On radio and on television we welcome you to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Angels and Men. In going around through our Baptist Zion, so many times have my fellow ministers said to me, “When we come to Dallas for the Southern Baptist Convention, please, would you be in your pulpit? We would like just to go to church and we would like to hear the pastor preach.” Then some of them made a second request: they said, “When we come and attend the services, could it be that there be not a special address made for that occasion, but would you preach just as you do Sunday by Sunday?”
Nothing could have pleased me personally more. For Sunday by Sunday in the church, I expound the Word of God in order. For example, I preached through the Bible seventeen years and eight months one time. Where I left off Sunday morning, I began Sunday night and continued that for the years and the months. What I do now is I take a Bible book, one that especially is meaningful and appealing to me, and I expound it Sunday by Sunday, taking the passages as they come in consecutive order.
Now at this time, during these days, I am preaching through 2 Peter, and we have come to the second chapter of 2 Peter. The message therefore, this morning, is an exposition of the text we have come to in the second chapter of 2 Peter, beginning at verse 4:
For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment:
And He spared not the old world, but saved Noah . . .
a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
And God turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;
But He delivered just Lot, who was vexed with the filthy living of the wicked:
For the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished
This is our text for the exposition of this morning’s message. It is an astonishing thing that God reveals here through His apostle Simon Peter: the angels who left their first estate, fallen angels, “now reserved in chains and in darkness until the great day of judgment” of Almighty God [2 Peter 4; Jude 6]. I preach out of the King James Version, and the text, the translation, reads: “the angels that sinned, God hath cast down to hell” [2 Peter 2:4], the word is Tartarus. There is nobody in hell—not now, nor until the consummation of the age—the first to be cast into hell will be the beast. The second to be cast into hell will be the false prophet [Revelation 19:20]. The third to be cast into hell will be the devil and his angels [Revelation 20:10, Matthew 25:41]]. And the fourth and last to be cast into hell are the lost, those who reject the grace and goodness of God [Revelation 20:15]; this is Tartarus.
When we die we go—God’s saved, they go to Paradise, to Abraham’s bosom [Luke 16:22]. Some people would like to call it “heaven.” Fine, but it is not the heaven that shall be when God shall raise our bodies from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16], and soul and spirit and body are joined again, immortalized and glorified [1 Thessalonians 5:23]. Until that great resurrection day, when we die, we go to Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, or heaven if you like [Luke 16:25]; but not the heaven that shall be at the consummation of the age [Revelation 21:1].
When the wicked dies, when a lost man dies, he goes to Tartarus, or to “torment” [Luke 16:22-23], awaiting likewise, the great resurrection day of the Lord; for the unjust shall be raised as well as the just. And at that day, their soul and their body will be joined together and at the great white throne judgment, they will receive the reward of their deeds [Revelation 20:11-15]. In that place to which the wicked go [Luke 16:23], these fallen angels are already there [2 Peter 2:4], in Tartarus, the Bible calls it, and there in chains and in darkness [1 Peter 3:19], these await the great judgment day of Almighty God [Matthew 8:29].
Who are these angels? And why did they fall? Who are they? This is a mystery God has kept to Himself. They are certainly not the devil and his angels, because when Satan is cast out finally, he is cast out into the earth [Revelation 12:9]. And he has access to God now, where he accuses God’s saints, accuses God’s saints day and night [Revelation 12:10], and his demons, his fallen legions, are here with us, deceiving and destroying men. So these angels in Tartarus [2 Peter 2:4], are not the devil and his angels, for they are free in the earth and are our antagonists and accusers and deceivers. Sometimes I will run across in my studying a man who will say that these angels who are in Tartarus are the angels of Genesis 6 [Genesis 6:4], who in carnality cohabited with women in the earth, and because of that, judgment was cast upon them and they are in torment in Tartarus. To me—and this is just a personal, private judgment—I think that is of a piece and of a kind with unbelievable, speculative Greek mythology, nothing better or more. Who are they? We do not know. Somehow there are these angels that God imprisoned and in chains and in darkness [1 Peter 3:19], they are kept in Tartarus against the day of judgment of Almighty God [2 Peter 2:4].
Now, why are they there? What did they do beyond what Satan and his legions have done that these should be so chosen for incarceration? Again, this is a mystery that God has kept in His own heart; it is not revealed. But there is something about it that is very evident. It is this: when God made, created the angels, He created them moral and upright and with the freedom of choice [Isaiah 14:13-14]. And in the ages past, man—not the first sinner; angels, the first sinners in the ages past, given the choice of loving God or following Satan, they chose to spurn the goodness and grace of God and followed after the archangel Lucifer [Revelation 12:4]. And in that choice, they are forever confirmed: those who love God confirmed in heaven and these who rejected God confirmed in damnation [Revelation 12:4].
