Fallen Angels and Fallen Men
October 9th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
Confidence, Evil, Fallen, Humanity, Rejection, Sinners, Temptation, Trust, 2 Peter 1960, 1960, 2 Peter
FALLEN ANGELS AND FALLEN MEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 2:1-9
10-9-60 10:50 a.m.
For over fifteen years I have been preaching through the Bible, and last Sunday evening we concluded with the first chapter of 2 Peter. This morning, we begin at the second chapter of 2 Peter. And if you would like to follow the message in the Book, you may easily do so. Turn to the second epistle of Simon Peter, chapter 2, and we read through the first nine verses. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled Fallen Angels and Fallen Men. Second Peter, second chapter, 1 through 9:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of which the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: you whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
For if 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 spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
And 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;
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation . . . the lascivious living of the wicked:
(For that [righteous] man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth . . .
[2 Peter 2:1-9]
He doesn’t finish; it has no apodosis. He just gets bound up in the flood of words and thought and the inspiration of this awful thing of which he speaks; he doesn’t finish it:
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, but He also knows how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.
[2 Peter 2:9]
We look over the abyss. This is a terrible and an awesome subject. Who are these angels that God spared not, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment? [2 Peter 2:4]. It isn’t Satan. It isn’t his angels. They are free and at liberty and at loose in this world. Satan is unchained and unbound, and the angels that follow him are also at liberty. The powers of the air, the powers that drive in the darkness and the wanton sin, and threat, and grief, and greed, and war, and pillage, the angels that drive under the command of their satanic leader are all and everything except bound and in prison and in chains. It isn’t they.
There are those—now when I speak of things like this, I have no quarrel with those who interpret a passage of Scripture in another way—there are those who say that these angels who sinned, whom God cast down to hell, and delivered them in chains of darkness, to be reserved against the day of judgment [2 Peter 2:4], there are those who say that they are, in the sixth chapter of Genesis and the second verse, they are “the sons of God that saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all whom they chose” [Genesis 6:2]. And as you know, that precipitated the flood [Genesis 6:17, 7:17-24]. Now, I do not think that, and the reason for it is something I cannot escape personally. To me, it is mythological ever to assume or suppose that angels cohabited with humankind. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” [Genesis 6:2], then the flood [Genesis 6:17, 17:17-24]. That’s Greek mythology. And if you read Greek mythology, those gods and those goddesses fall in love with our humankind, and from them spring those unusual characters who fill the pages of Greek drama and Greek mythology. Now there are great ecclesiastical scholars and scriptural commentators who believe that these “sons of God” were angels, and that they forsook their estate in heaven and came down and so bred this race of violent men who brought on the world its destruction by water.
Now, I do not think that. I believe the “sons of God” there were the sons of Seth: the line that belonged to the redemptive purpose and elective choice of heaven. And when God’s people, the elect of God, the sons of Seth, when God’s people compromised and lost their testimony in the world of Cain [Genesis 6:1, 5-6], the flood came [Genesis 7:17-24]; just like I think the Scriptures teach when the church shall lose the power of its witness in the world [Philippians 2:15], the tribulation is upon us [2 Thessalonians 2:7], Armageddon is here [Revelation 16:16], the end time, the consummation, the denouement of the age has arrived [Matthew 24:14].
“Well then pastor, who are these angels that sinned, that were cast down to hell, that are in chains of darkness now, to be reserved against that final day of judgment?” [2 Peter 2:4]. All I know is this: that the man is not the first sinner in the world. Angels were first [2 Peter 2:4], and we are the second [Genesis 3:1-6]. And in the unknown, and indescribed, and unrevealed, and dim ages of the past, there were angels in the presence of God, created upright, but they were also created under a law of probation. If they obeyed the law of probation, they were elect angels forever. If they broke the law of probation, they were cast down and lost forever. And somewhere in the unrevealed antiquities of God’s eternity, these angels sinned [Jude 1:6]. Pride, envy, ambition, rebellion entered their hearts, and they were cast out of their exalted state and cast down into the lowest, darkest hell, and there are they chained against the day of the judgment of Almighty God [2 Peter 2:4].
