ANGELS THAT SINNED & false teachers.
When looking at the Bible teaching about the angels that sinned, the context in which the New Testament mentions those angels... is encouragement to believers affected by false teachers who cause the truth to fall into disrepute. In 2 Peter the apostle is telling them that God knows how to judge false teachers. He knew how to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, and how to judge the Angels that sinned, therefore He knows how to judge false teachers.
This blog will explore and explain meaning of this phrase "the angels that sinned" in relation to past & future judgments.
The doctrine of the angels (Angelology) has a wide breadth of teaching in the Bible. No real study of this topic can exclude the passages related to the "angels that sinned."
What was their sin, and how did God address it? The apostle Peter tell us much, as he was an eyewitness of the transfigured majesty of the Lord Jesus, and we should take heed to the prophetic word and his apostolic warnings. We learn much by recognizing that the past judgment of those angels is linked to the future judgment of false teachers in christendom.
It is Peter and Jude who both wrote some the of the most direct teaching in the New Testament regarding the coming judgment of false teachers. We read that their doom is comparable to that of the "angels that sinned", and the point of emphasis is that God is able to and is going to judge the false teachers. Certain historical judgments are used as confirmation and examples related to future judgment of false teachers.
Just what was the crime of these angels that sinned? And what are the practices today of false teachers that make these angels to be the point of comparison? The answer has striking and significant implications for the early 21st century as all the points of reference are culturally relevant & present in the world and in christendom.
Our starting point is to look at the particular passages corresponding to this teaching.
2 Peter 2:1, 2, 4-9 1 But there were also false prophets among the people (Israel), even as there will be false teachers among you (Church).... 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 4 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; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. nkjv
Notice the three judgments mentioned by Peter, for reference:
on the angels that sinned
the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah
The sin needing judged is that false teachers secretly bring in destructive heresies, that lead (themselves and) their followers to eternal perdition. God is well able to damn such teachers, with judgments similar to three great historical judgments recorded and linked to them accordingly.
Who are the angels that sinned, and what have they done? We will get there soon, but first let us read Jude's teaching on the pertinent judgments, to Peter's...and the information will come together.
Jude 4-7 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. nkjv
Three judgments mentioned in Jude are:
the judgment of those who did not believe - in the day of the Exodus
The angels left their own domain/abode
Sodom and Gomorrah for going after "strange flesh"
This information, taken together, tells us of the errant angel behaviors, and we can therefore interpolate that which characterizes false teachers:
Rebellion against God
Ungodliness - a lifestyle like those on the earth right before the flood
Lawlessness - a lifestyle like Sodom and Gomorrah
Leaving a God-ordained domain for another
Now to get specific, Genesis 6 helps us identify the sin of these angels:
Genesis 6:1-7 1 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. 3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants 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. 5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” nkjv
All agree that here was an instance of Satan seeking to corrupt the godly line of Seth, to destroy the line through which the Messiah would come. The question becomes, who are these sons of God? We will now show that these are the angels that sinned.
One suggestion on identifying these "sons of God" in Genesis 6 is that they are the godless line of Cain, intermarrying with the godly line of Seth. The other interpretation which we hold (and the only one that fits all the facts) is these angels who sinned by leaving their own domain to join with human women bringing in corrupt descendants, and being the cause and need for the climactic judgment of the flood. We take the latter for the following reasons.
In Genesis 6:2 "Sons of God" is the key. This precise phrase appears only 4 times in the Old Testament. We may see the use of "sons of God" with qualifying words like "sons of the living God," it is true, but the precise Hebrew expression "sons of God" occurs only here and the book of Job 1:6, Job 2:1, and Job 38:7. These occurrences in Job are clearly references to angelic beings. We have clear and unmistakable references.
Furthermore Genesis 6:2 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament from about 250 BC) says here 'angels' of God. The precise phrase "sons of God" in the Old Testament appears nowhere else. The interpretation of this event by the LXX translators was angels and this tells us we have the same view of the passage is those pre New Testament Hebrew scholars/translators. (Apocryphal books do the same)
Additionally, the descendants of the sons of God & daughters of men, are called the Nephilim/giants/fallen ones (Gen 6:4). This is very appropriate description for the offspring of fallen angels. We now begin to grasp the error of the angels that sinned.
Jude gives us further evidence that we are on the right trail, as per verses 6 & 7 as noted above, with regard to angels that left their own domain and proper abode... All of this taken together makes it impossible for us to escape this seemingly strange interpretation.
So what was the sin of the angels that sinned?
The angels left the dignity of the angelic estate and hierarchy, left their habitation, abandoning their appointed position and came down to the earth to become part of the human position. These particular angels were judged, and are currently under chains, telling us they are not equivalent to the "demons" of the New Testament who are free, and not chained, but are a special class.
It is important at this juncture to remember we are tying back the angels that sinned as well as other judgments mentioned in Peter to the false teachers and their future judgment. In other words, remember the context....If God knew how to judge the angels that sinned, He knows how to judge false teachers.
Let us look at more of that which the angels and others who were judged...what they did.
Jude 7 tells us that in like manner (tuotois-masculine plural) with these angels, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to fornication and strange flesh, IN LIKE MANNER to what the angels did. The angels are therefore guilty of the sins of the men of Sodom & Gomorrah of which we read in Genesis 18-19. We have the angelic sin defined as unnatural sexual relationships. We know that ultimately God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, for they were "given over to fornication." It was against the course of nature-homosexuality. And as for the angels, what they did went against the course of their nature as angels.
