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Angelic Issues IX

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Question #1:  

Hi Bob,

I was listening to a biblical scholar who said that the word "habitation" in the Greek is "oiketerion" and said that it is only mentioned twice in the NT (Jude 6; 2 Cor. 5:2). He then said that the Greek word refers to a "body" as in 2 Cor. 5:2 where Paul speaks of us believers awaiting to be clothed with our glorified bodies. Furthermore, he stated that this means that the angels "shed" their celestial bodies to engage themselves in sin while on Earth (2 Pet. 2:4-5). His premise was the "days of Noah" mentioned by Jesus will be parallel to the days before the Second Advent. That is, fallen angels will be involved in making hybrids, once again producing nephilim. Is his exegesis of those texts correct?

Response #1: 

The word oiketerion means "little house". It is definitely used at 2nd Corinthians 5:2 for our "next body" (whether resurrection or interim). It does not have that meaning at Jude 1:6, however; there it refers to the proper place of angels, but indeed the context is talking about the fallen angels violating their ground rules in producing the Nephilim in Genesis chapter six. Angels cannot "shed" anything; but the fallen angels did act in unauthorized ways. See the link: "Satan's fall from grace".

Question #2:  

The Catholic Church uses Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 to support the false doctrine of the intercession of the saints. I have read what you wrote about these verses and it seemed to me that the clearest argument to show that the elders in revelation 5:8 is that the scripture does not allow for them to be already rewarded, since the judgment seat of Christ follows His second coming. This shows they are not human and if they are not human, then they are an angelic rank. However, when reading around the subject I came across an observation I found very bright and it's regarding Revelation 5:9:

Revelation 5:8-10 NASB
8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders say that God have made "them to be a kingdom and priests to our God" - they are not referring to themselves, but to men, as in verse 9. In verse 9 there is a clear reference to the redemption of men and if the elders were human, then they would have to refer to themselves also, since they would also be in need of redemption (I know that the wrong textual variant says just that, but not the correct reading). Now since they say that God purchased men and made them a kingdom, which clearly distinguishes between them and the men of whom they are singing - and since from it we know they did not need the redemption - then they are clearly angelic. I'm not sure if I presented this argument in the clearest way, but hopefully you see the point. Let me know what you think and if you would add anything else here, given that the text is written for catholics who don't know how a man is saved, never mind the details on eschatology. I just want to give the strongest and clearest arguments to show that elders are not human.

Response #2: 

Well done! An excellent point which by itself settles the issue – and in conjunction with the other evidence leaves no room for doubt but that the elders are angels (see the link).

Question #3: 

Should we understand that in Revelation 5:8-10 and 8:3-4 we are shown that the angels present our prayers to God? That's what I would like to understand - why is it that they are actually involved in the process of taking petitions to the Lord?

Response #3: 

In the first passage, Revelation 5:8-10, these angels glorify God for what He has done for mankind, but I don't see where they put forward any petitions for human beings here. In the second passage, Revelation 8:3-4, the angels are intermediaries of carrying out the prayers of human beings on God's behalf – but that is what angels do throughout scripture. They are "ministering spirits" (Heb.1:7), acting not of their own accord in presenting petitions but serving the Lord in carrying out ours in the way He directs.

Question #4:   

This is the one issue I would like to understand better - you mention that you don't see them putting forward any petitions for human beings there and this is true, so how should we explain the fact that they hold those bowls full of incense "as prayers of the saints"? Is it also to do with the fact they are just involved in carrying these prayers to God?

Based on your exegesis in Part 3A of the Coming Tribulation I explained the distinction between the incense and the prayers in Revelation 8:3-4, but in Revelation 5:8 the incense is given "as prayers", which could be taken that incense is prayers - so the distinction from chapter 8 would seem not to be present. How to explain this difference?

Response #4: 

Bowls: angels clearly are given a role in administering the prayers of the saints. That does not mean they pray for the saints. Even if they are seen to collect the prayers of the saints (not the case; see next answer), it wouldn't mean they pray of their own accord for the saints. That never ever happens in scripture.

Incense: Here is my expanded translation from CT 2B:

And when He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell [down] before the Lamb, each with a lyre and golden bowls of incense, which [incense] is as prayers of the saints (i.e., Christ's sacrifice which validates our prayers is represented by the incense; see part 3).
Revelation 5:8

The incense is not prayers (note, no definite article), but merely represents ("is as") prayers.  That is what the Greek text says.  Translators (and editors of Greek critical editions) in trying to make this more palatable in English have often subverted the true meaning entirely.

Question #5: 

Hello Professor,

Understood and this is also the point which I need to make clearly in the text - angels are given a role in administering the prayers of believers, but that does not mean they pray for believers. Both Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 make it clear and there is no mention of the latter in either.

I'm still not clear about the incense though and perhaps I didn't phrase my question clearly enough. My difficulty is in understanding why the incense is said to be "as prayers of the saints" in Revelation 5:8, but in Revelation 8:3-4 the incense - which, as you wrote, symbolises the acceptability of supplications achieved through our Lord's death - is added to/for the prayers.

So in the second passage the incense symbolises our Lord's sacrifice making the prayers acceptable and this incense is added to the prayers, but in Revelation 5:8 incense is "as prayers", or "prayers", which makes the meaning of incense different. In Revelation 8:3-4 it is a symbol of acceptability of the prayers and is added to the prayers and in Revelation 5:8 it seems to stand for the prayers themselves.

The Polish Catholic translation ignores the dative and incorrectly renders Revelation 8:4 as "and the smoke of the incense as the prayers of the saints went up". I wanted to ask - although this is, as you point, "dative of advantage" (It seems it is also referred to as dativus commodi?), would you see a translation "with" as acceptable here? In English, "for" works well here, in Polish it is somewhat awkward and I have been thinking if "with" could still be acceptable, even if not as literate.

