19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 1 Peter 3:19-20
There are many interpretations of the meaning of verse 19. In the context of suffering, and with the reference to Noah in verse 20, it’s interesting to observe that Noah and seven others “were brought safely through the water,” following 120 years of persecution as the ark was built.
During this time, like Christ, Noah proclaimed a message of pending judgment and available salvation to his persecutors and detractors (just get in the boat!). These lost souls now await final judgment “in prison.” This interpretation fits the ideas in the passage and doesn’t cause us to wildly speculate (this is a devotional blog, not a multi-volume commentary!).
The main teaching is God’s extraordinary patience, in this case, fixed at 120 years.
We don’t know what our “grace period” is right now, but it too is for the purposes of our proclamation of Christ’s victory on the cross, like Noah, and like Christ. This is because there will come a day with the rains come and the water rises. Actually, to be perfectly biblical, water won’t be used the next time around, but fire!
So, as the old African-American spiritual warns, “judgment day is a-rolling around.”