The Spirit World
MEN have conceived an inordinate curiosity concerning those creatures in the universe which are not within the range of their faculties, especially those in the heavens, beyond their ken. Because contact with these has been chiefly through messengers or legates, it has become common to call them “angels,” as if they all were occupied in carrying messages. Since so little is said of them in the Scriptures, early attempts were made to enlarge the literature on the subject. That is why so much is made of them in ancient Jewish writings, the Apocrypha, and such screeds as the book of Enoch. What is really needed is a microscopic examination of the Scriptures. That will protect us from the fantastic imaginings of men, which are usually employed as a background for understanding God's Word, or to enlarge the scope of our meager knowledge of the theme.
The chief difficulty lies in the translation “angels.” There was strong opposition to the rendering messenger in the English CONCORDANT VERSION, and the same feeling is evident in compiling the German edition. We do not like to lose our angels. Some have said, “But there are angels, so why not translate accordingly?” That is the point. Should a translator show what he knows in his renderings, of which everyone will approve, or shall he give what God says? There is no expression in the Hebrew or Greek for our idea, as expressed in the word “angel.” The word is not even a translation. It is a transliteration of the Greek aggelos. If this had been used uniformly, it would soon have taken to itself the exact force of the Greek. It is not always used for aggelos, but only when it accords with the traditions against which our Lord so strongly warned His disciples. It is a good example of discordant translation, of how our Bibles effectively conceal instead of reveal the truth.
That there are many passages which seem to insist that the mere word aggelos must mean a celestial being, we are well aware. But this is always in the context, not in the word. In many cases where we were once sure that an “angel” was intended, such as Gabriel, we have had to retract. “Angel” is interpretation, not translation.
MEN MAY BE “ANGELS”
The name aggelos is translated messenger when it is not angel. It is applied to John the Baptist (Matt.11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27), to his disciples (Luke 7:24), to some of our Lord's disciples (Luke 9:52), to the spies at Jericho (James 2:25), and once, by some inadvertence, to a messenger of Satan (2 Cor.12:7). The only other occurrences of messenger in the Authorized Version (New Testament), are 2 Corinthians 8:23, “our brethren . . . the messengers of the churches,” and Philippians 2:25, “Epaphroditus . . . your messenger.” In these it should be translated apostle, or commissioner. It is evident that our translators “knew” that there were only twelve apostles, so they did not wish to have the Scriptures teach otherwise. And also they “knew” that angels are celestial beings, so they could not apply the term to men. If they had not been so anxious to display their knowledge, and had rendered both apostolos and aggelos uniformly, we would have known much more, and the saints would have been delivered from many harmful traditions.
The noun, aggelia, is rendered message (1 John 3:11). There can be no question as to its significance. Hence aggelos is messenger. It is an occupation, not a “nature.” It does not distinguish between men and celestial beings. It may be used of men just as freely as of non-human spirits. When I was young I used to sing, “I want to be an angel.” This desire was gratified early in life, when I ran errands for my parents and at my vocation. Anyone can be an angel. All that is needed is a message. If we wish to harbor truth in our hearts we must speak of men as angels, or of angels as messengers, or the truth will elude us, and we will unwittingly be trapped by age-old errors, no matter how earnest and sincere our desire to know and to teach God's truth.
As from the Greek, the A. V. translation from the Hebrew also uses angel for two words, mlak and abir. The latter means STURDY, and is so rendered only once in the well-known passage, “Man did eat angels' food” (Psa.78:25). This, of course, is a clear concession to corrupt tradition, for messengers have no special food, at least it is no better, if not worse than the food of others. John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey. This was surely angel's food, for he is thrice called an angel! I have heard of American Indians who ate locusts when out on the desert where nothing else could be had. But they were not considered angels. I have never been able to compel myself to try this “angels' food.”