That is an exact thing that we find in our own human lives. We also are here in a period of probation. And at the end of that period of probation, which we call life in the earth, when we die we are forever assigned to the choice that we have made. If I love God and accept Christ, I am forever confirmed in the glory and fellowship of heaven [John 10:28-29]. But if I reject Christ and spurn the overtures of grace and mercy, at the end of my period of probation, when I die I am forever confirmed in damnation and torment [Luke 16:26]. These are awesome things that God reveals to us in His Holy Word.
Now, let us look closely at the passage and see here some things that God reveals to us. Number one: in studying the text and in reading the revealed Word of the Lord, I am taught herein, hereby, that high office and privilege do not save me and do not keep me from falling [Deuteronomy 10:17; Job 34:19]. These angels are in the very presence of God, created just a little below the glory of the Lord Himself, and yet their high estate and their holy calling of praise and glory did not keep them from falling [Job 15:15].
Lucifer degenerates into Satan [Isaiah 14:12] and the son of the morning [Isaiah 1:12]becomes Apollyon, the destroyer [Revelation 9:11]. His wisdom curdles into cunning, and his strength sours into vicious and brutal force. How astonishing that one so high, so exalted, could fall so abysmally, and tragically, and catastrophically; just as the high office of Judas, an apostle of Christ, did not preserve him or keep him from the disastrous judgment that fell upon him [Acts 1:16-18]. Not to apply this to salvation, but to our ministries before the God; it is possible for a man to be high and exalted and fall to the depths! That is what Paul meant when he cried, saying to the people at Corinth, “I keep my body under subjection: lest that I, having preached the gospel to others, should become a castaway” [1 Corinthians 9:27]. High office and exaltation do not save us; nor do they preserve us from falling.
Second: as I look at the passage [2 Peter 2:4-9] and see the revelation of God, I find here that great, vast multitudinous throngs and numbers does not mitigate my terror and the awfulness of my destruction in damnation. How unbelievable a grasp for a slight hope when a man says, “I may fall into hell and into damnation, but I won’t be by myself. There will be millions and millions of others who will live in the same hell and the same damnation as I am.” Oh, what unbelievable reaching out for comfort. For how is it a comfort to a man writhing in agony, and in terror, and in torment, to think that there are millions of others just like me who also writhe and are in agony?
How many angels are there? The Scriptures say “myriads times myriads times myriads.” That is ten thousands times ten thousands times innumerable tens of thousands[Revelation 5:11]. And these angels that fall, what comfort would it be to an angel who had fallen and is in chains and is in darkness [2 Peter 2:4]just to remember that there are other angels just like him also damned? What spare, sterile hope and comfort is this? Look, the text says God spared not that old world—only Noah; and the whole world of the ungodly was destroyed [2 Peter 2:5].
I can easily imagine the great population gathered around Noah, building an ark hundreds of miles away from the water to float it [Genesis 6:13-14], and they say to one another, “Who is believing this? Just one old man, and he’s crazy! Just one family, and just look at all of us gathered around. To us, it is idiocy that God should judge this world [Genesis 6:11-13]. That God should condemn sin is unthinkable! Look at us, how many we are!” But when the flood came, and the fountains were broken up, and the skies turned into the ocean beds themselves, what comfort would it be to a man standing on an eminent somewhere and seeing around him the floating bodies—the dead, drowned corpses of those who had perished in the flood? [2 Peter 2:5; Genesis 7:17-24]. He mentions Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah, when the fire and the brimstone fell [2 Peter 2:6; Genesis 19:24-29]. What comfort would it be to a man in Sodom to look around and see his wife and his children and his friends and everyone that he has ever known, see them destroyed in the judgment of God, and find comfort in the thought that “I am not alone in this damnation; look around me—all of these are also judged and dead”?
In 1947, I went through Germany, so soon after the World War that the great masses of rubble that represented those vast cities were still there. They had just taken time to find a pathway through the jungle of debris—just for a car to drive through. And I have thought what comfort would it be for a man in Hanover, standing and looking at the destruction of his vast city, and he finds comfort in his heart to think, “It isn’t just my Hanover. You ought to look at Hamburg, or Frankfurt, or Leipzig, or Dresden, or Munich; they also are level with the ground.” There is a harshness and a tragedy about damnation that is inescapable and unshared.
Sometimes we think that in hell, we’ll find fellowship. From what I can read in the Bible, it is an outer darkness, and you are by yourself, alone. Ah! the multitudinous throngs that may reject and be lost, they are no comfort to us in our agony and our distress. I look again at this passage from God’s Holy Word [2 Peter 2:4-9]. I can see as I read it that culture and environment and training and background do not save me, nor do they keep me from falling.
Was ever concourse more salubrious, and felicitous, and beautiful, and good, and glorious, than the angels as they stood in the presence of the Lord God Almighty Himself? They sang together in the praises of God, and when the Lord God flung these worlds out into space, they sang as the sons of joy and of the morning, rejoicing in God’s handiwork [Job 38:4-7], God’s lacework, God’s vast, immeasurable, infinite firmament, and they were surrounded by like goodness and holiness and purity. They had converse with the cherubim and the seraphim, and they stood in the courts of heaven in the very presence of God. There was no thing around them that was not holy and blessed, and yet, with all of the fine environment around which they were surrounded, they fell, deceived by the enticements and allurements of Satan [Revelation 12:4].
When I think of that with us, can culture save us? Can training and education and background and environment deliver us? O Lord, I wish that it could. All we needed to have done was to educate Nazi Germany, and they would have been amenable to peace and goodness and righteousness. All we would need to have done was to educate and train and put a good environment around the Italians, and there never would have been a Fascist party. Or all we need to do for America would be to educate them and train them and put environmental goodness around them, and they would never be violent and blasphemous. Don’t you wish that were our simple problem—just to train, just to educate, just to create an environment of affluence and the accouterments of aesthetic enjoyments, and that we would all be good? Don’t you wish? But underneath, underneath the veneer of culture and training and education and good environment, always there is that depraved character, that fallen soul. It is always with us.
I read where a man had a leopard—a pet leopard. And upon a day, seated in his living room, the leopard was licking the hand of his master. And as the leopard licked the hand of his master, his razor-like teeth scratched him. And he licked blood and he tasted blood. And immediately, the primeval ferocious nature of the carnivorous animal went wild and cut his master to pieces. I again read of a man who had a cub lion, and out on their farm a little boy, his son, and the cub lion were out there. And upon a day the father saw that cub lion stalking his little boy; underneath, underneath always that primeval and fallen nature.
You could not find a more dramatic illustration of that than in the eighth chapter of 2 Kings, when Ben-hadad the king of Syria is sick unto death. And he sends Hazael, his trusted captain and chief of staff—he sends Hazael to the prophet of God, Elisha, to see if he will recover or die. And Hazael stands in the presence of the man of God and asks about King Ben-hadad [2 Kings 8:7-9]. And Elisha replies, “Go tell your master he will recover, but God has shown to me that he will certainly die” [2 Kings 8:10]. And then Elisha fastened has gaze upon Hazael, and as he looked at Hazael, Elisha the man of God began to weep. And Hazael said, “My father, why do you cry?” [2 Kings 8:11-12]. And Elisha replied, “For God hath revealed to me that thou shalt be king over Syria and that thou will burn their cities in Israel with fire, and you will slay the young men of Israel with the sword, and you will rip up their women with child” [2 Kings 8:12]. And Hazael looked incredulously into the face of Elisha the man of God, and said, “But, my father, is thy servant a dead dog that he would do a thing like that?” [2 Kings 8:13]. But he did. He took a wet cloth and covered the face of Ben-hadad the king and smothered him to death [2 Kings 8:14-15]. And when Hazael ascended to the throne, all of those violent things that Elisha wept over did Hazael devastatingly visit upon Israel [2 Kings 12:17, 13:3]. Underneath, underneath that depraved, fallen nature and the veneer of culture and environment are not able to eradicate it.
Out of a seminary of the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church came Joseph Stalin. His mother dedicated him to God for a priest. Out of the righteous home of Noah came carnal Ham [Genesis 5:32]. Out of the home of a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22] came the traitor Absalom [2 Samuel 3:3], his own son out of his own loins [2 Samuel 15-18]. And God said because of the sins of Manasseh, “I will destroy Judah from the face of the earth” [2 Kings 21:10-15;Jeremiah 15:4-6]. And Manasseh was the son, the only son of good King Hezekiah [2 Kings 21:1-3].
