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Exegesis of Matthew 25:41

Sam Shamoun

In this short article we will be quoting from various sources, both ancient and modern, concerning the meaning of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:41 that hell was actually created for the devil and his angels.

“But to the others He says, Depart from me, you cursed, (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), into the everlasting fire, prepared, not for you, but for the devil and his angels. For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, Come, inherit the kingdom, He added, prepared for you before the foundation of the world; but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, prepared for the devil. I, says He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but for the devil and his angels; but since you cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. And not in this way only, but by what follows also, like as though He were excusing Himself to them, He sets forth the causes.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, Homily 79; bold emphasis ours)

Origen: As He had said to the righteous, "Come ye," so He says to the wicked, "Depart ye," for they who keep God"s commandment are near to the Word, and are called that they may be made more near; but they are far from it, though they may seem to stand hard by, who do not His commands; therefore it is said to them, "Depart ye," that those who seemed to be living before Him, might be no more seen.

It should be remarked, that though He had said to the Saints, "Ye blessed of my Father," He says not now, "Ye cursed of my Father," because of all blessing the Father is the author, but each man is the origin of his own curse when he does the things that deserve the curse. They who depart from Jesus fall into eternal fire, which is of a very different kind from that fire which we use. For no fire which we have is eternal, nor even of any long continuance.

And note, that He does not say, "the kingdom prepared for the Angels," as He does say "everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels;" because He did not, as far as in Him lay, create men to perdition, but sinners yoke themselves to the Devil, so that as they that are saved are made equal to the holy Angels, they that perish are made equal with the Devil"s Angels. (Thomas Aquinas, Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospels; bold emphasis ours)

41–43.] It is very important to observe the distinction between the blessing, Matthew 25:34, and the curse here. ‘Blessed—of my Father:’—but not ‘cursed of my Father,’ because all man’s salvation is of God—all his condemnation from himself. ‘The Kingdom, prepared for you;’ but ‘the fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’ (notice τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰών. τὸ ἡτοιμ … greater definiteness could not be given: that particular fire, that eternal fire, created for a special purpose)—not, for you: because there is election to life—but there is no reprobation to death:—a book of Lifebut no book of Death; no hell for man—because the blood of Jesus hath purchased life for all: but they who will serve the devil, must share with him in the end. (Henry Alford, Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary; bold emphasis ours)

“… His messengers, his servants, or those angels that he drew off from heaven by his rebellion, and whom he has employed as his ‘messengers’ to do evil. The word may extend also to all his followers - fallen angels or people. There is a remarkable difference between the manner in which the righteous will be addressed, and the wicked. Christ will say to the one that the kingdom was prepared for them; to the other, that the fire was not prepared for ‘them,’ but for another race of beings. They will inherit it because they have the same character ‘as the devil,’ and are therefore suited to the same place – not because it was originally ‘prepared for them.’” (Albert Barne’s Notes on the Whole Bible; bold emphasis ours)

“… The devil and his angels sinned before the creation of the world, and the place of torment was then prepared for them: it never was designed for human souls; but as the wicked are partakers with the devil and his angels in their iniquities, in their rebellion against God, so it is right that they should be sharers with them in their punishment. We see here, plainly, why sinners are destroyed, not because there was no salvation for them, but because they neglected to receive good, and do good. As they received not the Christ who was offered to them, so they could not do the work of righteousness which was required of them. They are cursed, because they refused to be blessed; and they are damned, because they refused to be saved.” (Adam Clarke Commentary; bold emphasis ours)