Just to mention such a thing, just to read such a thing brings terror to the human heart. These are tragic and awesome things, and from them there come to our hearts matters of great moments and appeal and admonition. One: however exalted we may be, we are not in our exaltation, or in our position, or in our office thereby removed from the possibility of damnation, and judgment, and perdition, and being cast down to hell. These angels were unusually favored and marvelously, celestially situated, and yet great Lucifer degenerated into Satan, and the son of the morning [Isaiah 14:12], degenerated into Apollyon the destroyer [Revelation 9:11]. Wisdom curdled into cunning, and strength soured into vicious folly.
Think of an angel in the presence of God, communing with seraphim and cherubim, singing the glories and the praise of their great Creator, now cursing God and themselves, all the happiness of heaven turned to gall and wormwood. They who once were loyal subjects now traitors and seducers, rebellious, raging against God and against heaven. The angelic office did not preserve them from falling, just as the apostolic office did not preserve Judas from selling his Master for thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]. Even as Paul said it was possible that after he had preached to others, he himself could become a castaway [1 Corinthians 9:27]. Office, exaltation does not preserve the soul from damnation and perdition. However high you may be, however glorious your estate, however successful you are in life, these things do not save the soul from that awful and terrible and final judgment of God against sin.
A second thing: these angels in their fall remind us that we are not saved because we belong to a vast innumerable multitude. We are not saved; we are not hidden away because we are a company of innumerable thousands or millions. How many times do I find people who reject God and reject Christ and reject the appeal of the Spirit of Jesus say, “Well, if I am damned, if I am lost, if I go to hell, I’ll be in a great company; there’ll be a lot of damned and lost souls with me.” I’ve never understood how a man could gain comfort out of the fact that, though he was in torment, and in fire, and in darkness, and in perdition [Luke 16:24], yet he would find comfort in the fact that there were others innumerable around him who were in the same fire, and in the same darkness, and in the same perdition and damnation. Oh! A man doesn’t hide from God because he loses himself in a multitude. The thief may escape from the policeman, and a gangster may run at large from the FBI for years lost in the great labyrinth of the streets, crowded with the multitudes in a city; but not before God. The fact that we are many who are sinners, many who reject Christ, many who spurn the overtures of grace [Hebrews 10:29], does not save us from that awful perdition and judgment of God. And Simon Peter uses two terrible illustrations to enforce that upon our souls: “God spared not the old world, saved only Noah, the eighth person” [2 Peter 2:5]. That’s a Hebraism, “eighth person.” Noah, the eighth, “a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” [2 Peter 2:5]. Why, I can see that multitude who gathered round Noah in his day, and they said, “Look at that fellow! Who could be believing in such a thing as that? Only one man in the world, and he’s crazy; just one man and his family. Would God destroy the multitude of us? Number us. We are by the millions! Look at our cities, our civilization; look at our farms; look at our people.” And yet God did destroy the whole world, saving only Noah and his family [Genesis 7:21-23].
Then he uses another illustration, “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them… making them an example to those who should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot, his wife,” who later fell [Genesis 19:26], “and his two daughters” [2 Peters 2:5-7; Genesis 19:16]. I can imagine the men of Sodom and Gomorrah saying, “We live in a favorable place. We’re the prosperous cities of the plain. Our broad acres extend on every side. And would God destroy us? And would God slay us?” But God did destroy them, and God did save only Lot and Lot’s two daughters [Genesis 19:24-29].
When I think of things like this, my mind burns with the image of Germany as I went through it from north to south in 1947. All that they had done by then was just shovel the debris, that the trucks and the traffic might pass through those great arteries and in those vast cities—Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, Munich, Hanover, as far as the eye could see, miles and miles and miles, the debris, the saw-tooth, jagged walls of what once had been a great culture, and a great civilization, and a great nation. Does God rain fire, and brimstone, and perdition, and damnation upon those who flout His grace and affront His majesty and send away His overtures of mercy? [Hebrews 10:29]. O God! We may be a great nation, but if we are sinners in His sight, we stand in the way of an awful peril. We’re not saved by the multitude of us.
