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‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

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    – agarza
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 16:00

4 Answers 4

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Do you not know that we will judge angels (ἀγγέλους)? How much more the things of this life!

1 Corinthians 6:3 NIV

ἀγγέλους : aggelos
Used variously in the NT to refer to celestial or human messengers.

Examples :

And he sent messengers (ἀγγέλους) on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him ...

Luke 9:52 NIV

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies (ἀγγέλους) and sent them off in a different direction?

James 2:25 NIV

Both plainly referring to human messengers.

A circumstance not confined to the NT :

“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”

Psalm 82:6-7 NIV

Here "gods" - אֱלֹהִ֣ים - or elohim, being "mighty ones" plainly referring to humans, being sons and mortal.
Jesus puts a stamp on this :

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—

John 10:34-35 NIV

Clearly, those to whom the word of god came, were Israel, especially in this instance the leaders who bore the responsibility of administering that word.
As the psalm elaborates :

But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”

Psalm 82:7 NIV

So there's a precedence for this.
Not necessary, as the contextual use of ἀγγέλους demonstrates. Still, nothing new.

Respectable translators will be aware of the employment of ἀγγέλους, aggelos, as with elohim, to signify celestial or human messengers, and use context as a guide.

Know ye not that we shall judge, messengers?

1 Corinthians 6:3 Rotherham

Plainly the context dictates human messengers, as the celestial angels do the father's will, and hence, obviously no judgement will befall them.
That would be an absurdity.
There are however many human messengers who are to be judged, some to be the object of condemnation.

Not coincidentally, there is a class of leaders in Israel, or mighty ones - אֱלֹהִ֣ים - that we are reminded about, who are labelled ἀγγέλους or messengers and reference is made to their eventual judgement :

And the angels (ἀγγέλους) who did not keep their positions of authority (ἀρχὴν) but abandoned their proper dwelling (οἰκητήριον)—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Jude verse 6 NIV

  • ἀγγέλους : aggelos
    Used variously in the NT to refer to celestial or human messengers.

  • ἀρχὴν : archēn
    Initial position of authority.

  • οἰκητήριον : oikētērion
    Abode or dwelling, i.e. home.

In case, these angels or messengers being reserved to future condemnation, is overlooked as indicative of their humanity, the context dictates these are human messengers.
Not only is Jude generally warning against corruption in the congregation by drawing upon examples of OT sinners, the lead in to verse 6 is :

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude verse 5 NIV

There is one group specifically, after the exodus, who were leaders or messengers to Israel, who did not keep their initial positions of authority and who also abandoned their proper dwelling in rebellion against Moses ...

'Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.'

Numbers 16:1-2 NIV

Their initial position of authority as mighty ones or messengers to Israel on behalf of the most high :

'Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.'

Numbers 16:8-10 NIV

They also abandoned their proper dwelling to stand at the tent as priests, where they did not belong :

'So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting.'

Numbers 16:18 NIV

Their tents having a special significance not only in the law itself, but especially in the wilderness wanderings.
At various points Israel were commanded to remain in their tents, e.g. the sabbath, etcetera. It was only at the command of the priest or when the law allowed they were to do so.

The inevitable result :

'So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.'

Numbers 16:27 NIV

'Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”'

Numbers 16:28-30 NIV

'As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”'

Numbers 16:31-34 NIV

Left their tents or proper dwelling, and their initial position of authority in an attempted rebellion to usurp the priesthood, and swallowed up into the ground alive ... a.k.a. bound in darkness instantly both literally and spiritually, in metaphorical chains in the grave, and there awaiting a resurrection to judgement and the condemnation which is reserved for them.

'Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.'

Jude verse 5 NIV

And the subsequent verse :

'Messengers also, even them who had not kept their own principality, but had forsaken their proper dwelling, unto the judgment of the great day in perpetual bonds under thick gloom, hath he reserved.'

Jude verse 6 Rotherham

Jude points to this in verse 11 :

'Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.' (Jude verse 11)

There's a reason Jude points to Korah in his summary ... and that reason is verse 6.

'Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.'

Daniel 12:2 NIV

1 Corinthians 6:3

The context defines the meaning :

Dare any of you, having, a matter against his brother, sue for judgment before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?