In Hebrew and Chaldee the common word for angel, mlak, literally signifies a WORKER, but, in usage, it is confined to one kind of work, that of carrying messages. It is translated ambassador four times (2 Chron.35:21; Isa.30:4; 33:7; Ezek.17:15) and messenger, nearly a hundred times. Messenger, in the so-called Old Testament, is always the same as angel, except 1 Samuel 4:17 (bshr, CARRY-NEWS); 2 Samuel 15:13; Jeremiah 51:31,31 (ngd, teller), and Proverbs 25:13; Isaiah 57:9 (tzir, agent), and Genesis 50:16 (tzue, INSTRUCT), according to my books. In nearly a hundred instances the rendering angel deceives the student into the idea that, of necessity, a super-human being is intended, when in no case is this to be deduced from the word itself. The use of angel is interpretation, not translation.
The moment we translate uniformly our eyes are opened to receive much light. Only a very small proportion of the celestial host are messengers. This is not the proper designation for all of them, but only for those who are sent with messages. As these are almost the only ones who have any occasion to visit the earth, we should not imagine that all the rest are similarly occupied. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. If we should send a few men as delegates to Mars, would it not be foolish for the Martians to jump to the conclusion that all human beings are messengers? We do not think that foreign nations are populated with ambassadors, because one of them comes to our capital. There are, indeed, hundreds of millions of them (Rev.5:11), but this only shows us how enormous the population of the celestial realms must be. We know that there are more stars than this, so the number, huge as it seems, is not great, for there could easily be at least one messenger for each star.
The chief havoc wrought by this confusion in translation is the unwarranted assumption that all “angels” must, of necessity, be superhuman, of a different “nature” from ours. And this is taught even where the Scriptures distinctly insist that they are human, or men, or mortals. For instance, the two “angels” who came to Sodom are called by the name anush, mortal, just like the men of Sodom. It is not only the Sodomites who called them this, but also the writer of Genesis (Gen.19:1,4,4,5,8,10,11,12,16). These are also called by this name in the previous chapter, when they visited Abraham (Gen.18:2,16,22). One of them doubtless was Yahweh, but surely no one makes Him an “angel.” He was a messenger, especially on this occasion, but, instead of being unlike mankind, humanity was made in His image, according to His likeness. There is nothing strange or unnatural in His appearance as a man.
In direct contradiction to the fact that Yahweh is called a messenger (Gen. 19:1,22,24), and, indeed, has the voice of the Chief Messenger (1 Thess.4:16), our English translation says, “verily, He took not on Him the nature of angels . . . ” (Heb.2:16). The actual introduction of a whole phrase, which is not in the original and which clashes with the context, opens our eyes to the fact that the translators have ideas on this subject which are not shared by the divine Author. The word nature is peculiarly unfortunate, in that it gives sanction to the false speculations concerning “angels,” suggesting that they are a distinct order of beings not in any case human, for our Lord did become a man. Later translators have cut out “the nature of,” yet the false impression remains, and is considered so scriptural that it is seldom even questioned.
But, some will say, does not Hebrews continually contrast “angels” with men? No. That is not the point. The first two chapters of Hebrews bring before us the fact that, while God had been dealing with the nation through heaven-sent messengers, now He comes in His Christ, Who is better than any of those sent before Him (1:4), Who is His Son (1:5), Who receives the worship of all of the messengers (1:6), Who has an eonian throne, far above His fellows (1:8,9), Who is exalted to God's right hand (1:13). To these messengers of the past He does not subject the future habitance (2:5), but, rather, He will put the heavenly messengers themselves under man when all is subject to him. The whole mistake arises from the fact that God has sent celestial messengers to His people. As Christ is also from the heavens, He must first be related to them, and then to Moses and Joshua and Aaron, the human messengers.
The Scriptures are careful to distinguish between the messengers of God in the heavens (which we call angels) and those which belong to the earth (Mark 12:25). The latter may marry, but the former are not sexed. This is supposed to be so well known that our Lord appeals to it without giving any proof. “For in the resurrection they are neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but are as messengers of God in heaven” (Matt.22:30; Mark 12:25). In Luke we are told that sons of the resurrection “are equal to messengers” (Luke 20:36). But today this is not known or accepted. Many passages are supposed to imply the opposite. And it is this uncertain sound which is making infidels of men. Theology and the Bible are at variance and they cannot believe both. So they reject both.
