2 Peter 2:4

Monday, 27 January 2020

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 2 Peter 2:4

Peter has just been referring to false prophets and their ability to sway many away from the truth. In this, they have a pending judgment awaiting them. Peter then shows the surety of this judgment by making a set of comparisons to what has already occurred. In this, he will give three examples to demonstrate that such wicked behavior has not gone unpunished. Using history as a learning tool, one could expect there would be no deviation from this pattern for these false prophets. Here, he begins with, “For if God.”

The words show that he will give examples, and then he will explain – based on the surety of those examples – that what he says about judgment upon the false prophets is assured. This will not be seen until verse 9. Taking these together, it shows this –

4For if God… 9then the Lord knows how to…”

Understanding this, but before beginning Peter’s explanation, it is important to note that the words of the epistle by Jude follow very closely to those of Peter in this chapter. He speaks of the same types of things, but in the case of the three judgments Peter will now mention – which are chronological in nature – Jude will change the order.

Peter will speak of the angels, then the Flood of Noah, and then Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude will speak of the wilderness generation of Israel who departed from Egypt, the angels, and then Sodom and Gomorrah. Without understanding what Jude is saying in his epistle, many wrongly come to the conclusion that Jude is speaking about tying the sin of the angels to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.

From this misguided reading of Jude’s words comes a fanciful and incorrect interpretation of Genesis 6 where the Nephilim are mentioned – saying that angels slept with humans. This poor type of scriptural analysis sells well because it is sensational, but it is based on faulty conclusions which are neither supported by simple logic nor by the rest of Scripture.

For now, Peter says that “if God did not spare the angels who sinned.” What is the sin? Peter does not explicitly state what it is. For sensationalists, their answer is that this is what is referred to in Genesis 6, that angels slept with human women and produced a hybrid mixture of fallen supermen. There is no logical or biblical reason to come to this faulty conclusion.

Angels are spirit beings, and thus they have no matter. They cannot procreate with women. However, they can dwell in humans. The answer to what Jude says, that they “left their own abode,” is found in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8 in regard to the demoniac in the country of the Gergesenes (also known as the Gaderenes).

In Matthew 8, it is seen that having left their heavenly abode, they came to earth, not as ministering spirits for God (Hebrews 1:14), but as invaders under Satan. Instead of being servants for the benefit of men, they came as tyrants over men. Matthew 8:29 says –

“And suddenly they cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’”

This explains Peter’s use of the present participle, “having sinned.” He had said in the previous verse that the destruction of the false teachers “does not slumber.” The same idea is seen here. There is an impending judgment upon the angels which is ongoing. As noted in the previous verse’s commentary –

“The duration of time past is not what is being relayed, but that the coming judgment has been ordained all along. And the amount of future time is not what is being considered as much as what occurs during the time. There is nothing idle in the process. Their judgment is being worked out the whole time that their actions are also being worked out.”

Peter now shows the state of those angels which have already been set for judgment, that God “cast them down to hell.” This is something which had not yet occurred with those who possessed the man referred to in Matthew. This is certain, because it says (concerning the same incident) in Luke 8:31 –

“And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.”

The word that Peter uses, which is here translated as “hell,” is tartaroó, or Tartaus. This is its only use in Scripture. It is the pagan Greek netherworld. It is a place of punishment set apart specifically for demons. It later came to represent also a place of punishment for wicked people. But at this time, it is specifically speaking of a place set apart for demons, thus explaining the terminology used in the synoptic gospels.

Peter next says, “and delivered them into chains of darkness.” Here, there is a slight textual problem. Jude also uses the term “chains” in his epistle, but a different word is used there. The word Peter uses, a word only seen here in Scripture, is actually very close in spelling to a word translated as “pits.” For this reason, some translations say, “pits of darkness.”

Either way, the angels which have been sent to this pit (which obviously all of them have not been, based on the reading of the synoptic gospels) are chained as Jude notes, and they are in a place of gloomy darkness, being kept there and “reserved for judgment.” The Greek is a present participle. They are “being reserved for judgment.” They are in the gloomy darkness, they are chained there, and they are awaiting their final judgment and assured doom.

Life application: Along with this verse, Peter will spend the next 18 verses of this chapter talking about the punishment of the false prophets. If this doesn’t show a person the seriousness of properly handling God’s word, and also obediently following it, then one is not taking these passages in the light that God intends.

As God didn’t spare those angels who sinned, Peter is intimating how much more should those who know God’s word be judged for sinning when they misuse it. Just look at the amount of false teaching in the world – pastors, preachers, and priests who stand in the pulpit and deny or diminish the truth in the Bible. There are evangelists who twist passages in order to profit financially, and there are Bible teachers who aren’t qualified to teach because of a lack of knowledge and dedicated time spent learning to reason out the intent of passages, etc. The list is long, and grows daily, concerning those who have turned from sound analysis to a manipulation of what is proper.

As the angels were sent to Tartarus and put in gloomy dungeons as they wait for judgment, just imagine what is prepared for these people. God holds His word out to us as a guide for our life, for our salvation, and for our holiness. God forbid, then, that it would be used in any way which is unintended. The consequences for doing so are horrible in the extreme and eternal in their duration.

Lord God, keep us from misusing and mishandling Your precious word. May we be found worthy as teachers, preachers, and pastors – or as congregants – who follow You and Your word alone. May we not be deceived by the wiles of those who would pervert Your truth. Keep us from false teachers and lead us on the sound path of righteousness. Amen.




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