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Matthew 8:29 New International Version

“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Was there a time set to torment the demons of the Gentiles?

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Matt 8:29 is one of a short series of verses about the final destiny of the Devil and his angels. The information about this topic is scant and so we should not be too dogmatic.

  • Matt 8:29 - “What do You want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have You come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
  • Matt 25:41 - Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
  • 2 Peter 2:4 - For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them deep into Tartarus, placing them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;
  • 1 Peter 3:19, 20 - He also went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. {See appendix below]
  • Rev 20:10 - And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, into which the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Thus, there is an appointed time for the Devil (and his angels) to be punished; but for now, Satan and his angels are confined ("imprisoned") to this earth, Rev 20:1-4, 12:7-9.

Further, I see nowhere in Scripture that makes any distinction between demons of gentiles vs demons of anyone else.

APPENDIX - Spirits in Prison

The somewhat enigmatic passage in 1 Peter 3:19 has caused much division among commentators. Here is a very literal translation of V18-20:

Because Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring you to God, having been put to death indeed in flesh, but having been made alive by (the) Spirit, in which also having gone, He preached to the spirits in prison, at one time having disobeyed, when the longsuffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah, of the ark being prepared, in which a few--that is, eight souls--were saved through water,

The central question here is, Who are the spirits in prison? This passage is the only verse upon which the doctrine of purgatory rests. So, several further questions are important as well: When did Christ preach – While in the grave or after His resurrection? Is punishment and purgatory implied?

As Albert Barnes notes in his comments, purgatory and hell are not suggested nor implied in this passage; and why select this specific class of people? Further, what use is such preaching to condemned people who cannot change their situation? The time of Christ’s preaching is also quite unambiguous – it was AFTER Jesus’; resurrection. The contrast in the text is clear – Jesus died in the flesh but was made alive in the Spirit.

Who are the spirits? There have been two broad suggestions:

  1. The spirits in prison are the disembodied souls/spirits of the sinful antediluvians. This view is inconsistent with Bible teaching for several reasons:
  • a. It suggests consciousness after death which is not taught in the Bible – see Death and Hell. Ps 88:11, 6:5, Eccl 9:10, Job 14:2, 13, 21, etc.
  • b. In order to avoid the above problem, some have suggested that Christ preached to the antediluvians via Noah, but this is also a stretch of both imagination and the meanings implied. It also means that people alive in Noah’s time be referred to as “spirits” which would be unique in all the Bible.
  • c. Dead people are never elsewhere referred to as “spirits”, especially in the plural. There are references to the “spirit of man” and the “Spirit of God”, etc, but never are people referenced as “spirits”.
  1. The spirits in prison are fallen angels, now devils, who are in the prison by reason of being confined to earth. This is consistent with other NT teaching about them:
  • a. The NT does use “spirits” in plural to refer to unfallen and fallen angels/demons in places such as Matt 8:16, Mark 5:12, 6:13, Luke 4:33, 8:2, 10:20, Heb 1:7, Rev 16:14, 18:2, etc.
  • b. The NT also discusses devils/demons being confined and awaiting further judgement in other places as well such as, Jude 6, Rev 20:1, 2, 7, 2 Peter 2:4.

Thus, the interpretation that is consistent with NT terminology is simple: The fact that Jesus rose from the dead was testament and vindication of Christ even to the fallen angels/demons (James 2:19) now “in prison”, ie, confined to earth awaiting their final judgement. They sinned long ago.

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