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time is come that judgment [krima] must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?" The translators have made Peter affirm in v. 17, that the time is come; whereas Peter says, verse 7th, "the end of all things is [eggike] at hand;" that is near; viz: All things appertaining to the old dispensation, inclusive of the subject of the spir its in prison, who were about to be judged.
Who were the spirits in prison?
That, reader, is the very matter of interest that I am now about to consider. In a general sense, all men are in prison; being, while in the flesh, in bondage to corruption. Christ, in the parabola of the prophets, is represented as bringing the prisoners out of the prisonhouse. (Isa. xlii. 7.) But there is a peculiar sense, in the phraseology of Peter, which shews by his comparison, referring to those that were disobedient in the days of Noah, that the rebellious Jews were the identical spirits in question. Noah was a preacher of righteousness to the disobedient of his day, while the ark was preparing, &c. And the Lord Jesus Christ was a preacher of righteousness to the Jews, while the Antetype of the Ark of God's covenant of mercy to a lost world, was preparing, &c. Christ compares his coming, Matt, xxiv. 37-41, to the days of Noah, etc.
The subject, without metaphor, is the kingdom of God, or heaven. But, metaphorically, "God's kingdom is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world," (aionos, age. See Matt. xiii.) Well, Peter said, about 1800 years ago, "The end of all things is at hand," viz: the Jewish church, temporal dominion, etc. Now, be it remembered, that a net filled with every kind, (as to quality, etc.) of fishes, is a metonymy for "spirits in prison" "-and spirits in prison, is a metonymy for the Jews, as represented by Paul, (Rom. xi. 32,)"For God hath concluded them all [locked them up!] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." Paul, dropping all metaphor, affirms of the unbelieving and disobedient Jews, their true condition. "God hath"-this was according to His purpose of mercy-" concluded [sune
kleise, locked up, or inclosed] them all in unbelief," &c. And in Luke v. 6, where it is affirmed "they inclosed a great multitude of fishes," the same term is used in the original, and rendered inclosed, that is rendered concludeď in Rom. xi. 32. The Jews, therefore, were as much in prison, in the purpose of God, fixing their condition at the time of the coming of the kingdom of heaven, as were the fishes that were confined, de facto, inclosed in a net, &c.
The metaphor, in its imagery, compares the disobedient Jews, and their condition at the coming of Christ, at the end of all things, as expressed by Peter, to the disobedi ent that were destroyed by the flood, etc. And in his second Epistle, Peter also compares the ungodly Jews and their condition, to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha; the destruction of which he refers to as a beacon to warn sinners, &c. And in chap. iii. 7, Peter, continuing the subject, says, "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, [i. e. in contradistinction to the heavens and earth destroyed by the flood,] by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against [not the but] a day of judgment and [not perdition, but] destruction of ungodly men." Now be it remembered, that this same Peter, Acts ii. 14-20, quotes the prophecy of Joel, and fixes the time of its accomplishment in his own day and generation! We therefore have a key of Peter's own making, to unlock his metaphor, and explain his figures. Even Adam Clarke, in certain parts of his commentary, has admitted that the original terms ouranoi and ge, rendered heaven and earth, are used figuratively, to signify the Jewish Church, and temporal dominion; or the land of Judea, etc.*
* See Clarke's Com. on Matt. xxiv. 29. "The Jewish heaven shall perish, and the sun and moon of its glory and happiness shall be darkened-brought to nothing. The sun is the religion of the church; the moon is the government of the state; and the stars are the judges and doctors of both. Compare Isa. xiii. 10; Ezek. xxxii. 7, 8, &c. Lightfoot." It is, however, due to orthodox commentators, to state, that they are very careful to shun such passages as Matt. xxiv. 35; (Mark and Luke the same, etc.,) as they would shun a mad dog. The use that Christ made of his positive affirmation, is a poison to unbelievers.
Dr. Clarke on Matt. xxiii. 35, says, "En rns yes, upon this land, meaning probably the land of Judea; for thus the word [ges, ge, gen, etc.] is often to be understood."
Also in classical use, the term rendered earth, used by Peter, this construction is sanctioned. Vide “Thuc. 6. And having halted his army, he was preparing to lay waste the country;" rv ynv, (ten gen.)
