-by Tony Warren
1st Corinthians 6:1-5
n any discussion of 1st Corinthians chapter 6, inevitably the question will come up, "What does the Apostle Paul mean when he says that we shall judge angels?" Christians want to know just How will the saints judge angels, and does "Know ye not that we shall judge angels," refer to the judgment of their sins? In other words, people are confused about just how will Christians judge Angels.
How will the saints judge angels? It's a difficult question to be sure, but I believe the answer is found in the careful study of the word of God with a sound and honest comparison of scripture with scripture. In considering other attempts to answer this question, I have heard teachers and theologians theorize that this "paradox" of humans who are lower than angels, judging angels, cannot be understood by us until the consummation of all things. But that would seem to go against the very context of God's comments through Paul, as illuminated in 1st Corinthians 6:1-5. Other theologians have made the supposition that on the last day we will sit alongside Christ to give approval of His judgment of bad angels that have fallen from heaven. Still others postulate that we will only judge good angels, and only to determine their rewards of gifts. This I believe is not only insupportable by scripture, but indeed unbiblical. So what is the answer?
How will the saints judge angels? I believe that the angels in question are the saints or "messengers" of the congregation that were sent to minister, and not angelic beings. They are the pastors and ministers of the Gospel, whose doctrines must be tried or judged by the word of God that the saints bring. We have to understand, Angels are messengers by definition. The fact is, the very word translated angel (both in the Old and the New Testament scriptures) very literally means a messenger. In the New Testament this is the Greek word [aggelos] (άγγελος), meaning one who brings news or who brings a message. In the old Testament it is the Hebrew word [ma'lak], meaning one who is dispatched, a messenger. So the word translated (translated being the key word) Angel is actually messenger in english. Angels are literally direct "messengers" from God.
The point here is that there are many kinds of messengers. God is even spoken of as a messenger, but messengers can also be Kings, False Prophets, the prophets or Priests of ancient Israel, or even you and I today. The old Christian saying that, "angels are messengers of God, but men are children of God," is not entirely accurate. For it is abundantly clear to any serious student of the Bible that [aggelos] or messengers in scripture, are very often human beings. Let's take a look at a couple of obvious examples:
Those words translated messengers is [aggelos], the very same word rendered Angels by the translators in other passages of the Bible. So clearly this word is not a generic term relating only to celestial beings, but is "descriptive," expressing this service of bringing God's word. Thus when we read the word angel in the Bible, we must look at it in this light and be aware of its meaning in context. Those passages I've submitted aren't speaking of celestial beings, but of human beings who were sent with a message. Indeed all Christians are the [aggelos] who are sent with the Spirit of God, messengers and ministers of the good news. In Old Testament times, it was those of the congregation of Israel who were the appointed messengers, and in New Testament times it is those of the congregation of the Church that are His messengers. According to the latitude with which that Greek word [aggelos] and Hebrew word [ma'lak] is used within scripture, understanding How will the saints "judge angels," should be properly rendered, "judge messengers." And not in the afterlife, but in our reign here on earth through God's law.
The 12 tribes of Israel are the messengers that we judge in the millennial reign of Christ, and the regeneration is the washing or cleansing of the Holy Spirit in salvation (Titus 3:5). In other words, we live and reign with Christ after we are saved, and that is now in His spiritual kingdom on earth. Raised up to sit and rule with Him isn't a future occurrence, it's already taken place when we were regenerated.