You wrote:

"Since, as this image of the incense shows, our Lord's substitutionary death is completely acceptable to the Father, a sweet savor (which the incense reproduces) satisfying His righteous demand for the propitiation of all our sin, it has also opened up the floodgates of grace for all who turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason, the image of the incense has a further application, namely, to express the validation or rendering acceptable of everything done in His Name. That is clearly the main thrust of the image of the incense used here in Revelation 8:4, where its sweet savor is said to rise up for the prayers of the saints.(5) In other words, these prayers are made and considered completely valid through this heavenly incense – though not through the incense per se, but rather by the empowering sweet aroma of the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross which the incense represents."

My difficulty is in understanding why the incense is said to be "as prayers of the saints" in Revelation 5:8, but in Revelation 8:3-4 the incense - which, as you wrote, symbolises the acceptability of supplications achieved through our Lord's death - is added to/for the prayers.

I think Meyer may have come to the rescue. He writes: "The Α may, by attraction, be referred to the ΘΥΜΙΑΜΆΤΩΝ,[1932] yet the formally more simple reference to ΦΙΆΛΑς may be adopted, as the vials are just such as are filled with incense."

This would reconcile the two passages and the problem I had - the expression "which are the prayers of the saints" refers to the golden bowls - not to the incense. Do you think that's right?

Response #5: 

Incense symbolizes prayers; whether it says "as" or "are" the meaning is the same: everyone knows that prayers are not incense and incense is not prayers, but prayers are acceptable to the Lord, coming from believers, and have a "sweet smell" to Him. That is what the incense symbolizes – and it is symbolic in both passages, regardless of the language. It is not uncommon for Greek even in the NT to say "are / is" when the meaning is "are / is [equivalent to / symbolic of]"; what will make the issue clear is a context where the two things, the subject and the predicate, are clearly not precisely the same thing – so that one must symbolize or stand for the other.

Question #6:  

Regarding the incense and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4, I will ask you for some help then, so as to explain the symbolism clearly here. Having read your explanation in the Coming Tribulation Part 3A, I have written that the incense is a symbol of acceptability of prayers.

And in footnote 5 you explain:

5. Probably because of a failure to understand that the incense empowers prayers (lit., is "for [the benefit of] the prayers"), the use of the dative case here has proved puzzling for many commentators. The dative case in Greek is frequently used in this sense of "for the benefit of" (often termed the "dative of advantage", essentially equivalent to our English preposition "for" in this sense).

Based on the above, I have provided an explanation of incense as standing for acceptability of our prayers achieved through our Lord's sacrifice. I thought this is a really helpful clarification of the meaning of incense which brings both the Old and New Testament references and I am confident none of the readers would have made that link themselves. I have also made the clarification you provide in the footnote, since the main Polish translation also completely ignores the dative and says "incense as the prayer of the saints" instead of "for" or "with".

So I just wanted to get your guidance as to how to go about this issue. Perhaps I have drawn too sharp a distinction between the incense and the prayers themselves and this distinction, although present in Revelation 8:3-4, is not seen in Revelation 5:8. Should we treat the incense as having a double symbolism and standing for both prayers and the acceptability of those prayers through our Lord's sacrifice?

And then my other, more general question would be whether the fact that the elders hold the golden bowls with prayers in Revelation 5:8 in their hands should simply be taken as indicating their involvement in taking our supplications to God? It is not explicitly mentioned in that particular passage, as it is in Revelation 8:3-4, but it seems that would be in any case perhaps the only purpose why they would have them. I didn't want to go beyond what is written here, but be able to explain why they hold the prayers in the first place.

Response #6: 

When you write, " incense as standing for acceptability of our prayers achieved through our Lord's sacrifice", that is exactly right in my opinion.

As to the possibility of any role for the angelic elders, other than the one here, I don't see that in scripture. It seems to me that their role as described in Revelation is purely one of ritual which has symbolic meaning. Practically speaking, we are believer priests (even in Revelation: Rev.1:6) who have access to the Father directly through the blood of Christ (Eph.2:18; 3:12; Heb.4:16), and also the right to pray directly to Christ (Jn.14:14). God clearly has no need of angels collecting up / organizing prayers. It's not impossible of course but I don't see it here, anymore than I see the offering of incense on the altar in Jerusalem as being more than a symbolic ritual. God does use angels to carry out His responses to prayer (cf. Heb.1:14) – even though He could do everything Himself easily enough – but that is paralleled by His use of believers to minister to the Body of Christ.

Question #7: 

I apologise I keep coming back to these two verses. I want to understand them and the symbols they describe so as to present a clear rebuttal of the catholic nonsense argument, but some questions still remain.

This is the difficulty I'm having - the incense stands for acceptability of prayers in Revelation 8:3-4 and this verse seems to draw a distinction between the prayers and the incense. But in Revelation 5:8, according to most translations, the incense stands for the prayers. So in one verse the incense stands for acceptability and is distinguished from the prayers, but in the other it seems to stand for the prayers themselves.

This is also why I thought that maybe in Revelation 5:8 the words αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ των ἁγιων don't refer to θυμιαματων, but rather to φιαλας χρυσας - so that the incense is still a symbol of acceptability and the prayers are symbolically represented by the bowls.

I'm not sure if explained it clearly this time, hopefully you see what I mean.

As for the role of the angels - would you agree with the following summary:

a) In Revelation 5:8 the elders are only described as holding the prayers of believers in, as you wrote, a ritual which has a symbolic meaning. The passage doesn't say what they do with these prayers and so it cannot be used to support the doctrine of intercession.

b) In Revelation 8:3-4 the angel only adds the incense to the prayers and the incense stands for the acceptability of these prayers achieved through our Lord's sacrifice.

Neither passage explicitly even mentions the prayers being taken to the Lord by the angels, although it would seem possible that they play a role there. There is obviously no mention, however, of them praying for us.

Response #7:

I do see what you are saying, but to me these are just two ways of saying the same thing. In both cases, the incense is NOT the same as the prayers; and in both cases it has something to do with representing the prayers; so it is symbolic of the prayers in both cases, even though that symbolism is described somewhat differently in the two cases.

