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THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE EPISTLES OF PETER
ON EARTH AND AT THE BRINK OF HELL
I Peter 3, II Peter 3 in the Domain of John 15 and Colossians 1
In a previous volume*1, the matter of I Peter 3:15-22 and the preaching of Christ to the spirits in prison has been examined.
On this occasion, the topic is reopened for one reason: a further aspect has been opened, and it seems necessary to deal with this, in order to complete the coverage of the topic.
One interpretation of this passage is as follows: Christ, having been sent into the scene of suffering, the just for the unjust, having died, being raised by the Spirit, is to be recognised as having done something else by the Spirit, that is, way back 'sometime', actually in the days of Noah, He went in this manner to preach to disobedient spirits. These are now in prison as a result of that disobedience.
To say that this is a forced interpretation seems only fair.
Let us look at the context. It is a vast sweep in terms of suffering for what is unjust, and doing this patiently. In this, Christ is held up as an example, and a fortiori, someone who not only was afflicted with injustice in the form of suffering, but in fact BORE willingly the results of the just penalties of others, in this way excelling the simpler case, of being wrongly accused or penalised. It seemed GOOD to Him so to suffer, by plan and intention (Acts 2:23), this being the determinate plan and intention of the Trinity, of whom Christ is one. Why did it seem so good ? His was a willingness for suffering in tune with His vast delighted to come to save by this means (Psalm 40, Micah 7:19ff.), even those who would be found, and were indeed known to be His in the infinite knowledge of His divine mind, and accordingly predestined (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.).
That this is no mere intellectual or abstract exercise is made apparent, in the teaching of Peter from the Lord, in this, that in II Peter 3:9, we learn that for God a thousand years in the presentation of the Gospel can be conceived as a day. While He can act at once, He may choose to wait. Why ? In this case, it is in order that MORE souls may be won, MORE testimony may be given (cf. Revelation 6:9ff.), so that the entirety of history could be exposed and its blessed inmates extradited in His own way. He is not willing that any should perish: this is not the disposition of His heart, however much love in its restraint, does not dictate. He would not have it so that any would perish. That is the orientation in view in I Peter, as in I Timothy 2.
It is this Jesus, this Christ, this Messiah, this example, this unique exhibit of the love and patience and determination of God who is here exposed to view, who suffered in this exalted and unique manner, who died in this vicarious mode, with the purpose of bringing those to be His to God, and in this, He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit. Such is I Peter 3 in thrust, at this point, some of the background being added in the next Epistle.
This being the vignette, the perspective, the coverage of the matter, we then learn more about this same Jesus in this same context, both overall in the epistles of Peter and in this locus. How does I Peter 3 then proceed ?
It is, we read, BY THE SPIRIT, in whom we have just learned in I Peter 3, He was made alive, that He WENT and preached. To whom did He in this series of events, this collation of concepts, considerations and actions, this perspective and plan: to whom did He go and preach ? It was to a group about to be designated. How is this done ? Like this: 'He went and preached to the spirits in prison.'
Now the first thing one might naturally understand in this, is one: He did NOT go and preach to spirits NOT in prison, for they are specifically, in this chronologically tight discourse, said to be spirits in prison. If I said that I went and preached to people in prison, once disobedient at the time of the Twin Tower disaster, would ANYONE imagine that I meant that I preached to them prior to that disaster, and really meant to convey that I had done this then, and not now that events have been brought in context, up to date! Would I mean that I went to speak to them way back in the day of their failure, long before now! Would I be referring to this long past day and to their imprisonment as a result of it ? Or would I be preaching if they could not hear me! concerning an event which had this later result of imprisonment ? True it is the eternal Deity as Christ, who is in view, so that He could, but it is the sudden disjunction from context which is frankly inadmissible. It is unwarranted by textual evidence and contrary to the temporal flow in the text at this point. Sequence : Christ suffered ONCE; it was for SINS; that was some years before the writing of I Peter; His purpose in suffering was to provide, as the JUST ONE, as Peter called Him, for the UNJUST. This in turn was to enable Him to bring us to God. In this procedure, He was put to death, not merely suffered - so we proceed in time - but even, as the next temporal step, made alive through the power of the Spirit (cf. Romans 1:4). It was, we next find in this temporarily developing presentation, that He went BY that self-same Spirit and preached to the spirits in prison.
