On David Pawson
The Book "The Road to Hell" by David Pawson.
Will the Lord come only at the first resurrection?
/ Book by David Pawson. Pp. 111f.
The First Resurrection.
What will life be like in the Millennial Kingdom?
The Final Judgment.
Did the Lord preach only to the generation of the flood
in the realm of the dead? / Book by David Pawson. Pp. 140ff.
David Pawson (born 1930) is viewed by many as Great Britain’s greatest
Bible teacher since Charles H. Spurgeon a century ago. After more than 50 years of Bible
teaching, David Pawson’s personal reputation and integrity has been untouched by scandal. But
due to his conviction of following the teaching of Scripture even when it clashes with delivered
(church) tradition, he is rarely uncontroversial. But he is generally respected for both his
integrity and his conviction, even by those who disagree with him ….
Descending from a Methodist family he became pastor of the church where he had his greatest influence, the Millmead Centre - a Baptist church in Guildford. After being called to a wider preaching ministry, Pawson left Millmead in 1979 and engaged in an itinerant worldwide Bible teaching ministry, and this has been his main work up to now. He is a frequent speaker in the UK, although his speaking engagements have taken him to many other parts of the world, notably Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, The Netherlands, Israel, Southeast Asia and the United States.
David Pawson currently resides in Basingstoke, Hampshire in southern England with his wife Enid. Although older now, he is still very busy with speaking engagements and has annual speaking appointments in Europe and at the Feast of Tabernacles in Israel, where his talks are held in high regard. He also speaks at different venues in Britain on invitation. (Wikipedia-David Pawson)
As a whole, this book is distinguished particularly by its pastoral tone. It
explains the biblical background of the topic in such a way that readers are able to assess their
personal situation themselves and to draw any necessary conclusions that may arise. This is the same
as what we do here at Immanuel.at. In line with the Scriptural principle that the right faith is
founded on the correct teaching, the interpretation is documented by referring to the appropriate
scriptural passages, so that the reader can immediately compare and examine the arguments directly.
One can, perhaps, compare this way of working with the well-known saying about development aid for the Third World: "Give them a fish, feed them for a day; teach them how to fish, feed them for a lifetime!" Something similar applies to pastoral care: "Preach to people that they are lost sinners, and you will frighten their souls for a short time; teach them how the Bible is linked to reality and the consequences of the end-time events, and they will recognize their own hopeless situation and their need of salvation."
Nevertheless, we exegetes always run the risk of missing one connection or another or of making a wrong interpretation because of wrong starting points we may hold. Although, for the most part, the explanations in David Pawson’s book are in agreement with the interpretations found at Immanuel.at, there are a few places that we will look at and comment upon in what follows because of their possible effect on the reader’s further study of the Scriptures.
Taking Revelation 20,4-6 at face value, it appears that the resurrection of the
righteous will take place at the Lord’s return, which will be a thousand years before the
general resurrection and the final judgment …. So where does Matthew 25 fit in? Before or
after this "millennium" - since it appears to be the final judgment, yet takes place "when
the Son of Man comes?" The "sheep" belong to the "first" resurrection and the "goats"
to the "second", yet both are here judged together!
It is a real puzzle, but might be resolved by recognizing the biblical feature of prophetic foreshortening, the condensing of the future which brings together widely separated future events into one picture to highlight a moral choice in the present ….
(Excerpt from David Pawson, The Road to Hell (p. 111) London et al.: Hodder and Stoughton.
It is understandable why Pawson has difficulty understanding how the end-time events
fit together. In fact, he confuses, first, the resurrection at the Lord’s second coming of those
who have died in Christ with the first resurrection of the martyrs immediately before the
millennium. Second, he confuses the judgment of believers for reward at the first resurrection with
the Final Judgment at the end of the world.
However, let us explore these two issues one by one. The Bible’s statements about the first resurrection can be found in Rev 20,4:
The souls of the martyrs came to life. This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was
given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their
testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or
his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to
life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 20,5 The rest of the dead did not come to
life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 20,6 Blessed
and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no
power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Rev 20, 4- 6.
