There are three different words
in the New Testament Greek that are translated hell in the King
James Bible. They do not mean the same thing, but nonetheless, they
are translated in the same way, because men did not want to make
the distinction. The three words are: Hades, Gehenna, and
Hades is translated hell 10 times
and grave once; Gehenna is translated hell 12 times; and Tartarus
appears in its verb form, tartaroo (to cast into Tartarus)
just once in 2 Peter 2:4. Two of these words (Hades and Tartarus)
are from the Greek language. The non-Christian Greeks themselves
applied these terms in their own way according to their own
religious view. We cannot, of course, apply the Greek meaning of
these terms to Christianity or to the Bible.
Tartarus in Greek mythology was a
place below Hades, reserved for those who had affronted the gods,
which was considered to deserve a worse punishment. For example,
Tantalus stole Zeus' ambrosia and was consigned to Tartarus, where
he was made to stand in a pool of water. But each time in his
thirst he reached out to take a drink, the water would recede from
him. There were also trees laden with fruit, but whenever he
reached out to pick the fruit, it would recede from him. We get our
word tantalize from this Greek myth.
We ought not to conceive of
Tartarus in the way the Greeks defined it, but we must think of it
in terms of the place where God confined the angels that sinned in
Genesis 6:2. This word Tartarus appears only once in the New
Testament, and it appears only in its verb form. 2 Peter 2:4
4 For if God did
not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into
hell [Tartarus] and committed them to pits of darkness,
reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient
world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness. . .
In Peter's first letter he made
reference to these angels without actually using the word Tartarus.
He wrote in 1 Peter 3:18-20,
Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in
order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in
the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which
also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in
prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the
patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the
construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons,
were brought safely through the water.
We have to make one correction in
the NASB translation above. The phrase went and in verse 19 is NOT
in the original Greek text. It does NOT say that He WENT AND
preached, as if to conjure up the image of a circuit-riding
preacher. The text actually reads that Jesus was made alive in
the spirit; in which [resurrected body] also He made
proclamation to the spirits now in prison.
In other words He was raised from
the dead as a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) and given a
resurrected body, in which He made His proclamation to the spirits
in prisonthat is, in Tartarus. His very resurrection (or
embodiment) was the proclamation. His resurrection into a physical
body made of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39) was the proclamation of
His enthronement over all, including the angels that sinned (or
spirits in prison).
It was proclaimed that Jesus is
King over all the earth, that all creation was subject to Him, and
that He had been given a Name above every name. A few verses later,
Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 3:22,
22 who is at
the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and
authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
His resurrection subjected all
things to Him, including the angels that sinned. In essence, that
is when the proclamation went forth into all the earth and to
Tartarus itself that He was Lord of all, that He had been given a
name above every name in heaven, in earth, and under the earth
The angels that sinned back in
Genesis 6:2-4 were called sons of God in contrast to the daughters
of men. This term, sons of God refers to spiritual beings that have
access to the heavensin contrast to earth-bound fleshly creatures.
Thus we see the sons of God standing before God in Job 1:6. In the
New Testament the term is used to describe men and women who can
become the sons of God (John 1:12) through Jesus Christ.
Genesis 6:2 also says that these
sons of God took the daughters of men as wives and produced
children by them. The Hebrew word for men is awdawm, or
Adam, which is the usual word for men or mankind. When the Bible
refers to the man Adam himself, it says ha-awdawm, or the
(man) Adam. The article the makes the term specific. Dr. Bullinger
points out in The Companion Bible, Appendix 14,
Adam, without the article, denotes man or mankind in general
(Gen. 1:26; 2:5; 5:1). With the article, it denotes the man, Adam.
. . .
With this in mind, let us read
Genesis 6:1, 2,
1 Now it
came about, when Adam [ha-awdawm] began to multiply
on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them [Adam
and Eve, Gen. 1:27; 5:2] 2 that the sons of God saw
that the daughters of Adam [ha-awdawm] were
beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they
Adam and Eve had both sons and
daughters. Adam's daughters were beautiful, and these angels took
them as wives. Verse 4 says that they had children by them.