Can we then manufacture the concept that Christ had in fact been preaching to 'spirits in prison' BEFORE all this, before this sequence and basis and background, just prominently displayed, concerning Himself.
I think not, for I am then SPECIFICALLY stating who were the objects of my preaching: spirits in prison. I am not speaking of talking to another set, those not in prison, before their landing there, but those who have landed there for a reason which I would then go on to state: these were at some time disobedient when told of their folly. In this way, my meaning is clear, to whom I preached and there location is clear, prison, as is the reason for their being there, disobedience.
In this, I add nothing to the text in concept or in word. Indeed, I move with the text in its mounting power of application of the enduring patience of the love which suffered not in vain.
I then do not twist the tale of time, the meaning of phrases, or engage in athletic exercises of imagination, eisegetic additives, as if to say: 'by spirits in prison, I mean spirits not in prison, but those who before being in prison were going to do thing to land them there.' This is, one must say, distortion of what is written. How can it then be said but as extra-textual imagination. It is insertion out of nowhere.
The text now gives ground and further description, concerning the imprisonment and those enduring it. At some time, it says, in the days of Noah, they were disobedient. Now I know concerning this visit to preach - compared with preaching now to those involved at some time in the Twin Tower disaster, who refused to listen to reason at that time, or anything else but their vicious vision - that the inmates receiving it, were at some time, in fact in the days of Noah, disobedient. They did not respond to the truth he offered. The ark*3 was there for many years under construction, and its design and purpose was so clear that it was by DISOBEDIENCE that they did not prepare themselves to enter. Hence the case is covered, and we are better aware of the point: namely, just who are these imprisoned, what is their status, how are they so.
Thus the Christ who in this admirable and indeed unique manner, suffered not only injustice, but willingly entered on the plan to bear with it in a systematic, and even sacrificial manner, as part of a plan of love to redeem (I Peter 1:18, 2:22-25), died, was killed, was enlivened by the Spirit, and by that self-same Spirit preached to spirits in prison.
It was not enough to suffer injustice, He must suffer it vicariously.
It is not enough to preach to those in the contemporary world; He goes to preach to those more obviously in prison, than are the spirits of those whose liberty not least, He died to redeem, and to whom He came on this earth, declaring,
"If I had not come
and spoken to them, they would have no sin,
The question of damnation is in view, and without His actually coming and speaking to them, indeed arriving and doing "among them the works which no one else did", then "they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father."
Such, explicitly, is the love and justice, fairness and goodness and grace of the living God, that the condemnation which is final and absolute would not have come, their status would not have been negated for this final resolution of result, without this actual confrontation. "If I had not come ...", He declared. THIS IS HIS OWN DIVINE DECLARATION. It is well to receive it; such is the passion of the love of God! Such is His discriminating care, and not less is His work, so that none has ground for accusing Him of cruelty, whose mercy neither dictates to man, nor allows him to seduce spirituality into his own purposes. Authority is final; the relevant knowledge is HIS OWN, foreknowledge not of works but of people, and the tests are not dulled, but perfect in composure.
It has been declared before, and one must declare it again: NO ONE, but no one will go to hell except over the dead body of Christ. This is a form of envisagement to help anyone to see how great is the love of God, how foolish its rejection, how committed is the Christ. ONLY by going beyond the sacrificial, curse-bearing glory of Jesus Christ, only thus can you, if you will, escape the deliverance and salvation and mercy and grace and friendship of Christ. HE for His part has done ALL! God is not delighted to damn but to save; and while exclusion can occur, since love is never tyrannical, the weeping of Luke 19:42ff. shows how loth He is for it to be, though in the purity of His principles and nature, no other way will He suffer it.
