians 13:13? How would you study this and say, “I want to know every place in the Bible where faith, hope, and love—those three words—are used within five words of each other.”
How would you do that without a computer? It would take a really long time. Or you’re like some of these really brilliant Greek scholars that came out of the Victorian education system, who virtually memorized all of the Greek New Testament. They could click it off, but it would take them more than five or ten seconds like you can do with the computer today.
Often what we learn is that a word in isolation may have one meaning, but when you put that in a phrase like “kingdom” may have one meaning, but when you put it in a phrase like “kingdom of God,” you’re really not trying to figure out what “kingdom … of … God” means. You want to know what that phrase means and how that phrase is used. So it’s really important to search phrases, but that was almost impossible before you had the advent of computers.
But one of the things you should notice here is we have the phrase with SARKI there in 1 Peter 3:18 and PNEUMATI, the dative form of PNEUMA also. But skip down to 1 Peter 4:1—that is what develops out of this section. You have the phrase, therefore, so it’s a conclusion. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us.” Where’s that idea found? It’s found in 1 Peter 3:18. So 1 Peter 4:1 is going to pick up on the ideas that are in 1 Peter 3:18. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us.” How did He suffer for us? “In the flesh.” See, that phrase comes right out of verse 18. Peter is taking certain ideas in verse 18 and restating them with the same vocabulary in 1 Peter 4:1.
Then he says, (since this is true—back to 1 Peter 3:18), “Arm yourselves also with the same mind.” So you have to learn to think a certain way. “For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” Well, we’ll have to deal with that when we get there.
So we look at this, and we have to say, “Wow! How do we understand this?” It’s really important that when we look at this we look at the context. There are a couple of different things that we see when we look at this particular context. The first thing that we see is that he’s talking about Christ as an example of suffering unjustly.
Now, what’s going on? He’s writing to these Jewish background believers in north central Turkey, and they’re being persecuted. There’s a lot of opposition that they’re facing because they are trusting in Jesus as their Messiah. And so they are in this pressure cooker situation of opposition and persecution, and Peter is telling them how to live; he’s not telling them how to get to Heaven when they die.
So let’s go to this chart, a familiar chart for everybody. We are going to run into the word “saved” down in 1 Peter 3:21. “There is also an antitype which now saves us.” How often do you think the average reader who reads that thinks that it’s talking about going to Heaven? Whenever they see the word “saved,” they think that the Bible is talking about going to Heaven.
But the Bible uses that word for “saved,” SOZO in the Greek, to talk about getting healed from an illness, getting a demon cast out. It is almost a synonym at times for peace. It can be used for being delivered from difficult circumstances. It’s also used about getting into Heaven when you die.
So we break it down this way. Phase One means to be saved from the penalty of sin. So at that instant that we trust Jesus, that He died on the Cross for our sins, we receive the imputation of—or we’re credited with—His righteousness. We’re robed in His righteousness. God looks at us, sees Christ’s righteousness, not our sin, declares us to be just, and in that instant—that takes just a nanosecond—we are declared righteous. That’s the doctrine we studied Tuesday night, the justification by faith alone, which is what Martin Luther recovered, which is the cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation. But that takes place in a nanosecond. That saved us from the penalty of sin. Instead of going to the eternal Lake of Fire, we go to Heaven.
But then the word “saved” is used in the Bible to talk about being saved from the power of sin, and that relates to our spiritual life and our spiritual growth. So when we look at passages that use the word “saved,” we have to say, “Is this talking about saved from eternity in the Lake of Fire? Or is this talking about being saved and experiencing the benefits of our salvation in our spiritual growth and maybe being delivered from certain negative circumstances in this life?
Then the word “saved” is also used of the endgame in human life, when we die physically and we are immediately face-to-face with the Lord and we are glorified. We are saved from the presence of sin—no more sin nature.
So when we look at this passage—and I want to give an overview here—the illustration that is given between verse 19 and verse 22 has to do with Noah and the Noahic Flood. There are three keywords used here. “Saved.” It’s an antitype which now saves us. It’s the word “baptism” and most people immediately think of it going into water. But at the time of Noah, the people who are baptized with Noah are dry—they are in the ark. The people who get wet and immersed in the water are the people who drown outside the ark. So baptism doesn’t mean “get wet.” It has the idea of being identified with something or someone. We won’t get to this for a while, but I’m giving you the overview.
