[Jesus] was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah. 1 Peter 3:18-20 (NIV)
Some people think this passage is telling us that after He died and before He rose again, Jesus went down into hell and preached the gospel to people who had died in Old Testament times.
There are a growing number of theologians saying, “If Jesus went and preached the gospel in hell, why should we not believe that, even in hell, there will be the opportunity for people to be saved? Those who did not receive Christ in this life will get another chance to receive Him later on.”
But if this were true, we should recall at least half of our missionaries and bring them home, because we have folks who are putting their lives on the line today in the Middle East. They are doing it for one reason—to win highly resistant people to Jesus. And honestly, if these folks will get another chance after death, it really isn’t worth it.
This idea that Jesus went on a disembodied journey to hell has many problems.
- Peter never said Jesus descended into hell. There is no reference to hell in the passage.
- If Jesus went to hell to preach the gospel, why did He only preach it to those who disobeyed in Noah’s time? What about those who disobeyed in Sodom or Gomorrah?
- This idea goes against the plain teaching of Scripture. It is appointed for each person to die, and after that the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
How would believing that people get another chance for salvation after they die impact your desire to share the gospel?