The Final Sequnce: Part 3

The Nether World

Contrary to the simplistic, largely ignorant view by our current culture, there are five locations (comprised in multiple terms) described by the Bible as “holding places” (lacking a better term) for the lost dead and the angels who rebelled against the Lord sometime prior to the creation of the earth.

Those five locations, and the terms used in the Bible for them, are:

  • Sheol/Hades
  • Death
  • The Sea
  • The Abyss/Tartarus
  • The Outer Darkness/Eternal Punishment /Eternal Fire/Lake of Fire/Second Death

[The last place, the Outer Darkness/Lake of Fire, is a place that now exists; however, its use and purpose are reserved for the future. It will finally and ultimately be populated as a consequence both of the Judgment of the Nations and Great White Throne Judgment.]

 


Sheol

Let’s begin with the OT; its authors knew only of Sheol. It was the undifferentiated location of all who died; that is, it was the domain for both good and evil persons subsequent to their death. In the OT it is universally viewed as a dark, permanent place: no one who entered Sheol was ever expected to return to the “land of the living”. It was consistently envisioned as being “low”, a pit, dark, somewhere underground:

Num 16.30,33
But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord. … So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

1 Sam 2.6
The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Job 11.8
They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?

Psa 30.3
O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.

Psa 49.14
As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd; and the upright shall rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no habitation.

There is a very informative reference in Isaiah 14 where it is abundantly evident that to exist in Sheol is not “soul-sleep” or any other form of “non-existence” or “annihilation” (such as the spectacularly stupid error maintained by the Watchtower cult). Rather, those who died are unmistakably presented as being sentient, having a full recollection of their former lives and the lives of others, with the attendant ability to recognize that others around them share the same fate as they currently experience. There is a very clear example of this in the OT:

Isa 14.3-11
And it will be in the day when the Lord gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved, that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say,

“How the oppressor has ceased, and how fury has ceased! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution. The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they break forth into shouts of joy. Even the cypress trees rejoice over you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no tree cutter comes up against us.’ Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. “They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.’ … “Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’ “All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb.”

Notice how those who were already in Sheol react when a well-known, evil ruler (the king of Babylon, in this case) is finally conquered by death and is rendered as powerless as they were. Notice how they viewed their state as permanent; their abode was to be their tombs with no hope of ever leaving. It was an existence of the permanent realization of a wretched, wicked, failed life; their statements appear to signify that they viewed their existence as simply the reminder of their own, useless lives. But, as we shall see in this series, Sheol is but a “holding place” until the time of the end. It will be at that time that true justice and punishment are meted out by the Lord Himself—a punishment so terrifying that the human mind simply can’t comprehend its true scope, though an understandable verbal description of that terror is presented in the Scripture.

 


Hades

With the completion of the NT more details of the Nether World were revealed. From the essential equivalence of its description, the NT (Greek) Hades [ᾅδης] answers to the OT (Hebrew) Sheol [שְׁאוֹל]. This is particularly evident in the Lord’s account of it in Luke chapter 16:

Luk 16.22-27
Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Several elements of this historical account (this is not a parable and is never referred to as a parable!) are striking and corroborate the details recorded in Isa 14, as well as to add details not revealed to Isaiah:

  • Both Lazarus and the rich man became inhabitants of Hades as a result of their deaths; their new state in death was nevertheless as sentient as they had been in their prior lives.
  • There were two vast regions: one that held those in torment, one that held those being given comfort, rest and peace.
  • There was a great divide between the two regions; travel between them was impossible.
  • The individuals that populated both sides had the full memory of their “living” life.
  • The individuals that populated both sides had the full memory of others of their “living” life.
  • The individuals that populated both sides had the full realization of the permanence their state.
  • The individuals that populated the torment side desired greatly any comfort that could be afforded, though none can, or ever will, be given.
  • The individuals that populated the torment side desired greatly to do whatever they could to cause others still living to avoid that dreadful place. This implies a change of mind—regret, if not true repentance—regarding their “temporal, living” lives, but at a time in which such a reaction is “too little too late”.

