In the passage before us this morning, the apostle Peter gives assurance to Christians and to the whole world that God will hold all sin accountable and punishable that is not forgiven by the blood of Christ. That is the one and only exception. In proof of the proposition that judgment against the wicked is inevitable, Peter cites three well-known examples: (1) Angels who sinned. (2), the destruction of the world in the flood; and (3) the overthrow of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These three punishments are the most terrible judgments God has ever brought on any of His created beings. Time will permit the discussion of only one of these groups that gives a fair waning to all peoples, including Christians. Why did Peter bing up such a dire warning? In the first century church, Jewish fase teachers and Gentile false teachers had crept into the church and privily introduced destructive heresies into the church. The word privily means to slip in beside of the doctrines of the apostles the doctrines of false teachers from false religions that contradict the doctrines of the Christian religion. One of the primary destructive heresies of the first century was the doctrine of Jewish teachers that there is but one being in the Godhead, not three. This contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity clearly taught in the Christian religion. It was called a destructive heresy because it will destroy anyone who believes it. A heresy is a religious opinion that contradicts an apostolic doctrine in the Christian religion. There were other heresies or false religious teachings that disagreed with the teachings of the apostles. Peter told us what will happen to individuals, religious organzations and God's people who do such things. There are churches in Christendom today and other religious organizations who teach the heresy there is but one Divine Being heaven. God will hold them accountable for this false opinion which is destructive heresty. In the lesson today I will speak about the first group mentioned by Peter and the terrible judgment that fell on them as warning to the church and the whole world. Peter begins his warning with these words in verse 4, "For if God spared not the angels when they sinned.." The implication is, if God spared nto the angels who sinned, He will not spare anyone that sins.The sin committed by the angels is the most mysterious event in the Bible. How could such a thing happen?. Angels are created beings. This is the most ancient event mentioned in the Bible. This morning we are talking about ancient things. The world is interested in ancient history, but there is history so ancient that is beyond the dreams of the world or the imagination of man. This even is so ancient, we cannot even date it. Time is not measurable in etermity.It predates the history of mankind. Peter informs us that we should not confine our attention to God's dealings with human beings, but we should observe how He acts toward another order of beings far superior to human beings. Human beings were not the first sinners; angels were the first sinners. By seeing how God treated the rebellious angels, light may be cast upon His dealings with us, and thereby misunderstandings may be removed.
Let us carefully examine Peter';s words in verse 4: "If God did not spare the angelswho sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.." The King James version says they were cast down to hell which is a terrible mistranslation. The Greek word is Tartarus and not hell. This word was used among the Greeks of the place of restraint and punishment for the souls of wicked men after death. The word is intended to convey that these wicked angels were thrust down to a location in Hades, the unseen world, to await the judgment of the great day. The general opinion is that Tartarus is that place in the Hadean realm where all wicked souls are reserved and kept in restraint until the final judgment. The angels are not in hell, for they are very active in the world today and are the enemies of God and Christians.
First of all, who were these creatures who sinned against God? The first thing we should note about these creatures who sinned is that they were angels in heaven. They existed in heavenly places, in the wonderful placed called heaven, the heaven of heavens, the very abode of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Godhead. The saw God and abode in the palace of God. They were surrounded with every good and holy influence. They conversed with higher and lower orders of angelic beings, such as seraphim, cherubim, archangels, two of which are mentioned by name in the scriptures: Michael and Gabriel. Their relationship and communications were only with perfect creatures. What a wonderful state of existence they enjoyed. At one time they were supremely happy and faithful servants of God. What better place could there be than where they lived? No better place existed in the heavenly world. They were created holy with magnificent natures.They were powerful, intelligent, and beautiful beings. They had it all and enjoyed supreme happiness at one time. How long we do not know, for they were in eternity which knows no passing of time. Let us never forget that they once were loyal and faithful servants of God. At one time they had a wonderful existence in the best of all places to live and among the most powerful and wonderful creatures created by the hand of God. What shall we say? With such a holy environment, how could they ever fall into sin. What more could God give them? This is the mystery of all mysteries. In spite of all these wonderful blessings, a perfect environment, a magnificent nature and a loving and caring Creator, none of these things were great enough to keep them from sinning. They cast God out of their hearts, and He cast them out of heaven. Let fallen angels be a lesson to fallen men.
