[Christ was] put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit; by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison which sometime were disobedient. —I Peter 3:18-20.
“[Christ was] put to death in the flesh.” By virtue of His flesh, His human nature, Christ was able to die. “But quickened by the spirit.” By virtue of His spirit, His divine nature, He was able to bring Himself back to life [quickened]. Hence the God-Man, Jesus Christ, died on the cross at the end of His state of humiliation; and on the third day came back to life at the start of His state of exaltation.
Being made alive again (“quickened”), the God-Man in His glory and power descended into hell (the “prison” for the “spirits” of the “disobedient”) and proclaimed His victory (“preached”). Christ’s descent into hell was a triumphant procession; His preaching in hell, a cry of victory. Indeed, Christ had proven Himself to be victorious over death and the devil. “Having spoiled principalities and powers; He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
Hell must know that Christ has conquered, and that Satan has lost. This decent into hell was an act of the exalted Savior. Though the preaching of His victory could bring no joy or comfort to the spirits in hell, it certainly causes true Christians to rejoice and be comforted, for we know that Christ’s victory means that we also have the victory over sin, death, and hell. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57).
Let us, therefore, exult in the victory and exaltation of Christ until we are joined with “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23), all the saints in glory, when our earthly pilgrimage has come to an end.
PRAYER – Lord Jesus, exalted Savior, who hast declared Thy victory over Thine enemies, let us who are living in this time of grace receive Thy testimony in true faith, that when our last hour comes we may depart this life, not passing into pain and destruction, but into jubilant peace. Hear me, O my blessed Lord, who wast dead and dost live to all eternity. Amen.
He whose path no records tell
Hath descended into hell;
He the strong man armed hath bound
And in highest heaven is crowned: Hallelujah!
Hymn 190, 4. (TLH)