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Aug 07, 2016 | Allen Hern

1 Peter 3:18-22 - Baptism~The Answer of a Good Conscience

        2016 - 30

        “Baptism - the Answer of a Good Conscience:”

    (Pastor Hern will also try to answer the question: Dis Jesus descend into hell as the apostle’s creed suggests?)

        First Baptist August 7, 2016 p.m.

    Subject: Hell and baptism

    Theme: An attempt to explain 1 Peter 3: 19, 20

    Passage: 1 Peter 3: 18 - 22


    As many of you know, both Sheila and and I grew up in the United Church, and every 3 months celebrated the Lord’s Table. When that took place, we read out 2 statements from the hymnbook: We read out “the Apostles’ Creed and a Confession of in.

        We recited the Apostles’ Creed which says,

        “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

    And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried:

        He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead;

    He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

        I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints; The forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

        “He descended into hell”. Did Jesus go to hell at his death to preach to the spirits of those who died in the great flood?

        We Baptists are not much on reciting the Lord’s Prayer or one of the creeds in our services, and I have no desire to begin the practice but is this statement biblical?

        It would seem that the statement “He descended into hell;” is based on verses 19 and 20 of tonight’s scripture.

        Let’s look at 1 Peter 3: 18 - 22 to see what it says.

        18   “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19  by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20  who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

        21   “There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”

        It is generally agreed that this passage has some of the most difficult exegetical problems in the New Testament so what on earth am I doing trying to explain it?

        Let me try to give you as simple a suggestion as possible while acknowledging that these two verses are not the most important part of the passage.

        To me, he problem is primarily one of translation.

        A word search shows that the word for hell throughout the Old Testament is “Sheol” 1) sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit Sheol was the Hebrew word;

        The word refers to the OT designation for the abode of the dead  1b1) place of no return .It simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.”

         The New Testament Greek equivalent of sheol is “hades,” which also refers to “the place of the dead.”

    “Hades”  hah’-dace was the Greek word.

    AV-hell 10, grave 1; 11

    3) later use of this word: the grave, death, hell, the infernal regions, a dark and dismal place in the very depths of the earth, the common receptacle of disembodied spirits. Usually Hades is just the abode of the wicked, a very uncomfortable place. TDNT.

        It would also appear that both Sheol and Hades consisted of two sections - one for the righteous dead and one for the unrighteous dead.

        It would appear that neither Sheol or Hades had the emphasis of a place of punishment, but rather as a place of waiting for the resurrection at which time the judgement would introduce the final state of blessing or punishment.

        Still, the parable of the Lord Jesus in Luke 16:19 - 30 contains a distinct reference to conscious suffering in Hades.

        In that parable Jesus gives an illustration of a rich man who misused a poor man, a beggar, 22  "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23  "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24  "Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25  "But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26  ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

        Here you see that there is a district division between the abode of the righteous and that of the unrighteous. Here the righteous are pictured in Abraham’s bosom which is also called Paradise as in the story of the thief on the cross  Luke 23: 43 “And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

        Paradise: 1) among the Persians a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting ground, park, shady and well watered, in which wild animals, were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters ;2) a garden, pleasure ground 2a) grove, park but also

        3) the part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of pious until the resurrection: but some understand this to be a heavenly paradise.

        I find it unfortunate that  the King James Bible translates Hades as Hell, just as it does in each of the other usages of Sheol or Hades. Although lovers of the King James version object, newer translations use their Hebrew or Greek names instead of the word hell and they are probably correct.


        The real word which can be translated “hell” is the word Gehenna, which in most of its occurrences in the Greek New Testament, designates the place of the lost. We heard about that place in our Pastor’s message from  Mt 23:33 The fearful nature of their condition there is described in various figurative expressions #Mt 8:12 13:42 22:13 25:30 Lu 16:24 etc.

