Following a discussion and my challenge to RAM to post a study of Jude verse 6 to find out who are the "angels" referred to, here is my study. I shall not be entering discussion, but if you want to add to the study, and present your own understanding, that will be appreciated.


(Jude v6) And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

Before getting into the actual study of this verse, we should note how the letter is composed and the distinct sections. This helps to see the context of the verse under consideration.

Introduction vv 1-2
1. Occasion of the Letter vv 3-4
2. Historical examples of unbelief and rebellion vv 5-7
3. False Teachers described vv 8-19
4. Exhortation to Christians vv 20-23
Conclusion vv 24-25

In verse 3, Jude is concerned about 'earnestly contending the faith.' The message of Jude is applicable to our day as it was in the days Jude wrote his letter. In the letters of Paul, we are warned about false Christs and deceivers who have such a convincing message that unless well grounded in the scriptures the message of the deceivers would almost deceive the saints. Maybe not intentionally, but it is ironic that false teaching has deceived believers into thinking Jude is talking about Holy Angels of God which have sinned and fallen from heaven. Finding out, who the 'angels' of verse 6 are, is essential to understanding the true nature of God's Holy Angels.

The Bible might appear to have paradoxes and therefore it is necessary to understand scripture in order to resolve the paradoxes. This must be don e to ensure God’s word remains coherent to us as God (the author) intends. The one paradox is that of angels. Verses like Jude 6 are used to support the idea that God’s Holy Angels sinned, yet the teaching of the Son of God was that God’s will is done in Heaven and as Hebrews 1:14 says; Are they (God’s Holy Angels) not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? The sovereignty of God to control His creation is at question here. Whereas humans were given free choice and that gave them freedom to reject God, God’s Holy Angels were created to be God’s agents to carry specific instructions. There is no reason to assume God’s Holy Angels refused to carry out those instructions and rebelled. The confusion between 'angels' and God’s Holy Angels needs to be resolved.

(1 Corinthians 14:33) 'For God is not the author of confusion.' If we are confused, it is because we have not correctly interpreted God’s word. The figurative language used must be interpreted correctly. The use of figurative language is the way God’s message has been able to be delivered in different languages throughout history. It is the interpretation put on the language by man that has changed the message. Only using the original documents can the nearest we get the truth of what was written. This is the starting point; to establish what was in the author’s mind and wanted to convey to the readers and hearers of the letter. To understand the figurative language used also requires the language at the time of translation to be understood. The King James Edition of the Bible, for example, is still regarded as one of the most faithful interpretations of the texts available at the time. Today, the meaning of some words has changed and the style of language has changed. Great care must be taken in Bible study to take into account changing language over the centuries. The original message as it was given to the inspired authors has not been changed. The translators have had to make a choice in the selection of the words used and sometimes this can lead to a bias based on the inherent beliefs of the translators. Those translations of the ancient scriptures that have been compiled from a consensus of a number of translators and sources will prove the most accurate and reliable. It is advisable to compare different translations in order to get the best possible understanding.

With that said, let’s begin to understand what is meant by the word 'angels' in Jude 6.
In verse 5, Jude reminds his readers of something they already knew; 'I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this.' We must ask ourselves the question; what is it that Jude is reminding his readers of? The answer has to do with the period following the Exodus from Egypt and while the people are in the Wilderness; as verse 5 explains; 'how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not'.
This is the context for verse 6. We should also note that verse 6 begins with the word 'And.' Therefore, we should take verses 5 and 6 together; 'how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not and the angels which kept not their first estate, ...'. There is no reason for Jude to go off at a tangent in verse 6 and talk of another event outside the events he is drawing our attention to. The remainder of verse 6 is a metaphor which we also have to understand and this will be explained later once we have established who the 'angels' are in verse 6.

The Greek word 'angelos', simply means a 'messenger' and can apply to humans. The word can be used of priests, ministers, and apostles or whoever relayed God’s message. The notion that the word 'angels' only applies to God’s Holy Angels is wrong. Had the translators used the word 'messengers', 'ministers', or 'priests', the thought of God’s Holy Angels would never have come to mind. The word 'angel' does not have to have supernatural connotations.

