It is written:
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. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
The Apostle Peter had a great deal to say regarding the Descent of Christ into Hades.
Not only did he speak of this on the Day of Pentecost (as we have noticed from Acts 2:23-32), but he addresses the same in his first Epistle in at least two passages: 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 1 Peter 4:6.
Before we examine these two passages, we need to familiarize ourselves with the overall context.
One of the main themes of 1 Peter deals with the subject of suffering. These disciples to whom Peter was writing were undergoing very difficult times and trials. Peter wants them to understand that their suffering is not in vain-instead, God has a purpose for allowing their hardships and heartbreaks. Indeed, God is going to allow their suffering in order to bring about great good!
Suffering can help to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith, and this will lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus returns (1 Peter 1:6-7);
Suffering that we endure can lead to the conversion of sinners when they witness how Christians face the trials of life and persecution (1 Peter 2:12);
Suffering enables Christians to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and allows us to learn to trust in God as He did (1 Peter 2:21-25);
Suffering for the sake of righteousness will lead to God blessing us (1 Peter 3:14);
Suffering for the Lord in the face of hostile neighbors can lead to opportunity to teach God’s Word to our enemies so that they may hopefully be “ashamed” and saved (1 Peter 3:15-16);
Suffering for Christ will lead us to rejoice in the good that God is going to bring (1 Peter 4:12-13);
Suffering for the Lord will lead to a greater display of the Holy Spirit in our lives (1 Peter 4:14);
Suffering helps us to learn to be humble and to cast all of our cares upon God (1 Peter 5:6-7);
Suffering for the Lord reminds us of the bond and fellowship that we have with other Christians around the world (1 Peter 5:8-9);
Suffering for the cause of Christ will help to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us (1 Peter 5:10).
Notice specifically that suffering can be allowed by God in order to save the lost. Peter specifically mentions this as a logical consequence of what Christ did on Calvary:
1 Peter 2:21-25-For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
The amazing love of Jesus shown especially in His suffering leads people to return to Him like sheep who had gone astray.
Indeed, the very text we are studying emphasizes how through His suffering, Christ “might bring us to God.”
In the same way, the suffering that we experience in life as we are persecuted for being Christians may lead others to be saved through our example and through our proclamation of God’s Word:
1 Peter 2:11-12-Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Peter encourages the Christians to live Christ-like lives, and one reason is because of the hope that our enemies will “glorify God.”
What does this mean?
“We see the same contrast in Revelation between those who believe and glorify God (Rev 11:13) and those who refuse to repent and do not honor him (Rev 16:9). Peter exhorted believers to live noble lives because in doing so unbelievers will see their good works. Because they observe such works, some unbelievers will repent and believe and therefore give glory to God on the last day.28 The use of the participle “see” (from the verb epopteu) also suggests that salvation is in view, for the same term is used in 1 Pet 3:2, where the submission of wives is intended to lead to the salvation of unbelieving husbands. Peter was confident that some unbelievers will be saved when they notice the godliness of believers. The unbelievers may revile Christians, but as they notice the goodness in their lives, some will repent and be saved, and as a result of their salvation God will be glorified.” (Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude, Volume 37, 124 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Publishing Group)
To “glorify God” meant to convert to Him.
So through our suffering, the hope is that God will be glorified by people turning to Him and being saved.
This sets the stage for what Peter tells us about regarding the Descent of Christ into Hades.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.