We were meeting together as elders, as we always do on Sunday night, and I was giving the men a little bit of an idea of what I’m going to be speaking about tonight. We had been talking about migraine headaches, and I said the only thing worse than a migraine headache is having to spend two weeks in Genesis 6:1 to 4. That would be a seriously painful experience. So I’m going to do my best to get through these four verses. Genesis chapter 6, verses 1 through 4.
You say, “It’s a very brief passage, you ought to be able to do that.” It is a brief passage, but it has caused no end of discussion. There are a number of interpretations of this particular passage, and people pile up under all varying interpretations. To try to sort through the voluminous journal articles, commentaries, and treatments of this passage is no small task. I confess that I started the sorting process before I ever went to seminary many, many years ago. I went through the sorting process, trying to determine the meaning of this passage when I was going through seminary and studying the book of Genesis.
Later on, in preaching through 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the book of Jude, and other portions of Scripture, which in some way connect with this. I cycled back through it later on, of course, in writing a study Bible and wrote comments on this sixth chapter. But with all of that background, it still took a rather extensive effort at reading a quite massive amount of literature to sort through all of the issues and come to what I think is an appropriate understanding of these four verses.
Let me read them to you. Genesis chapter 6. “Now it came about when men began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not strive with man forever because he also is flesh; nevertheless, his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ Nephilim were on the earth in those days and also afterward when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”
Now, there is a question, obviously, that immediately is addressed when you read that and that is: What does it mean? And at this particular point, that’s exactly the question that’s in your mind. It seems somewhat disjointed and somewhat oblique and obscure. But there’s even another more compelling question once we discern what it means and that is: So what? Now that we know what it means, why is it here? How does it inform us necessarily?
Now remember, we’re talking about a period of time in Genesis at this juncture before the flood. As we go through Genesis, we’ve gone through creation, we’ve gone through the fall, we’ve moved on into the development, the progress of human civilization in chapter 4 and chapter 5, and we’re about to get into the flood in which God destroys the entire world, except for eight people, and that’s only sixteen hundred and fifty-six years after creation. So we’ve got a period of sixteen hundred and fifty-six years, and the only record in existence of that period is here.
In fact, there are just only two chapters and a spilling into chapter 6, that’s all we have of that entire antediluvian or pre-flood society. And the question then is: Why, out of all of the things that must have gone on during that sixteen hundred and fifty-six years does God inspire Moses, the writer of the law, the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, as we call them, why does He inspire Moses to record this? What is the significance of this?
Now we want to remember that the book of Genesis is the book of what? Of beginnings, isn’t it? So this is the beginning of something that is very, very important. There are no trivial things here, there are no secondary things here. If you have to be very careful in selecting material because you’re making a brief treatment of a very, very important period of time, then you’re going to choose very selectively what is critical to understand, and I believe there is a very critical nature to this information.
So there are two issues to face. One is the issue of what does it mean, and the other is the issue of so what. Now that we know what it means, how does it play into our understanding in a way that is critical or important for us? And I confess to you that while I have read volumes on what it means, I cannot essentially find much of anything about why it is important and why it is here. So I’m going to do the best I can to tell you why I think it’s here and try to show you why I believe that is a good understanding of the text.
Now, as we approach this text, there is an identification that appears here in verse 2, the sons of God, and they are mentioned again in verse 4. The key identification in this entire passage is to find out who the sons of God are, and I’m going to give that away at the very beginning because there’s no point in hiding the fact. I am convinced that these are demons. These are demons. You can write that down in capital letters if you want, I’m not going to move off of that understanding, and I’ll show you why as we go.
Now, we who know the Bible are not surprised that demons should show up in human society, are we? We shouldn’t be surprised by that. The Bible is clear on the fact that, according to Revelation chapter 12, when Satan fell, he took with him a third of the holy angels, and they constitute a force of spirit beings who went from being holy before God to being evil and cast out of the presence of God by virtue of joining Satan in his rebellion. His rebellion is described in the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah and the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel.
We dealt with all of that when we met the serpent in the garden back in chapter 3, so if you want that information, you can go back to that material. We’re not surprised that demons should show up in human society. That is not anything surprising to somebody who knows the Bible. We’re very much aware that we human beings are not the only intelligent personal creatures in the universe. We are the inhabitants of the material world.
Angels, both holy and fallen, are the inhabitants of the spiritual world, and the historical record of the Bible, starting in the book of Genesis with the first fallen angel, the first demon to appear (Satan in chapter 3) all the way to the end of the book of Revelation when all of those demons are cast into the lake of fire in chapter 20, makes it clear from Genesis to Revelation, in between, that demons play an important role in the efforts of Satan to thwart the purposes of God by being very involved in human life. So we understand that from the Scripture.
These supernatural creations of God were made to serve God and worship God. And they were present, by the way, when God made the universe. You can read Job 38, I won’t take the time to do that. In the first seven verses of Job 38, you have the angels of God surrounding God and praising God at the creation. So the angels were then created so that they could be at the creation of the material universe. Sometime very soon after that initial creation, there was a massive and devastating rebellion among the angels, and it resulted in a third of them being thrown out of heaven.
The dragon in Revelation 12 sweeps away a third of them with his tail, is the imagery there, as Satan was able to lead a third of the holy angels in his coup against God in his rebellion. The leader of the rebellion, again, was the worship leader of heaven, Lucifer, who was son of the morning and very likely the highest angel, the worship leader of heaven itself. He is cast out of heaven along with the demons, he comes down to earth, he shows up in the garden and takes on the form of a serpent.
Apparently, he could come into an animal form, and in that form he tempts Eve. Eve falls, and the whole human race is subjected to corruption and to death.