Or know ye not that, the saints, shall judge the world? And, if, by you, the world, is to be judged, unworthy are ye of the smallest judgment–seats?

Know ye not that we shall judge, messengers? and not, then, matters of this life?

If, then, for matters of this, life ye have judgment–seats, them who are of no account in the assembly, these, are ye seating thereupon?

With a view to shame you, am I speaking. So, is it possible that there is among you––not so much as one wise man, who shall be able to judge between his brethren,––

But, brother with brother, sueth for judgment, and that before unbelievers?

Already, indeed, it is an utter defeat for you, that ye are having, law–suits, one with another. Wherefore are ye not rather taking wrong? Wherefore are ye not rather suffering yourselves to be defrauded?

Nay! but, ye, are doing wrong, and defrauding,––and that [your] brethren.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Rotherham

In other words, rather than submitting to each other, members were taking offence, and not only failing to follow Jesus instruction, they were going to secular authorities to seek redress in the law.

The "things of this life" being these petty squabbles resulting in suits at law.
The judging of messengers being part of judging the whole world, this to take place at the resurrection.
The contrast being, if we are to be involved in that process, we should at least be able to settle disputes now, amongst ourselves.

The royal standard for that process being :

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17 NIV

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  • Good research but it needs a summary or conclusion that answers the question concisely. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 18:32
  • The addition of 'how much more things that pertain to this life' would seem to me to suggest what you are disputing - that the 'angels' are (disobedient) angelic powers, which are not part of 'this life'. That is to say not part of the present realm of human existence.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 12:14
  • I get that. A keen eye. But, in context I take it as the judging of those messengers will take place at the resurrection. That's a big deal. But, this life determines that outcome. Which is weightier? Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 12:44
  • @DanFefferman Done. Commented Jan 17 at 12:14
  • @NigelJ Added clarification on "this life". Commented Jan 17 at 12:15
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Judging the angels is best understood in the sense of ruling them. This applies to good angels as well as fallen ones. Human beings are lower than the angels in our current state. However, Paul taught that we are destined to be God's heirs. Once we are restored/resurrected we will be their masters and they our servants. The Psalmist also seems to have take this view when he wrote:

Psalm 8

5 What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? 6 Yet you have made him little less than a god, [elohim] crowned him with glory and honor. 7 You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet

Some Christians think this only applies to Jesus, but in Romans, Paul taught that all humans who are led by the Spirit are the sons and heirs of God:

Romans 8

All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Conclusion: Angels are God's servants. Human beings are God's heirs. As such, humans in their restored state are to govern and judge the angels.

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The answer to this question about "judging angels" in 1 Cor 6:3 is extremely contentious. Perhaps the lest provocative answer is given by Barnes:

Shall judge angels - All the angels that shall be judged, good or bad. Probably the reference is to fallen angels, as there is no account that holy angels will then undergo a trial. The sense is, "Christians will be qualified to see the justice of even the sentence which is pronounced on fallen angels. They will be able so to embrace and comprehend the nature of law, and the interests of justice, as to see the propriety of their condemnation. And if they can so far enter into these important and eternal relations, assuredly they ought to be regarded as qualified to discern the nature of justice 'among men,' and to settle the unimportant differences which may arise in the church."

Paul may also be alluding to the judgement (perhaps an audit??) that is mentioned by John in Rev 20:4 -

Then I saw the thrones, and those seated on them had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image, and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. And they came to life and reigned [also Hebrew idiom for judged] with Christ for a thousand years.

However, the exact nature of this judgement is not specified so this remains another question whose answer must wait until we see God face to face (Rev 22:4).

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Q. 1 Corinthians 6:3, what does it mean "we will judge angels?"

[1Co 6:3 NASB95] [3] Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

As background, please see this post.

I want to add to that this allusion to that passage:

[Mat 19:28 NASB95] [28] And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In other words, like ALL of the OT, the NT authors made it all about the life and times of Jesus. With this in mind, we see that Matthew is saying that this was "fulfilled" by the Apostles, during the resurrection of the defunct nation of Israel ala Ezekiel 37.

You might not understand any of what I just said unless you have a deep understanding of Ezekiel 37, and what the rebirth of the United Kingdom under the Christ is all about. Please spend some time in Ezekiel 37 and it will all become clear.

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