1st Peter 4:6 reads, “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (NKJV). This is, on the surface, a difficult verse. Some men believe that this verse teaches that the gospel is preached to men AFTER they die, thus giving them another chance to be saved. But we believe Peter is simply reminding fellow-believers that “the gospel HAD BEEN preached to those who ARE NOW dead.” Peter is speaking of BELIEVERS and the words that follow confirm this.

In order to understand the rest of the verse, we need to get the full context from verses 1-5. Verses 1-3 say, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” The believer in Christ should be willing to suffer persecution from the hands of wicked men who hate Christ, just as Christ suffered from the ungodly for living a righteous life. If we do suffer “in the flesh,” that is, “in the body,” it is because we are refusing to live in sin and thus even though we suffer, we are also delivered from the power of sin. Peter then reminds them of their shameful past life when all they did was sin, in company with their unsaved friends.

In verse 4 we see the reaction from our former friends when they see us living a righteous life. It reads, “In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” This is exactly what I experienced 40 years ago when I was saved by the grace of God, for all my old friends thought I was weird for not partying with them anymore and they began to speak evil of me and my new Christian friends. We can expect this, dear fellow-believer, for scripture says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2nd Timothy 3:12).

In verse 5 we learn that these men will have to give an account of their actions to God. It states, “They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Christ will judge all unsaved men who are alive BEFORE He establishes His Millennial kingdom and He will judge those who died unsaved AFTER His kingdom ends and eternity begins.

Then we come to verse 6, where Peter seeks to comfort believers who were suffering for righteousness’ sake. He encourages them by reminding them of believers who had already died. They had been “judged according to men in the flesh.” This simply refers to what we have just seen; they had been JUDGED by their former, ungodly friends and looked upon as strange. They weren’t content to merely judge them; they also spoke evil of them. Perhaps some were even persecuted physically and put to death for their faith in Christ. But Peter goes on to say that they “live according to God in the spirit.”  What a blessed contrast! They were condemned by men who judged them wrongly, but they now live with God Who judged them worthy of eternal life because they had believed the gospel of Jesus Christ!  (223.9)  (DO)