Then, the third word is the word that has to do with having a good conscience. Now, Peter uses that phrase for good conscience several times in here. For example, back in 1 Peter 3:16, after he says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” He says you do it with a good conscience. That means you’re not using an end justifies the means argument. You’re going to do the right thing the right way in order to glorify God and have a clear conscience. So that when people ridicule you, when they defame you as evildoers, when they say bad things about you, you’re not going to retaliate in kind. You’re going to have a good conduct in Jesus Christ.
So those three words together tell us that whatever is going on in this illustration with Noah, it’s not talking at all about getting into Heaven when you die; it’s talking about being delivered from hostile circumstances. When we think about that in the illustration of Noah, Noah faced external opposition. He preached for 120 years. From the time that God called him and told him he was to build an ark until the time he finished it, 120 years went by.
The passage in 2 Peter 2:4–5 talks about Noah as a “preacher of righteousness”. So we know that he proclaimed the truth of God’s Word and the gospel for 120 years and nobody listened to him. But they knew what was going to happen. They could see that he was building this enormous ark, and that is a testimony against them.
He is an example of somebody who is standing firm in the truth and being persecuted and receiving opposition from the people who lived at that time. Now one of the things we learn, if you go back to Genesis 6, about the people who lived at that time, that a goodly number of them were not pure human beings. In Genesis 6:3, we’re told that the “sons of God”, which is always a term for angels—it’s the Hebrew phrase bene ha Elohim—there are a couple of other phrases that get translated “sons of God”, but they’re not bene ha Elohim. That phrase always refers to angels.
These bene ha Elohim look on the daughters of men and say, “They are beautiful!” And they want to take them as their wives. So they have the ability to transform their immaterial body into a physical body. We see that with angels at other times. They are able to eat, drink, and sleep. So these “sons of God” apparently had the ability to transform their immaterial bodies to physical corporeal bodies where they could procreate.
So they had intercourse with these human women, and they gave birth to this crossbreed. Now what’s wrong with that is that God had promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15 that the Savior would be the “seed of the woman”. He’s going to be truly human. But Satan’s plan is that if he can corrupt the human DNA chain and genetically foul up the chain, then God can never fulfill His promise by providing Somebody Who is truly the “seed of the woman” and they would be a crossbreed mix of half angel/half man or something like that.
So that introduces another area of opposition. You have angelic or demonic opposition. You have human opposition. So Noah is facing these two areas of opposition from fallen angels and from the Nephilim. That’s what they were called, which is basically a term that just means monsters, and from the human beings who are unbelievers.
So you have both human and fallen angel opposition. Those angels are mentioned in this passage. Whatever we say about this passage, from 1 Peter 3:19 down through verse 22, it talks about how they are to face opposition and persecution. However we interpret it, it has to be interpreted within the context of what Peter is talking about. So that’s why he brings in what Jesus does after He’s taken down from the cross.
By means of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit Who enables Him to do this, He goes and preaches. The word there is not the word EUANGELIZO, which means to give the gospel; it’s the word KARUSSO, which means to make a proclamation. And He makes a proclamation to the spirits in prison.
Now, who are these spirits in prison? 2 Peter 2:4 also tells us about this same incident. It says “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned.” Now we only know about two times that angels sinned in the Old Testament, corporately. One was that group that followed Satan in his original rebellion and became the fallen angels. And then there’s another group that were called “the sons of God” that had intercourse with human females.
So, the only option here is the second group. Why? Because if he’s talking about all the demons, then all these demons would be in prison and you wouldn’t have any demons running around when Jesus is on the earth. So there’s obviously a division among the demons, or among the fallen angels. There are those that are active and those that have been incarcerated.
He cast them down into hell. Bad translation. I don’t like the word “hell” at all. It comes out of a Norwegian mythology background. It is the Greek word, TARTARUS, which is a sub area or a small area within Hades or Sheol. This is where these demons were incarcerated.
Now, that idea was very prevalent in this ancient area of Turkey. It was well-known there. People during the time of the first century and before were familiar with an apocryphal work—it’s not a biblical work, but it’s an apocryphal work—called the book of Enoch. The book of Enoch gives all kinds of details about this angelic infiltration that occurred at the time of Genesis chapter 6.
And people in that area … Think about where Turkey is located. It’s just south of Russia. Much later on all those legends and much that wasn’t biblical was passed on. If you advance quite a few centuries, then you learn about a group of just horrible barbaric warriors that came out the East. They were Mongolians. Because they were so barbaric, they were identified by the Slavs—by the Russians—as demons from Tartarus, so they were called Tartars.
