Angels - Part 4
Angels that Sinned
"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…." (2 Peter 2:4).
"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 6).
From the fact that angels sinned, two things seem obvious. First, angels are likewise accountable to divine law ("sin is not imputed when there is no law" Romans 5:13), and there are laws that govern spiritual beings. Secondly, angels have freewill. This tells us that angels are not spiritual robots or mindless creatures. If this were the case then their praise before the throne of God would be meaningless and hallow, like a machine that which simply programmed to do a task. We should be thankful that God included the information that some angels have departed from Him, for it tells us that the angels and other spiritual beings that we encounter in the Bible who are praising God and serving Him, are doing this of their own freewill. Michael and Gabriel and the other angels that did not sin, truly do love God. Sometimes people wonder if praising God in eternity is going to be a truly satisfying experience (Revelation 5:8; 22:3-4). The existence of myriads of faithful angels tells us, "Yes it is!"
Of course some are troubled by the existence of sin in heaven. But we should remember that even in the book of Job, Satan himself was allowed access to God’s presence (Job 1:6). In the book of Revelation we are told that after Jesus comes and the universe is destroyed, and all the saved and gathered to the heavenly city, that "nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it" (21:27). One writer noted, "It seems almost inconceivable that any so highly privileged as to lived so near to the Throne of God, beholding and bathing in His Glory, should sin against Him and consequently suffer expulsion from His presence. But such was the case, and Scripture is not silent as to open rebellion in the angelic hierarchy" (The Mystery and Ministry of Angels, Herbert Lockyer, p. 37).
- Yet the Bible is filled with other examples where people enjoyed tremendous blessings only to forfeit them for a moment of folly or some trivial prize. Adam and Eve forfeited paradise for a piece of fruit, the generation that came out of bondage forfeited the promised land (1 Corinthians 10:1-5), and Judas, who stood for three years in the personal presence of the Son of God, betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver! If the angels who stood in the presence of God can sin, then anyone can fall away (1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 2:1-3). When people fall away from the faith, it is so easy to blame ourselves or say, "this must be the fault of the congregation", but the Bible is filled with examples of people who departed even from "ideal" environments. God lost angels, Jesus lost disciples (John 6:60,66), and Paul lost converts (Galatians 3:1; 4:10-11,16; 2 Timothy 4:10,16).
"Who did not keep their own domain"
This is apparently a commentary on what the particular sin was. "The angels have some positions of authority, their areas of God-given responsibility. But they were not satisfied with the role God had given them" (2 Peter & Jude, Lucas/Green, p. 185). The word "domain" here means, "principality, rule, magistracy". The same word is found in Ephesians 1:21 "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion"; 3:10 "rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places"; Colossians 1:16 "whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities"; 2:10 "He is the head over all rule and authority". God had given to angels a specific rule, domain, office or role, and instead of keeping the high and glorious rule and domain assigned them by God, they were dissatisfied and wanted a still higher domain.
- Some try to connect this with Genesis 6:1-2 and say that angels abandoned their proper abode by coming to the earth and marrying women, the offspring of this union being demons or the gods of pagan mythology such as Zeus, etc…Yet Jesus said that angels don’t marry (Luke 20:35-36). It would seem strange for God to create angels with sexual desires, but no lawful outlet for those desires. Secondly, in the context of Genesis 6:1ff, the "sons of God" seem to be the last group mentioned, that is the godly line of Seth (Genesis 4:26-5:32), and the "daughters of men", the worldly line of Cain (Genesis 4:16-24). God says that the offspring of this union were "men" (6:4), not demons or gods. Finally, Paul simply made a blanket statement concerning all pagan religions and said,"We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one" (1 Corinthians 8:4). The gods of Roman or Greek mythology, he calls, "so-called gods". While pagans had filled with heavens and earth with deities for everything, all of these were non-existent beings. Paul said that every idol was simply the image of a non-existent god, and hence an image representing nothing.
- Some assume that this abandoning of their proper abode was motivated by pride and arrogance. "Lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6). This statement can either mean, the condemnation into which the devil himself fell, i.e., resulting from pride, or a fall into traps laid by the devil. If the devil was part of this angelic rebellion, and if such a rebellion was motivated by pride, and wanting to assume more authority, or God’s authority, then the devil hasn’t changed, for he is now trying to convince people that they can become like God (Genesis 3:5). He even demanded that Jesus worship him (Matthew 4:9).
