POST MORTEM CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE IN THE WORDS OF PETER
Once again apostle Peter’s writings reflect convictions that the apostolic Church had, which are quickly mentioned as part of a bigger topic as accepted truths. In this occasion, on the second chapter of his second general epistle, Apostle Peter makes clear what the apostle’s believed regarding the middle state of the death, Christians and non-Christians, that deny the doctrine of the unconscious status of the death that some people hold this day.
In 2Peter 2:4-9, the Apostle says:
“4FOR IF GOD DID NOT SPARE ANGELS WHEN THEY SINNED, BUT CAST THEM INTO TARTARUS AND COMMITTED THEM TO CHAINS OF GLOOMY DARKNESS TO BE KEPT UNTIL THE JUDGMENT; 5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9THEN THE LORD KNOWS HOW TO RESCUE THE GODLY FROM TRIALS, AND TO KEEP THE UNRIGHTEOUS UNDER PUNISHMENT UNTIL THE DAY OF JUDGMENT,”
In his warning about false prophets and heretics, Peter illustrates his teaching with examples of the past written in the Torah and also revealed to them by the Holy Spirit, which presumes an acceptance of the apostolic revelations in the Christian communities of the time.
1 - In these verses, he mentions two examples from the Torah, the story of Noah and the story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah.
In these two stories, Peter illustrates how God saved the faithful from general punishment. Noah through the Ark, and Lot through exiting the city before the destruction. The attention is placed only in what it is written. Peter does not extend more of what the Scripture says, and therefore uses these verses as to prove that GOD is powerful to save those who are faithful to Him. The aspect of punishment is limited to what Genesis says, and does not elaborate in the after life of the punished. This has motivated the annihilationist to say that in that punishment, the condemned were wiped out and that was it.
2 -He also mentions one story that it is not contained in the Jewish canonical Scriptures. The casting out of Satan and his angels from Heaven into ‘Tartarus’ to be kept there in punishment until the Day of Judgement. This is a product of apostolic Christian revelation, since the Jews, even though they had different ideas about the after-life, they did not have a scriptural basis for this doctrine.
The idea of Satan and the demons been cast out from Heaven is a purely Christian idea (See Revelation 12:4), which is mentioned on the same level as Scripture in this epistle. Even though it is mentioned first than the Torah’s examples, it illustrates the second point of his speech, the condition of the damned before the Day of Judgement.
It is difficult to establish a set doctrine about the intermediate state only from the Torah. That is a doctrine that was hidden to the prophets, but reveled to the people of the new covenant (1Peter 1:12). However, our knowledge of the spirit world increased through the mercy of the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles. In this story, born from apostolic revelation, apostle Peter teaches how God is also powerful, even to subject angels into prisons of darkness, in a conscious state, until the Day of the Great Judgement.
THE IMPORTANT POINT
Since the Torah does not provide a written example of the condition of the punished in the interim state, Peter uses this story of the fallen angels, and applies this as an example of the capability of God to hold the spirits of the damned into a place of a spiritual punishment until the resurrection day (2Peter 2:9).
Even though the example refers to Angels, the point the apostle is trying to make is purely regarding humans, not angels. How GOD can preserve saved humans, while also can hold the damned in a conscious spiritual state of punishment (See Jesus parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Luke 16:14-31).
Through a direct comparison between the story of the angels in Tartarus, Peter clearly states that God’s Justice subjects all reprobate humans in a conscious state of punishment until the general resurrection and Last Judgement.
The fact that this is mentioned quickly and not in detail, like when Paul teaches about the resurrection of the death in Corinthians, proves that this was an already accepted doctrine in the first century Church, and that Peter was not teaching it, but reinforcing it in the minds of the congregation.