The Corinthian church was a piece of work. This cosmopolitan city bred a talented crew, but they were also a cantankerous bunch. Church member sued church member in courts of law, and naturally, Paul felt the need to admonish them. “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?” (I Cor. 6:1)
After that he says something very intriguing, almost as if we should already understand it. “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (verse 3)
What did he mean by this?
A judge sits in a court of law, judges the innocence or guilt of a party based on the evidence and the law, and then pronounces a sentence on a guilty party. Did Paul really mean that we are to judge angels?
This begins to make sense if we realize that some angels do need judging. The world beyond the physical has some strange goings on, a good deal of which is on the Dark Side. Scripture and tradition from many religions, not just the Judeo-Christian ones, speak of these forces, and some even openly worship them. Much of the evil in the world can be traced at its root to the influences of the gods of this world.
You bet they need judging.
Which brings us to the question that some amateur and not-so-amateur theologians have bandied about: what will be the fate of such demons? We know that at the return of Christ these spiritual entities will be dealt with (Luke 7:31, Revelation 20:1-10). But people disagree on what that fate might be.
Some, quoting Ezekiel 28, claim that Satan will be destroyed. “I threw you to the earth. I made you a spectacle before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching”. (Ezekiel 28: 17 – 18)
Others, looking to Jude, say they will be banished to the outer reaches of the universe, in exile forever. “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day … They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars for whom blackest darkness is reserved forever.” (Jude 6, 8)
Some would consider this to be an even more excruciating punishment than annihilation.
This brings us back to Paul’s enigmatic statement to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that we will judge angels?”
So let me put a third theory on the table. Maybe the final fate of these angels – these fallen angels – will be annihilation, or maybe it will be banishment forever. Or maybe, just maybe, the final decision is yet to be made because it is we who will judge these angels. Maybe their fate will be in our hands. Maybe we will get to decide.