THE SPIRITS IN PRISON

 

By

 

ROBERT GOVETT

 

Few passages have excited more inquiry, or have presented more difficulty to the student of Scripture, than the few words which affirm the preaching of Christ to the spirits in prison. Before examining their import, they are here presented to the reader’s eye.

 

1 PETER 3: 17-20.

 

“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. For even Christ once for all suffered for sins, the Just One for unjust ones, that he might bring us to God; being put to death indeed in flesh, but made alive in spirit in which he went and preached even to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient when the longsuffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, into which few, that is, eight souls (entering) escaped through water

 

(1) The idea usually entertained of the passage among Protestants will first be exhibited, and its opposition to the text; (2) then the ancient theory on the subject; and (3) lastly, the true meaning of the words as deduced from this and other Scriptures.

 

At the outset it may be proper for the writer to avow his conviction, that the passage before us does not teach the doctrine of purgatory. The fear of this has been, I am persuaded, the great reason why the true meaning of the text has been overlooked or concealed. The interpretation commonly received will, perhaps, best expounded by extracts from the Tract Society's Commentary.

 

“Christ, as God, and with reference to his future incarnation, had gone by his Spirit, inspiring his servant Noah to announce the approaching deluge, and preach repentance to that incorrigible generation who perished in their sins, and were in the prison of hell when the apostle wrote, being confined there till the judgment of the great day  “Because the hearers were dead and disembodied when the apostle speaks of them, he properly calls them spirits now in prison. Not that they were in prison when Christ preached to  them, as some would take it.” “The same Christ that came in his flesh and preached the gospel to the world, came to them in the days of Noah by his spirit, and in Noah preached to those unbelievers, who, because they repented not, but continued in disobedience, are now condemned spirits in hell

 

Scan narrowly the passage, and it will be seen how much in the interpretation above given, is erroneously taken for granted. Let us inquire then –

 

WHO IS THE PREACHER?

 

We may answer at once - not Noah.

 

1. It is not said that Noah preached at all. Had this been the only Epistle of Peter, we should never have known that Noah preached.

 

2. It is not stated that Noah, as “a preacher of righteousness,” was inspired.

 

3. What is said is, that, “in the days of Noah,” “the spirits in prison” were disobedient. Does that prove Noah’s preaching to them? If we should find it written, that Israel was disobedient in the days of Jeroboam, would it follow that Jeroboam preached? and that he preached to Israel ?

 

4. Even allowing in the above interpretation a point which is not asserted in the passage before us, that Christ preached in the time of Noah, ‑ it will not prove that he preached by the mouth of Noah, any more than by the mouth of Japhet or Lamech.

 

The preacher, as Peter asserts, was Christ. “Christ also suffered for sins . . . he went and preached

 

5. But it is not affirmed that Jesus preached in Noah's day. We are informed that these spirits were disobedient previous to the preaching of Jesus. And if we ask, What was the time of their disobedience? we are assured that it was in the days of Noah.

 

6. Look then at the assumptions in regard to the preacher. (1) That Christ preached in the time of Noah. (2) That Noah preached. (3) That Noah was inspired in preaching. (4) That he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, by Christ. (5) That Noah's preaching by the Spirit may be said to be Christ’s preaching.

 

7. The laxity of this has been seen by a modern defender of the theory: and he, therefore, modifies it thus:-

 

“It seems that he [Christ] did this [preached] personally or directly, and not by the influences of the Holy Spirit, for it is said, that ‘he went and preached

 

A little after –

 

“The idea, however, could be conveyed by this language that he did this personally or by himself, and not merely by employing the agency of another

 

Yet presently afterwards he writes –

 

“All that is necessarily implied in this language would be met by the supposition, that Christ delivered a message to the antediluvian race by the agency of Noah."

 

Surely contradiction has seldom been more direct. The words exclude the agency of the Holy Ghost, and fix it to Jesus himself; yet they do not exclude the agency of Noah. But it may be said – ‘At any rate the parties addressed were disobedient; and does not disobedience imply preaching? To which the reply is simple. Disobedience does not imply preaching.  It supposes a command given - a charge sent, or uttered in person; but no more. Adam was disobedient in the garden because God had given him a charge; but he was not preached to. The spirits in question must have received some command; though, whether in Noah’s day, or before it, is not specified. They disobeyed however, while Noah was alive.

 

We inquire next - Who were the PARTIES ADDRESSED?

 

The answer ordinarily given is as follows:-

 

“In regard to the inquiry then, who these ‘spirits’ were, there can be no difference of opinion. They were that wicked race which lived in the days of Noah."* [* Author’s own italics]

 

“Christ delivered a message to the antediluvian race

 

“The guilty and perverse men who were finally destroyed

 

But this is an assumption without authority.

 

1. Christ, it is said, preached to “spirits.” And “spirits” never means men alive on the earth. For any thing that appears on the face of this passage, the parties addressed by Jesus were spirits in Noah's day, as well as spirits afterwards in prison. The only changes obviously implied, are their change from disobedience to obedience; and from freedom in Noah’s day to imprisonment after it.

 

2. To assert then that Jesus only preached to men in the flesh, is to falsify the passage before us. Men in the flesh are never called spirits, though they are sometimes called “souls,” as in this very context. “Few, that is, eight souls, escaped through water.” “All the souls they had gotten in Haran Gen. 12: 5. “A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me haveThose, then, that were in possession of flesh and bones, as this theory supposes, were not spirits. And if Jesus preached only to men in the flesh He did not preach to spirits.

 

But this brings on the third question.

 

What is the TIME OF THE PREACHING?

 

The usual answer runs thus –

 

“Although by the spirits in prison the apostle means the wicked antediluvians, I do not think he meant to represent them as in prison in the days of Noah, but as in prison at present. And to convey this meaning, I have in the commentary added the word ‘now* the antediluvians were men on earth when Christ preached to them by his Spirit speaking in Noah. But they are now spirits in prison

 

“Clearly to the spirits now* in prison, for this is the fair meaning of the passage  [* Author’s own italics.]

 

“He preached to those spirits who now are suffering the deserved penalties in prison, since they in former times refused to obey the right admonitions of Noah while building his ark

 

The time given by the apostle seems defined by two points - (1) Jesus’ death on the one hand; (2) and the detention of the spirits in prison, on the other

 

“Christ suffered for sins, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit, by which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient

 

The quotation above given (and others might be added) prove that a new specification of time enters as an essential element into such an interpretation. And hence one, in discussing the text, enters into a long inquiry whether the words ‘those who are,' or ‘those who were,' should be supplied before “spirits in prison

 

1. The reason of this is obvious. If the words ‘who were' (which are the natural ellipsis, and they are supplied by the Vulgate, Erasmus, and others) be inserted, then it is evident that the preaching of Jesus took place at the time when these spirits were in prison; and the common ideas of the meaning fall to the ground. But if we supply ‘who are,’ the case is not much mended. For thus much is confessed on both sides, that they are at the present time in prison. These interpreters are obliged, therefore, yet further to insert the word ‘nowand to make it emphatic so as to imply the contradictory to the former words, - that they WERE NOT THEN imprisoned, when Jesus preached.

 

2. Now, is it credible that an apostle could omit the emphatic word in a sentence? - the word which was necessary, both to make his meaning intelligible, and his information true?  If that view be correct, the apostle’s sentence as it now stands, has all the misleading effect of a falsehood. Jesus did not preach at the time seemingly implied. He did preach at a time not implied. Such an idea is the very essence of equivocation. What was Annanias’s lie, but the omission of something essential to the truth of his statement ?

 

3. The passage gives the position of the spirits in reference to Christ, and is in connection with the time of his death. There is no reference to the time of Peter’s writing. I grant that it might have been described in reference to the time of Peter’s writing, but then it must have been expressed. The time of Peter’s writing was no era to them. The time of Christ’s preaching was; if, up to that time, they are stated to have been disobedient; and since that time they are no longer so. Their condition at the time of the Saviour’s preaching, is fixed by the words – “the spirits in prison.” There is no hint of any change of external condition since.

 

4. Now this is, of itself, sufficient to prove the falsity of the interpretation before us. Time is an essential element of distinction in order to the TRUTH of the statement on this view. Jesus, you hold, did not preach to spirits then in prson. But the particle of time essential to the truth of the passage in your idea, is omitted. Then, as an apostle cannot have erred, his view is true without the distinction. Therefore this theory is false.

 

5. The common ellipse, if you will have one, must be filled up in the past tense. “Jesus went and preached to those who were spirits in Prison,” i.e. at the time He preached. Take a similar instance. Suppose there were a theory that John was set free before he was put to death by Herod, would it not be utterly overturned by the following passage? - Herod "sent and beheaded John in the prisonMatt. 14: 10. Would it be allowed to any to plead, that John’s being in the prison referred to a former time, and not to the date of his beheading? Would not all laugh at such a theory? Must not the ellipsis be filled up by - ‘Beheaded John (who was) in the prison’?

 

6. To the apostle’s mind (and who can understand his own thoughts like the writer?) no specification of time was needed. “Christ preached to the spirits in prison

 

“The spirits in prison,” then, is their characteristic description, and it is not a question of time. The other classes of spirits are in like manner described by their characteristic position. (1) ‘That now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of GodEph. 3: 10. (2)  ‘We wrestle . . . against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits (marg.) in heavenly places (marg.) Eph. 6: 12. Thus the two classes presented in the above texts stand distinguished from those with which our discussion has to do, as ‘spirits in heavenly placesthe one obedient, the other disobedient; but both of them free, and so contrasted with those in prison. Would it be allowable to insert ‘now' in the first of these texts? Would it not be a useless addition, disfiguring the sense?

 

7. It is quite indifferent to the explanation about to be given, whether you supply the words “who were," or “who are." So that you do not exclude the one sense borne on the surface of Peter's words, contradicting him by adding “who were not then spirits in prison,” you may insert which you will. Hence I gather, (as one point of proof,) that my view is that intended by the apostle.

 

8. That the condition of the parties preached to by Jesus was “spirits then in prison,” is defined by words as clear as language can give. The spirits are spoken of in two conditions; first with reference to the time of preaching; then their state previously. As their previous state is defined after the preaching has been mentioned, the condition which they are described as holding at the time of preaching, is the one they actually held. They were spirits in prison when preached to, as surely as they were free before it in Noah’s day. Peter is especially careful to insert particles of time; as is evident from his employing the word “now” seven times in his two short epistles.

 

9. But even omitting the point chiefly contested - “the spirits in prison,” - the same sense will follow from the words remaining. Christ preached to  “those who formerly were disobedient in the days of Noah.” From which words it evidently follows, - that the preaching of Christ came after the spirits' disobedience. But their disobedience lasted up to their death. Therefore the preaching was after their death; and after God’s patience and their consequent freedom in the days of Noah were ended. Only one other time is hinted at.  Then the preaching was at Jesus’ death; at which date, it must be confessed, if they died disobedient in Noah’s day, that they were “spirits in prison

 

We inquire next,

 

What was the PREVIOUS CONDITION OF THE PREACHER?

 

“He went*  and preached to the spirits in prison.” Here again the theory falters. (1.) One class of interpreters would deny that it has any meaning. (2) Another, that it signifies local motion. Let us hear them:-

 

[*See the Greek]

 

(1) “He went, not by a local motion, but by a special operation

 

(2) “No particular stress should be laid here on the phrase ‘he went’ . . . It is well known that such expressions are often redundant in Greek writers, as in others

 

The idea is supported by a passage from the Ephesians: Eph. 2: 17. “And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” Whereon it is argued:-

 

“It is certain that our Lord after his resurrection did not go personally to the Gentiles to preach peace to them. He preached to them by his apostles only. But if Christ is said by Paul, to go and do what he did by his apostles, he may with equal propriety be said by Peter, to go and do what he did by his prophet Noah

 

1. But the passage is not parallel. The word ‘came,' takes the place of ‘went:’ a point of difference to be noticed hereafter. (2) But the chief point of the failure is, that the word ‘came’ is not to be construed with the two classes of persons - those nigh, and those afar off; but with the word ‘peace’ – Jesus coming to this world preached - peace to the Jew, and peace to the Gentile. It is not at all asserted, that He went to the Gentile. It would not be true. What is said, is that His message bore words of peace to the Gentile, no less than to the Jew.

 

2. In truth, the word ‘went’ is destructive of the usual interpretation. It must be silenced or it gives a decisive verdict against the cause. Let us examine its force.

 

1. First, it will not allow any to apply it to the travelling of Noah. For the persons here described - the disobedient spirits - were, as a class and universally, in another region, needing local motion to reach them. But not so was it with the unbelieving men of Noah’s day.  They were, as far as we know, all in one country. At any rate, they were not, as a class, in another region, the interval between which and his own locality must be travelled over, ere he could lay his message before them.

 

2. It refers to Jesus. “He went and preached.” It follows, then, that there are two localities in question, and an interval between them, which Jesus crossed ere He preached. It was not, therefore, any men in the flesh, inhabitants of the upper world, whom Jesus addressed; for all living men were in the same region as Peter and those addressed in the epistle. Therefore, when Jesus’ descent from heaven to men is spoken of, the word ‘came’ is used; signifying that the region occupied by the writer is the same as that to which Jesus descended. Here the word is ‘wentwhich implies a passing away from the region inhabited by the writer and his readers.

 

3. Again the true view assigns two reasons for the motion. Jesus died; but at [the time of] death the person passes away from this upper earth, to the world of spirits. Thus we gain the point whence the motion took place, and the point where it ceased.

 

4. It gives another reason. The spirits in question, as being in prison, were unable to get forth. If, therefore, Jesus would address them, he must traverse the distance between Him and them. And only at [the time of] His decease was He free, humanly speaking, to visit them. Thus the connection of the visit with His death, and the reasons for their being called ‘spirits,’ and ‘spirits in prison,’ are given.

 

5. Again, the word ‘went’ supposes, that previously to the Saviour's journey, the spirits were fixed in a certain place, which is declared to be a prison. To that prison Jesus travelled, and found the spirits there assembled. Then the ‘going’ as well as the ‘preaching,’ was at the time when the parties evangelized were spirits in prison. Jesus went to the prison.   Were there no spirits there? Then He could not have, preached to them.   The journey and the proclamation belong, it is acknowledged, to the same period. But, the place where the journey ended being the place of the preaching and the place of the journey’s end and of the preaching being a prison, the hearers are fixed to that spot; and it decides the time to be when Jesus was dead, and when the spirits were incarcerated. The going refers primarily to a place; the preaching to persons. But the going and the preaching belong to the same period, as is allowed: the journey being first brought to a close, ere the proclamation began. Then the place and the persons are both fixed by the two words - Jesus 'went,' to ‘the prison;’ and ‘preached’ ‘to the spirits in prisonThe passage then does not speak of Jesus’ preaching in the days of Noah. Jesus went to the prison to preach to disobedient spirits; but the spirits were not in the prison till after the days of Noah. Therefore, the preaching mentioned did not take place in Noah’s day, while the ark was preparing.

 

6. In concluding this part of the subject, I must notice some illustrations by which the usual view is attempted to be paralleled.

 

1. “If we saw a company of men in prison who had seen better days – a multitude, now drunken and debased, and poor, and riotous, it would not be improper to say, ‘that the prospect of wealth and honour was once held out to this ragged and wretched multitude.’” '

 

The expressions used would be very proper; but the illustration makes directly against the writer's interpretation. We see ‘a company of men in prison.’ (1) Then they are in prison when our informant speaks of them, and points them out to us. So then the spirits whom Jesus addressed, were seen and spoken to by him in prison. The writer would not have us understand that he is speaking of them and seeing them in their better days, ere their imprisonment. (2.) Their condition in the prison is fixed by his words – “This ragged and debased multitude.” Then, in like manner, the parties addressed by Jesus were ‘disobedient spirits’ in prison, and not men at large on earth. (3) They had had a previous more prosperous condition, but it is not implied that we saw them in that previous state. We see them in their debased state in prison. Thus the illustration is totally opposed to the writer’s words.

 

2. “Thus it would be proper to say, that ‘Whitefield came to America , and preached to the souls in perdition,’ or (3) to go among the graves of the first settlers of New Haven , and say ‘ Davenport came from England to preach to the dead men around us.’ ”

 

Now, I feel quite sure that no one would ever speak or write so of Whitefield, except to maintain this theory; and if he did it, such extravagance would suggest doubts of his sanity. But even extravagant as the words are, the extravagance becomes greater if quite parallel with the scripture before us. Then it would take some such form as this. ‘Whitefield departed this life at Newbury Port , and went and preached to the souls in the place of perdition!’ * If this does not mean that Whitefield preached in the regions of perdition to the damned, no words will affirm it. Will any biographer of Whitefield, on the strength of the ordinary interpretation of the passage to Peter, venture to make such an assertion concerning that noble man of God?

 

[* I insert the words, ‘place of,’ because the prison is not only a state to the prisoners, but a place also.]

 

But the illustration fails in another point.

 

1. 'Whitefield came,’ noting the identity of the region inhabited by the writer and his readers. Jesus ‘went marking the difference.

 

2. ‘To America .’ He leaves England , crosses the interval of sea, and reaches a second locality

 

3. ‘And preached to the souls in perdition.’ Here it is supposed that the souls are in a third place, to which he does not travel, and in which he does not preach. This is the essential point of failure - Jesus travels from one locality (unnamed) to another which is named; there He finds the spirits, and there He preaches.

 

Let me give an illustration, which I believe will be parallel with the passage in question. “Whitefield went and preached to the felons in Newgate, who were respectable men in the days of George I.”

 

Would any now reply, if it were affirmed - that this statement was untrue – ‘I do not mean to assert that Whitefield ever was in Newgate, or even preached so near to it as that the felons within could hear; I mean that he preached to some respectable people, who afterwards became felons, and were confined in Newgate

 

Be it observed, that where the language is proper, the illustration makes against the writer; and where the illustration is somewhat more parallel, the language is improper and extravagant. Illustrations Nos. 1 and 2, take opposite ground.

 

The 3rd and last illustration is even more ruinously unlike the case in Peter.

 

“ Davenport came from England , to preach to the dead men around us.”.

 

1. Our first inquiry, taking the words literally, would be - Was the preacher of sound mind! For Davenport might have crossed from England to New Haven , and have preached to the corpses in the graveyard, in the assurance that they heard him.

 

2. But if the preacher were not a lunatic, then the words must take another sense than the one they bear on their surface. It is not so in the text we are considering. There is neither impossibility nor absurdity in taking the words of Peter literally.

 

In short, the failure of this last illustration may be briefly stated by observing four points:-

 

1. Davenport ’s hearers were in one state and place during, the time of his preaching, (which state and place are not named.)

 

2. They are, since the preaching, in another place and state.

 

3. They are now divided into two parts; one intelligent, (the soul); the other unintelligent, (the corpse.)

 

4. The unintelligent portion is made to occupy the former place of preaching where the writer and his readers are supposed to stand.

 

The contrary to this is stated in Peter:-

 

1. Jesus’ hearers were preached to in one place and state, which is described to us.

 

2. They abide in that place and confinement since the preaching,

 

3. They are not divided into two parts, intelligent and unintelligent.

 

4. They occupy a locality far distant from the historian and his reader.

 

Let me here drop a word of warning concerning illustrations. When rightly used, as the exemplification of arguments, and really parallel with the cases illustrated, they are most potent in carrying conviction. But very often they fail in the points essential to the argument; and are devoid of real parallelism, while they seem to possess it.

 

I would now bestow a few remarks upon the ANCIENT INTERPRETATION of the text.

 

The fathers in general understood this passage of the spirits of the just of old, who were kept in custody, as they imagined, till the descent of Christ to Hadees; and that they were liberated thence by Him.

 

But the text is as much at variance with this interpretation as with the other. (1) The parties are disobedient spirits, who were swept off by God’s wrath at the flood. (2) They are not said to have been liberated by Christ, but only to have been addressed by Him. (3) They are still “spirits in prison.” To make this theory true, as in the former instance, a notice of time must have been inserted, and we must have read – “the spirits who were (but are not now) in prisonThe ancient supplement being the reverse of the modern.

 

Lastly, the words, “in prison,” signify in Scripture, not so much safe custody, as the place of detention and punishment of debtors and malefactors, either real or reputed. Barrabbas, “who for a certain sedition made in the city was cast into prisonLuke 23: 19, 25. “When the thousand years shall be expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prisonRev. 20: 7. So Acts 12, etc.

 

 

I would now address myself to establish THE TRUE INTERPRETATION.

 

The whole perplexity in the modern interpretation has arisen, from attempting to make out that the scene described is only the common case of (1.) men (2.) preached to (3.) while alive (4.) by men. (5.) They are disobedient, and die in unbelief, (6.) are cast into endless punishment, (7.) and abide unchangeably in unbelief, no further hope being held out. I hope to prove, on the contrary, that Peter alludes to an act deeply mysterious, and in most respects quite the reverse of any thing going on now.

 

It speaks of (1.) spirits, not men - (2.) of spirits not preached to while alive, (3) nor by a man in the flesh, (4.) but of spirits disobedient to God’s commands till death, (5.) cast into a place of punishment, (6.) there preached to by Jesus, (7.) and by such preaching changed in their character, (8.) though still remaining for a certain definite time under the consequences of their sin.

 

This view does, I am persuaded, coincide with the teaching of Peter, both in the present passage, and in others to be adduced.

 

1. First the case is presented as mysterious and exceptive. This is apparent in the expression of the apostle (lost in our translation). “In which (spirit) he went and preached even to the spirits in prison."*That he should preach to men in the flesh and under mercy, was not wonderful comparatively; but the present fact was in both points extraordinary, as the reverse of his former acting. With the same mark of admiration is the same act introduced in the next chapter. “For this cause was the gospel preached even (Kai) to the dead1Peter 4: 6.

 

[* Kai  intensifies the word it immediately precedes. “Even the very hairs of your headLuke 12: 7. “Even the winds and the sea obey HimMatt. 8:27. “Even to fight against GodActs 5: 39.  “Even on the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured outActs 10: 45.  “Even to the Gentiles hath God granted repentance11: 18.]

 

2. Hence also, the greater significance is given to the apostle’s declaration - first, of Christ’s dying for “us” (Men, that is to say): to his speaking next, even to those of another race; and then returning, after the mention of the spirits, to “us” (men) again (verse 21).

 

3. Thus its proper force is given to the word “went,” as implying local motion. The passage before us presents another instance of the use of the same word, where it must be granted to mean the Saviour’s local motion, after His resurrection. By what right, then, do we deny it after His death?

 

“He went (see Greek) and preached to the spirits in prison

 

“He is at the right hand of God, having gone (see Greek) into heaven

 

4. Will any say that local motion is not used in connection with preaching?

 

(1) “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel . And as ye go, preach; saying, The kingdom of heaven is at handMatt. 10: 6, 7. (2.) “When Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their, cities11: 1. (3.) "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creatureMark 16: 15.

 

5. An exception has been taken to the word, “preach” as not signifying proclaiming the gospel in particular but as applicable to any proclamation. This is true but if the mysterious passage of the next chapter refer to the same subject, the force of the remark is done away: for there the regular word expressing the preaching of the gospel is employed.

 

6. Now a word in relation to the parties intended. “Spirits,” it is confessed, I believe, by all parties, is a term not employed to express living men. But it does signify –

 

(a) Beings of a higher order than man - disembodied creatures. “He cast out the spirits with his wordMatt. 8: 16. “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto youLuke 10: 2 0 ; Acts 16: 16, 18, &c.

 

(b) The immortal part of men who have departed.  “To the spirits of the just made perfectHeb. 12: 23. “Lord Jesus, receive my spiritActs 7: 59.

 

In either of these senses, or in both of them combined, it will suit the passage before us: for the beings of whom it treats are beings of a higher order than man, who yet once lived as men; and dying as men, are as men to be judged.

 

(c) In both these senses, also, it agrees with the other occurrence of the word in this passage, as applied to Jesus. The word is used of the immortal part of Jesus, both in life and at the time of His departing. “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit:*” Matt. 27: 50. “He sighed deeply in his spiritMark 8: 12. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:*” Luke 23: 46; John 19: 30.

 

[* These texts refer to Christ surrendering His animating (or life-giving) spirit for His Father’s safe-keeping. – Ed.]

 

Surely this adds much confirmation to the view. Jesus, of a nature superior to man, once embodied as a man, then [after surrendering His spirit, as] a disembodied spirit, [soul] preached to those in like condition. Thus too, the usual opposition between “flesh” and “spirit,” or the body and the immortal part of man, is kept up. As a man in the flesh, Jesus preached to us in the flesh, to reconcile us to God; but as a spirit He preached beside, even to the spirits in prison, to bring back those once rebellious ones to God.

 

7. Thus we see the connexion of the preaching with the death of Jesus. At death He went among the dead, the spirits of the departed. How He was employed during that time of His separation from His body, the Scripture informs us not; unless this, and one other passage teach us.

 

8. The connexion also, in another point of view, is excellent. ‘If God have ordained that you should suffer,’ says the apostle, ‘how far preferable it is to suffer as the consequence of acting well, and with a good conscience, than to suffer as the result of disobedience to Him. In suffering for well doing you are suffering as Christ did. How far preferable is this, to suffering as the disobedient spirits* of Noah’s day are compelled to suffer, in consequence of evil deeds; even though, through God's mercy, they be saved at last.’

 

[* Note. They are not called ‘disobedient spirits’ in Noah’s day: it is only after they are swept away by the Flood that they are called ‘spirits in prison’. – Ed.]

 

9. This interpretation expounds difficulties which have been considered insuperable.

 

“If it should he maintained that this means that he went down to hell or to Sheol, and preached to those who are confined there, it could be inferred from this passage only, that he preached to that portion of the lost spirits confined there which belonged to the particular generation in which Noah lived. (1.) Why he should do this; or (2.) how there should be such a separation mode in Hadees that it could be done; or (3.) what was the nature of the message which he delivered to that portion, are questions which it is impossible for any man, who holds to the opinion that Christ went down to hell after his death to preach, to answer

 

Let us try! (1.) Suppose that the spirits to whom He went were angels, who deserted their post to live with men; that they thus offended God, and, perishing at the flood, were confined in a separate place of punishment called by a peculiar name,* and then we should understand how Christ could preach to them, and them alone. If it should appear that these spirits are not in fire and torments, as the souls of the ungodly are, (Luke 16: 23-25) but only in darkness and chains, then another line of distinction is drawn; and the second difficulty is met.

 

[* Tartarus]

 

(2.) The same supposition will enable us to understand why the message of mercy should reach these spirits especially. They intruded themselves into, a world of sin, and so partook of the consequences; by their example and instruction hardening men (apparently) in rebellion against God; but certainly suffering death themselves, as the penalty inflicted on men. It was, therefore open to God’s grace to send to these justly suffering spirits a ray of that hope which He was so mercifully dispensing to men. They received death as a part of the penalty due to the sinners of men; but they heard also the gospel, as a part of the mercy ordained for men. Hence the peculiarity in the time of preaching the gospel to them. God accounted them as men in the penalty of death; he might so account, them as subjects of mercy. Hence, also, they will stand and be judged as men at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. This replies to the first impossibility. Thus too we are enabled to see the accuracy of Scripture language.  “Jesus preached to the spirits in prison* . . . who were formerly disobedient in the days of Noah;” the article implying that the Saviour proclaimed the message to all of that class. But when, in the next chapter, Peter speaks of the preaching to the dead, he omits the article, because Jesus preached not to all the dead - to none, in fact, but to the special class denoted above. Men were not all, without exception disobedient in the days of Noah: these spirits were.

 

(3.) From the same point of view we are enabled to catch a glimpse of the message of mercy delivered to them. The Saviour, as having both lived and died, is Lord both of the dead and of the living: and the Lord was pleased to make His death available to the salvation of these once rebellious spirits. The peculiarity in the application of mercy to them is, that they are still encircled with the full penalties of their external punishment, which are to last till “the Great Day of the Lord” brings Jesus again to earth. Thus the third impossibility is met. Hence we may see how Jesus fulfils, in a glorious sense, the type of Joseph in the dungeon, foretelling to one class of the Supreme King’s ministers the mercy of God yet in store for them; and to the other the judgments of God to be accomplished on them; while both portions are to take place on the same approaching festal day.

 

10. From the same interpretation we discover the force of that word ‘once,' or ‘formerly,’ which is connected with the information concerning their disobedience. “The spirits in prison who formerly were disobedientIn this point also the case is a startling and mysterious one. Ordinarily, the prison once entered, the punishment is perpetual; as any alteration in the spiritual state of the prisoner is hopeless. But here it is implied, that though the confinement be still continuing, the disobedience for which it was at first inflicted no longer abides. The change, too, as it is clearly intimated, was owing to the preaching of the mercy brought to them by Jesus. As soon as they heard the tidings of possible reconciliation with God, they received it; and are now no longer at enmity with God, while God too is now able to forgive them.

 

11. At this point again the opposite theory fails. It cannot admit the manifest force of that word ‘formerly,’ for it would be fatal. It would show that the case mentioned is not the ordinary case of living men under the warnings of God.

 

“The language here does not imply that they had ceased to be disobedient, or that they had become obedient at the time when the apostle wrote."

 

To this we reply, that it does imply their spiritual change as truly and forcibly as words can: and that every reader, whatever his theory, feels it. The very remark made in opposition to it, because it was felt to be destructive to the writer’s theory, shows how obvious its force is.

 

But –

 

“To say that men were formerly rebellious, or rebellious in a specified age, is no evidence that they are otherwise now

 

This illustration confounds together a certain class of men in a former day, with the whole mass of mankind existing now. To make the illustration parallel with the present case, you must specify former rebellion of a certain class of men, and refer to that same class throughout. Thus Paul described the Ephesian converts as “once darkness - did not that infer that they were no longer so? Yes, assuredly; even though he had not added, “but now are ye light in the Lord.” He describes them as “once afar off.” Did not that, suppose that they were now nigh? Yes: even, though he had not added, “Ye are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Of Onesimus it is written, “Which in time past was to thee unprofitable” ‑ what is the manifest implication? That which is added: “but now profitable to me and to theePhil. 11.

 

But there is one difficulty which I am not able fully to clear up, though not essential to the proof of the present interpretation.*

 

“Being put to death in flesh, but made alive in the spirit

 

[* The faithfulness of this blessed servant of God has well been described by another who wrote: “He ever showed a supreme desire to be faithful to the Scriptures - to reach the meaning of the Spirit and to set it forth. He revealed this not least when he confessed at times that he could not understand a particular passage or verse, and refused to wrest it in order to give a convenient explanation.”]

 

The word “made alive” ordinarily signifies the recovery of life after death. It would seem, therefore, not properly to express the Saviour's retention of life after death. Accordingly, some have given it the sense of the Saviour’s raising again His own dead body by His own divine power, or by the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

1. But the Holy Spirit is not meant, for the article is not used: and the opposition between “flesh” and “spirit,” prove that it refers to the flesh and the spirit of the same person, Jesus Christ.

 

2. That it does not refer to the resurrection of Jesus, seems equally clear; for thus, again, the parallelism between the two clauses is lost. The spirit is made the cause of the Saviour's life. But the flesh was not the cause of the Saviour's death. He was not “put to death by the flesh,” and hence we do not well say - He was “made alive by (His) spirit.” *

 

[* A failure to distinguish man’s animating ‘spirit,’ (which returns to God at the time of death), from the use of the word ‘spirit’ to describe the disembodied state of the dead, is, I believe, the cause of the difficulty.  They are called ‘spirits’ after death because of their disembodied condition; and they are distinguished from angels who have no ‘flesh and bones’.– Ed.]

 

While, then, it is confessed that this point is not made out, the opposite theory is as much encumbered with difficulty on this question: and even here we part equal. Perhaps, too, a sense may be suggested which will give the word its force. The spirits of the just in general are, it appears, in a state of inactivity (though not of insensibility) during the intermediate state. But the spirit [disembodied soul] of Jesus was, perhaps, an exception to this torpidity, and even after death was so filled with life and energy, as to preach to the spirits in prison.

 

In short, the theory here resisted opposes the apostle’s statements on all the prominent points. It refuses or diverts his assertions with regard to ‑-(1) the time of preaching; (2) the person of the preacher; (3) the hearers; (4) their external state; (5) their condition previous to the preaching; (6) the connection with Jesus’ death; (7) the present, spiritual condition of the hearers.

 

Noah, it is held, was the preacher; and not Christ, in any other sense than that in which the Father or the Holy Spirit might be said to have preached. The parties addressed were not spirits, nor spirits in prison when Christ preached; but men living in freedom on earth. A fancied omission of the apostle’s is supplied; though it is manifest that Peter had in his eye their previous condition; and contrasted them as once free and disobedient while on earth in Noah’s day, with their present obedience and confinement. It refuses the manifest implication that the preaching was after Christ’s death. If we would trust them, the apostle strangely omits what is true, inserts what is not. He should have said spirits “now, and NOT THEN in prison.” He inserts the words "went" before preached, and “formerly” before “disobedient,” when there was neither local notion at that time, nor present obedience now. Is not this to school the Scripture, not to listen to it? Is it not, though with the intention of maintaining a seemingly endangered truth - to WREST the Scripture? Does it not spring from that unbelief of the heart that is afraid to trust all God's words? Sure we may be that God’s Word does not teach purgatory, as the last hope for life-long sinners; but I had rather believe in purgatory, than wrest one passage of Holy Scripture that taught that doctrine.

 

But let us proceed to a second passage, quite as much resisted, because as mysterious as the present; yet fully in harmony with the explanation given.

 

1 PETER 4: 3‑6.

 

“For the time past of life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelling, banqueting and abominable idolatries. Wherein they think it strange, that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you; who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the living and the dead. For with this very purpose was the gospel preached even unto persons dead, that they may be judged indeed as men in flesh, but live in relation to God in spirit

 

Behold again the same difficulty, to escape which the theory offered in the former part was devised! Here is PREACHING TO THE DEAD! However, to get rid of doctrine so mysterious and unpalatable, two suppositions are resorted to.

 

 

I. That the parties spoken of are persons not naturally but spiritually dead.

 

Against which we reply ‑ (1.) What, then, is there peculiar in the case? Is not the gospel always preached to such? Has the message of pardon and regeneration any meaning as preached to those already forgiven and alive to God? The preaching here was additional to the ordinary. It is ordinarily directed to the living: here it was addressed also to the dead. It was exceptive. It is noted as singular. It “was preached even to the dead.”

 

(2) The word means the naturally dead, as appears by the preceding words, “Who is ready to judge persons living and dead." None dispute that in these words the naturally dead are meant. So, then, in the verse before us.

 

(3.) It is spoken of as a past act; implying that this preaching to the dead no longer takes place. This would not be true, if the spiritually dead were intended.

 

 

II. But there is a second theory, which adopts the same expedient as in the first case, inserting a note of time, where the apostle has given none.

 

“The most natural and obvious interpretation is, to refer it to those who were then* dead, to whom the gospel had been preached while living, and who had become true Christians

 

[* Author's italics: the others mine.]

 

“He therefore says that the design in publishing the gospel to them was that though they might be judged by men in the usual manner, and put to death, yet that, in respect to their higher and nobler nature - the spirit -they might live to God

 

1. Against such a view the same principles which were announced in the former verse, apply. Thus, to insert a note of time, and make it emphatic, is to contradict the apostle’s statement, not to receive it. His words, without the addition, are misleading and untrue.

 

“The gospel was preached to those who (are, indeed, now, but WERE NOT THEN) dead."

 

2. The case supposed by the apostle is an additional kind of preaching to the common style of address to the living. It was a mysterious exception. This has just been noticed.

 

3. The time named by Peter is no longer present. It took place once, but it continues no longer. If it be the ordinary message, it continues still.

 

4. This interpretation supposes the preaching to have been sent to believers, who were martyred for Christ. Some word must have been added to express this, had it been true. The Scripture speaks of the “dead in Christ,” where it would distinguish believers.

 

5. Is the design of the gospel now such as is supposed to be delineated here? Does God cause the gospel to be preached to living men now that they may be judged by men in the flesh, and put to death? It is not said that the gospel was preached to believers, that they might be judged by men. That is hooked in without authority. But even granting that the gospel is preached to believers only, is this the first design of it, that they may be condemned and martyred? I say the first, for it is put first of the two specified intents of the preaching. The author whose interpretation is given, saw the ruggedness of such an idea, and puts it therefore as a result; but as an indirect consequence, and not the primary and designed result. Are the martyrs alone to live to God in spirit? And are they to live to God only when spirits, and not while in the flesh?

 

Let this suffice as proof of the unsoundness of the usual interpretation. We turn to one more accordant with the apostle’s words.

 

Let us suppose the passage before us to refer to the same persons and the same mysterious circumstance as that named in the former chapter, and all will flow easily onward.

 

1. View the connection. ‘As Jesus suffered in the flesh for you, do you expect the same. Live no longer to the lusts of the flesh. The world indeed wonders at your standing aloof from their riotous indulgence. They see not that judgment is hastening upon them for it, but they will have to give account to Jesus, the Judge of the living and the dead.’

 

Thus at the same point of Jesus’ suffering unto death does the same subject arise again before the apostle. And suppose now that the persons to whom Jesus preached after death were spirits, who from actual indulgence in the lusts of men, were condemned to punishment; and the connection is evident. The idea of Christ’s judging men brings to Peter’s mind the thought that these spirits, though beings superior to men, will be brought within the range of Jesus’ judgment, in consequence of their having heard the message of the gospel.

 

The same Judge is supposed in both cases; Jesus, who is to judge living men, will judge the dead also; among whom are these spirits.

 

But was the preaching to these dead a purpose of justice only? No. That  “indeed” was one design of it. As the direct consequence of it, they will rise, from the dead, and stand as men in immortal bodies. This accounts for the expression, “That they may be judged . . . as men in the flesh But there was a further design of mercy included in that strange address of grace. Ere they take up the flesh in resurrection, it was the purpose of God, that believing in the message they should, while disembodied spirits, and even under the just penalties of their guilt, live to Him; expecting the same era of their deliverance which is appointed to the saints of mankind. So the good news to them is salvation in resurrection, after undergoing their trial at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. By virtue, then, of their relation to men they will be judged in the flesh. In regard of their present and permanent relation to God they live to Him in spirit.

 

Thus the past tense is accounted for. It was a marvellous proclamation once made by Christ Jesus when [He was] a disembodied spirit [or “soul” in Hades, (Acts 2: 27, 31a.)]. It was long past when Peter wrote. It can never occur again. On the usual interpretation, the verb might have been in the present tense for according to the theory, the apostle is only stating the ordinary course of the gospel and its results. In short, the view ordinarily taken violates the apostle’s assertion in seven points. 1. As to the parties addressed. It supposes them alive when preached to; whereas the apostle asserts the preaching he speaks of to have been directed to the dead. 2. It supposes living believers to be the parties judged, and by men. Peter’s words suppose a future judgment by God. 3. The theory violates the tense. Peter supposes it a past, not a present thing. 4. It misrepresents the time of the judgment; 5. the person of the Judge; 6. destroys the force of the word “even;” and 7. mis‑states the design of the gospel.

 

In short, no theory can expound this passage correctly which does not admit two preachings. (1.) The ordinary one to men alive in the flesh. (2.) The extraordinary and exceptive case, which is here marked with a note of wonder. And the order supposed is, 1. The preaching to these hearers after their death. 2. Their present life to God. 3. Their future judgment.

 

Let us now suppose that the apostle in this place is speaking of the same parties as in the former mysterious passage, and you will then see a beautiful accordance in the two. “Jesus went and preached” in the one case. He who is to judge the quick and the dead, “preached the gospel” in the other. Who could preach to the dead, but one dead? Who enter the prison and come out again safely, but Jesus? None but one of the righteous could enter amidst the lost, and yet come out again. Before the others a great gulf is fixed. But Jesus suffering for sin, entered the prison; and having paid the penalty, He came forth thence. So that we are obliged to connect this with the former assertion concerning Jesus having preached. There is harmony, too, in the parties addressed. It is “spirits” in the one case; “persons dead” in the other. We rightly judged, then, that “the spirits in prison” meant ‘departed spirits.’

 

Again, we may learn from these last words, that the parties who are to be judged, and to whom the gospel was preached, were something more than men. For the words may well be translated ‑ "That they may be judged as menNow, to tell us that men shall be judged as men, were a truism. But to tell us of angels, that they shall be judged as men by Jesus when He comes to judge the world of mankind in its two great divisions of living and dead, is news indeed! And as the saints come with Christ, if these be angels, we have at once a meaning and an explanation given to that sentence, - “Know ye not that we shall judge angels1 Cor. 6: 3.

 

Observe again, that these latter parties were disobedient once, but are now restored; like those mentioned in the former case, they are to be “judged as men,” that is, as offenders. Therefore they have committed some offence. They had the gospel preached to them also; and the gospel is the proclamation of mercy to the sinful. As it was presented to them, therefore, they have been sinful, and have heard of God's mercy.

 

Moreover, its preaching changed their hearts. They “live unto God in spirit.” That is, they have spiritual life; though they are to be judged, therefore, they will not be condemned.

 

But is there no other passage of Peter that may help to throw further light on this mystery? Let us turn to 2 Pet. 2: 1-10:-

 

“But there were false prophets also among the people even as there shall he false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, denying even the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

 

“And many shall follow their lasciviousness by reason of whom the way of truth shall be blasphemed.

 

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

 

“For if God spared not angels that sinned, but cast them into Tartarus,* and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be kept unto judgment; [* see Critical Editions.]

 

“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 Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

 

“And delivered just Lot , vexed with the conduct of the lawless in lewdness:

 

“(For that righteous man by dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with unlawful deeds;)

 

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment under punishment.

 

“But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government

 

In these words we are informed that evil teachers, denying even Jesus and His lordship, will appear. With them will come in lusts indulged to excess, and covetousness. But though these false teachers deny judgment, and acknowledge not God as a God of justice, yet they will soon be damned. For if God spared not angels, how much less will he spare men? If He spared not the old world, destroying the sinners, and saving only Noah and seven others; and if He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha, delivering Lot out of the overthrow; it is plain that God knows how to bring wrath on the wicked,  and to preserve His saints from judgment. This is the drift of the passage. Let us now examine it more closely. Here is the same connection between angels, and the world in Noah's day.

 

Let us, then, try if this passage refers to the same parties as the two others. We found in the last, that the spirits who were dead, and in prison, were more than men; and, therefore, probably angels. Here are certain beings described as “angels” expressly. And again we have to notice the accuracy of Scripture. Though our translation gives it as “the angels that sinned,” which would imply that the casting into prison and chains was inflicted alike on all angels that rebelled against God, yet the passage before us does not assert it. It describes that treatment as affecting, only “angels that sinned

 

2. We found before that those angels had been “disobedient.” Here they are described as “sinning.”

 

3. The former offenders were (1.) “in prison” (2.) awaiting the time when Christ shall judge. These are in the same condition. They are “cast down to Tartarus delivered to chains of darkness being reserved unto judgmentThus the present position and the future expectation of these last are the same. Tartarus is a part of Hadees, the place of the dead: the same (apparently) as the bottomless pit, for thither Christ went down: Rom. 10: 7; Psa. 88. The same parties then are spoken of in both.

 

 

III. But the Epistle of Jude is so like the Second of Peter, that this also will lend us light. It speaks of the same angels.

 

The following is the tenor of the Epistle: ‘Contend for the faith. Wicked men have come in, taking occasion from God’s present display of mercy and longsuffering in the gospel to be lascivious, and to deny that God will punish. But remember, the Lord punished even His own people whom He delivered out of Egypt , when they offended against Him in the wilderness. He punished angels too, and Sodom and Gomorrha. So then will He punish these wicked men also.’

 

“But I wish to remind you, though ye once knew this, that the Lord having saved a people out of Egypt , afterwards destroyed them that believed not.

 

“And angels* which kept not their own government,**. but left their peculiar habitation, he hath kept in perpetual chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

 

[* No article.

 

** ‘Principality,’ (margin.  See R.V.) The Greek word never signifies ‘first estate.’]

]

“As Sodom and Gornorrha and the cities about them, giving themselves over to fornication in like manner with these, and going after another flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the infliction of eternal fireJude 5‑7.

 

 

Here the sin of the angels and their punishment come into question principally, as in the former case. But some new lines are added. (a) Their sin was, that being angels, (not the angels) they kept not their principality, (or government.*)

 

[* “The same word that is in Eph. 1: 21, translated ‘principality,’ and in 1 Cor. 16: 24, translated ‘rule.’”]

 

To the angels God has made over certain parts as their dominion: to some a kingdom, as in Daniel we read of “The prince of the kingdom of Persia .” And in the Revelation we read of an angel having “power over the fire  “the angel of the waters,” etc. These angels, then, left the post of authority which God had assigned to them.

 

(b) They finally (or altogether) left their own abode.

 

To each class of beings God has assigned a suited abode. To the birds, the air; to the fish, the sea; to man, the earth; tying them down thereto, and not permitting them to wander to other worlds; though they behold them.  To angels, then, the heaven is the proper [usual] sphere. “No, nor the angels of heavenMatt. 24: 36; 18: 10; 22: 30. But “the earth hath he given to the children of menPsa. 15: 16. The angels in question left, finally and for ever, the heaven which God had assigned them as their abode, to live like man upon the earth.

 

For these offences they were punished. As they lived like men, they suffered in the judgments on men. They were by the flood swept off; and dying, they entered on their punishment. Their present position and future fate are described as before. 1. They are now kept in constant chains under darkness. 2. They are reserved to the judgment of the great day.

 

The next verse couples them with Sodom and Gomorrha, and adds a new feature to their sin. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, (1) transgressing in fornication, (2) and going after another flesh, in the same manner with these, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire

 

It appears, then, that the sin of the angels was like that of Sodom . It was (1) unrestrained fornication: (2) Joining themselves to beings of another order.

 

 

IV. We have twice found the history of these angels connected with the times of Noah. Let us turn to the passage that speaks of that time, that we may derive fresh light thence:-

 

“Men began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they choseGen. 6.

 

Who are meant by the “sons of God”? Let us turn to Job 38: 4-7. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . Whereupon are the foundations fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof? When the morning-stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Here the angels must be meant, for they alone existed to rejoice over the foundations of the world. So Job 1: 6; 2: 1. “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, ‘Whence comest thou?’ Then Satan answered and said, ‘From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.’ ” Satan had, it appears, left the earth and therefore was in heaven.

 

1. We have thus the fullest confirmatory proof. The description in the New Testament leads us to believe in the fall of angels in Noah’s day; and the Old Testament even by itself shows the same thing.

 

There, too, we are presented with their sin. They gave themselves up to unrestrained license. “They took them wives, (not content with one, as allotted to man) of all that they chose

 

2. The Lord recognizes that another nature besides man has fallen. “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh,” i.e. a fallen creature: the angels making the second fallen nature. Thus lust, the vain idea of attaining happiness in a way not appointed by God, and discontent with the station assigned them, ruined the angels that then fell. Giants [“the Nephilim,*” Gen. 6: 4] were born, as the consequence: men of surpassing height and strength. Their superior knowledge, and might exercised in rapacity, filled the world with violence and bloodshed. And then came the flood.

 

[* Compare with Numbers 13: 33: “And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim: and we were in our sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” R.V.]

 

But I will turn aside for a moment to consider the insufficiency of the ordinary interpretation given of this passage adopted, as usual, to get quit of a mystery.

 

By “the sons of God,” (say most) are meant the posterity of holy Seth. By “the daughters of men,” the wicked posterity (or daughters, rather) of wicked Cain. Hence it is supposed that the children of Seth all married the ungodly women of Cain’s family.

 

1. But how could the posterity of Seth be all godly, and yet all marry the ungodly females of Cain’s family? Were there no daughters of Seth’s race? Yes. Gen. 5: 7, 10, 13. “And Seth lived, after he begat Enos, eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. And Enos lived, after he begat Cainan, eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters”. And so with Cainan and the other patriarchs: Gen. 6: 7, 10, etc. Were not the daughters of Seth and Cainan, and the other patriarchs, “danghters of men”? Were there no men of Cain's race? Were these sons of God all holy, yet all perished in their sins at the flood? How then, shall the saints’ final perseverance stand?

 

2. This contradicts the manifest tenor of Scripture. “To Seth, to him also was born a son, and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LordGen. 4: 26.

 

Who are the “men” here spoken of? The men of Seth’s race, or of Cain’s race? Not of Cain’s race for that, it is supposed, was wholly wicked. It must be those of Seth’s race, then, by the hypothesis; (though it were better far to take it as spoken of men in general.) ,

 

Turn, then, to Gen. 6: 1: “Men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them.” Who are the “men” here, intended? Those in the former passage, you said, were the men of Seth's race. Do you make “men” in this to signify the descendants of wicked Cain's race? This marks the inconsistency of such an interpretation. In both it signifies men in general; and thus the sons of God must convey the idea, not of a particular class among men - for all men are included in the former word but of a class distinct from men. Men are never called “the sons of God” till the Gospel-dispensation, of which this title is characteristic: 1 John 3: 1. “Sons of men” is the parallel expression (Psalm 2: 4; 12: 1; 14: 2; 33: 13) to “daughters of men;” and the phrase signifies the human kind generally, not descendants of an ungodly stock. “Daughters of men,” then, means the female sex.

 

But that which especially manifests the falsehood of the interpretation is, that, while after the flood, the distinction of Seth's race and Cain's race was lost, and Noah’s only peopled the world; we are yet told that the same conjunction of the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” took place: Gen. 6: 4.

 

Moreover, this would suppose an hereditary holiness in Seth’s race, which is contrary to the doctrine of the election of grace. It contradicts, also, the inspired declaration that “all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth

 

(1.) The same doctrine of these angels’ fall will give much light to various passages of the Proverbs, which warn against the seductions of women.  “To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words. . . . For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the Giants* Prov. 2: 16, 18. “He knoweth not that the Giants* are there, and that her guests are in the depths of Hadees** Prov. 9: 18.  “For she hath cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to Hadees**: going down to the chambers of deathProv. 7: 26, 27; 21: 16.

 

[*Literally ‘Healers  Heb. ‘Rephaim’ See Revised Version. ** Heb. ‘Sheol’ = Gk. ‘Hades’] 

 

(2.) It explains Job 26: 5, 6, which should be “The giants* [lit. ‘Rephaim’ R.V.] groan beneath the waters, and the inhabitants thereof. Hadees [or ‘Sheol’] is naked before him, and Destruction hath no covering

 

(3.) It expounds also that mysterious passage, that “the woman should have power over* her head, because of the angels  In memory, that is, of the angels’ fall through lusting after their beauty, and in consideration of the presence of angels during our Christian assemblies, women should be covered: 1 Cor. 11: 10. The force of the word seems to be, that against any command of her husband, or of the officers of the church to uncover it, she has a right to remain covered.

 

[* It is not ‘power upon;’ but ‘power over:’ as Mark 6: 7; Luke 9: 1; 19:7; Rom. 9: 21.]

 

(4) It expounds also what is said of Messiah in the Psalm that describes Him after death as in darkness, and the lowest deep: Psalm 88: 4‑12.

 

4. “I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength;

 

5. “Free [‘cast off’ R.V.] among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.

 

6. “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.

 

7. “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.

 

8. “Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them;

 

I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.

 

9. “Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.

 

10. “Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? shall the giants [Heb. ‘the Rephaim,’ R.V.] arise and praise thee?

 

11. “Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in Destruction [Heb. ‘Abaddon’ R.V.]?

 

12. “Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

 

But perhaps it may be said, - ‘The Saviour could not have been in the bottomless pit, amidst the spirits in question: for He promised the robber that he should        be with Him that day in Paradise, which, of course, was not a place of punishment.’ Very true: but there was time enough for Christ to be in both places that day. He died at three; therefore there were three hours ere that day closed, in part of which He might have been in the prison of the disobedient spirits, in part (at the close) in Paradise. Nay, till the body of the Saviour was taken down from the cross, He was under the curse: Gal. 3: 13. Need we wonder, therefore, if we find Him in the abyss, or bottomless pit? (Rom. 10: 7. Greek.)  But in the evening His body was taken down, and restored to the garden and the sepulchre: correspondently His place [as a disembodied “soul” (Acts 2: 27; Psa. 16:10.)] of sojourn was Paradise .

 

 (5. ) Will not this view also cast bright light upon the following passage?

 

“Such as sit in darkness and the shadow of death, being fast bound in affliction and iron: because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High: therefore he brought down their strength with sorrow:* they fell down, and there was none to help them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunderPsa. 107: 10-14.

 

[* See Hebrew text.]

 

(6.) It expounds 1 Tim. 3: 16, how Jesus, being justified as a disembodied spirit, is “seen of angels

 

(7.) The same view clears up an inconsistency which is held unperecived by most Christians.

 

They imagine that Satan and his angels are enchained in hell: and yet that he and they are abroad on the earth, tempting and destroying men. How can these two views agree?  Can Satan be both in prison and at large? Are God’s prisons and chains so convenient that, while he sometimes is in prison, he can slip his chains and leave his cell when he will? Are God’s dungeons and jailers inferior in their power to men’s? Silently Christians have taken, their view of these things from “ Milton 's Paradise Lost,” rather than from Holy Writ.

 

But in Scripture there is no such inconsistency. It never describes Satan and his angels as being now in hell. It tells us, that he is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience* (Eph. 2: 2) that he and his wicked spirits are [presently] in “heavenly placesEph. 6: 12. It says, that thither he went up to accuse Job, after leaving the earth: that there he has been, or will be, accusing the saints day and night before God: (Rev. 12:) that he is a roaring, lion, roaming as unfettered as the untamed monarch of the beasts. He is not cast down from heaven till a “short time” before Christ appears: (Rev. 12:) and then notice is given of the terrible state of earth, because of his anger. It is not till Jesus appears, and defeats the armies raised by his coadjutors, the false Christ and the false prophet, that he is cast into the bottomless pit. When once cast in there, he comes out no more for a thousand years.

 

[* In this context, “The children of disobedience,” refers to regenerate believers (cf. Eph.1: 18, 19).  Not all of God’s children remain obedient and experience God’s power in their lives.  Many become disobedient, and hence, we read later in the epistle of the warning and possible loss of the inheritance, (Eph.5:6, 7.)  – Ed.]

 

Another class of angels, whose (1) sin, (2) whose punishment, and whose (3) destiny are quite different, are the parties whose imprisonment is related.

 

(a) Satan’s sin consisted in entering into the body of the serpent, tempting man to distrust God, hoping to deceive and ruin Eve and Adam, and perhaps to escape the notice of God. Ever since that day, after God pronounced on him the curse, he has gone on in his career of malice, endeavouring to thwart the plans of the Most High for the good of man. 

 

(b) The case of these angels is quite different. Their sin, as we have seen, was, the leaving the post assigned them of God, and the habitation set apart for them, the giving way to lust, and taking a part in the violence and corruption of man at the flood. They did not desire, as far as we can learn, to set man against God; but only to please themselves. They fell long after Satan’s fall; perhaps 2000 years after. And while Jehovah says of Satan that He would put enmity between him and the woman, here there was love between them and the daughters of men.

 

2. The punishment, moreover, of the two parties is very distinct, both as to its time and its nature.

 

(1.) The angels to whom Christ preached being found (on earth as men, were, by the deluge, in spite of their gigantic strength, swept away, and perished. But what became of them at death? God, we are told,

 

(1) Cast them down to Tartarus –

 

(2) Delivered them to chains –

 

(3) Under darkness –

 

(4) Till the judgment of the great day.

 

At the flood began their punishment, and, without intermission it will continue, till Christ and the saints judge them.

 

But Satan and his angels were not affected by the flood. Long after, we find him accusing Job. One of his spirits troubles Saul, and one tempts David to number Israel . Satan's punishment has not yet begun. He has not even been interfered with as yet. His power is seen at the temptation of Jesus; when he boasts, (un-contradicted by the Saviour,) that he was lord of the world, giving its realms and power to whom he would.

 

His punishment only begins at the last day: which is the time when the penalty of these closes. They are enduring affliction now, while Satan is free and unhindered. They will be freed, when Satan is finally and for ever committed to the burning lake. For the fire is only prepared for Satan, when the men who are judged by Christ at the beginning of the millennium, are cast into it.

 

2. The punishment of the one class is, as to its nature, the being set in the criminal’s position in darkness, inaction, degradation, confinement - instead of the primacy, light, liberty, and rule, which once, they enjoyed. They once dwelt high in heaven. Their place is now the extreme and innermost depths of earth. But, observe, they are not in fire. That is said of Sodom and Gomorrha’s inhabitants; but not of them. At the Lord’s second coming, they will be judged in the bodies of men, since they voluntarily took them; just as Satan was judged in the body of the serpent.

 

3. As to their destiny. They are already restored to holiness, and will be restored one day to happiness: Satan, to neither.

 

8. This same explanation does not uphold the Romish doctrine of Purgatory. The preaching and the deliverance mentioned were not for men; but for angels. It could occur but once, for it happened at Christ's death; and He can die no more. The mercy shown was not for those already condemned to fire, but for those only who are shut up in darkness and chains.

 

9. What light this subject also throws on the subject of human redemption!

 

The Scripture mentions FOUR INCARNATIONS.

 

1. That of Satan in the serpent, to tempt men and to destroy them. And the evil attempt succeeded fearfully to introduce mischief and sorrow. But it also brought the curse on the author of it; though his punishment has not yet, strictly speaking, begun. It needed the incarnation of Jesus to undo its mournful effects.

 

2. The second is that of the angels that fell in Noah’s day; these becoming incarnate to please themselves, thereby displeased God, introduced or increased violence among men, and pulled down punishment on their own heads.

 

3. The third incarnation is that of Jesus, which He undertook, not for His own pleasure, but for the glory of God; persevering in His work, though suffering of every kind lay before Him. Through this comes, not mischief on men, but redemption of man and beast. Satan was incarnate in the beast to ruin man. Jesus became incarnate in man to save, not man alone, but the beast also. And beautiful it is to see, that so great is the love of God to man, that since these angels had put themselves into the place of man, the mercy which He designed for the sinners of Adam’s race, is, by an especial mercy, made to embrace them also. The angels that never were incarnate in human nature have fallen, and no offer of mercy has been extended to them. But these, as they have experienced the judgment of  God on mankind, were, by Jesus’ death, permitted to hear of pardon. He preached the gospel even to the dead - the good news of forgiveness through His blood - which news, it appears, they with gladness received; and they will be finally saved and enlarged at the judgment of the great day. Jesus is to them, as He is to all others, the turning point for life or death.

 

This may bring to our recollection, as before hinted, the history of Joseph. When he is thrown into prison, the chief butler and baker of the king of Egypt are put in ward.* To one of these he foretells restoration to his place:- to the other punishment, final and destructive. Thus Jesus is the ground of condemnation to one class of the angels; for they tempted Him and His disciples - Judas to betray Him, Peter to deny, all to forsake Him. But these will be restored at the same great festival which seals the ruin of the others ‑ the day of the Lord.

 

[* LXX.  The word used by Peter also.]

 

4. The fourth incarnation is that of Antichrist; who being now a spirit [disembodied soul] among the lost in the fire of Hadees, comes up to dwell in the body of a man; and destroys, on pretence of being the true Christ and the true God the souls of those given up by God to believe his lie: Rev. 13., 17.

 

The coming of Jesus stands closely related to the three other incarnations. By the incarnation of Jesus and His coming again, the fruits of Satan’s incarnation are counter‑wrought. The incarnation, death, and second coming of Jesus are the means of recovery to the ruined angels. And His appearing in glory is the means of destroying the dominion of Antichrist.

 

Finally, I would give a brief connected view of the, conclusions at which we have arrived.

 

1. Those to whom Jesus preached were certain angels, who thought they should be happier if they lived on earth, and came and dwelt as men forsaking the post and nature given them by God.

 

2. By the flood they were swept away, and after death their punishment began. In the deep interior of the earth, called Tartarus, they suffer the penalty of imprisonment in darkness and chains.

 

3. Their state of impenitence and hopeless suffering continued till Jesus died. At His death He passed, as a disembodied spirit, [soul] into the place of the souls of the dead, and entered into the place of their confinement, to tell them of pardon. This news they gladly welcomed, and now are pardoned of God, and have life towards God, though their imprisonment still continues.

-------

 

 

 

THE “SONS OF GOD” AND “GIANTS” OR “REPHAIM”

 

Genesis, chapter six

 

by

 

ROBERT GOVETT.

 

[For the Spiritual, Perfect and Full Grown Believers.]

 

DISSERTATION 1.

 

Who, or what are the Rephaim?  The word is, in many passages, and by ancient and modern translators, rendered “giants  By this word we should naturally understand persons of lofty stature: but that this is the true meaning, has been denied by those commentators who strive with all their might to quash everything in the Scripture that presents the appearance of mystery, or of a different state of things from that which the present course of the world offers to our notice.  Among these must be reckoned Dr. Adam Clarke; who, in his commentary on the words “there were giants in the earth in those days,” assures us that they do not signify persons of surprising stature; but men of earth-born, fallen nature.  Nor is he singular in this interpretation.  It becomes necessary, therefore, to show that there were individuals and even nations of amazing height and strength in the early ages of the world.  This is proved by Numbers 13: 32, 33, “The land through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.  And there we saw giants, the sons of Anak, which came of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight  This needs no comment; it explains sufficiently the terror of the spies, and through them, of the Israelites.  The words of Moses confirm herein the spies’ report; as he assures us that “the Emims” dwelt in the land of Moab “in times past, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakims, which also were accounted giants  (Deut. 2: 10, 11)  Similarly in some succeeding verses, “That also (the land of Ammon ) was accounted a land of giants; giants dwelt therein in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummins; a people great, and many, and tall as the Anakims  “For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron, is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth thereof, after the cubit of a man:” (Deut. 3: 11.). Allowing that the bedstead exceeded his length by two cubits, which is a very fair allowance, his height will range from ten feet six inches to eleven feet nine inches!  And lastly, the height of Goliath in the days of David was six cubits and a span, whence his height would be, at the lowest, nine feet nine inches: at the highest, ten feet one inch!

 

It being, then, proved that there were persons of extraordinary stature in those days, and not merely individuals, but whole nations, the question arises, Whence came they?  Why are they not found now?

 

The answer to this will lead us back to Gen. 6., the first passage in which they are spoken of.  The text we find runs thus: “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.  And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.  There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men of old, men of renown.” (verses 1-4.)  Who then were these “sons of God  Commentators in general reply, the children of the race of Seth, who were eminently holy.  And who were the “daughters of men  They answer again, the apostate race of Cain.  But who told them that the race of Cain was apostate, and the race of Seth holy?  It is mere hypothesis, to get rid of a difficulty!  Have we any ground from Scripture for believing that children of a pious father must be pious, much more that a whole race should be so?  Or have we any warrant from the sacred oracles for believing that the children of an ungodly parent must needs be all wicked, much more an entire race?  Let the ungodly firstborn of Adam, and his godly second son make the first answer!  Let the vile sons of holy Eli be the second!  Let Absalom, the parricidal child of the man after God’s own heart, be the third!  And let Rehoboam, the foolish, and weak, and wicked son of the wisest of men, be the fourth and concluding instance!

 

Again, how is it discovered, that the race of Cain and that of Seth kept themselves entirely distinct?  A hypothetic basis again!  And why were the children of Seth called the “sons of God  Commentators return for answer, that it is the general term for professors of the true religion: and that it is used in opposition to those who are men of a fallen and depraved nature.  But was not Seth also of a corrupt and fallen nature?  The Scripture affirms it directly of him.  “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his own image; and called his name Seth  (Gen. 5: 2.)  How, then, is it said to be here used of contradistinction, if both were “sons of God” and sons of men were partakers alike of the fallen and corrupt nature?  Was not Seth a son of man or of Adam, as well as Cain?  But the term “sons of God” signifies the professors of a true faith in opposition to those who do not.  This requires proof.  Shall we say that at so early an age, ere yet even the promise to Abraham was granted, and his seed were taken into covenant with God, that the glorious title of “sons of God” was bestowed on the professors of true religion?  This is the last term of blessedness that the Gospel has bestowed on the Christian.  “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”  are words of St. John , expressing the last result of the Gospel.  Nay more, the words of the Saviour intimate  that it is not fully applicable even to the true believers in himself till after the resurrection and redemption of the body: for it is then only that they will “die no more, but be equal to the angels, and be the children  of God, being the children of the resurrection”.  In which words it is highly observable that the Redeemer quotes the title children, or “sons of Godas belonging primarily and right to the angels, and as bestowed upon us only when we become equal to them.   And St. Paul, arguing respecting the law, declares that those who were under it were slaves, not sons; nor could any be justly called the “sons of God” till the Saviour announced that now he called his disciples no more servants, but “sons  Moreover, as the apostle affirms that from Adam to Moses there was a law in the world, which proved all to be guilty, by the sentence of death executed on each, so do we learn that the world at that time was under the law, rather than under grace; else the covenants and mercies of God had retroceded instead of advancing, in the times of Abraham and the law.

 

It seems to be supposed that the term “sons of God” is a frequent occurrence in the Old Testament; whereas it is found but five or six times: Moses himself being called not a son, but the “servant” of God.  Even in those passages which use the title evidently of Israel , the reference is future.  Take the clearest instance, which occurs in Hosea 1: 10, 11.  “It shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall it be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God  Now not merely the verbs in the future, intimate that the reference is yet to a distant time, even that of the belief of the Jews in Christ; but the next verse asserts it.  “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel [or Megiddo, or Armageddon.]”  And what shall be the time of Israel and Judah ’s (those two severed kingdoms) being under one head?  “When David the beloved’] shall be king over them:” (Ezekiel 37: 22. 24.)  The same might be proved of a passage in the song of Moses.

 

But further, how does the assumption, that “sons of God” signifies the whole race of Seth, agree with the declaration of the Most High?  He assures us positively that Noah was the only holy man.  Where, then, is the holy race?  Where the sons of God?  It is thus declared of the generation of which Noah was one, at the commencement of what might perhaps be called the second generation of the world, as Adam had not long before died: and the life of man was then far more than a hundred and twenty years; - that time during which the patience of God waited while the ark was being built.  And if all of Seth’s race were once “sons of God,” and afterwards “sons of men,” or apostles (according to the hypothesis), what becomes of the perseverance of the saints?  This question I ask of the Calvinists who hold this opinion.  Again, how can it be said that the term “sons of God” is used in opposition to the phrase “daughters of men,” for the sake of contradistinction, when the Lord declares, that there was positively no difference at all?  The children of Cain, you say, were born an evil nature.  True, so were the sons of Seth.  But the sons of Cain were positively wicked, violent, ungodly, reprobate.  So were all the sons of Seth except Noah alone, as God himself bears witness.  Show us wherein lies the contradistinction.  It is not a distinction without a difference; an opposition, where both parties are identical in character!

 

Again, how self contradictory, as well as gratuitous, the hypothesis!  It represents the race of Seth as so preeminently holy, as to be worthy to be called “sons of God,” and the daughters of the race of Cain to be so eminently wicked, as justly to be called “daughters of men,” because of their extreme opposition of character; and yet that these supremely holy men, all, without exception, drew near the vortex of their notoriously ungodly beauty, were all capable of being charmed by it, and all perished thereby!  Must we suppose, also, that they all married in one month or one year?  If not, would not the unmarried “son of God” pause when he saw the fatal effect of their fatal smiles on his once holy brethren, and not pause alone, but turn away with terror and disgust?  Was it more than two thousand years ere the lesson of nature’s own teaching was learned, that “evil communications corrupt good manners  Was Adam, or Enoch, or any of the godly patriarchs of nine hundred years’ grown of wisdom, unable to see the snare, or unable to give advice?  Or if advice was given, did the “son of God” reject it, though it come from the lip of a father, and was instilled from early youth, ere yet his heart was ensnared?  Believe it who can!  If he rejected such reproof, he were “brutish” instead of being a “son of God

 

Or must we suppose that there were no females of the family of Seth?  So far from it, that we read the “daughters” of Seth, while it is hypothesis to assert that Cain had any daughters at all, for it is not mentioned that he had any!  The supposition before us, pushed truly to its fair conclusions, would be, that Seth and all his race had none but sons, and that Cain’s family were only daughters! For we read only of the “sons of God,” and only of the “daughters of men;” and if the one term be coextensive with the race of Seth, the other must be also coextensive with that of Cain.

 

Or, granting for probability’s sake, that Cain and his posterity had both sons and daughters; then all that is affirmed respecting the two races on this hypothesis is, that all the men of Seth’s race were good, and all the women of Cain’s race evil.  Whoever will assert, then, that the men of Cain’s race were evil, does it without any shadow of proof on his own assumption.  It is only the females of Cain’s race who were so notoriously wicked as to receive a contradistinguishing name.  And he who affirms that the men of Cain’s family were also equally wicked, has not even his own assumed principle to support him!

 

But in proof of the position that the men of Seth’s race were holy, it is not said immediately after the birth of Enos, Seth’s son, that “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord  True; but until it can be shown that the word “men” in this place excludes those of the family of Cain, whom alone, it is supposed, to include a little further on, the remark is not worth a straw!

 

Further, is it probable that the whole race were holy in those days, with but one faint promise to support and cheer them; while in these times of meridian light, the “sons of God” are scattered and few?  Shall we think that the stream of the faithful is wider in its commencement than at its close?  Analogy, again, forbids the untenable hypothesis.  Or shall we hold the idea, that of the family of Seth were to be saved?  This were contrary to the ordinary tenor of the “election of grace,” and would have given contrary to the notion, that Seth was not born in Adam’s image, nor his children partakers of the fall; while to be born of Cain’s posterity, would be to be evidently given  up to reprobation and despair; and men would have begun to believe that the good works of their father Seth had won them eternal life.  But be it observed, all this is ex abundanti.  It has been shown before, on the authority of God, that this race of “sons of God” of the family of Seth is a visionary creation of the commentator’s brains; “for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth  To Noah alone, said God, “Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (chapter 7: 1), while it was granted to him to save his wife, his sons, and their wives, because of his righteousness, as unto Paul were granted those who sailed with him.

 

The question therefore returns, Who were the sons of God?  The answer to this shall be returned, not from hypothesis, but from induction.  The expression occurs in Job 38: 7: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? (verse 4.). When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy  Here men are altogether excluded by the very necessity of the case, and we can only understand the happy spirits, or angels of God.  This conclusion is confirmed by the two passages of the same book:  “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them” (chapter 1: 6), words which are repeated in the first verse of the second chapter.  That angels are meant in these places also, is in the highest degree probable, not to say certain.  The scene is quite parallel with that of 1 Kings 22: “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the hosts of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.  And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord*

 

[* For the further remarks on this interesting subject, see Bough on the second advent.]

 

But the answer of Satan must convince us that the place of presentation was heaven; for when interrogated by God whence he came, he makes answer, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it  Whence it is alike easy and satisfactory to argue, that Satan had left the earth, he was now in heaven, and that therefore the “sons of God” are angels, as was concluded before.

 

These are, I believe, the only passages where the Hebrew words are used.  But there are two other places in which a term almost the same is made use of.  These are Psalm 29: 1, and Psalm 89: 6.  That in Psalm 29: 1, is rendered by our translation, “ye mighty,” though there is no reason against translating it, “sons of God.” Nor is there any  reason why angels should not be meant here, as in the former places.  For they are commanded to “worship Jehovah in the beauty of holiness,” And we know that when Christ is brought in  by the Father a “second time into the habitable world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him  Moreover, Christ’s second coming is the time of his “appearing and kingdom” (2 Tim. 4: 1), which agrees also with the time her specified: “The Lord sitteth king for ever,” and the concluding words, “the Lord will bless his people with peace,” with the promise to Abraham, that then, “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” and the promise to Moses of “rest

 

The same inference derives support from Psa. 89: 6: “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord, who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?” Where we shall be equally warranted in reading “sons of God,” instead of “sons of the mighty,” and the sentiment of the former line, “Who in the heaven,” answering exactly to the “sons of God,” or angels, in the succeeding, establishes the conclusion on the principle of parallelism.  It may be noticed finally, that the appeal is made respecting the glory of Christ, the “seed of David,” unto whom the Father sware, “Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations  (verses 3, 4.)  The time, therefore, is that of Christ’s exhaltation, when, having been made a little lower [or “a little while lower”] than the angels, he is now far lifted above them, “crowned with glory and worship,” and “set over all the works of his hands  Here it must be observed, in passing, that the text just quoted from the Hebrews supplies another argument.  The word “Gods” is in this place translated “angels” by the LXX., and this rendering becomes unerring by its adoption by St. Paul in his epistle.  If, then, angels are called Gods absolutely, shall we think it impossible that they should be called sons of God, in its much lowered and modified form?

 

By induction, then, we arrive at the conclusion that the phrase “sons of God,” signifies angels.  If we once fearlessly apply this conclusion to the passage before us, how do all inconsistencies vanish! A chaos of contradictory suppositions is reduced to clearness and order, and a clue supplied to unravel some of the most difficult passages of Holy Writ.

 

Let us make proof if the power of this inference, now fairly earned. The “sons of God,” the angels, saw the “daughters of men, that they were fair  Here is, indeed, a just principle of contradistinction; here is difference of natures.  Here is spirit opposed to corporeity - a mortal nature to an immortal.

 

But how could angels become men?  We are not obliged to answer.  Let the objector tell us how the three angels that appeared to Abraham took on them the likeness of men, and eat of the fare which he set before them, and he shall be answered, if he have not already answered himself.  But, in truth, it appears to be the property of spirits, and more particularly of angels, to become visible or invisible - to be able to assume a body, or to dismiss it again, as they please.  This would seem to be a just inference, from several translations of Scripture, especially the scenes at the sepulchre of the Lord, where sometimes no angel was seen, sometimes one, sometimes two; and, in the case of the great procession of the women, they did not present themselves till the whole company had searched the tomb, and when they flashed forth suddenly within the tomb, on their astonished eyes.

 

The offspring of this union of earthly and heavenly natures was as striking as the combination was new and forbidden.  Their sons were “giants,” men of superior stature, and prodigious strength, that filled the earth with violence and blood; probably not content with the green herb - man’s original and allotted food, but slaying the animal creation to satiate their appetite.  On this point, also, an insuperable difficulty arises against the theory that the “sons of God” were the race of Seth.   Has the union of the godly and ungodly any power to produce giants, allowing that the race of Seth were as holy, and the race of Cain as wicked, as the objector pleases?  Does it so happen now, in cases where the marriage of a pious man with an ungodly woman takes place?

 

But this was not all.  The memory of these mighty beings, lofty in stature, daring and bloody of purpose, and possessed of knowledge beyond that of man, left such awe upon the minds of men, that succeeding generations handed down the story of their deeds, and worshipped them as gods. “The same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown

 

Whence came the heroes of the heathen mythology, Persius, Hercules, Esculapius, and others?  From the traditions of the giant progeny of angels and men, as the Scripture itself affirms.

 

Another argument arises from the expression, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh;” from this word “also” if follows that some other nature beside that of man was become flesh; but on the usual theory, this word is useless and insignificant.  Or if we give to “flesh” the signification of a corrupt nature, which it afterwards attained, the sentiment will probably be, “As my Spirit has ceased to strive with these rebel angels, so shall it also be with man, for he too is become corrupt.”

 

Their posterity, we are next informed, became great and mighty nations, and settled in that which was afterwards the land of Ammon and of Moab .  (Gen. 14: 5 ; Deut. 2: 9, 10, 11, 19, 20, 21; 3: 13.)  This explains what Isaiah intends by the declaration, “The land of the giants [i.e., Ammon and Moab ] thou wilt overthrow.” (Isaiah 26: 19.)

 

There was also, it is probable, another locality in which a small colony of them settled near Jerusalem .  For a valley to the south of that city is called “the valley of Rephaim,” or “of the giants (Gen. 15: 20; 2 Sam. 5:18, 22.)  Here it was that David gained his victories over the Philistines, and here it will be that the true antitypical David will gain his mighty victory over the Philistines [or ‘foreigners,’ as the LXX interpret it.]

 

But what does the Scripture say of the crime?  Their sin, in connection with its punishment, is twice specially appealed to by Solomon.  “To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger that flattereth with her words, which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.  For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto [not ‘the dead,’ but] the Rephaim,” or “giants,” (Prov. 2: 18.)

Here king Solomon dissuades from fornication, the sin of angels, - by a consideration that it brings the transgressor near to “death,” or the place of the wicked dead (“I have the keys of hell and of deathRev.1: 18) and to the assembly of the giants; whence it is implied that their place of abode is “death  But of this more hereafter.

 

Similar is his charge in Prov. 9: 18.  After describing in the preceding verses, the wanton female and her alluring arts, he adds, “But he knoweth not that the giants (Rephaim) are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell” (or Hades).

 

Here a yet plainer appeal is made, and mankind are warned by the effects of forbidden charms upon the minds of even the angelic “sons of God,” and the punishment they suffer, to abstain from their sin.

 

Again, in chap. 21: 16, “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding, shall remain in the congregation of the giants” (Rephaim).  In these words a threat is held out, that such folly as that exhibited by the “sons of God,” in becoming partakers of the lot of the miserable and fallen sons of men, shall meet with a like end. *

 

 [* Prov. 21: 16.]

 

In chap. 7: 26, 27, the allusion to the giants is evident, though they are not called by the name of Rephaim, but characterized by their great strength.  Having described the arts used by an abandoned woman to ensnare youth, he concludes the whole as follows: “Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.  For she hath cast down many wounded, yea, many strong ones have been slain by her.  Her house is in the way to hell (Hades), going down to the chambers of death

 

From what has been said above, it will be seen that this passage confirms the rest.

 

But now the New Testament is not silent on this point.  “And the angels which attended not to their government, but left their peculiar habitation (the heaven), he hath reserved in perpetual chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.  Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, giving themselves over to fornication, after the same fashion as these, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 6, 7.)  If any link were wanting to complete the proof, surely it is here!  The crime of the angels is first presented in a new light, and then strongly confirmed in its former bearing.  A part of their transgression was the deserting their post of government assigned by the Most High (the words cannot have the sense given by our translators).  For, if we will believe the Scripture, to angels are assigned the government of various countries, as we read in Dan. 10., which is further attested by Deut. 32: 8, in the LXX. Translation (who have retained the true reading, which the Hebrew has corrupted), “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bonds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God  So in the Revelation we read of angels commissioned to guide the agencies of nature; to “hold the winds:” to “have power over fire:” to “stand in the sun

 

This their government, or principality, as the Vulgate renders it, they deserted, and with it that place of abode, - the heaven, which God had assigned them as peculiar to their race; intruding themselves into a world in which they had no right or property; for “the earth hath he given to the children of men  But the feature of their crime on which Solomon and Moses insist most, is next presented ; the “giving themselves over to fornication :” and “going after strange* flesh  For these offences God has cast them into darkness and chains till the day of judgment.  Because also the crime of Sodom was the very same kind with the angels’; therefore he has inflicted on them a like punishment; they “are suffering the vengeance of eternal [ age- lasting] fire

 

[* Strange = Hetros = Flesh of a different kind to theirs.]

 

The testimony of St. Peter, again, is strongly confirmatory of the chain of evidence.  “For if God spared not (no article) angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, * [* “Cast them into Tartarus,” R.V.] and delivered them to 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 ensample unto those that should after live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished; But chiefly them that walk in the lust of uncleanness  (2 Peter 2: 4 - 7, 9, 10.)  This passage again holds us up the united instances of the impurity of the angels and of Sodom , and the example of their punishment, as a terror to all who should be inclined to act as they.  He also brings the angels’ fall in juxtaposition with the flood, thus confirming us in the belief that they were nearly cotemporaneous events; - no light corroboration of the preceding comment.  That he speaks of the same persons as St. Jude, is clear, from the remarkable parallelisms throughout, especially the words describing their punishment in “chains of darkness;” and its duration, until the judgment of the great day: while both Jude and Peter unite together as being of similar crimes and similar in their recompense, the angels, and the cities of the plain.

 

On this point the argument of an acute writer is presented to the reader.* Upon the supposition that the apostle is referring to the fallen angels in general, which is the notion generally entertained, how does the apostle’s commentary agree with the fact on which he is commenting?  Let us suppose that he is speaking of the general fall of the angels in the time of Satan’s revolt.  To these no pardon has been offered, no mercy shown.  How, then, is the fact that God “spared not angels,” when taken by itself, (as an event which on this theory, occurred hundreds, perhaps thousands of years before the flood,) a proof that God knows how to save as well as to destroy?  For on this supposition three instances are given of mingled justice and mercy: in two of them this is apparent: the destruction of the old world in justice; the saving of Noah and his family in mercy: the destruction of the cities of the plain in justice; the sparing Lot and his daughters in mercy.

 

[* The author of Eruvin.  The ideas advocated in this paper were, however, entertained by the author long before seeing his original and interesting work.]

 

But what is here answering to this in the fall of the angels?  If it be regarded, as it must be on this supposition, as a third event, farther separated from the days of Noah, the point of time, than those of Job, from those of Noah; and differing in principle from both, as being an exhibition of unmingled justice?  But understand it, as it has been shown that it should be understood, of the fall of the angels in the time just preceding the flood; wherewith it is coupled by St. Peter; and this event and the destruction of the world, set off by the salvation of Noah, from but one blended exhibition of justice and mercy; the justice of that instance being the more remarkable, as being visited on sinners of a loftier nature than man, and therefore carrying a weightier lesson to the human race.

 

We have now seen the crime; what is their punishment?  This has been already more than glanced at.  St. Peter tells us that God “cast them into TartarusSolomon, that they are “in the depths of HadesJude, that “they are reserved in everlasting [ In this context, ‘age-lasting’ : the everlasting state is in the ‘lake of fire] chains under darkness  But a passage of great moment and interest is yet to be adduced from the book of Job, corroborating this threefold testimony.  It is the more valuable, because now rendered unintelligible, to say the least, by a false rendering. Our translators have in several places rendered Rephaim by “giants;” but in others, by “the dead,” without any necessity for the change.  Hence is found the following passage in Job, of which it will be hard indeed to make any sense; “Dead things (Rephaim) are found under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof  (Job. 26: 5)  A nearer translation is, “The giants are wounded underneath the waters  But the Vulgate’s translation is better still.  “The giants groan beneath the waters, and they that dwell with them*

 

[* Job 26: 5, Ecce gigantes gemunt sub aquis, et qui habitant cum eis. 

Nudus est infernus coram illo, et nullum OPERIMENTUM PERDITIONI.  Vulgate.

 

“They (margin Heb. The Rephaim) that are deceased tremble

Beneath the waters and the inhabitants thereof.” R.V.]

 

 

But how beyond all doubt is this certified to us by the tenor of Job’s reasoning, and especially by the succeeding verse.

 

“Hell [‘Hades/Sheol,’ the place of departed souls,] is naked before him:

 

“And destruction  (or ‘perditionVulg. LXX., the place of the wicked dead) hath no covering.” (verse 6.)

 

With this explanation of the passages from Proverbs and Job, the author has found, since writing this, that the learned Mede agrees.  On the verse before us he observes, “The place where the old giants mourn and wail under the waters, and their fellow inhabitants, the rest of the damned with them, even Infernus, and the place of perdition itself, is naked and open to the eyes of God 

Again, on Prov. 15: 11, “The Jews take the word Abaddon, which we render ‘destruction,’ for gehenna; that is, elliptically for Beth Abaddon, ‘the house of destruction  And why should not the same word be so taken in (this) place of Job?”

 

Job, reasoning on the majesty of God, teaches us his power, who cast down the angels to the depths of Tartarus, before whose eye is every departed spirit in Hades, and who beholdeth those whom he hath condemned to its “bottomless pit” or abyss.  All here is consistent; all agreeable to what has been proved before.  By “those who dwell with them,” understand the men of Sodom and Gomorrah “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire  There is yet another passage equally conclusive.

 

“Wilt thou show wonders to the dead?

 

Or shall the dead [Heb. ‘Rephaim’R.V.] arise and praise thee?

 

Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave?

 

Or thy faithfulness in destruction [Heb. ‘Abaddon’R.V.]?

 

Shall thy wonders be known in the dark?

 

And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness *

 

[* Psalm 88: 11 The Vulg. Translate the word Rephaim here by medici; a word connexion of which with the giants, will be illustrated presently.] 

 

Now the word “dead” in the second line answers to the Hebrew Rephaim or “giants  Supply this in the second line, and the passage assumes fresh significance.  “Shall the giants arise and praise thee?” intimating strongly that these fallen angels shall have no part of the praise and joy of the “first resurrection

 

And this inference is remarkably and beautifully confirmed by the fourteenth of Isaiah. There the fallen, ejected “Man of Sin” is presented to us descending into the place of the dead.  And what saith the prophet?

 

“Hades from beneath is moved to meet thee at thy coming:

 

Even they that shook from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

 

All they shall speak unto thee and say,

 

Art thou also captured as we?

 

Art thou become like unto us

 

How powerful is this passage viewed in the light in which it has been shown that we should receive it!  The “spirits in prison” are all excited at the coming of him of whose greatness they have heard so much: and the angel giants, they who once violently swayed and ruled the nations as did he, address him in the language of scorn, “Art thou no stronger than we?  We thought that nothing could withstand thee!  Art thou captured at Christ’s coming, as we were swept away of old time by the flood?”  By these their reproaches, and their place of abode at that time, they discover that they have no part in the first resurrection; for all the saints will have been gathered from it at the angel’s trump, which precedes the vengeance of Antichrist, so that they who are not delivered from Hades at that sound must remain during the thousand years of bliss in “outer darkness,” till the final judgment at the burning up of the world.

 

But what, then, is the destiny of these angel spirits?  The Scripture reveals it in two passages of St. Peter’s epistle.  The first is as follows, - “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit.  By which (or, ‘in which,’) he went and preached to the spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water

 

This is, I am aware, ordinarily interpreted of the Holy Spirit’s preaching by Noah, to those who were formerly alive before the flood, but then in prison.  But this seems very like a quibble; when the Scripture says, “he went and preached to the spirits in prison,” the comment denies the text and asserts that he preached to men on earth.  Moreover, what is the significance of the word “went and preached” on this hypothesis?  It is merely pleonastic!  But the next chapter utterly overthrows this interpretation, which is adopted on the popular plan of thrusting out all mystery from Holy Writ.

 

“Who,” the apostle proceeds in the next chapter, “shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.  For for this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead even to the dead), that they might be judged according to men (‘as men,’) in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit  Now how does this agree with the preceding comment?  Observe the wresting and wrestling of commentators on this place.  “This is a most difficult verse,” says one; and in truth it is felt to be destructive of their theory.  For the interpretation that the “dead” here spoken of are the “dead in trespasses and sins,” gives no sense at all suited to the context.  It is, moreover, clear that the word “dead” is to be taken in its usual and literal sense from the preceding words, which assure us that Christ is ready to judge both the quick and dead, where, I presume, no proof is needed that the dead means the literally dead.  Therefore the same word has the same signification in the next sentence.  But yielding this a moment for argument’s sake, let us regard the general bearing of the verse, “The Gospel was preached even to the dead,” for this notes something special in this instance; but on the foregoing hypothesis, what is here special in the fact that the Gospel was preached to the spiritually dead?  It always has been, and always will be so: it is the very means of God’s appointment to quicken them.  But, moreover, the verb speaks of the past, “was preached,” and notes it as something remarkable, but the theory before us states a fact which is as true now as ever it was in any past age of the world.  The Gospel is now preached to the spiritually dead, as much as it was in the days of Noah! What, again, is the meaning of “the dead being judged according to men,” or more clearly, (for it means the same thing,) “as men  No answer is given.  Of course men shall be judged “as men,” but will the spiritually dead of Noah’s day “live according to God in the Spirit,” because the Gospel was preached to them? I suppose the commentators will not assert it.  What, then, is its meaning?  Is it not directly opposed to the hypothesis?  The Gospel was preached to the spiritually dead; - Be it so!  And they continued dead in spirit till their death, for the flood swept them all away, and they knew not its hour; beside which, we have God’s testimony that Noah alone was righteous; and yet we are taught, that though these men shall be judged as men (that is, if “men” have the signification of wickedness and corruption which was demanded for it before, - as wicked men), yet they shall “live according to God in the Spirit  Who can believe this?

 

The popular hypothesis being, therefore, fundamentally unsound, let us see if these two passages will not agree admirably with all that has been deduced from the places quoted above. The first quotation from St. Peter, represents the Lord as suffering unto the death of the body, “being put to death in the flesh,” But what became of his spirit [i.e., his disembodied soul] while his body was dead?  He now being alive in soul, though dead in body, as a disembodied spirit, [soul] “went and preached to the spirits in prison  Here the same sense is given in both places to the word “spirit;” and it passes naturally from the death of Christ to the consideration of what He did after death, instead of starting off at a tangent to speak of the days of Noah!  What had the days of Noah, more than any other days, to do with Christ’s death in the body?  Again, the word “went” has here its full signification; it answers to the journey of the Lord [as a disembodied soul] into Hades, “He descended into hell.”  (Apostles’ Creed and Art.)  The author has since been delighted to find, that his criticism on this passage agrees with that of Bishop Horsley, “If the word ‘flesh’ denote, as it most evidently does, the part in which death took effect on him, ‘spirit’ must denote the part in which life was preserved in him, i.e., his own soul; and the word ‘quickened’ is often applied to signify, not the resuscitation of life extinguished, but the preservation and continuance of life subsisting. The exact rendering, therefore, of the apostle’s words would be, ‘Being put to death in the flesh, but quick [alive] in the spirit,’ i.e., surviving in his soul the stroke of death which his body had sustained, ‘by which,’ or rather ‘in which,’ that is, in which surviving soul, he went and preached to the souls of men in prison or safe custody* While there, he preached to the “spirits in prison  Who were they?  The answer naturally derivable from the passages foregoing is, that they were the giant angels.  For these were they who were disobedient in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing.  They were also “in prison,” as we have seen; in prison under chains of darkness until the judgment.  Thus was “the Gospel preached to the dead:” but what shall be the result of Christ’s preaching?   That [the offspring – ‘the Nephalim’ - from] these angels, though they shall be “judged AS MEN,” because they [the angels] intruded themselves unbidden into the human habitation, and human flesh, shall yet “live unto God in the spirit  There is here contradictory assertion, no smothering of any part of the apostle’s declaration; all flows smoothly in the interpretation.  It fills up, moreover, what was before a blank in Revelation.  Christ was in Hades a part of three days; what did he whilst there?  No answer is made in this natural question, except on this interpretation, or rather this statement of the apostle literally understood.  God the Father granted to His Son, in his lowest depth of humiliation, to save souls [i.e., the Nephilim]; even as while on the cross he redeemed the repentant thief, and a great work was yet to be done by him even [after death as a disembodied soul] in Hades.  This interpretation was also, it appears, that adopted by the English diviners in general at the period of the Reformation, for, in the Articles of the year 1552, appended to the Article “On the descent of Christ into hell,” as it now stands, was subjoined another sentence, as follows, - “As Christ died for us, and was buried, so is it also to be believed, that he went down into hell.  For the body lay in the sepulchre until the resurrection; but his ghost departing from him was with the ghosts that were in prison or hell, as the place of St. Peter doth testify.”  But does this authorize the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory? That the venial offences of mankind are purified and purged away by suffering in the fire of Hades.  But no such doctrine is taught here.  We speak not of men, but of angels [spirits]; not of venial, but of mortal offences; not of fire purging away sins, but of faith in the Gospel preached by Christ’s own blessed lips; and the efficacy attending that preaching to the souls** of them that heard, availing at the last to the salvation of the disobedient angels of the days of Noah.  Is not this enough to establish a satisfactory difference? Or rather, complete dissimilarity?  Be it observed, further, that Scripture teaches of wicked spirits in general, who fell long ere the days of Noah, (as is plain from the temptation by Satan in the garden,) that not the bottomless pit, but the air, is their habitation, until that day wherein Christ shall cast the wicked “into everlasting fire prepared for [of course, therefore, not tenanted yet by] the devil and his angels  To that they know that they are destined, and into that they might have been cast at the word of Christ, before the great day, as we know from their beseeching Christ that he would not “command them to go out into the deep” or “bottomless pit,” (Greek) That the sea is not meant, is clear from the fact that they, in the bodies of the swine, rushed at once into the ocean.  (Luke 8: 31.)