Already in the first sentence here, John specifies that it concerns the souls of
those who had been "beheaded," i.e. martyrs. At the "resurrection of the righteous … at the
Lord’s return," as Pawson characterizes the resurrection and the rapture, however, all those who
died a natural death in Christ are resurrected and are raptured together with those believers who
are still living (1Thess 4,16-17). We read nothing about this in Revelation 20,4; and the souls of
those who were beheaded are not resurrected here either, clothed with a spiritual body and raptured
into heaven, as Paul specifies further below in 1Cor 15,52-53. To the contrary, rather, they are
already in heaven, they have come to life here and they are therefore physically on earth and reign
here as priests and kings.
The souls of these martyrs, who have been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God are also mentioned much earlier in Revelation, i.e. in Rev 6,9-11. As the text states, their number at this point is, to be sure, not yet complete, for there would be more martyrs, as stated in that text.
Those who had been slain because of the Word of God and because of the testimony.
Rev 6,9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar
the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the
testimony which they had maintained; 6,10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,
"How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those
who dwell on the earth?" 6,11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were
told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants
and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Rev 6,
And these "fellow servants … who were to be killed even as they had been" can
be found in Rev 13:15, where, during his 42-month reign, the demonic Antichrist will have all those
killed who do not worship his image - including, of course, all confessing Christians.
Therefore it would be extremely surprising, if, as Pawson’s view entails, there would still be any
confessing Christians on earth at the time of the first resurrection who were to be raptured alive
at this supposed return of the Lord (see 1Thess 4,17 further below).
The believers would also be exposed to all the plagues on the day of God’s wrath (Rev 16,1-21), even though Paul assures his readers in 1The 5,9, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" The return of the Lord would occur then - at the first resurrection - only after his appearance at the battle of Armageddon and his victory over the Antichrist and his false prophet (Rev 19). And then it would be not his second but his third coming, and so forth and so on.
However, the Lord’s return can be very easily sorted out with respect to time in Revelation. We can find those signs that the Lord prophesied in Mt 24,29-31 below about his arrival at the resurrection and the rapture of the chosen, confirmed almost word for word - as nowhere else in Scripture - in the passage following the one we cited above about the martyrs, i.e Rev 6,12-14 .
The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky.
Mt 24,29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 24,31 "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Mt 24,29-31;
The sun became black, the moon became like blood and the stars of the sky fell to the earth.
Rev 6,12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great
earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became
like blood; 6,13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts
its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 6,14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is
rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Rev 6,12-14;
Although prophecies on the darkening of the sun and moon can be found also in a few
places in the Old Testament, there is no other place in Scripture where this occurs in conjunction
with the stars falling from heaven to earth, the powers of heaven beginning to totter or the sky
receding like a scroll when it is rolled up.
(See also Chapter 12: "The Resurrection" /
Raising from the Dead and Resurrection, The First Resurrection.)
In 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians Paul also prophesies concerning the actual return of the Lord, the resurrection and the rapture that:
The Lord Himself will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
1The 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,15-17;
The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1Cor 15,50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot
inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15,51 Behold, I tell
you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 15,52 in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised
imperishable, and we will be changed. 15,53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable,
and this mortal must put on immortality. 15,54 54 But when this perishable will have put on the
imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is
written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. 15,55 "O death, where is your victory? O
death, where is your sting?" 1Cor 15,50-55;
(See also Chapter 062: "The Return of the Lord"
/ The Rapture)
As we can see, the confusion of both end-time events - the return of the Lord and
the first resurrection - not only produces those problems that Pawson has attempted to explain by
means of a "prophetic foreshortening" but also leads inevitably from one wrong conclusion to
another, resulting in an interpretation of this passage that raises more questions than it answers.
It is interesting, moreover, to observe that all these problems are triggered solely by ignoring one
single word - namely, "beheaded," in Rev 20,4.
But if, according to Pawson, it is not the martyrs who are alive in Rev 20,4, but the whole Christian community, the statement in Rev. 20.6, i.e. "but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years" must refer not to the martyrs but to all Christians. Aside from the fact that, with hundreds of millions - if not billions - of kings, there would probably be more kings than subjects, the community is thus robbed of the privilege - stated about them in Scripture - of already being in heaven with the Lord during the millennial kingdom.
(See also Discourse 38: "What awaits Christians
and Jews on the Second Coming of the Lord?")