Understanding these things as truth, we better understand what Christ meant in saying that in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, the apostles would also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. At pentecost we see the Apostles receiving authority to rule/judge as ministering spirits the twelve tribes of Israel. Of course there are those theologians (usually Dispensationalists) who claim that this passage supports a literal millennium, but the millennium started when Christ ascended to His throne, where we reign with him in heavenly places. This truth is reiterated in Luke 22:
This kingdom is not a physical/earthly Kingdom, but a spiritual Kingdom that Christ says He appoints unto the Apostles, even as His Father has appointed Him a spiritual Kingdom. The charge on which Jesus was arraigned before Pilate was that of laying claim to being a king. But Christ openly rejects any idea of being a earthly king or ruling on an earthly throne judging Israel. Yes, He was king, but not in the sense which the Jews of His day understood it, nor the way many understand His return today. And if His kingdom was not worldly, neither was the promise to His followers of reigning and judging with Him in His appointed Kingdom. And He told Pilate (and us) as much in John chapter 18:
So when Christ tells the 12 He appoints unto them a Kingdom where they will judge Israel, it is the very same Kingdom appointed to Him, a Spiritual one. A Kingdom not of this world, but where they would reign with Him in Hevenly places in the spirit.
And so understanding the passage about judging messengers, in light of these facts, and in a logical, practical, straight forward fashion, How will the saints judge messengers? I believe that it illustrates that in Christ, the testimony of the word that we bring, is not only unto condemnation unto judgment of the world of unsaved who reject it, but also of the very messengers of the Congregation/Church who deny it. This judgment refers to our testimony of the word of God. As His unadulterated word, it is the sword of the spirit and the very word of God that will judge them. And the Angels/Messengers that it judges are the unfaithful messengers of God's House. For example, God gives us some enlightenment and insights into messengers being judged in passages like Revelation chapter two. When we consider this wisely, we can see clearly that it speaks of men who rule in the Church, and not literally celestial beings of heaven.
The stars represent the messengers of the kingdom of heaven, sent to be a light to shine in the Churches. And the Candlesticks represented the Churches. That word translated Angels is again [aggelos], the very same word rendered Messenger and Angel in other places by the translators. And here it refers to the Pastors or Ministers of the seven Churches to whom John was to write. In other words, they are the appointed ministering spirits of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and the [aggelos] or messengers of the Churches John is writing to. They are "the sent" to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation. These are people who minister in the Churches, not celestial beings called angels. Moreover, scripture is replete with the teaching that we shall judge the messengers of the congregation who fall from their faithfulness. And we do it by the word of God, not by ruling over celestial beings at the last day. We do it through the testimony of Christ. It is His testimony that is as fire from our mouths unto them, and as a two-edged sword that cuts both coming and going. Look carefully at what God tells this Messenger of the Church at Ephesus:
God says this Angel (Messenger) has fallen and is warned that if he doesn't remember his former estate, and repent of this decline, his Candlestick (his Church) would be removed out of its place. That very unambiguously is a promise of a judgment of God of this man's Church being removed if this fallen messenger does not repent and do the first works. The works that produced fruit, as it had when the gospel was first brought to him. He is warned to get back to this. In other words, his estate before he apostatized or fell away from God. It's not telling this man to remember he fell from the third heaven, but remember his former evangelistic zeal or first works. Or he would be judged. The saints will give assent to this as they preach word of God in truth. For the law condemns the fallen messengers, even as Christ said His word was a judge.
How will the saints judge angels? Indeed, the word of God that the messengers of God testify to is the judgment of these angels at the last day. So when God warns this [aggelos] or messenger of the Church at Ephesus, clearly, the ecclesiastical powers of the Church have not only been warned about their unfaithfulness, but of its consequences to the Church they minister to as well. For the responsibility of those who rule in the Church is very great. They stand very prominently before the people as ministering spirits representing Christ. Thus they shall be judged more harshly by God's word. And except these ministers repent when they fall, their Church will be removed from God, no longer His of body. And it will be by the testimony of the saints, as the sword of the spirit. Just as the Old Testament congregation was removed out of its place as these Old Testament Messengers fell (Romans 11:22) from their first estate or heavenly position (Matthew 21:43). Now note that these are God's words of judgment against the Messenger of the Church of Ephesus that had fallen, not mine. Its not something I made up to justify angels being men, it is written that John was to write to this [aggelos] or messenger of the Church and warn him. Here in plain language, God speaks of a fallen Angel (Messenger) of the Church at Ephesus, and of God's resultant judgment upon the Church he ministers to if this messenger didn't repent. For this messenger is the Pastor or Minister, the appointed messenger of the Church at Ephesus whom God wants John to warn. Not warn an angel, but a man. And indeed this is no small revelation to the Church. We won't delve deeply into the coming judgment of the Angels/Messengers of the Churches because that is detailed in other eschatological studies we've done, and it is not the object of this FAQ paper. But suffice to say, this judgment, and the subsequent removal of their Church, is not subject to private interpretations. It is written that if the Messenger of the Church does not repent, his church shall be removed out of its place. Not to be taken lightly by any Minister.