[6.] If they must be doomed to such a state of endless misery, yet may they not have some good company there? No, none but the devil and his angels, their sworn enemies, that helped to bring them to this misery, and will triumph over them in it. They served the devil while they lived, and therefore are justly sentenced to be where he is, as those that served Christ, are taken to be with him where he is. It is terrible to lie in a house haunted with devils what will it be then to be companions with them for ever? Observe here, First, Christ intimates that there is one that is the prince of the devils, the ring-leader of the rebellion, and that the rest are his angels, his messengers, by whose agency he supports his kingdom. Christ and his angels will in that day triumph over the dragon and his, Revelation 12:7,8. Secondly, The fire is said to be prepared, not primarily for the wicked, as the kingdom is prepared for the righteous but it was originally intended for the devil and his angels. If sinners make themselves associates with Satan by indulging their lusts, they may thank themselves if they become sharers in that misery which was prepared for him and his associates. Calvin notes upon this, that therefore the torment of the damned is said to be prepared for the devil and his angels, to cut off all hope of escaping it the devil and his angels are already made prisoners in the pit, and can worms of the earth think to escape. (Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible; bold emphasis ours)

“…Notice (Origen) that while it is the kingdom prepared for you (Matthew 25:34), it is not the eternal fire prepared for you, but prepared for the devil and his angels; the wicked go to share the dreadful doom of the fallen angels, go of their own movement into that which was prepared for others. And they are not said to 'inherit' the eternal fire, but incur the punishment through conscious sin and through rejection of the Saviour.” (John Broadus’ Commentary on Matthew; bold emphasis ours)

“It is noteworthy, against a fatalistic view of eternal punishment, that the eternal fire (3:12; 13:42, 50; 18:8-9) is not prepared for those on the king's left but for the devil and his angels, who are evidently the demons. Also unlike the kingdom in 25:34, the place of eternal fire is not said to be prepared from the creation of the world.” (David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI 2008], p. 609; bold emphasis ours)

“… Whereas the ‘kingdom’ in v. 34 was prepared for the blessed, the fire here is not prepared for the cursed, but rather for the devil and his angels; the cursed are going to a fate that was not meant to be theirs.” (R. T. France, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI 1985], p. 358; bold emphasis ours)

“… Whereas the kingdom was prepared for the righteous and they inherit it, the eternal fire was prepared for the Devil and his angels, and nondisciples go into it–not because it was prepared for them as an inheritance, but because they’re ‘the sons of the evil one [“the Devil” (13:38-39)].’ His angels contrast with those of the Son of Man, and the past preparation of eternal fire means that the nondisciples’ punishment already exists. It only awaits their entry. The kingdom was prepared for the righteous ‘since the founding of the world,’ but the eternal fire isn’t said to have been prepared since then. Why? Because God’s initial, primary purpose was for eternal life; but the evil of the Devil and his angels, and now of the unrighteous, has brought about the preparation of eternal fire for a later, secondary purpose of punishment. (Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation [Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI 2010], p. 114; bold emphasis ours)

“… Some Jewish traditions (like the Qumran War Scroll) report that Belial (*Satan) was created for the pit; destruction was not God's original purpose for people (4 Ezra 8:59-60). In many Jewish traditions, the demons were fallen angels (cf. comment on 2 Pet 2:4). Jewish tradition was divided on the duration of hell; this passage's description of it as 'eternal was certainly not merely a concession to a universal image in Judaism.” (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament [InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il 1994], pp. 118-119; bold emphasis ours)

“… The scenario repeats itself with the goats. These are people doomed to eternal punishment. As the kingdom was prepared, so also the fire. But it is interesting that the fire was not prepared for the goats but for the rebellious angels. Neither is it prepared 'from the creation of the world' (v. 34). These differences support a sublapsarian theology, in which God originally made no provision for lost people or hell in his creative purposes, but once humans freely chose to rebel, then a place of punishment was prepared. No Scripture ever indicates that the fallen angels had any subsequent chance to repent. But people do. So no one need join the demons in this fire. Still, some will opt for hell by rejecting Christ. When they do, they have no one but themselves to blame.” (Craig L. Blomberg, The New American Commentary Volume 22 – Matthew [Holman Reference; First Edition 1992], pp. 378-379; bold emphasis ours)