In the context of something that happened after the people were delivered from Egypt, we have to find out who were killed and why. There are several groups who were destroyed in the wilderness and these are;
1. The 10 spies sent out to survey the Promised Land
2. All the congregation who murmured and disbelieved God
3. Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their 250 followers

Note: Group 2 all died naturally in the wilderness; they were not destroyed like the others were, but were kept in the wilderness until that generation died off. They wandered for forty years (Numbers 14:29) and because of their disbelief they perished in the wilderness and not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Group 1 were destroyed (killed) for disbelieving. The spies reported that the Children of Israel would not be able to overcome the people living in the Promised Land (Numbers 14:37). Group 3 were killed for rebelling against Moses and God (Numbers 16).
Group 2 we can rule out as being 'angels' because they had no specific message to give. Group 1 brought back a message about what they found in the Promised Land, but there is nothing in this story that suggests the spies 'left their first estate'. In other words, the spies had not sought to elevate themselves for what they had done. Group 3 were men to give God's message to the people and who could be considered to have "left their first estate". This makes Group 3 the obvious choice to be the 'angels.' There is no record during the wilderness journey (or ever) involving God’s Holy Angels rebelling and sinning.

The story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram was well known to the Jews (Israel). These men contended with Moses for leadership of the people. The complete story is found in Numbers 16. For now, Numbers 26:9 tells us that these people were well known. 'This is that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD'.
Korah was of the tribe of Levi. The Levites were chosen as the tribe from which the men would serve as priests (ministers). (Numbers 16: 8) 'And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: (9) Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?' Had the word 'ministers' or 'priests' been used in verse 6 instead of the word 'angels,' and the misunderstanding would not have arisen. The 250 followers of Korah (and his two accomplices) were 'princes' in Israel and it is possible that by following these three men, they were looking for an increase in status also. Korah and his accomplices wanted to take over the leadership of the people. Jude’s statement; 'which kept not their first estate' becomes clear. These men were not content with the roles they had been given and they were not content with Moses’ leadership; they wanted change. In so doing they showed greed and envy.
The final part to which the angels did (verse 6) was; "left their own habitation". This was in contrast to them not "keeping their first estate". Their actions resulted in them changing their habitation on earth for the habitation of the grave regarded as 'rooms of darkness' in the bowels of the earth. They had gone from the light of life into darkness of the grave. Instead of being content with the responsible positions they had been given, they wanted more. Recalling the teaching in Paul’s message, we are told; (Philippians 4:11) Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. So this was the problem with Korah, Dathan and Abiram, they were not content with the state they had been given in the service of the Lord.

The outcome of this story is; Korah, Dathan and Abiram were cast down into the earth (literally). A deep crevasse opened up beneath their feet and they fell into it and died. 2 Peter 2:4 recalls the same event and uses words (metaphors) like; 'cast down to hell' signifying the grave and 'chains of darkness' to signify that that is where they remained until the Day of Judgement. The spectacle of these men falling into a deep crevasse could be imagined as falling into the abyss and the bowels of the earth or into 'rooms of darkness'. These were the imaginations of the people at the time Jude is writing his letter. This is how the people imagined what was below the surface of the earth and this is what they would have understood from Jude’s and Peter’s letters. We are more enlightened today as to what lies deep below our feet, yet this does not detract from the important message Jude has to tell us. The clear message is; these men died and they remain dead until the final Day of Judgment comes (Jude 6); 'unto the judgment of the great day.' This also applies to the 250 followers (Princes in Israel) who were killed after the deaths of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The deaths of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and their followers was a memorable event. This is a story that is often told in Sunday schools and we might recall this from our own Sunday school days now we have been reminded of it.

The punishment resulting in the death of these men was spectacular for the way it was carried out and for its immediacy and severity. It is recorded in Num 26:10; 'they became a sign.' This 'sign' is to show how serious it is for those given positions of responsibility in God’s administration to rebel against Him. This is the important event to which we can reasonably conclude Jude was reminding his readers.

The ministers (angels) are clearly the three men who died. In addition, the 250 followers could be considered as 'messengers'. It would require that many men to spread God’s messages given to Moses to pass on to the people. The total number of people who left Egypt could have easily numbered 2 million or more. Each of the 250 'Princes in Israel' would have had to spread the message to 10,000 (approximately) people.

There is much figurative language used by Jude and it is essential to correctly understand the language used. It is not in the scope of this explanation concerning the word 'angels' to consider references to 'Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil'. This can easily be explained and the archangel, who (in this case) is an Holy Angel of God must not be confused with an 'angel' who is only a human messenger. This does not exclude the word 'angels' being used to mean an Holy Angel of God, but care must be taken to establish this is the case. Since the word can be applied to both God’s Holy Angel and that of a human messenger, the onus is on the Bible student to divide the word of scripture correctly. Saying that 'angels' and 'archangel' are used in the same context is simply to make a wrong connection.