So when you read history, you will read about the Mongolians who were called by the Russians and Europeans as Tartars. That’s from this Greek word, TARTARUS, because they are being compared to the demons that are locked away in Tartarus. That’s just a little additional information for your educational edification.
These demons were cast to Tartarus and delivered into chains of darkness—deep darkness—to be reserved for judgment. They’re not allowed to be loose again until the final judgment. And this event of their sin is then connected to what happened at the time of Noah in verse five. “And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah …”
There’s our word “saved” again. Notice it’s not talking about Noah getting into Heaven; it’s talking about delivering him from this angelic assault. “And did not spare the ancient world, but saved—or delivered—Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.”
Now there is a parallel to this, and that’s in Jude 6. Jude 6 says “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain.” See, that’s the same group as the angels who sinned; they don’t keep their proper domain; they don’t stay in their proper habitation in heaven. “But—they—left their own abode, He has reserved—them—in everlasting chains under darkness …” See, that’s the same language that you have in 2 Peter 2. “He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
Then they are compared to Sodom and Gomorrah. “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these …” Who is the “these?” The “these” are the angels of verse 6. So Sodom and Gomorrah sinned in a way that is similar to the sin of these angels.
What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? It was a sexual sin; it was homosexuality. That sexual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is identified or connected to the angels, so that must’ve been a sexual sin. So this substantiates the Genesis 6 view that the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of men.
And it goes on to describe Sodom and Gomorrah’s sexual sin, sexual immorality, and going after another kind of flesh. We’ll get back into this. I’m just giving you the overview here.
The reason we have 1 Peter 3:18 and 19 is it begins to introduce us to one of the most horrific episodes of opposition and persecution of righteous people in all of history, and that is what occurred prior to the Flood. So this is going to then connect us to understanding this analogy between the baptism that occurs with Noah and why you and I can graciously handle opposition and persecution in the Christian life.
[Slides 17 and 18 skipped]
So this introduces us to another issue that’s going to help. Peter says Paul says a lot of difficult things. Well, I think in this passage Peter says some difficult things. But there’s a passage in Romans 6 that uses a lot of the same vocabulary that Peter does. Now, I’m not doing what I call Rorschach exegesis.
Do you know what a Rorschach test is? That’s an inkblot test. You look at an inkblot and say, “Oh! That reminds me of a butterfly; that’s a butterfly!” or “That reminds me of a dog; that’s a dog!” There are a lot of pastors who do that. They see a word and they say, “Oh! That word reminds me of this.” Then they jump off the diving board into this other topic just based on some word similarity.
I’m not doing that. This is a whole contextual thing where we have the word “baptism.” We have the word “death.” We have “baptism into death.” We have talk about Christ’s Resurrection to glory, which is what we see all through 1 Peter, talking about solving the problems today, we need to have our focus on future glory. It talks about newness of life. All of this is connected to and grounded on understanding the Resurrection of Jesus as the foundation for our new life in Christ.
All of that to say … 1 Peter 3: 18. When you look at all the different options, the best option that explains and fits with the context is that Peter is saying that when Christ died on the cross physically, He was then resurrected, and He goes to—probably at some time between the resurrection and the ascension—He goes to Tartarus and announces that there’s been this victory over the angels. And where He then goes with that is in 1 Peter 3:22. That Jesus Christ, “who has gone into heaven—that’s the ascension—and is at the right hand of God,—seated, waiting for the kingdom—angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
That’s why we can be encouraged! That’s why Peter’s recipients can be encouraged! Because even though you are being unjustly treated and persecuted, Jesus Christ has defeated all of the opposition—human and angelic—and it’s all been made subject to Him. He’s seated at the right hand, waiting for God to give Him the kingdom, which will occur at the end of the Tribulation, just before Jesus comes to the earth. He has conquered the problem. Because He has conquered the problem, we can relax facing the opposition and go about serving the Lord with joy and peace, focusing on the glory ahead and not being overwhelmed by the opposition we might face in this life.
We will come back next time and go a little further into what’s going on here and the importance of the Resurrection in Christ and the basis for the Christian life. And then we’ll get into an introduction into the angelic conflict and Satan’s rebellion to God and how all that fits together.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things and be reminded of all that we have in Christ and all that He did at the Cross in defeating the Your enemies. And that we are to live in light of that reality, so that we can experience real joy and tranquility and peace and contentment in this life, focusing on the end game and our future role in Your kingdom and not being overwhelmed by the details of opposition or persecution that goes on in this world today. We pray that we might be encouraged by Your Word. In Christ’s name. Amen.”