It is vital to point out that there is one detail of the Hades the Lord described which is not now the case, subsequent to the His death and resurrection. While I won’t here enter into discussions of the possible time this “comfort” region of Hades was “emptied” (lacking a better term), let it suffice to say that Hades, subsequent to the resurrection of the Lord Christ, no longer holds believers who die. Rather, the following is now the case as a result of the Lord’s resurrection:

2 Cor 5.6-8
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

It is evident that the Apostle Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly asserts that the lives of the Lord’s true faithful exist in exactly one of two possible states:

  • To be at home in the body: this is the life that we currently experience.
  • To be at home with the Lord: this is the life that begins when the only life that we are able to currently experience (“temporal, biological life”, lacking a better term) comes to an end.

It is self-evident that these are mutually exclusive states. So, whatever the specific details and timing of how Hades transitioned from the holding place for both the lost and saved dead, it now contains only the lost dead. Believers, upon death, are “at home with the Lord”—and it is certain that that is not and cannot be Hades!

 


The Sea

There are two additional places mentioned in the Scriptures which appear to have the same function as Hades, at least as holding places for the dead: death and the sea.

Rev 20.13-14a
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.

This short reference is the only mention of the fact of the other two locations: the sea and death. A close examination of the text in the original Greek shows that, in fact, a total of three distinct locations are mentioned: the Sea, Death and Hades. (I disucss the last two immediately below.)

Let’s look first at the sea: it is mentioned explicitly and separately (and only here): “the sea gave up the dead …”. John provides no other details; he simply states the matter without explanation or details.

[I won’t engage in speculation here as to who might currently be confined there or why they are in “the sea” in contrast to Hades or Death.]

 


Death

The original Greek provides two explicit indications of the uniqueness of the locations of “death and Hades”; the terms are not merely synonyms of the same place.

Rev 20.13
death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them
ὁ θάνατος καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἔδωκαν τοὺς νεκροὺς τοὺς ἐν αὐτοῖς

I’ve highlighted the verb (gave up) and the prepositional phrase (in them). The verb is an aorist active indicative 3rd person plural. If John had intended to equate “death” and “Hades” he would have used a singular verb form. A beautiful (and extremely theologically-significant!) example of this is found in the following chapter of the Revelation:

Rev 21.22
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
καὶ ναὸν οὐκ εἶδον ἐν αὐτῇ, ὁ γὰρ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ1 ναὸς αὐτῆς ἐστιν, καὶ τὸ ἀρνίον

While the NASB translates the main verb ἐστιν as plural, it actually is a 3rd person singular form. Literally, the text says:

Rev 21.22
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb is its temple.

It was John’s intention to declare that “the Lord God the Almighty” and “the Lamb” are one and the same being by explicitly including a pair of subjects with a singular verb.

[Both “the Lord God the Almighty” and “Lamb” are in the nominative case and function as the subject of the main (singular) verb.]

Returning to the discussion of Rev 20.13, John completes the phrase by including the unambiguous “in them”: this is a prepositional phrase with a plural personal pronoun as its object. The “them” of Rev 20.13 is the noun pair “death” and “Hades”; there can be no misunderstanding that death and Hades are two distinct, identifiable locations.

There is yet more evidence for this assertion in Rev 20.14a:

Rev 20.14a
death and Hades were thrown
ὁ θάνατος καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἐβλήθησαν

Here, John has a pair of nouns in the nominative case (the subjects, “death” and “Hades”) followed by the aorist passive indicative 3rd person plural verb ἐβλήθησαν (were thrown, cast out, thrust). Clearly, John teaches us that death and Hades are distinct; again, details of how and why this is so are not provided in the Scripture.

Like the Sea, we know essentially nothing of the nature of the “holding place” of Death, who is kept there, or how it is that those consigned to it came be held in it, in contrast to being held in the other places of the Sea or Hades.