So students of Scripture are not unfamiliar with demons, with the activities of Satan and his demons. The Old Testament, the New Testament clearly indicate the role of demons as they ply their deceptions and their lies, primarily through false religion. We also know in the Bible that Satan is active in the world in moving into human society at all levels. We find him behind the whole story of Job - don’t we? - which is probably the earliest book in the Old Testament and certainly a time that is during the patriarchal period, which is described in the book of Genesis.
So the work of Satan is very, very old. The activity of demons, the activity of Satan are seen both in Old Testament texts and in New Testament texts. In the Old Testament, we read about unclean spirits. Judges 9, 1 Samuel 16, 18, 19, unclean spirits, just another term to describe demons.
When you come to the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and Jesus arrives, demons crank up their activity to a fever pitch, so there is an explosion of demonic activity that takes place during the life of Christ. We’ve seen that in our study of the gospel of Luke. Jesus is consistently, continuously confronted with demon powers. We come out of the gospels into the book of Acts, we still see the activity of demons at a very high level in the book of Acts. When we get into the epistles of the New Testament, the operation of demons in the world is explained to us, described for us, and we find out how to deal with them in the spiritual power that God has provided for us.
When you get to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, you find out that demons are going to have a heyday in the end of the age, the end of human history, and they’re going to literally run across the earth at a force level that’s never occurred before that time and then ultimately will be destroyed by the Lord Jesus and cast forever into the eternal lake of fire.
Now, this force of demons (including their leader, Satan, who is a demon and is the chief of demons), they have waged this continual war against God since the first rebellion in heaven. It is the long war against God. They have fought on all fronts. Satan, you find in the book of Job, face-to-face confronting God. In the book of Daniel, you have holy angels fighting demons who are trying to thwart the purposes of God, and the holy angels are bringing the purposes of God to pass.
And it comes all the way down to the human realm, and you have people who are the children of God and everybody else who are the children of the devil, and so this battle comes all the way down into the human realm.
Here in this particular text is the first invasion recorded for us of the satanic force into human life. We know that Satan himself came into the garden and confronted Adam and Eve, but here is plural, sons of God, coming down, taking wives of the daughters of men, and that is the first description of a mass invasion, demonic invasion. In fact, you might even title these four verses “Demonic Invasion.” The whole of this text is designed to demonstrate how wicked man has become.
His wickedness is so profound, it is so systemic, it is so far-reaching that he, at this point really - and I say this of all humanity - they have reached the point where they are no longer redeemable in the eyes of God and, consequently, this is a description of the wickedness of man which precipitates God’s judgment in the universal flood by which God drowned the entire world with the exception of eight people (Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives) as Scripture tells us.
So what we’re learning in the first seven verses of chapter 6 is why God drowned the world. After sixteen hundred and fifty-six years of civilization growing and developing, in comes the judgment of God and everybody but eight people is destroyed.
Now we go back to chapter 3 again and we remember the fall. Adam and Eve have fallen. They are thrown out of the garden. They go out of the garden. They begin to live their life. In chapter 4, the cursed couple outside the garden sees the first horrible crime when one of their sons, Cain, murders another of their sons, Abel. And then we find in chapter 4 that Cain has children, and the children of Cain are a wicked people. They continue to procreate and reproduce, they have social achievements that are indicated in chapter 4, remarkable social achievements, economic achievements. Metallurgy, music, things like that are developed, poetry.
And even though there is procreation and even though there is the development of society and civilization, it is fatally flawed. It is wicked and so infected that human development is literally a series of obituaries, and he died, and he died, and he died, and he died, and he died - all the way through chapter 4 and also all the way through chapter 5. In chapter 4, we have the line of Cain, all wicked, all evil, and yet there’s a certain blessing of God in that they are allowed to have children and families and flourish and develop society and enjoy music and raise their economic level and take from the earth the great treasures that are there to make life fascinating and fulfilling and comfortable.
But yet the obituary is continually being written as they all die. Life is filled with the sorrows that ultimately lead to death. You come into the end of chapter 4, verse 28, and then in to chapter 5, you have the line of Seth. Seth is another child born to Adam and Eve, in a sense to take the place of Abel who was murdered by Cain. And the line of Seth demonstrates that while all men are sinners (and it says and he died, and he died, and he died as well in Seth’s line) that not all of those sinners rejected God. We find in the line of Seth that there were some who did not reject God.
There was Enosh and there was Enoch and finally there was a man named Noah. We don’t know what happened to Enosh. Enoch took a walk one day and God just took him right into heaven. And so when the flood came, the only righteous man left was Noah and his wife and his family.
So when you look at chapter 3, you see the fall of Adam and Eve, and death enters the world. You look at chapter 4 and 5, and it’s a series of obituaries that tell you as human society develops, as civilization becomes more and more advanced, as people enjoy the blessing of families and children and all that goes with it, life is punctuated finally by death, and it’s a series of obituaries brought about by sin. Even the genealogy of the righteous people is filled with universal death, with the exception of the one man, Enoch, who was sort of a picture, sort of a prototype of the folks who will one day be raptured at the call of Christ and escape death themselves.
So what you have, then, in this period of time, from the fall into chapter 6, is development of human civilization, and we talked all about that, but you also have the escalation of corruption. As man becomes more creative musically, as he becomes more creative economically, as he becomes more creative poetically, as he becomes more creative in terms of what he can do with not only human resources but the resources that are in the earth as he develops his skills, as he moves along and advances, he also advances in his wretchedness. He advances in his wickedness.
And so here we are, coming into chapter 6, and the Lord is going to introduce to us a judgment that is going to fall. By the time you get to Noah, the sin of man has reached shocking proportions, and only one family on the planet can be considered righteous. We read in verse 8 that Noah found grace, really, in the eyes of the Lord. Noah found that grace because Noah was a righteous man. That is to say, verse 9 says he was a righteous man. Why? Because he had repented of his sin, cried to God, and God had granted him righteousness. But only one family - only one family.
