The Cosmic Reign of King Jesus

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November 11th, 2018

A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means - Martin Luther

Main Idea: Jesus has conquered over all through his suffering, death, and resurrection, arming us with power for faithful living.

2 keys to approaching difficult passages:

1.     Context is king

2.     Always use more-clear passages to interpret less-clear passages (Scripture interprets Scripture)    


1.     The downward movement of Christ (3:18-20)

2.     The upward movement of Christ (3:22)

3.     Baptism as the bridge (3:21)

Three views on the “spirits in prison”:

1.     The Apostle’s Creed: “he descended into hell”

2.     Christ pre-figured in the preaching of Noah

3.     Proclaiming victory over evil and fallen angels in the place of the dead 

The context pushes us to interpretation #3

Cf. 2 Peter 2:4-5 & Luke 16:19-31 (The Rich Man & Lazarus)

The Jewish understanding of the afterlife was a single place of the dead ("Sheol") with compartments for the righteous ("Abraham's bosom" or "paradise") and the unrighteous ("Hades")

Jesus here declares victory over the evil angels who contributed to the flood and whose mindset is seen in the enemies of Christ. Though the crucifixion would lead them to believe they won, Jesus comes and proclaims victory over them. 

They were also sojourners and exiles on earth, a small community beset by opponents who mistreated them. They should not be discouraged by the smallness of their numbers but must remember that God now extends his patience to all, but the day of judgment is coming in which their opponents will be ashamed and they will be vindicated. Hence, the appeal to Noah and God’s patience reminds them to persevere. If God preserved Noah when he stood in opposition to the whole world, he will also save his people, even though they are now being persecuted - Thomas Schreiner

Christ conquered on the cross, Christ conquered at the cemetery, and Christ is conquering in the clouds right now. - Charlie Dates

How does baptism bridge the downward and the upward movement of Christ? 

Just as the chaotic waters of the flood were the agent of destruction, so too the waters of baptism are waters of destruction. In New Testament theology, however, believers survive the death-dealing baptismal waters because they are baptized with Christ. They are rescued from death through his resurrection. Hence, we are not surprised to read in this verse that baptism saves “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The waters of baptism, like the waters of the flood, demonstrate that destruction is at hand, but believers are rescued from these waters in that they are baptized with Christ, who has also emerged from the waters of death through his resurrection. Just as Noah was delivered through the stormy waters of the flood, believers have been saved through the stormy waters of baptism by virtue of Christ’s triumph over death - Thomas Schreiner


Peter urges to “arm yourselves” (military term) with the mindset of Christ. This means to be prepared for suffering, as suffering is the only way to glory, as evidenced by the downward and upward movement of Jesus himself. 

 The one who suffers on behalf of Christ has “ceased from sin” in the sense that sin no longer has dominion and power over their lives. 

 Oftentimes, obedience to Jesus will feel like suffering. However, embracing this form of “suffering” reminds us of reality and leads us to true freedom. 

 Peter reminds us that our present circumstances are not the last word. The “delayed gratification” of the Christian life calls us to remember our true King and our true Kingdom, and that there is life even after death (4:6).