- We need to learn a lesson here, for God is not impressed when individuals overreach the lawful boundaries that He has placed upon them. We are acting like the angels that abandoned their proper abode when we: 1. Place ourselves over Scripture as critics instead of under it. 2. Add to or subtract from the Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19). 3. Show disrespect to those in authority, rebelling against parents and elders (Hebrews 13:17). 4. Desiring a position or office that isn’t ours to have, i.e. women elders, preachers, or unqualified men seeking to be elders.
"Cast them into Hell"
The word translated "hell" in 2 Peter 2:4 is the Greek word Tartarus. Any Greek speaking person would have understood this term. This term had been used by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead; where the Titians and rebellious gods were chained and it answered to the Gehenna of the Jews. Many feel by this time the word had lost it’s pagan overtones. The word translated "pits" is where we get our word "silo". Darkness binds them on all hands; and so dense and strong is this darkness that it cannot be broken through; they cannot deliver themselves, nor be delivered by others. The ancient Greeks appear to have received, by corrupted tradition, an account of the punishment of the `fallen angels,' and of bad men after death; and their poets did made Tartarus the place where the giants who rebelled against Jupiter, and the souls of the wicked, were confined. `Here,' saith Hesiod, Theegon., lin. 720, 1, "the rebellious Titans were bound in penal chains."
- God did not spare these angels. We need to learn the lesson that great privileges bring great responsibilities (Luke 12:48), and that no one is exempt from God’s law, not even the angels who occupied positions of great authority and power.
- God has the power to resist and punish even powerful angels and not just one of them, but many of them. These angels have beenkept in eternal bonds (Jude 6). "If even angels are subject to God’s judgment, despite their most strenuous attempts to rebel, what chance do human rebels have?" (Stott p. 185). "The application is clear: the people who infect the churches in the way Jude will describe must not think that they can get away with their rebellious behavior for ever" (p. 185). "Proud false teachers claimed that they, at least, were beyond God’s judgment, and they mock Peter’s naïve and primitive faith in a day of judgment (2 Peter 3:4). But Peter says that no one, not even the most glorious and powerful of those who stand against God, can avoid Him. Secondly, judgment, although delayed, is still real. The angels sinned in the past, but they are only being held in the present, for judgment in the future. These majestic but flawed beings still await their final, inevitable punishment. Built into the way God runs the universe is the principle that punishment does not immediately follow rebellion" (Stott p. 96).
- Sin does not pay! We are amazed that angels, who stood in the presence of God and enjoyed all the blessings of His goodness, would ever think of rebelling against Him. What stupidity! To give up eternal bliss for eternal torment! (Matthew 25:41) Yet, are unfaithful Christians doing anything less foolish? (Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 10:26-31).
"Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? …Do you not know that we shall judge angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
In choosing Christ, Christians have wisely placed themselves under the authority of God, whereas the angels that sinned did not keep their places of authority (NIV). Faithful Christians are not only a standing condemnation of unbelievers (that is, from the very fact that I can live a faithful life and understand God’s word, proves that every unbeliever either isn’t honest, or isn’t trying very hard), we are also a standing condemnation to unfaithful angels. Faithful Christians have demonstrated better judgment than secular society or the rebellious angels. Note Paul’s argument: The very fact that one person can live the Christian life, removes everyone else’s excuse for not living the Christian life. Rebellious angels and rebellious people have the same attitude. Faithful angels and faithful Christians have the same attitude.
Bound And Unbound?
How do we account for the fact that the angels who rebelled in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 were "bound" and yet the devil, his angels and demons are presented in Scripture as being "free?" I really don’t know! All I know is at times, to further His purposes, the devil is given either more or less latitude (Revelation 20:3). Lenski reminds us, "Inquisitive minds may ask how the evil angels, after being cast into hell, are able to deceive men on the earth. The Scriptures do not say. They leave many questions about hell and the devils unanswered because we are bound for heaven and have no personal interest in hell and its occupants" (2 Peter p. 311).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017