It must occur to the mind of every intelligent reader, that the destruction by the flood, was not a destruction, in a literal sense, of either heaven or earth; but only of the creatures living on the earth, &c. Neither were the heavens or the earth destroyed by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. Literally, the heavens and the earth that existed in Peter's day, are the same that exist now; and always have existed since the creation. But, figuratively, the heavens, a metonymy for the religious faith and religious formula of men, during any particular age or dispensation; and the earth, a metonymy for the political or national existence of men, during any particular age or dispensation of the world, have been destroyed. The destruction of nations of men, etc., in prophetic metonymical language, is expressed by the figures of the sun being turned into darkness, the moon into blood; and preceded wonders in heaven, and signs in the earth, blood, fire, &c. John, in the Apokalypsis, represents, in a highly-wrought metaphor, the happening of the same event, viz: The coming of Christ, the end of the Jewish Church, the destruction. of the Temple and city of Jerusalem, and the commencement of the reign in Zion of the Lord Jesus Christ; (Rev. xx. 11-15; xxi; xxii.) affirming that the earth, (the Jewish dominion,) and the heaven, (the Jewish Church, etc.) fled away from the face of the Lord Jesus, who sat on the throne. John also uses the same figure of Peter; the dead, for the dead in sin; but for the quick, or those possessing the faith of the gospel, John introduces the metonymy of the book of life.
It should be remembered, that we read in the Scripture parabola, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." Also, the metonymy for gospel truth, the leaven that leaveneth, or quickeneth the whole lump. Hence Paul's parabola-"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies [How? Ans.] by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. viii. 9, 10.) And this, remember, in the present tense and world; while men are in their mortal bodies and those, thus quickened, are the quick, in opposition to the dead in sins, as mentioned in Peter's parabola. We therefore learn how the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead, preached to the spirits in prison. By this Spirit, Jesus, both before and after his resurrection, preached to the dead Jews, dead in trespasses and
sins. And for the purpose expressed by Peter and Paul, viz:-That being judged, in the present tense according to men in the flesh, they might, in the future tense, live according to God in the Spirit. For, says Paul, "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." Here we again have the present and
The immediate connexion that follows my text says, "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. The like figure [remember, Peter is using language figuratively, not literally!] whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," &c.*
The reader by examining Peter's epistles, and compar ing them with Rev. xiv. 6-11, can satisfy himself of the time when the judgment first began, at the house of God, or Temple at Jerusalem. And by reading Christ's admonitory exhortations to believers, to watch, to observe the signs that, preceding, should announce his coming, and to flee to the mountains, will understand how believ ers were "scarcely saved," when God's judgment, at the commencement of the Gospel Dispensation, buried Jerusalem, the Jews and their Temple, in one undistin guished ruin.
The translators evidently intended to construe the ori ginal to subserve their purpose of propping their dogma of immortal souls suffering in a separate state, after a literal death, and previously to a resurrection of the dead.t
It is certainly a great pity that those deluded people who expose them. selves by immersion in a river in extreme cold weather, and call it baptism, do not understand this passage. John the baptist baptized with water, as the forerunner of Christ. His baptism ended with the second aionos. Peter's view of baptism is, in opposition to the outward rite that putteth away the filth of the flesh, a spiritual baptism "by [not water, but a conscience purified by faith of] the resurrection of Jesus Christ." By knowledge. To be baptized eis, into the name, literally, “ εἰς τὸ ovopa, into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Matt. xxviii. 19. Not in water.
Whitby considers the spirits in prison to be the Gentiles. The Gentiles, however, were not, in Peter's day, in the past tense, the subjects of Christ's preaching; but the Jews. Whitby says, "that as other copies read," (v. 19,)" By which Spirit going, he preached to those in prison." Bishop Pearson says, "The persons to whom he (Christ)
But Peter, in metonymical phraseology, contrasts the condition of the Jews at the coming of Christ, then near, or at hand, with the antediluvian world; and the destruction of Jerusalem, etc., with the destruction of the old heaven and earth. Hence Peter's parabola-that, as Noah's family were saved by water (a figure of truth,) so the righteous would be saved at the coming of Christ, by faith in him and his resurrection. The event justified Peter's conclusion-the believers in the signs that Christ affirmed should precede his coming, fled to the mountains of Judea; and the unbelieving Jews "received the reward of their unrighteousness." AMEN.
preached by the Spirit, were only such as were disobedient in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing." Neither of these eminent men admit the possibility of preaching to disembodie spirits of men a separate state. Bishop P.'s hypothesis supposes, that the Spirit that raised Jesus, preached, by or through Noah, while, during the time, the ark was preparing, etc.