Rebellious Angels: Jude 6–7

Rebellious Angels (2)

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2) Jude 6–7: The author of this letter exhorted its recipients to defend the faith by removing the false teachers who infiltrated their congregation (Jude 3–4).[1]

He compared those in error with notorious sinners from the Old Testament (OT).[2]

This short epistle makes heavy use of apocryphal works popular in his day.[3] Jude typically alluded to them, rather than citing them directly.[4]

However, this does not mean that he necessarily agreed with everything which appears in those books.[5]

In effect, he did the same thing preachers do today when they reference popular culture to make a specific point in their sermons.[6]

The great theologian Jerome (347–420 AD) wrote, “Many things in sacred Scripture…are said in accordance with the opinion of the time in which the events took place, rather than in accordance with the actual truth of the matter.”[7]



Since the nineteenth century, archaeologists have unearthed over a million cuneiform tablets in the Ancient Near East which confirm that “the sons of the gods” in Gen 6:1–4 refers to powerful kings. Prior to then, no evidence affirmed this view.[8]

During Jude’s lifetime, people believed that “the sons of God” consisted of angels who engaged in sexual activity with human women.

The interpretations of earlier Jewish authors reached their culmination in 1 Enoch.[9]

Notably, John Calvin omitted any reference to Gen 6:1–4 or the “sons of God” in his commentary on Jude 6–7.[10]

However, in Calvin’s commentary on Genesis, he wrote, “That ancient figment, concerning the intercourse of angels with women, is abundantly refuted by its own absurdity; and it is surprising that learned men should formerly have been fascinated by ravings so gross and prodigious.”[11]



Jude began v. 6 by comparing false teachers to “angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their own dwelling places.”

In their rebellion against the Lord, they left their positions in the heavenly spheres which God entrusted to them.[12] As a result, those angels crossed proper boundaries.[13]

Jude appears to have based this teaching upon 1 Enoch 15:2–3, where the Lord commanded Enoch to confront the Watchers of heaven.

He asked, “Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants (as your) sons?”[14]

As a result, 1 Enoch provides the basis for the New Testament concept that evil spirits consist of angels who have fallen away from serving the Lord.[15]



However, Jude emphasized the guilt of the false teachers in the church for a similar dereliction of duty.[16]

Regarding fallen angels, Jude wrote, “for judgment of the great day, he has kept them in chains, eternally under darkness.”

The term “the great day” refers to what others called “The day of the Lord.”

God shall intervene at the end of human history to complete the salvation of his people and deliver retribution to those who rebelled against him (Isa 13:6–9; Zeph 1:14–18).

Nevertheless, their punishment has already begun. Rather than literal shackles, Jude depicted the misery and impotence of those who once exulted in God’s marvelous light but have been plunged into profound darkness (Jude 12–13).[17]

Although the Lord has cast them into a state of torment, they remain free to carry out their evil deeds.[18]

In Greek thought, this “darkness” (zophos) referred to the underworld of Hades, where the spirits of the dead reside.[19]

The great playwright Aeschylus (ca. 525–456 BC), wrote these lines, “As for me, I depart to the darkness (zophos) beneath the earth. Farewell, Elders, and despite your troubles, rejoice while each day is yours; for wealth does not profit the dead at all.”[20]



Once again, the concept found in Jude occurs in 1 Enoch:

And again the Lord said to [the angel] Raphael, “Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert…and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire.[21]

Although false teachers already suffer affliction by God, doom awaits them (Rev 20:10–15).[22]

Note Jude’s grim play on words: those who did not keep (tēreō) their proper place are now kept (tēreō) in chains. The punishment fits the crime (Cf. 1 Cor 3:17; Rev 16:4–7).[23]

Since no one can sin with impunity, all of us must resist false teaching (Jude 19–21).[24]



Jude then compared the judgment awaiting the infiltrators of the church to that of infamous sinners.

