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>The only test of any analysis is its truth

2008 November 9 2 comments

>I am currently reading America’s Great Depression by Murray N. Rothbard. He makes an interesting comment concerning critiques of Austrian economic theory. If it was included in the first edition, this comment was made in 1963:

Hayek believes that Mises’s theory is somehow deficient because it is exogenous—because it holds that the generation of business cycles stems from interventionary acts rather than from acts of the market itself. This argument is difficult to fathom. Processes are either analyzed correctly or incorrectly; the only test of any analysis is its truth, not whether it is exogenous or endogenous. If the process is really exogenous, then the analysis should reveal this fact; the same holds true for endogenous processes. No particular virtue attaches to a theory because it is one or the other.

I found this reminiscent of the intelligent design debate. My substitutions bolded.

Evolutionists believe that intelligent design theory is somehow deficient because it is non-naturalistic—because it holds that the generation of genetic information stems from interventionary acts rather than from acts of the organism itself. This argument is difficult to fathom. Processes are either analyzed correctly or incorrectly; the only test of any analysis is its truth, not whether it is naturalistic or non-naturalistic. If the process is really non-naturalistic, then the analysis should reveal this fact; the same holds true for naturalistic processes. No particular virtue attaches to a theory because it is one or the other.

>Does temporal punishment attenuate eternal punishment?

2008 January 21 6 comments

>This is a question I have pondered but have never read about elsewhere. I tend to think that hell will have degrees of punishment. Just as believers will be rewarded for their devotion to Christ, and that reward will vary, I think it is possible that the wicked man’s punishment may be dependant on his sin. All sin is not equal and it is reasonable to think that punishment will match the crime. Of course God will take into consideration our heart, and an adulterous Christian may be more sinful than an adulterous infidel.

Jesus refers to men being hit with few or many lashes.

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12)

Jesus also mentions men can be more severely punished.

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Mark 12)

The proposal I wish to suggest (at least for consideration) is that punishment on earth for wickedness means that punishment in eternity will be less.

I am suggesting that a murderer who is caught and imprisoned or sentenced to death receives a less nasty Hades (or possibly subsequent hell) than the man who is not caught or who is excused by a corrupt justice system (though in the later example the unjust judge may wear some of the guilt). This assumes all other things being equal such as the state of the murderer’s heart and the lack of repentance before death.

There is no direct biblical evidence for this proposal, and I do hold it or consider it tentatively, but it seems consistent with Scripture.

I am suggesting this is the case because they have already received some of their punishment.

If I am incorrect it is still possible that a man is changed by the temporal punishment such that his heart is less opposed to God. Due to the lessening of his hatred of God his eternal punishment may be less severe, not because he has received his punishment in part.

If I am correct about this it has implications in biblical exegesis and God’s expectations of government.

In terms of biblical understanding, temporal judgment will be seen as having an aspect of mercy. Those whom God judged in Sodom and those whom the Israelites destroyed in Canaan were already wicked. They had decided on a destiny without God. Their eternal dwelling place is unpleasant, yet possibly less than it may have been had God not acted decisively in the situation. Leviticus hints at this when God explains the disaster he will send if they disobey him. Progressive punishments thru to exile are promised if they persist in disobeying him. But even if progressive judgments finally result in exile, God says, on the condition of repentance,

Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 26)

Even in judgment there is the desire of God that we repent, and his actions, while just, are tempered with mercy and desire for us to return to him. Perhaps even final temporal judgments are actioned so that eternal ones will be less severe.

In terms of government, this brings an even greater responsibility to those who rule us. Failure to punish the wicked not only makes life more unpleasant for the righteous, it means that eternity may be worse for those than it could have been. Of course God’s punishment will be just and appropriate, it is just that with poor government the wicked man is able to clock up that much more wickedness and not have any of it dealt with this side of death. Letting the evil man away with his actions may not be a kindness of a despot to his unjust cronies, rather a greater evil delayed. Interesting that Satan can lead a man to curse his friends while that man thinks he is blessing them.

>Who gets saved?

2007 July 24 Leave a comment

>The question is not infrequently raised by those within and without the church about salvation thru Christ alone. It is asked, “What about those who have never heard? ” Can any outside the church can get into heaven?

There are actually several groups to consider with this question and my understanding comes thru trying to make sense of all of them. My thoughts are tentative and I am happy to adjust it if I am shown to be scripturally incorrect. Salvation is clearly thru Christ. Christianity states that men only get heaven thru Christ and I am not seeking in this post to defend this–the Bible states that we are fallen and deserve death. In terms of justice, we all deserve hell; that Christ would save any is due to his mercy. We cannot earn our salvation and it is Christ’s blood that allows our sin to be forgiven. My question is, who can the blood cover?