 


 Abyss

There are only a relatively few references in the OT to the nether world apart from the OT term Sheol (presented above); these include concepts such as “pit”, “depths”, “deep” and “darkness”. There was much that the ancients did not understand about the Nether World simply because the Lord, at that time, had not revealed those details. As a result, there really is no analogue to the NT Abyss in the OT.

As we come into the NT, we encounter nine uses of the term Abyss (ἄβυσσος) [G12: noun: the pit, the abyss]; seven of those are found in the Revelation. In all but one of those references the Abyss is presented as the holding place of the fallen angels (demons). This is very clearly seen in the Revelation:

Rev 9.1-2
Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.

[Note: at first glance, it might seem that the NASB has arbitrarily translated ἄβυσσος differently in Rev 9 from the other seven places in the NT (that is, “bottomless pit” rather than the more simple and direct “abyss”). This assumption, however, would be incorrect. The reason for the difference is that John there uses a unique phrase to describe the scene:

v1: τοῦ φρέατος τῆς ἀβύσσου
v2τὸ φρέαρ τῆς ἀβύσσου

The first noun, φρέαρ [G5421: noun: well, pit] is used in three other places in the NT to mean simply “a well”. (cf. Luk 14.5; Joh 4.11-12)

The second noun (in the genitive case), ἄβυσσος, merely answers the question “what kind of well (opening)?” It is an “abyss-type of well (opening)”.

When John uses the phrase “the well of the abyss” (lit.), what he describes is the opening (the visible “well” or hole) to the depth (the invisible “abyss”) as the opening became visible. So, while the abyss remains invisible because it is a hidden, dark, deep place, its opening was visible to John.]

Rev 9.11
They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.

Rev 11.7
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.

Rev 17.8
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.

The common property of these verses is that they all describe the current abode of the fallen angels (demons) who were not consigned to the earth at the time of the fall.

[Please note that there is also no biblical support for the notion that any human ever has been or ever will be consigned to the Abyss. It is not my purpose here to exegete these details. Rather, I only maintain that of the angels who rebelled against the Lord, some were confined to the Abyss while the rest were constrained to operate on the earth to wreak havoc and destruction.]

The Bible does not specify the exact number of the fallen angels who currently are held in the Abyss, any more than it tells us the number of those currently allowed to roam on earth.

[The number of angels is very great. The Apostle John, in describing the scene in heaven before the Lord Christ’s return notes this:

Rev 5.11
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,

We may biblically and justifiably maintain that the number of fallen angels, while thought to be a subset of all angels, is nonetheless a very large number.]

There are enough details in Revelation 9, though, to enable us to make some “sanctified guesses” about how large that group may be—and it is very large. Once the fifth trumpet sounds, we find these details as the well of the Abyss is unlocked and opened:

Rev 9.1-6
Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.

Here are some observations:

  • The ghastly creatures that emerged from the Abyss were of sufficient number to darken the sky, such as thick smoke would do.
  • The operating theatre of these creatures was the earth, not merely some limited region of the earth.
  • They are intelligent and sentient, and bound to obey the scope of activity and operational limits that the Lord imposed upon them.
  • They had the (metaphysical?) ability to discriminate between God’s own people and those who had not been sealed as the people of God and were therefore subject to judgment.
  • They exercised the ability to cause great torment among those people under the Lord’s wrath.
  • The level of the global torment inflicted by these creatures was so intense that those tormented sought to die; however, the justice of God does not permit those persons (their perceived solace of) death for a period of five months.

[v6 is very intriguing; John provides no details of how this “inability to achieve death” is accomplished. However, taking the passage literally allows us at least the “sanctified speculation” that attempts at suicide to “end it all” are and must be unsuccessful. The details and consequences of this supranormal condition are altogether too terrible to contemplate in depth: what would a thwarted attempt at self-destruction “look like”? What happens to those who attempted suicide at the end of those five months of trial? Let it suffice to say that there will be unthinkably great, real, global torment and suffering because of the activity of these demonic creatures.]