The "strange flesh" sought by the men of Sodom, that they went after, was flesh of a different kind (heteros) than their own (as opposed to allos-meaning of the same kind). So while Ezekiel would tell us that some of the sins of Sodom included luxury, pride, gluttony, and laziness....it is clear that the crowing sin of the city was similar to what the angels did, going after strange flesh. Sexual sin.
1 Peter 3:19 (almost) completes Peters contribution to angelology. This is the final brick on the structure of the teaching of the "angels that sinned". There we find a reference to Christ once suffering for sins, the just for the unjust....who...went and preached unto the spirits in prison.
So after the cross, the Lord Jesus went and preached (kerusso-not evangellion) to these fallen angels (remember-the angels in prison - in chains). Kerusso is a Greek word used in general of a proclamation, it is not the standard word for preaching the gospel (which would be evangellion). This may help us see that the context isn't Christ going somewhere to preach the gospel, but rather to make a proclamation.
Recall above the attempt by Satan to corrupt/destroy the godly line of Seth, to stop the incarnation so that Messiah could not come? Here, we suggest that those to whom Christ went and proclaimed something, were those angels that sinned. He did not descend somewhere to speak to men in prison to bring them the gospel, but instead, to make a proclamation to angelic "spirits" in prison...the very angelic host that was judged and put in chains for intruding into the human sphere.
What did He proclaim to them? We suggest the victory of the cross and empty tomb, and therefore the failure of the angels that sinned, their failure to stop the line of Seth from producing the Messiah by corrupting it.
2 Peter 2:4 needs one more look before we conclude. The KJV/NKJV and other translations say 'cast down to *hell'. The Greek word here is Tartarus, which is a special prison for particular angels, who committed a particular sin (see Genesis 6). It is not the Greek word hades (grave) nor gehenna (hell), but something very unique.
Tartarus in the pagan world, was a specific prison- a deep abyss in Greek mythology. Peter adopts the term to illustrate the particular destiny of a specific group of angels, and is careful in borrowing such a term to distinguish their prison from hell/gehenna. Paul too was not averse to using cultural ideas to help teach the truth (see Acts 17). If the Holy Spirit picks an unusual word, it behooves us to pay attention and interpret accordingly.
The pieces are coming together, but at this juncture One broad objection to this interpretation may come up and needs answered.
Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
It is objected that angels could not join with women and have offspring on this basis of what the Lord Jesus said here. We answer this in a twofold way. First, the angels mentioned in Matthew 22 are "the angels of God" as opposed to demons/fallen angels.
Second, the reference is to "angels of God IN HEAVEN." The angels of God (the elect angels) did not leave their domain (heavenly realms) as did the angels that sinned. So on the contrary, we suggest that using this verse as an objection actually does the reverse, and strengthens the overall teaching in a remarkable way. Matthew 22 is not a reference to the angels that sinned, but those that did not.
So, in bringing all the pieces together, we find that the angels that sinned, did the following:
left their appointed abode/domain, engaged sexually with women, and had abnormal & corrupted offspring, which were destroyed by the flood.
By entering the human sphere, they sought to corrupt the godly line of Seth from which the Messiah would come.
they were judged accordingly and put in chains in Tartarus, the prison specially for them.
With regard to false teachers, we gather the following as a summary, since their judgment is compared to the angels that sinned:
rebellion, seeking strange flesh, entering spheres they should not.
deny the Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ in some manner
They make merchandise of the gospel, they are covetous and after money and material prosperity
they are sexually immoral men, lewdness characterizes them
God is able to deliver the godly out of their influence (like the ark delivered Noah, like Lot escaped Sodom) and judge these false teachers (as He did Sodom and Gomorrah)
The implications for the 21st century are alarming for western culture. All around us there are these things blossoming and growing at alarming & widespread rates:
cultural and even government institutionalization of the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah
the greed, lust, abundance of idleness, and pleasure loving of Sodom and Gomorrah
rampant false teachers emphasizing money, covetousness, prosperity, luxury, and ease in THIS LIFE. Prosperity preachers.
Rampant widespread rebellion against authority, in all spheres of human life.
Lift up your head dear believer, your redemption draweth nigh...the end of the age is upon us. If you are an unbeliever we beg you to come to Christ ere the trumpet sounds, and the dead in Christ rise, and we (believers) who are alive and remain are caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
Could it be that we in the west, are living in Babylon the Great, soon to fall, over whose fall one great angel will one day make the glad announcement of her fall, and over which even heaven will rejoice? Revelation 19-20.
credit: much of this teaching is borrowed & adapted from a message given by SL Johnson on this topic.
postscript: One cannot help but wonder too about the flood of Noah's day. Many look at this as a child's fairy tale, but the geological record speaks of massive worldwide flooding. The widespread presence of fossil fuels match a biblical recorded flood as to their origin, despite man's refusal to consider it (the implications are staggering). We mean by this that the flood is the only good explanation for the massive worldwide fossil fuels, created by massive rapid burial of plant life. This also has implications for the age of the earth, when scientists consider just how long deposits of oil would remain as "oil" and also the presence of the underground pressure in these deposits that would have dissipated with the long ages of evolutionary thinking. Why this is of interest is the correlation of the timing. To clarify what we mean is this....today is the era of the recovery and use of the fossil fuels as the energy of the present age. This coincides with the environmental pressures brought forth by their overuse, alongside the denial of the obvious origin of such fuels...the flood. And here in context with the above discussion we have yet another point of reference of the end of the age. The judgment of the flood, which is where these massive deposits came from. Widespread sexual immorality on an institutional level. And rampant false teaching in christendom. The convergence of all these things at least should draw our attention that things related to the angels that sinned, are today at an apex as never before.