Do Angels Have Free Will?

#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?

Today, we’re taking a peek at another sensitive issue, angels. But the angle is deeper than debates about their appearance — Are they white? or their job description — is an angel assigned to every child?, or Do angels eat and drink?, Do angels have sex?, Are there female angels? What happens to angels after God makes a new heaven and earth?

No, none of that. Today we look deeper, Do angels have free will? Did God create Angels with the freedom to decide whether or not to serve Him? If they have free will, to what degree? If they still have free will, does this mean another angel can fall again? There are no easy answers, but as always I’ve done the digging I can and I’ll present you with the little facts/speculation I found to be somewhat relevant.

As always, it is crucial to examine issues like this from a biblical standpoint and from an eternal point of view. As the bible is pretty silent about this issue, this post isn’t going to be a very long one.

We know that Satan was an angel who was cast out of heaven along with many other angels who decided to follow him and chose to sin (2 Peter 2:4). In terms of free will, the Bible reveals this was an exercise of their ability to choose (Jude 1:6).

We will probably never be able to grasp with fullness the reason for the angels to rebel against God and leave their heavenly estate. They saw God in His absolute glory and holiness. They saw the greatness of His power. What could they hope to gain by a rebellion against such a God? However, scripture does reveal the initial motivation of their rebellion. From a study of Satan and his part in leading the rebellion, we know that their rebellion was fueled by willful pride. Isaiah 14:12-15 gives important insight into this matter. Satan did not desire to submit to the will and glory of God, but rather wanted to be like God himself.

Angels have been directly created by God and must have been created with a holy nature. Therefore, they never have the mix of good and bad often found in men. However, they were created with the ability and responsibility of self-determination. They can choose to leave the estate of heaven by an act of will. Or, they can choose to stay with God. Those who leave, do so in order to be gods. Satan is the “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan’s motivation is further revealed in his temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden. He told them, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). That is what moved him to rebel and that is what he used on Eve.

Watch this video that deals with the question some more:

Some scholars believe there was a sort of “probation period” for the angels, similar to the time when Adam and Eve were in the garden. Those angels who did not choose to sin and follow Satan have become the “elect” angels (1 Timothy 5:21), confirmed in holiness. These angels are also referred to as “holy angels” (Mark 8:38) and “holy ones” (Psalm 89:5).

Even if the elect angels are confirmed in their holiness, it doesn’t mean they have lost their free will. Certainly, every living creature has choices to make at any given moment. The holy angels might have the ability to sin, but that does not in any way mean that they will sin.

Here’s an illustration about this that I found to be very interesting:

David Reagan writes:

Understanding this helps with another verse. 1 Corinthians 11:10 states, “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” The passage in 1 Corinthians is dealing with the outward submission of the woman. Her external act of submission is important “because of the angels.” I take that to mean that ladies who submit to their husbands, not because he is any better than her but simply because it is God’s way, provide an excellent example to the angels in heaven. If she can submit to her husband with all his faults and problems, then certainly the angels should be able to submit to the Holy God.

We can also consider the life of Christ. Christ was “tempted in every way” yet He did not sin. Jesus had the ability to choose whatever He pleased (John 10:17-18). However, Jesus’ first priority was always to please His Father, and that is always what He chose (John 4:34).

If Christ, who was 100 percent human (as well as 100 percent divine), could live in a sinful environment and face daily temptation, surely holy angels who live in a purely holy environment can freely choose good over evil. The elect angels praise God because they choose to; they obey God because that is what they desire most to do (See Jonathan Edwards’s Freedom of the Will). They have a free will, but the Bible makes it clear they will not sin. The holy angels are without a sinful nature. They are not inclined toward sin but rather toward righteousness, doing everything that pleases God. This means, the fall of satan was a one time event and nowhere does scripture suggest that it can happen again.

Grace & Peace!


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