Later in the Revelation we note that that demon who is to become the beast of the Revelation is currently held in the Abyss:

Rev 11.7
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.

[Technically, it would be more correct to say that the demon just identified possesses the human who will become the beast of the Revelation.]

One reference, Rom 10.7, stands out as the single “non-typical” use of the Abyss.

Rom 10.6-8
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,

The Apostle nominally quotes from Moses:

Deu 30.11-14
For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

There is, however, a notable difference in the Apostle’s paraphrase of Deu 30. Paul “condenses” the longer phrase regarding the sea with the much simpler Who will descend into the abyss?. It appears that Paul was not seeking to specify the same “abyss” that John details in the Revelation. Rather, he uses the term abyss as a well-known synonym for the “depths of the sea”. The thought is similar to these:

Psa 139.7-10
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Psa 140.10
May burning coals fall upon them; may they be cast into the fire, into deep pits from which they cannot rise.
[The “deep pits” here are pits of water, deep wells.]

Immediately subsequent to the Lord’s return and conquest of His enemies (both human and demonic) John records this:

Rev 20.1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

Up to that point, the devil has been able to roam the earth (that is, since his eviction from heaven) and attempt to work his own plan for its conquest and his rule as its sole potentate. (cf. 2 The 2.1-5) He will be defeated easily by the returning Lord Christ, and as a result the devil will be consigned to the Abyss for the one thousand year period of time generally known as the Millennium. (By inference, it appears that the demons under the devil’s control are also similarly constrained.)

[It is not my purpose here to exegete the truth and details of the Millennium. That will be the topic of a later, lengthy series.]

There is yet one more reference to the Abyss that indicates the extent by which the demons who are not currently confined to it dread it.  In the fascinating account of the eviction of the (multiple) demons from the man who lived in the region of the Gerasenes, we note this:

Luk 8.28-31
Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

We learn in the account that the possessed man was afflicted by many demons—they/it called themselves “Legion”. While Luke, probably for simplicity of expression tends to refer to the “Legion” in the singular throughout in the account, he nevertheless notes by the end of the account that multiple demons were involved.

The main verb of the last verse, “imploring”, is an imperfect active indicative, 3rd person plural. This form would lend support to the idea that many of the demons were individually and concurrently making a desperate request of the Lord Christ. [The demons (plural) kept requesting (imperfect).] That is, one of the many demons would make the request, then another, and so on; the imperfect strongly implies an overlapping of requests by the different demons.

There is something else to consider about that request, though: the many demons who were being evicted from the Gerasene man were terrified at the prospect of being consigned at that moment to the Abyss! It is reasonably easy to imagine the terrifying cacophony of demon voices that must have emerged from Legion in their desperate bid to remain free to roam the earth!

[It is also, perhaps, possible that the Lord Christ, in other instances of the eviction of demons, had confined at least some of those to the Abyss; hence, their aggregate desire to avoid the same fate.]

While the Bible says nothing of the specific conditions found in the Abyss, this passage implies something much more terrifying than merely the “inconvenience” of being “detained”. If Sheol/Hades is a place of active, experienced torment by humans—and it is!—then it is reasonable to assume that the Abyss is no less so for the demons who are confined to it. Given the absolute justice of God, it is likely an even more terrible place than Hades because these angels, who had been in the Lord’s presence and had been granted more privilege and opportunity to see the Lord as He is, showed spectacular contempt for that astonishing privilege! It is no wonder that the Legion begged the Lord Christ to not be consigned to the Abyss!

Luk 12.47-48
And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

 


Tartarus

Tartarus is an alternate name for the Abyss. As you proceed through this chapter, it is vital that you keep this in mind, since a detail of Tartarus will be seen below that has a direct bearing on what we are to understand about the Abyss.

[Please note: it is important at the outset to note that the noun Tartarus does not occur in the NT. It is found only in a verb form, ταρταρόω [G5020: verb: to cast down to Tartarus; to cast into the depths or lower parts], only in 2 Pet 2.4.]

