The Spirit World: Chapter Thirteen (Tartarus)

This entry is part 15 of 23 in the series The Spirit World


(This is a continuation of The Spirit World book series. This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts in the series.)

Tarturus is another Greek term found only in a singular text: 2 Peter 2:4.  The term “Tartarus” finds its roots in Greek mythology, being the name of the lowest place of confinement in the Greek mythological underworld.  Thus, Peter uses an established term in this singular biblical reference.  Although the term is established outside of scripture, it’s cultural use may certainly offer keen insight into its biblical use.

Interestingly, Tartarus is also mentioned in an extra-biblical book which has relevance to the content of this study; the pseudepigraphal book of Enoch, which describes Tartarus as a place where fallen angels, who procreated with human women, were confined until the day of Judgment.  Enoch is not canonized scripture, but a well-known Jewish text.  Yet, the biblical book of Jude references and quotes a part of Enoch as an example of the judgments that the ungodly can expect for similar actions.

Once again, because Tartarus occurs only one time in scripture, careful attention to the context of its use must be observed to determine its meaning.

The Text

2 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell [Tartarus], putting them into gloomy dungeons[some manuscripts read “into chains of darkness] to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)– 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings;


The first deduction is that Tartarus is a place where sinful angels (Demons) are confined.  Peter clearly asserts this location as a place of “gloomy dungeons” in which “angels when they sinned” were placed.  However, all demons have sinned, as all demons participated with Satan in his fall.  To that end, it must also be understood that the sin Peter speaks of must be a particularly vile sin worthy of an uncommon punishment.

Secondly, it can be noted that Tartarus is unique among other places of spiritual bondage.  In particular, Peter notes that the demons here are placed “into gloomy dungeons” or “into chains of darkness.”  They are bound in some way within this abode, which is never noted concerning the Abyss or any other spiritual realm.

Thirdly, it is noteworthy that these demons are “being held for judgment.”  This, too, is a differentiation from the Abyss.  While those of the Abyss are noted to have a temporary sentence, those of Tartarus are noted to be held for a sentence which will exist until the end of history.  They are held “for judgment,” which is immediately prior to the eternal order for the unrighteous.  Thus, one may conclude that these demons did a particular sin which was even more vile and offensive to the Lord than those which are confined in the Abyss.  As such, while the Abyss can be rightly thought of as a “demon jail,” it appears that Tartarus may rightly be considered as “solitary confinement:” a jailed existence exhibiting the additional bondage of either a dungeon or chains.


In conclusion, Tartarus is another place of angelic confinement.  It appears to be a place reserved for the punishment of exceptionally evil actions.  It is a place of confinement and of bondage in either dungeons or in chains (or possibly both).

Tartarus is therefore not one and the same as the Abyss, which is a temporary sentence not noted specifically to endure to the hour of judgment.  Angels being confined to the Abyss are, in all noted cases, at least, released prior to the final judgment.  Angels confined in Tartarus are not.

image The Spirit World series will continue weekly until the entire book is published online. If, however, you enjoy this series and do not wish to wait, you can purchase the paperback version of The Spirit World here.

Series Navigation<< The Spirit World: Ch. 12 (The Great River Euphrates)The Spirit World: Ch. 14 (The Confinement of Jude 6) >>

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