Secondly, What did it mean that God did not spare them? Peter informs us that when they sinned. He punished them on the spot. Evil entered the hearts of angels, even envy, pride, rebellion, and they fell, fell never to rise again. The angels did not merely sin and lose heaven, but they passed beyond all others in sin. They were once loyal subjects, but now they are traitors, rebels, and seducers. Now they are at war with God who created them. They try to lead the people of God astray. They do their best to stir up sin in every human being. Their leader actually met the Son of God Himself one dayand tempted Him, and even asked Christ to worship him. Not much is revealed about exact the nature of what their sin was, and the number of those sinning is not stated. Jude 6 gives us a little light, saying that the angels did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling place.
Thirdly, what exactly was the sin they committed. There is no reason to believe otherwise than that Satan was one of the created angels and that he led a revolt in heaven. Paul may have revealed what the sin of Satan was in I Timothy 3:6. Paul gave Timothy the qualifications men must have to be selected as one of Elders of the Church of Christ. One qualification was he must not be a novice, that is, one who has not been a Christian very long. The danger was he might become puffed up by pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil." This probably refers to pride as the chief cause of Satan's downfall. He may have thought he deserved a higher position. He evern thought he was powerful enough to stand up against God. One thing is sure; he was and is a powerful angel. A man without long experience as a Christian and appointed to the Eldership might abuse his authority because of his pride in his high position in the church. Satan's pride must have had something to do with his sin, Moreover, most people in high positions in the world, be it in the Federal government, state government, city government or in the church are in grave danger of misusing and misapplying their authority for personal advantage and pleasure and fall away into sin. They do this as a result of of pride. Sometime it leads them into immorality and even more shameful conduct. In the brotherhood of Churches of Christ, Elders, deacons, preachers, church leaders, Sunday School teachers have been known to fall into sin and some with destructive consequences. If it can happen in the Lord's Church, it can and has happened in all denominational churches. I wonder if Judas Iscariot could have been what he was if he had not been an apostle. High position in the world brings many good things, but it is a dangerous achievement. We are not angels unfallen; we are not angels at all. Let us not imagine that the most select position can screen us from the worst of sin. Televison and the newspaper verifies this f act. I think Tiger Woods would agree with all I have said in this message about the danger of high position in life. We must never presume we will never fall linto sin. If angels can fall, so can men. Only God and Ch rist can preserve us. Fallen angels is a lesson to fallen men. There is no security in high position. The fact that I am a Minister does not mean that I cannot fall awa into sin. Simply being a Preacher is no security agaist falling away into sin, for many have done so. If God did not spare angels when they sinned, He will not spare preachers when they sin, unless their sin is forgiven by the blood of Christ. Let fallen angels be a lesson to fallen men.
Finally let us consider the special nature of the punishment that fell on the angels who sinned in heaven. Peter said, "God spared not the angels but cast them down to Tartarus and committed them to pits of darkness to be reserved unto judgment." Some versions read, "They were cast down to "chains of darkness." Jude 6 makes this comment on their punishment, "Angels that kept not their own principality, but left their own proper habitation, he has kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." O what a change took place from the joy and happiness they once knew when they were the servants of God. God punished them right on the spot. He did not allow them to continue in heaven but cast them out of heaven to that awful place called Tartarus. They cannot escape from the prison they made for themselves. Pits and chains are figurative words and are not to be taken literally. The darkness is not a literal darkness but spiritual darkness. God has no communication with them, no teachings, no offer of a way to make peace with God. God will have absolutely nothing to do with them. The can never reform. The fallen angels have no prospect of a deliverance. They are in prison, and the only freedom they have had was when some of them were released to enter into the bodies of some people in the time of Christ and during the first century. That was the most sinful generation of people in Jewish history. Demon possession may have been a judgment on the Jewish nation for their sinful lives. The punishmnet of the angels who sinned was somewhat like criminals who are sentenced to death. They are put in prison until the day they are die. It may be of interest to know that Jesus said, "Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels.*
*Some of the thoughts in this message were taken from a sermon preached in 1885 by Charles Spurgeon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England.