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Do Angels Have Free Will?

Updated on December 11, 2015
Jordan Travis profile image

Jordan is a youth pastor. He is also an avid blogger. He drums, eats, writes, reads, and judges hipsters.

Just a matter of months ago in college, I learned about the Scientific Revolution. Of the variety of things and people I learned, of Galileo, of Copernicus, of Sir Isaac Newton, two concepts perfected in this period stuck out to me: Induction and Deduction. I had heard these terms before, but they increasingly became real opposed to abstract. Induction, or making a claim based on solid evidence, takes the specific details and makes a general, logical argument. For example, historians use this type of reasoning to prove a thesis. After poring over articles, newspapers, and books, these individuals will then make a thesis and prove it using details already gleaned from the text. Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, makes generalizations on things already known to be true and works to the specific principle. Geometry and Sherlock Holmes have made this famous.

Today, using a few verses of scripture and a select few resources, one can conjecture, through the process of Induction, that angels have free will to make decisions. Based on the texts, the argument stands that angels have a certain level of autonomy, but let us let scripture speak for itself. Here are three things scripture says of angels.

1. Angels make decisions.

The Bible remains comparably mute on the lore of angels than say the theology of grace. Yet, most people have a desire to know the unknown. What should this concept that angels can make choices have on our salvation and understanding of God?If we understand that humans can choose to obey or sin, even Jesus could choose to obey or sin, then we must conjecture that even angels have the opportunity to choose obedience or sinfulness - God created all things with the ability and autonomy to choose their love for Him, and their degree of love. Knowing this, we see that God is a relational God, wanting His own creation to choose Him, even those highest on the pecking order. It is crucial to the arc and story of grace to understand all created beings, even fleshly incarnated Jesus, have an ability and right to choose God, or not.

Jude 6 also concurs with the angel's right to choose: "And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day." Angels, like Lucifer, chose themselves to leave God's presence in exchange for increased autonomy, and as we will see, these beings paid the consequence.

2. Angels pay consequences for actions.

Take a look at 2 Peter 2:4 - "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment."

This passage clearly states that even angels must pay for the consequences of their choices. Just as Adam and Eve had the ability to choose, so angels have the ability to choose. As shown above, realizing that all created beings can choose is vital to the complete understanding of the Gospel, this grand narrative of grace and love. When angels chose to turn away from God, they made their bed, and just as God cast out Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, God cast out the angels from Heaven, both receiving eternal consequences for their actions, the former condemning the remainder of the human race to sin, as Romans 5 narrates, and the latter facing eternal separation from God and living forever in Hell.

However, on a side note, Hebrews claims that Jesus came not to die for angels, but for men. Hebrews 2:16 goes like this: "For surely it is not the angels he helps, but the descendants of Abraham." Jesus died for the sons of Adam, not the sons of God, as the Old Testament calls angels. Therefore, angels have no redemption for their sins, making them even more weighty than the sins of mankind. Yet, angel sin, just as human sin, must be atoned - everyone must pay the consequences for sin, yet thankfully, mankind has redemption through the grace of Jesus to not be slaves to sin, angels do not.

3. Angels have no sinful nature.

This is where scripture is far more silent. While no verses come out and say this fact, one can, through the process of deduction, look at the text of the Bible and see that God created both humans and angels differently. Romans perfectly lays out humans' sinful nature, their shortcomings, as well as the perfect grace of God. However, in every instance of the sinfulness of a people, angels are left out.

Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." No angels.

Romans 5:8: "For God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." No angels.

Romans 10:13: "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." No angels.

While a case may be made that since angels are left out, as are specific mentions of mankind, they could in fact be beneficiaries of grace with sinful flesh just as humans are, but context is everything. Each verse prior to the one quoted mentions "Jew, Gentile, person." Each of these words refers to humans, not angels, for angels can be neither Jewish, Gentile, nor a person. Angels have no sinful nature, but were created to do God's bidding, yet they can choose to follow God's commands to them in exchange for consequences, just as those with flesh and blood can.

Conclusion: Angels have free will.

As one can witness, through the process of induction, that if these three things are true, as God's Word says they are, then the only conclusion at which one can arrive is that angels have a free will. They can choose and be punished for those consequences. While they have no sinful nature and are predisposed to righteousness, God still give them a free will. If He created them as slaves, then He would have created mere robots to do His bidding, not willing and able beings to loyally serve Him. He created mankind and angels alike with free will because it beautifully illustrates this relational God that loves and cares for those whom He created.

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