The noun form τἀρταρος does appear in only a very few places in the OT Septuagint (LXX). Here are two:

Job 40.20
Surely the mountains bring him food, and all the beasts of the field play there.
ἐπελθὼν δὲ ἐπ᾿ ὄρος ἀκρότομον ἐποίησε χαρμονὴν τετράποσιν ἐν τῷ ταρτάρῳ.

Job 41.32 ( in the NASB, 41.24 in the LXX)
and the lowest part of the deep as a captive: he reckons the deep as [his] range.
τὸν δὲ τάρταρον τῆς ἀβύσσου ὥσπερ αἰχμάλωτον· ἐλογίσατο ἄβυσσον εἰς περίπατον.
http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=25&page=41
[Note: the NASB translates the Hebrew here; the LXX is similar but not an exact translation.]

About the only detail we could establish from these OT texts is that τἀρταρος is synonymous with “depth”, “deep”. The OT writers simply had no other information.

There is a single reference to the verb form in the NT, and it is very useful however. Note that I’ve formatted this text to highlight Peter’s reasoning:

2 Pet 2.4-10a
For

  • if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
  • and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
  • and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;
  • and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.

The Apostle’s apodosis is that “the Lord knows how …”; in order to prove his point, Peter presents four arguments, each of which is assumed to be true. Skipping the first for a moment, we see the obvious truth of Peter’s claims:

  • Yes, God judged the ancient world by means of a flood while simultaneously protecting Noah and his family.
  • Yes, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Yes, God rescued Lot and his family before that destruction.

The first point is no different: it is assumed to be true. God judged the angels who sinned. For my purpose here, I want to present the details of the nature of that judgment and how it bears upon this discussion of Tartarus.

[The discussion below is technical, and might seem unnecessary and drawn out. However, please “stick with it” and read/reread it until you understand it. It is an important step that shows the consistency of the Bible’s description of the current and future state of the fallen angels.]

At first glance, verse 4 seems to say nothing about Tartarus; the noun is not found in the passage. However, as I noted in the introduction to this subsection, only the verb form of Tartarus is found in the NT, and that single occurrence is here, in verse 4:

Before getting into the details, we need to deal with a variant in the text (as I’ve highlighted).

2 Pet 2.4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, ἀλλὰ σιροῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους

εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους

The terms would sound very similar in the original (which might have contributed to the fact of the variant in the first place); moreover, their (different) meanings are both compatible with Peter’s statement (at least nominally so).

σιρος [noun: pit, cave] [Note that the word is not in the Strong’s numbering system; if it was present it would be placed between G4617 and G4618. It is found, however, in BAG and the Gingrich Shorter Lexicon.]

σειρά [G4577: noun: a rope, chain]

 


First, let’s look at a close-to-literal translation of the text if we assume that σιροῖς is the correct reading. For this reading we assume that the dative case of the noun σιροῖς is to be understood as locative (that is, the identification of a place, location):

εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων [GPM] ἁμαρτησάντων [AAP GPM] οὐκ ἐφείσατο [AMI 3S],
For if God did not spare [the] angels who sinned,

ἀλλὰ σιροῖς [DPM] ζόφου ταρταρώσας [AAP NSM]
but to pits of darkness committed to Tartarus,

παρέδωκεν [AAI 3S] εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους [PPP APM]
delivered to judgment reserved

 

Second, now let’s look at a close-to-literal translation of the text if we assume that σειραῖς is the correct reading. For this reading we assume that the dative case of the noun σειραῖς is to be understood as instrumental (that is, the means by which something is done):

εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων [GPM] ἁμαρτησάντων [AAP GPM] οὐκ ἐφείσατο [AMI 3S],
For if God did not spare [the] angels who sinned,

ἀλλὰ σειραῖς [DPM] ζόφου ταρταρώσας [AAP NSM]
but by means of chains of darkness committed to Tartarus,

παρέδωκεν [AAI 3S] εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους [PPP APM]
delivered to judgment reserved

 

These are quite different.