The saints deal with these fallen messengers as they recognize them as such because they try the spirits. Ministering spirits who don't minister as like wells without water. They try the spirits by comparing their words with the words of scripture. i.e., by sound judgment of them. If they have fallen from the faith, then by the testimony of the witnesses illuminating this, it is revealed as God's word shall condemn them at the last day.
We try the spirits as we examine the doctrines of these angels (messengers), and they will be judged by us with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God we wield. Should these spirits in the Church preach a gospel that is all together contrary to what the scriptures themselves declare, these doctrines are repudiated and condemned, and the Messengers of them revealed by the sharp sword of the Spirit. Brethren, there are many counterfeit spirits, many false messengers of God gone forth in the Church today. And they are people, not angels. Jesus told us in Matthew that God has prepared a place of punishment for Satan and his Messengers, and clearly the Messengers Christ had in view were wicked people in this life who preach his word instead of Christ's. He divides them into two groups of sheep and goats, and only one goes to the place prepared for the devil's Messengers.
Christ is talking about dividing the sheep from the goats, the saved men from the unsaved men. And when He speaks of the false Christians who didn't minister the gospel and do the work of the Lord in this life, as those to be sent into this place specifically prepared for Satan and his Messengers, he speaks of their judgment. These people are classified as the Messengers of Satan, because, like the Old Testament Ministers (as the Pharisees) who believed they served God (John 8:39-44), they ultimately taught the will of their father the Devil. In other words, though they thought they were messengers of God, they were Satan's messengers. Likewise, God speaks of those false prophets who "appear" as messengers of Christ, as Satan's ministers.
The Spirit Satan is the great deceiver and comes to man professing himself as a messenger of God, a ministering spirit, and so it should be no great surprise that his ministers also come appearing as ministers of righteousness. But when we "try them," they are found to be men who are led of Satanís spirit, which is the spirit of disobedience. They are false apostles who work deceit rather than minister righteousness. That's why Satan is called the Antichrist (pseudo-Christ), and why there are many antichrists in the world. It is because he works as a minister of righteousness, but is a false apostle working deceitfully. We shall judge these Messengers by being faithful witnesses (Revelation 11:7) to the word of God unto death. Because the word preached faithfully "is God's word," and thus it is ministered with the power of God. We can see this principle illustrated very vividly in passages such as Revelation chapter 11. There, the symbolism of "The Two Witnesses" (which represents the faithful messengers of God), are given judgment of God. And this judgment is the power of the word of God from their mouths over those who would hurt them. In particular, these false messengers whom this chapter declares persecutes them in this holy city, Jerusalem. The Two Witnesses represent the faithful witnesses with the testimony of Christ, within the increasingly unfaithful Church. Note, they are also called the "Two Candlesticks," which was interpreted in Revelation 1-2 as the Church. The number two signifies the witness of truth (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2nd Corinthians 13:1), so they represent the truthful or faithful witness (indivisible Church) within the visible Church.
Fire proceedeth out of their mouth as God's judgment of messengers, and that is the fire of the witness of the word (Jeremiah 5:14) from the faithful Christians. Who gave the two witnesses this power of judgment over those who would hurt them? God gave this judgment, which is the power of the word of God from their mouths. And clearly it is signified as judgment from their mouths to these Messengers of the Churches who have fallen from the faith and are out to hurt them. To the extent that whatsoever we bind on earth, shall have been bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18-20), then what we are witnessing to them is a message unto their condemnation, appointed of God. Where two witnesses are gathered together in Christ's name, there is He in the midst of them.
