Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What if we won't judge the angels? What if that's not what Paul meant? (1Cor 6:3)

Dear in Christ,

While we say that there are no celestial monsters called Satan or Devil or angels that sinned, people point us to this scripture.
1Co 6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
The passage doesn't specify whether all the angels would be judged, or only those angels who have sinned would be judged.

We have already established that

How will we reconcile rest of our studies with 1Cor 6:3?

[This section has inputs from Brother Jonathan Forgor]

In order to understand the proceedings in 1Cor 6:3, we need to go backwards a bit. In 1Cor 5:5 Paul orders the church at Corinth to deliver a fornicator to Satan:
1Co 5:5 you are to deliver this man (the fornicator vs. 1) to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Though, we, the 21st century readers of the epistle, have difficulty in understanding the passage, the first century addressees of the epistle understood that the message was to excommunicate the fornicator. How do we know this? In the second epistle to Corinthians Paul mentions the incident!
2Co 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure - not to put it too severely - to all of you.
2Co 2:6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough,
2Co 2:7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
2Co 2:8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.
2Co 2:9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.
2Co 2:10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ,
Obviously, the passage is referring a man who was punished by majority (1Cor 5:3-4) and asks them to receive him back and comfort him, so that he won't be drowned in excessive sorrow. If we read from the beginning of the chapter we can easily make out that Paul felt awkward about having ordered the church at Corinth to deliver the man to Satan (disfellowship him).

The big question here is: How did the church at Corinth understand that delivering to Satan meant excommunication? It should either be a figure of speech or a cultural thing, we have no clue about. (Please don't tell me that they came to know from the second epistle, which was sent to them a couple of years later.)

If the expression "deliver someone to Satan" meant "excommunicate them", what warrants us to say that the expression "we will judge the angels" has a literal application? Why can't the expression be a figure of speech?

On our judging the world.

Let us examine 1Cor 6:2 for the sake of completeness.

1Co 6:2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?

Most of us want to judge and condemn our enemies and those who don't accept our faith, don't we? Whenever we see a scripture that mentions enemies of God would be made Jesus' footstool, or condemned to eternal fire, don't we visualize those whom we hate going through such punishment? (In doing so, in a way, we are usurping the position of God!)

Before his arrest and crucifixion, this is what Jesus had to say about the judgment of the world:
Joh 12:31 Now (the time Jesus was saying this) is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

One of the reasons why Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah was that he didn't fulfill their expectations! They were indoctrinated into having a larger than life image of the Messiah, that Jesus didn't quite fit in with that image. The same is the case with our expectations regarding the judgment of the world. We have been taught about a judgment of the world where Jesus would sit on a great throne and people, dead and alive, from all around the world would be gathered in front of him and he would separate the good ones from the evil ones as a shepherd would separate sheep from goats and so on. Unlike all our expectations and the indoctrination that we have received, Jesus says that the judgment of the world was when he was arrested. (I am not ignoring the passages which mention that judgment would happen at Jesus' second coming.) My question is: What if our expectations or concept of the judgment of the world is different from what Jesus had in mind?

There are certain individuals who were granted the rights of judging human beings:
  1. The 12 apostles of Jesus were granted the rights of judging the 12 tribes of Israel. (Mat 19:28; Luk 22:30. There is no valid reason to think that any of the 2.2 billion Christians alive today can claim that they are part of the 12 apostles of Jesus.
  2. The saints who martyred and beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God (Rev 20:4). I am not beheaded, as at the time of writing this and unless I become an anti-establishment blogger in Bangladesh, I don't visualize being beheaded.
In short, though we may be saints, the rights of judging fellow human beings is not granted to us.

There are angels without wings!

[This section has inputs from Br. Benny]

The moment one reads 1Cor 6:3, they visualize themselves judging the sons of God who married daughters of men, mentioned Gen 6:2 and then went on to cause all kinds of havoc on this planet. Our mental image of angels is that of heavenly angels seen in paintings and movies, without facial hair, wearing long, white cassocks, having long and beautiful wings and so on.

It is an admitted fact that the angels of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation were the elders of those churches. In fact, some of these "angels" were castigated for their failures.
Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against you (the angel of the church in Pergamum): you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
Rev 2:20 But I have this against you (the angel of the church in Thyatira), that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Rev 3:2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your (the angel of the church in Sardis) works complete in the sight of my God.
Rev 3:15 "'I know your (the angel of the church in Laodicea) works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!
The long and short of the story is that, just because the word angel is used, it needs not always be about heavenly angels.

Clergy and Angels

When correctly translated, there aren't different set of Hebrew words to refer to heavenly angels and human messengers. The Hebrew word for angel is מַלְאָךְ, read as mal-awk' (Strong's number H4397 and H4398, the latter used in Aramaic books like Daniel). This word is translated as angel 110 times in the Old Testament and as messenger 95 times.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as angel is ̓́γγελος, read as ang'-el-os (G32 in Strong's). This word is translated as angel 179 times and as messenger 7 times.

Now, if our study that the prince of this world mentioned by Jesus was the Jewish clergy is correct, there is at least a passage that associates the clergy (priests) with divine messengers (angels). Please note the usage of the Hebrew word for angels / messengers in the following verse.
Mal 2:7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messengerH4397 of the LORD of hosts.
Now let us examine 1Cor 6:3, noticing the presence of the Greek word for angels.
1Co 6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angelsG32? how much more things that pertain to this life?
Reading together Mal 2:7, 1Cor 6:3 and the knowledge that the prince of this world was the Jewish clergy makes the understanding of 1Cor 6:3 easier, unless, of course, you are hell bent on judging heavenly angels who are far superior to you.

It was not just priests, even Pharisees and the scribes were expected to know the finer details of the Kingdom of God. Please read the conversation between Nicodemus, a Pharisee and Jesus in Joh 3:1-21. At one point in their conversation, Jesus was so upset with Nicodemus' questions, he asked him:
Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Joh 3:10
At another point of time Jesus specified his expectations of an ideal scribe:
Mat 13:52 And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."
Last, but not the least, remember, James's warning:
Jas 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness
Knowing that there are priests, Pharisees, scribes and teachers as human angels who deserve judgment, why don't we spare heavenly angels?

With one more study on Michael the archangel and Satan, I think I can wind up this series.

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

I am not a scholar. If you want scholarly material on the non-existence of a celestial monster called Satan / Devil, you may visit the following websites:

No comments:

Post a Comment