ANGELS HAVE NO SEX
The sex of angels is often a subject of speculation. Pictures usually give them a feminine aspect, with long hair and flowing dress, but in apostate apocryphal stories, and in traditional interpretations, especially as regards sinning angels, they are always male, for it is usually inordinate sexuality which is supposed to lead to their downfall. This matter is of prime importance. If angels, who are not human, nor even sexed, can unite with mankind, then we must also admit that animals of different species can generate new species, and so we throw open the door to evolution and throw doubt upon the opening pages of the Bible. This has led, and will lead, to the apostasy of the end time. Let us be exceedingly sure before we assert that the Scriptures actually and directly teach the mingling of these two dissimilar races. Let us not allow any reasoning from the Scriptures to lead us in this direction.
If, as the Scriptures plainly teach, the heavenly messengers have no sex, how can they have the emotions, the desires, the lusts, which accompany its possession? To make the chief sin of angels depend on faculties and functions which they do not possess, is a position which is utterly untenable unless solidly supported by actual statements in God's Word. No reasonings from that Word can possibly overcome its inherent unreasonableness. That the present writer has been guilty of this, and not long since, is freely admitted. He postponed his examination and revision of the subject until he had thoroughly worked over the Hebrew vocabulary, and meanwhile followed the traditions he had been taught, especially that angels had unnatural connections with mankind in earth's early ages.
A new rendering of Genesis five and six, and a more careful study of the chronology of the time showed him that he had been mistaken in confusing the days of Adam with the days of Noah. There may be as much as seven hundred years between them. In 1 Peter 3:20 the sin of the messengers is connected with the days of Noah. I once took this as a proof that “the sons of God” in Genesis six were angels, and that they are the sinning messengers. Since I now see that this is impossible, the whole subject has cleared up and I find that I have not been believing plain statements, but rather reasoning from obscure ones. I gladly make this confession in the hope that others will find a like relief. A few lines in the notes of the CONCORDANT VERSION should be stricken out.
The passage in Peter reads as follows, concordantly rendered:
“For it is better to be suffering for doing good, if it be the will of God, than for doing evil, seeing that Christ also, for our sakes, once died concerning sins, the just for the sake of the unjust, that He may be leading us to God; being put to death, indeed, in flesh, yet vivified in spirit, in which, being gone to the spirits in the jail also, He proclaims to those stubborn at one time, when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being constructed, in which a few, that is eight souls, were conveyed safely through water, the representation of which, baptism, is now saving you also — not putting off the filth of the flesh, but the inquiry of a good conscience to God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who is at God's right hand, being gone into heaven, messengers and authorities and powers being made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:17-22).
It is always well to have the whole context, so as to get the drift of thought. Suffering and reward is the subject here. Christ suffered and has been exalted. So will it be with those who are His. In passing, it may be well to point out that the sufferings of Christ, in this passage, are not sacrificial, those that came from God, but those heaped upon Him by men. We cannot suffer as a sacrifice. God will not deal with us as such. In this He is alone. But, at the same time, He suffered from the evil heaped upon Him by men, and in this He is the Example for His disciples of the Circumcision.
Several have objected to the concordant rendering on the ground that it inserts the word in twice — in flesh, in spirit. They would have it without, and make it read, “put to death flesh, raised a spirit.” But that is totally incomprehensible, and fails to show that these words are in the dative case. In is the characteristic connective of the dative, which locates, and it is absolutely necessary in a language like English, which has no form to distinguish the dative.
One of the strangest and most contradictory doctrines of theology is the assertion that men are alive in death. The statement that Christ was put to death, indeed, in flesh, yet vivified in spirit, is one of the props of this supposition. But when we remember the connection — suffering at the hands of men and reward at the hands of God — all is clear. Men could not kill Him through His soul or spirit. They did it by means of His flesh. God could not rouse Him by means of flesh. He did it by the power of His holy spirit, for the spirit alone gives life. Here we have the death and vivification of Christ. He was no longer dead when He was made alive. What follows took place, not in death, but in resurrection. He was not vivified twice. It included His body, which is spiritual, or spirit-controlled. One of the weirdest nightmares in all theology is Christ, His body in the tomb, His soul in hell, as a sort of phantom, visiting the prison-house of sinning angels.
