Those to whom Jesus preached in connection with His death and resurrection <1 Pet. 3:19>. Several interpretations have been suggested for this puzzling passage.

Some believe the reference is to departed human spirits, especially those of Noah's day who heard preaching by the Spirit or by the preincarnate Christ through Noah. These spirits, who are disembodied, now await final judgment. Others believe the phrase refers to the spirits of the departed saints of the Old Testament to whom Christ, at His death, proclaimed liberty from the bonds of death. However, the Greek word for spirits used in this verse is never applied to human spirits. It is always used to refer to supernatural beings, both good and evil <Luke 10:20; Heb. 1:14>.

The most logical explanation of this passage is that Jesus made a proclamation of His victory over death to the rebellious angels who had been placed in prison. His proclamation was also a form of judgment on them because of their sin and rebellion. This idea also seems to be supported by <2 Peter 2:4> and <Jude 6>.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

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