Now, what causes God to step in and destroy all of humanity? Well, the first four verses tell us that the wickedness of man had reached such proportion that they had engaged themselves in demonic relationships. Not only did they not seek God, not only did they not endeavor to know God, but they pursued demons. That’s what we find in these opening four verses.
Now, as we look at these four verses, I’m just going to give you a series of points to help us work our way through, and I think you’ll find this fascinating. Let’s talk about divine blessing. That’s the first point, divine blessing. Now, we know that the world was already full of sin. We’ve already heard about murder. We’ve already heard about polygamy or bigamy. We’ve already been introduced to pride, to anger, to vengeance. We’ve seen quite a catalog of sins before we ever get to chapter 6.
But here in chapter 6, the level of human evil has reached such a point that there is an engagement with the very powers of hell, the very demons themselves, willful. In fact, it is apparently sought out. But let’s start where the text starts and get the context. Divine blessing is where it begins.
Let’s go to verse 1. “Now it came about,” that, by the way, is an indefinite phrase. Doesn’t tell us what time, it just gives us a general reality, “Sometime during the pre-flood sixteen hundred and fifty-six years, at some point along the way, and not at just one point but perhaps it started and just kept going on. At some point, when men began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them.
In other words, at some point in human development, at some point when men - and that’s ha adam in Hebrew, it means mankind. At some point when mankind was developing, at some post-fall/pre-flood point when men were marrying and procreating and it was normal life, this was blessing from God. You remember back in Genesis chapter 1, verse 28, God had said that He created man in His own image and He created them male and female, and verse 28, “And God blessed them,” and what was the blessing? “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”
That was a blessing. Here you are on this magnificent planet, here you are to have a loving partner to enjoy the fulfillment of the relationship physically and the relationship emotionally and the relationship in terms of friendship that you can have with your spouse, and you can bring children into the world. And what a benediction and a blessing those children are. And you can enjoy all of the merits and blessings of extended family, and you can subdue the planet and all of the incredible resources and all the food supply and all of the other riches that are put into this planet, this is blessing.
And so here we are in verse 1, and the context is at that time when they were enjoying the blessing of multiplying, they were enjoying the blessing of filling the earth, they were enjoying the blessing of having children, they were enjoying what God had promised. At that time, even though they were sinful, they were making amazing achievements, amazing advancements. They had developed a way to domesticate animals and to practice animal husbandry and the breeding of animals for all the purposes that animals could be used for, as well, as I said, as metallurgy and music and poetry and all of that we find in chapters 4 and 5.
They were beginning to tap the tremendous riches that God had put into the world for man to enjoy, and so it was at this time, sometime in that pre-flood time of developing civilization. It says that, “At that time, daughters were born to them.” Now, please don’t indicate from that that there weren’t any sons born. There wouldn’t be any daughters being born if there weren’t any sons being born. You don’t have to be Phi Beta Kappa to figure that out.
So there’s a reason why he says daughters were born to them because the daughters are going to become the focus, if you’ll look at verse 2, “The sons of God saw the daughters.” So we just need to identify that the daughters were born. These are the girl babies. There is obviously a necessity for boy babies also or you can’t have any babies at all. So the reason for this mention is not to limit but only to identify that in the development of human society, girl babies were born. This is the blessing from God.
Marriage is the grace of life, the Bible says. It is the best gift that God can give. It is the most satisfying, the most fulfilling, the most encouraging, and the most fruitful, the most enduring, the most endearing, and the most productive. And so while men were multiplying on the face of the land and daughters were being born to them identifies that God’s blessing is going on. But let me tell you something here - please notice this: Even though mankind can procreate by God’s grace and goodness, He gave us the ability to do that, even though we can enjoy marriage and enjoy family, our ability to procreate - listen carefully - does not guarantee a future for humanity.
It didn’t guarantee a future for humanity prior to the flood - they all were drowned. We have limits. God has blessed us with the ability to enjoy marriage and children, but by no means can we assume, therefore, that we somehow are in control of the perpetuation of that as if there were no responsibility to Almighty God. When society fails to obey the will of God and the Word of God, God can step in and put an end to that society, as He did to the entire pre-flood earth. But for sixteen hundred years, this was how it was. People were getting married and they were enjoying the blessings of marriage and enjoying the wonderful gift of children and the joys of family.
In Matthew 24:37, it says in the second coming, when Jesus comes, it’ll be just like in the days of Noah. What does it mean? For in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, just doing normal things, living life. They were marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark.
And that’s the way it was. They were just marrying, giving in marriage, having families, going on and eating and drinking and doing the normal routine things. Eating and drinking, by the way, sustains life, so you can get married and have children. And that’s the way life was. This is blessing. This is - it’s blessing today. It’s blessing today. Even the unconverted people of the world have a blessing in family, marriage, children.
So verse 1 identifies the pattern of that blessing. So you start out with divine blessing. Here they are, living in the divine blessing. And perhaps they think that they’re now in control of the future because they can procreate, so they’re in control of the future. But they’re not. At no time does humanity’s ability to procreate give them control of the future because as it was in the days of Noah, when God intervened and destroyed them all, so it’s going to be in the days of the coming of the Son of man, and Jesus is going to put an end to human civilization again, but only after He has rescued those who, like Noah, are righteous before Him.
So in this time of divine blessing, let’s look at a second point, we see demonic corruption. To show you how far man had gone in abusing his blessings, abusing his privileges, abusing grace, verse 2 says, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” Now, again, Satan and his angels had already fallen. We have noted that. We know that because Satan has already showed up in the garden as an evil, wicked serpent, deceiving Eve and catapulting the whole human race into corruption.
