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God’s Word for You

2 Peter 2:4 The fall of the angels

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, July 10, 2022

4 For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them, bound with chains, into the dark prison of hell, delivering them to be kept until the judgment…,

This is the beginning of a sentence, a string of comparisons, and with apologies to the reader (or listener) we will not even get to the main verb of this sentence until verse 9. But there is so much to be brought forward for our attention here that we will take this verse all by itself.

God indeed did not spare those angels who sinned. When did this fall take place? Was it followed by other falls? Let’s answer both of these. First, God judged the creation to be “good” after he completed his work (Genesis 1:31). We know that the angels were made during this time and that they did not exist prior to the creation, therefore the fall of certain angels who became wicked must have taken place after the seventh day of creation was completed, or possibly during the seventh day, since the final appearance of the evaluation “good” or “very good” is spoken on the sixth day, and not on the seventh day.

According to Genesis 3:1 and prior to Genesis 4:1 when Adam and Eve began to have babies, the devil came to tempt the first people. Therefore, the brief time between the creation of man and the moment when they began to have babies (that is, before the conception of the first child, who was Cain, Genesis 4:1), the devil had already fallen. This is the time frame of the fall of the wicked angels.

As to the question, was the devil’s fall followed by other falls? The answer must be this: the fall of Satan and his demons was one fall, and the only other fall was that of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6). There were no other falls. Once the wicked angels had been condemned, their judgment took place, and following it (or during their condemnation) the good angels were confirmed in their holiness (they are now called “the elect angels,” 1 Timothy 5:21), so that there cannot be another fall of any of the angels, and all mankind has fallen. This confirmation of the good angels is also attested to by other passages, such as when they are described as unable to die (Luke 20:36), “the angels of heaven” (Matthew 18:10, 22:30), and those who do God’s will in heaven (in the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:10).

We are not told for certain what the sin of the devil was, but in 1 Timothy 3:6 the hint is given that pride was the sin, or one of the sins, into which the devil fell. Professor Quenstedt also presents this, that “from the temptation of our first parents, the pride of arrogating to themselves equality with God: ‘You will be,’ the devil said, ‘like God’ (Genesis 3:5)” was the lie that tempted Adam and Eve with a similar pride. And we see every day how pride is still a sin that both corrupts and displays corruption, since all who display their pride are putting their sin on display for the world to see. Solomon said: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

There is also a question about how we understand John 8:44, which says, “The devil was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him,” and so on. Somehow, the devil objected to the truth or tried to suppress the truth of God and his majesty, perhaps in trying to attain it for himself (which is also the sin of pride) he led certain other angels to follow him, which led all of those who did so, to fall. Professor Hoenecke, the first great theologian of our synod, said, “Not that (the devil) lost the truth, for he still knows that God exists, but he doesn’t want to admit that. Now there is no truth in him; it doesn’t remain in him, but his peculiar possession is the lie… Thus,” he concludes, “the irrevocable fall of the (wicked) angels is not based on an absolute decree of God.” That is to say, their fall took place because of their own sin, and it cannot be undone.

Therefore, our verse goes on to say, that they were, in my wooden translation, “bound with chains, into the dark prison of hell, delivering them to be kept until the judgment.” So God had to make a place, a prison, for them, for the time of judgment. This is the dark prison of hell, which is where the spirits also of those humans who die without faith in Christ are imprisoned until the resurrection, when their physical bodies will join them in their torment, which is attested to in Luke 16:23 when the rich man is in torment prior to the judgment, and also in Isaiah 66:24, when after the appearance of the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 66:22), all mankind, that is, all of saved mankind, will be able to look upon the flesh of the damned who rebelled, “where their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

We also note in passing that a word for hell in this passage is the Greek word Tartarus. We don’t need to explore different nouns or even verb forms that describe hell as if they are nods to various pagan ideas of hell. The inspired writers used whatever words were handy. Or as a professor of mine who was also my predecessor in my present pastoral call, Professor Leroy Dobberstein, once told us: “If someone doesn’t like the terms, hell, Tartarus, Sheol, Gehenna? Fine. Call it what you will. It is still eternal punishment.”

The glory and grace of God shine brightly against all of this talk of sin and eternal punishment, because God rescued us from our sure and certain doom in the very same pits of hell by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sins. Our guilt is covered in the blood of Jesus, and our place in hell is vacant and can be overrun with dust and cobweb forever, since we have been snatched away from the very jaws of death and brought out of the grave, out of death itself, into the everlasting garden of God’s paradise. We will know heaven and all of its joys, all of its delights, and the eternal union with God and reunion with our loved ones and all who have put their faith in Christ, on account of Christ’s great sacrifice. Praise be to Jesus forever. He is our Savior, and we are his thankful children. Remember one of the great hymns we sing at the Lord’s Supper:

This feast is manna, wealth abounding
Unto the poor, to weak ones pow’r,
To angels joy, to hell confounding
And life for me in death’s dark hour.
Lord may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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