But the reason for such an explanation - and the ignoring of the word "beheaded"
in Rev 20,4 - often lies directly in this last sentence of Rev 20,6. The text speaks of "reigning"
and many exegetes - despite Christian humility - would rather see the Christian community to which
they belong reigning as kings on earth than serving God in heaven. Thus Pawson writes as well:
"Those who have "endured" for him [Christ] in earlier times will now
"reign" with him …. God’s people, suppressed by governments of the world for so long, will
then be the world government! …. Those who are so "blessed" will become priests as well as
kings, mediators as well as monarchs, on the earth … (pp. 153f.)".
Aside the questionable view itself as to whether reigning on earth - be it during one’s lifetime or in the millennium - is a goal for which true-believing Christians should strive, we must pose the serious question of whether all those believers of the community of all ages - thus also we Christians who are alive now - who did not have to lose their lives for the faith have any right to include themselves among the slain martyrs at the first resurrection and to appoint themselves priests and kings in the millennial kingdom.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled
Lk 14,11 "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and
he who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 14,11;
Concerning the question of what life in the millennial kingdom will be like, many
Christians also believe that it will be a "paradisal state" on earth. However, in this respect
Pawson has recognized the true biblical reality in its essentials. He writes:
"That persistent hope of the human race, the "Golden Age," will have
arrived. Truly, paradise will have been regained. Such an idyllic existence would surely be heaven
on earth and could go on for ever.
But appearances can be deceptive. An ideal government and environment may satisfy the human desire for peace and prosperity, but they do not change human nature. People may be happy with a benevolent dictatorship when it brings such obvious benefits - until they are offered the chance of freedom from that authority. Incredibly, when at the end of the millennium the devil is again free to influence human affairs, he is still able to plant hatred for the people and places associated with God. (P. 154)"
After these things he must be released for a short time.
Rev 20,1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 20,2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 20,3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. Rev 20, 1- 3;
He will gather together the nations for the battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
Rev 20,7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed
from his prison 20,8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of
the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of
the sea. Rev 20, 7- 8;
It is these passages above to which Pawson refers, and it is clear that so many people could not have undergone a spiritual change within such a short time at the end of the millennium. And since it is hardly plausible that Satan after he is loosed from his Prison would still have hundreds of years to cause such a complete change after being released from his prison, we can only assume that many people - already in the millennium and in the presence of the living God on earth - will not be prepared to acknowledge this God but will turn away from him and wait for their Satanic "Liberator." The following Scripture passages, which refer to the millennial kingdom, also support that view:
That nation who will not listen, the LORD will uproot and destroy it.
Jer 12,16 "Then if they will really learn the ways of My people,
to swear by My name, ‘As the LORD lives,’ even as they taught My people to swear by Baal, they
will be built up in the midst of My people.12,17 "But if they will not listen, then I will
uproot that nation, uproot and destroy it," declares the LORD. Jer 12,16-17;
Whichever of the families does not go up to Jerusalem to worship, there will be no rain on them.
Zech 14,16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all
the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD
of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 14,17 And it will be that whichever of the
families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will
be no rain on them.
14,18 If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 14,19 This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. Zech 14,16-19;
For the nation which will not serve Israel will perish, and will be utterly ruined.
Isa 60,12 "For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you
will perish, And the nations will be utterly ruined. Isa 60,12;
By the way, it is especially statements like these, such as that above in Isa 60, that show that all the prophecies of Scripture that promise extraordinarily blessed living conditions in the millennium, i.e. the "Golden Age," do not concern the whole world, as is often thought. Rather, these statements concern Israel exclusively and its wider geographical area (extending somewhat into what is currently Iraq).
Darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you.
Isa 60,1 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of
the LORD has risen upon you. 60,2 "For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep
darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. 60,3
"Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 60,4 "Lift
up your eyes round about and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come
from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. 60,5 "Then you will see and be
radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to
you, The wealth of the nations will come to you. Isa 60, 1- 5;
It is fairly clear from the above who the actual people of God on earth will be in the millennial kingdom: it is Zion, i.e. Israel, whose sons will come from afar and whose daughters will carried in the arms of the nations, and Jacob will be the chief of the nations.
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations.