So we know that these demons, these angels, fallen angels, have already entered into an unmixed wickedness, and they’re coming down to earth as Satan does to operate in the realm of man to endeavor to thwart the purposes of God. Satan was successful in the garden, and his demonic force is at work in the world, always has been, and is at work in the world even today.
And here is one of the heinous ways in which they corrupted that early society. “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” Whatever this is, it’s something different than marriage. Verse 1 deals with marriage, people multiplying and having babies. This, this is some twist on that, some perversion to that general normal pattern of marriage and procreation. This is some aberration of that.
As I said, there have been several suggestions as to what it might be, and you know me well enough to know that the right interpretation should be yielded by the text itself. Some people want to apply philosophical thoughts to this text. Some people want to apply sort of extraneous theological viewpoints. Some people want to borrow something from over here in the New Testament or over there in the Old Testament, but I think if we stay within the text, it becomes pretty clear what we’re dealing with here. What is this? Sons of God taking the daughters of men as wives? Who are the sons of God?
And the first consideration, please, to note, is that they are juxtaposed against the daughters of men. So we can conclude that whoever they are, they are different than the daughters of men. And the difference lies not in sons and daughters but in God and men. That’s the first thing. All theological, all philosophical, all rational perspectives aside, the contrast then is between creatures of God and creatures of men. That’s the point. The contrast is between sons of God and daughters of men, creatures of God and creatures of men.
Sons of God can’t be sons of men. Nor can sons of God refer to righteous men or to some righteous line of men since there is no such thing as a righteous line of men, and there is no way that men in the Old Testament are ever designated as sons of God. So we want to stick with the language. The oldest interpretation of this passage, by the way, the oldest one, the traditional Jewish one, the view of the rabbis and modern Jewish commentators like Umberto Cassuto, the view of the church fathers is that the sons of God refer to demons, fallen angels.
Why do they say that? Because, very simply, every time you have an Old Testament reference to sons of God, it refers to angels. And as I said to you, the oldest book of the Old Testament very likely is the book of Job. And so we know that the language used in the book of Job would give us a good indication of the kind of language that would be used in the patriarchal period, or the Genesis period. And in Job chapter 1, verse 6, “There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came among them.”
We know what that is. That’s Satan in the midst of the demons coming before the throne of God. Chapter 2, verse 1, “There was a day when the sons of God” - Job 2:1 - “came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.”
So it becomes very apparent to us that the sons of God is a term to designate angels. As I mentioned at the very outset, in the thirty-eighth chapter of Job and the seventh verse, the holy angels are also called sons of God. And what that means is they are the direct creation of God. I could go into all kinds of linguistic material to show you that wherever you have the concept of sons of God, it has reference to one who is made immediately by God, one who is the product of God’s creative work. And so in the Old Testament, that term, sons of God, is reserved for those who are not the product of a human union, but are the creation of God.
They are called also sons of the mighty in Psalm 29:1, that’s another term for angels. They are sons of the mighty in that they are the direct creation of God. In Psalm 89, you have a similar indication, I think it’s verse 6, sons of the mighty, again. So the term is reserved - and it’s very important to note that the book of Job is right around the time of the writing, of course, of the Pentateuch and describes life at that particular time. The sons of God is a phrase used to describe angelic beings.
And if you make it into anything else, if you say it means humans, it means kings, it means warriors, it means nobles, you don’t have any biblical basis for that. That is purely conjecture; that is purely invented.
What you have here, then, is heavenly beings contrasted with earthly beings, those who come directly from God and those who come directly from man. There’s no way to make sons of God refer to Sethites, people in the line of Seth, nobles, kings, rulers, or aristocracy, because nowhere in the Bible are any of those groups called sons of God. It can’t refer to polygamist kings or despotic warriors, as some would think, because you don’t have any evidence of that. That’s pure conjecture.
If you’re consistent with the language of the Old Testament, they are sons of God, they are the direct creation of God, which is what angels are. And men, once God created Adam and Eve, men then become the procreation of other men. And that is the distinction.
But what is interesting here is that these sons of God, these spiritual beings who exist in their own realm, saw the daughters of men were beautiful, and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Now you have the perversity here of these spiritual fallen angels, these demon beings, overstepping the boundaries of their realm. They defy God by leaving the defined realm that God has placed them, their spirit world, and they enter the human realm. We know they can do that. Satan has already entered the realm of animals and showed up indwelling a snake in the garden.
Now, these demons, it says, are motivated because they saw that the daughters of men were beautiful. Some kind of twist – actually ki toboth in Hebrew means that they were good or attractive or fair. Wicked spirits attracted to female creatures; wicked, perverted demons able even to appreciate the beauty that God has placed in women in some perverse and twisted way.
Now, these daughters of men are not some special group of women, they’re just the daughters indicated in a generic sense in verse 1. The demons have some desire for these women, and so they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. This refers, by the way, not to rape because the word in the Hebrew “to take a wife” is laqah and it describes a marital transaction. I think there are at least one, two, three, four, five, six, maybe seven times in Genesis when this word is used to refer to the actual transaction of marriage.
Some have thought that the demons came in like Rosemary’s baby, you know the old story, and raped the women. That is not it, there was an actual marital transaction. The question then comes: How can this be? How can an immaterial spiritual being, a fallen angel, a demon marry a woman? How can they chose a wife and have a legal ceremony? How can they engage in a marriage?
Only one way, folks. They have to take the body of a man. And I think that’s so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be said. Now, we know that angels do this. Satan took the form of a serpent in the garden. If you go over - I won’t take the time - into chapter 18 of Genesis and chapter 19, you will find that angels appear to Abraham. And in what form do they appear? As men. And later on, you’ll find Jacob and he is wrestling with an angel, and you can’t wrestle with a spirit, he’s wrestling with an angel in a physical form, in the form of a man, and the effort is so great that he gets permanently wounded by it.
