A correct understanding of this passage may be obtained by noting the following facts:
1. Men are never spoken of in Scripture as "spirits". Man has
a spirit, but he is not "a spirit", for a spirit hath not flesh and bones".
In this life man has "flesh and blood", a "natural" (or psychical) body.
At death this spirit "returns to God Who gave it" (Ps. 31:5. Eccles.
12:7. Luke 23:46. Acts 7:59). In resurrection "God giveth
it a body as it hath pleased Him" (1Cor. 15:38). This is no longer
a "natural" (or psychical) body, but a "spiritual body" (1Cor. 15:44).
a. They "left their own habitation".
b. This "habitation" is called (in Greek) oiketerion, which occurs again only in 2Cor. 5:2, where it is called our "house" (i.e. body) with which we earnestly long to be "clothed upon"; referring to the "change" which shall take place in resurrection. This is the spiritual resurrection body of 1Cor. 15:44.
c. This spiritual body (or
oiketerion) is what the angels "left" (whatever that may mean, and
this we do not know). The word rendered "left", here, is peculiar. It is
apoleipo = to leave behind, as in 2Tim.
4:13, 20, where Paul uses it of "the cloke" and the "parchments" which he left behind at Troas, and of
Trophimus whom he left behind at Miletum. Occ. Heb. 4:6, 9; 10:26. Jude 6.
d. They "kept not their first estate (arche)" in which they were placed when they were created.
e. The nature of their sin
is clearly stated. The sin of "Sodom and Gomorrha" is declared to be "in
like manner" to that of the angels; and what that sin was is described
as "giving themselves over to
fornication, and going after strange flesh" (Jude 6, 7). The word "strange" here denotes other, i.e. different (Gr. heteros = different in kind. See Ap. 124. 2) What this could be, and how it could be, we are not told. We are not asked to understand it, but to believe it. (see further in App. 23 and 25).
It was "better" THEREFORE to suffer for well doing than for evil doing. He had suffered for well doing. He suffered, but He had a glorious triumph. "Therefore" (runs the exhortation), "if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye" (vs. 14), and it concludes "Forasmuch then as Christ suffered on our behalf as to the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for He that hath suffered in the flesh hath done with sin; no longer to live [our] remaining time according to men's lusts, but for God's will... For to this end, to those also who are now dead, were the glad tidings announced, that though (Gr. men) they might be judged according [to the will of] (*2) men, in [the] flesh, yet (Gr. de) they might live [again] according to [the will of] God, in [the] spirit" : i.e. in resurrection (1Pet. 4:1, 2, 6).
The above is suggested as the interpretation of the expression "the
in-prison spirits", in the light of the whole of the nearer and remoter
(*2) For the supply of this ellipsis see Rom 8:27, 28, and cp. 1Pet 4:19.