As to your summary, I agree completely!

Question #8: 

I decided to provide my own translations of Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 and in the latter the catholic translation ignores the dative in ταις προσευχαις and translates "so that he might offer it as the prayers" - which is clearly wrong.

a) I provided a somewhat literal rendering with "for", which doesn't sound as good in Polish as it does in English, unfortunately. Do you think "with" could also be used here?

b) I wanted to ask if it would be correct to state in the explanation that if John wanted to say "so that he might offer it as prayers", then he would have used the nominative both for θυμιαματα and for προσευχαις or he would have used ὡς? It is not a necessary addition and if I was to make this point, I need to make sure it's correct, but when it comes to Greek I would need to rely on your expertise rather than my own limited understanding.

Response #8: 

I like your additions. "With" is fine. Translation is an approximation of meaning and very hard to fine-tune if one is really concerned to get it as right as possible. On ὡς, you are correct to say that the dative case eliminates the possibility of the incense "being" the prayers; the nominative would be used for equivalency even if ὡς were used since that particle compares/contrasts two things in the same case.

By the way, this also argues for Revelation 5:8 meaning "are" only in the sense of "are equivalent to / symbolic of" because here, in Revelation 8:3, it has to be equivalence only. In other words, the first passage might theoretically go either way, the second one cannot; they both have to mean the same thing, so the second passage governs the interpretation.

Question #9:

I understand your point about Revelation 8:3 governing the interpretation and this has exactly been the issue I have been considering. However, there is another point which occurred to me just now that would seem to support the idea that in both verses the meaning of the symbol of incense is the same, standing for the acceptability of prayers and not the prayers themselves. Hopefully I can explain this clearly.

Based on Revelation 8:3 we know that incense - "θυμιαματα" - is added to the prayers, so it does symbolise the prayers themselves.

Now Revelation 5:8 seems more ambiguous in this respect, because it could seem as if the phrase "φιαλας χρυσας γεμουσας, θυμιαματων προσευχαὶ των ἁγιων" could equate the incense with the prayers.

It seems there could be a solution here that makes things clear and that could lead to the conclusion that in Revelation 5:8 the words "αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ των ἁγιων" refer back to "φιαλας χρυσας" and not to "θυμιαματων", which would mean that the symbol of incense is used in the same way in both Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 and that in the former passage the prayers are symbolised by the golden bowls. Let me know if the following reasoning is correct:

1) Incense in these verses is expressed in Greek in neuter plural - "θυμιαματα".

2) As with some other neuter plural nouns, third person singular verbs are used with it, for example: "καὶ ἐδοθη αὐτωι θυμιαματα πολλα " - not ἐδοθησαν.

3) However, in Revelation 5:8, there is a plural relative pronoun and a plural verb used - "αἵ εἰσιν", which could be an inconsistency compared to the singular "ἐδοθη" in Revelation 8:3-4.

4) What could be an even stronger argument is that "αἵ" is a feminine plural, not a neuter plural which would seem to be required to make the words "εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ των ἁγιων" refer back to "θυμιαματων".

5) We could thus conclude that "αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ των ἁγιων" refers back to "φιαλας χρυσας" and not to "θυμιαματων".

6) In this way, the incense as a symbol is used in the same way in both verses - as standing for acceptability of prayers achieved through our Lord's sacrifice. In Revelation 5:8 the prayers are symbolised by the golden bowls.

What do you think?

Response #9: 

Your reading of the grammar is excellent . . . in terms of the text you are reading. However, Sinaiticus reads not αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ but ἁ εἰσιν προσευχαὶ. The reading is incorrect in some other mss. and for some reason the critical texts print what is incorrect. So in Aleph it is neuter and on top of that "the prayers" are just "prayers" – which makes the comparative interpretation more natural to understand since the prayers are now generalized without the "the". The failure of the editions probably has to do with the fact that technically in Classical Greek the verb should be singular with a neuter plural subject, but this is a rule often violated in later Greek and in the NT (Rev.15:4 is another example of this).

Question #10: 

All understood and thank you for making this point, I wouldn't have realised.

I've been using the Analytical Greek New Testament, 5th Edition, with UBS-5 Critical Apparatus and it includes no note on this issue, neither does the hard copy of Metzger's "Textual Commentary on the Greek Testament", but I suppose this is to be expected given that it is based on the same critical apparatus. I have, however, purchased a digital copy of NA28 and I have just checked it - there there is the note.

Thank you for your guidance here. It means a lot being able to verify such points with you, I don't have anywhere else to go. I also understand your point about everyone expecting a singular verb, that's what I expected too (a helpful reference to Revelation 15:4).

A couple of questions on the textual issues:

a) Would you say we can be pretty confident that Sinaiticus reading is correct here since it explains the origin of all others?

b) Are there any others reliable old manuscripts which contain the reading of Sinaiticus? What about Codex Alexandrinus?

c) Which texts are the best for Revelation?

In that case, I will make a point of double symbolism and incense only being used for representative purposes, since it clearly cannot literally stand for prayers both based on Revelation 8:3-4 and the general use in Revelation 5:8.

Response #10: 

You're very welcome indeed. These are issues I have been struggling with all of my life, so you don't need to explain that getting the right answer – or even finding a place where it's in the mix – is not so easy. I believe I'm the one who steered you to Meyer, for example, and he is a prime example of someone who has much information but not very good critical judgment because for the most part the Spirit seems to be absent. In my experience, Christian exegetes tend to fall into one of two camps, namely, either the dead-cold Meyer camp or the hyper-emotional this-is-the-right-interpretation-because-it-feels-good-to-me camp. I have dealt with both of them ad nauseam in my life. The number of people in the middle who listen to the Spirit, are informed by the truth, and do their best to see / understand what the language actually says and means are very few in my experience. Indeed, the number who are even willing to take that correct approach is very small; how much less those who both take it and do what is necessary to bring it to fruition. So I rejoice in you, my friend.