However, there are two strong arguments, one grammatical and one contextual, that show us the second reading, “chains” (as instrumental), is preferred.

 


First, the point of grammar (as I hinted at in the above). The noun in question, σιροῖς/σειραῖς is in the dative case. In the first reading, we understand its use to be primarily a location (the locative use of dative case). This is the reason that the translation must be “to pits”—that is, to a destination. Peter has a destination in mind and so chose the locative use of the dative case to express it. However, to “commit to Tartarus” is already locative in meaning; in short, the phrase “to pits … to Tartarus” is redundant and clumsy.

With the variants I’ve chosen (σιροῖς locative of the first reading and σειραῖς instrumental of the second reading), each on the surface makes sense.

However, you’ll notice that if we try to reverse these (σιροῖς instrumental and σειραῖς locative), neither makes sense. If we tried, we’d end up with these:

but by means of pits of darkness committed to Tartarus [σιροῖς, “pits” as instrumental]

or

but to chains of darkness committed to Tartarus [σειραῖς, “chains” as locative]

Neither of these makes much sense. The point is we need to deal with the use of the dative case here, and the only rational possibilities are those which I presented above (σιροῖς is locative, first reading, and σειραῖς is instrumental, second reading).

 


Second, the additional biblical corroboration shows that σειραῖς (chains, the second reading) is the only one which has additional biblical foundation. This consists of two additional, and very direct and relevant Scriptures that the second reading is preferred. They are:

Jde 1.6
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,

Rev 20.1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

Both Jude and the Apostle John understood that the Lord has the means through which to restrain both the devil and his demons: “eternal bonds” and the “great chain”. The second reading presented above (σειραῖς, chains), is both relevant and consistent with both of these verses.

In Peter’s statement the demons were committed to Tartarus “by means of chains of darkness”; this is essentially identical to Jude’s description that the demons are held in “eternal bonds under darkness”. There can be no reasonable doubt that σειραῖς (chains) is the preferred reading in 2 Pet 2.4; Jude merely uses close synonyms to detail the same condition.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Tartarus is a synonym for the Abyss (both are occupied by fallen angels only). The detail added by Peter and corroborated by Jude is this: to be committed to Tartarus/Abyss is to be bound by “chains of darkness”. No wonder that Legion was terrified of the possibility of being consigned to it in Luk 8.

 


The Outer Darkness/Eternal Fire/Eternal Punishment/The Lake of Fire/Second Death

The last region to be considered in this chapter of the series is the Outer Darkness/Eternal Punishment /Eternal Fire/Lake of Fire/Second Death. From the biblical details that I present now, these are synonyms for the same place/condition.

[Note: at many points in my text to follow, I use the term Outer Darkness as the summary term, for simplicity.]

There is no biblical evidence that this place has any inhabitants at this time; as far as we can determine from the Scripture, it is currently empty. It has been prepared solely for the final judgments, at which point it will be the permanent and irrevocable fate shared by the lost dead (that is, people), the devil, and all demons (the fallen angels).

Let’s review the Bible’s teachings regarding this dreadful place.

What we learn of the Outer Darkness comes from the Lord Christ, Peter, Jude and John. (The Apostle Paul does not appear to mention it.)

 

Purpose of the Outer Darkness

First, it is interesting to note the (seemingly individualized) terms by which the Lord Christ, Peter, John, and Jude refer to this place/condition.

  • The Lord Christ refers to this place as the Outer Darkness, Eternal Fire and Eternal Punishment.
  • Peter and Jude refer to this place as the Black Darkness.
  • John refers to this place as the Lake of Fire and the Second Death.

That each of these expressions describe the same place may be unequivocally and biblically established by

  • the nature and details of the place,
  • the description of its inhabitants,
  • the conditions it imposes on its inhabitants,
  • and its permanence.

