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2 Peter 2:4 (ESV):

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

  • Are the angels that sinned what we commonly understand to be demons?
  • If so, does that mean that demons are chained in hell right now (what is meant by hell by the way)?
  • If so, how can this be reconciled with the fact that demons were apparently roaming around and possessing people in Jesus' time, as described in the gospels?
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  • You'll need to define hell. Otherwise it can never make any sense. They are spiritual creatures - don't strangle this by trying to grasp through physical limitations or definitions
    – steveowen
    Nov 2, 2021 at 8:46
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    @steveowen - or we can use the definition of hell intended by the author. Nov 2, 2021 at 8:47
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    I am working on an answer but it is not a simple question because it involves so much else as well.
    – Dottard
    Nov 2, 2021 at 8:48
  • Revelation 9:1 is relevant and the term used there is 'abyss'. The text, here, says 'tartarus' which some translate as 'abyss'.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 2, 2021 at 9:18
  • Why should there be a conflict between God having chained sinning angels in the past, and there being other sinning angels who are still free to act in the present? Congress did not spare Nixon when he wiretapped his political enemies, but it doesn't follow that there can never again be corrupt politicians.
    – Tiercelet
    Nov 2, 2021 at 21:04

4 Answers 4

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There are several answers to this question, none of which will satisfy everybody. However, to answer the OP's original question requires two further questions:

  • When were these angels chained?
  • Where were they chained?

The answer to the second question is possibly easier because we have the following facts:

  • The only other place where demons or the Devil are said to "chained" is in Rev 20:1, 2 where the location is the "abyss" ἄβυσσος. This word is always associated with the location of demons as per Luke 8:31, Rom 10:7, Rev 9:1, 2, 11, 11:7, 17:8, 20:1, 3.
  • The word for "hell" in 2 Peter 2:4 is ταρταρόω - the only instance of this in the NT. Given the above facts, it appears to be a metaphorical equivalent of the abyss for the location of fallen angels/demons.
  • The first instance of this word in the OT LXX is Gen 1:2 for the "deep" covering the earth at the beginning of creation week, ie, when the world was still in its uncreated form. See also Gen 7:11, Ps 71:20.
  • The fallen angels that became demons appear to be those described in Rev 12:7-9 and 9:1-11

Thus, we might conclude that Tartarus/abyss is either the earth itself or a mythic place beneath the earth (whatever that means) about which we are told nothing.

Now to the other question - when were these fallen angels/demons chained/imprisoned? Again, we have the following facts:

  • They were not yet chained in the OT because we have an instance of the Satan returning to heaven in Job 1 &2.
  • John 12:31 - Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world [= Satan] will be cast out.
  • John 16:11 - and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world [= Satan] has been condemned.

Thus, it appears that the imprisonment of the Satan and his angels occurred either at Jesus' crucifixion or His resurrection. (See also Luke 10:18.) Thus, the fallen angels have been bound/confined to the this earth since Jesus' victory over death and the grave.

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  • Would you agree that some angels (those who came to earth in manifested form, leaving 'their first estate') were imprisoned at the time of the Flood and are permanently there, and are not counted along with those who, along with Satan, were confined to the abyss (as you say, and I agree) at the time of the crucifixion/resurrection/ascension of the Lord and will be released (but not Satan himself) in the very last days ? Or do you see otherwise ? [Up-voted +1.]
    – Nigel J
    Nov 2, 2021 at 10:34
  • @NigelJ - as you will observe, I have attempted to be quite restrained. I can find no evidence of two classes of fallen angels/demons in the Bible. Therefore, Satan and his angels were finally confined when their true character was revealed at the cross.
    – Dottard
    Nov 2, 2021 at 10:38
  • Then who is released from the abyss in Revelation 9:2, when the star fallen to earth releases out of the abyss ? And do you assume that all angels were guilty and were cast down to 'hell' when the old world was spared not ? If so, what demons were upon earth in the days of Christ's ministry that he cast out ?
    – Nigel J
    Nov 2, 2021 at 15:03
  • But when Jesus casts the demons out of the man who called himself Legion, the demons begged Jesus not to send them to the Abyss (Luke 8:31). From that I'd gather that some demons were in the Abyss at that time, and those that weren't were free for a time, but could be ordered back?
    – bob
    Nov 2, 2021 at 16:51
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    @bob - we are struggling here for lack of information but let be suggest what the data appears to convey. The Bible appears to depict the hordes of demons as inhabiting the abyss but come out of the abyss to torment men on the earth. Jesus ordered the demons in Luke 8 back into the abyss. It also appears that their access to mankind is limited by the righteousness of men - the more wicked people are the greater access these demons have to men's minds. That is, the more we depend upon God the greater protection we enjoy from the demon's attacks. But this is not explicit.
    – Dottard
    Nov 2, 2021 at 20:11
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Is 2 Peter 2:4 talking about demons?