We do not need to imagine that it must occur in this mode, as in John 15, face to face with the God who is no respecter of persons as He Himself declares; but the ESSENCE of it, the PRINCIPLE of it will certainly be fulfilled. Justice will not finally remove to hell what is not to God's own satisfaction as summarily and actually and fairly treated to opportunity, in whatever form He makes it equivalent, to receive Him. He is not limited, to be sure, to a particular mode; but He limits Himself to this degree of authenticity in the fairness and genuineness of His offer for EACH, before ANY may be damned. It is all known before the world was; but its nature and quality is as real as history, as certain as truth, and as wonderful as love without impurity of any kind and justice of the most exquisite and laboured proportions.
The Jew is not above humanity. The first century AD is not above the dates. The fairness of God is for all time and His justice does not waver at any time.
THEREFORE the movement to go and preach to the spirits in prison, as specifically STATED in I Peter 3:18ff., is in full and complete agreement with His other words and principles. He is not willing to leave things with some here, some there, in this way and that, all tumbled about in incomparable fashion. He is just, and would have all to be reconciled to Himself, as He explicitly states, yes whether they be in heaven or on earth. The desire is universal, fundamental, coextensive with His own thrust and movement. It is sated with nothing less. To imagine differently is to contradict Christ.
THIS is explicitly the nature of the case, and His going to hell so to preach, so that 'He descended into hell', the familiar words, are fulfilled rather than a vain addition, is precisely in accord with it, though here the term 'hell' is used, whereas in Paul it refers to departed spirits simpliciter. It is not required, that He should so move on and out to these departed spirits, by thought. But it is by love.
It could be caused to eventuate differently by Himself, who is perfectly free; but in principle, this is the stress on the topic. It not only fits, but fits perfectly with this enormous stress on the unreserved character of the love of God in the Bible.
Certainly, when to His satisfaction, the rejection of Himself is final and seen to be so, in all His depth, the result is rejection of the renegade, since love does not force, and justice does not move. If someone is unwilling to have God's own divine mercy remove the guilt of His sin through the sacrificial offering of Christ, then love does not seek its own, and that is the finish (John 3:19). This however is the purity of that love (Colossians 1:19ff.), and this is the declaration of it (John 15), and here is the application of it in our present text of I Peter, with its corollary in II Peter 3:9, the non-willingness of God that any should perish. If there IS a way, He finds it; even to the point of giving all, but not changing which would only move from truth and so condemn all to their duly deserved destiny. .
The desire of the God of all pity, then, for man* (I Timothy 2) is that they be not bound in spirit but liberated (as in Isaiah 61, from which Christ took words and applied them to Himself, and as in John 8:34-36, concerning the nature of sin as constituting and providing a prison for its servitors).
NEVER in the Bible are flesh and blood people referred to as SPIRITS in prison; prisoners of sin, certainly, and they have spirits, of course; but the designation of people in sin as 'spirits in prison;' this is not found, since the bodily part is not so readily deregistered. Certainly, no preachment to persons in flesh referred to as 'spirits in prison' is conceivable. If however it be those 'now' in prison, it is neither what is written nor in the sequential series of it, nor does it amplify the example, to refer to an instance of former action, while it does to make the divine circuit to move to the last peak of judgment in the alps of history, and show His scope of desire by visiting even these!
If He was absent for three days, it is not that His Spirit, which He had commended into His Father's hands, was inactive; it was not that He was inert after His horror borne, but alight with the love still, released from the squalid sin of the redemption, now ONCE made as Peter here indicates, and so the journey to such a visitation as this, entwining in its scope all lesser cases, is indeed in the very centre of the piece as presented of this patient and insistent, unswerving example of Christ.