First, let’s look at why such a place exists.

Mat 25.41-46
Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

In the earliest mention (chronologically) in the Bible the Lord Christ tells us the purpose of the Outer Darkness was for the devil and his (fallen) angels. This place was created to be the ultimate punishment for their rebellion against the Lord.

Later, though, because of the obstinance and rebellion of mankind against the Lord, its jurisdiction would encompass the lost dead as well. Peter enumerates the sins of those that, as a result of one of the two final judgments, have reserved for them a place in the Black Darkness:

2 Pet 2.12-17
But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.

Jude closely paraphrases Peter’s words, comparing the sins of the fallen angels to the sins of men:

Jde 1.8-13
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

The Lord Christ, Peter and Jude clearly teach that the application of the Outer Darkness is still in the future as the final, permanent place of punishment for both people and the fallen angels. Again, note the verbs: “prepared” and the repeated mention of “reserved”—with no mention of any current inhabitants.

 

The Conditions of the Outer Darkness

The Bible is very clear that the Outer Darkness is a place of torment. There is nothing of the miserable comradery of its inhabitants, as we saw in Isa 14. The well-known Latin phrase,

Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris
"to the unhappy it is a comfort to have had company in misery."

https://www.quora.com/Who-came-up-with-the-phrase-misery-loves-company-first

may apply to Sheol/Hades, but it can never apply to the Outer Darkness.

Mat 8.11-12
I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Mat 22.11-14
But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.

Mat 25.26-30
But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mat 25.41-46
Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Luk 13.27-29
and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.

Rev 14.9-11
Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

The Outer Darkness is a place of unending punishment and torment. After learning the details provided in Isa 14 and Luk 16, Sheol/Hades seem relatively tame and non-threatening when compared to the Outer Darkness. Its description is so dark and terrifying that the human mind, truly, is incapable of grasping anything even approaching its full scope.

Before leaving this subsection, I must point out some elements which really are obvious, but which (I suspect) very few people think about—of that small number of people who actually do consider the terrifying truth of the Outer Darkness.

Remember that both in Isa 14 and Luk 16, the inhabitants could see and interact with one another. This will not be the case in the Outer Darkness: it is the condition of unending darkness. Its inhabitants will never, ever again see anything or anyone.

Notice this text again:

Mat 22.11-14
But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.

While its inhabitants won’t be able to see each other, the Outer Darkness will be a place filled with the unending and bitter shrieks of those who rightly deserve the full wrath of God Most Holy. The text above does not tell us whether those so condemned can hear each other: if they can, then the cries of others will serve as a constant (audible) reminder of their own interminable suffering; if they can’t, then the only sound they’ll hear is their own expressions of despair.

But, there is yet one more characteristic of that place which the Lord, alone, shares with us in Mat 22: its inhabitants are bound.

I suspect that some reading these words will respond: “But this is just a parable!”. Yes, I agree that the Lord clearly introduced this section in Mat 22 as a parable.

My response is: How does that eliminate, or even mitigate, this detail?

Moreover, relative to that place known as the Outer Darkness, is there anyone willing to claim, based on the evidence of Mat 8, Mat 25, Luk 13 (along with all the other texts that teach us in prose that is not parabolic), that somehow the Outer Darkness became symbolic by virtue of being mentioned in Mat 22? That would be completely irresponsible (but, then again, that trait is all too common in that which claims to be conservative, evangelical Christianity!).

From the many texts that I have presented in this chapter, the Outer Darkness can be regarded only as a real place of eternal punishment.

But, let’s assume for a moment that the Lord said this instead:

Then the king said to the servants, ‘Throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

that is, He did not include the detail about the uninvited person being bound before being thrown into the Outer Darkness.

Could/should we therefore regard the action of the casting out of the uninvited guest to the Outer Darkness as now credible—but the additional detail of that person’s being bound first as not credible?

