“For God spared not the angels that sinned, but thrust them down to hell.” 2 Peter 2:4. Unfortunately few modern versions give us the correct word for hell in this verse. (Out of 16 versions, I found only HCSB and YLT using Tartarus.) The Greek word Tartarus occurs only here in the N.T. So what is Tartarus? The word comes from Greek Mythology, and refers to the lowest part of Hades, where the Titans and Giants were consigned by Zeus after the war. Homer, in his “Iliad” (VIII. Line 13) refers to this as follows –
‘Far, O far, from steep Olympus thrown,
Low in the deep Tartarean gulf shall groan.
That gulf which iron gates and brazen ground
Within the earth inexorably bound;
As deep beneath th’ infernal centre hurl’d,
As from that centre to the ethereal world.’
“ . . . and delivered them into chains of darkness.” The “bottomless pit” of Tartarus was considered to be completely dark, the darkness that prevents one from seeing the outside world, and in particular the face of God. Peter has drawn from the picture language of the Greek poets to describe the fate of the angels who sinned.
“ . . . .to be reserved for judgment.” These fallen angels were chained in the darkness of Tartarus awaiting the Day of Judgment. But we must not confuse “Judgment” with “Condemnation”. Judgment is always full of possibilities. What happens then?
“He (Christ) was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which He also went and proclaimed His Message to the spirits that were in prison, who in ancient times had been disobedient, while God’s longsuffering was patiently waiting in the days of Noah during the building of the Ark.” 1 Peter 3:18-20, Weymouth.
Jesus therefore visited the “bottomless pit”, the dark region of Tartarus, where the fallen angels were consigned and restrained, and Peter tells us that He “proclaimed His message” to them. The verb KERUSSO, which Peter uses here is frequently used for preaching the Gospel, as with EUANGELIZO, to announce the good news. Jesus was not gloating over them in His victory but giving them an unexpected hope for the future.
The only logical conclusion from reading Peter’s words is a fact that needs to be learned and accepted by the Church. Jesus visited the fallen angels to bring light into their darkness, and give them hope of ultimate salvation. Peter’s “proclamation” therefore throws wide open the gates of salvation to fallen angels as well as to fallen human beings. Christ’s victory at Calvary is far greater than many will allow, so why should man close his “bowels of mercy and compassion”?
In the future, as in the past, repentance is the key to salvation, and the Lord has “great joy over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7,10. The gates are always open. What has not been achieved in this life will eventually be made available in the next. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
And our Lord’s visit to Tartarus shows us that the fallen angels have not been left out. In that, there is much cause for rejoicing.