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… (2Pet. 2.4 NIV)
(A personal note.) My theological writings cover unique issues compared with the typical fare of other Christian bloggers. I did not choose these issues, they chose me, if you will. On this topic of The Angelic Fall, I was challenged in my conception of a Pre-Edenic Fall by a theologian many years ago. He insisted that the devil’s Fall happened later, in the Garden of Eden, when he tempted Adam and Eve. I had nothing to claim as a counter argument, so I remained silent. I never completely bought into this notion, however, and now feel I can retort. In actuality, the theologian’s argument was from silence. He stated that no where else prior to the Garden of Eden does scripture record the devil’s Fall. I can now provide him the scripture.
The Separation of Two Peoples
Simon Peter, in warning his readers of false teachers, writes about some who were judged for their wickedness, all to encourage the letter’s recipients to stay true to the faith since judgment was sure to come. Peter lists angels first as a group that faces judgment for their evil. The problem of identifying the event that Peter refers to is likely a difficult task, but the solution is apparent if the reader takes the scriptures as a comprehensive revelation.
From the beginning (see 1Tim. 1.4-7 where the genealogies and “law” implies Jews), Jewish commentators have identified The Angelic Fall with the contrived and mythical human and angel cohabitation of Gen. 6. Recently, some Christians have hopped on this bandwagon, purporting this same idea (for example, Michael Heiser). It clearly did not happen at that point, however, since no connection occurs with the elements of Peter’s account. The angels were imprisoned somewhere dark, which doesn’t feature in the Gen. 6 passage. Additionally, the devil and his angels, as noted below, were already fallen and were judged for inhabiting the serpent to make it appear like it was talking in his temptation of Eve. Also, the devil probably, then, used Eve to tempt Adam into eating the fruit. Eve became the first sinner (see 1Tim. 2.14), and the devil was then able to use her: the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2.2b ESV). Though Eve sinned before Adam, humanity fell in Adam, the second sinner. Eve was created from Adam, the head of the human race, and now all his offspring would, henceforth, be like him, having a sinful nature.
The sons of God in Gen. 6 were the righteous, such as Enoch, who walked with God. Before the Flood, peoples were divided into two families and social groups, who either longed for a better homeland with God or were rebels and scoffers. These are the two groups mentioned in Gen. 3.15: the seed of the woman (exemplified in Christ; see Gal. 3.16, 29, where the promise of Gen. 3.15 was renewed to Abraham), and the seed of the serpent. The sons (or daughters) of man were the opposite group who resembled their ancestor Cain, the seed of the serpent (see 1Jn. 3.12). Initially, it seems that God used these two groups to physically separate the righteous from the wicked. Probably, God sovereignly chose a family group (Seth’s line) to aid in pedagogy and the transmission of scripture through oral memory.
God divides the two groups differently in the span of history. Later, God would call one group of people, and only one, the Jews, to be his witnesses. To know God under the Mosaic Covenant, a Gentile would have to convert to The God of Israel and follow all the Laws and cultic observances, such as the various sacrifices. God has revealed Himself and His plan in various ways and at different times (see Heb. 1.1). In our age, where the Spirit has been given, the righteous and wicked are practically intermingled. An example of intermingling is the Church in the world, but not of it. Also, the wicked pretending to be righteous within the Church is another infiltration. This is what Peter was warning about: be careful not to fall into the false teachers’ trap since their intermingling is a reality (2Pet. 2.1).
The Light Shines in the Darkness
Where do the specific elements of imprisonment in darkness which Peter speaks about occur? They happen at the first day of re-creation, the separation of darkness with light, recorded in Gen. 1.2-4: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness (NIV). Likewise, after the Fall of Adam, God separated the (imputed) righteous from the wicked.
I say a re-creation, above, since Gen. 1.1 has a prior creation. God couldn’t create a flawed creation in the beginning; it wouldn’t be in His nature. Instead, darkness seems to invade it. It was the later addition of light that dispelled the darkness: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn. 1.5 NIV). Moreover, by recognizing God’s prior creation, His people comprehend why the earth and universe appear so old and chaotic. They appear old because they are old, billions of years. The universe appears chaotic because the devil has been active spreading darkness for a long time. This is why Christ ascended above all heavens in order to transform them: He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things (Eph. 4.10 ESV). If God made the universe as it is now, why would The Lord need to fill it? Wouldn’t He already have control over it?
In 2 Pet. 2.4, Peter connects this separation of darkness from light (Gen. 1.4) when he says of the sinning angels that they were imprisoned awaiting judgment. Peter will again reference creation and flood in 3.5-6: But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. Therefore, since Peter speaks about creation, and subsequent flood, in almost one breath in chapter 3, he probably states the same in 2.4-5.
The outer universe is chaotic and naturally uninhabitable, something very different from God’s activity of creating good and habitable places, such as when He created Adam and Eve. In Gen.1.1, the text states that God created the heavens and the earth. Seeing how His subsequent creation is good and habitable, the first instance of creation must have been the same. In Gen. 1.2a, this creation became tohu wabohu which some scholars (such as Gerald Bray), have translated topsy turvy. There was also darkness over it but God’s Spirit ultimately observed and ruled sovereignly (Gen. 1.2b,c). God is light, so why was there now darkness over the face of the deep? This references, in my view, the time when The Angelic Fall occurred. Both the heavens and earth were corrupted to the point where God had to create, in Gen. 1.3-2.3, a special earth for Adam to rule, along with an immediate solar system to mark the times and seasons.