There is certainly no evidence that the Lord Christ was trying to be “dramatic” here, seeking to somehow amplify something that is already “as real as it gets”. (In fact, anyone who accepts the perfection of God would be forced to conclude that the Lord Christ would be incapable of “drama”.)

I believe that there is only one way to understand this detail: it is an accurate description of exactly what will take place to every being that will be eternally consigned to the Outer Darkness: they are bound before being cast into it.

Remember, I’ve already shown that the Lord binds the fallen angels who were consigned to the Abyss; the Revelation makes it clear that the devil will be bound when consigned to the Abyss during the Lord’s rule on earth. It is no mental stretch to accept that those who are to endure His eternal punishment will likewise be bound.

In summary, to be an inhabitant of the Outer Darkness is:

  • To be in a permanent place with no hope of ever leaving it.
  • To be eternally in the darkness, devoid of ever seeing anything again.
  • To be in the Lake of Fire is the very definition of torment.
  • To be bound, incapable of independent movement.
  • To be in the condition of unending bitterness and cries of anguish.
  • To be, essentially, alone forever.

[I assume that some will object and say: "But how can a Lake of Fire also be darkness?"

My reply is: the Lord tells us the place is the Outer Darkness and that it is the Lake of Fire. I don’t have to understand how He can create such a place with seemingly mutually exclusive properties; I’m only required to believe what He teaches me.]

 

Additional Descriptions of the Outer Darkness

The Outer Darkness is also called the Lake of Fire and the Second Death:

Rev 19.20
And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.

Rev 20.7-10
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Rev 20.13-15
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev 20.6
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Rev 2.11
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.

Rev 21.7-8
He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

 

The Inhabitants of the Outer Darkness

I detailed above the facts that the Outer Darkness is the permanent destination and punishment for the lost dead and all the fallen angels. John, though, provides another description of the human inhabitants of this dreadful place:

Rev 22.14-15
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Literally, the worst of all humanity and fallen angels are placed in the same expanse of darkness for all eternity. However, it is important to note here that the Bible appears to indicate that the Outer Darkness is so large that each of its inhabitants will never encounter another living being in that place (as I showed above).

 

The Permanence of the Outer Darkness

One of the common characteristics for the locations of Sheol/Hades, Death, The Sea and The Abyss/Tartarus is that they all are temporary. The time will come in which all their inhabitants will be delivered over to the permanence of the Outer Darkness.

Mat 25.41-46
Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; … These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Jde 1.13
wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

Rev 14.11
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night
, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

Rev 20.10
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

There is an OT Scripture which captures this permanence in a particularly striking way:

Psa 88.3-5
For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and they are cut off from Your hand.

We properly understand that the Almighty is infinite: He has no limits; His understanding and wisdom are perfect, lacking nothing; His holiness is complete and consistent; He can never be surprised because He already knows all things; and there are many other characteristics such as these.

How is it, then, that the Psalmist speaks of the Lord “not remembering”? Does He somehow, out of carelessness, age, indifference, distraction, etc., “forget” something?

No!

Rather, the Psalmist indicates something which must be a deliberate act by the Lord: He chooses to forget (ultimately), for all eternity, about those who will forever be under His judgment. Moreover, if this “not remembering” is deliberate—and I believe that this text teaches us exactly that—then it must also be true that He will never change His mind regarding those in permanent punishment and torment, since the Lord will never, ever, again think of those people and fallen angels. They truly are in the Outer Darkness, permanently separated from the light which is the Lord alone.

A very well-known text comes to mind when considering the permanence of the punishment of the Outer Darkness, and it is this:

Heb 4.13 [ESV]
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Something the Lord Christ said to Nicodemus also applies here:

Joh 3.19-20
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

As this series has shown, the Lord will judge mankind. The truth regarding the Outer Darkness shows that it is vital that we understand that the Lord can’t be ignored and is no One with whom we may trifle with impunity. Those who loved darkness because of their innate evil will, by the perfect justice of the Lord Christ, experience darkness—forever!