Our attention has been called to the subject of the "angels which kept not their first estate," &c., by brother Gaines, of Kentucky, who desires our views on Jude 6, and 2 Peter ii. 4. It is rather a thankless undertaking to set forth our views upon a subject on which we must necessarily come in collision with the long established opinions and deep-rooted traditions of others, among whom are to be found some friends for whose opinions and feelings we entertain sentiments of the greatest regard. When called upon, as in the present case, however, we feel bound to set before our readers such views as we have.
The celebrity of Milton's views, as given in his "Paradise Lost," has become almost universal. As few men of our age are found able to compete with that distinguished poet in eloquence of style or language, few have ventured the risk of their own popularity by offering a different view of the subject from that which he has given, while at the same time a child may easily detect and expose the fallacy of his reasonings concerning the angels. We have not been able to see, with Milton and others, either beauty or scriptural authority for the notion that the angels here spoken of were ever residents of that heaven above, where the saints are ultimately to rest, nor that they had an existence prior to that date in which God created the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them - to believe that they were once associated with those holy angels that sang the joyful anthems to the shepherds in Judea; nor to believe that in their creation they were created for or capacitated to enjoy the immediate presence of their Maker, or that he designed them for any other purpose than that which is and shall be fully accomplished in their case, to us seems to conflict seriously with divine revelation. Can we rationally suppose that the place originally provided for one description of beings shall ultimately be occupied by another so essentially different, without relinquishing the doctrine of the immutability of God. Or, if the saints are finally to occupy a place originally designed for the devil and his angels, how can it be said in truth that the heavenly kingdom was prepared for the saints before the foundation of the world, when, according to Milton, it was not known that the place would be vacated until the world was founded, and the decree of bringing his Only Begotten into the world, and that all the angels should worship him? Again, would not the saints feel sad in prospect of being placed where angels could not stay? If a higher order of beings, holy, happy, and in a place where temptation and sin could not enter, and such beings as could have no predisposition to sin, did fall from that estate, and were cast over the battlements of glory, would not the poor lambs of Jesus, who have all their lifetime been tormented with temptation and struggling against inbred corruptions, have great cause to fear that they also might fall from the height of glory and sink at last among the damned? But lest we be tedious, we will leave the negative part of our subject, and give our opinion of the angels.
By the angels that kept not their first estate, we understand the children of the devil. Satan is called an angel, and sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light; and as far as we have been able to discover from revelation all the names by which he is known in the scriptures are applicable to his seed. Hence Satan is called "The old serpent, which is the devil and Satan," (Rev. xx. 2;) his children are also called "a generation of vipers," - Matt. iii. 7; also xxii. 33. So also is Satan called an angel, and in Rev. xii. 7, his children are also thus denominated: "There was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought, and his angels."
The term angel also signifies messenger, and hence every emissary of Satan employed to disseminate heresy, to oppose the gospel of Christ; to afflict and persecute the children of God, are properly denominated his angels. It can be by no means difficult to perceive that the dragon and his angels, mentioned in Rev. xii., are designed to show the powers of darkness in array against the cause and church of Christ. Michael, the only archangel spoken of in the bible, is none other than Christ; his angels are those who are denominated "The remnant of her (the church's) seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." - Rev. xii. 17. Admitting then, as we are compelled to do, that the disciples of Christ, in this case, are his angels, it is perfectly plain that the opposite angels are those unto whom Christ said, "Ye are of your father, the devil." - John viii. 44. These two descriptions of angels, in our opinion, include the whole human family; the chosen generation, or that seed which Jesus saw when he poured out his soul unto death; a seed that should serve him, and that should be counted to him for a generation; these constitute the one family, and are all in time born of a spiritual birth, by the Holy Ghost, and when discipled in the ranks of the followers of the Lamb, are known as his angels, keeping the commandments of God, and having the testimony of Jesus Christ. In the other division are found all who are without, such as dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. Rev. xxii. 15. These are called the seed of the serpent, (Gen. iii. 15,) a generation of vipers, &c.; and these are known as the dragon's angels. The angels spoken of by Peter and Jude, we understand to be such as were found in the family of national Israel, and were there known as false prophets, children of Belial, &c. Their first estate, confining the idea to those angels, was intermixed with the people of God under the legal covenant; here they had an habitation in Abraham's house, claiming him to their father, as when they came to John's baptism, (Matt. iii.) and as they asserted and Christ admitted. John viii. 33-44. Both Peter and Jude, in the connection of our subject, are found exhorting their brethren to beware of false teachers, which admonition they enforce by the example of these angels; and then, going still further back, they mention the destruction of the old world, and the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, &c., the judgment of which our Lord had said was more tolerable than that which awaited Jerusalem and the other cities of Judea.