WHEN THE “ANGELS” SINNED
The time when some or all of these messengers sinned is clearly indicated by Peter in his first epistle. It was when “the patience of God awaited in the days of Noah while the ark was being constructed.” This is usually taken to be a clear indication that they are “the sons of God” in the sixth of Genesis. The fact that in many Bibles all of this comes on the same page, may have suggested this conclusion. But if carefully examined, it is altogether untenable. There is half a millennium, at least, between the days of Adam and the building of the ark. Noah himself was not even born till a century after the days of Adam and he was five hundred years old before he began the ark.
As this point is of prime importance let us note the following facts. Genesis is divided into eleven “generations,” (1) the heavens and the earth (2:4-4:26), (2) Adam (5:1-6:8), (3) Noah (6:9-9:29), (4) Sons of Noah (10:1-11:9), (5) Shem (11:10-26), (6) Terah (11:27-25:11), (7) Ishmael (25:12-18), (8) Isaac (25:19-35:29), (9) Esau (36:1-8), (10) Esau's Sons (36:9-42), (11) Jacob (37:1-50:26). Note that Genesis five and the first eight verses of six deal with Adam and his generations. In five we have his male descendants. In 6:1-8 we have his daughters. The A.V. has obscured this, so we give a new rendering. The confusion has arisen from the fact that the Hebrew adam may refer to the individual or to the race, to the man, or to mankind. As this section avowedly deals with the generations of the man, it should be rendered accordingly.
“And it comes that Adam starts to increase on the face of the ground, and daughters are born to them [Adam and Eve]. And the sons of God are seeing the daughters of Adam that they are good, and they are taking to themselves wives of all whom they choose.
“And Yahweh is saying, ‘My spirit shall not abide in Adam for the eon. He is in their error, and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.’
“The distinguished were in the earth in those days, and, moreover, afterward, those who are sons of God are coming to the daughters of Adam, and they are bearing for them. They are the mighty ones, who are from the eon, mortals of renown.”
All of this belongs to the days of Adam, more than a century before the days of Noah, and more than half a millennium before the days of the ark, to which Peter refers. There is no connection between the sinning messengers and the sons of God.
DID ANGELS SIN LIKE SODOM?
Perhaps the strongest passage in favor of the sexual sins of the fallen angels is found in Jude's epistle. I candidly acknowledge that, for a long time, it seemed insoluble to me. I had a subtle feeling that all was not right in my understanding of the passage, but I could not define it. At last, while working on a German translation, I consulted the Elberfelder version, to see what they had made of it, and the solution stared me in the face. They translate, in like manner to them, but put in the footnotes, “actually, these.
” The likeness is not between the angels (them) and Sodom, but between the cities about them and Sodom and Gomorrah!
The passage reads:
“Now I am intending to remind you, you who once are aware of all, that the Lord, when saving the people out of the land of Egypt, secondly destroys those who believe not. Besides, the messengers who keep not their own sovereignty, but leave their own habitation, He has kept in imperceptible bonds under gloom for the judgment of the great day. As Sodom and Gomorrah (and the cities about them in like manner to these), committing ultra-prostitution, and coming away after other flesh, are lying before us, a specimen, experiencing the justice of eonian fire” (Jude 5-7).
Jude brings up three examples: the sons of Israel, the messengers, and Sodom and Gomorrah with the surrounding cities. These are all distinct in kind. There is little likeness between the sin and the fate of the three examples. The Israelites did not believe and were strewn along the wilderness. The messengers were not destroyed for unbelief, but for failure to keep, and for leaving what was theirs, hence they are held for future judgment. Sodom and other cities were burned up for fleshly excesses, and their land remains to testify to their doom.
This is not the time or place to give a detailed exposition of this passage. We are concerned only with the so-called “angels.” Our main contention is that there is only a general likeness, indicated by the word as, but no specific resemblance to show that the messengers committed the sin of Sodom or one similar to it. The words “in like manner,” which are often used to prove this position, relate to Sodom and Gomorrah, not to the “angels.” It is not like them (the messengers), but like these (Sodom and Gomorrah). All of the cities of the plain, except Zoar (Gen.19:22,23), were overthrown, and all the plain, and the inhabitants of the cities (Gen.19:25).
