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 some 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 another theologian many years ago. He insisted that the devil’s Fall happened in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve. I had nothing to claim as a counter argument, and so had to remain 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.
Simon Peter, in warning his readers of false teachers, writes about others who were judged for their wickedness, all to encourage them to stay true to the faith since judgment was sure to come. Peter lists angels first as a group that faces judgment for evil (sin). The problem of identifying the event that Peter refers to is seemingly the most difficult task for interpretation, but it’s fairly easy. Recently, many Christian and Jewish commentators have identified this angelic judgment with the mythical human and angel cohabitation of Gen. 6. It 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.
The sons of God in Gen. 6 were the human righteous such as Enoch who walked with God. Before the Flood, peoples were divided into families and social groups who either longed for a better homeland with God, or were the rebels and scoffers. These are the two groups mentioned in Gen. 3.15: the seed of the woman and seed of the serpent. 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. 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, not of it. Also, the wicked pretending to be righteous within the Church is an 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).
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 “good” light and darkness 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). I say a re-creation since Gen. 1.1 has a prior creation. God doesn’t create a flawed creation in the beginning. 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). Also, by recognizing God’s prior creation, His people comprehend why the earth and universe appear so old and chaotic. It appears old probably because it is old, billions of years. It appears chaotic because the devil has been active spreading darkness for a long time.
This separation of darkness from light in Gen. 1.4 connects with what Peter says about the sinning angels in 2 Pet. 2.4: that they are bound in darkness. Peter will again reference creation and flood in ch. 3. 5-6, as he does in 2. 4-5, 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.