Nor are we spared because of our environment, or our culture, or our training. Could you imagine a more beautiful environment than that in which these exalted angels lived, in the court of the great God Himself? Day after day they had sung the chorales of the praises of His majesty and glory. When God flung the worlds out into space, they had gathered to sing the song with the morning stars; and they looked with awe and wonder upon the creative workmanship of the Almighty God [Job 38:4-7]. They conversed with beings who were as perfect as themselves. All around them were influences of holiness, and brilliance, and happiness, and glory celestial. And yet, and yet, they found themselves capable of envy, and of rebellion, and of blasphemy, and of false ambition. And these who at one time sung the praises of God, had walked in the midst of the stones of fire, had sung with the angels of glory, these who were so beautifully situated, so marvelously surrounded, their environment every part perfect and holy, were cast down to hell in chains of darkness, to be reserved unto the day of judgment [2 Peter 2:4].
What a blow that is! What an awful point that is, driven into the heart of the false doctrine that a man is regenerated by culture and by training and by education. Don’t teach a child sin; put every holy influence around a child. On the inside of him, in his breast, in his soul, in his heart, will spring up literally, veritably fountains of iniquity: anger, selfishness, greed, bitterness, sin. Underneath the thin veneer of our culture and our civilization lies the beast, and the tooth, and the fang, and the ape, and the tiger.
I read this last week—wasn’t it a man here in Dallas or some city?—had a lion cub. He kept it at home, but when he went out hunting, he turned the little cub loose, and it just followed him around out in the open. The little cub grew. Nobody taught it; the little cub grew, and upon a time, the man said he found that cub stalking his youngest son, and he took it immediately to the zoo. You don’t need to teach the cub to stalk. You don’t need to teach him to love blood. You don’t need to teach him to be cunning; it’s in him. It’s born, and however the training and the environment, underneath there is that nature of the beast. Underneath the thin veneer of education and culture and training is that dark abysmal depths of the ability of humankind to be depraved, and vile, and villainous, and wicked, sinful.
I haven’t time to recount. Have you ever been in Dachau? Have you ever been in Buchenwald? I haven’t been in the camps of Siberia, but every time I see the representative of the great Soviet state, and every time I hear his words of soft, gracious championship for peace and justice and the downtrodden poor of the earth, I think of the bloodthirstiness and the cruelty and the depravity that lies back of the smile and the gesture of his stubby fist. And I see the broken hearts, and the broken homes, and the enslaved millions of their satellite colonial empire, and their concentration camps in Siberia; underneath, underneath. Was there ever a nation so cultured, so brilliant, so able as Nazi Germany? And yet they took their scientific achievements and turned them to dastardly and pernicious ends. And if we ever fall into war again, there will be portrayed on the records of time and of history, there will you see again those same baths of blood, and those same helpless victims crying unto a God that seemingly has forgotten them—human nature, however taught and however trained, underneath, that awful fact of the perdition and damnation of sin.
Sometime, if you have opportunity, turn to 2 Kings, the [eighth] chapter, and read there this story. Ben-Hadad king of Syria is sick, and Elisha the man of God is passing by, and Ben-Hadad sends the captain of his host, Hazael, to see the man of God to ask of his recovery, and Elisha the man of God answers Hazael’s question. Then he looks upon him, and looks, and looks, until finally Hazael the captain of the host is ashamed. And Elisha the man of God continues to look, and finally the man of God bursts into tears. And Hazael says, “And why do you look so at me? And why do you weep so in my presence?” And Elisha says, “For the Lord hath revealed to me, you are to be king of Syria, and you will overrun the cities of Israel, and their women with child will you rip open, and their children will you dash against the stones, and their cities will you burn with fire.” And Hazael looks at Elisha the man of God and says, “But sir, is thy servant a dog, that he would do such a thing?” [2 Kings 8:7-13] He was not only dog enough to do such a thing, but he was devil enough to take a wet cloth and place it over the face of his master and suffocate him to death [2 Kings 8:14-15], and then did he do those terrible things Elisha the man of God prophesied in his life [2 Kings 8:12-15]. Oh, the depths of depravity and iniquity apart from regeneration! Stalin was trained in a Christian seminary and left the Greek Orthodox seminary to be the butcher and the murderer of uncounted millions. In the ark was Ham, the son of Noah, who shamed the nakedness of his own father [Genesis 9:18-24]. O Lord, what things in the Book! But what other things in the Book!