Hence, it appears that Christ not only did the dying and the exhibited the sacrificial splendour in His wiling work of patient endurance, held up in its nature as example, but did even more. In this chronological sequence of ground and action - of suffering, firstly, of doing so as the just for the unjust, secondly, and of doing so ONCE, categorically, with the purpose in this ensemble of action, of bringing us to God - He was not only made to endure such griefs, but was put to death. That is the next thing stated in the text here. After this, in the sweep of sovereignly determinate but beautifully voluntary events on His part, He is made alive in the Spirit. So far we have an ensemble of six elements, and then HE WENT. To do what ? To preach. To whom ? To spirits in prison. What are these ? They are those disobedient in the time of Noah, that is how they are such.
It is more than difficult to see how
one would imagine that this next item would not be part of the preceding,
extending their relevant application to His exemplary and definitive work, and
showing the nature of it in one progressive whole. If the case had been
otherwise, it would have been exceedingly simple to have said:
"made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He had gone and preached to the spirits disobedient in the days of Noah, but now in prison."
This clear course (and the word of God is clear to the one who understands: there is nothing intrinsically obtuse or contused about it - Proverbs 8:8), however, was not followed. Some such words as these would have shown that the thing was being changed, that we were no more moving from the series of events in Christ's work of salvation, crucifixion and bodily resurrection, and the reason in His expansive love for these things, in such a horror as dying even afflicted in spirit, the Just for the unjust. We would then be helped to realise the sudden change in the sweep and sequence of the context, and to know we were to about-face and go back in time to a much earlier event, rather than consider the movement of His raising, His reason, and His application even more broadly of these fresh and focussed events, current in the day of Peter.
In such a case, not the one in the text, no longer would there a sequence showing cumulatively and progressively, step by step, what Christ did that is so applicable and admirable in this context. Instead, it would show that the preaching had occurred at some other time, and that the spirits in prison, were not in fact the objects of His preachment following the achievement of salvation, but rather those envisaged as still about to suffer this result because they did not listen when He did preach, long ago. There would be a time-warp, a sequence severance and a thrust removal, of the longsuffering (as in II Peter 3:9), and the long continuance in the long day of covering ALL, as His love did, so that preaching could even be a further result of the achievement of redemption, of there being this newly achieved grand theme to stress.
It might not be easy to justify such a sudden change; but it would be clear.
It was, however, not done. The clarificatory words for the sudden change in the milieu of the context, do not occur. The time-disjunction words are not given. They therefore must not be added in mind or thought or text (Proverbs 30:6). This is the way the word of God is to be treated. Think what you will, but let it say what it will: neither more nor less. Be sensitive to theme, follow context, watch the developments, keep to the point. In fact, the spirits in prison lived at a time which provides us with an illustration of this self-same Gospel which is the theme: the ark was like symbol of Christ, into whom entering, one is saved.
All that was past; NOW we have entered into the Gospel era, and its reasons and its results, and one of these is this, that in the amplitude of Christ's love and sacrifice, risen through the work of the Spirit, He has gone further in this th rust: He has preached to spirits definably not now living in this world, as this is Bible not Plato, but under the rigor of judgment. They are departed spirits. Such is His love as in John 3, Colossians 1, and such the scope of it, and His vast determination to reach ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, as HE tells us through Paul, that here we find an expression of this passion, and a thrust onward to the wonder of the Christ who is still available to one as to all, none exempted from His desire, none forced contrary to their preference for darkness, as foreknown.
Instead, in textual reality, we find the people to whom He, having been made alive through the Spirit, went through that same Spirit to preach. We learn that they are spirits in prison, that this is His congregation when He went.
This consummates the matter, in this, that not only are those of this, His time on this earth, reached in this exemplary fashion, but those of former time by that self-same Spirit are reached by His action, swelling like a tide, roaring like massive ocean breakers, into environs of horror, if by any means any might be confronted as were those noted in John 15, by the glory of His works and words, now unleashed on this earth and applicable to all for all time.
