Lesson 19 - I Peter 3: 20b

Lesson 19 - I Peter 3: 20b

Lesson for May 26, 2013

The Book of I Peter

Chapter 3:20

Victorious Proclamation

When the promise of the Flood was finally fulfilled and the super-race annihilated, God also judged those fallen angels who were guilty of the infiltration.  For the details, we must examine two passages in the New Testament.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment. (2 Peter 2:4)

The context of this chapter is a warning against false teachers. To affirm the certainty of their eternal judgment and the consistency of God’s character, the Holy Spirit cites three examples in the past where God’s judgment fell upon certain groups who were in total degeneracy (2 Peter 2:4-6).  God the Father is the Author of the divine plan, and therefore He is the Judge until judgment was committed to the Son.  (John 5:22)  “If God did not spare” is a first class conditional clause in Greek, meaning that He actually did not spare.  

Even though God is love, all grace function stems from His justice.  God’s justice is not free to bless until that blessing is compatible with His essence.  The righteousness and justice of God must be satisfied.  The absolute righteousness of Christ and His efficacious sacrifice on the Cross satisfied the Court of Heaven.  If the unbeliever fails to adjust to the justice of God through faith in Christ, God’s justice will adjust to him in eternal condemnation (John 3:36).  Those who believe in Christ are instantly adjusted to God’s justice and come under His maximum love.  Believers will never experience the justice of God expressed in judgment, only evaluation.

God will not let false teachers go unpunished.  The example is that He did not hesitate to punish the fallen angels of Genesis 6.  He judged the fallen angels and the Nephilim, and finally He ended the entire antediluvian (pre-flood) civilization.  The principle is that God not only makes provision for His plan, but He also provides protection for His plan.  This Plan of Grace includes three phases: Phase one: salvation; the provision: Christ paid for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:15). Phase two: the believer in time; the provision: the techniques of the Christian way of life, based on the promises and doctrines of the Word of God.  Phase three: the believer in eternity; the provision: absent from the body, face to face with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).  In Noah’s day God protected His plan in order to safeguard true humanity through whom Christ would come into the world, first by casting into hell the angels that sinned, then by drowning their offspring.  However, the Greek word is not “hell” but “Tartarus,” a temporary fire and a place of suffering.  

The angels in Tartarus are at present “reserved,” or literally, guarded for judgment.  In other words, they are not yet in their final state.  God just locked them down into a temporary prison where they will remain until He is ready to “try their case.”  There is a time coming when God will bring them out of Tartarus to be judged, and then He will throw them permanently into the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20).  In the meantime, they can’t observe what is taking place in the rest of the universe.  God had to exercise force in order that we might be saved and have eternal life, that we might share His happiness in time and eternity!  Inside His plan, He provides for His own; outside, He protects it!

In the next verse, God destroys the Nephilim.

And did not spare the ancient world [the antediluvian civilization], but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly (2 Peter 2:5).

God not only neutralized Satan’s forces that were involved in the corruption of the human race, but He also destroyed the population of unbelievers.  Grace always precedes judgment!  God gave them 120 years.  During that time, Noah consistently and continually evangelized the Nephilim who, though half angel and half man, possessed souls and could have been saved.  Yet not one of these creatures responded to the faithful proclamation of the Gospel.  This judgment is mentioned again in the Book of Jude.

And the angels which kept not their first estate [original status], but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day (Jude 6).

“Kept not their first estate” means that the angels did not stay in their own creative order.  They left their divinely designated sphere of relationships and activity.  Literally, they forsook their own kind for female Homo sapiens.  Since these angels did not guard their own place (the second heaven), they are now guarded in their very own place Tartarus, their custom-made prison!  Tartarus is described here by an unusual Greek phrase: hupo zophos, “under darkness.” “Under darkness” is a darkness in which there is total absence of light.  

Satan is more clever than any other created being, man or angel (Genesis 3:1). When you connect all the verses pertaining to the angelic infiltration, it becomes apparent that the devil was genius enough to understand that if he could subvert genuine humanity, there would be no salvation.  Furthermore, God, Who had made a promise to Adam’s race, would prove to be a liar, for He would not be able to keep His Word.   He had guaranteed to Adam’s race a Savior who would come in the flesh.  Consequently, Satan did all in his power to prevent true humanity from continuing on the earth.

After his scheme was stopped by the Flood, Satan was never again able to come so close to destroying true humanity, though he seized upon every opportunity.  Upon the announcement that the Savior would come from the line of Abraham, Satan attacked that specific target.  When it was revealed that the Savior would come through a particular tribe, the tribe of Judah, Satan turned his attention in that direction.  From that time on, the Jews have been the special object of Satan’s attacks.  Yet in spite of his unceasing efforts, Satan could not stop the coming of Jesus Christ as true humanity, the eternal King and Son of David to provide the solution to the sin problem.  God’s grace, as revealed in the sixth chapter of Genesis, made Christ’s advent possible!

