1 Peter 4:6, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”
One example of the New Testament emphasis is that Christians live their lives by faith in Christ alone. Many passages could be summoned to prove that Christians are justified by faith alone in Christ alone (Galatians 2:15-16). Though the Christian’s justification comes immediately when they first believe, the life of faith does not end there. Instead, every Christian is to live their entire lives by faith in Christ.
Because of Adam’s decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, mankind are sinners by nature and by choice. The result of that is even though; we are in Christ, our faith may at times be weak. For example, we may face persecution and discrimination or face circumstances where we may doubt the promises of God. Yet, when we do doubt, Peter reminds us, we are those who have the living hope of salvation in Christ alone. The Christian’s hope is indestructible, founded on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and guarded by God Himself (1 Peter 1:1-2). Christians receive this hope because, by faith, they have been united to Christ, and are members of the royal priesthood of God (1 Peter 2:4-10). The Christian’s baptism is a visible sign and seal, they have identified with Christ in His finished and sufficient work and are also with Him in His life (1 Peter 3:18-22).
The Christian’s union with Christ requires they live lives of love, submitted under the Lordship of Christ to the God-ordained authorities (1 Peter 1:13-2-3; 2:11-3:7). As they do this, they will often face suffering (1 Peter 3:8-17), but must not fear their persecutors. Instead, as Christ did, they must commit themselves to the will of God so as to suffer than do evil, demonstrating they are in Christ and have decisively made a break with sin (1 Peter 4:1-2).
1 Peter 4:6 reminds Christians that all those who happen to suffer for doing the will of the Lord will be vindicated at the last day. As we have seen throughout our study of 1 Peter unrepentant humanity will be condemned at the final judgment (1 Peter 4:3-5). 1 Peter 4:6 instructs readers that because of the judgment of the last day, the gospel was preached to the dead that though judged in the flesh, they might live in the Spirit. The word dead here refers to Christians who were once alive. At first, it may appear that their deaths have invalidated the promise of God to vindicate the servants of the Lord. The promises of God are tied to the character of God and always hold true. Dead Christians are still alive, dwelling with God and waiting for the final judgment. At the judgment, those who did the will of God by putting their faith in Christ will be vindicated before all flesh, but those who did not shall suffer unending, unrelenting, conscious punishment in hell.
The suffering and death of the saints in the Early Church caused many of the very first Christians to wonder about the promises of God to vindicate the people of God. 1 Peter 4:6 has demonstrated that God rewards those who fear Him. Although they will not fully realize their salvation until the new heavens and the new earth, every Christian should never fear death. When you fear death and persecution, please remember that you will be fully vindicated on account of the finished and sufficient work of the Lord Jesus at the last day.