In Matthew 11:21 we find this testimony also concerning the love of God to the lost, seeking in incandescent sincerity and mercy. IF, the people of Tyre had had these great works of Christ done in them, then they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Since God WOULD HAVE ALL, and says so repeatedly, and is SUBJECT TO NOTHING in His own power, His desires fundamental past dalliance, but being loving will FORCE NONE (but rather weeps for the terminally recalcitrant as noted), then here is an indication which cannot be simply dismissed, that as these WOULD have so repented, and the case is one of comparison of opportunity in the light of divine importunity, may indeed include many who will receive this same salvation from this same unknown Gospel (as it may have been indeed, to them), even all who WOULD have repented with such passion as to suggest sackcloth and ashes.
Not only is this so, but in Matthew 11:23, we learn that, parallel to the Tyre case, if THESE people in Sodom had been exposed to the works and words of Christ (as those in His contemporary Jerusalem were), they would have remained as a city TO THIS DAY! That is just what is being brought to the attention of the about-to-be-destroyed Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C., through Jeremiah: LISTEN and be led by God and the devastation to come, WILL NOT COME! (Jeremiah 17:17-25). However, in Jerusalem then, as in many a city and nation now, the opportunity is lambasted, or mocked, or paraded in pomp as a misfit, or tainted, or taunted, while folly is vaunted till modern history moves as a clown forgetting he is now out in the real world, or a drunkard, no longer shielded by the walls of the pub.
History depends heavily on this basic attitudinal, belief relationship with the Lord, and all its wealth and poverty moves into recess compared with this basic provision. History illustrates sin's penalties, and wisdom's truth; but unbelief is prone to kill, both itself and others; and this is makes history prone to worse and worse outcomes. Mockery of masterful grace and kindness itself can do much to advance judgment, and this world is now entranced, inebriated with its little ways of deceit and sullen unbelief, and intoxicated idols made of individuals, imperial nations, philosophies and other follies that its path is like a tourist route, where many go, only to find the execution of glory, when the dream fails, and truth looms like a mountain and the mighty deep.
In other words, not only is there a finale for destiny in terms of the Christ and His Gospel, and nothing less (though all are worthy of condemnation in any case, the question being one of the insertion of salvation), but history would be altered if all at once always had known the Gospel and seen its power as in the day of Christ Messiahship on earth. The Gospel then is the final test, the ultimate revelation, the final prelude to judgment, and it is the love of God which propelled Christ to earth, for God SO loved, which propels His salvation WHEREVER it may lodge. As Paul says in Acts 17:30, in speaking of times past, "these times of ignorance God overlooked," but judgment comes. Overlooked ? He did not overlook their participants, for God so loved the WORLD (John 3) and would have reconciled to Himself both those in heaven and on earth, wherever the lodging.
The 'heaven and earth' is merely in turn part of the "ALL THINGS" which He desires reconciled as in Colossians 1:19ff.. NOTHING is exempted from this desire: NOTHING is precisely what is left when you say "ALL THINGS". ALL mankind has fallen, has sinned, is without hope or ground or merit to escape, before the God of glory whose magnificence is turned to nothing or to mere fantasy. ALL are the object of this STATED and unequivocal desire of God. The departed spirits, their time overlooked, since the Gospel work, though foretold, was not yet, are not overlooked, but the recipients of the proclamation of the Gospel.
Let us follow this on. What verb is used for His 'preaching'. It is one in Greek (khrugma) indicative of an announcement or proclamation (as in Isaiah 52:7). It is used in Matthew 11:1 and Romans 10:25. In the one case, it concerns Christ's preaching and in the other the question, How shall they believe without a preacher ?
