For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit, by whom He also went and preached to the spirits in prison, who in times past were disobedient, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.1 Peter 3:18–20 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Peter is writing on the merits of suffering for doing good things. In it, there is the idea to not fear. He says earlier “Do not be afraid of their terror, do not be troubled.” He is paraphrasing something from Isaiah 8.
Jesus likewise also suffered for doing good. And like Jesus, a believer has died to themselves and already been made alive in Him. This is why Peter is saying to not be afraid of their terror. It has no real power.
Peter is going to continue to connect this to the floodwaters of Noah. Jesus goes to have words with spirits in Sheol. The latter idea is not without controversy.
It is my understanding that humanity’s genetics had been corrupted before the flood. Lots of the bodies that perished were of corrupted flesh that was the progeny of certain fallen angels. There is much to explain there and perhaps in future weeks, I may elaborate on that. Suffice it to say, the dead spirits of those progeny were disobedient as well as humans that perished. Their eternity is certain. This is why demons tremble.
What Peter is doing is pointing out that those who went into the water of Noah’s flood… Died. There was no hope for them because of their disobedience. There is no rescue after death.
Peter then uses that idea of the flood and those perishing to connect as anti-type to baptism and the eternal security of the salvation Jesus gives.
Figuratively this is like baptism, which also saves us now. It is not washing off the dirt from the body, but a response to God from a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him.1 Peter 3:21–22 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Jesus passed into the grave but rose again, ascending to His place with God in heaven. All powers and authorities are subject to Him. What a terrifying thought to those spirits that perished. There is no help for them.
Baptism isn’t like the floodwaters. A believer goes into the water not to be made clean. That has already been done. The believer goes into the water to demonstrate there is no claim death can have on them, whether past, present, or future. This is proclaimed as the believer is raised up out of the water. It is a sure demonstration that the watery grave, or any grave for that matter, has no power whatsoever over the believer.
Don’t fear their terror.
Every single time a soul is baptized it is a public announcement that another soul is set aside for resurrection. The grave has no business with that one.
For me, I explain baptism with a similar metaphor. An athlete may sign a contract to play for a team. The moment he agrees, he is part of that team. A public proclamation may be made to celebrate that signing. But it is real when that athlete dons the identity of that team, putting on the uniform and walking on the field of play.
That is baptism for a believer!
He has already been saved by belief and confession. We rightly celebrate such things when they happen. At baptism, the believer dons the uniform, that is he takes on the identity of the team. in this case, it’s the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. For all intents and purposes, when a believer comes out of the water, he is on the field of play!
Hallelujah! It is serious!
Just as death has no claim on Jesus, death has no claim on a believer!
Those that went into the water of Noah’s flood perished. They did not come out of it. It bears repeating. Baptism proclaims Jesus’ victory over death in showing an already saved person is set aside for resurrection and is brought into and then out of the water.