  • Are the angels that sinned what we commonly understand to be demons?

In short, yes. The topic "Demon" in the Insight on the Scriptures mentions the following:

The demons as such were not created by God. The first to make himself one was Satan the Devil (see SATAN), who became the ruler of other angelic sons of God who also made themselves demons. (Mt 12:24, 26) In Noah’s day disobedient angels materialized, married women, fathered a hybrid generation known as Nephilim (see NEPHILIM), and then dematerialized when the Flood came. (Ge 6:1-4) However, upon returning to the spirit realm, they did not regain their lofty original position, for Jude 6 says: “The angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (1Pe 3:19, 20) So it is in this condition of dense spiritual darkness that they must now confine their operations. (2Pe 2:4) Though evidently restrained from materializing, they still have great power and influence over the minds and lives of men, even having the ability to enter into and possess humans and animals, and the facts show that they also use inanimate things such as houses, fetishes, and charms.​—Mt 12:43-45; Lu 8:27-33; see DEMON POSSESSION.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible offers similarly:

For if God spared not the angels that sinned..... By whom are meant the devil and his angels; who are spirits created by God and as such were good; their first estate which they left was pure and holy, as well as high and honourable; they, were at first in the truth, though they abode not in it; they were once among the morning stars and sons of God, and were angels of light;

  • If so, does that mean that demons are chained in hell right now (what is meant by hell by the way)?

The original Greek word found in this verse is ταρταρόω (tartaroó Strong's G5020) not hell. While the entire topic "Tartarus" is very interesting, note what is said about the non-Biblical usage:

The word “Tartarus” is also used in pre-Christian heathen mythologies. In Homer’s Iliad this mythological Tartarus is represented as an underground prison ‘as far below Hades as earth is below heaven.’ In it were imprisoned the lesser gods, Cronus and the other Titan spirits. As we have seen, the Tartarus of the Bible is not a place but a condition and, therefore, is not the same as this Tartarus of Greek mythology. However, it is worth noting that the mythological Tartarus was presented not as a place for humans but as a place for superhuman creatures. So, in that regard there is a similarity, since the Scriptural Tartarus is clearly not for the detention of human souls (compare Mt 11:23) but is only for wicked superhuman spirits who are rebels against God.

So we can see that using the word "hell" in 2 Peter 2:4 is incorrect. Hell is the usual translation for the word hadés and as is mentioned in the quote above, the Greek Tartarus was actually below Hades.

Of interesting note is Benson's Commentary on Peter's usage of the word Tartarus:

Wherefore seeing the Greeks named the place where they supposed the Titans, the enemies of the gods, were confined, Tartarus, it was natural for Peter, when writing in the Greek language, concerning confining the evil angels in the place where they were shut up, to call it Tartarus, although his idea of Tartarus was different from that of the Greeks.

We could think of this as Jehovah God taking those angels and putting them in a form of "stasis" so as not to continue affecting mankind.

  • If so, how can this be reconciled with the fact that demons were apparently roaming around and possessing people in Jesus' time, as described in the gospels?

From what is written in the scriptures, only those rebel angels, now called demons, "who did not stay within their own position of authority" (Jude 6 ESV) are the ones that Jehovah God put into this "Tartarus" as Peter mentions. The Bible is silent as to why only these demons and any attempt to come up with an answer would be speculation.

So, yes, there are other demons that are still roaming about the earth and causing us humans problems. (Ephesians 6:12)

[Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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The angels mentioned in Peter 2:4 seem to be the same angels mentioned in Jude 1:6.

For if God did not spare the angels having sinned, but having cast them down to Tartarus, in chains of gloomy darkness,a delivered them, being kept for judgment. Peter 2:4

And the angels who kept not their principality, but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day. Jude 1:6

These had to of been the angels who left their own habitation committed unnatural acts In a human body.

The word habitation is used but once elsewhere and then it refers to the glorified human body. 2 cor. 5:2

This particular angels are being held in the gloomy taverns of Tartarus.