In the former it is used of Christ's personal going to "PREACH AND TO TEACH IN THEIR CITIES." Indeed, the denominative from that very word in English, preaching (what is preached), in Greek, khrugma, is used as the store and stock of the Gospel. It is found, for example, in Matthew 12:41. There is an initial proclamation. It is found in Titus 1:3, the teaching committed to Paul. This is the New Testament norm, since this is the mature content of preaching the Gospel, the whole point of the emphasis in terms of content in focus. Verb or denominative, this is the nature of the term used concerning Christ. If it is Christ, THIS is the content, His Person, work and wonder, His salvation and the burden of it, gloriously now delivered to man. If the concern is not specifically Christ, then that is the point; but here, it is!
It is this action which Christ took in addressing the departed spirits in prison. This was the evangelical thrust of the proclamatory terms, so used in the New Testament notably with this point in view, even at a high point of dissertation on the part of Paul, the apostle. Christ flings the khrugma to the spirits in their prison, apparently as a life-line is thrown to those in the sea of tragedy, exuberant in His circuit of application by the very same Spirit which raised Him from the dead. Alive, He who was foretold in generations past, His work to be the pith of preaching to those to come (as in Psalm 22 as it ends), extended His wing to those ignorant in the past, however wicked, for none is good enough to escape hell, without the Lord of Escapes, the Messiah.
These elements in view, let us further consider the case, in review.
In I Peter 3, Christ's progress is thus seen not into regress into history, for the whole thrust is unique action and its reason and results; but in terms consistent, moving into an even broader circuit of this domain and another, which could not be cut off, because it was once only, that He died. Quite to the contrary, just as He died ONCE, and did the work ONCE, and rose once, so the APPLICATION is vast and numerous, not limited any more than Colossians 1:19ff. would have it, to this or that age or realm. Here, then, in this respect, even to those condemned for disobedience in former times, even when as with Jerusalem on this earth, there case beyond it might seem hopeless: to these He went, the surge of the application remorseless: even to those in that plight, so great was His enduring determination out of love and duty, He went.
He came. He acted in time uniquely. He provided. He did it for a reason. In terms of that same reason, He did not stop in this point of the sequence, but proceeded to the very realm of the departed, to proclaim what He had done, to apply what He had achieved, to show that the Almighty is no respecter of persons, to find the findable, in prison but not yet finally consigned, not in purgatory but in waiting till His arrest of judgment of all time, should be made known, and their finale in destiny should thus come, before the Great Day of Judgment should reveal all.
It is true that this could be part of an example, if it meant that He even preached in earlier times, seeking deliverance of those who would in fact be condemned and reside in a spiritual prison, and that this had been part, if you will, of His past repertoire; but this would rupture sequence, distort thrust of positive salvation, cut the path of triumph (theirs was a cut case of drowning), ignore the contextual concentration, bring in a new element not even hinted at in the text, and constitute a novelty for those who insert. Indeed, , the movement would be so sudden a disruption of the progressive sequence of time*2, and it would require such a violation of the statement concerning the nature of those to whom He preached, 'spirits in prison', if you like the nature of His congregation to be indicated, as to seem more than artificial. It would be a rather spectacular eisegesis.
We are progressing in our resumé of relevant action on the part of the Redeemer, everything clear-cut and straightforward, and are asked then by those who so interpret this passage, to believe that suddenly it changes without warning, without even the simple word 'now' being added, which would have at least distinguished the congregation in question from the description just given of them, and then proceeds to mention the time when this was done, when they were not spirits in prison!
Indeed, it even proceeds to add 'some time', as if this is not to the basic point in any case. It is not when they sinned that is the point, though it is noted, it is that He WENT to them to seek for them what might be, in the same Spirit which raised Him to life. Whom ? The spirits in prison, that is whom.
Thus the threefold violation involved in the idea that He ONCE went and preached to those NOT then in prison, but now in it - of the description of His congregation in a chronologically progressive text, the forward thrust in time sustained so far in it, the failure to use a simple term to remove the current applicability of the description of the congregation - is not to be desired. It is to add to the setting, sentence and scene, and ignore what is NOT added.
