Heralding His Victory – Insight on 1 Peter 3:19-20

“…in which also he went and heralded his victory to the spirits in prison, who at one time were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah…”

Jesus was raised from the dead as a “life giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45), or “in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). What did Jesus do when he was raised from the dead and had a new, spiritual body? Sometime after he was raised from the dead, he went to the “prison” where the spirits who had defied God before the Flood of Noah were held (the prison is called Tartarus; see commentary on 2 Pet. 2:4). In Tartarus, Jesus “heralded” his resurrection and victory to the imprisoned demons. The word “heralded” is the Greek word kerussō, “to be a herald; to officiate as herald; to proclaim after the manner of a herald…to publish, proclaim openly something which has been done” (Thayer). To “proclaim victory” (Gingrich).

It is sometimes taught that Jesus went to see the spirits in prison during the three days and nights between his death and resurrection, but that is clearly not the case. During that time he was “dead,” not alive in any form. 1 Peter 3:18 and 19 teach that he went “in spirit.” He got his spiritual body and became a life-giving spirit at his resurrection, so it was after his resurrection that he went to Tartarus. Furthermore, he did not “preach” to these imprisoned demons, as if they could have believed and been released. They had defied God in the days of Noah by working to create a fallen race (the Nephilim), and were imprisoned as a result. They did their best to keep the Messiah from coming and to defeat God, but the Messiah came and achieved victory for God, so Jesus went to the prison and heralded his victory to the demons there.