..he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah..(1Pt 3:19).
..For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (1Pt 4:6).
The future died, entombed with all hope and messianic expectation. Holy Saturday is silent: the dead are buried, and yet not entirely lost. Even as the women wept and the disciples were crushed by an apocalypse of suffering, Jesus was drawing those who had died into fellowship with Him.
By entering the realm of death, He preached salvation to the departed spirits. Christ is not concerned only with the living: He gives the hope of faith to the dead, and death cannot hinder this glorious redemption. The hell and foresakenness of the cross were followed by the hell and heresy of Godlessness. But still He selflessly saves those who are lost. His love is not only for Israel’s dead: it is catholic, ecumenical, universal. The gospel is not only for those who live today, but also for yesterday’s generations and tomorrow’s nations. If Christ can mysteriously fellowship with the dead, His descent into hell was not suffering, but the beginning of His exaltation: Christus Victor.
‘For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living‘ (Rom 14:9). The dead are dead in the shadows: their resurrection is yet to come. But the dead have rights. Not even death cannot separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:38f). Those who died await His coming. He is not yet risen, but they cannot see. The eternal fate of the unredeemed world and the trial of all generations are waiting in a graveyard for a cosmic spark of life. We have faith, but the hungering, thirsting, yearning to be with Christ is an unbearable agony. How long must we wait? Come, Lord Jesus, come soon.