Jer 31,7 For thus says the LORD, "Sing aloud with gladness for
Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise and say, ‘O LORD, save
Your people, The remnant of Israel.’ 31,8 "Behold, I am bringing them from the
north country, And I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, Among them the blind
and the lame, The woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; A great company,
they will return here. 31,9 "With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead
them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not
stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn." 31,10 Hear the word
of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, And say, "He who scattered
Israel will gather him And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock." Jer 31, 7-10;
(See also Discourse 63: "Conditions of Life in the
Yet another problem arises from the passage we cited from Pawson at the beginning.
There he proposes a connection between the judgment mentioned in Rev 20,4 and the Final Judgment:
"Taking Revelation 20 at face value, it appears that the resurrection of
the righteous will take place at the Lord’s return, which will be a thousand years before the
general resurrection and the final judgment …. So where does Matthew 25 fit in? Before or after
this "millennium" - since it appears to be the final judgment, yet takes place "when the Son
of Man comes?" The "sheep" belong to the "first" resurrection and the "goats" to the
"second", yet both are here judged together! (P. 111)"
First, Pawson does not recognize here that the judgment referred to in Rev 20,4 is not the Final Judgment but the judgment of believers in order to reward them - here the judgment of the martyrs who come to life afterwards and reign on earth.
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ
2Cor 5,10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done,
whether good or bad. 2Cor 5,10;
If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.
1Cor 3,11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is
laid, which is Jesus Christ. 3,12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 3,13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day
will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality
of each man’s work. 3,14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he
will receive a reward. 3,15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he
himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1Cor 3,11-15;
This misunderstanding leads to the further difficulty that part of the Final
Judgment occurs before the millennium apparently and a second part - the actual Final Judgment (the
judgment of the world, Rev 20,11-15) - is understood to take place after the millennium.
To solve this problem, Pawson postulates a division in the Final Judgment: the believers ("sheep") are judged before the millennium and the unbelievers ("goats") after. That this is contrary to Mt 25,31-32 cited here below, where it is beyond doubt that both groups are judged simultaneously, is acknowledged: "So where does Matthew 25 fit in?" But then he draws the next wrong conclusion and justifies this discrepancy through the biblical characteristic of "condensing of the future" (see quote at the beginning).
He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Mt 25,31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the
angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25,32 Before him will be gathered all
the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the
goats. Mt 25,31-32;
(See also Chapter 13: "The Last Judgment.")
Pawson does not even mention a further incompatibility with dividing the Final Judgment and assigning the second part exclusively to the "goats" (the wicked) after the millennium: people also die of course during the millennium (Isa 65,18-20) - both good and bad. But if the Final Judgment is reserved for evil people, when and where would the righteous who lived during the millennium be judged?
The youth will die at the age of one hundred; whoever does not reach this age will be thought accursed.
Isa 65,18 "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For
behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness. 65,19 "I
will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be
heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying. 65,20 "No longer will there be in
it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth
will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Will be
thought accursed. Isa 65,18-20;
(See also Chapter 10: "The Millennium.")
Jesus’ reply as to his whereabouts and activity between his death and
resurrection, may be found in a letter which Peter wrote many years later, containing an
extraordinary piece of information ….
Taking the passage (1 3Jn 3,17-4,6) in its "plainest and simplest" sense, it appears that Jesus went and preached the gospel to those who were already dead (and there in ‘hades’)! But not to all of them; his congregation was composed of that whole generation which was drowned in the flood at the time of Noah.
(Excerpt from David Pawson, The Road to Hell (p. 140), London et al.: Hodder and Stoughton.
Christ went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.
1Pet 3,18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the
unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in
the spirit; 3,19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
3,20 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. 1Pet 3,18-20;
Surprisingly, Pawson bases the interpretation above exclusively on 1 3Jn 3,18-20. The statement, "his congregation was composed of that whole generation which was drowned in the flood at the time of Noah," therefore contradicts Peter’s statements a few verses later, where he says that the gospel was proclaimed to all the dead.
For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead.
1Pet 4,6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to
those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit
according to the will of God. 1Pet 4, 6;
Pawson’s remarks further on also make clear why he chose precisely this approach:
Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 4,6 that the gospel was preached to all the dead has led many
preachers and thus many well-known exegetes such as, e.g. William Barclay, to see a "second chance"
here. It was thus concluded that people would be given a second opportunity to convert after their
That is, of course, complete nonsense, but, as is the case with many wrong interpretations, it can be quite dangerous if people assess their own situation and the unconditional necessity of conversion during their lifetime wrongly. To ensure that people do not make this assessment, Pawson stresses the exegesis of 1Pet 3,19 first and then interprets the statement in 1Pet 4,6 as also referring to the generation of the flood. This is how he understands the texts, instead of considering them as referring to separate events.