We conclude therefore that Christ in the time before His return to earth, by the Spirit which raised Him from the dead, descended into hell as the apostles' creed puts it, moving as it were heaven and earth to unearth or detach ANYONE ANYWHERE who could be delivered, not bound by circumstance, but circumventing particulars, moved as love does, to the extremities of His domains with the flush of resurrection power and proof, if by any means anyone anywhere might be won.
Not satisfied with the exposure in time, in His love, though abundantly satisfied with the ONCE FOR ALL character of the redemption there obtained, He shows how applicable are His words of John 15, that if they had not heard His words they would have no sin - others are not ignored. Former history is not despised. It is invested, it is summoned, the challenge is put in the broadest environment, and the surge will go on, whether in heaven or on earth, wherever; for the love of God is rich and full, pure and wonderful, He delights in mercy, and in Christ, has wept for the lost.
Does this mean a second chance, as the terminology has it ? Not at all. There is NO chance for ANYONE. It is foreknown and predestined. It is the application of predestination in a currency of the contemporary - foreknown itself of course - in such a passion of presentation as befits the urgency and the wonder of the love which impelled Him, so ardently expressed in Matthew 23:37ff., and Luke 19:42ff.. It fits to a wonder with Colossians 1:19ff., where it PLEASED THE FATHER firstly, that in Christ should all the FULNESS of Godhead dwell, secondly, that He thus come, should as deity in human form bring and thrust forward peace, by this, His blood on the cross.
Next in Colossians 1, and thirdly, this forward thrust was made applicable, also according to this same good pleasure of the Father, not only to things on earth, but in heaven; and the purpose, fourthly, was that all things might be reconciled. The 'all things' term is all inclusive. There is no stay to His love, no blemish in its purity, no selfishness of preference, as by one prejudiced. HE would have ALL things whether in heaven or on earth reconciled to Himself.
What I Peter 3 here says, and what Colossians 1 declare are of one mould, of one passion, and the language, if not subjected to eisegesis, coheres. I Peter 4 continues, indeed, the consideration of suffering through the example of the incarnate, living Christ. It is its height and depth, exemplary, sufficient, amazing, which is the sustained topic, the incarnation and its resident actions the focus, the movement as outlined, the grandeur not limited; for He is not willing that ANY should perish as II Peter 3:9 continues to declare. He is as practical as the cross, as enveloping in His desire as heaven and earth, and no frontier can dispel His dynamic, nor any time limit His fashioning hand, nor any event disclose a different mien, a lapse, a relative lack of interest; for the contrary is the case both in principle and in practice as indisputably stated, and as here exemplified.
See The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch. 4, at the heading, "Spirits in Prison."
See for example:
Great Execrations ... Greater Grace Ch. 3 (and Paul), 7 and 9,
The Glow ... Ch. 4,
Beauty of Holiness Ch. 2 (John 3:16);
Christ's Ineffable Peace ... Ch. 2,
The Christian Pilgrimage ... Ch. 3,
The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4.
Not only are there the elements in the progressive sequence in time, already noted, but the text, having noted that the congregation to which Christ went in this same Spirit and preached, the spirits in prison were there for a reason, their disobedience in a former time, and applying their refusal to enter the ark to our need to enter another 'ark', that of this same Christ, proceeds in the chronological sequences. It does this by noting that the good conscience in Christ THROUGH HIS RESURRECTION, which is the declared essence of baptism, is that of Him who "has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God".
It completes the chronology of this glorious international and multi-dominion circuit of Christ the Saviour, by adding that angels and powers are in this, made subject to Him.
To interfere with this entire sweep of majesty, from its lowliness to its lordliness, would seem a proposition not to be entertained, in deference to the criteria of the text. It cannot readily bear any such treatment, violating its conditions, flow and mode of description.