Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 54
I Peter 2:15 – 3:22
For those of you joining us on television; of course, you realize we’re an informal Bible study and that’s why I’ve never apologized for the coffee cups around. So, if you’re ever coming through Tulsa, come and join us. We make four programs in a row and after each half-hour program we take a coffee break. And we just have a good time all afternoon, fellowshipping together and studying the Word of God. Okay, let’s go right back into I Peter and we were in chapter 3 verse 12.
I Peter 3:12
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” Now so often the question comes, “Does God hear the prayers of evil people?” What do you think? Would you, if you were in God’s position? No. Unless it’s for salvation. We know He’s always bending the ear for salvation. But when evil, wicked people, all of a sudden get the word from their doctor that they’ve got cancer, do you think God hears their prayers? No. He doesn’t hear those prayers.
Now, if they’re asking for salvation, and if they believe Paul’s Gospel for their salvation, then they can come right into the throne room of God with their petitions and thanksgivings, and have every right to. But the obstinate, the rebellious, no. God’s not going to do anything for them. He’s given them opportunity enough on the other side of the coin. So, always remember that God is always aware of the righteous; they’re His! They’re His number one concern, they have become right with Him.
The lost are His concern only because He’s already purchased their redemption. All they have to do is cash in on that because He’s not willing that any should perish. But don’t think for a moment that prayers like, “You bring me through this particular battle, I’ll go home and live for you,” will be answered, when they get home and just forget all about it. Those prayers are never answered whatsoever.
Let’s go back to that verse in Proverbs that I quoted in the last moments of the last program, and that’s Proverbs 14 verse 34. On your way to Proverbs, let me mention that I had a phone call early this morning, and they said, “Les, do you ever see a parallel between God’s dealing with Israel and His dealing with America.“
Yes, there’s a parallel, to a degree. Remember, we’re not under the Covenant Promises, but I think God has so blessed America since our founding was on Biblical principles. We have been, for the most part, a God-fearing nation. And I think God has blessed us even as He promised to bless Abraham back in the Old Testament. So I do draw a parallel, and always have, that I think there is that distinctiveness in God’s blessing America like He has blessed no other nation on earth.
I see this great push to throw Christianity completely out of the American social fabric. Remember that’s what Israel did at times. But, even though Israel always had that remnant of believers, they were such a small remnant that the majority kicked God out of their thinking, as our country is trying to do today. They had wicked kings and, consequently, what did God have to do with the Nation of Israel? Took them out. Brought in Nebuchadnezzar. He destroyed the city and they lost probably a million people. And they went into captivity. They went under the heavy boot of the Babylonians because the nation for the most part rebelled against God.
But, what happened to the believers? They went out with them. That’s how Daniel ended up in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, because he was one of the slaves taken out of Israel because of Israel’s wickedness. Well, you see, I think the day is coming when God is going to do the same thing with America. I think Billy Graham said it years ago, and I’ve said it before on the program, that America has been left with so much responsibility. We’ve got churches on every corner, Bibles in every home and we, like no other nation on earth, have been blessed of God – and if we are going to kick Him out, then we can expect, as a nation, His wrath and His judgment to fall.
We hope it won’t but, on the other hand, this verse in Proverbs makes it so plain that that’s the direction that our nation is going. Now the liberal press may not like that. And the gross unbelievers in our society may not like it but they still cannot remove the fact that God is Sovereign, whether they believe it or not. All right, Proverbs 14 verse 34.
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Remember what I said a program or two ago? What did Tocqueville realize? America was great because America is good. And America will cease to be great when America ceases to be good. Don’t you forget it. All right, so “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Now, that’s so plain a third-grader can understand it, and if we as a nation don’t understand it we’re in trouble, that’s all there is to it. Of course, we hope the Lord will come and remove the Church in the Rapture, before that should happen. Back to I Peter again.
I Peter 3:13
“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” Well, it sounds good but what happens? Many times good people are persecuted. In fact, what prompted Nero to turn so viciously on the Christian community? He supposedly trumped up himself the burning of Rome, and then blamed it on the Christian community. He was able to turn on them and the horrors that Nero brought on Christians I don’t even like to repeat in a mixed crowd like this. It’s beyond imagination. So, yes, bad things can happen to even God’s good people.