Since figurative language for death has been used in the verses under consideration, we should understand God’s teaching about death. This will remove the mystery and superstitions which surround the subject. It is legitimate to use common language and phrases that the people of that period would understand, even if that means borrowing mythical language of the time. Therefore, all the expressions used by Jude and in the parallel account of 2 Peter 2:14 using the following phrases must be seen in the same light; 'everlasting chains under darkness', 'cast them down to hell'. Because the Greek word for 'tartarus' has been used by Peter, does not mean that Peter believed in the folklore surrounding that word. However, by using the word, the people receiving his message understood the fatal end which befell the rebels. Euphemisms and metaphors for death does not change the fact that when a person dies, that means cessation of life. The Bible makes it very clear. Psalm 6:5 'For in death there is no remembrance of thee: ' Eccl 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast:

What about life after death? This is a separate subject but the only life spoken of in the Bible after death is the life that comes from resurrection. The example of the Lord Jesus is proof of this. Forget the false teaching of the immortal soul and going to heaven at the time of death. These are not supported scripturally. Jesus was dead for three full days in the tomb. In that time he had no consciousness; he was dead. The clue as to what happens at death and resurrection is given to us by Jesus and was also confirmed at the death of the martyr; Stephen. In his dying words, Jesus said; 'into thy (God) hands I commend my spirit'. God retains the spirit of the person by which God is able to reunite that spirit with the body at resurrection. The body once in the grave (hell, Gehenna, the pit, rooms of darkness, whatever...) the body decays; it corrupts. All expressions meaning death means the body will decay. Proverbs 5:22 uses the word 'cords' in the similar context to the word 'chains' in Jude. In the context of Proverbs 5, it is clearly speaking of humans who are dead. The saints, of whom Jude has reminded us, are those who are judged worthy to be with Christ in his kingdom (to come). The Bible teaching is that when we die we go to the grave and there we remain forever, or until the next conscious moment the person is resurrected to stand before Jesus at the judgement seat. The 'angels chained in darkness' are only human messengers in the grave until the Day of Judgment at the resurrection. There is no mystery in death to consider. The mystery is; how does God retain the spirit of those who are going to be raised for judgement? God is so powerful and capable we have been given the proof in the resurrection of Jesus. This is our assurance from God in that He can do the same for us. It is beyond our capability to understand how God can do this.

In this study of 'angels' we have come across figurative language that can be misleading if not correctly understood. Every word and expression cannot be taken literally and the correct meaning takes some searching out. For example, we cannot consider the angels as spirit beings held with physical chains. What physical chain retain a spirit? We should also bear in mind that in Jude's letter common language of the day would have been even used, even the folklore of his day in the same way that we use folklore expressions today. For example, when the technology does not work correctly, we say the Gremlins are at work. We know that there are no such beings as Gremlins, but that does not stop us from using the expression. You know what I mean by that expression. Please bear this example in mind to get to a true understanding of the term Satan or the Devil that you read of in the Bible.

An explanation for who the "angels" are in verse 6 of Jude has been given. The 'angels' refer to Korah, Dathan and Abiram (and maybe their 250 followers can be included). Is this explanation plausible? Have the scriptures rightly been used to come to this conclusion? Who else might this word 'angels' refer to, if not Korah, Dathan and Abiram? Also keep in mind that scripture must be coherent and must not create paradoxes which cannot be answered. Use the method of questioning everything and getting the answers to those questions. Look for the context (people, time, and place) of the events referred to or to whom the message was given. Look for the answers in the Bible. Compare Bible commentaries, but decide for yourself, whether those commentaries are based on sound reasoning and which of the interpretations is the wisest.

In the wonderful doxology that Jude closes his letter with and in the last verse there is another irony. God is given the ascription of being wise as believers know He is. In view of the fact that so many have considered the writings of Jude in the wrong context has led to the wrong belief about God’s Holy Angels. God did not create His Holy Angels so they could rebel. That is why God's kingdom is not divided as Jesus alluded to when he said that Satan's kingdom was divided. God gave us (humans) the freedom to choose between good and evil; life and death. There is nothing to say this same freedom was given to God's Holy Angels. To believe such a thing in the light of Jesus’ teaching, is not having a correct understanding and wisdom. To 'earnestly contend for the same faith that was once delivered to the saints', we have to be like Kings and search out a the matter. The saints shall be Kings and Priests on the earth assisting Jesus in his millennial reign and they will be in the Kingdom of God on earth. (Proverbs 25:2) It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. Taking some of Jude’s words at face value as they appear in the Bible translation that has been handed down to us, has made searching out the matter more necessary. Considering the translators could have used the word 'ministers' or 'priests' instead of 'angels' would not have lead to wresting the scriptures as some have done and have come to an incorrect understanding of God’s Holy Angels.


May God bless you in the study of His word and in further understanding the remainder of Jude’s letter.

David

(Jude 24) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (25) to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.