a) The Aleph reading is correct; your point is a good one and I agree that it would seem to explain the other major readings. However, we cannot posit a straight-line descent from Sinaiticus to all other mss. There were too many strains and mss. most of which have perished to ever be confident of reconstructing a schema of transmission in which I personally would ever have confidence. Attempts have been made and are on-going but the proof is in the pudding, and all "results" from positing, e.g., a family of "western witnesses" nearly always end up in producing the wrong readings.

b/c) "A" is not a bad ms. but noticeably inferior to "B" and "C", for example. And of course it's not as simple as all that. Every ms. has mistakes because scribes are not perfect and they make mistakes – just as I always make at least a few typos in every email. Also, whatever Aleph drew from was also not perfect – just closer to the original and better as well than anything else we have. Textual criticism is thus at least as much of an art as it is a science. One has to consider all of the evidence, not the least of which is the meaning, teaching and logic of the text in the particular context. When it comes to the book of Revelation, there are fewer early witnesses, so Aleph, which does have some notable problems and mistakes therein, is of even more importance for that book. In translating Revelation for the Coming Tribulation series, I started with Sinaiticus and considered (I hope) all other available and important evidence when coming to a conclusion in places where there were significant textual issues.

Question #11:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I am reading your studies and I had a few questions regarding the study of angels. Could you please help me to better understand?

How did you get the purpose of angels out Isaiah 43:7 as well as the support scriptures when it appears that the authors are writing to fellow humans?

Response #11: 

Can you give me the reference on this one for "purpose of angels"? I do use this verse to support the purpose of human beings, but not angels, to the best of my remembrance.

Question #12:  

Please see Section 3 under "The Purpose, Creation and Nature of Angels from the Angelology: the Study of Angels."

Response #12: 

The title for the section is "God's purpose in creating angels and mankind" (emphasis added). So what I do there is to use mankind as a parallel proof for angels. We are all moral creatures, so to the extent that the overall strategic purpose for mankind is expressed in scripture, namely, the glory of God (that is the application of the passage you ask about, Isaiah 43:7), we are right in concluding that this is the case with angels as well (specific tactical sub-purposes that have to do with the implementation of the plan of God notwithstanding).

Question #13: 

How did you come to the conclusion that Job 38:4-7 is talking about the recreation of Earth?

Response #13: 

Short answer: the angels are present during the process described here (there are the "morning stars"); for this not to be reconstruction, we would have to posit angels existing before the universe was made; on the other hand, the passage in all detail is entirely consistent with the seven days being a RE-construction.  For details on the exegesis of that passage see the links:  "Syntax of Job 38:7" and "More on Job 38".

Question #14:   

Why has not God recreated the Earth again after the fall of Adam and Eve?

Response #14: 

God could do many things; angels are different from human beings, and their functional purpose in the plan of God has clearly been different. Angels are "saved" from the start (and had to rebel to become "unsaved"); human beings have to be "saved" from a position of being unsaved. This is all explained in the beginning sections of SR 1.

Question #15: 

How did you come to the conclusion that angels want corporeality from the Bible? Did they not have corporeality in Genesis 6?

Response #15: 

There is clearly a difference between what the fallen angels are said to do in Genesis 6 and having an actual physical body – which angels do not have. As I often remark, this lack of corporeality is not the same as being "immaterial vs. material", a rather misleading opposition. After all, angels physically interact with and affect the material world in many ways and on many occasions in scripture (see the link: "the nature of angels").

Question #16:  

Could you help me find more scriptures that support Angels wanting corporeal form? The scriptures provided in the "Satan's Platform" section illustrate the differences between mankind and angelkind.

Response #16: 

On "more scriptures that support Angels wanting corporeal form", this is a deductive argument based upon the totality of what we know of angelic behavior (specifically, that of Satan and his angels) from scripture generally. As is made clear in the beginning of SR 1, for example, we know much less about these matters than we should like to know, but the scriptures do give us the information we have been given and we are right to use it. This is my conclusion based upon the evidence rather than having any proof text to fall back on: the fallen angels had to have had a motive to rebel from God Almighty (an obviously dangerous thing to do). What was it? We know that they have a fascination with human beings and human bodies (e.g., Gen.6:1ff; Lk.11:24-26; 1Pet.1:12), and with bodies generally (Lk.8:30-32). This (having a corporeal body) is the one thing angels don't have, so it seems reasonable to postulate that this was the one thing Satan was able to offer them – and that is backed up by their behavior (so far as scripture records it) ever since.

Question #17: 

It is implied from the information that corporeality seems to be the primary reason for the group of angels that follow Satan. I know from the Bible that there are multiple types of Sin for Mankind. Could there be multiple types of sin for Angels?

Response #17:

In terms of angelic sin, their involvement in the activities above is definitely a sin (cf. Jude 1:6-7), but the "key sin" was rebelling against God. Human beings come back to the Lord by means of His grace provision in Jesus Christ and through believing in Him. Angels, on the other hand, had to individually depart from Him so as not to be "saved" as we would say. That is an act of will that determines their eternal future, the fundamental choice akin to faith in Christ (or lack thereof) in the case of human beings. What the fallen angels have done ever since throwing in their lot with the devil is nothing but sin upon sin and evil upon evil. All sin is lawlessness (1Jn.3:4), that is, opposing and/or violating the will of God – and everything the demons do in following their angelic master is in opposition to the will and plan of God.

Question #18: 

Hello Professor,

I wanted to ask you about Hebrews 2:2. We have already discussed the issue of the Law being "ordained by angels" (Acts 7:53) or "through angels" (Galatians 3:19), but it is a difficult passage.

