Remember that Zoroastrianism contributed significant ideas to Jewish thought during the exilic and post-exilic periods that did not exist before in Judaism. Some of these ideas were current in Jesus’ day, such as:
* A personalized adversary to God—Satan
* A hierarchy of angels that followed either God or Satan
* A time of judgment after death
* A place of punishment after death
The Book of Enoch seems to have been an important vehicle for popularizing these ideas. Last time we discussed Enoch’s contribution of the ideas of a personal adversary to God and the angelic hosts that followed each of them. Today we will talk about Enoch and the ideas of judgment and punishment after death, which were not previously part of Jewish thought.
Enoch, Judgment, and Punishment in Fire
According to Enoch, as things developed badly on earth from what the evil angels had done, God sent Asuryal to warn Noah of the coming flood. Enoch, chapter 10, then describes God’s instructions to Raphael regarding the evil angels we discussed last time:
The Lord said to Raphael, “Bind Azaz’el hand and foot (and) throw him into the darkness!” And he made a hole in the desert which was in Duda’el and cast him there; he threw on top of him rugged and sharp rocks. And he covered his face in order that he may not see light; and in order that he may be sent into the fire on the great day of judgment.
God then moved against the progeny of the evil angels and the daughters of men:
And to Michael God said…bind them for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground until the day of their judgment and of their consummation, until the eternal judgment is concluded. In those days they will lead them into the bottom of the fire—and in torment—in the prison (where) they will be locked up forever.
Both of these passages involve an eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Here we see clear correspondence to Zoroastrian thought on both judgment and eventual punishment, neither of which were previously part of Jewish thought. It seems, though, that Enoch has added fire to the punishment that was not necessarily an element in Zoroastrianism. He might have picked this up from Greek concepts of Hades or from some other place.
Enoch continues for several chapters describing the punishments of the fallen angels and their children.
Jesus’ Reference to ‘the Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and his Angels’
We began this whole discussion by asking where Jesus got his imagery in the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, where Jesus accuses the goats of ignoring the needy and the helpless and says to them:
Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
We did not find this imagery in the Old Testament or elsewhere in the gospels, but we do find similar imagery a couple other places in the New Testament. 2 Peter 2 comments as he discusses false teachers among believers:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell [Tartarus], putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
And the very short Book of Jude, also talking about false teachers, mentions this:
[T]he angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
While Jesus simply uses this imagery to illustrate his parable, it seems that both 2 Peter and Jude take the imagery seriously, but it is important to be aware that the authenticity of 2 Peter and of Jude are among the most disputed in the New Testament.
So where did Jesus, 2 Peter, and Jude come about this imagery? I suggest the same source for all of them—The Book of Enoch. Jude actually refers to Enoch and is so confused as to identify the writer of Enoch as the father of Methuselah (from Genesis 5). Jude, verse 14:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed.”
Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and Goats
Generally, when Jesus shared a parable the details of the parable served only to lead up to the main point, which was the purpose of the parable. The details really don’t contribute insights or truths of their own. So does Jesus’ imagery of the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels give us an insight into the end-times? Is it a prediction of the future? I don’t think so. It is only a parable that happens to incorporate imagery, like that found in Enoch, which was circulating in the Jewish culture of the time.
Is Enoch inspired, then, because Jesus uses this imagery? No, Enoch is not considered inspired by Jews or by Christians and is not even in the Apocrypha. But can we not claim that once Jesus says it—it is true?
Was the story of the prodigal son true? No, it was made up. Was the story of the good Samaritan true? Also made up. Were the lessons Jesus illustrated by those stories true? Yes, the points Jesus made with the parables were true, but the details he used in his stories are not additional truth statements—they only illustrate the main point of the parable.
So let us learn from Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats just how important it is to help the needy, but let us not look to the parable for insights into the end-times.
In this series: Zorastrianism, the Book of Enoch, and Eternal Fire:
Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham
What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?
The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Jewish Thought in Jesus’ Time
The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch
Judgment and Punishment in the Book of Enoch