Upon a day in another city where lives, I suppose, the greatest preacher of our time—retired; and the pastor of the church took me to see him. And in the home, pictures of his daughter, many, many, many—wall covered with them. Pictures of his daughter’s family, many, many, many—the grand piano covered with them. And after it was over, walking from the house, I said to the pastor, “Didn’t he have a son?”
“Yes,” said the pastor, “He had a son.”
“Well,” I said, “where is his picture? What is his name?” He said to me, “Sir, he is never referred to. He is never named.” Brought up in a godly home in one of the houses of the great of our Baptist Zion, an obstreperous, an incorrigible, and prodigal, and unnamed. These angels with all of the accouterments and aesthetic sensibilities of worship, and goodness, and praise, and glory all around them, yet fall into the deception of sin and judgment and damnation [Revelation 12:4].
O Lord, what of us? What of us? What of us? If an angel falls and is lost [Matthew 8:29]; Lord, what of us? But the Lord—but the Lord knoweth how to deliver those who trust in Him. God knoweth how to deliver those who believe in Him out of peirasmou, the ravages of trial and temptation [2 Peter 2:9]. God knows how to deliver us and He does.
Oh, the grace and the mercy of God that extends down to us! [Titus 2:11]. Look! Look: the angels fell, and these are chained forever in darkness, waiting the judgment of God [2 Peter 2:4]; but for us, but for us, God sent His own Son, a Savior [John 3:16-17]. For us, God made atonement for our sins [Romans 5:8, 11]. For us Jesus died [Romans 5:6]. Oh the goodness and the grace of God, that He had pity and mercy upon us! [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5].
I sometimes think, as you do, why would God do that for us? Send Jesus to die for us? [John 3:17]. Make atonement in His own blood for our own sins? [Romans 5:11]. Suffer in our stead, die our death? [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Why does God do that for us? And the only answer I have ever been able to find in the Holy Scriptures is like Psalm 103:
As a father pitieth his children,
so the Lord pitieth them that look in helplessness and in crying need to Him.
For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.
God in His pity looked down in compassion upon us and sent Jesus to make atonement for us [John 3:16-17], that we might be saved, “like as a father pitieth his children,” so God pities us who are made out of dust [Psalm 103:13-14].
There was a man who had a big, fine son, an older son. The boy was in college; a star athlete, a handsome specimen of young manhood, the older boy. The father also had a little boy, a younger son, and the little boy gave promise to be as fair and as fine and as strong and as athletic as his older brother. Upon a day—upon a day, somehow, in these ways that you never know and can never explain, somehow the little boy got tangled up with his bicycle and the wheels of a big truck. In the hospital the doctor turned to the father and said, “Sir, the only way I can save, in hope, the life of the boy is to amputate his left arm and to amputate his right leg.” And the father said, as he looked down into the face of his little boy, for the first time he knew what it meant when the Scriptures say, “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth us who are made out of dust” [Psalm 103:13-14]. Oh, the goodness, and the grace, and the mercy of God that extends down to us with open arms, with open heart, with grace and glory! God says, “Come, come, come” [Matthew 11:28].
In the balcony round, a family you, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, a couple you, down one of these aisles; or just one somebody you: “Today, God has spoken to me and I am coming.” Some to give heart in faith and trust to the dear and blessed Savior: “I take Him today into my heart and into my life. I believe in Jesus and I am coming.” Or to put your life in the circle and circumference of this dear church, or to answer a call the Spirit has pressed to your heart, make the decision now, and when we stand in a moment to sing, stand coming down that stairway or walking down this aisle. There are hundreds of you in chapels and assembly halls around the church. If God has spoken to you where you are, come; across the street, some of you there; up the stairway, some of you there; as the Spirit shall open the door, make it now. Angels will attend you in the way; these who love God will rejoice in the presence of the Savior in heaven when you come [Luke 15:10]. Make it now, do it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
An ordained Baptist minister. Worked for 10 years with a Christian publishing ministry where I was the circulation manager for a growing publication, The Sword of the Lord. I also did most of direct mail fundraising and promotion. I have pastored churches in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama & Arkansas. I served for some four years as Vice President of The Spoken Word of God ministry, Orlando, FL. This ministry was active in church planting in India and broadcasting the Scriptures via Trans World Radio and other radio outlets. My associate in this ministry later invited me to join him and his dad in starting a business working with churches providing multimedia equipment. I have done this work for the last 16 years. This blog, hopefully, will scratch an itch I have for communicating the Word of God to a broader audience via the Internet. I would be honored to hear from you via email.
View all posts by Editor