1 Peter 4:4-6
4 ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, 5 οἳ ἀποδώσουσιν λόγον τῷ ἑτοίμως ἔχοντι κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς. 6 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη, ἵνα κριθῶσιν μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ζῶσιν δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι.
1 Peter 4:4-6
4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of j debauchery, and k they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready l to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why m the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
1 Peter 4:4-6
4 So 9 they are astonished 10 when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness, and they vilify you. 11 5 They will face a reckoning before 12 Jesus Christ 13 who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 Now it was for this very purpose 14 that the gospel was preached to those who are now dead, 15 so that though 16 they were judged in the flesh 17 by human standards 18 they may live spiritually 19 by God’s standards. 20
Main point summary
Options for Interpretation
Working the text
1 Peter 4:6
εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ
For this is why
2 possibilities: 1) this "for" refers to preceding verses 4-5 or 2) it refers to 6c-e. Based on logic , it cannot be 1 it would make little sense for v4-5 to be the basis for v6b and following. Why would it be that because God judges the living and the dead, the gospel is preached to the dead? So immediate context and logic points us to the thought that option 2 is the best.
καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη,
m the gospel was preached even to those who are dead,
the key question here is who is the dead here? There are three possibilities: 1) the same dead in 1 Peter 3:19 see LAB 130 ; 2) Piper believes the dead here means those considered dead by the maligners, i.e. the suffering believers; 3) dead refers to the unbelieving maligners themselves. The immediate context of 1 Peter 3:19 and this passage are different, ruling out #1. The logic of the immediate context rules out #3 because why would Peter encourage the suffering believers to take hope that the maligners would be saved in the end, and encourage the believers to continue suffering injustice if there can be salvation after death? So option #2 is left.
ἵνα κριθῶσιν μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ
that though judged in the flesh the way people are,
6c and d are parallel clauses that leads Piper to say this best describes the believers who are suffering unjustly. His conclusion is that the believers, judged by human standards seem to have the worst possible judgement i.e. "death" . . .
ζῶσιν δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι.
they might live in the spirit the way God does.
...but according to God's standards, these believers live.
A complex web to weave
Notes Refer to www.desiringgod.org/labs/is-there-any-hope-for-the-dead Intro I have found this single verse, and the LAB presentation to be one of the most challenging. It is not straightforward, it's a controversial verse, disagreements abound. Nonetheless, I found this to be helpful to know that there is disagreement, and this verse allows for some "speculation." I found this an incredible exercise that does pay off not so much in coming to a definitive conclusion, but in training to use various reading principles. Reading principle The LAB webpage says that here, the word "for" is a crucial word setting the ground or basis for interpretation. In addition, I would add that this verse requires sound wisdom on how to decide how the context is revealing the text, and what is the logic throughout 1 Peter and the entire NT especially. I've incorporated the LAB questions into the "Working the text" section below. I must confess that I also used a commentary to help me understand the arguments. Here is a rather long excerpt that I found very helpful beyond the LAB presentation: Since the time of the ancient church, the enigmatic thought of preaching to the dead in 4:6 has prompted two general interpretations. Those who support a postmortem opportunity for conversion take 4:6 as a broader instance of Christ preaching to the spirits in 3:19. Others take it to refer to those who are spiritually dead even though physically alive. In the immediate context, Peter’s point is that death does not exempt a person from God’s coming judgment. Accountability after death was not widely taught in the pagan world. With such an assumption, a pagan critic could reasonably question what good the gospel is, since it seems so restrictive of behavior in this life, and then the believer dies like everyone else. Peter, however, teaches that because people will be judged even after physical death, contra pagan expectation, the gospel message of forgiveness and judgment that has been preached to those who are now dead—whether they became believers or not—is still efficacious. Death does not invalidate either the promises or the warnings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter’s claim not only would warn the unbeliever but would also encourage Christians concerning believers who may have passed on. Peter reassures his readers that the efficacy of the gospel continues after physical death to be the basis for God’s judgment, and therefore a decision to live for Christ in this life is truly the right decision, even despite appearances to the contrary as judged by the world’s reasoning. As Calvin (1963: 302) eloquently puts it in his commentary on this verse, We see … that death does not hinder Christ from being always our defender. It is a remarkable consolation to the godly that death itself brings no loss to their salvation. Even if Christ does not appear as Deliverer in this life, yet His redemption is not void, or without effect, for His power extends even to the dead. The fact that some of those to whom Christ was preached have died is therefore no basis for judging the value of the