Why Did God Have Angels Put in Chains and Cast Into Darkness? + Light of the Gospel: A Tribute To Ravi Zacharias #143
Hello everybody, and welcome into Wednesday. I honestly can’t believe it is already Wednesday – even though it is counterintuitive, time seems to be flying in these pandemic times, doesn’t it? Today the people of God lost a great man in Ravi Zacharias. In honor of his passing, and in memory of his great impact, I’d like to read a great passage from brother Ravi, but we also have an interesting Bible question to briefly touch on, and some chapters to read through, so the days are just packed! Let’s get started. Today’s Bible readings include Numbers 29, Psalms 73, Isaiah 21 and 2nd Peter 2. Our focus question is from 2nd Peter 2, and is focused on one of the more mysterious passages in the Bible. Let’s read the chapter, and see if you can spot the strange passage!
4 For if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned but cast them into hell and delivered them in chains of utter darkness to be kept for judgment; 5 and if he didn’t spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others, when he brought the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6
2nd Peter 6:4-5
Fascinating passage, right?! One Bible Question we’re not going to cover today, because I have no idea what the answer is concerns Lot. Lot does not come off as a great guy – to say the least – in the Old Testament, but Peter here speaks of ‘his righteous soul being tortured,’ by living among the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah. I find that a very interesting characterization, and it is question #7,411 that I plan on asking once we arrive – by grace – into eternity. The question that we hope to shine some light on today concerns the angels who sinned and were cast into Tartarus in chains of utter darkness to be kept for judgment. What in tarnation, as my grandfather would say, is that all about?! Well, if you are interested in such questions, have I got a deal for you. Last year I wrote a very provocatively titled book called Angels, Ghosts and Other Bible Mysteries. I wasn’t really targeting Christians with this book, but rather those interested in the paranormal. The book is loaded with Bible teaching and the gospel, and also some discussions of interesting supernatural things that are mentioned in the Bible, like this question. If you buy this book, it will immediately rocket up to amongst the top 500,000 best-selling books on Amazon, and then Oprah will surely beat a path to my door to make it part of her book club. And why wouldn’t you with some of the amazing reviews the book has! “Ok book. Didn’t agree with some of it” I mean, wow – I can hear you getting your credit car out now!
Anyway…back to our question. What is up with this? To help us answer it, we should look briefly at the parallel passage in 1 Peter 3:
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison 20 who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water.
1 Peter 3:18-20
And the one in Jude:
6 and the angels who did not keep their own position but abandoned their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deep darkness for the judgment on the great day.
Jude, verse 6.
At least, I believe that these are parallel passages. So – what’s going on here – what angels/spirits sinned, and why were they cast into prison?! Well, my answer is a bit controversial, and not everybody agrees with it, but I believe 1 Peter 3 and 2nd Peter 2 both contain clues as to what is being referenced here in terms of angels and chains and deep darkness and prisons – they are both talking about the days of NOAH. Jude doesn’t mention the days of Noah, but his mentioning of the angels and the chains and the deep darkness seems to correspond very well with the 2nd Peter 2 passage, and the 1 Peter 3 passage doesn’t mention angels (but rather, ‘spirits’) but the setting of the days of Noah matches the 2nd Peter 2 passage and the prison reference matches both passages. It’s hard for me to believe that these three passages are not connected and parallel each other. Many good and solid Bible commentators believe that the ‘spirits in prison’ reference in 1 Peter 3 is referring to humans alive during the days of Noah (and their view is that Jesus preached to them THROUGH Noah), but I find this very difficult to believe as it goes against the plain sense of the text. Is there any other place in Scripture where living humans are referred to as ‘spirits’ in this sense? I don’t believe there is – correct me if I’m wrong, but it makes no sense to me for 1 Peter 3 to be referring to human beings as ‘spirits in prison.’
So, if that understanding is correct – and that is debatable, I’ll admit – what ‘crime’ caused these angels/spirits to be sentenced to prison in darkness and chains? Let’s go to the days of Noah for my proposed answer:
6 When mankind began to multiply on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives for themselves. 3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.
I believe that this is the act that caused the angels to be put into prison, and I believe this because it seems pretty clear that Jude is addressing angels who “did not keep their own position, but abandoned their proper dwelling,” and Genesis 6, if ‘Sons of God=Angels, Sons of God=Angels, Part 2), would seem to be a clear case of angels not keeping their own position. So – I believe that the Bible is pointing us to the possibility that some of the fallen angels (‘sons of God’) had relations with human women, and produced the Nephilim as offspring, and God was angered at this sinful ‘abandoning of the angels’ proper dwelling,’ and thus He had them imprisoned for such rebellion. But – you know what? This is an opinion – it’s not doctrine. I believe that is what the Bible is teaching us here, but honestly, some of these connections aren’t terribly clear, and others believe differently. This is certainly not an issue to separate over, but perhaps one to engage in a friendly debate over a nice cup of coffee about. Hopefully our quarantine lifts soon, and we can do just that!
LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
India is the largest movie-producing nation in the world, and to grow up in India is to grow up in a culture where anything on the screen brings a crowd. Romance on the screen was, at the time I was growing up, very typical. Since kissing was not permitted, romantic encounters routinely consisted of a boy-meets-girl scenario that ended with starry-eyed expressions, each chasing the other around trees, with melodramatic music playing. It is best described as grown-ups playing peekaboo in a jungle. Just as the long-awaited moments of embrace came, the scene would change and the audience would applaud.
An Indian comedian who wrote a question-and-answer column in a national film magazine was once asked, “What is the difference between love on the Western screen and love on the Indian screen?” His answer was one word: “Trees.” Much has changed in the Indian movie world since, but I shall not chase that issue down.
In the existential questions of our lives and in the struggles of our minds, the trees that separate the worlds of cultures are numerous. Behind all of our superficial distinctives lie the weighty differences: those of values, religion, and worldview. In my work of offering a defense of the Christian faith, God has given me the privilege of speaking on every continent and in dozens of cities, often to those holding a radically different outlook on spiritual matters from my own. I know firsthand that religious issues can be discussed without compromise, yet without animosity, with gentleness, and with respect. While specific beliefs may offend, it is possible to present them without being personally offensive.
I once stayed in Southeast Asia, where I met a wonderful Muslim man. He was the room attendant at my hotel. Every day when he came in to make up my room, he would also make me a cup of tea, and we would talk. He even bought some old Indian movies for me to enjoy. On his day off, he took me sightseeing, and we visited many places of worship. I will never forget him.
On one occasion he invited my wife and me to a lovely dinner at his home. We became very good friends. He knew of my completely different belief to his and would ask me questions. I wish more people showed the kindness he did.
And that is the point I wish to make: we can be worldviews apart without anger or offense. What I believe, I believe very seriously. Indeed, the foundation of my entire life’s work is the conviction that Jesus Christ alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Being myself persuaded of this, I am compelled to share that message with others. Yet far more than merely discussing tenets or dogma, I hope to live a life of gentleness and respect, undergirded with love for all people so that the light of the gospel can shine through our differences.
In a world where the trees that separate us are large and discussions of ultimate truth often generate more heat than light, we must seek to come together to consider truth in the open. The barriers to belief may be many. The bridges to every heart ought never to be lost. Then and only then can genuine peace come, made possible by the grace of God.
Ravi Zacharias, The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019).