 

[* If no distinction is made between the spirits in prison from ‘the souls of men in prison or safe custody;’ then the doctrine of purgatory is affirmed: as is the case presented here.  It was not to ‘the souls of men in prison’ Christ preached; it was to ‘the spirits’ (i.e. angelic beings’ offspring ‘the Nephalim’) in prison to whom He preached.

 

** ‘Spirits in Tartarus’ - i.e., a place within Hades reserved for spirits - not disembodied souls. – Ed.] 

 

The interpretation now given would also help us to an explanation of another passage, which has proved in the highest degree perplexing to commentators, 1 Cor. 11: 10, where St. Paul, treating of the attire of the Christian female in their assemblies, commands that she should be covered, “For this cause ought the woman to have power over her head, because of the angels.” In which expression two things seem to be implied; one, that angels are present in the assemblies of Christians, though invisible by man; and, secondly, that even they are not inaccessible to the attractions which in the early ages of the world prevailed on some of their number to leave heaven for earth, and become partakers with our race of sinners.

 

This will also receive countenance from an apparently powerful objection which might be made against this belief.  You say that the giants were all swept away by the flood: and we know that only the sons of Noah, who were none of them giants, escaped in the ark with their father: whence, then, came the nation of the Rephaim in Abraham’s day, of whom some remained, even till the time of David?  To this the text in Genesis affords an answer clear and pertinent.  Not only in the days before the deluge, did angels thus transgress, but “also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men of old, men of renown,” (Gen. 6: 4.)

 

Having thus traced the history and destiny of those giant angels, let a few testimonies be given from human authors that the interpretation now given was that of the ancient Jewish and Christian Church. Thus, in the Apocrypha, Wisdom xiv. 6, “For in the old time also, when the proud giants perished, the hope of the world, governed by thy hand, escaped in a weak vessel  (The ark.)  Again, Ecclus. xvi. 7, 8, “He was not pacified toward the old giants, who fell away in the strength of their foolishness.  Neither spared he the place where Lot sojourned, but abhorred them for their pride  And, again, Baruch iii. 16, 17, 19, 26, 28, “Where are the princes of the heathen become, and such as ruled the beasts upon earth: They that had their pastime with the fowls of the air, and they that hoarded up silver and gold?  They are vanished and gone down to the grave.  There were giants famous from the beginning that were of great stature, and expert in war . . . But they were destroyed, because they had no wisdom, and perished through their own foolishness  Lastly, Judith xvi. 7, “For the mighty one did not fall by the young men, neither did the sons of the Titans smite him, nor high giants set upon him, but Judith the daughter of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her countenance  Similar is the testimony of Philo-Judaeus in his comment on Gen. 6: 2, where speaking of the “sons of God,” he writes, “Whom other philosophers call daemons, Moses is wont to call angels; but they are spirits that fly in the air.  But let no one think that this which is mentioned is a fable  To which, add the testimony of Josephus, in his Antiq. Book i., chap. iii., I., “For many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength, for the tradition is that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants.  But Noah was very uneasy at what they did, and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their acts for the better: but seeing that they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children, and those they had married; so he departed out of that land

Nor must the LXX translation be forgotten: for they rendered the Hebrew by the words, “the angels of God,” which appears to have been the old rendering; and which words they also use in the two first instances that occur in the book of Job; while in the third, they have “my angels  So the Targum of Jonathan supposes the “sons of God” to be apostate angels, and calls them Schanchazai and Uziel, who fell from heaven.  But more particular still is the book of Enoch, from which some have supposed that St. Jude quoted: though this is not at all necessary, and may we not add, not at all likely?  That it contains nearly the same words as those of the apostle, is no proof; because the composer of such a work would of course adopt them as his ground-work: while an apostle would receive them by inspiration of Him to whom the past and the future is equally certain, and equally present with the hours of to-day.  But thus stand the passages in the book of Enoch, chapters vii. and ix.  “It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them elegant and beautiful.  And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other: Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.  Then their leader Samyaza said unto them, I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise: and that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.  But they answered him, and said, We all swear, and bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intentions, but execute our projected undertaking.  Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations.  Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of Mount Armon .  That mountain was therefore called Mount Armon (‘they called’) because they had all sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations.  These are the names of their chiefs; SAMYAZA, who was their leader, URAKABARAMEEL, AKIBEEL, TAMIEL, RAMUEL, DANEL, AZKEEL, SARAKUYAL, ERTAEL, TUREL, YOMYAEL, ARAZYAL.  These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them.  Then they took wives, each choosing for himself, whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabitated; teaching them sorcery, incantation, and the dividing of roots and trees (for medical purposes).  And the women conceiving brought forth giants

 

Again, the good angels in the ninth chapter complain, “Samyaza hath also taught sorcery, to whom thou hast given authority over those that are associated with him.  They have gone together to the daughters of men, lain with them, become polluted; and have discovered crimes to them.  The women likewise have brought forth giants.  Thus has the whole earth been filled with blood and iniquity.  And now, behold the souls of those who are dead cry out, and complain even to the gate of heaven 

 

These two extracts from a complete commentary on the text of Genesis 6.

 

But also take an extract from another apocryphal production, “The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs  After a warning against lasciviousness, the Patriarch proceeds as follows, using the example of the angels, “For thus they (women) seduced the Watchers before the deluge, and they continually gazing at them, mutually fell in love with each other, and conceived the deed in their mind, and changed themselves into the form of men  (Grabe. Spicileg. Vol. I. p. 150.)

 

These testimonies are adduced to show what was the general opinion entertained in those times upon the passage in question by members of the Jewish and early Christian Church; for the two books last quoted were probably compositions of the first or second century.

 

Procopius, in his commentary on the Octateuch, remarks, “Some think that Moses signifies in this place (Gen. 6: 2) the revolting powers of apostate angels:” and in another place that “Greeks call giants and Titans, those whom the Hebrews call Rephaim  (Lib. I. Reg. C.v. )  Moses Chorenensis speaks of the Rephaim as the same as the Titans; and observes that Holy Writ treats of them. (Lib. I., ch. 5., p. 17.)  Cedrenus borrows his account of the giants from the book of Enoch; and as Gryant relates, assures us, that there were in Egypt records which spoke of men of lofty stature, whom the Greeks call giants.

 

That the “sons of God” were angels, was a belief held by Justin Martyr and Tertullian, who both allude to it in their respective Apologies; by Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian, Methodius, Lactantius, Eusebius, Ambrose, and Sulpitius Severus, as the author of “Eruin” affirms.  Irenaeus remarks, that angels fell to the earth amongst men, but that Enoch was translated to heaven amongst the angels.  Clemens Alezandrinus, Strom. iii., says, “Certain angels, becoming incontinent, seized with desire, fell from heaven to earth  Tertullian, de cult. Fem., * [* Simply he writes, in his tract De Idol., tom. ii. c. 9; De hab. Mul., c. 2, n. 17 ; De velam. Virg., c. 7, n. 52 ; Adv. Marc., c. 18.  So Cyp. De disc. Et hab. Fem., n. 57 ; Euseb., lib. V. Praep. Evang.  The old Italic read “angeli Dei,” with the fathers in Gen. vi.]  “For those who first devised  these things (ornaments) were believed to be condemned to mortal punishment; I mean, those angels who gazed on the daughters of men from heaven, that this ignominy also might be attached to womankind.  For when they had brought to light before an age much more ignorant (than this), certain materials more fittingly concealed, and several arts which they unrighteously revealed (for they divulged the manner of working metals, and taught the natures of herbs, and made known the powers of incantations, and published every secret, even to the interpretation of the stars,) that which is properly,” &c.

 

Such was also the opinion of Ambrose.  “The composer of Divine Scripture does not desire that those giants should seem to be the sons of the earth, as the poets feign, but asserts that they were the offspring of angels and women; whom he calls by this name (giants) wishing to denote the great magnitude of their persons  And again, “The Scripture generally calls angels the ‘sons of God.’ Because their souls are not begotten by man.”

 

The names given to this race of giants in the Scripture are three,  - Rephaim, Nephilim, and Gebborim.

 

Rephaim signifies “healers hence it is twice so translated in the LXX., and once by the Vulgate.  The probable origin of this name is from the fact or the opinion that they introduced the art of medicine to man.  This idea is in perfect correspondence with the sentiments of the book of Enoch, quoted above.  And perhaps it may be allowable further to illustrate the matter by a quotation which Aeschylus puts into the mouth of Prometheus, himself a giant or Titan (thus translated in the “Family Library,” p. 219) :-

 

“Hear my whole story, thou wilt wonder more.

What useful arts, what science I invented.

This first and greatest: when the fell disease

Preyed on the human frame, relief was none,

Nor healing drug, nor cool refreshing draught,

Nor pain-assnaging urgent; but they pined

Without redress, and wasted, till I taught

To mix the balmy medicine, full of power

To chase each pale disease, and soften pain.

I taught the various modes of prophecy;

What truth the dream protends, the omen what,

Of nice distinction, what the casual sight

That meets us on our way; the flight of birds,

When to the right, when to the left they take

Their airy course, their various ways of life,

Their feuds, their fondnesses, their social flocks.

I taught the haruspex to inspect the entrails,

Their smootheness and their colour to the gods

Grateful, the gall, the liver streaked with veins

The limbs involved in fat, and the lung chine

Placed on the blazing altar; from the smoke

And mounting flame to mark the unerring omen.

These arts I taught.  And all the secret wealth

Deep buried in the bowels of the earth,

Brass, iron, silver, gold, - their use to man,

Let the high tongue make what high vaunts it may,

Are my inventions all

 

They are also called Nephilim, which means “revolters,” “the fallen  The word occurs in a similar sense if deserting one party for another in 1 Chron. 12: 19, 20; 2 Chron. 15: 9.

 

The last term is Gebborim, or the mighty, and alludes to their strength, as of a degree vastly superior to man’s.  This term is used of angels, Joel 3: 11-14: “Thither cause thy mighty ones (Gebborim) to come down, O Lord.  Let the heathen be weakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat : for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.  Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.  Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision  From these characteristics, with others which the reader may see on consulting the whole passage, it will appear satisfactorily that the time spoken of is that of Christ’s second advent, and therefore that the descent of “the mighty ones,” is that of his angels.  Another similar passage is Judges 5: 13.

 

Thus the word Gebborim, relating principally to creatures possessed of power far superior to human might, is capable of being applied either to good or evil beings.  Hence Nimrod is called Gebor, or giant, and by the same title is Antichrist addressed in Psalm 52. And Hab. 2: 5.  The same term is applied to the host of Antichrist, whence it appears probable that this is the host of evil spirits mentioned in a former part of the present work. (Jeremiah 5: 15-17; Joel 2: 7; Nah. 2: 3.)

 

Lastly, it should be observed that the general view here taken is corroborated by Gentile records, and the traditions of profane writers.  As the story of Deucalion, with other traditions, present manifest traces of the reality of the Scripture history of the deluge, so the poetic fables and early historic traditions of the war of the giants or Titans against Saturn, the fables of the Cyclops, of Hercules, and other mystic heroes, manifest the truth of the Scripture declarations respecting the fall of the angels, their strength, their violence, their pride, their destruction.

 

Their celestial origin was noticed in the tradition that represented them as sons of Ouranus.  Their vastness, and their war against heaven, are celebrated by Homer, Hesiod, Ovid, Plato, Lucan, Seneca, and others.

 

But the notice of their history does not cease here.  Being overcome by the Ruler of the skies, tradition represented them as cast into the depths of the earth, into a place of darkness and fire, called Tartarus.

 

So the Orphic fragments, “He cast them into Tartarus, to the depths of the earth

 

And Hesoid, Theog. V. 676, “The Titans dwell beyond dark Chaos

 

This very term, Tartarus, St. Peter uses, and thus authenticates in a general manner the notions entertained of the abode of these rebel spirits.

 

The true way of viewing such coincidences is not to suppose that the sacred writers gave in to the foolish phantasies and traditions of the heathen; but rather that the heathen borrowed their traditions from the narrative of Scripture, or the uncertain floating accounts which their ancestors handed down to them, respecting the great events that occurred during the time of which it treats.  Moreover, this is what the sacred oracles affirm.  Moses was the first of writers, and all writers that followed amongst the heathen borrowed from his luminous, divinely-inspired narrative, or from the various traditions which the fathers of the nations transmitted to their children.

 

THE END.