on 1-peter 4 :6
Was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead - This is a most difficult verse; the best translations I have seen of it are the following: -
"For this indeed was the effect of the preaching of the Gospel to the dead, (the unconverted Gentiles), that some will be punished as carnal men; but others, (those converted to Christianity), lead a spiritual life unto God." - Wakefield.
"For this purpose hath the Gospel been preached even to the dead, (i.e. the Gentiles), that although they might be condemned, indeed, by men in the flesh, (their persecutors), yet they might live eternally by God in the Spirit." - Macknight.
"For this cause was the Gospel preached to them that were dead; that they who live according to men in the flesh, may be condemned; but that they who live according to God in the Spirit, may live." - Knatchbull.
There are as many different translations of this verse, and comments upon it, as there are translators and commentators. That of Sir Norton Knatchbull, could the Greek text bear it, appears the most simple; but that of Dr. Macknight, which is nearly the sense given by Mr. Wesley in his Paraphrase, is more likely to be the true one among those already proposed.
But if the apostle had the same fact in view which he mentions, 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 3:20, then the antediluvians are the persons intended: For this cause - that Christ is prepared to judge the quick and the dead, and to dispense righteous judgment in consequence of having afforded them every necessary advantage, was the Gospel preached by Noah to them also who are dead - the antediluvian world, then dead in trespasses and sins, and condemned to death by the righteous judgment of God; but in his great compassion he afforded them a respite, that though they were condemned as men in the flesh, (for this was their character; my Spirit will not always strive with man, forasmuch as he is Flesh, Genesis 6:3), yet, hearing this Gospel by Noah, they may believe, and live according to God in the Spirit - live a blessed life in eternity according to the mercy of God, who sent his Spirit to strive with them. This appears to me to be the most consistent sense; especially as the apostle seems to refer to what he had said of the Spirit of Christ in Noah preaching to the spirits in prison - the rebellions that lived before the flood. See the notes on 1 Peter 3:19-20 (note).
on 1-peter 4 :6
For, for this cause - The expression, "For, for this cause," refers to an end to be reached, or an object to be gained, or a reason why anything referred to is done. The end or reason why the thing referred to here, to wit, that "the gospel was preached to the dead," was done, is stated in the subsequent part of the verse to have been "that they might be judged," etc. It was with reference to this, or in order that this might be, that the gospel was preached to them.
Was the gospel preached also to them that are dead - Many, as Doddridge, Whitby, and others, understand this of those who are spiritually dead, that is, the Gentiles, and suppose that the object for which this was done was that "they might be brought to such a state of life as their carnal neighbors would look upon as a kind of condemnation and death" - Doddridge. Others have supposed that it refers to those who had suffered martyrdom in the cause of Christianity; others, that it refers to the sinners of the old world (Saurin), expressing a hope that some of them might be saved; and others, that it means that the Saviour went down and preached to those who are dead, in accordance with one of the interpretations given of 1 Peter 3:19. It seems to me that the most natural and obvious interpretation is to refer it to those who were then dead, to whom the gospel had been preached when living, and who had become true Christians. This is the interpretation proposed by Wetstein, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, and others. In support of this it may be said:
(1) that this is the natural and obvious meaning of the word dead, which should be understood literally, unless there is some good reason in the connection for departing from the common meaning of the word.
(2) the apostle had just used the word in that sense in the previous verse.
(3) this will suit the connection, and accord with the design of the apostle. He was addressing those who were suffering persecution. It was natural, in such a connection, to refer to those who had died in the faith, and to show, for their encouragement, that though they had been put to death, yet they still lived to God. He therefore says, that the design in publishing the gospel to them was, that though they might be judged by people in the usual manner, and put to death, yet that in respect to their higher and nobler nature, the spirit, they might live unto God. It was not uncommon nor unnatural for the apostles, in writing to those who were suffering persecution, to refer to those who had been removed by death, and to make their condition and example an argument for fidelity and perseverance. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Revelation 14:13.
That they might be judged according to men in the flesh - That is, so far as people are concerned, (κατὰ ἀνθρώπους kata anthrōpous,) or in respect to the treatment which they received from people in the flesh, they were judged and condemned; in respect to God, and the treatment which they received from him, (κατὰ Θεὸν kata Theon,) they would live in spirit. People judged them severely, and put them to death for their religion; God gave them life, and saved them. By the one they were condemned in the flesh - so far as pain, and sorrow, and death could be inflicted on the body; by the other they were made to live in spirit - to be his, to live with him. The word "judged" here, I suppose, therefore, to refer to a sentence passed on them for their religion, consigning them to death for it. There is a particle in the original - μὲν men, "indeed" - which has not been retained in the common translation, but which is quite important to the sense: "that they might indeed be judged in the flesh, but live," etc. The direct object or design of preaching the gospel to them was not that they might be condemned and put to death by man, but this was indeed or in fact one of the results in the way to a higher object.
But live according to God - In respect to God, or so far as he was concerned. By him they would not be condemned. By him they would be made to live - to have the true life. The gospel was preached to them in order that so far as God was concerned, so far as their relation to him was concerned, so far as he would deal with them, they might live. The word live here seems to refer to the whole life that was the consequence of their being brought under the power of the gospel:
(a) that they might have spiritual life imparted to them;
(b) that they might live a life of holiness in this world;
(c) that they might live hereafter in the world to come.
In one respect, and so far as people were concerned, their embracing the gospel was followed by death; in another respect, and so far as God was concerned, it was followed by life. The value and permanence of the latter, as contrasted with the former, seems to have been the thought in the mind of the apostle in encouraging those to whom he wrote to exercise patience in their trials, and to show fidelity in the service of their master.
In the spirit - In their souls, as contrasted with their body. In respect to that - to the flesh - they were put to death; in respect to their souls - their higher natures - they were made truly to live. The argument, then, in this verse is, that in the trials which we endure on account of religion, we should remember the example of those who have suffered for it, and should remember why the gospel was preached to them. It was in a subordinate sense, indeed, that they might glorify God by a martyr's death; but in a higher sense, that in this world and the next they might truly live. The flesh might suffer in consequence of their embracing the gospel that was preached to them, but the soul would live. Animated by their example, we should be willing to suffer in the flesh, if we may for ever live with God.
on 1-peter 4 :6
4:6 For to this end was the gospel preached - Ever since it was given to Adam. To them that are now dead - In their several generations. That they might be judged - That though they were judged. In the flesh according to the manner of men - With rash, unrighteous judgment. They might live according to the will and word of God, in the Spirit; the soul renewed after his image.