As we stated in previous posts, many translators used the term “hell” here. While that does covey a since of punishment, it doesn’t distinguish this from the other terms that were also translated as “hell.” Since Peter here uses a term not used elsewhere, it would seem he is conveying a message different from any of the other terms that have been translated as hell (i.e., sheol, hades, gehenna). So, what is he trying to convey?
Before we answer that, perhaps we should try to understand this term better. While this is the only place it is mentioned in scripture, this is not the only place it is used in literature. Actually, for those fond of Greek mythology, it is not an unfamiliar term. I’ll try and be brief. In all honesty, Greek mythology gives me a headache trying to keep everything straight. So, apparently, in the beginning Gaea (goddess of the earth) and Uranus (god of the sky) produced twelve Titans. Two of those, Cronus and Rhea then produced the Olympian gods. There was war between the Titans and the Olympians. The Olympians originally won and Zeus, the chief Olympian god, banished the Titans to Tartarus. Tartarus was an abyss that was described as being as far below Hades as Heaven was above the earth. It seems, all was envisioned as a sphere with Heaven being the highest part of the sphere and Tartarus the lowest part with earth in the middle.
So, what does this have to do with what Peter is talking about? Did he believe in Greek mythology? I don’t think so. However, with every myth comes a grain of truth. The Titans, were, well, titans: giants by comparison to everyone else. Does that start to ring a bell? Where do we have giants in the Bible? If we turn back to Genesis, chapter six, we read of the “Nephilim.” These were believed to be giants and were produced by angels who came to the earth and mated with mortal women. While some believe that to be a tall tale, apparently Peter didn’t think so. These angels stepped outside of their designated place appointed by God, and God punished them and sent them to the Abyss. This is what Peter referred to as Tartarus. See the connection? Zeus sent the Titans to Tartarus, the Abyss, just as God did with these angels who caused the chaos on the early earth. Peter was saying that if God did not spare angels for their transgressions, should not the ungodly be worried?
You may have rolled your eyes there. Yet, it was not only Peter that believe this. Other demons believed as well. Recall when Jesus healed the man near the Galilee sea region who was possessed by legions of demons? What did these demons plead to Jesus about? “And they [the demons] begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Lk 8:31). They had rather go anywhere than to the Abyss. Pigs for them was even better. It seems, it was a place no demon wanted to go.
What was Peter’s final conclusion about this? “If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the Day of Judgment, while continuing their punishment” (2Pt 2:9). So, unless we feel we are better than angels and have more authority, then Peter is saying we will also be held into account. Hmm, that should give us reason to pause. Thank goodness for a Savior. Wouldn’t you agree?
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