In Hebrews chapter 13, we are reminded that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Why? Because for us to see an angel, for an angel to actually appear and be present, they must come in a form that we can see, and they always, always appear in a male form. Though angels are spirits and in heaven, they don’t marry or are given in marriage, according to Matthew 22:30. When they appear on earth, they always take a human body. Do they create bodies for that? Well, angels can’t create. It may well be that they work through existing human bodies.
I don’t think there’s an angelic body closet and you go in and ask for a 42 long body because you want to go down and do something. I think that they work through humans. There’s no way to explain how that is. But we know that holy angels occasionally appeared in human form. They came into a human body and worked and served through that body. And even in the book of Hebrews, clear in the New Testament, it says to be aware of the fact that that still can happen because people have entertained angels unaware. You didn’t even know that an angel was ministering through someone.
Now, we also know from the Bible that demons can enter human bodies. And I think that’s what you have here. What you have is society has reached such a corrupt point, civilization has gotten so corrupt that literally demons have taken up their residences to some degree. And we don’t want to get caught up in terms here, but the demons (defined as the sons of God) have moved into men with the purpose of cohabitating with women.
Now, these unions - you say, “Why do you believe that? Why don’t you think it was just spirit beings raping women?” Because, first of all, you have the term for a legal transaction in a marriage, but more than that, I want you to notice verse 3, “The Lord said, ‘My spirit will not always strive with man because he is also flesh.’” And verse 4, “The sons of God came into the daughters of men and they bore - to them and they were mighty men and they were men of renown.”
Everything indicates that what was born of this union was human. It was, according to verse 3, it was flesh, it was man. According to verse 4, it was children, it was men - it was men, repeated again. So what you have here is children born of these unions and the children are, in fact, human. Demons are sons of God in the sense that they were directly created by God, left their realm, engaged in the terrible rebellion with Satan, were cast down to the earth, and they now work among men - and not only men but women - I say men generically.
But on this particular occasion, as you look at this period of time, their strategy was to move into the bodies of males and then to marry beautiful women and to produce children. This would be a demon-dominated union, and a demon-dominated family. And what makes this so interesting to me is in verse 3, when the Lord says, “My spirit shall not always strive with man,” God puts the responsibility for this on whom? On demons? God doesn’t say, “My spirit is not - I’m not going to tolerate this demon activity.” God doesn’t say, “I’m not always going to allow demons to do this.” He says, “I am not going to continue to allow men to do this.”
The indication, therefore, is that this cannot happen unless there is an openness and a willingness. The wickedness of society in the pre-flood era is so great that you have people actually soliciting demon control, and the demons will eagerly comply for their goal is the utmost wretchedness of man.
Now, the question comes at this point: Why did they want to do this? Why would men want to do this? Why would a man want to become the house of a demon? Why would he want to have demonic involvement in his family? Why would he want to have children that would be exposed to this demon power, this demon wickedness? Why? Well, certainly not because he thought it was going to destroy him, certainly not because he thought it was going to corrupt his marriage and corrupt his family and make life miserable and catapult him into eternal judgment.
Do you remember the third chapter of Genesis? Do you remember when Satan went into the garden? What did Satan say to Eve? “God said” - Eve says to Satan, “God said if we eat of that tree, we’re going to” - what? - we’re going to “die.” “We’re going to die.” And Satan says, “No, you won’t. I can beat that one. I can beat that. You do what I tell you, you won’t die. In fact, not only will you not die, you will be like God. We’ll beat God’s judgment. We’ll beat that eternal death. We’ll beat that judgment. Just do what I tell you.” This is the original satanic lie.
Now, by the time you get into the time after the fall, and you get into these sixteen hundred or so years, the sentence of death is well known. Why? Because for most of this time, Adam is still alive, right? I mean, Adam lived to be over nine hundred years. So for most of the sixteen hundred years, he was around, so you didn’t need a secondhand explanation of what happened in the garden.
Adam could tell everybody and it could be passed on by Adam’s children, “Look, we are under the sentence of death and we are going to die, and we are cursed by God, and men are cursed, and women are cursed. And we’re all cursed, and that’s why we have sickness and that’s why we have sorrow and that’s why we die, and it’s the curse of God.” But you can just hear Satan come along and say, “Oh, really? We can beat that one. You won’t die. You won’t die. Not only will you not die, I’ll make you like God.”
And, folks, it isn’t any different today. Join the Mormon church and guess what, you’ll have eternal life and you’ll be a god on your own planet, having celestial sex forever and populating it with your procreation. That’s what you’re promised in Mormonism. Oh, you - listen, do this, bow down to this stone thing and smell the smoke and offer the sacrifice and you will cross the river of death into the happy hunting ground. I’ve seen native Americans in their smoke huts, sucking in the smoke that’s supposedly sacrificed to God to get them to the happy hunting ground.
Or to the Greeks - ah, the mystic river of death awaits you but across the mystic river is eternal life if you follow the gods. Or if you’re an Egyptian and you do what the gods of Egypt tell you, you will sail across the river of death into the afterlife, and that’s why they buried boats with the Pharaohs in the pyramids. We can beat death. In fact, not only will we beat death, we’ll do better than that, we’ll make you like God. You’ll be gods in the next life. That’s the same lie.
And I’m quite confident that what comes down here in Genesis chapter 6, you see, you got to have a reason for this being here, and the reason is here is man, he’s under the curse, his life is defined in the obituary of chapter 4 and 5, and he died, and he died, and he died, and he died. He lived a long time but he died. And it’s just a series of obituaries, and along comes the enemy and says, “Hey, we can beat that. In fact, not only will we give you life eternal, but we will make you like God.” So people embraced the demon lies. They embraced the demon religions.