Hebrews 2:2 (NASB)
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,

I know you take δι ἀγγελων as referring to the multiple manifestations of the Angel of the Lord – the pre-incarnate Christ, but there are two difficulties which I am at this point struggling to resolve:

1) Whether we can take ἀγγελων as not referring to multiple angels, but rather multiple manifestations of the same angel. There is one commentary (Whedon - one of only two commentaries out of probably tens of others I've seen that actually does interpret this verse in the same way and it was a pleasant surprise that they don't submit to this view of the author quoting some rabbinic traditions) which sees this designation as "idiomatically plural":

This difficulty, which affects the very foundations of the argument of this epistle, has been met in various ways. In our note on Acts 7:53, we have understood angels to be the real designation, idiomatically plural, for the one Angel of the covenant, by whom the word of the Sinaitic Law was truly spoken. The inferiority of the old dispensation would then consist in its transient Angel-form mediatorship instead of the permanent and personal form of the incarnate Son.

2) Paul seems to be moving here from the lesser to the greater in his argument - “if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable...” - but if he meant our pre-incarnate Lord, then it’s hard for me to see how this could be considered “lesser”. Perhaps in the sense that it still wasn’t a direct revelation of the Lord given by Himself (verse 3), but that could be taken to go against the his contrast between the Lord and angels that he is discussing in the entire first chapter, as here the contrast would no longer be between Christ and angels, but rather between the pre-incarnate Christ and the incarnate Christ. I'm not sure, this is difficult. This is also how Whedon explains it (above) and the second commentary of the two I mentioned (Haldane's):

The Apostle had previously established the infinite superiority of the Son of God to angels, and hence he argues the inferiority of the Law to the Gospel,—the Law having been promulgated by God in the temporary character of an angel, implying the temporary nature of the dispensation; the Gospel by the Son of God who abideth for ever, and who has said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Word shall not pass away."Matthew 24:35.

These are the two issues I wanted to consult with you regarding this interpretation. To be honest, I cannot see any other way to explain the passage, but I wonder why use plural of ἀγγελων instead of singular - and the same goes for Galatians 3:19 - when one Angel was meant and then secondly how this interpretation fits into the context of the superiority of our Lord over angels - which in this case would be superiority of Christ over His own self - only pre-incarnate.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #18: 

If Paul had said "THE Angel", it would have caused the very confusion you are struggling with in Hebrews since as you note the purpose is to demonstrate the incarnate Son as the superior means of communication:

(1) God, from antiquity having communicated to our fathers in the prophets at many times and in many ways, (2) has in these last days communicated to us in a Son, [the One] whom He has appointed heir of all things, [the One] through whom He created the universe.
Hebrews 1:1-2

The "angels", whatever one wants to make of this word, were part of the "many times and many ways" which were clearly inferior – not because of anything wrong with angels (far less THE Angel) but for want of directness of revelation as you suggest (being symbolic through the Law rather than direct in teaching about Christ having come in person).

So I agree with your conclusion that "our" conclusion is the only possible conclusion.

By saying it the way he says it, Paul is 1) not incorrect in his designation, but 2) not directly opposing the veiled Son to the unveiled Son, but rather is opposing the revealed Christ to the Law which only represented the Son . . . and which was given by non-direct means on many occasions (= the "many times and many ways" of Heb.1:1).

So why does Paul even bring up "angels"? Because this is the point of the argument in this section of Hebrews, the superiority of the Son to angels.

We might expand the translation thus to emphasize this deliberate contrast:

(2) For if the Word given through angelic representations was steadfast, and every transgression and violation received appropriate punishment, (3) how shall we escape if we neglect a deliverance of such consequence? [Especially since that Word] which received its initial expression through the Lord Himself has now been confirmed to us by those who heard [Him] (4) through God [the Father Himself] bearing witness to it through signs and wonders and various [other] demonstrations of His power, and with distributions of the Holy Spirit (i.e., spiritual gifts) according to His will?
Hebrews 2:2-4

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

You wrote (from Angelology):

Many passages stress the spiritual (and hence non-material) nature of angels (Heb.1:7; 1:14; 2:14-16 [esp. v.16]). This radical difference from human (and animal) kind helps to explain how angels are occasionally called "gods" (i.e., having more in common with the spirituality of God than the materiality of Man: Ps.8:5; 82:1 & 6).

Do you take Psalm 82:1 and 82:6 as referring to angels? I thought this Psalm referred to unjust judgments of men, also based on John 10:34.

Response #19: 

It's both. Here is what I wrote about that (in Angelic Issues VI):

As to the interpretation of Psalm 82, my take is that Asaph is comparing human judges / rulers (who not only have self-determination but also the sovereign power of imposing their will on others) to God and His angels as an example of how they should be carrying out their God-given responsibility (i.e., in the justice which God always employs).

Question #20: 

Psalm 82 - could we thus conclude that the primary meaning is the human judges, but the word 'elohiym is used so as to draw a direct comparison of human judges to God and His angels based on the possession of will?

Response #20: 

I would say rather that the (deliberate) first impression is of the Lord holding court with the angels (as in Job chapters one and two) – and then we come to find out it applies to human rulers as well. The word 'el means "mighty one", where 'elohiym is its plural referring to God (a plural of majesty) or occasionally "gods" (which to the degree that they are anything are fallen angels masquerading as deities). The "mightiest thing" that any creature can have is free will, so human judges and rulers who have the authority and power to wield that might for the benefit and detriment of others are definitely "mighty", acting in God's place – so their poor performance is made an issue of by Him in this Psalm.

Question #21:  

Hello Dr Luginbill,

Thank you for a heads up on the new material. I have been reading your commentary for a long time and appreciate, I hope fully but probably not, all the time and effort you put into this.

I noticed you associated Rev 12:4 (one third of the stars) with the Church when most commentators associate with fallen angels. I’m sure you explain this in your other series on the tribulation but I don’t recall seeing it before. Time to go digging back through you earlier works.

Thanks again for providing all the free, to us anyway, thought provoking material.


Response #21: 

You're very welcome, my friend.

I take Revelation 12:4 as having a dual application (just like Is.14 and Ezek.28), since it applies equally to believers at the time and to fallen angels in pre-human time. As I expand the translation . . .