The word we render “habitation” occurs only once more in the Scriptures and is not found in the LXX. In 2 Corinthians 5:2 it is used of the celestial body which will be ours in resurrection. Therefore, I deemed it probable that it referred to the celestial bodies of these angels. The Greek word means a literal house, so the usage in Corinthians is figurative, for we will not have actual houses for bodies in the resurrection. It is unwise to transfer a figurative usage from one text to another. Only the actual literal meaning of the word is the link between passages which contain the same expression. The transference of special usages from text to text has become the source of much imaginative speculation. Some have even confused it with concordant study.
But what was the sin of these messengers? Not a word is said about the flesh or its excesses. They did not keep their own “sovereignty” and left their own habitation. Note the repetition of the word own. Every creature of God has its own proper habitation. For mankind, as at present constituted, it is the surface of the ground, on the earth. Men are seeking to leave it, with some measure of success. They are trying to usurp the realm that belongs to the flying creatures and the fishes. They are invading the upper regions of the air and the depths of the sea, and are paying a dear price for their daring.
In some such way, but with more success, the messengers left the housing God gave them, over which they were the rulers, somewhat as man is sovereign in his sphere. Man's “sovereignty” over the surface of the earth consists in his lordship over all God's other creatures in this same sphere. So, we may take it, the messengers failed to keep their superior place where they belonged, and where they were needed to preserve order.
It is possible, but not at all probable, that the word we render sovereignty may revert to its literal meaning, origin. In time it would mean beginning, which yields no sense. Of state or place, it would yield a feebler idea than sovereignty, for this practically implies that they were first as well as foremost. As we shall see, there is a relationship between sovereignties and messengers, which suggests that this is the thought in this passage. It accords well with habitation, its parallel here.
We are not told where the proper habitation of these messengers is, or where they are now kept. We can only mention possibilities, such as are evident to our senses. Men could be held with iron chains. Not so celestial messengers. Hence we are told that theirs are imperceptible. The Authorized Version rendering “everlasting” is absurd on the face of it. Only in theology will men endure such palpable contradictions as everlasting unto. The word may just as well be analyzed into its elements UNPERCEIVABLE, imperceptible. UN- is the usual prefix a-. PERCEIVE is a very common root id. An ending, -ios, makes it an adjective. Everlasting chains, which last until the judgment, is inane. Imperceptible chains is suggestive. Mankind is bound by imperceptible bonds to its habitation. It is only when we try to break them, seek to leave the atmosphere, and suffocate, or desert the soil and hunger, that we perceive the chains which bind us. Such bonds detain these messengers in their jail.
Another passage, which should be considered in this connection, is found in Peter's second epistle:
“For if God spares not sinning messengers, but, thrusting them into the gloomy caverns of Tartarus, gives them up to be kept for chastening judgment, and spares not the ancient world, but guards Noah, an eighth, a herald of righteousness, bringing a deluge on the world of the irreverent, and condemns the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to cinders by an overthrow, having placed them for an example for those about to be irreverent, and rescues just Lot, . . . ” (2 Peter 2:4-7).
It is generally supposed that these messengers are the same as those in First Peter and Jude, and there seems to be no reason to distinguish between them. The added information is very meager, but it helps to confirm the facts which we have found elsewhere. There is no hint of sexual sin. Indeed, the idea becomes impossible when we consider it closely. They are always supposed to be males exclusively. But what sort of race could that be, of one sex only? It would be a monstrosity, such as God could not possibly perpetrate.
Ordinarily, celestial messengers are not hampered in their movements about the universe. They can exist anywhere, even in the dense atmosphere of earth. It is possible, however, that they need light, the universal source of energy in the physical universe. So it may be that, they are deprived of light, and this constitutes the means of their detention. This is enforced by this passage, in which messengers are banished to Tartarus. This word is used in Greek mythology of the regions furthest from the light, and we seem to have no other clue to its significance. Tartarus is not “hell,” or hades, or gehenna, or the lake of fire. It is used for the detention of “angels,” only until they are judged. That which holds them fast is darkness, gloom.
