“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”
King James Version (KJV)
3:20 When the longsuffering of God waited - For an hundred and twenty years; all the time the ark was preparing: during which Noah warned them all to flee from the wrath to come.
1Pe 3:20 The long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah. They had then refused to obey the call to repentance. It is stated in Ge 6:3 that the long suffering of God waited 120 years. This difficult passage has been given two interpretations. The more common view is that Jesus, after his suffering, during the interval before his resurrection, went without the body in a spirit form, to these antediluvians and preached to them. If this view is correct, it only teaches that an offer of salvation was then made to these disobedient ones who had never before heard of Christ before their final judgment. It furnishes no comfort to those that have an opportunity and reject it in this life. It only shows that one opportunity is given to all. The other view is that Christ went "in spirit" in the person of Noah and by him preached to those who were afterwards held in prison on account of their disobedience. The first view seems more in harmony with the context; the second furnishes fewer theological difficulties. Wherein few, that is, eight souls. Only eight souls out of a great multitude were saved; these were saved by water, since it bore up the ark. The Greek word "dia", rendered "by", means "by means of".