And in this state he went and preached to the spirits in prison,who had formerly been disobedient when God was patiently waiting in Noah’s day,while the ark was being constructed,in which a few people, that is, eight souls,* were carried safely through the water. – 1 Peter 3:19,20
What does 1 Peter 3:19, 20 mean? “In this state [in the spirit, following his resurrection] also he [Jesus] went his way and preached to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls [“souls,” KJ, Dy; “people,” TEV, JB; “persons,” RS], were carried safely through the water.” Were those “spirits in prison” the souls of the humans who had refused to take heed to Noah’s preaching before the Flood, and was the way now open for them to go to heaven? Comparison of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 with Genesis 6:2-4 shows that these spirits were angelic sons of God that had materialized and married in Noah’s day. At 1 Peter 3:19, 20 the Greek word for “spirits” is pneu′ma·sin, while the word rendered “souls” is psy·khai′. The “spirits” were not disembodied souls but disobedient angels; the “souls” here referred to were living people, humans, Noah and his household.
The original Greek verb translated here as “preach” is ke·rys′so. This Greek verb, which occurs many times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, may also be rendered “herald.” The use of this word at Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10 indicates that the proclaimers of the good news of God’s Kingdom would be acting like heralds.—See NW ftns; compare Mr 1:45; Re 5:2.
Ke·rys′so, in general, means “proclaim” (good or bad news), as distinguished from eu·ag·ge·li′zo·mai, “declare good news.” Noah was a preacher (or herald, ke′ryx) to the antediluvian world, warning them. (2Pe 2:5) Christ preached (like a herald) to the spirits in prison, but not the good news.(1Pe 3:18, 19).What was preached to “spirits in prison” must therefore have been a message of judgment
.The Bible states that the disobedient angels are now “spirits in prison,” having been ‘thrown into Tartarus’ and “reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” This seems to indicate that they are greatly restricted, unable again to materialize as they did prior to the Flood.—1Pe 3:19; 2Pe 2:4; Jude 6.
Commenting on this text, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says: “In I Pet. 3:19 the probable reference is, not to glad tidings (which there is no real evidence that Noah preached, nor is there evidence that the spirits of antediluvian people are actually ‘in prison’), but to the act of Christ after His resurrection in proclaiming His victory to fallen angelic spirits.” (1981, Vol. 3, p. 201) As has been noted, ke·rys′so refers to a proclamation that may be not only of something good but also of something bad, as when Jonah proclaimed Nineveh’s coming destruction. The only imprisoned spirits referred to in the Scriptures are those angels of Noah’s day who were ‘delivered into pits of dense darkness’ (2Pe 2:4, 5) and “reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6) Therefore the preaching by the resurrected Jesus to such unrighteous angels could only have been a preaching of judgment. It may be noted that the book of Revelation transmitted in vision to John by Christ Jesus toward the close of the first century C.E. contains much about Satan the Devil and his demons as well as their ultimate destruction, hence, a preaching of judgment. (Re 12-20) Peter’s use of the past tense (“preached”) indicates that such preaching had been done prior to the writing of his first letter.