Ultimately, the earth was so corrupted by this genetic mixture that
God sent the flood to destroy them. Only Noah was found to be
perfect in his genealogy (Gen. 6:9, literal). God's motive
is given in Genesis 6:3, which reads literally,
3 My Spirit
will not always [olam] strive (as in court)
with the (man) Adam in their straying, because he also is
flesh . . .
In other words, though these
other spirits (fallen angels) would attempt to fulfill the
prophecies by their own cohabitation with women on earth, the
Spirit of God will intervene and not allow this to happen. The
flood, then, was designed to thwart these fallen angels in their
The question immediately arises:
How can spiritual beings (angels) have children with physical women
on earth? The answer is that all through the Bible we have examples
of angels manifesting as men. In Genesis 18 we read that three men
came to Abraham on their way to Sodom. Abraham fed them, and they
prophesied that Sarah would have a child in the following
Two of them then continued toward
Sodom, but one of the men stayed behind to tell Abraham of Sodom's
coming destruction. Hence we read in Genesis 19:1 that only two of
them actually arrived in Sodom:
1 Now the tw
o angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the
gate of Sodom. . .
They had manifested themselves in
human flesh and were recognized as such even by the people of
Sodom, as the story shows. They even ate with Lot (Gen. 19:3) as
they had eaten with Abraham.
Angels are said to often appear
in human flesh. Other examples include the angel that appeared to
Balaam in Numbers 22:31 and another to Manoah and his wife in
Judges 13. If spirits have the ability to manifest in human flesh,
and if they can even eat food, then it follows that they could also
have the ability to have sexual relations with women and even to
produce children by them. Of course, they only had this ability
after taking human flesh.
These angels were called
Nephilim, or giants in Genesis 6:4. This is the plural form
of nephil, a feller, or one who cuts others down; hence, a
bully or tyrant. The root word is naphal, to fall. This is
probably the origin of the idea of fallen angels. Though
Nephilim applies primarily to their actions in cutting down
others, it carries this secondary meaning of having been felled by
God in the flood.
The angels are thus fallen, but
this is not to enter into the debate about whether or not angels
have free will. That is a separate question. If angels do have free
will, then they fell of their own free will. If not, then they were
caused to fall for purposes known fully by God alone. We must limit
our scope for now to the simple assertion that they are fallen. The
nature of their fall in the sense of their disobedience is given in
6 And angels
who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their
proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for
the judgment of the great day.
In other words, these angels
desired to become flesh and dwell with the daughters of Adam. Why?
Because angels are spirits, and they have the ability to manifest
in flesh, but what they did not have was a soul. Nowhere in the
Bible do we find that angels were given souls. The soul is in the
blood, Leviticus 17:11 tells us. Angels do not have blood. They
coveted a soul in order to gain authority over the earth, for God
made man a living soul (Gen. 2:7) and gave man dominion over the
earth (Genesis 1:26). In that sense, angels fell from heaven to
earthbut then fell from earth to Tartarus.
Jude then relates the fallen
angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, where the people indulged in gross
immorality and went after strange flesh (Jude 7). The term
strange flesh simply means foreign fleshthat is, in the Biblical
sense, forbidden sexual relations or marriages. The angels were not
allowed to marry the daughters of men, even as the men of Sodom
were not allowed to marry other men in homosexual unions. This is,
of course, one of the major social and moral issues facing us
today. In the name of liberty we are once again going the way of
Another intriguing question is
the fact that Jesus said the last days would be as in the days
of Noah (Matt. 24:37). We know that there were Nephilim
even AFTER the flood, for Genesis 6:4 says,
Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward
[Heb. ken, to set upright; correct], when the sons of God
came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.
Those were the mighty men [Heb. gibbor] who were of
old men of renown.
So we see that even after God
brought correction by means of the flood, there were
Nephilim who again took the daughters of men and had more
children by them. The Nephilim's children thereafter usually
were called Gibbor, mighty men, and Rephaim, from
rapha, to heal, invigorate. The twelve spies in Israel saw
these Nephilim when they spied out the land, and this is
what made the people most afraid to enter the land at that time. We
read of this in Numbers 13:32, 33,
32 So they
gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they
had spied out, saying, The land through which we have gone, in
spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the
men whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33 There
also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the
Gibbor); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight,
and so we were in their sight.
