The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1


IV. Problem Text (2 Peter 2:4)—Fallen Angels Detained in “Tartarus”

“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartaroo], and delivered them into chains [seirais, “cord,” “rope,” “chain”] of darkness [zophou, “nether darkness,” “murkiness”], to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old [antediluvian] world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:4, 5). CFF1 382.6

Had it not been that tartaroo 5 unfortunately has been rendered by the translators, “cast down to hell,” there would be no occasion to allude to this text as having any bearing upon the doom of wicked men. The background is simply this: The designation Tartarus (in Gr. tartaros, the noun form of this verb) belongs to Greco-Roman mythology, and occurs only here in Scripture. Although it is a Greek word, it does not appear at all in the Septuagint. CFF1 382.7

Virgil, however, and Horace, Lucian, Lucretius, Statius, and other pagan Greek poets use it to designate what they understood to be the dark abyss of the infernal regions. Homer describes it as a subterranean region, or prison, into which were cast the Titans, or giants, who rebelled against Zeus. Pluto was supposed to be the reigning deity of those regions, and was called “Father Tartarus.” CFF1 384.1


These fallen angels were, as a result of their sin and rebellion, cast down from the highest heights of glory to the deepest abyss of darkness—from “ministering spirits” to the ignominious state of restricted prisoners awaiting judgment. CFF1 384.2


It is to be noted, however, that neither wicked men nor fallen angels receive their punishment until after determinations of the judgment. So Tartarus is here used as a place of detention, not of torment. CFF1 384.3

The modern notion that Tartarus is an apartment of Hades, a sort of underground dungeon of torture, is based solely on heathen fables, without a scintilla of scriptural support. Any attempt to make a pagan out of Peter is based wholly on Greek mythology. CFF1 384.4

It is regrettable that sheol, hades, and gehenna were alike translated “hell,” and tartaroo as “cast into hell,” when they are by no means synonymous. Such a procedure has only perpetuated and increased the confusion of ideas on the question of future punishment. We repeat: Sheol and hades stand for gravedom, wherein the dead sleep until the last trump, while gehenna is the place of final punishment, after judgment. We must not borrow our theology from the heathen world. CFF1 385.1

To assert that these angels, and human sinners as well, are now in a place of burning torment is to charge God with the gross injustice of punishing before judgment. (See 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3; Revelation 20:10-14; Daniel 7:22, 26.) Tartarus, then, is primarily a place of detention—not of torment—for the temporary confinement of evil angels, who are reserved unto judgment and ultimate destruction. It has nought to do with men. CFF1 385.2

“The Lord knoweth how ... to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9). CFF1 385.3