Found this on the web: Tartarus occurs in the Septuagint translation of Job into Koine Greek, and in Hellenistic Jewish literature from the Greek text of the Book of Enoch, dated to 400–200 BC. This states that God placed the archangel Uriel "in charge of the world and of Tartarus" (20:2). Tartarus is generally understood to be the place where 200 fallen Watchers (angels) are imprisoned.

His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. Rev:12:4

This is from Got questions:

Demons are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. The Old Testament refers to them directly as “demons” (3 times), “evil spirits” (8 times), or sometimes in a more obscure sense such as “prince” (in Daniel 10). The New Testament mentions demons many more times, calling them either “demons” (daimónion) or “evil spirits” over 80 times. The origin of demons is not explicitly addressed in Scripture, but there are clues.

The etymology of the Hebrew and Greek words used to denote demons indicate that demons, in general, are powerful entities that transcend ordinary experience and the space/time physical nature of humanity; i.e., they are incorporeal beings.

Scripture suggests in Revelation 12:4, 7 that demons were originally created as angels and existed as part of God’s angelic army. However, when Satan rebelled against God, one third of the angelic host joined him in his revolt, which is why Scripture refers to them collectively as “Satan . . . and his angels” (Revelation 12:9). Most likely, these fallen angels who rebelled with Satan are the beings Scripture refers to as “demons.”

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In the verse you mentioned it's not demons as can be related to possession, even though there can be a relation. The word here implies the descendent of the giants, this is, the Nephilim (נְפִילִים‎), derived from לִנְפֹּל or even לִפֹּל both meaning "to fall", this is, they are the sons of a relation between human women (בְּנ֣וֹת הָֽאָדָ֔ם) and fallen angels or sons of the gods (בְּנֵ֤י הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙) , in this sense, angels here refer to the sefirot characterization as we can in Enoch, even though it's not in Bible, it has numerous important contributions to comprehend these concepts.

הַנְּפִלִ֞ים הָי֣וּ בָאָ֘רֶץ֮ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵם֒ וְגַ֣ם אַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֗ן אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָבֹ֜אוּ בְּנֵ֤י הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־בְּנ֣וֹת הָֽאָדָ֔ם וְיָלְד֖וּ לָהֶ֑ם הֵ֧מָּה הַגִּבֹּרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר מֵעוֹלָ֖ם אַנְשֵׁ֥י הַשֵּֽׁם׃ {פ}

Above we see Genesis 6:4 which is as follows:

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (ESV)

However, there is a difference when we say about demons and the Nephilim for the first are spirits that the second have, as we see in Mark 3:11:

And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” (ESV)

In the Book of Revelation 16:14 we have no doubts:

For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (ESV)

It's known in Enoch that they will be judged in the Final Judgement according to the Book of Revelation (Enoch 51:1):

  1. And in those days the Earth will return that which has been entrusted to it, and Sheol will return that which has been entrusted to it and that which it has received. And destruction will return what it owes.

Enoch was the 7th generation of Adam that went alive to the waters above the sky, he passed through these walls and merged with G'd as it tell the story in Genesis. And the verse above can be confirmed in Ezekiel 37: 1-4, Daniel 12:2, Revelation 20:13.

In judaism these bad spirits are known as Shedim (שֵׁדִים‎), and they'd be in the Nephilim. Also, these spirits can assume human form according to jewish book Zohar 3:276a: "There is a great mystery here, which is why 'Esther' is derived from mystery (Heb. seter), as written, "You are my hiding place (Heb. seter)" (Psalms 32:7), since the Shechinah hid her from Ahasuerus and gave him a female demon instead while she returned to Mordechai's arm(s). And Mordechai, who knew the explicit Name and the seventy tongues, did all this with wisdom. This is why the sages of the Mishnah stated that even regardless of this, a man must speak with his wife before he mates with her, because she might have been exchanged with a female demon.

We conclude saying that demons (ungodly) are spirits that can enter a body giving it a similar aspect to other bodies. That's why in Peter we see that he talks about the Nephilim not of spirits per se, for chains (as we know) can't be attached to spirits, but to bodies, (even though this can refer to spiritual chains). What is really important here is to understand conceptually, then it gets clearer.

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  • Are you saying that the word translated by the ESV as "angels" in 2 Peter 2:4 is נְפִילִים ? Or that it is a different word than others that are usually translated as "angel"? Nov 2, 2021 at 17:48

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