However, if this scripture passage (1Pet 3,17-4,6) is viewed "in its ‘plainest and simplest case," as Pawson proposes, we can see that the statement in 1 3Jn 3,19 cannot refer to people. The text speaks of "spirits now in prison" (not "hades," i.e. the realm of the dead, as Pawson wrongly claims, but "prison" [Greek: julakh / phylake]) and we know that Scripture nowhere characterizes people as (evil) spirits. Also, the word "prison" is used in Scripture as a place of detention (abyss [Hebr. abbadon; Greek: tartaros]) for sinful angels and demons. In addition, Scripture teaches us that the realm of the dead [Hebr.: scheol; Greek: hades] and the abyss are two completely different areas of the underworld (Pro 15,11; 27,20; Lk 8,31, Rev 11,7; 17,8; 20,3).
Peter himself writes in his second letter about the angels who had "sinned" and whom God cast into the abyss:
God did not spare angels when they sinned, but committed them to pits of darkness.
2Ptr 2,4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast
them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 2Pet 2, 4;
In the letter of Jude, we can thus also recognize the concrete background of the sin which these angels were guilty of committing:
Angels, who did not keep their own domain, are kept under darkness for the judgment.
Jud 1,5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for
all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who
did not believe. 1,6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper
abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day Jude 1, 5-
These angels thus abandoned their domains, the areas over which they exercised dominion in heaven. But it was not only a physical transgression of their allotted areas - they also overstepped the moral boundaries God had set for them, as we see in Gen 6,4.
When the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.
Gen 6,4 The giants were on the earth in those days, and also afterward,
when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those
were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Gen 6, 4;
If we are correct, these are the "spirits in prison," of whom Peter writes in
1Pet 3,19 and to whom the Lord preached after his death and during his stay in the "lower parts of
the earth" (Eph 4,9).
Thus, it is now easy to see that 1Pet 3,19 ("spirits in prison," i.e. in the abyss) and 1Pet 4,6 ("the dead," i.e. those in the realm of the dead) do not refer to the same thing at all. They are two different places in the underworld (the abyss and the realm of the dead), have different inmates (demons and humans respectively). Peter states plainly and simply that the Lord preached the gospel to both.
But that means that the Lord proclaimed salvation through grace not only to the generation of the flood but to all the dead. If we look at this more closely, this makes complete sense. All those who had died up until the death of Jesus could not take advantage of this offer of salvation because this sacrifice had not yet been made. Now, in accordance with God’s justice, after the sacrificial death of the Son of God on the cross, not only those who are living but also all those who died up until that point had the opportunity to take advantage personally of the substitutionary death of the Lord for themselves .
This shows that the good tidings of salvation by grace through the redemptive death of the Son of God is actually preached to all people. All people, who died up until the time of the death of the Lord, had the message preached to them by the Lord himself in the realm of the dead. All those who have been born in this world since that time have had the gospel preached to them by the proclamation of Christian discipleship. And there is something else that we can see: the absolute justice of God. None are forgotten. No one - no single human being who has ever lived and will live - can claim at the Judgment that he has been treated unjustly.
Although Pawson draws the correct conclusion when he writes, "Why should one generation have the privilege of a second chance, unless they had not had the normal first chance?" (p. 143), he overlooks the fact that it does not concern only the generation of the flood but all people who died up until the sacrificial death of the Lord - all those who did not yet have this chance. Therefore, his view that it was only the dead of the generation of Noah at the time to whom the Lord preached the gospel is, as such, illogical and raises the question immediately as to why God made an exception here. This "exception from the rule" needs to be grounded, however, in an ultimately rather implausible argument, and, moreover, the question remains as to whether this would not leave the possibility of a "second chance" open somehow.
The above analysis, however, makes clear that there is - indeed can be - no exception. As a matter of fact, the dead of that time were presented with the same offer as those who have lived since the death of the Lord: forgiveness of their sins by accepting the redemptive sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross.