Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


2 Peter 2:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For if God spared not the angels - The angels were originally placed in a state of probation; some having fallen and some having stood proves this. How long that probation was to last to them, and what was the particular test of their fidelity, we know not; nor indeed do we know what was their sin; nor when nor how they fell. St. Jude says they kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation; which seems to indicate that they got discontented with their lot, and aspired to higher honors, or perhaps to celestial domination. The tradition of their fall is in all countries and in all religions, but the accounts given are various and contradictory; and no wonder, for we have no direct revelation on the subject. They kept not their first estate, and they sinned, is the sum of what we know on the subject; and here curiosity and conjecture are useless.

But cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness - Αλλα σειραις ζοφου ταρταρωσας παρεδωκεν εις κρισιν τετηρημενους· But with chains of darkness confining them in Tartarus, delivered them over to be kept to judgment; or, sinking them into Tartarus, delivered them over into custody for punishment, to chains of darkness. Chains of darkness is a highly poetic expression. Darkness binds them on all hands; and so dense and strong is this darkness that it cannot be broken through; they cannot deliver themselves, nor be delivered by others.

As the word Tartarus is found nowhere else in the New Testament, nor does it appear in the Septuagint, we must have recourse to the Greek writers for its meaning. Mr. Parkhurst, under the word ταρταροω, has made some good collections from those writers, which I here subjoin.

"The Scholiast on Aeschylus, Eumen., says: Pindar relates that Apollo overcame the Python by force; wherefore the earth endeavored ταρταρωσαι, to cast him into Tartarus. Tzetzes uses the same word, ταρταροω, for casting or sending into Tartarus; and the compound verb καταταρταρουν, is found in Apollodorus; in Didymus' Scholia on Homer; in Phurnutus, De Nat, Deor., p. 11, edit. Gale; and in the book Περι Ποταμων, which is extant among the works of Plutarch. And those whom Apollodorus styles καταταρταρωθεντας, he in the same breath calls ῥιφθεντας εις Ταρταρον, cast into Tartarus. Thus the learned Windet, in Pole's Synopsis. We may then, I think, safely assert that ταρταρωσας, in St. Peter, means not, as Mede (Works, fol., p. 23) interprets it, to adjudge to, but to cast into, Tartarus; ῥιπτειν εις Ταρταρον, as in Homer, cited below. And in order to know what was the precise intention of the apostle by this expression, we must inquire what is the accurate import of the term Ταρταρος . Now, it appears from a passage of Lucian, that by Ταρταρος was meant, in a physical sense, the bounds or verge of this material system; for, addressing himself to ΕΡΩΣ, Cupid or Love, he says: Συ γαρ εξ αφανους και κεχυμενης αμορφιας ΤΟ ΠΑΝ εμορφωσας, κ. τ. λ. 'Thou formedst the universe from its confused and chaotic state; and, after separating and dispersing the circumfused chaos, in which, as in one common sepulchre, the whole world lay buried, thou drovest it to the confines or recesses of outer Tartarus -

'Where iron gates and bars of solid brass

Keep it in durance irrefrangible,

And its return prohibit.'

"The ancient Greeks appear to have received, by tradition, an account of the punishment of the 'fallen angels,' and of bad men after death; and their poets did, in conformity I presume with that account, make Tartarus the place where the giants who rebelled against Jupiter, and the souls of the wicked, were confined. 'Here,' saith Hesiod, Theogon., lin. 720, 1, 'the rebellious Titans were bound in penal chains.'

Τοσσον ενερθ 'ὑπο γης, ὁσον ουρανος εστ 'απο γαιης.

Ισον γαρ τ 'απο γης ες ΤΑΡΤΑΡΟΝ ηεροεντα.

'As far beneath the earth as earth from heaven;

For such the distance thence to Tartarus.'

Which description will very well agree with the proper sense of Tartarus, if we take the earth for the center of the material system, and reckon from our zenith, or the extremity of the heavens that is over our heads. But as the Greeks imagined the earth to be of a boundless depth, so it must not be dissembled that their poets speak of Tartarus as a vast pit or gulf in the bowels of it. Thus Hesiod in the same poem, lin. 119, calls it -

ΤΑΡΤΑΡΑ τ 'ηεροεντα μυχῳ χθονος ευρυοδειης·

'Black Tartarus, within earth's spacious womb.'

"And Homer, Iliad viii., lin. 13, etc., introduces Jupiter threatening any of the gods who should presume to assist either the Greeks or the Trojans, that he should either come back wounded to heaven, or be sent to Tartarus.

Η μιν ἑλων ῥιψω ες ΤΑΡΤΑΡΟΝ ηεροεντα,<-144 Τηλε μαλ 'ἡχι βαθιστον ὑπο χθονος εστι βερεθρον,Ενθα σιδηρειαι τε πυλαι, και χαλκεος ουδος,Τοσσον ενερθ 'αιδεω, ὁσον ονρανος εστ 'απο γαιης.

'Or far, O far, from steep Olympus thrown,

Low in the deep Tartarean gulf shall groan.

That gulf which iron gates and brazen ground

Within the earth inexorably bound;

As deep beneath th' infernal center hurl'd,

As from that center to the ethereal world.'


'Where, according to Homer's description, Iliad viii., lin. 480, 1, -

- - Ουτ 'αυγης ὑπεριονος ηελιοιοπ

Τερποντ 'ουτ 'ανεμοισι· βαθυς δε τε ΤΑΡΤΑΡΟΣ αμφις.

'No sun e'er gilds the gloomy horrors there,

No cheerful gales refresh the lazy air,

But murky Tartarus extends around.'


"Or, in the language of the old Latin poet, (cited by Cicero, Tuscul., lib. i. cap. 15),

Ubi rigida constat crassa caligo inferum.

"On the whole, then, ταρταρουν, in St. Peter, is the same as ῥιπτειν ες Ταρταρον, to throw into Tartarus, in Homer, only rectifying the poet's mistake of Tartarus being in the bowels of the earth, and recurring to the original sense of that word above explained, which when applied to spirits must be interpreted spiritually; and thus ταρταρωσας will import that God cast the apostate angels out of his presence into that ζοφος του σκοτους, blackness of darkness, ( 2 Peter 2:17; Judges 1:13;), where they will be for ever banished from the light of his countenance, and from the beatifying influence of the ever blessed Three, as truly as a person plunged into the torpid boundary of this created system would be from the light of the sun and the benign operations of the material heavens." By chains of darkness we are to understand a place of darkness and wretchedness, from which it is impossible for them to escape.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For if God spared not the angels that sinned - The apostle now proceeds to the proof of the proposition that these persons would be punished. It is to be remembered that they had been, or were even then, professing Christians, though they had really, if not in form, apostatized from the faith 2 Peter 2:20-22, and a part of the proofs, therefore, are derived from the cases of those who had apostatized from the service of God. He appeals, therefore, to the case of the angels that had revolted. Neither their former rank, their dignity, nor their holiness, saved them from being thrust down to hell; and if God punished them so severely, then false teachers could not hope to escape. The apostle, by the “angels” here, refers undoubtedly to a revolt in heaven - an event referred to in Jude 1:6, and everywhere implied in the Scriptures. When that occurred, however - why they revolted, or what was the number of the apostates - we have not the slightest information, and on these points conjecture would be useless. In the supposition that it occurred, there is no improbability; for there is nothing more absurd in the belief that angels have revolted than that men have; and if there are evil angels, as there is no more reason to doubt than that there are evil men, it is morally certain that they must have fallen at some period from a state of holiness, for it cannot be believed that God made them wicked.

But cast them down to hell - Greek ταρταρώσας tartarōsas- “thrusting them down to Tartarus.” The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though it is common in the Classical writers. It is a verb formed from Τάρταρος TartarosTartarus, which in Greek mythology was the lower part, or abyss of Hades, ᾍδης Hadēswhere the shades of the wicked were supposed to be imprisoned and tormented, and corresponded to the Jewish word Γεέννα Geenna- “Gehenna.” It was regarded, commonly, as beneath the earth; as entered through the grave; as dark, dismal, gloomy; and as a place of punishment. Compare the Job 10:21-22 notes, and Matthew 5:22 note. The word here is one that properly refers to a place of punishment, since the whole argument relates to that, and since it cannot be pretended that the “angels that sinned” were removed to a place of happiness on account of their transgression. It must also refer to punishment in some other world than this, for there is no evidence that This world is made a place of punishment for fallen angels.

And delivered them into chains of darkness - “Where darkness lies like chains upon them” - Robinson, Lexicon. The meaning seems to be, that they are confined in that dark prisonhouse as if by chains. We are not to suppose that spirits are literally bound; but it was common to bind or fetter prisoners who were in dungeons, and the representation here is taken from that fact. This representation that the mass of fallen angels are confined in “Tartarus,” or in hell, is not inconsistent with the representations which elsewhere occur that their leader is permitted to roam the earth, and that even many of those spirits are allowed to tempt men. It may be still true that the mass are con fined within the limits of their dark abode; and it may even be true also that Satan and those who axe permitted to roam the earth are under bondage, and are permitted to range only within certain bounds, and that they are so secured that they will be brought to trial at the last day.

To be reserved unto judgment - Jude 1:6, “to the judgment of the great day.” They will then, with the revolted inhabitants of this world, be brought to trial for their crimes. That the fallen angels will be punished after the judgment is apparent from Revelation 20:10. The argument in this verse is, that if God punished the angels who revolted from Him, it is a fair inference that He will punish wicked people, though they were once professors of religion.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Though the way of error is a hurtful way, many are always ready to walk therein. Let us take care we give no occasion to the enemy to blaspheme the holy name whereby we are called, or to speak evil of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These seducers used feigned words, they deceived the hearts of their followers. Such are condemned already, and the wrath of God abides upon them. God's usual method of proceeding is shown by examples. Angels were cast down from all their glory and dignity, for their disobedience. If creatures sin, even in heaven, they must suffer in hell. Sin is the work of darkness, and darkness is the wages of sin. See how God dealt with the old world. The number of offenders no more procures favour, than their quality. If the sin be universal, the punishment shall likewise extend to all. If in a fruitful soil the people abound in sin, God can at once turn a fruitful land into barrenness, and a well-watered country into ashes. No plans or politics can keep off judgments from a sinful people. He who keeps fire and water from hurting his people, Isa 43:2, can make either destroy his enemies; they are never safe. When God sends destruction on the ungodly, he commands deliverance for the righteous. In bad company we cannot but get either guilt or grief. Let the sins of others be troubles to us. Yet it is possible for the children of the Lord, living among the most profane, to retain their integrity; there being more power in the grace of Christ, and his dwelling in them, than in the temptations of Satan, or the example of the wicked, with all their terrors or allurements. In our intentions and inclinations to commit sin, we meet with strange hinderances, if we mark them When we intend mischief, God sends many stops to hinder us, as if to say, Take heed what you do. His wisdom and power will surely effect the purposes of his love, and the engagements of his truth; while wicked men often escape suffering here, because they are kept to the day of judgment, to be punished with the devil and his angels.
Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 53

Like the angels, the dwellers in Eden had been placed upon probation; their happy estate could be retained only on condition of fidelity to the Creator's law. They could obey and live, or disobey and perish. God had made them the recipients of rich blessings; but should they disregard His will, He who spared not the angels that sinned, could not spare them; transgression would forfeit His gifts and bring upon them misery and ruin. PP 53.1

The angels warned them to be on their guard against the devices of Satan, for his efforts to ensnare them would be unwearied. While they were obedient to God the evil one could not harm them; for, if need be, every angel in heaven would be sent to their help. If they steadfastly repelled his first insinuations, they would be as secure as the heavenly messengers. But should they once yield to temptation, their nature would become so depraved that in themselves they would have no power and no disposition to resist Satan. PP 53.2

The tree of knowledge had been made a test of their obedience and their love to God. The Lord had seen fit to lay upon them but one prohibition as to the use of all that was in the garden; but if they should disregard His will in this particular, they would incur the guilt of transgression. Satan was not to follow them with continual temptations; he could have access to them only at the forbidden tree. Should they attempt to investigate its nature, they would be exposed to his wiles. They were admonished to give careful heed to the warning which God had sent them and to be content with the instruction which He had seen fit to impart. PP 53.3

In order to accomplish his work unperceived, Satan chose to employ as his medium the serpent—a disguise well adapted for his purpose of deception. The serpent was then one of the wisest and most beautiful creatures on the earth. It had wings, and while flying through the air presented an appearance of dazzling brightness, having the color and brilliancy of burnished gold. Resting in the rich-laden branches of the forbidden tree and regaling itself with the delicious fruit, it was an object to arrest the attention and delight the eye of the beholder. Thus in the garden of peace lurked the destroyer, watching for his prey. PP 53.4

The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciously wandered from his side. On perceiving that she was alone, she felt an apprehension of danger, but dismissed her fears, deciding that she had sufficient wisdom and strength to discern evil and to withstand it. Unmindful of the angels’ caution, she soon found herself gazing with mingled curiosity and admiration upon the forbidden tree. The fruit was very beautiful, and she questioned with herself why God had withheld it from them. Now was the tempter's opportunity. As if he were able to discern the workings of her mind, he addressed her: “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve was surprised and startled as she thus seemed to hear the echo of her thoughts. But the serpent continued, in a musical voice, with subtle praise of her surpassing loveliness; and his words were not displeasing. Instead of fleeing from the spot she lingered wonderingly to hear a serpent speak. Had she been addressed by a being like the angels, her fears would have been excited; but she had no thought that the fascinating serpent could become the medium of the fallen foe. PP 53.5

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 410.4

We are never to catch up the words that human lips may speak to confirm the evil angels in their work, but we should repeat the words of Christ. Christ was the Instructor in the assemblies of these angels before they fell from their high estate.—Letter 46, 1909. 3SM 410.4

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 31

The angels cautioned Eve not to separate from her husband in her employment, for she might be brought in contact with this fallen foe. If separated from each other they would be in greater danger than if both were together. The angels charged them to closely follow the instructions God had given them in reference to the tree of knowledge, for in perfect obedience they were safe, and this fallen foe could then have no power to deceive them. God would not permit Satan to follow the holy pair with continual temptations. He could have access to them only at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. SR 31.1

Adam and Eve assured the angels that they should never transgress the express command of God, for it was their highest pleasure to do His will. The angels united with Adam and Eve in holy strains of harmonious music, and as their songs pealed forth from blissful Eden, Satan heard the sound of their strains of joyful adoration to the Father and Son. And as Satan heard it his envy, hatred, and malignity increased, and he expressed his anxiety to his followers to incite them (Adam and Eve) to disobedience and at once bring down the wrath of God upon them and change their songs of praise to hatred and curses to their Maker. SR 31.2

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 299.4

Under the new covenant the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old—perfect obedience. Under the old covenant there were many offences of a daring, presumptuous character for which there was no atonement specified by law. In the new and better covenant Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour.... Mercy and forgiveness are the reward of all who come to Christ trusting in His merits to take away their sins. In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ.... The sinner is helpless to atone for one sin. The power is in Christ's free gift, a promise appreciated by those only who are sensible of their sins and who forsake their sins and cast their helpless souls upon Christ, the sin-pardoning Saviour. He will put into their hearts His perfect law, which is “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), the law of God's own nature.24 TMK 299.4

Read in context »