There is a group that teaches – with a straight face, that Christ spent three days and nights in a literal hell preaching and trying to convert those who had died in their sins to accept, confess and believe in order to have a home in heaven. The very idea is appalling to most of us. It needs very little study to prove it unscriptural. They base their theory on this passage:

1Pe 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
1Pe 3:20 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.
1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
1Pe 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

The Jews believed in an underground cavern or chamber divided into two sections – Hell, and Abraham’s bosom and that all who died before Christ’ entered these chambers to await their ultimate fate. Abraham’s bosom was also called Paradise.

From Wikipedia: According to 1st century Jewish beliefs, the dead were gathered into a general tarrying-place, the sheol of the Old Testament, and the Hades of the New Testament writings (cf. Luke 16:22, in the Gr. 16:23). Here, the righteous occupied an abode or compartment of their own which was distinctly separated by a wall or a chasm from the abode or compartment to which the wicked were consigned. The latter was a place of torments usually spoken of as Gehenna (cf. Matthew 5:29-30; 18:9ff, Mark 9:42 sqq. in the Latin Vulgate)- the other, a place of bliss and security known under the names of "Paradise" (cf. Luke 23:43) or "the Bosom of Abraham" (Luke 16:22-23). The afterlife as portrayed in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus fits this concept of the Bosom of Abraham.

We need not exhaust any time debunking this error; we could do that with the three words Christ spoke before dying: “It is finished.”

But what does the scripture mean? By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Who are these imprisoned spirits to whom Christ preached? In retail sales, they say for success, you need three things: Location, location, location. In the study of scriptures, a wise man once said: “Context, context, context.”

When? While the ark was preparing. In the days of Noah, before the flood. That’s the context of the verse, and that too is where we must find our answer.

Adam and Seth had a prophecy concerning the destruction of the earth. Scripture doesn’t record it for us, but Jewish historian Josephus writes:

And that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, (10) the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day.

The Jews also had a theory about Methuselah:

The Flood of Noah did not come as a surprise. It had been preached on for four generations. But something strange happened when Enoch was 65, from which time "he walked with God." Enoch was given a prophecy that as long as his son was alive, the judgment of the flood would be withheld; but as soon as he died, the flood would be sent forth. Enoch named his son to reflect this prophecy. The name Methuselah comes from two roots: muth, a root that means "death" ; and from shalach, which means "to bring," or "to send forth." Thus, the name Methuselah signifies, "his death shall bring."  And, indeed, in the year that Methuselah died, the flood came. Methuselah was 187 when he had Lamech, and lived 782 years more. Lamech had Noah when he was 182. The Flood came in Noah's 600th year. 187 + 182 + 600 = 969, Methuselah's age when he died.  It is interesting that Methuselah's life was, in effect, a symbol of God's mercy in forestalling the coming judgment of the flood. It is therefore fitting that his lifetime is the oldest in the Bible, symbolizing the extreme extensiveness of God's mercy.

Historians speculate Noah had no desire to take a wife or bring children into a world everyone knew was to be destroyed. But then, finally, at the ripe old age of 500… Gen 5:32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

After the Jews spent their traditional seven days mourning the death of Methuselah, it began to rain. Eight souls were saved in the flood by the Ark. Modern theologians will tell you Noah begged and pleaded for folks to join him on the ark to be saved. After all, he was a “preacher of righteousness.”

But consider:  Gen 5:28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: Gen 5:29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This [same] shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed. Gen 5:30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:

Noah had brothers and sisters alive at the time of the flood. Noah wasn’t preaching to populate the ark; even his siblings were prevented from entering.

Eight persons to be saved. Yet the fact the flood is coming is well known if we can believe the historians. But stop and think for a moment. There were millions of people alive at the time, and while their thoughts were “only evil continually” many of those people were born again children of God.

About to die. No escape. No law or schoolmaster to instruct them on what lies ahead. The scriptures inform us Noah was preaching righteousness, but probably more so by obedience and godly living than by street preaching, so how were the untold numbers of God’s children instructed in grace, eternity, the three that bear record in Heaven and their salvation? Christ told them:

1Pe 3:18 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:
1Pe 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
1Pe 3:20 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.1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Wouldn’t you call knowledge of pending physical death, no law to guide you, no preacher to comfort you, no hope and no understanding, prison?

Brother Royce Ellis