It’s the same thing as going into a pagan temple in Corinth and going up to the Acropolis just south of the city, I’ve been there, and you climb the Acropolis, and up there there’s thousands of priestesses, prostitutes in the days of the New Testament, and you go up there and you engage yourself in a sexual activity with a temple prostitute and thereby you are gaining eternal life and on the way to being turned into a god. You’re communing with the gods by doing that. It’s the same old lie. It’s the same everywhere. It’s not anything new. You can sail off into the afterlife and escape judgment and escape death and even be like God.
And so these wicked people in that pre-flood society just embraced the demonic lie. They welcomed the demons into their lives because the promise says we’re going to escape death, we’re going to beat this obituary process, and we’re going to get eternal life and be like God. I don’t think Satan ever sells his systems by saying this is the straight shot to damnation. Do you? It’s always the promise of eternal life, of being something greater than you are. Very appealing.
Same thing Satan told Eve. Convince them that they’re going to be like gods. Convince them that they can beat the death sentence that God has placed. Convince them that you’re going to take them to a higher life, a nobler life, a greater life. They’re going to escape whatever limitations God has placed upon them, whatever judgments God has sentenced on them.
Well, if that was attractive in the garden when they were already in a perfect environment, how attractive is it now when everybody’s sick and ultimately dying? This is consistent with Satan’s strategy, to promise that some union with him, some communion with him, some communion with his spirit - now remember what I told you this morning, all the gods of the nations are demons. First Corinthians 10, all of them. So when you connect with any false system, you connect with - what? - with demons.
And what do they always promise? There’s no religion that says, “Follow us, we’ll send you straight to hell.” They don’t say that. “Follow us, we’ll guarantee that in the afterlife, you’ll be worse than you are now.” We’re given the promise, the lie. Man’s open to the spirits because they’re going to enable him to circumvent judgment, circumvent death, conquer death, gain immortality, be a god.
This got really defined again in the book of Genesis because as soon as the flood comes - now follow this. The flood comes, everybody’s drowned. You have Noah and his family, they come out of there. Pretty soon the world populates again, right? You get into Genesis 11, guess what. Have you heard of the Tower of Babel? What is that? That’s trying to build a tower to where? To heaven. Because the same death reality was there, the same problems were there, and so here comes the first ziggurat, the first form of false religion, and here come the first attempt to literally build your own system into heaven, to defy death, and to become higher than you are.
And it’s the same thing over again, and God steps in, and this time He doesn’t drown them all, He scatters them all, changes all their languages. Same old story. From the Babylonian mystery religions that come out of the Tower of Babel and get spread around the world to the fertility rites of paganism to the celestial sex of the Mormons, Satan always promises some magical way to escape judgment, to become like a god, to achieve immortality, even deity. This is the inauguration of that lie.
That’s why this is important, these four verses. That’s why it’s important. It’s important because it shows us what to expect from Satan. And hasn’t it been the way all through human history? Satan comes and inevitably promises heaven but delivers hell. It didn’t work. It didn’t work because all they had were children who were just like them. It didn’t change anything - didn’t change anything. And that becomes apparent as we read the rest of the text.
But before we go any further, I need to do this, and bear with me now because we’re getting to the critical part of understanding this. How do you know this interpretation is right? Turn quickly to 1 Peter 3. We have New Testament interpretations of this passage, fortunately, by God’s goodness. We believe the sons of God were angels, fallen angels, demons, and here is evidence. First Peter 3:18, “Christ died for sins once for all.” So the picture here is Christ is in His death, He’s dying on the cross, He’s dead, He died just for the unjust.
But notice the end of the verse says, “He was put to death in the flesh.” What does that mean? Well, He was dead physically. They took His body off the cross, right? He was dead, He wasn’t breathing anymore, His heart wasn’t pumping anymore. In fact, the pericardium in the heart had been pierced so there’s blood and water coming out, He was dead. And they took Him as a dead person and they wrapped Him with spices and they put Him in a grave and He was dead. He was dead according to the flesh but He was alive in the Spirit.
His body was in the grave, but look, folks, His Spirit wasn’t dead, right? Because He is that eternal Spirit who is God, and His Spirit was not dead. So when His body was in the grave from the Friday to the Sunday morning when He arose, His Spirit was alive and where was He? Where was His Spirit? Verse 19, “In which” - that is, in His Spirit - “He went” - He went somewhere, where did He go? He went and made a proclamation, a kērussō, an announcement to the spirits now in prison. Oh, He went somewhere to a prison. He had a prison ministry. That’s right. He had a prison ministry.
In His living Spirit, He went to the prison, and it was not a human prison, it was a spirit prison. What do you mean, a spirit prison? Well, there were some spirits in prison. Who were they? They were those spirits - now, we’re not talking about men here, we’re talking about spirit beings. They were those spirits - verse 20 - who once were disobedient - when? - when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah. Oh. Interesting, huh? The spirits that are in this prison are the spirits who were disobedient to God to the limits, to the boundaries that God had set for them in the time of Noah.
And Noah was alive when what’s going on in chapter 6 is described. These are the spirits who overstepped their boundaries in the time of and the days of Noah before the flood. Those spirits hate Christ, they always hate Christ. And you can be sure that down in their prison where they have been - He put them in prison for what they did in Genesis 6, described there, put them in prison - in a prison for bound demons. They are bound there.
And you can believe that when He was dying on the cross and when He died on the cross, the news came down, Jesus is dead. And they were having a party, celebrating that, when He showed up and He announced His triumph over them. Why would they care? Because this is a long battle - a long battle.
“Spirits” as a term is never used for humans in the New Testament unless it is qualified by a genitive, the spirits of just men or something. It’s never used to speak of humans, we’re never called spirits. These are spirit beings, these are angels who are in a prison where they have been because they disobeyed God, they overstepped their boundaries in the days of Noah, prior to the flood. That ties perfectly in with Genesis 6.