I Peter 3:14
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” Could we handle abject persecution like is taking place in so many places in the world? You know, I have to tell the Lord almost every day, “I’m spoiled.” We all are. We’ve had it so good. We haven’t had to fear persecution. We haven’t had to fear losing our livelihood. We haven’t had to fear that somebody would come in the middle of the night and shoot us just because we’re Christians. But, if and when it should come, are we ready to handle it?
Well, I always remember an old pastor of mine. A long time ago, when Iris and I were first married, I spoke that fear to him one morning after church and this was his answer. “Les, don’t worry about it. If and when that day comes, the grace of God will be sufficient.” Well, I’m resting on that, and I think that must have been the case back in the Dark Ages. People were burned at the stake and they were put on the racks and my, the martyrs by the millions. And yet, there is never a record that any of them ever complained. So grace must just be sufficient for the hour. But, Peter is admonishing his believers here, and remember now that he’s writing primarily, not exclusively, but primarily to Jews there in the area of present day Turkey, I feel, more than just at the Jewish church in Jerusalem.
I Peter 3:15
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” Now what does that tell you? Well, that’s just pretty plain English. No matter who it is, if they confront you under whatever circumstance, and they say, “Well now, I know you’re different. I know you’ve got a different attitude than most people that I know. Why are you different?” Well, what do you tell them? Because you have been saved by God’s grace, you know that you’re a child of God and, as a result, He has made you different. You have different ideologies, you have different appetites, you have different desires. We’re different. We’re just not like the world. And we’ve got to be ready to tell anybody and everybody that stops and asks us.
I Peter 3:16a
“Having a good conscience;…” Not a hypocrite, who on the one hand does one thing and tries to live something else.
I Peter 3:16
“Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation (or manner of living) in Christ.”Okay, what happens? Well, I’ve already given you an example of Nero. What did Nero do? He falsely accused that Christian community of setting Rome on fire, and he probably did it himself.
Well, you see, that’s just a blatant example of what the world does to believers constantly. They can trump up false accusations. In fact, I remember years ago quoting to someone the words of the Lord Jesus Himself; I hope I can recall them. “Blessed are ye when men say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.” Did you get that? So it’s going to happen. They’re going to accuse you of doing something that’s as false as a three-dollar bill. But, if you know it’s an untruth, then we don’t have to let it bother us, because the Lord Himself told us that that’s part and parcel of our existence in a sin-cursed world, that they will falsely accuse us. And they were doing it here. And so Peter is admonishing them, “Don’t let it throw you a curve. Don’t let it upset you, because this is part and parcel of living a godly life in a wicked world.”
Live your life so completely honest that, even though they make false accusations, it will be proven a lie and then they can be the ones that are embarrassed and ashamed. All right, verse 17.
I Peter 3:17
“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” Our prisons are full of people who have done evil and they live to regret it, of course. But my, the letters that we get from prison inmates. Over and over and over and it has prompted me to use the term “bad choices,” because that’s what most of them will tell you. While they were growing up they made bad choices. And you know, you make enough of them, that’s where you’ll end up – behind bars. And that’s where a lot of them are now finding God’s saving grace. I believe there’s almost a revival of sorts amongst our prisoners. And it’s just amazing the response that we get from the TV program as well as the little books. Here they have been guilty of doing evil and they’re paying the price of it – whereas if you suffer for well-doing, hopefully it’ll be for nothing more than some persecution and so forth.
All right, now we come into these verses in Peter that, again, have caused so much controversy. So many questions. And I’m not sure that I’ll be able to answer them to satisfy everybody but we’re going to take a stab at it. Hopefully we can make some sense out of verse 18.
I Peter 3:18
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, (and, of course, that goes back to that agony leading up to the cross) the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” In other words, the Spirit of Christ never died. Don’t ever think, for a moment, that God died when Christ died on the cross. His flesh died, yes. But never His Spirit.
I Peter 3:19
” By which (His Spirit) also he went and preached unto the sprits (small ‘s’, which is the soul and spirit of those who were) in prison:”
Back in our Old Testament economy and before the crucifixion, down in the center of the earth, with a great gulf fixed, was Hades. Hades was the term in the Greek. Sheol was the Hebrew. And Hell is our English. And they all mean the same thing – the place of the departed or the dead.
Now up until Christ’s death, burial and resurrection then, this was where all the departed ones went after death. They went down in the center-most part and I’m going to show you the Scriptures in just a minute. The Old Testament saints all went here, and we’ll go all the way back to Adam and Abraham and all the rest of them – they went at death down into Hell, or Sheol, or Hades; but they went on the Paradise side. There were two sides down there, the Paradise side and torment side.