Let it be emphatically understood that we do not know where Tartarus is, but we merely make a few suggestions as to what may be possible. As the eye sweeps the sky it finds some parts of it quite dark. As a rule a powerful telescope will fill even such space with stars. But there is one particularly dark spot, which seems quite devoid of light. This may be Tartarus. A more probable location, however, is found much nearer us. The moon does not seem to have any atmosphere, hence the shadows are very intense. This can be seen with the naked eye if it is directed at the border between light and darkness in the new moon. There are bright specks in the dark portion where the sun shines on a high peak. These are in intense contrast with the surrounding gloom. But the side of the moon which we see is illuminated to some extent by earth-shine. The earth reflects some of the light of the sun to the dark portions of its disc, so that it is visible, even in the new moon. But nearly half of the surface of our satellite is never turned toward the earth. We never see it. It never sees us, so it has no earth-shine. A shady place on this portion of the moon would be intensely dark. A cavern would be almost lightless even when the surface exposed to the sun is bright. And no one who looks long at the surface of the moon, with its rugged peaks and enormous craters, can doubt the presence of innumerable caverns, formed by volcanic action in the dim past. We do not know, but here may be the gloomy caverns of Tartarus. The moon is a symbol of the powers of evil. Possibly it actually harbors the messengers that left their own sovereignty and their own habitation.
My efforts to find some hint in the Scriptures as to an earthly location for Tartarus have failed. There can be no connection with the unclean spirits in the Gergesene demoniac, for demons and messengers are distinct, in different categories, and Tartarus was certainly not located in the demoniac or in the hogs, and they did not want to go into the abyss. This is rather a tempting place to locate them, for it will be the prison of Satan during the thousand years (Rev.20:3). But there is no hint that he has companions in his dread abode. And when the well of the abyss is opened locusts like horses came forth with human faces and women's hair and lions' teeth, with scorpion tails. Only their king, Apollyon, is called a messenger (Rev.9:1-11). The wild beast also ascends out of the abyss (Rev.11:7; 17:8). There is no hint that sinning messengers are in the abyss.
Another cause of confusion is the mistaken translation of the sixth of Genesis, as we have elsewhere shown. It speaks not of men, but of one man. It is in the singular, and here denotes Adam. In the fifth chapter we have an account of Adam's sons. This leads us up to the time the ark was constructed, a hundred years before the flood. Then the narrative returns, and we have an account of Adam's daughters in the first four verses of chapter six. We are told of their husbands and their sons. It is important that we always distinguish the “books,” rather than the chapters, into which it is divided. Chapter five begins the book of the generations of Adam. This continues to 6:9, where the next section, the generations of Noah, begins. In chapter six, the first four verses belong to the generations of Adam, not to those of Noah.
The versions are evidently lax. What sense can there be in saying of man (mankind), “for that he ALSO is flesh, yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years?” What others were flesh? Translated concerning Adam, it makes some sense. But a much better reading is, “he also is in their error.” That is, Adam went in the same errors as his descendants. This whole section, up to the fifth verse, deals with Adam and his daughters, as well as their husbands and sons.
Perhaps the strongest cause for calling the sons of God angels lies in the fact that this phrase is not used of men elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, while it is used of heavenly messengers. But this is all illogical method of demonstration. It proves nothing. It merely determines probability. If there is no decisive proof, it ought to be given weight. The further fact that men are so called in the later Scriptures, and that Adam himself was a son of God, according to Luke (3:38) proves that the sons of God in the sixth of Genesis may be men. When we remember that Elohim is also used of men (Ex.4:16; 7:1; 21:6; 22:8,9), this may mean simply that they were sons of human arbiters. There was no organized government in those days, but there must have been men who dominated their fellows. Indeed, the sons of these were dubbed “distinguished,” because they rose above their fellows. When we remember that Elohim is plural in form, and may be in fact, we may translate “The sons of the gods (arbiters)” instead of the sons of God.
CHRIST'S ASCENT AND DESCENT
I was taught that Christ, when He ascended up on high, led a multitude of captives with Him, that is, He descended into the lower parts of the earth, into one compartment of hades, where the souls of the just were temporarily confined. And, in a hazy way, this was linked up with His so-called “descent into hell” to preach to spirit beings also. But as I came to know the Scriptures better, the thought would not down, What has this to do with Ephesians? Christ's actions are closely connected with the measure of grace given to each one of us. The passage goes right on and names some of His gifts to the ecclesia, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. Why introduce such utterly foreign ideas by “wherefore?”