Go to 2 Peter chapter 2 and let’s reinforce this. In 2 Peter chapter 2, verses 4 and 5, Peter wants to make a point about judgment and he wants to tell people that God’s going to judge false prophets. Verse 1 talks about false prophets who bring in damning or destructive heresies. And he says in verse 1, “Swift destruction is going to come on them.” If you’re a false prophet, if you’re teaching lies, if you’re teaching false religion of any kind, any destructive damnable heresy, swift destruction is going to come on you.
And then he wants to make the point, you think you’re going to escape if you’re a false teacher? Let me give you an illustration. If God didn’t spare angels when they sinned but cast them into hell, or literally into pits of darkness reserved for judgment, and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, so forth and so forth. Wait a minute. What do we have here? God didn’t spare the angels that sinned but put them in some prison. First Peter calls it a prison, this calls it a pit of darkness. And these were some angels at the time of that ancient world of Noah, again, here they are again.
And they’re a classic illustration. Listen, if you preach false doctrine, you’re going to be judged. And his illustration is God imprisoned those angels who preached that false doctrine in the days of Noah. And that accommodates the interpretation that I’ve been giving you, that the problem was they were coming along with their typical religious lies about immortality and eternal life and godhood, and they were preaching those damning heresies and they were judged then, and Peter says false teachers are going to be judged today, just as God judged those angels in that ancient time.
He also adds that the flood came on the world of the ungodly. So we know the context of this. And then in verses 6 and 7, I find it fascinating that he says, “And He didn’t spare not only the ancient world” - verse 5 - but 6 - “He also condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter.” In other words, you see it in Genesis again in the nineteenth chapter when God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wicked, false, deceptive beliefs.
But again, 2 Peter 2:4 and 5 connects the judgment of angels sent to pits of darkness with Noah and its parallel. A parallel sin - listen to this carefully - a parallel sin and a parallel condemnation to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let me ask you a question. Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? What sin? What is it? Homosexuality. That’s why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sin of homosexuality.
That’s the closest human parallel to what these demons did. They went after strange flesh, they stepped out of their appropriate realm when they came into man and polluted marriage. And that is as close a parallel as you can get to the human realm where the perversion is for a man to have a man or a woman to have a woman. That, too, is stepping out of God’s defined limits. And for them, for all of these kinds of people who engage in this kind of behavior, there is judgment coming.
One other passage, Jude verses 6 and 7 - Jude verses 6 and 7. Verse 6, little book right next to Revelation, “And angels who didn’t keep their own domain” - again, they stepped out of their realm - “but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds.” Okay, what did we say in 1 Peter? It was called prison, right? Here in 2 Peter 4 and 5, it’s called pits of darkness. And here, it’s called eternal chains under darkness. So again, you have these angels who are judged by being put in eternal chains awaiting the judgment of the great day.
And it’s very similar, verse 7, to Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them since they - listen to this - in the same way as these” - who are these? The demons. “In the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.” It was outside the angelic realm to do this, just as it’s outside God’s designed realm for a man to step into homosexuality or a woman to step into lesbianism.
And when those angels did it, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude all say they were put in prison, they were put in pits of darkness, they were bound with eternal chains under darkness for the judgment of that great day because just like Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, they indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, outside their prescribed realm, which was prescribed by God.
Now, then, you have demons that are loose, right? They’re loose in the world. But you also have demons that are bound. And the bound demons have been bound ever since, ever since this time period. You remember when Jesus was in Gadara and He was casting the demons out? And you remember, He cast them out into a herd of pigs? But before that, do you remember what the demon said? “Don’t send us to the pit.” They want to be free and they want to do their evil in the world. But some have been bound until the time of their final judgment, and Revelation 20 says they’ll all together, in the end, when Jesus comes, be thrown into the lake of fire.
So we have demonic invasion. Let’s go back quickly. As I said, the only thing worse than a migraine is having to come back to this text next week. So I want to just take you through verses 3 and 4 very quickly. Verse 3 is divine response. God looks at what’s going on and He has a response. “Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not strive with man always’” or forever. This is the judgment of God, I’ve waited for sixteen hundred and fifty-six years - well, actually, now it’s a hundred and twenty years before that, as we’ll see.
God has been waiting over fourteen hundred years, over fifteen hundred years, and He’s reached the point where His outrage is reaching its limit. Verse 5 says, “He sees the wickedness of man is great on the earth, everything in his thoughts, everything in his heart is only evil continually. The Lord is sorry” - verse 6 - that He made man.” Verse 7, “I’m going to blot him out. I’m sorry I ever made him.” God has reached the point of total exasperation with man. And He says in verse 3, “My spirit shall not strive with man.”
Please notice this: He doesn’t say, “My spirit won’t strive with demons” because He realizes that the demons don’t have any access unless it’s granted by man. The issue is people here. The Holy Spirit has been striving. This is very important. The only time we’ve seen the Holy Spirit prior to this is in creation. Remember Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit moving over the waters and brooding, as it were, over the waters and working creation. Here we meet the Holy Spirit again.
We find that He wasn’t only working in creation but He’s been working in provoking repentance. What’s He been doing? Striving with man. He’s been trying to bring these sinners to repentance, and He says, “I’m not going to do this indefinitely.” And that tells me that the demonic invasion is not ultimately the fault of demons, it is the fault of man. God has a judgment plan for demons. That’s not what concerns Him here. He doesn’t say, “I’m going to destroy demons,” He says, “I’m going to destroy man. I’m sorry I made him.”
The judgment of angels is not the subject of Genesis. Man is the subject of Genesis. The judgment of angels, we’ll get that later in the Bible. Man is the subject of Genesis. This is the record of the history of man, and this is the judgment of man, who has opened himself to demons, just like Adam opened himself to Satan and Eve. Man has become so corrupt as to try to overrule God’s sentence of death and to gain Godlikeness and eternal life by welcoming demons into his personal life.