Now the best way you can explain that is, what did Jesus tell the thief on the cross? Today thou shalt be with me where? In Paradise. And this is exactly what He’s talking about. That from the cross, then, the thief as well as Christ Himself, in the realm of the spirit, went down into the Paradise side in the center of the earth. Today Paradise is in heaven, but at that time, it was in the center of the earth. Now let’s use the Scriptures. Turn with me to Matthew, chapter 12. I didn’t intend to do this; it didn’t even cross my mind until last night, that I was going to do this. But, I think I’m thinking of all the questions that have come in about all this, so we’d better. The setting here is in Jesus’ earthly ministry.
“Then certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:” Now what does that tell you? Jonah (Jonas), was a real event. It wasn’t just a legend, as some would try to tell you.
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” That’s what the Book says. I can’t imagine now, from all the pictures you get from science, the heart of the earth is molten – nothing but molten whatever. Well I have to lay that aside, as the Book says “in the heart of the earth” is this place of the departed dead. All right now, in order to pick up a brief picture of that (and that’s all it is, a little window of information) let’s look in Luke 16, where we have the account of the rich man and Abraham and Lazarus. Now verse 19.
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: (That’s down in Paradise.) the rich man also died, and was buried; 23. And in hell (Sheol. Hades.) he lift up his eyes, being in (what?) torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24. And he (the rich man) cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26. And beside all this, (now here comes the picture) between us and you (between Paradise and Torment) there is a great gulf fixed: (do you see that?) so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
Sobering isn’t? But all I want you to get here is this picture of this scenario in the heart of the earth – that down on the one side of this Hades, Sheol and Hell, is Paradise. Then, the great gulf fixed, and on the other side is Torment. Now, when the Apostle’s Creed, I think it is, that says, that they believe that Jesus died, was buried and His soul went down into Hell. My, that has thrown a curve at so many people. You mean Jesus went to Hell? Well, not the flames of torment – that wouldn’t make sense. But He went down into the Paradise side, and that’s why He told the thief, “today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” Not Torment.
From here, we’ve got to go over to Ephesians chapter 4, and we’ll begin with verse 8. I think Paul kind of puts the frosting on the cake and, hopefully, we can put all this together now.
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,…” In other words, those souls that couldn’t go into Glory were down there in Paradise like captives. Now that takes a little further explanation. When you look at the whole idea of the redemption process by blood; animal’s blood could not take away sin. All animal’s blood could do was cover it. I’ve used the expression – “swept them under the rug.” So, animal’s blood could not take away the Old Testament believers sin. Consequently, he could not go into God’s holy presence until the atoning blood of Christ Himself was shed.
So it just follows, then, that after His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood, He went down into the Paradise side and He preached to those spirits in prison. So what did He preach? “The atoning blood has been shed!” I can now take you with me into the Glory. Got it?
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? [see how that fits with Matthew?] 10. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
So now what happened? When Christ had shed His atoning blood, here on the cross, He could tell the thief, “today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” They went down for those three days and three nights into the lower parts of the earth, but into the Paradise side; and when Peter says He preached to those spirits in prison, this is what he could preach – “The atoning blood has now been shed. You are now fit to go up into the heavens.”
Now that took care of the Paradise side of hell, but what about these in torment. The Old Testament says that Hell has simply been enlarged, so instead of half of it being Paradise and half Torment, it is now evidently all Torment; and when we speak of Hell, that’s what we normally think of, isn’t it? The place of torment. The place of punishment. But, in the Old Testament economy it was the place of all of the departed dead.
Now come back with me to I Peter, and we’ll again pick up a couple more verses. So in the Spirit, while His body of flesh was laying in the tomb up there in Jerusalem – in the spirit:
I Peter 3:19-20a
“By which also he (Christ) went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20. Which sometime were disobedient, (while still in the old Adam) when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing,…”
How long? A hundred and twenty years to build that ark. A hundred and twenty years God was patient with that wicked people living there at the time of Noah, while Noah and his sons (and probably some hired help) were building the ark.
Okay, now that’s what Peter is talking about, see? These people who had lived before the Flood. They, too, had been sinners, but we know that God has always separated the human race between the lost and the saved. And even though, from Adam until Moses, there was no Law – there was no formal system of worship – yet there were saved and lost people. And so now, when we get to the next verse in our next half-hour, we’re going to see that, through the horrors of the flood, how many people were saved? Eight. And that’s all!