What are the different main views existent in Christianity on how 1 Peter 4:6 must be interpreted:

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 (KJV)

Can anyone, please, give an overview? I am especially interested in who has been understood as the "dead" in this verse.

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    Shouldn't this be on BH? – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Oct 25 '12 at 20:34
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    Asking for the views of Christians on it, rather than the Biblical meaning, probably makes it a better fit here. – DJClayworth Oct 25 '12 at 21:34

I see two main references to the "dead" in the Bible. The first are the physically dead, King Solomon talks about them in Ecclesiastes 9:5. In that verse he tells us that the "dead know nothing". This confirms what we already know, that the physically dead cannot benefit from teaching or preaching. They are dead.

The second are the spiritually dead. But I believe this verse is talking about the physically dead. Why physically dead?

If you go back to Chapter 3 verse 18, you see: "He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit." The verse is talking about Christs sacrifice. If you apply that to this verse you see that there are followers of Christ that will lose their life ("judged according to men in the flesh") but be alive in the spirit. He goes on to talk about suffering for Christ, this would include being martyred as many early Christians were.

If you look at chapter 3 and 4 as a whole you see that he is talking about turning away from an old lifestyle, living for God, and preparing for the judgement of men that will come as a result of that. This judgement could include the loss of your life, which is still true in some parts of the world today.

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  • Thank you for your answer. When, according to your view, the act of preaching the gospel to them took place, while they where still alive or while they were already dead (I heard some people say that this verse is telling us about Christ preaching the Gospel to the dead people while His physical body was dead)? – brilliant Oct 27 '12 at 5:40
  • I believe this to mean that they are now dead, but were physically alive when they received the Gospel. – dcreight Nov 12 '12 at 18:57

The LDS church believes that Christ literally preached to the spirits of deceased persons between the time of his death and his resurrection. This is taught in Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 which is a vision that Joseph F. Smith (not to be confused with Joseph Smith; Joseph F is his nephew) had of the spirits of the dead.

12 And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just ...

16 They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. ...

18 While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;

19 And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.

It goes on to clarify that Christ only preached directly to the righteous spirits and then sent those righteous spirits to preach to the unrighteous.

29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

The organized preaching of the gospel to spirits of the dead is key to the LDS doctrine of salvation for the dead.

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