From a salvation perspective history is divided at the cross and resurrection. This divides mankind into 2 groups. However these can further be divided into those inside and outside covenantial communities. For those prior to Christ the covenential community were those who followed Yahweh. After Christ it is the true church. Can those outside those groups get into heaven?

Exclusivists claim that only those who are inside these communities are covered by Christ’s blood and thus get entry into heaven. Inclusives say that others can get in, sometimes including people from other religions. Universalists believe that everyone eventually will get into heaven. I would consider myself to be an extended exclusivist. Strict exclusives may object to that and suggest I am a limited inclusivist, though I prefer the former as I think entry to heaven is completely tied up in following Jesus.

Previous posts have shown my views on salvation. The saved are those who follow Christ. Repentance has to do with turning around, turning from behaviour that results in death to walking in the ways of God. If this is the case then can people who have never heard the gospel follow Jesus?

One cannot reasonably follow someone they have never heard of. They can however know something of Christ indirectly. Romans informs us there is enough in natural revelation to point to a creator. Because the Holy Spirit is always at work, even amongst the unsaved, he can in some sense draw men to God. The knowledge of God these people have is very limited compared to what we have with the more specific revelation of the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit indwelling us, but it is still knowledge.

I think it possible for men to attempt to live for God in as much as they know. People living before and after the cross may try to be obedient to what they think God requires of them based on a desire to please God. They are still sinners and fail at times. Their obedience is imperfect because of imperfect knowledge. Sin that is committed is still sin even when we don’t know that it is, sincerity cannot override sin; but the punishment may be less based on incomplete awareness.

Because these people are sinners they deserve death as we all do. But I do wonder whether Jesus will allow his blood to cover those who truly wish to live for God as best they know how. It is as if they are looking for God all their lives and when they die and face Christ they recognise him as the one they were looking for.

In the final book of the Narnian Chronicles, The Last Battle, when night falls on Narnia, the creatures are all forced to look at Aslan:

But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face, I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly—it was fear and hatred:… And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow,… But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right. There were some queer specimens among them.

While this is fiction, I think there is something to Lewis’ analogy. We can’t get our theology from fiction though, so is there anything in Scripture that suggests this?

Passages about Nineveh and the queen of the South may give some clues. Though one could argue these people came into a relationship with Yahweh it was possibly based on less extensive knowledge than that of the Hebrews.

Comments about god-fearing Gentiles suggest these persons were on the path to heaven with perhaps incomplete knowledge; note how Cornelius still needed to be told about Jesus. These either pre-date Christ or were perhaps proselytes so do not directly equate to the current situation. But for those who have never heard of Christ, how is their situation different from others pre-Christ outside God’s covenant?

Jesus tells a parable about sheep and goats. Many interpretors apply this to Christians but some apply it specifically to those who have no direct knowledge of Christ.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

The setting is the gathering of the nations. This is perhaps a pointer to not equating the sheep with Christians and the goats with non-Christians. A second pointer is that the individuals of the nations are judged by their works. But there is a third feature that points away from this being about Christians and non-Christians. In discussing this with my pastor he suggested that the parable is very likely to be about those who have never heard the gospel because the sheep are surprised by the king’s comments. The reaction of the sheep is not one that would seem likely of Christians who have already been told to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked. Whereas those who seek righteousness may do these things yet not know they are doing it for Jesus.

And what of the idea that Christ avails his blood to cover those who only meet him after death? Firstly scripture suggests that we need to make our decision be
fore death (and these people have), not that the power of atonement can only be applied before death. And secondly, this is the situation of those in covenential relationship with God pre-Christ such as Noah, Abraham and David. Christ did not die until after their death but it is still Christ’s death that avails them heaven—incidentally, this is consistent with them going to Sheol after death until, at least, Christ’s resurrection.

If my conclusion is true, and I am cautious about my conclusions, why evangelise? Why take the gospel to those who have never heard?

Because choosing God without the gospel is probably not common. Telling those who are seeking God about Jesus gives them joy in knowing Jesus now, security of their future, power to avoid sin, encouragement to tell others. And for the majority who are heading to hell it is the opportunity to turn. The gospel is the power of salvation, it convicts sinners who repent and choose life.

>Who goes where? Part 2

2007 March 6 1 comment

>We have established that Jesus did not ascend to heaven between his death and resurrection by Jesus’ own words. Jesus subsequently ascended to heaven 40 days after the resurrection having spent time with his followers (Luk 24:51; Act 1:3). Peter expounds on Jesus’ ascension:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“The Lord said to my Lord,/
Sit at my right hand,/
until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Acts 2:33-35 ESV)

I think it is likely that the righteous were taken from Hades to heaven following Christ’s resurrection. We do know that those who die as Christians, that is after the resurrection, go to heaven:

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV)

Paul also makes the comment:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21-24, ESV).