And [the dragon's] (i.e., the devil's) tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven (i.e., both fallen angels and fallen believers) and threw them to the earth (i.e., their rebellion or apostasy and consequent association with them in their fall).
Revelation 12:4a

Satan is the subject in any case, and he is responsible for the casting down of fallen angels previously and also of the apostate former believers contemporaneously. Both believers and angels are described as stars, so the passage invites us to see the historical incident as in view as being the precedent for the eschatological incident (the methodology of deception being common to both as well).

You'll find more details at the link: The Great Apostasy

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Dr. Luginbill, in the first G-mail I sent you I was concerned about the discrepancy between the Masoretic and Septuagint's rendering of the number of years each of the descendants of the son's of Shem lived after the flood as recorded in Genesis 11:12-24. Your answer was most instructive to me as you demonstrated the problem with the Greek numbering system as unreliable and difficult to translate especially when dealing with fragmented text. Do you consider the Masoretic text Superior and more reliable in ALL aspects compared to the Greek Septuagint in it's rendering of the original or earliest sources of the OT? The reason I ask is because the work of Dr. Michael Heiser was brought to my attention recently and being degreed in ancient manuscript and Semitic languages he did his doctorial thesis on Psalm 82 and Deut.32:8 in which he makes a strong case that the MT rendering of Deut.32:8d "...sons of Israel" is a false rendering of the original language and that the Septuagint has the correct rendering as "...sons of God".

I have attached Heiser's argument on this text and would greatly appreciate your view on the same text because of your expertise in these languages and your great stewardship of the word of God.

Response #22: 

Good to hear from you again, my friend, and thanks much for your kind words.

I've bumped into the Heiser thesis before. Here is what I've written in the past about his ideas on this passage and the theory upon which his emendation of the text is based (the entire discussion may be found at the link: Angelic Issues VI):

There were only a few brief comments in the blue boxes. I take it that the argument runs that because there is a "council of the mighty ones" in scripture, and because some English version translate this as "gods", that for that reason the Bible is a hodgepodge. A pretty tenuous argument. In fact, even if 'elohiym in the plural is translated "gods", this is clearly a different category than 'elohiym in the plural which is far more often translated as God. We are "gods" too in the lower case sense of having the image of God, free will, the ability to choose as if we were sovereign – and so are the angels (about whom these verses are actually written, of course). The problem with retaining the same word for both occurrences is that it gives people like this the wrong idea; the advantage is that it preserves the analogous vocabulary in English from Hebrew and also Greek. But clearly enough there is no "Canaanite mythology" here – such texts do not even exist. Misunderstanding the essential theological point above is common enough, however, even in more conservative circles.

I perused his text anew from your attachment (I don't pretend to have labored over all twenty-seven single spaced and deeply footnoted pages), and I see little reason to change the opinion given voice to above. The last bit is critical. Heiser is attempting to manipulate the biblical text based upon appealing to pagan mythology – about which we know next to nothing apart from the Bible (there are a few archaeological artifacts and of course the corpora of Ugarit et al. which are impossible to date accurately or line up chronologically with the biblical texts with any degree of accuracy). But even if we had oodles of information, "so what?". The Bible is inspired by God. It is not a hodgepodge of syncretic religious ideas borrowed from Canaanite religious practices and then homogenized centuries later by a unified scribal tradition. That is hogwash.

Christians, believers, understand that the Bible is the Word of God. The text we have of it may "only" be 99% perfect, but it is so close to being perfect that a scholar with a high view of inspiration can almost always figure out the other 1% with study. That has been my consistent experience. For Heiser to be correct, we would have to be dealing with a man-made document that is more conflicted in its origin than the most conflicted classical texts (Homer, for instance, would be practically "gospel" by comparison if Heiser were correct).

There are other problems too. The Torah is the oldest part of the Bible, obviously, written in the 15 century B.C. The LXX was translated from it some 1,200 year later! So how can the twelve century later text possibly be a witness to the much older one? That is impossible – unless we are assuming that in 3rd century B.C. there was a "better" version of the Hebrew text available. Problem is, there is ZERO evidence that such a thing existed. The Qumran texts were inferior and cheaper "popular" versions and were subject to deliberate corruption in assimilation to the weird theories of the Essenes – who were all about angels and non-biblical speculation about them (the forerunners of the Jewish Gnostics). So while there are text from Qumran which do support the LXX version, the likelihood is that material from the Essenes is at the root of that LXX's alternative reading rather than the other way around. And in any case, the differences between all three, MT, LXX and Q, are not nearly as large or significant as H would need them to be.

Heiser thinks that the idea of God portioning up the world "according to the number of the sons of Israel" is unworkable. Hasn't he read the Bible? Alternatively, he thinks "sons of God" = angels (or in his view "pagan deities") makes perfect sense in the context of the pagan religion of the Canaanites. It well may – but this is the Bible, not a pagan Canaanite text.

Just because someone is a biblical scholar with credentials, doesn't mean that they are a believer in Jesus Christ. And without the Holy Spirit, no one can really understand the first thing about the Bible. Heiser may be a believer (who knows?), but a position of demeaning the authority of scripture suggests spiritual infancy – if not outright unbelief.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Thank you so much for your sound response. I think this is why I was attracted to your material in the first place is your super high view of scripture, a view that I was born into myself being "born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible seed which is the living and abiding word of God".

To bother you with one (3) more questions Dr. Luginbill if I may, could you briefly explain:

1. What textual manuscript of the OT did the disciples and Jesus have access too?

2. What textual source was the MT translated from?

3. When was the MT translated?

Thank you in advance for taking time from your busy schedule to answer these questions that I am sure are elementary from your perspective and I probably should have known this stuff by now myself.

God Bless

Response #23: 

You're most welcome, my friend.

As to your latest questions:

1) This is a complicated issue and to some degree unknowable but it seems clear to me that not only was the LXX available but the Hebrew text was as well, because both are quoted from in the NT (the LXX more so). There is also the problem that the text of the LXX has a most convoluted history itself, so that what we have today cannot be known for certain to be precisely what was possessed at the time. See the links:

What version did Jesus quote?