Now—that we had another hour! What an amazing thing, that men should stand where angels fall; what an astonishing thing, that these so exalted and now so in darkness and so bound [2 Peter 2:4], that we who are likewise sinners, that we should be saved, should be pardoned, should be regenerated [Romans 5:6-8]. What an astonishing thing for them; no Savior, no hope, no atonement, no gospel. For us, the gates of love open wide; for them, the iron gates of judgment closed forever. I tried to think why, as I prepared this message; I don’t know, except maybe in the one hundred third Psalm: “For as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth us who fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” [Psalm 103:13-14].
All it would have taken to save the angel was just restore him back into his place. But to save us meant the incarnation of the Son of God [Matthew 1:20-23; Hebrews 10:4-14]; it meant His death on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50; 1 Corinthians 15:3]; it meant the pouring out of the crimson of His life [John 19:18-34; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. And the only reason I know why lies in the pity of God upon us who are born in a world of sin and the propensities of evil are within us. And in His grace and in His mercy, the Lord hath spared us [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 2:5].
And a last thing, not only has God saved us where He saved not angels, but the Lord hath preserved us and doth keep us where He preserved and kept not the angels. I mean by that, if we stand, we stand by the grace of God [Ephesians 2:8]. If we are saved, we are saved by the grace of God. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” [1 Corinthians 10:12]. And in the benediction in Jude: “Unto Him who is able to keep us from falling” [Jude 24]. If I ever get there, it’ll be because God kept me and saved me and preserved me [John 10:28-30]. It’s His love and His grace and His mercy [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 2:5], for outside of His keeping, saving power [John 10:28-30], I would have fallen by the way.
When we get to the other side, many, many of us look back and say, “You know, that storm almost wrecked my little boat, but the Lord preserved me,” or “I had well nigh fallen by the way, but the hand of God helped me.” Do you remember in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian goes through the valley of the shadow of death in the nighttime, and the next morning when he looked back, the path that he’d traversed through the valley of the shadow, he was filled with adoration and admiration and praise to God for preserving his steps, when to the right and to the left there was the abyss? So it is with the children of God. O Lord, that an angel should fall and that I should be made to stand; with all of the powers of darkness that drive on every hand, that God should save us and preserve us to that great and final celestial, consummating, victorious day of the Lord [John 10:28-30].
Amazing, amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…
[“Amazing Grace,” John Newton]
It will be grace that carries us through, amazing grace. That’s why when they sing in heaven, they sing about the glory, and the mercy, and the wonder, and the love of Jesus: it was He who saved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood [Revelation 1:5], and it will be He who presents us faultless in the presence of His great glory with exceeding joy [Jude 24].
That’s our appeal to your heart this day. Out of yourself and into Christ, looking away from your own strength and own ableness and looking unto the ableness of God; denying our own righteousness, which is as filthy rags in His sight [Isaiah 64:6], and turning aside from our own goodness and holiness, and trusting in the righteousness of God: “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. With humble faith in Him who is able to save us and to keep us forever [John 3:16; 10:27-30], in faith I come, and here I am” [Ephesians 2:8]. In the throng in this balcony round, somebody you; in the throng on this lower floor, a family you: “Pastor, here I come, and this is my wife, and these are our children.” As the Spirit of God shall lead in the way and shall make the appeal, would you come? On the first note of this first stanza, taking Jesus as Savior [Romans 10:8-13], or putting your life with us in the fellowship of this blessed church, would you make it now? Would you make it this morning? As the Spirit shall lead, would you come, while we stand and while we sing?