This makes sense if Paul thought that he would go to heaven to be with Jesus when he died. This would be nonsensical if Paul thought he went to Hades or that his soul slept while he waited for the judgment.

The unrighteous remain in the pit in Sheol. Those who don’t know Jesus go to Sheol at their death. Both await the judgment. This is possibly what Peter is alluding to in the following passage:

…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,… (2 Peter 2:9 ESV)

though I concede that this verse is difficult to translate. At the end of the age all will be resurrected and face the judgment. It is at this time men and angels who have rejected Jesus are cast into hell.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 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. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)

And the most straightforward understanding is that it is everlasting, conscious and unpleasant.

…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10 ESV)

Hell was not made for men but for angels. In choosing to disobey God it became a possibility for humans. But for those who have chosen to follow Jesus our punishment in laid on him and he promises eternity with the Father.

To summarise more fully:

  • Hell was created for the fallen angels.
  • Hades (Sheol) was created for man because of the fall and the subsequent pending death.
  • Man goes to Hades at death, the righteous to Paradise and the wicked to the Abyss (pit).
  • Some fallen angels are in Tartarus which is the deepest part of the Abyss.
  • Inhabitants of Hades are conscious
  • Jesus descended to Hades at his death then rose on the third day and did not go to heaven during that time.
  • Jesus subsequently ascended to heaven.
  • Christians go to heaven at their death.
  • Judgment happens at the end of the age.
  • Fallen angels and men who have rejected Christ are cast into hell.
Categories: afterlife, judgment

>Who goes where? Part 1

2007 March 4 2 comments

>Because of the fall of the angels God created hell. Jesus informs us of this:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….’ (Matthew 25:41 ESV)

The eternal fire does not appear to have been created for man. It was created for the evil angels, presumably soon after their fall, and is in existence now. However I contend that it is currently empty. Hell is also described as the hell of fire (Mat 5:22), the eternal fire (Mat 25:41), unquenchable fire (Mar 9:23), the lake of fire that burns with sulfur (Rev 19:20; 20:10,14-15). It is a place where the inhabitants will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10), where both soul and body are destroyed by God (Mat 10:28).

So what happens to man? Man was not created to die. Death, both man and sentient animals, came as a result of the fall.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that [or when] you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

When humans died they went to Sheol. Sheol is translated into Greek as Hades in the Septuagint and the bible uses this word in the New Testament. Hades may be used in the context of suffering (or punishment) after death. That is an appropriate albeit restricted meaning, and Hades is generally the place of the dead. A helpful bible translation would use Hades in both the Old and New Testaments to help with interpretation and understanding. Scripture clearly understands Hades to be a real place. It may have metaphorical meaning but words that are used as metaphors also have a literal meaning. Using head as a metaphor for leader does not deny that head refers to a part of the body as well.

Both the good and evil went to Hades, but there is distinction between them. The wicked were cast into the pit (a word that meant a hole in the ground (Gen 37:19)) which was descriptive of the part of Hades that was unpleasant and reserved for evil men. The New Testament equivalent is Abyss—also a word (like pit) that can have both Hades and non Hades connotations.

Of Isaac it is said: “…and Isaac expired and died and he was gathered to his people.” (Gen 35:29). Jacob said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” (Gen 37:35). From this we can see that Jacob expected that he would descend to Sheol at his death. But we also know that Isaac and Jacob will be in heaven by Jesus’ comments: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,…” (Mat 8:11).

The stories of Enoch and Elijah also give clues about the realm of the dead. That they were taken to heaven is somewhat out of the ordinary; not just the way in which they went, but the fact they went to heaven and not Sheol.

Further information about Hades comes indirectly from Jesus when he tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

From this we learn that Lazarus goes to Abraham’s side and the rich man goes to Hades. Whereas Lazarus is comforted the rich man is in torment. And it was not possible to cross the chasm that separated them. Note that Paradise is used for a pleasant place, but it is the context that explains this word. Paradise also refers to heaven (2 Corinthians), the new earth at the end of the age (Revelation) and possibly Eden.

Interestingly Jesus did not ascend into heaven immediately following his death. Peter quoting David says:

I saw the Lord always before me,/
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;/
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;/
my flesh also will dwell in hope./
for you will not abandon my soul to Hades,/
or let your Holy One see corruption./
You have made known to me the paths of life;/
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:25-28 ESV)

Peter shows that this passage applies to Jesus and that Jesus descended to Hades and was resurrected:

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29-32 ESV)

After his resurrection Jesus said to Mary:

Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17 ESV)

One of the criminals on the cross went to paradise which we can see from the above was not heaven. His destination corresponds to Luke 16 where Abraham is said to be in Paradise (as previously mentioned).

