II. The illustration of condemned angels (v. 6)
a. The sin of the angels
The second example of the condemnation of the fake Christians that has already been written about is a little bit more complicated than the first example. In v. 6 Jude compares the judgment of the fake Christian in v.4 with the judgment of angels. Jude writes, “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day…” What makes this verse so tricky is identifying just who these angels are. There are really only three possibilities that could explain who these angels are, and it is my position that only one adequately explains all the biblical evidence on the subject. First let me outline the three views on this passage, and then we will look at the biblical evidence. After we have examined the biblical evidence I think we will be in a position to make some conclusion.
The first view is that these are the angels referred to in Genesis 6:1-4, and Jude is describing how they took women to be their wives. Genesis 6:1-4 says,
Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
In this view the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6 are fallen angels who took human women to be their wives. Thus when Jude said that the angels “did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode” he was referring to this act.
The second view on this passage teaches that Jude is not referring to Genesis 6 at all, but rather to the fall of angels in Satan’s rebellion. Thus when Jude said that the angels “did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode” he was referring to the rebellion of Satan, and the fall of angels.
The third view that could be held on this passage teaches that Jude viewed the story of the angels who had produced children with women as a legend, and he was only using that legend as an illustration. It would be like me using a story from a novel or a movie to illustrate my point.
We have now seen the different views on this passage, but what does the bible say? There is a lot of information that it important to this passage, but I think that it can all be boiled down to a handful of indicators.
- Jude links the sin of the angels with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in v. 7: “just as (ὡς) Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these (τούτοις is a masculine plural pronoun that is not referring to the feminine plural πόλεις but rather to the masculine plural ἀγγέλους from v. 6) indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh…”
- Both Jude in this passage, and Peter in both of his epistles refer to imprisoned angels (2 Pt.2:4-10; 1 Pt 3:18-20). We know that this imprisonment is not the direct result of the angelic fall because Scripture tells us of fallen angels (demons) roaming the earth.
- Both 2 Peter 2:4-10 and 1 Peter 3:18-20 link these imprisoned angels with the judgment of the ancient world during the time of Noah (the Flood).
It would seem from the immediate context of Jude 6 along with the two parallel texts from the NT that Jude is referring to the account recorded in Genesis 6. This would mean that Genesis 6 is an account of fallen angels engaged in immorality with human women. But will a close look at Genesis 6 reveal that these were not angels or that Jude was only referring to some ancient legend? Let’s find out.
The main interpretive issue in Genesis 6:1-4 is the meaning of the phrase “sons of God.” There is much debate over the meaning of this phrase but as James Boice said, “so far as the biblical use of the phrase ‘the sons of God’ is concerned, there is every reason to take it as referring to angels.” (Boice, Volume 1: Creation and Fall Genesis 1-11, pg 307) Boice was able to make this statement because this same phrase is used only three other times in the OT (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7), and all three times it is clearly referring to angels (fallen or not). With this in mind, along with the evidence from the NT, it is quite reasonable to hold the view that Genesis 6:1-4 is an account of fallen angels engaged in immorality with human women. This would explain why Jude compared the rebellion of the angels with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, it would explain why fallen angels are imprisoned, and it would explain why Peter linked these imprisoned angels with the judgment of the ancient world during the time of Noah.
To say that Jude was simply recounting an ancient legend as an illustration seems to ignore the contexts of the passage; this illustration is right in the middle of two OT illustrations. To say that Jude was referring the fall of angels and that Genesis is not even about angels seems to ignore what other relevant passages teach. Consequently we are left with the view that these are the angels referred to in Genesis 6:1-4, and Jude is describing how they had immoral relationships with women. There are some people who would object to this based on Christ’s teaching in Matthew 22:30,
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
However, Christ said that the angels in heaven were not given in marriage; he never said anything about the fallen angels. I think that Christ’s words show us that angels are not supposed to be given in marriage, not that is it impossible. In fact, the harsh punishment for the angels who did have immoral relationships is evidence that the angels were not supposed to be involved with women.
How exactly these relationships worked I do not think we can know for certain. However, why Jude uses this account as an illustration is perfectly clear.
b. The Judgment of God
The point of this passage is to demonstrate God’s judgment on the rebellious. Remember, Jude is elaborating on v. 4 with three different examples of God’s judgment on the rebellious. Here in v. 6 the rebellious angels are the illustration. God cast them out of heaven to exist as demons in the world; however they did not keep their domain. Instead, they left their proper place for immoral relationship with women. Because they did not keep their own domain God is now punishing them by keeping them in eternal bonds under darkness. Their current imprisonment will only be ended by a permanent imprisonment when God finally judges all of creation.
In the same way as these angels the fake Christians of v. 4 had rebelled against God. Just as the demons knew all about God so to these fake Christians had been exposed to the faith (v. 3). But instead of submitting to God they lived ungodly lives by perverting the grace of God and denying the lordship of Christ (v. 4). Because the rebellion of the fake Christians was like the rebellion of the angels the judgment that these fake Christians would face would be like judgment the rebellious angels faced.