He wrote, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and also the cities around them, these in the same way indulged in illicit sexual relations and went after other flesh. They are exhibited as an example, undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

People in Israel regarded Sodom and Gomorrah as the paradigm of those who incur divine judgment (Gen 19:23–25; Deut 29:22–25; Lam 4:6; Luke 17:28–30).[25] Among the surrounding cities, God spared only Zoar (Gen 19:15–22).[26]

The men of Sodom sought to rape Lot’s visitors (Gen 19:4–9). Likewise, Jude charged the false teachers with sexual immorality.[27]

How to interpret “other flesh” (sarx heteros) has generated some controversy. Some scholars see the issue as men desiring sex with angels.[28]

However, most commentators view it as lusting for flesh other than that of women (Rom 1:27).[29]

After all, the men of Sodom had no idea that Lot’s guests were angels (Gen 19:1–5).[30]

Furthermore, angels do not have flesh,[31] and it is highly unlikely that the false teachers of Jude’s era desired sex with angels.[32]



Jude’s contemporaries regarded the continued desolation of the area where Sodom had been as evidence of God’s sentiment concerning sexual sin.[33]

This zone south of the Dead Sea remained a place of sulfurous devastation.[34]

According to Philo (20 BC–40 AD), “Even to this day there are seen in Syria monuments of the unprecedented destruction that fell upon them, in the ruins, and ashes, and sulphur, and smoke, and dusky flame which still is sent up from the ground as of a fire smoldering beneath.”[35]

Josephus (37–100 AD) described Lake Asphaltites (the Dead Sea), which yielded much bitumen. Then he wrote:

The country of Sodom borders upon it. It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how, for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that Divine fire, and the traces [or shadows] of the five cities are still to be seen.[36]



Although we cannot ascertain that the false teachers of Jude’s era committed the same kinds of sin perpetrated by the men of Sodom, these sites constantly reminded people living in Israel of the reality of the judgment which awaits those who rebel against God.[37]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Jude 6–7. Why would a New Testament author allude to sources which were not regarded as part of the Bible? What did people in the time of Jude believe about “the sons of God”? Why did later theologians disagree? How were the false teachers like the men of Sodom? What would happen to them?







Go to Guilty of Misconduct (Jude 8)

[Related posts include Guilty of Misconduct (Jude 8); Sons of God or Sons of the Gods? (Gen 6:1–2); Fallen Angels as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Nephilim in the Land (Gen 6:4); The Descendants of Canaan (Gen 10:15–20); It is Good Not to Touch (1 Cor 7:1‒5); Modern Scholars’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 5: Groaning and Grieving (Genesis 5:28–6:8)]


[1]Robert L. Webb, “Jude” DLNT, 611–21, 611.

[2]Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 239.

[3]Richard J. Bauckham, “Jude, Epistle of.,” ABD 3:1098–1103, 1099.

[4]Webb, “Jude,” DLNT , 614.

[5]Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 450.

[6]Webb, “Jude,” DLNT, 614.

[7]Jerome, Commentary on Jeremiah (Michael Graves; Ancient Christian Texts; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 28:10–1, 173.

[8]Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate, 205.

[9]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 241.

[10]John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (trans. John Owen; Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software), 435–6,

[11]John Calvin, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (trans. John King; Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 238,

[12]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 241.

[13]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 448.

[14]Charles, trans., “Book of Enoch,” 15:2–3, Note that the Aramaic term “watcher” appears in Dan 4:23.

[15]George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Rev. Ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 653.

[16]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 52.

[17]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 448–9.

[18]Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Ed., 416.

[19]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 241.

[20]Aeschylus, Persians (vol. 1 of Aeschylus, with an English Translation, in Two Volumes; trans. Herbert Weir Smyth; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), lines 839–40, Http://

[21]R. H. Charles, trans., “Book of Enoch,” in The Apochrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 10:1–6,

[22]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 51.

[23]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 53.

[24]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 449.

[25]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 53.

[26]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 451.

[27]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 242.

[28]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 54.

[29]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 242.

[30]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 453.

[31]Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), 60.

[32]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 54.

[33]Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, 243.

[34]Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 54–5.

[35]Philo, “On the Life of Moses, II,” in The Works of Philo Judaeus (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: H. G. Bohn, 1854), 85,

[36]Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 4.8.4,

[37]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 453–4.