OT quotes in the NT

2) The Masoretic text is the name given to the basic Hebrew text which has come down to us. There are variations in the various mss. of the MT but in less than 1% of that text in my rough estimation (and usually most mss. will go in the same direction). These mss. were transcribed from earlier mss. going back to the original "autograph" (as the first copy is called) of each book.

3) Into what language? The LXX or Greek translation is the earliest translation of the Hebrew text, dating to approximately 200-300 B.C.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:   

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are these coming to do?” He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.”
Zechariah 1:20-21

I am seeking understanding. If you have links on the four horns and four craftsmen passage, please send them to me. I will read them because I respect you.

Response #24: 

The horns are the world powers which assailed Israel (#4 is historical Rome which will be revived after its destruction during the Tribulation). The craftsmen are angels of high rank (archangels) who lead the divine counter-attack which laid these powers low for their evil (cf. Is.10:5-19).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi Bob,

I wanted to begin by saying that I greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to answer my questions. I have always been the inquisitive type who just wants to know everything about a subject that I love so much (i.e., the bible). The same bible scholar mentioned in my previous email said that fallen angels are not demons, and that tradition has made people into believing they are the same. He made the distinction that angels remain angels, even if they're fallen. Just like we are still human even if our nature changes. Here are those distinctions that he made:

Angels: Can appear in human form.
Demons: Do not appear in human form.

Angels: Can take people by their hands and can eat.
Demons: are powerless unless they have permission to use something that has a body to operate in.

He said that the demons are the spirits which were wiped out during the great flood. He said that Genesis 6 CANNOT refer to the "sons of Seth" because if that were so, then why did God wipe out godly men in the flood (sons of Seth)? And why aren't there daughters of Seth? Moreover, he said that the bible says that Noah was "perfect" in his generations, and the Hebrew word for perfect means without "physical" blemish, and that implied that the rest of the human race was polluted with fallen angelic DNA or something like that. I've also heard the belief that Satan is not an angel, but a cherub, and a cherub is not an angel. They cited Revelation where it makes a distinction between "class of beings" worshiping God.

1. Humans
2. Angels
3. Living Creatures (cherubs and seraphs)

Therefore if Satan is a cherub, then he is a beast or a living creature, and not an angel. Some would argue that Jesus said, "Satan and HIS angels", therefore Satan is an angel. But it also says Satan having HIS ministers who masquerade as ministers of righteousness. He said, Satan and his "angels", and not Satan and his "demons". He also spoke of when Paul talked about the great deception and said that it is not "a" lie - but "the" lie (definite article), and that no one knows what this great lie is. I always assumed that it was just the antichrist deceiving the whole world into believing that he is God. I don't see a greater lie than that. He also said that the antichrist is a nephilim, something similar to what you wrote on your website and in your emails. He also said that there are no such things as aliens, and that those people (even Christians) who claime to be "abducted" by aliens are in fact being taken by "demons" masquerading as aliens. There was a lot of testimonies about Christians who have encountered these creatures and called upon the name of Jesus Christ, and these creatures posing as aliens left IMMEDIATELY. And the pope believes in aliens and this will play a role in the end times delusion.

One last question: what exactly is "transhumanism"? is this related to theology? I did some research and was wondering if the locusts in the bottomless pit are mechanical using technology, or are they actually real demons in some sort of body suit using fallen angelic technology? There's also the word "arrows" in the Old Testament in Jeremiah. The bible scholar said that the Hebrew language suggests that the word arrow means that it is the arrow itself that is intelligent, and not the one yielding it; and he compared that to missles and bullets of today? Is this true? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #25: 

As in any other writing, the Bible employs synonyms. The fact that Christians are called, elect, believers, saints, etc., does not mean that these three things are completely different. They are not. They merely describe different aspects of our saved state. The fact that the Bible uses the phrase "Satan and his angels" does not mean that fallen angels are not demons. That is merely an alternative designation for the same things. A fallen angel is a demon and vice-versa. Where is there any verse in scripture that contrasts the two as different? Note also that "demon" is a New Testament word. It is generally reserved for fallen angels who have possessed someone. That makes sense given the nature and use of the Greek word where a daimon is a lesser divinity (not negative in the secular Greek world) which would inspire a poet or a priestess or some other "special" person. Socrates, notably, said he "got" all of his insight from his daimon.

The phrase "fallen angel" also does not appear in scripture. Angels who follow the devil are still angels, whether or not they are at liberty (some are in the Abyss), and whether or not their role in the present conflict involves fighting as front-line soldiers (seeking to possess individual human beings), or something else. You can find out more regarding the particulars in the Satanic Rebellion series (link), parts 1, 4 and 5 especially for questions such as this (see also the link: "BB 2A: Angelology"). Cherubs et al. refer to angelic ranks. There is much in the series above about angelic ranks for both fallen and elect angels – but being of a different rank does not make a person a different being. Generals are much more august than corporals – but both are human beings.

There is so much leaven in this report that it is impossible to extract the tiny bits of truth. But that is the essence of false teaching, namely, to graft all manner of lies and deceit upon a skeleton of truth. But a little leaven leavens the whole lump, as the Bible tells us – how much more so such a great deal of leaven! So I can't disentangle it all for you. The fact that the person is correct about there are no alien beings and correct about the fact antichrist is the seed of Satan (that is in the Bible, after all: Gen.3:15) does not change the fact that, e.g., spirits can't be wiped out (not even spirits of animals: Eccl.3:18-21).

Whatever "transhumanism" may be thought to be (often the notion of evolution of people into something else) is not biblical (not to mention the fact that it is ridiculous to any person with an ounce of common sense, especially spiritual common sense).

On the fallen angels who exit the Abyss and take on the form of locust, note that they only do so in leaving the Abyss (the dust is transformed into these rudimentary bodies; see the link: "The first woe").

On arrows, clearly, they do not have a mind of their own any more than bullets today do (though then as now people sometimes speak of them in that way). Did you have a particular passage in mind?