THE COMPARTMENTS OF HADES

Before we can understand fully the Lord’s unique visit to Tartarus, we need to picture the underworld as it existed prior to the Resurrection.  Hades contained three compartments: Paradise (a Persian word, meaning “Garden of the King”) or Abraham’s Bosom (the Jewish designation, Luke 16:19-22); Torments (Luke 16:23-25); and Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4).

Paradise was the section where the souls of all believers of the Old Testament resided after death.  No human being ever went to Heaven until Christ entered into the presence of the Father and His sacrifice was accepted.  Much depended on this, because along with the Lord Jesus Christ in His ascension traveled the souls of all believers who had died up to that time and were being transferred from Paradise to Heaven (Ephesians 4:8,9).  If Jesus was accepted in His humanity, it would mean that the Father had accepted His sacrifice for sin, and only under these conditions could believers be admitted into the abode of God.  Upon the entrance of Christ into Heaven, the Father said, “Sit thou at my right hand . . .” (Psalms 110:1; Heb. 1:13).  His sacrifice was approved; He had made the way for mankind to enter into the presence of holy God (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12-20)!  Those who die now go directly into the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).  Eventually, at His Second Coming, we will return with Him to glorify Him in His kingdom, but we and all believers are eternally exempt from divine judgment (Romans 8:1).

Torments is a temporary place for the souls of unbelievers.  Between Paradise and Torments was “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26) so that none could pass to the other side.  Now that Paradise has been emptied, Hades and Torments are actually synonymous, but the rendering of both as “hell” creates confusion because there is yet a final hell, designated as the Lake of Fire.  The Lake of Fire will not be occupied, except by the “beast and the false prophet” (dictators of the revived Roman Empire and Palestine in the Tribulation, Revelation 20:10), until the second resurrection, when all unbelievers will be raised, judged according to their works, and sent to their final punishment. (Revelation 20:1115)

Tartarus is the prison of the angels who were involved in the satanic conspiracy of Genesis 6.  They were the only angels who were unable to watch the activities of the Son of God on earth and therefore were not aware of the defeat of Satan.  They still entertained hope that Satan would emerge victorious in his battle to keep Christ from going to the Cross and so free them!  But it was not to be, for some time after the three days and three nights in the grave, Jesus Christ was transported to Tartarus in His resurrection body to issue a victorious proclamation to the spirits (angels) in prison!

THE VICTORIOUS PROCLAMATION

In which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who were once disobedient… (1 Peter 3:19,20a)

Jesus Christ proclaimed His victory to the fallen angels incarcerated in Tartarus.  He informed these demons that they had failed in their attempts to destroy true humanity and that God’s plan had moved right on through every satanic attack.  He had gone to the Cross on schedule!  Christ’s sudden appearance to them in a resurrection body was the visible evidence.  The penalty of sin had been paid for, and thus it was possible for mankind to make a decision for the Son of God and to enter into fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit for all eternity!

The victorious proclamation was a declaration of the grace of God, because the 120 years before the Flood was one of the most extraordinary demonstrations of God’s grace in history.

… when once the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons were brought safely through the water. (1 Peter 3:20).

During those 120 years, the super-race had the top evangelist of all time — Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5).  While Noah preached salvation through faith in Christ, God waited.  “Makrothumia” is one of the strongest Greek words for patience.  God in grace withheld judgment on the antediluvian civilization for 120 years while the Ark was being constructed and until all who were going to be saved were saved.  The source of God’s patience stems from His essence, the perfect character of God.  The source of grace is God’s character; God’s grace always depends on His character, never on ours!

Until the time of the Ark there had never been a boat or a ship in the history of the human race, and while Noah’s ark had the perfect dimensions for a seaworthy ship, the emphasis here is on the grace of God in preserving His own as one would store valuables in a treasure chest (the basic shape of the Ark).

Vivid analogies of grace abound in the Ark.  The Ark is a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ, in whom all the abundant riches of God exist. (Colossians 2:3)  Every believer in the Church Age is in union with Him, preserved forever by relationship to Him.  And to show you the dimensions of this grace, we were all disqualified from fellowship with a holy God and as hopelessly lost as any in that antediluvian civilization.  

However, God did something for lost, sinful, evil humanity that they could not earn or deserve: God provided everything for us to be reunited with Him.   That was the supreme manifestation of the grace of God in the history of the human race.  It began with the promise of Genesis 3:15; it continued with the destruction of the super-race in the Flood and the protection of the line through whom Christ would finally enter the world as true humanity.  And when the Savior did come, He submitted to the Cross and paid the penalty for your sins and mine, as well as every sin of the human race. (John 1:29).