2 Peter 2, A Warning for False Teachers
In my continuing study of proof texts for hell, today we’ll examine a passage in 2 Peter 2:4.
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;
AHA! See there is a hell, it’s plain and clear! Hold up just one second and lets take a deeper look. Remember, according to these rules, we have to take passages in context and examine every possible angle before coming to a conclusion. So lets look at the context. Just from scanning the chapter, we can already tell that Peter’s primary goal is to warn us about false teachers in the last days. How do we know, well by looking at the first few verses of course:
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, andbring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 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. (NKJV)
Take note of the last sentence, referring to the judgment awaiting these false teachers.
for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Peter is saying that these guys too, will get their just reward. Then he goes on to describe examples of people in the past being punished by God:
4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered theminto 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 theirlawless 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. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, 11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
Before we look at the contentious verse 4, let’s examine this passage first. The first thing I note is the pattern presented in the passage, God names a group of sinners, and follows it up with their punishment. Lets take a look at the groups listed with their punishment:
- Fallen Angels (sided with Lucifer) – cast down to hell (greek: tartarus)
- People of Noah’s time (except Noah and Family) – they were drowned in the flood.
- Sodom and Gomorrah (Lot and family were saved) – City was turned to ashes by fire and brimstone.
The next big thing that stands out are the words “For if God…”. One thing about if statements is there must be a then. Sure enough, verse 9 starts of with one. In between the If-Then, is listed the punishments, so putting the sentence together like so, we get:
For if God did not spare [fill in the blanks] 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,
The main point of the above passage was meant to show that God knows how to save the righteous (using Noah and Lot as examples) and also is just in dealing with the wicked. So Peter is like, don’t worry, those bad guys will get what is coming to them.
Now let’s look at how the Fallen Angels were punished:
the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
Who: Angels that sinned. They were deceived and chose Lucifer and rebelled against God.
How: They were cast down to hell and delivered into chains of darkness.
Additional info: They are still awaiting their judgment.
Firstly, lets look at how they’re punished. At first glance, it appears that the Angels were cast into hell and are chained up in darkness. If we’re looking at the traditional view of hell, it would appear that they are burning and suffering as we speak. However, that would contradict the very next phrase, because it says they’re being reserved for judgement. Wouldn’t burning in hell be judgement enough? Something is off about this interpretation, let’s dig deeper.
The Greek used here for hell is Tataroo (Tartarus), meaning a place of restraint. God cast them down to a place of restraint. In Greek mythology, Tartarus was the lowest hell, the place where the Titans (who rebelled against Zeus) were restrained. It is described as being as far below Hades as heaven is high above the earth. As far as we can apply Greek mythology, we can understand that these angels were cast so far down as to be out of sight. Their place of restraint was so far down that one would think they would never be able to crawl out. This punishment corresponds with Revelation 12:
3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
From the passage above we can see that the Dragon was able to take a 3rd of the stars* (angels) of heaven. Who is the dragon, verse 7 defines it for us:
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
*Stars in the Bible can denote princes, rulers, angels, and nobles of the earth. In this context we can tell that it is likely angels. For examples of stars (angels) being cast to earth, See Isaiah 14:12, Luke 18:10)
The devil and his angels were cast out of heaven to earth. To them, losing heaven and going to this desolate barren earth must have been like hell. So their punishment was being imprisoned on this planet. Unfortunately for us, we have to share it with them.
Lets look at the “chains of darkness”. The Greek word for chains, can also mean silo. To the Greek, a silo was an underground pit in which grain was stored. Lets look at other tranlations for chains:
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; (NIV)
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; (NASB)
4 For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment. (NLT)
As we can see, “hell” very much looks like a prison instead of a place of torture. It doesn’t look like the traditional view of hell, because hell would be bright, with fires burning all over the place. What the Bible is really saying is that this Earth is a prison for the fallen, in comparison to Heaven’s glory, and they are not allowed to leave this planet.
As we can see, Peter was literally saying that because of their sins, the fallen angels were punished for their rebellion against God, and as a consequence, were cast down to the gloomy, isolated earth, which would serve as their prison and holding place until the day of judgment. When is the day of judgment? After the 1000 year following Christ’s 2nd coming, as depicted in Revelation 20. Remember, we have to let Scripture interpret itself, and not fuse our preconceived ideas into Scripture.
Just to add some clarification and extra information on some points. I forgot that Revelation is a very confusing and symbolic book so I’d like to highlight some points in the chapter. I don’t want to turn this into a whole Revelation seminar, but I can see where people get confused and sidetracked I’ll try to quickly clear up some things.
Two instances of Angels being cast to the earth
Revelation 12:3,4 talks about the first time Satan was cast to the earth. Although, Satan was allowed to go back to Heaven and be in the presence of God, see Job. Verse 7 talks about a 2nd conflict, where Jesus wins the battle at the cross, as seen in verse 10-11, and now are confined to Earth.
10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Now to the original point that Revelation 12 refers to events in the past.
1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. (NKJV)
First notice verse 1. Where can we find a similar description in Genesis 37:9. That is the description of Joseph’s dream. And as we know in Revelation, a woman represents a church or a spiritual group. So connecting the 2, we can see that the woman is spiritual Israel, or God’s people.
How do we know these events happened in the past, because we know from the beginning Satan was trying to get Jesus killed because God told him that the Seed of Eve would eventually gain victory over Satan.
4 So the LORD God said to the serpent:
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
That is why Satan tried so hard to get baby Jesus killed, even before he was born.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.
Revelation 12 clearly talks about Jesus’ birth, hence the conflict was in the past, and therefore the angels were also cast to earth long ago, and now are stuck here awaiting their punishment in Revelation 20.