We shall be understood to believe that the first estate and their own habitation of these angels was in the worldly sanctuary under the ceremonial law. Here they had rights in common with the rest of Abraham's carnal seed, of which - they were not dispossessed until the breaking up of that dispensation. The manner of their leaving their own habitation and losing their first estate is very clearly illustrated in Rev. xii. It had long been foretold that the day would dawn on Israel, when the children of God should, in a clearer light, discern between those who served God and those that Served? him not; at length the voice of one crying in the wilderness is heard, the morning star sheds forth a glimmering light; the day-spring from on high visits the benighted Jews. The people that sat in darkness discovered a light; and our Lord says, that which maketh manifest is light. To their great amazement, There appeared a great wonder in heaven - a woman clothed in the sun, elevated above the moon, &c., by which we understand the church of Christ, emerging from Judaism, and brought, by John's preaching and baptism, to view in her connection with Christ, in to whose name John baptized them, and thus raised above that orb ordained to rule the night dispensation of the old covenant, whose borrowed rays were given through prophecy, types and figures, pointed forward to the day of our Lord Jesus. Above this moon the church was discovered in her connection with Christ her Sun, and eventually the Head of the church, or woman crowned with a crown of twelve stars. The church now looking forth as the morning. Cant. vi. 10.
According to the similitude of the morning, from the appearing of John, who was the day star, or harbinger of the rising Sun, the light must increase; and as the light became more clear, other objects were also discovered. The seed of the woman is born, Christ appears in the flesh as the promised Messiah, or as the archangel Michael; the Prince, that standeth for the children of thy people. Dan. xii. 1. The same light that revealed the Redeemer coming out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob, made manifest the dragon, as first personated by Herod, standing before the woman, for to devour the child as soon as it should be born. "And there was war in heaven." Not in the world of glory above, nor in the gospel church, but in that heaven where these things appeared, viz: Israel. Christ is now born, has taken his place at the head of his little flock at Jordan, where he was recognized by John and his disciples, as their head and ruler, their leader and king, by the descent of the Spirit like a dove, and the voice of the Father, who from his awful throne and majesty proclaims, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Immediately after this revelation of the Son of God, Christ was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil; and on this occasion the war broke out. Michael, the archangel, contended with the devil; the dispute was then, and has continued ever since to be, about the body of Moses, i. e., the law. Here the great Captain of salvation leads on to battle, followed by his angels; the dragon also marshals his troops. "And the dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." In view of this glorious triumph Jesus said to his disciples, when they returned and said, "Lord, even devils are subject to us through thy name:" "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Nevertheless, rejoice not that devils are made subject to you, (or are cast down,) but rather that your names are written in heaven; that you were not included in the number of the vanquished." Here then is where the angels that sinned left their own habitation and their first estate. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony," &c. In anticipation of this glorious victory, the prophet cries, "Awake, awake! put on thy strength, O Zion! - Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the daughters of the uncircumcised and the unclean." - Isa. lii. 1. "Therefore, rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Wo to the inhabitants of the earth and sea; for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." - Rev. xii. 12. The vanquished legions of the old serpent are cast down, and are held under chains of darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. All the angels of Satan are thus bound in chains of darkness, and Jesus rejoiced in spirit that it was so, saying," I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Nor can all the Infant Schools, Sabbath or Theological Schools, Mission, Tract or even Bible Societies, with all their machinery, brake asunder these everlasting fetters of ignorance of spiritual things, to which the devil and his angels are doomed; nor can all the preaching, praying or exhortations, anxious benches or protracted meetings, conducted by men or angels, ever make one of these fallen angels wise unto salvation; they are chained, and in fetters of darkness they must remain for ever. Those angels particularly alluded to by Peter and Jude, were in a special manner chained in darkness concerning the true Messiah, the spirituality of his kingdom, and particularly in regard to the fulfillment of those predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem, of their consequent judgment at that time, and of all those signs which should indicate the near approach of the judgment of that great and terrible day.
From all these considerations, let the saints throughout all subsequent time be admonished. The destruction of these false teachers and prophets among the Jews, as also the destruction of the old world, the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, were all presented by these faithful apostles as examples of what should be developed in the last days, when perilous times should come; when false teachers should come among the saints, bringing in damnable heresies and doctrines of devils, when they should turn away from the truth, and be turned unto fables; (tracts, fictitious stories, dairymen's daughters, and the like,) and when they with feigned words, (professing great reverence for God, and extravagant love for souls, &c.,) shall make merchandize of the saints; but the apostle adds, "Their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
"But oh! their end, their dreadful end,
Thy sanctuary taught me so;
On slippery rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below."
Alexandria, D. C.,
January 15, 1840.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials of Gilbert Beebe
Volume 1, Pages 571-578