I have seen no evidence that our judging messengers should not be understood as any future final judgment at the last day of celestial beings, because those judgments belong to God alone. He alone will judge them RIGHTEOUSLY. And it will be from out of the things that are written in the book, not by Christian decisions or recommendations to Him. Judging the sins of angels or man at the last day, is God's business, not ours. Judging messengers in this life is our business, and is appointed for the faithful Church.
We should also keep in mind that the term "judge" is often used in a different sense in scripture than it is in our common parlance. For example, it is used in the sense of the adjudication or administration of law, such as by kings or rulers. That's why we have the book of Judges. And that is the judgment that the saints were prophesied to have in the millennial reign, which started when Christ was resurrected to sit at the right hand of God. Angels are Messengers, pure and simple. The translators chose not to translate the word into our language, just slightly alter it. Nevertheless, the children of God are the messengers sent to the world as ministering spirits to those who will inherit salvation. And it is important to know that it is not "some day" that messengers will judge or rule with Christ, the millennial reign with Christ in adjudication is now. Our judging Angels is to be understood as the heavenly position God has given his people in Him, to be administrators of His law, as ambassadors and messengers of the Kingdom that we have come to reign in. That judgment is already ours, and we use it by testifying to God's word of adjudication. And shall use it with even greater power and authority in time of great tribulation. For evidence of this millennial period judging by the saints, we need look no further than Revelation chapter 20.
We are seated on these thrones now, and we reign with Christ the King now, and we have this judgment of the kingdom as messengers of God now. If we hold to Biblical or an Amillennial eschatology, this current millennial judgment and reign is indisputable. This judgment was given to the saints at the start of this millennial reign, and it is how we adjudication as messengers through the testimony of God's word. It is through the word of God that we carry as the sword of the Spirit, or if you will, the spiritual sword. It is how we judge the world, and in particular how we shall judge the messengers of the Churches, even in the falling away or Great Apostasy.
By this declaration, Christ is signifying that a certain judgment of the world has come unto man, and that by it, the whole world will be drawn unto him. Thus Satan is cast out on their behalf, and salvation will go to the nations or Gentiles that they are not deceived. He is illustrating the same thing we saw in Revelation chapter 20 of the saints being given a certain judgment. It is by this judgment given to them that they shall cast Satan out, that the people of the world might not be deceived. It is by the power of spirit of the Living Word, through the message they bring. This is a truth also spoken of it Mark chapter 16 of what powers followed Believers.
Those who are baptized in the Spirit to believe have been given judgment that they shall cast out devils. No, not miraculously commanding evil supernatural being that they obey them, but by the ministry of the gospel they bring. By bringing the gospel of salvation, it casts out the evil spirit from sinners that they have new life in Christ. They do this by their ministry as [aggelos] or messengers of God. By the death of Christ they have received the power of judgment, and as ambassadors of the Kingdom of heaven, they live and reign on earth till He come.
The idea that Christians, who were redeemed by the blood of the lamb from their own terrible sins, will somehow be qualified to judge celestial angels of heaven, is antithetical to all God states in His word. We will only be there by the Grace of God, and the fact is, there is only one that judges at the great throne. There is only one who opens the books. There is only one who is worthy. There is only one who has power to judge sin, and that is God. It will be by "His word" alone and never by His word, plus ours. We give assent only because of Christ in us, not by any righteousness of our own that qualifies us to judge. How will the saints judge angels? The word we bring judges messengers, not our own word of judgment.
It is God's word alone that shall judge Man, Messengers and Satan, and He will do so based upon what is written in His book and by His righteousness, not by Christians assenting or consenting to judgments. The whole idea of man judging celestial Angels is twisted, because God's word alone judges. We testify/witness to God's word that judges. And in that sense only we shall judge Messengers, never in the sense of us deciding their fates based upon their sins.