gospel. God will judge rightly. The Christian dead may have indeed been judged by human standards in this life and may have been found wanting, whether by popular opinion or by official action. Nevertheless, judged by God’s standards, they are alive in the eternal realm of the Spirit. Because this verse is sometimes used to support the possibility of conversion after death, the reasons for rejecting this interpretation deserve further consideration. The referent of “the dead” (νεκροῖς, nekrois) in 4:6 must be informed by the use of the same term in 4:5, where it forms half of a merism that refers to all humanity in all ages, whether physically alive at the moment or physically dead. Therefore, the understanding, ancient though it may be, that 4:6 refers to the spiritually dead is unlikely. Hilary of Arles (ca. AD 401–449) expresses this understanding and the possible connection to 3:19: “The gospel is preached to the Gentiles who are dead in sin, but this may also refer to the fact that when the Lord was buried in the tomb he went to preach to those who live in hell” (Bray 2000: 113). If even ancient commentary allowed that nekrois might refer to the physically dead, it raises the question of who these dead were and specifically if they were the same beings that Christ preached to in 3:19. Those who understand 3:19 to be a reference to a descent into hell, where Christ preached the gospel in a postmortem offer of salvation, have construed 4:6 to be a broadening of that principle, even though the verses have few points of contact. S. Johnson (1960) argues for this interpretation based on a rather artificially constructed chiasm and overlooks the fact that the two verses do not occur within the same discourse unit. The immediate contexts of 3:19 and 4:6 should take priority in informing their respective interpretations. This is especially true since the two verses are only superficially similar. In 3:19 Christ is the one who proclaims, but in 4:6 the verb is passive and implies that Christ is the content of the preaching. This problem has sometimes been answered by broadening the postmortem preaching to extend to preaching done by the deceased apostles. Furthermore, the verbs are not the same in both verses, for the more general verb κηρύσσω (kēryssō, proclaim) stands in 3:19, but εὐαγγελίζομαι (euangelizomai, preach good news) is a more specific reference to preaching the gospel in 4:6. The weightiest reason the two verses are not directly related is that the audience in 3:19 is “the spirits” (pneumata), not “the dead” (nekrois) as in 4:6, and the two words are not synonymous. It was the assumption that Christ descended to Hades, as stated in the Apostles’ Creed, that gave rise to the theory of postmortem conversion in 4:6 (see comments on 3:18–22). Goppelt (1993: 289) is one of the few interpreters who argues that the wording of 4:6 “suggests that proclamation of the gospel is encountered by the dead when they are dead and that their death here, as in v. 5, is literal” (emphasis added). He reads 4:6 in the context of 3:19 as an eschatological event where the proclamation of Christ applies not only “to the most lost but to all the dead” (1993: 289). Therefore, in his judgment both 3:19 and 4:6 are mythological images that should be understood “as a kerygmatic confession, without trying to objectify it as an order of salvation for the dead or as a portrayal of a Hades proclamation.” Most contemporary interpreters no longer claim an association between 4:6 and 3:19 (Achtemeier 1996: 291; Bandstra 2003: 123; Dalton 1965: 42–51; Dalton 1979; Davids 1990: 154; J. H. Elliott 2000: 730–31; Hillyer 1992: 122; Kistemaker 1987: 163–64; Michaels 1988: 237–38). First Peter 4:6 is not speaking of two groups of people, but one. The dead in 4:6 who have been judged by human standards in the flesh are the same ones who are alive in the realm of the Spirit as judged by God’s standards, and they therefore do not need an offer of salvation. Moreover, the phrase εἰς τοῦτο γάρ (eis touto gar, for this reason) closely joins 4:5 and 4:6. First Peter 4:5 claims that pagans who reject the gospel of Christ and mock Christians for living out their faith will have to answer to God, the one who judges the living and the dead. As noted above, “the dead” in 4:6 should be understood to have the same referent as in 4:5, for there is no syntactic or lexical marker that would suggest otherwise. Therefore, the claim of 4:5 is that there is a judgment of God coming and that being dead does not excuse one from having to give an account for what was done before death. First Peter 4:6 begins “for this reason,” that is, for the reason that there is a judgment coming, the gospel was preached to the dead, meaning to those who are now dead (but who heard the gospel while living, as the TNIV makes clear). The whole point of evangelism is to prepare people for the day they must give an account of themselves to their Judge. Physical death does not exempt those who reject the gospel in this life from judgment, nor does it render the gospel ineffective for those who committed themselves to it when they heard it in this life. The gospel was preached because judgment is coming (4:5), so that (4:6, ἵνα, hina) people may live in the realm of the Spirit (pneumati) as judged by God’s standards, regardless of how they were judged by human standards during this life (sarki, in the flesh). This understanding of 4:6 is consistent with Peter’s use of the terms sarki and pneumati in 3:18 and 4:2 to refer, respectively, to this earthly life before physical death and the life of the believer after God’s judgment. First Peter 3:19 and 4:6 are not referring to the same proclamation, but both nevertheless do make universal claims for Jesus Christ. In both verses Christ is presented as the victor over both present and ancient evil, who has full authority over both fallen angels and human souls. He is also presented as the basis on which God’s judgment will be carried out. Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 270–273.