Let us examine these apparent contradictions found in scriptures.
Spirits in prison
The apostle Peter wrote about the spirits in prison in the days of Noah and how Jesus ministered to them. This is what Peter wrote.
1 Peter 3:18-20, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
Many people believe that this passage teaches that Jesus did a special preaching during the three days between His death and resurrection reaching out to the spirits of the dead, the people who died during Noah’s flood. Does the passage say that? No! It is just interpreted that way. We know that the Bible is clear about the condition of a dead person.
Ecclesiastes 9:5, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.”
If they know not “anything”, and if their memory is “forgotten”, and while they are dead they have no “reward” how can they be preached to? Also Isaiah is very clear that there is no hope of receiving the truth, or the gospel, once they are dead. (Isaiah 38:18) “They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.”
In the light of the above scripture passages we understand that Jesus would never do that! In those three days Jesus was dead too!
Yes, Peter mentioned about “spirits in prison” in the “days of Noah”. Also he talked about the flood and said that “eight souls were saved by water”. The rest of the people were drowned in the flood. And yes, Peter said that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison”, that is to the people who lost their lives in the flood. But when did Jesus preach to them? After the flood came and drowned them, after they died? No! Read carefully as to what Peter says, and when did Jesus preach to them. Peter said, Jesus preached to them, “while the ark was a preparing”. While Noah was preparing the ark, Jesus was preaching to them. While Noah was preparing the ark, those people were alive, and not dead, because the flood did not come while the ark was in the process of it being built. If the flood came while Noah was still preparing the ark, Noah and his family and all the animals too, would have been dead, with the rest, and you and I would not be around today!
Also Peter never said that Jesus preached to them during those three days between His death and resurrection. He just said, “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached”. The text simply says how Jesus preached to them, and not about when He preached to them! By the same Holy Spirit that resurrected Him, Jesus preached to the people in Noah’s day, Peter said.
Doesn’t Jesus still minister to us, the believers living 2000 years after His resurrection, through the Holy Spirit? Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “For he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14). Even in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was ministering unto the people on behalf of our Lord. The flood story clearly records the Lord striving through the Holy Spirit to convert those people.
Genesis 6:3, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh”.
The phrase “spirits in prison” does not mean the people were dead in the grave. The prison in scripture means the prison house of sin. The psalmist wrote. (Psalm 142:7) “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name”
Even when Jesus was on earth He was ministering to the people in prison, who were captive to sin, through the same power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives”.