Finally, an observation. I recognize that you are very interested in the Bible, and I appreciate your kind words. However, "Smorgasbord-ing" is a dubious route to spiritual maturity. Surfing the internet and paying attention to all manner of "Bible teachers" is not going to produce anything positive even if it may seem "fun". Why not? Because most of what you will find out there is either partially or mostly untrue. And here is another problem. By ceding a measure of authority to all manner of "teachers", one is actually ceding authority to no one but oneself. And no one can grow without the truth . . . but the truth has to actually be heard (not things that are not true) and believed (but how can a person believe two or three or four contradictory things at once?).

For someone training for a teaching ministry, exposure to a certain amount of false teaching is necessary just as doctors have to study diseases. Some of this sort of thing is probably not going to be fatally toxic for Christians generally but will most often do more harm than good: for a Christian who is trying to grow up, the best thing is to search until a good, solid, reliable teaching ministry is found, and then given one's primary attention to that ministry, listening to or reading what that ministry has to offer, and giving it the benefit of the doubt whenever there are questions – once it has been affirmed in the Spirit that "this is the teaching ministry for me!" Ichthys is certainly not the only reliable source of truth on the planet (though I do hope and believe it is one of them). I also highly recommend pastor Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy" (at the link). I can't recommend the source you are quoting from here.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

Dear Teacher,

I imagine that you got even busier than ever. I am praying for you everyday again (and very thankful to have recovered up to the point of being able to do so again). [personal details omitted]

I was also asked this in another conversation:

"Okay. So this means the flood happened to save the lives of Noah and his family then. How does the Bible support this?"

I thought that the answer should be intuitive to anyone who read the Bible but apparently it wasn't to this man who presents himself as a Bible teacher. Among the passages I offered in response (none of which pleased him) was 1 Peter 3:20. I remembered when I gave it that the language there has always had me wondering a bit. Could there be a double meaning there saying both that Noah and his family were rescued FROM the Flood and that they were rescued BY the Flood? Or does "brought safely through the water" restrict all reasonable interpretation to the former?

Next, I want to know if there is a way to reconcile Satan's appearance in Heaven in Job 1,2 and Revelation 12:10. My understanding, I believe, from your teachings and from my reading of the Bible is that Satan goes to Heaven when he is summoned along with the rest of the angels. I assume that to be because he is still treated as a member of God's Family, albeit a rebellious one. I also thought that he did in the capacity of the ruler of this world, although an illegitimate one (although because of unbelievers who side with him, he maintains some sort of legitimate claim like the one he made to the Lord during the temptations in the wilderness).

1. Are these understandings correct?

2a. Why does Rev 12:10 say that he accuses the brethren day and night before God if he is only there whenever he is summoned?

2b. Could it be because this is said at the midpoint of the Tribulation so that during the Tribulation, he and the other angels are summoned to stand before God for the entire duration of the Tribulation minus the time that the rebellious ones are finally expelled from Heaven?

2c. If #2b is correct, how do the fallen angels who attack humans during the Tribulation get to do so when they are compelled to assemble in Heaven? Should we assume that during this long assembly they are free to leave and perform duties like their attacks and then return again? Is this similar in any way to 1 Kings 22:19-23? That is, can it be said that Satan and his fellow rebels are sent out just like the elect angels to do what they wish to do anyway but within limits set by God during the Tribulation and return to the assembly until the midpoint at which time they are all expelled and confined to the Earth?

Your student in the Lord Jesus Christ

Response #26: 

Yes, it has been busy, but the Lord has been bringing me safely through all troubles.

The way the Lord works things out IS absolutely amazing! I have learned – but still have to constantly remind myself of the truth – that when things "go wrong" it is really the Lord working things out perfectly for things to "go right" the way He intends in accord with His perfect plan. Learning to see this while our emotions (and eyes and ears and often also our friends) are telling us something different, is a large part of what seeing with the eyes of faith, what true godliness, is all about: seeing it His way, not the way the world sees things.

As to the flood, "how does the Bible support" that the flood saved Noah and his family? Noah and his family lived; the others did not. Your citation and explanation of 1st Peter 3:20 is perfect. There is also this:

"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all."
Luke 17:26-27 NIV

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
Hebrews 11:7 NIV

Add to all this the Lord's motivation for destroying the world:

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”
Genesis 6:5-7 NIV

We don't have to get into the corruption and pollution of the human line from the angelic infiltration with people who have an objection such as you mention. If they want to quibble about common sense points that any grade school student would see just by reading the Bible, they're not going to appreciate somewhat deeper teachings. I think your policy of NOT debating people on their own terms is the perfect one. That never works, in any case.

As to the other questions:

1 - 2b) There is much we are not told about the ground rules for the devil and his angels at present. We know that they sometimes violate them, pushing the envelope and testing God. That is what happened in Genesis six. The incarceration of the offending fallen angels for doing what they did has put a damper on any wholesale attempt to create such nephilim, but no doubt the demons are continually testing the limits (and suffering imprisonment when they go too far). Believers are not allowed to be possessed, and unbelievers seem to have to acquiesce at least initially. We do know that the devil (and no doubt also some of his subordinates) does appear before God to lay charges against believers – he (they) tempts us, then demands punishment when we yield to such temptation. There are also apparently assemblies which the devil attends (possibly also some of his subordinates). The place of warfare is this world, the earth, not the third heaven. During the Tribulation (at its midpoint), the devil and his followers will be cast down and restricted to earth entirely, but at present there apparently is a truce beyond this world. The above fits the evidence the Bible provides.

2c) I cannot say from scripture that the assemblies are mandatory (in the sense that there is compulsion of the evil ones to attend), that all attend, or that there will be any such assemblies during the Tribulation. It is clear that during these seven years, the devil will mount his major effort, pulling out all the stops and devoting every last resource available to him in this final vain attempt to thwart the plan of God. Missing assemblies would seem to be the least of the risks he will take.

I'm very pleased at how things are working out for you, my friend. I'm praying for a good, quick, safe move for you, and for things to continue to trend upward in every way.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.



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