4 For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;” (2 Peter 2:4)
The initial cause and effect statement concerns God’s judgment of the angels when they sinned. A couple of initial observations would serve us well at this juncture.
First, God did not spare the angels. The phrase “did not spare” (φείδομαι; pheidomai) means to allow trouble to happen or to cause someone to be troubled. In other words, God did not prevent trouble to occur to the angels.
Second, notice the definite article immediately prior to the noun angels. Peter is referring to a particular group of angels. Also notice that the noun “angels” is in the plural form, so the apostle is informing us that God judged more than one angel.
Third, why did God judge these angels in the first place? The text informs us it is because they sinned (ἁμαρτάνω; hamartano), engaged in wrongdoing or acted in a way which was in rebellion to the will and law of God.
Finally, what was God’ specific judgment for these angelic creatures? He cast them into hell. The word hell (ταρταρόω; tartaroo) means a place of torture and torment. The text goes on to say that this judgment involved chains of deepest darkness until God’s final judgment.
Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “He (God) plunged the angels into hell, literally, “tartarus” apparently a prison of custody (gloomy dungeons) between the time of the judgment and their ultimate consignment to the eternal lake of fire. There will be no future trial for their doom is already sealed. False prophets, Peter argued, will taste the same judgment as the rebellious angels.”
There is much discussion as to the exact identity of these angels and exactly how they sinned against God. Dr. John MacArthur shares the most predominant view.
“These angels, according to Jude 6, “did not stay within their own position of authority,” i.e., they entered men who promiscuously cohabited with women. Apparently this is a reference to the fallen angels of Gen. 6 (sons of God): 1) before the flood (2 Pet. 2:5; Gen. 6:1–3) who left their normal state and lusted after women, and 2) before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Pet. 2:6; Gen. 19).”
Dr. Don Carson contributes by saying that, “See Gn. 6:1–4 and Jude 6, where the writer draws attention to pride as the cause of the angels’ downfall. Hell (see the niv mg.) in Greek mythology refers to Tartarus, the lowest and most terrible part of hell, reserved especially for those superhuman beings who rebelled against the supreme god. The MS readings of gloomy dungeons vary between a word meaning a ‘pit’ or ‘cave’, and another word (siros instead of seiros in Greek) meaning ‘rope’ or ‘chain’ (see the niv mg.). The latter is in line with Jude 6. The imagery is drawn from apocryphal writings.”
The point of this illustration is to demonstrate to the readers of 2 Peter that if God judged the fallen angels when they sinned against Him, what makes human sinners think that God will not judge them? The answer is none.
We conclude today with a quote from Dr. R. C. Sproul who says, “That God keeps the unrighteous under punishment by turning them over to their sin should be a sober warning to us. While those of us with true faith will never lose our salvation, if we persist in disobedience, we may become more entangled in sin, making it more difficult for us to grow in our love for righteousness. Think of a persistent sin that you have trouble overcoming and find a friend who can stand with you as you fight against it.”
Soli deo Gloria!