This verse equates the
Nephilim with the Gibbor. Joshua destroyed most of
the Anakim in Joshua 11:21, 22,
Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill
country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill
country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua
utterly destroyed them with their cities. 22 There were
no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in
Gath, and in Ashdod some remained.
Some yet remained until the time
of David. Goliath of Gath came from this family of Anak, where some
of these giants remained. David slew Goliath, and in a later battle
Goliath's brother was killed along with their sons (1 Chron.
If we are living now in the days
comparable to those of Noah, then perhaps this may have bearing on
the question of UFO's and so-called extra-terrestrials. If these
really do exist, claiming to be from other star systems, then the
most logical explanation from a Biblical standpoint would be that
they are a reappearance of the conditions during the days of Noah.
But it is far beyond the scope of this study to continue down that
path of inquiry.
By way of contrast and
comparison, in the New Testament the angel Gabriel (representing
God) came to Mary (Luke 1:26), and impregnated her by the Holy
Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20). She then gave birth to Jesus, the Word
made flesh. This was done at the command of God and at the proper
time according to the plan of God. So it was done in the lawful
It is apparent, then, that the
angels who sinned in Genesis had attempted to counterfeit the
incarnation of Christ. It was an attempt to usurp authority in the
earth, for this was one reason Jesus had to be born through a
daughter of Adam. Adam had been delegated dominion over the earth
(Genesis 1:26). He did not subject the world to angels (Heb. 2:5),
but rather to the son of man (Adam). But the purpose of the fallen
angels was to bring forth a seed (false Christ) having a fallen
angel as his father and a daughter of Adam as his mother (Gen.
Jesus was the Son of Adam, called
also the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Unlike the angels that sinned,
Jesus was willing to pay the price by dying on the Cross, in order
to give man immortal flesh. In His resurrection Jesus had a body of
flesh and bone (Luke 24:39) but was no longer limited by this new
spiritual flesh. He could change at will into a spiritual form and,
as it were, go to heaven. The purpose of creation was to manifest
the glory of God in both heaven and earth. This He achieved in a
lawful manner, whereas the angels who tried to do this in Genesis 6
failed because they sinnedthat is, they did it unlawfully.
And so when He at last triumphed
over death itself, His resurrection proclaimed final defeat to the
Also, in Genesis 6 the angels'
motive was to subject mankind to their despotic rule. But Jesus'
motive was to set men free by His rule.
So first, it is clear from 2
Peter 2:4 that the angels that sinned were put into a prison of
darkness to await their judgment. We also read in 1 Peter 3:18-20
that Jesus' resurrection proclaimed to the spirits now in
prison that He was King of the earth. The angels were the first
to attempt to usurp the throne by unlawful means. They took the
daughters of Adam as wives in order to lay claim to authority over
the earth. But God destroyed the earth by a flood and imprisoned
them in chains of darkness.
So it is obvious in studying this
more carefully that Peter was not talking about Jesus preaching to
men in Hades, but about a proclamation to the spirits or angels
enchained in Tartarus.
It has long been taughtbased upon
these versesthat Jesus went to Hades and preached a sermon to the
dead. Hades, they say, is divided into two compartments: Hell for
the unbelievers, and Paradise for the believers. Then after three
days of preaching, Jesus rose from the dead, emptying Paradise of
believers, and taking them to heaven with Him at His
All of this is a nice legend, but
unfortunately, it is based primarily upon Peter's statements that
we have already quoted. And here we run into a problem, because
Peter was not referring to men in Hades but of the angels (or
spirits) that sinned. But as we will see in chapter three, Jesus
went to Hades, but did not preach any sermons there.
Tartarus, then, is not the place
where men are judged either before or after the Great White Throne
Judgment. Peter's Tartarus differs from Greek mythology, yet the
Bible borrows the Greek terminology in order to describe a place
that is different from Hades, the place where spirits and angels