I believe they will indeed be damned forever and I base this view on 1st Peter 3:19-20. In verse 18 of that chapter the apostle Peter spoke of how Christ was “put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” He goes on to say in verses 19-20, “by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water” (NKJV).

The key words in this passage are “preached to the spirits in prison.” We believe that the “spirits” are the “departed HUMAN spirits” of all those who lived in Noah’s day and who refused to believe the message of judgment that was preached by Noah while he and his family built the ark. That Noah preached such a message is revealed to us in 2nd Peter 2:5, “and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Notice, Noah was preaching a message that involved God’s “righteousness,” for God is absolutely HOLY and He must judge sin. Noah was no doubt very clear and specific in his message, telling the “ungodly” (i.e. unbelievers) that God was going to “bring in the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Our passage also teaches us the Noah preached by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. Genesis 6:4 confirms this also, along with the truth that God limited Noah’s message to a period of 120 years. It reads, “And the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

It is most solemn to consider that NOT ONE SOUL believed Noah’s message and thus all but eight souls (Noah’s family) perished in the flood. And as we have already noted, those people were called “ungodly,” so they were all “unbelievers.” It is UNBELIEF that causes men to be damned. John 3:36 declares, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and HE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE the Son shall not see life, but THE WRATH OF GOD ABIDES ON HIM.” Revelations 21:8 echoes this same truth, “But for the cowardly and UNBELIEVING…their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Someone may be thinking, “But we saw in verse 19 that the Spirit ’preached to the spirits IN PRISON,’ and doesn’t that imply that Christ went, by the Spirit, into the unseen world of departed spirits and preached the gospel to lost souls to give them a second chance to be saved?” This view would contradict Scripture, for once an unbeliever dies his doom is sealed, as we saw in John 3:36. Again, the context of our passage proves that the Spirit preached THROUGH NOAH to those living before the flood. The words “in prison” simply mean that those that Noah “HAD preached to” are “NOW in prison.” They WERE human beings living in physical bodies when Noah preached to them, but after they died in the flood their spirits departed their bodies and are NOW “in prison” awaiting the final judgment. This judgment is described in Revelation 20:11-15 where it says their bodies will be raised from the dead, reunited with their spirits, and then they will stand before Jesus Christ as the Great White Throne to be judged. (280.3) (DO)