Friday, November 9, 2018

The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Peter. Day 22, God's Judgment Of False Teachers, Part Two

Peter says we can rest assured that God will punish those who teach false doctrine and lead men and women into sin. It may seem to our way of thinking that judgment is slow in coming, but God is faithful to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. To prove his point Peter uses some Old Testament examples, one of which we will study today.

"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;" (2 Peter 2:4) He says, "If God was willing to punish rebellious angels, you can bet He is willing to punish rebellious humans."

We know that when Satan rebelled against God he enticed a third of the angelic host to join with him. (Revelation 12:4) This tells us that the angels, like humans, were created with free will. A creature without free will can't disobey it's Creator. We don't know how far back in time this mutiny occurred, but it was likely before God created human beings since as soon as the first humans appear on the earth the devil is lurking in their midst to deceive them.

Verse 4 is the only instance in the Scriptures in which anyone uses the Greek "Tartarus" which in many English Bibles has been translated as "hell". Tartarus is a word Peter borrows from Greek mythology, and in that mythology it was considered the lowest of hells, reserved not for wicked human beings but for rebellious celestial beings. Even the ancient Greeks, idolaters though they were, understood that the sins of angelic creatures were more heinous than the sins of man, therefore the worst possible torment was assigned to them. Peter isn't giving any credence to pagan mythology by saying the rebellious angels are in Tartarus; he's merely using a term his readers easily understand. He's telling them, "The angels were created to serve God and man. They sinned against both. This is so unforgivable that they are considered the lowest of the low."

Does this mean all the fallen angels are under lock and key at this very moment? If so, why is there demonic activity on the earth? If so, how is Satan still free to roam the earth like a roaring lion looking for victims to devour? (1 Peter 5:8) It could be that Peter is speaking metaphorically, saying that the fallen angels have already been judged guilty and that they are already condemned by their wicked choice. Or it could be that Peter is speaking in this passage only of the angels who mated with human women in the days before the great flood. (See Genesis 6:1-8) We find no reference to angelic/human mating after the flood, so God may have had those particular angels thrown into prison until the final judgment. Jude, believed to be one of the brothers of Jesus, appears to make reference to this particular group of angels by saying they are bound with everlasting chains until the day of judgment. (Jude 1:6) By reading Jude's words in context they seem to be connected with sexual sins, for immediately after speaking of this group of sinful angels he talks of the judgment that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah for "sexual immorality and perversion". (Jude 1:7)

The worst sexual perversion ever to occur can arguably be said to have been when angels mingled with human beings. As soon as Satan and a third of the angels turned against God, they planned to interfere with His good intentions toward the human race. One of the ways a portion of the angels interfered was by trying to pervert the bloodline and genealogy of humans in an attempt to prevent the Messiah from coming. Since the very beginning the rebellious angels have envied and hated the creatures God made in His own image. They did not want God to create mankind in the first place, and once He did they despised us. From the moment the serpent enticed Eve to bite into the fruit up to this very day, they have resented the place human beings hold in God's heart. Some scholars speculate this is the entire reason for the rebellion: that the wicked angels disagreed with the plans God laid long before He ever created the first cell of the human body, that they understood God was going to love humans so much that humans would be first in His heart, and that they were scornful of the idea of redeeming creatures they considered so far beneath themselves.

We could travel very deep down the rabbit hole thinking about this mysterious subject, but Peter's point is that if God was willing to punish the sins angels perpetrated against man, He is certainly willing to punish the sins man has perpetrated against man. Angels were created on a higher level than human beings, as both King David and the Apostle Paul attest. (Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:7) Yet in God's eyes the crowning glory of everything He created is mankind. His entire purpose in making the universe and planet Earth was to provide a place for humans to live. Everything He made was perfectly engineered to sustain human life. Long before He ever said, "Let there be light!" He already knew man would fall from grace and need redemption. He already knew a sacrifice would have to be made. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world". (1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8) I don't know how far back in eternity past that God decided to create the human race, but the second He made this decision Jesus willingly submitted to being placed under the sentence of death so that He could redeem us. How bizarre this must have seemed to the angels whose hearts were hard toward God. How wasteful they must have considered the death of the holy for the unholy. When King David said the following words he said them with awe and thankfulness, "What is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?" (Psalm 8:4) But when the wicked angels said these words they said them in scorn and in disrespect toward God, "What worth do You see in these vile creatures? Why do You care about them?"

Thanks be to God, He loves us so much that He will place under eternal punishment every angel who has ever tempted any of us to sin. He will punish false teachers and those who pretend to be Christians in order to lead human beings astray. He wants us to be with Him in eternity so much that the worst punishment of all will fall on everything and everyone who has prevented (or tried to prevent) a soul from being redeemed.

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