        Gehenna, the Greek equivalent for two Hebrew words, signifying ‘valley of Hinnom.’ It was the place near Jerusalem where the Jews made their children pass through fire to heathen gods, and which was afterwards defiled. #2Ki 23:10. A continual fire made it a fit emblem of the place of eternal punishment. Jesus spoke of this dreadful place in many places, but I believe it usually or always had a future reference to the day of judgement, Mt 5:22,29,30 10:28 18:9 23:15,33 Mr 9:43,45,47 Lu 12:5 Jas 3:6. The above-named place of defilement and fire is also called in the O.T. TOPHET

        So, we come back to our question: Did Jesus descend into hell at his death: I believe the answer is no. His soul did go into death and the grave and into Paradise, the abode of the righteous dead.

        But what then are we to make of verses 19, 20, which speaks of him preaching to the spirits in prison, and I think the best answer is that even the most enlightened minds do not really know. Perhaps the real answer lies in the huge change that Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection made in the spirit world.

        Although the only reference that seems to be appealed to is Ephesians 4: 8 - 10, it appears that when Jesus ascended into heaven he took with him the souls of the righteous dead out of Sheol or Hades into heaven.

        8  Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." 9  (Now this, "He ascended"  — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

        It may well be that at that same time Jesus announced the final doom of all those unrighteous who perished in the flood, as well as all others held in Sheol or Hades.

        Certainly Revelation 12: 7 - 9 clearly shows that it was through the resurrection that Christ gained the complete victory over Satan, and that Satan was cast out of heaven at that time.


    1. The real message of 1 Peter 3: 18 - 22

        The real message is found in verse 18   “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”

        In answer to the question of our suffering for good rather that for doing evil, ( v. 17) the apostle shows us that the real suffering which makes all the difference is the suffering of Christ.

        As Hebrews emphasizes, He suffered once which was full sufficient for our entire eternal salvation. Therefore the mass is totally incorrect.

        He suffered once for sins, that includes all the sins we have committed or ever will commit, if we are true believers.

        He suffered: the just for the unjust, His holy righteous soul was given to pay the price for all our unrighteousness.

        that He might bring us to God, In ourselves, we could never approach God. We would remain forever separated from Him, as those unrighteous dead of all time are forever separated fronm God. Now, by His grace, we who were fare off are made nigh. The curtain was torn from top to bottom, as an object lesson that the way into the holiest place, into God’s presence was bow open onto human beings who come by faith in Christ.

        “being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,” His was a real true death. His physical body did not swoon, but ceased to function as our does at death, but because of His complete righteousness death could not hold its prey, Jesus my Saviour; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord. God raised him from the dead. His life was restored, but with a higher, fuller existence than He had known in the body.


    1. So when did he preach to the spirits in prison

    There are three possible suggestions made.

    1. Some believe that when Christ died, he went to the realm of the dead to proclaim to those who died in the flood, or to the fallen angels either their condemnation or to offer them salvation.This idea, I believe is completely unbiblical and impossible.
    2. Some believe that Christ, through the person of Noah preached to those who perished during that 120 year period, which we know that he did, but this does not seem to be related to Christ’s death.
    3. The third view is that Christ announced the fallen spirits his victory and their doom, that has been completed through Christ’s death of the cross and his resurrection. The flood judgement is a warning of God’s coming final judgement on the disobedient world.


    1. Baptism - the answer of a good conscience

        21   “There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”

        Does baptism save us? Though this verse says yes, the answer is no. He make clear that no amount of water can cleanse the body much less the soul.

        Instead, as the flood judged the world and brought death to those who refused God’s love, so that same flood bore up Noah and his family and saved their lives.

        Water baptism then is a picture of death. Death to sin, death to the old way of life, the picture of Christ’s death for us, and the picture of resurrection life with Christ. Buried with him in baptism, raised to newness of life.

        When we respond to the Lord as believers, we receive the joy of a clear conscience. We have been obedient to His calling.

        My mind goes back to two brothers in Dallas and Barnhartvale Baptist Church. Along with other young people, they had resisted the idea of baptism, but one Sunday they phoned and asked that they might be baptised.

        The following youth night, Bob Wilde enthusiastically told the other teens how wonderful it felt to be baptized - that was the answer of a good conscience.

        It is through the resurrection of Christ from the dead that we receive that good conscience.

        And here we learn one more glorious truth about our Saviour and Lord: 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”


        Christ died. Christ lives. Christ reigns over all. That is the glorious news of the gospel.


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