It occurred to me that the quotation from Psalm 68:18 might account for the introduction of such incongruous matters by my teachers. But this was no help. Instead, I found that the psalm said nothing of captives, but rather of captivity. The only captivity suggested by the context is that of the law, since the passage reads
“Yahweh is among them on Sinai in the holy place.
Thou dost ascend on high. Thou dost capture captivity.
Thou dost take gifts among mankind,
And, indeed, the stubborn are for a tabernacle of Jah, God.”
On Sinai the people of Israel were brought into bondage. Through our Lord's descent and ascension they will not only be delivered from it, but receive added gifts, which, in Paul's case particularly, was for “the rebellious also.” But it was impossible to see any descent into the infernal regions in the song of the psalmist.
The psalmist, however, says nothing regarding “the lower parts of the earth.” Where are these located? I can find no hint anywhere that Christ ever went into any subterranean region, especially not during His death, except that His body was in a tomb about three thousand feet above sea level — certainly not a low part of the land. The myth that He left His body behind is a sorry deception. His spirit was with the Father. His soul was in the unseen. He was dead, before He was vivified on the sabbath morning of His resurrection.
Recently I spent several months on the shore of lake Galilee. I lived about five hundred feet above the surface of the lake. Still the sign board, “sea level,” was about two hundred feet above my room. I was much impressed with the thought that the ministry of our Lord was largely accomplished in a region below the level of earth's waters. Not many portions of the earth's surface are below sea level. Death Valley and Salton Sea, in southern California, are striking examples. I am interested in a ranch seventy-five feet below sea level in Coachella Valley. But none of these compares with the gorge of the Jordan, and especially the once populous shores of Galilee. Here, indeed, are “the lower parts of the earth,” to which our Lord descended. How fitly it accords with His humiliation! He was low, low physically as well as humble spiritually.
Unlike His descent to the heights of Sinai, where His glory was a consuming fire, He came down below the common level of mankind, in grace, not to bring them into captivity to the law, but to deliver them from its bondage. The law demanded obedience, but grace gives gifts. His humiliation is the basis of all the gifts we receive. In no way could His “descent into hell” bring blessing to us. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers certainly do not come from there! So it seems that this passage in Ephesians is of no help to us in considering the subject of spirit beings.
THE MYSTERY OF DEVOUTNESS
God's present work of grace among the nations is primarily intended for the reconciliation of that part of the universe which is not reached through Israel. Through us they will learn the multifarious wisdom of God (Eph.3:10). They cannot see us, but they can learn of us through messengers. Therefore the apostle tells Timothy that the secret of devoutness, as manifested in flesh and justified in spirit, is seen by messengers (1 Tim.3:16). This is usually applied to Christ, but the order of the statements precludes this. He went up to glory long before He was proclaimed among the nations. Besides, God was never manifested in His flesh. That, we are clearly told, was a veil that hid, rather than manifested God. In Greek the word which is spelled OC. The abbreviation for God, usually used, is precisely the same as this except a bar across the O. This came to be added by mistake. The whole context speaks of conduct, and this is the secret of devoutness, not of God.
NOTE ON THE ANGEL WORLD
THERE was a time when I followed the usual grammars, and said that the word these, toutois in Jude seven, is masculine, and therefore it must refer to messengers and not to the cities to which the context pointed. Since then I have worked over the whole Greek grammar by means of a card index of every form, and found that I had to revise many of the ideas I had gained out of the Standard works on the subject, especially as to the gender of pronouns. I found I must rename some forms commonly called neuter or masculine, indefinite, as they were used of any gender, including feminine. In order to make it easy for anyone to follow the grammar in Jude 6,7, I will give the gender of the important words. Messengers is masculine or feminine. Sodom is in the indefinite plural. Gomorrah is feminine. Cities is feminine. Them is feminine. These is indefinite. Note that messengers does not decide the gender. It is both masculine and feminine. The two cities differ in gender, hence these toutois is indefinite. If it referred to messengers it should be those, as it is usually translated and interpreted.
A. E. K.
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