The overview of 1st Corinthians 6:1-5 is that we (ministers of the Gospel) judge the world, and we shall judge messengers. And we shall do so by the law, in our preaching of the Gospel of the word. For He upholdeth all things by the word of his power. The sword of the Spirit in our hands shall condemn messengers and bring their habitation to ultimate ruin and desolation. 1st Corinthians 6:1-5 is bringing us to a realization that God has appointed the saints in Christ as judges of the world and of messengers of God. Thus we should understand how surely we should be able to resolve ordinary disagreements of this life that don't even involve heavenly things.
In other words, God is making a distinction between things that pertain to this life, and things that do not. Christian things of life everlasting, and the worldly things of this life. We will righteously judge messengers of the gospel of life eternal, how much more can we make sound judgments about things that relate to this life? For if we cannot even handle an earthly matter, how will we judge the messengers of things that pertain to life eternal. Selah!
Friends, this is a spiritual warfare "on this earth" where Satan and his messengers fight against Christ and His. We are those messengers of the kingdom of heaven going forth in the power of His Spirit on earth. And the weapons of our warfare are not carnal or worldly, but spiritual. This mighty battle between good and evil is between the Spirit of Christ and the spirit of Antichrist, and it is a battle for the souls of mankind. It is not a battle that is literally fought among the stars of heaven by celestial beings, but a warfare that is fought in the kingdom of heaven, by its ambassadors that reign and rule on earth.
The judgment of messengers and our fighting in this spiritual war, is part and parcel of belonging to the kingdom of heaven. Being part of one, automatically makes you at enmity with the other. Thus we must with good conscience hold to the faith once delivered unto the fathers, and as messengers of God's word, uphold the ensign of His army upon earth. Whosoever is loosed on earth truly has been loosed of God in heaven. And whosoever is judged on earth, has truly been judged of God in heaven. As faithful obedient soldiers we do what is our duty to do.
This is no "pretend" battle that is truly of no consequence, it is a real substantive spiritual warfare of the Kingdom of God. And to be sure, many messengers shall fall by the sword, and many houses shall be brought to ruin, and many armies shall fall under the horses. And yet in all this, we are more than conquerors, overcomers in Christ Jesus.
Yes, you should know that we shall judge [aggelos], for they are messengers who profess to be of the kingdom and of life everlasting, but who are ministers of Satan. How much more are we qualified to judge things that pertain only to the life in this world? So, if we have judgments to be made of things pertaining to this life, such as disagreements, law suits, controversies, property, we should set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church, rather than go to law in the courts of the unsaved.
In this, God is not forbidding secular law or judgments, but rather He is reproving the Church for brother going to law against brother to the secular magistrates for these trivial matters. For this not only casts a bad light upon the Church, it implies we cannot even handle the small matters. Are we unworthy to judge these least matters? Indeed, our judgments are superior than secular judgments, as we are appointed of God to judge as messengers (Church matters of rulings). How much more things that pertain to this life?
The Church at Corinth had its share of problems regarding the ecclessial members, and it is evident that there were some who worshipped idols and had fallen from the faith. Thus God makes sure we know that these messengers shall be judged by us. They aren't angels judged by us at Christ's coming, but false teachers and messengers of the devil who claim to be serving God (2nd Corinthians 11:13-15), while their works betray them. 1st Corinthians 6:3 rhetorically asking, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels," has nothing whatsoever to do with believers sitting in judgment of heavenly beings who have fallen. It is not a declaration that God will include us in judging celestial beings or angels at the last day. Nor has it to saints being permitted to judge righteous elect Angels and determine what gifts or rewards they get. The Church judging Messengers is a task that we do by the sending forth of the infallible law of judgment. It is a judgment that is as sure and righteous as the infallible word of God. That is the only sword of judgment Christians wield against messengers.
Copyright ©2008 Tony Warren
Created 10/16/08 / Last Modified 10/20/08
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