God has a limit. He has a limit. “I’m not going to deal with this permanently.” God’s grace has its limits. In an individual life, it has its limits. There will come a time when God no longer strives with somebody and with man in general, it has limits. But look at this, verse 3: “Nevertheless” - you can be glad that’s there. This is the introduction of grace. “Nevertheless, his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” You know what that says? It’ll be a hundred and twenty years before the flood. “I’m going to give man a hundred and twenty years to repent.”
A hundred and twenty years. Do you know what was going on during that hundred and twenty years? First Peter 3:20 says, “Patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah.” And Noah, the New Testament says, was a preacher of what? Righteousness. For a hundred and twenty years, Noah built a boat. For a hundred and twenty years, people said, “Noah, why are you building a boat in the desert? There’s no water.” And Noah was saying, “Oh, but there will be. It is going to rain.” And they were saying, “Rain? What’s that?” There never had been any rain. “Oh, it’s water coming out of the sky.” “Sure.”
For a hundred and twenty years, he preached righteousness. For a hundred and twenty years, the patience of God kept waiting, 1 Peter 3:20. That’s grace, isn’t it? God says, “Look, I’m not going to be patient forever but for another hundred and twenty years.” That’s pretty magnanimous. Second Peter 2:5 says, Noah was a preacher of righteousness, who for that hundred and twenty years that he built the ark preached the message of repentance and grace and forgiveness. It’s always God’s way, always God’s way. Warn the wicked, warn the wicked, warn the wicked, and then offer grace and offer forgiveness and patience.
Then, finally, there isn’t any patience anymore and judgment comes. It came - sad. Noah didn’t have any converts, just his kids. Divine blessing, demonic corruption, divine response, then the last little point, verse 4, depraved humanity. This really caps everything. “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, also afterward when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”
You say, “What is that all about?” Well, let me try to make it simple for you. In verse 3, in the middle, it says, “My spirit will not always strive with man forever because he’s also flesh.” Just a very important point. He says you may think your demons coming in and filling you and taking your demon power into your sexual actions are going to produce some godlike children. You may have some illusion about this supernatural power to transcend and to produce some kind of wonder child or to elevate you beyond the power of God to judge and to bring you into godlike status, but I’m telling you, when it’s all said and done, you are only flesh.
That’s the point, you’re just flesh. You’re just mortal, you’re not half man and half angel, you’re just depraved flesh. And then he says in verse 4, “And there were Nephilim on the earth in those days.” Nephilim is just a term that means great men, men of stature, men of power, men of influence. It is used only one other time and that’s in the book of Numbers when the spies went into Canaan in Numbers 13 and they came out and said there are giants in there, we can’t knock those people off, they’re giants and we’re just like grasshoppers.
And the reason they used Nephilim there to describe them is because they knew the word from Genesis. It’s not a race of people. It’s not a race of people that shows up again later in Canaan because they would have been all drowned anyway, since only Noah and his family survived. It’s simply a term used in Genesis to describe great men, powerful men. And it was borrowed by the spies in Numbers 13, coming out of the land of Canaan, because everybody knew the Nephilim as great, powerful men. It’s just a generic word for that kind of person.
They were called - the term actually means falling ones, the kind of people that fall on you and crush you, powerful, fierce warrior-type people. But he says they were on the earth in those days. It’s important to say that because somebody might think that they were the product of these unions and that angels, demons, and men got together and produced some monsters. No. There were powerful men on the earth and when the sons of God, verse 4, went into the daughters of men and bore children to them, those were the mighty men and were men of old, men of renown. All you have is men, men, men.
There were already some powerful men, and out of those unions there came some more powerful men, the point being that those unions didn’t produce anything different than already existed. That’s a reasonable interpretation of this. It’s hard to be doctrinally dogmatic about it. Nephilim is simply a term that speaks about powerful, fierce, great, strong. They were already on the earth, they were already there, just the genetic pool produced them.
And there were probably many of them that close to the fall of man when they were still living into the nine hundreds of years and the corruption of sin hadn’t taken its effect on their brains and their physical abilities. They must have been some great and powerful and mighty men. They were already there, and out of these unions came more of them, but they were men, men, men, men. They were of flesh. And so what you have here is that all that the demons promised, all that Satan always promises, never does change human nature.
It doesn’t change human depravity. You’re just of the flesh, man, man, man, man. Renowned man, yes. Powerful, fierce warriors attaining reputation and fear and all of that, but men - men, men, men.
Well, the world has always had its Belteshazzars, its Alexander the Greats, its Caesars, Napoleons, Hitlers, and Saddam Husseins, and all the other petty, tribal, pseudo gods using their evil power to threaten, subjugate, and destroy others, but in the end they’re just men, just flesh.
Satan can’t make you anything other than what you are. Satan can’t give you immortal blessing. Satan can’t make you into a god. Satan can’t cause you to overpower God and defy His eternal judgment. Satan cannot deliver you from the penalty of death. He can’t do it. Satan can’t change you, he can’t catapult you into some other level of existence. All you are is flesh, flesh, flesh, men, men, men. And all that is flesh is mortal, and God’s judgment will fall on all.
So the sad saga of human life after the fall is that they bought into Satan’s lies to such a degree that the whole race was corrupt. That’s the message. And God then, as we’ll see in the next section, grieves that He ever made man in the beginning.
Father, we have looked at this in a rapid fashion and yet we hope in a way that we can grasp. Confirm to our hearts what is true. Give us even better understanding of this most difficult portion of Scripture. May we understand this is how Satan always works, with the lie that he can provide a higher life, a better life, eternal life, that we won’t die if we follow him, we’ll be like God. And may we not believe that lie but may we believe the only way that we can have eternal life is through you and faith in your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
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