And he [one of the criminals] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43 ESV)

Presumably Peter’s enigmatic statement in his first letter corresponds to the period between Jesus’ death and resurrection.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,… (1 Peter 3:18-19 ESV)

The dead have some semblance of consciousness in Hades. This can be seen in many passages in the Old Testament. It is also alluded to by Jesus’ comments about Abraham (who was in Paradise).

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. (John 8:56 ESV)

To summarise: hell was created for the fallen angels; Hades (Sheol) was created for man because of the fall and the subsequent pending death; man goes to Hades at death, the righteous to Paradise and the wicked to the Abyss (pit); Some fallen angels are in Tartarus which is the deepest part of the Abyss; inhabitants of Hades are conscious; Jesus descended to Hades at his death then rose on the third day and did not go to heaven during that time,…

more to follow.

Categories: afterlife, judgment

>The dark side

2007 February 24 2 comments

>Though the events around Satan and hell are not treated extensively in the bible, there still is a reasonable amount of information to be gleaned. Enough to lay to rest many falsehoods and speculations by Christians. I will leave out passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel because they are not universally acknowledged as being about Satan, though I think a reasonable case could be made for the traditional belief.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). This gives us a starting point for the material universe but whether the creation of the angels preceded or postdated this event is uncertain. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit existed from eternity past and the angelic realm is certainly created but to pin down the timeframe may prove to be difficult working within God’s specific revelation.

God spoke to Job saying:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?/
Tell me, if you have understanding./
…when the morning stars sang together/
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4,7 ESV)

In the context the sons of God are angelic beings. Interestingly this (as well as other passages) tells us that stars metaphorically describe angels. Given God is describing the beginning of the creation of the earth, this would suggest that the angels were created prior to or about the time of Genesis 1:1. An alternative view would be day 4 if we associate the creation of the literal stars with that of the metaphorical ones.

This is followed by the creation of man and woman on day 6. This is the day that God described everything as very good (Gen 1:31). Although this is primarily a reference to the creation of the material universe, there may be information in this verse that tells us that the angels had yet to fall. We can be certain that the angelic fall predates the fall of man because the temptation by the serpent shows that evil had entered into spiritual realm.

We have an parallelism in Job above equating angels with stars. This is also (possibly) seen in Revelation.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:7-12 ESV)

From this we see that Satan is equated with the dragon, the serpent and the devil; all traditional interpretations. A further traditional interpretation is that the passage about the dragon sweeping a third of the stars means that about a third of the angels fell at the time of the angelic fall. This is possible, though a third of the stars may be referring back to the stars crowning the woman. Given that the woman, the sun the moon and the stars likely represents Israel (Gen 37:9), this may be discussing some opposition of Satan against Israel. Another (or further) interpretation is that the woman, sun, and moon represent an astronomical configuration as per Ernest Martin.

I am not certain of the timeframe of these events discussed in Revelation, but it gives us information as to the identity of the serpent and tells us that Satan is the leader of many evil angels.

God told Adam and Eve to procreate and populate the world. This would have happened quickly given their perfect state. The fall of man is prior to Eve conceiving her first child and likely occurred shortly following her creation from Adam—almost certainly less than a month. Ussher suggests Day 10 based on subsequent commandment that the day of atonement should fall on day 10 of Tishri (Lev 16:29; 23:27). An argument for day 16 could also be made on this basis (10 days following day 6 of creation).

Though we have not established a complete relative order of events we have established some constraints. In terms of the material world we have:

  1. The beginning of the creation of the world.
  2. The creation of man and woman 6 days later.
  3. The fall of man (likely) several days later.

In terms of the immaterial world (who clearly can interact with the material world) we have:

  1. The creation of angels sometime prior to the fall of man and possibly prior to the creation of the world
  2. The fall of the angels prior to the fall of man, possibly after the creation of man, but prior to the creation of the world cannot be excluded.

There is some further information given us by Peter

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;… (2 Peter 2:4)

It is uncertain who, how, or when this fits into the above. Clearly not all fallen angels are in Tartarus. In the time of the New Testament we hear of demons requesting Jesus not send them into the abyss. So were some angels sent there at the angelic fall or was there some subsequent sin on behalf of some angels that demanded this imprisonment? And were these fallen angels, or were they angels who didn’t side with Satan in his rebellion but have subsequently taken his side. However this passage at the least allows the possibility of some significant angelic event following the angelic fall.

Categories: afterlife, judgment