Questions From Readers
● The new book What Has Religion Done for Mankind? shows there is only one class of disobedient angels, not two classes. Did they first rebel in Eden or in Noah’s day? Also, who were the spirits in prison to whom the resurrected Jesus preached, can they repent and be saved, and if not why preach to them?—G. G., New York.
There is no scripture to prove that any angels rebelled with the covering cherub in Eden. One that was once so used is Ezekiel 28:18, where it speaks of Satan as defiling his sanctuaries by the multitude of his iniquities. At most, this might be taken to mean that he had a spiritual force under him and defiled it, but does not indicate such defilement took place in Eden. It could have been in Noah’s day, by which time Satan would have built up a ‘multitude of iniquities’ to use as arguments, whereas in Eden he hardly would have had time to pile up such a multitude of iniquities. However, the text could mean much less than this, according to some modern Bible translations. The American Translation does not use “sanctuaries” as though it referred to habitations for associates, but says, “You profaned your sacredness.” Moffatt says, “You have profaned your sacred position.” Fenton says he ‘deeply wounded his virtues’.
The first Bible evidence we have of angelic rebellion, aside from the covering cherub, is the record at Genesis 6:1-4 concerning Noah’s day. In the common version verse 4 reads as though the Nephilim giants were in the earth before the sons of God cohabited with women, and hence some might argue that these were materialized demons that had previously rebelled with Satan. However, more accurate translations in modern speech show that these giants were the offspring of the materialized sons of God and women: “In those days, as well as afterward, there were giants on the earth, who were born to the sons of [God] whenever they had intercourse with the daughters of men; these were the heroes who were men of note in days of old.” (AT; Mo) So the sons of God were the first angelic rebels on the scene.
This is borne out by 1 Peter 3:19, 20, NW: “In this state also he went his way and preached to the spirits in prison, which had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days.” This seems to indicate the first act of disobedience on the part of angels was in Noah’s day. If they had rebelled before that time, that earlier occurrence of rebellion would have been the turning point worthy of mention. Jude 6, NW, states: “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.” The original position of the angels was their place in Jehovah’s organization, in which position they had been placed by him and doubtless had assigned duties, since God did not create them to loaf. By rebellion they would forsake their original position. By materializing to permanently live with women they would abandon their proper dwelling place in heaven as spirit creatures. By Jude 6 linking these two wrongs so closely, it seems both were committed at the same time, which would be in Noah’s day when the “sons of God” materialized. When the Flood forced them to dematerialize, they returned to heavenly places as spirit creatures, but not to their original position in Jehovah’s organization. They became Satan’s demons.
To view the rebellion of angels as being in Noah’s day instead of Eden is more reasonable. In Eden Satan had just started his rebellious course. God had accepted the challenge, and given the promise of the Seed. The issue was new. It was not so likely that angels would jump in immediately to join the unproved rebel Satan. They would wait to watch developments. In Noah’s day fifteen centuries had gone by, and Satan had turned aside all men but three, Abel, Enoch and Noah. If he could do this by himself, how completely successful would he be with a host of angels to help him! And where was the promised Seed? Had not fifteen centuries elapsed, with no sign of it? So Satan could argue, arguments he would not have at the outset in Eden. He could argue that if the sons of God would join him, materialize for a time or permanently, a super race of giants could be produced to dominate and rule over man, and under them the last holdouts for Jehovah could be whipped into line or destroyed.
But the Flood upset the scheme and forced the materialized angels to dematerialize. These former sons of God could not return to Jehovah’s service had they wanted to; they remained with their chosen master, Satan, and became his demon hordes. They were now imprisoned in dense darkness, alienated from God, in the dark as to his purposes, with a dark end ahead of them, all of which is well pictured by Tartarus. (See 2 Peter 2:4, NW, and appendix note thereon.) It was to these spirits imprisoned in Tartarus that Jesus preached.
Why? To give the demons a chance to repent? Hardly. No angel died as their ransom, even if they were in circumstances permitting ransoming. Moreover, it is hardly consistent to say that perfect Adam and Eve will have no second chance, and then turn around and say that disobedient angels, who were perfect and far higher and smarter and more powerful than man, and who had even seen and associated with Jehovah God, could abandon their God-given assignments and join Satan and yet later have a chance to repent unto salvation. Why, then, preach to the demons?
Preaching does not always mean for purposes of repentance and salvation. We take the wine cup of Jehovah’s wrath to the nations, not for their conversion but as a warning of the death awaiting them. It is an announcement of doom and of Jehovah’s ultimate triumph. We will continue to preach after Armageddon has started, not that more will then repent and be saved but that all will know Jehovah’s purposes of vengeance are being carried out. (See the June 1, 1951, Watchtower, page 351, second question and answer.) Similarly Jesus preached to the demons. So the invisible part of Satan’s world, as well as the visible, get a witness against them, not only by Christians’ being a spectacle to men and angels (including the fallen ones, the demons), but by Jesus himself preaching to them of their final end.
Please see also pages 69-73, 76, 81, 152, 153 in What Has Religion Done for Mankind?
● Verses 4 and 5 of Proverbs 26 seem to express contradicting thoughts. What is the explanation?—T. L., North Carolina.
According to Moffatt’s version these verses Pr 26:4, 5 read: “Never answer a fool according to his folly, lest you become like him: answer a fool according to his folly, lest he imagines he is wise.” Or, according to Fenton’s translation: “Answer no fool, like his folly, lest you make yourself like to himself. Reply to a fool as his folly requires, lest he seem to be wise in his own eyes.” The key to properly relating these instructions that seemingly conflict is found in the warning sounded in each case. It is the difference in the warnings that fixes the meanings to be attached to the instructions given relative to answering fools.
If you answer a fool according to his folly, in the sense of answering in harmony with his folly or according to it, you put yourself in agreement with the fool. The fool’s reasonings and deductions are unsound, and your answer should not be in accord with the fool’s views. The fool may show folly in the undignified or contentious manner in which he argues, showing desire for only fruitless strifes of words, which Christians are commanded to shun. So you would not answer according to the folly of the fool by siding in with his foolish views or by adopting his foolish and degrading methods of argument. Why not? “Lest you become like him.” But you can answer the fool without making yourself like him, and this Pr 26 verse 5 advises, “lest he imagines he is wise.” If you did not answer the fool’s folly and allowed it to go unchallenged and unrefuted, the fool would certainly become wise in his own conceited viewpoint. To prevent this you would answer according to his folly in the sense of answering on the basis of his foolish contentions, analyzing them, exposing how ridiculous and absurd and unworthy of acceptance they are when viewed rationally. Thus you may be able to show that the fool’s own arguments and false principles lead to conclusions far different from what he contends. His own folly may be used against him in a turning of the tables, if his folly is wisely caught up and analyzed and used against the fool’s false position. So doing, you “reply to a fool as his folly requires” and forestall his becoming “wise in his own eyes”.