Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Can angels repent and be forgiven when or if they sin?

As humans, we are often intrigued by spiritual beings like angels. Our intrigue will often lead to questions that the Bible does not directly answer. Although the Bible does not deal directly with the topic of angels “repenting”, this post will intend to answer the question with as much information as the Bible provides.

What is sin?
Sin is going against the will of God.  John writes “All unrighteousness is sin...” (1 John 5:17). This means that any kind of “wrongdoing”(esv) is sinful. The Bible also teaches that sin is breaking God’s law “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). In its most basic sense, sin is doing what God says not to do and not doing what God wants us to do. Sin is rebellion against God.

What is repentance?
Repentance is often defined as a “change of heart that results in a change of action”. When a Christian gets caught up in sin, it is important to acknowledge the sin (often in prayer) and then stop engaging in it. This is called “repentance”. Repentance and confession will result in forgiveness for the believer through God’s grace. As long as a person keeps turning back to god and walking “in the light” they can be forgiven. John writes:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
Can angels sin?
Yes, the Bible does teach that angels can sin. The book of Jude discusses an instance or instances when angels sinned. 
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:5-8).
Jude uses the example of these angels sinning as evidence that a punishment awaits the ungodly. The point being; if God was not willing to spare angels when they sinned, why would He spare you?

Can angels repent and be forgiven?
As has been proven, angels can sin, but the Bible is silent on the possibility of angels repenting and being forgiven. There are no instances of a fallen angel trying to get back in a relationship with God. There are no passages that discuss the need to evangelize angels. All the passages that discuss why Jesus died on the cross say He died for mankind, not angels.

There are no sections of Scripture that give any hint of a possiblity of repentance and forgiveness for an angel. The passage in Jude states that they are “kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6). These angels are shown to be “locked up” and waiting for their final punishment at judgment. It is because of this passage that this author is of the persuasion that angels cannot be forgiven. Can this conclusion be proven 100%, no, there are still some reasons to doubt. However, the evidence seems to show that once an angel rebells against God, all hope is lost.

Is an angel’s sin worse than a human’s sin?
Again, this question requires speculation. One may assume, that because an angel is in the actual physical presence of God, and is able to witness all of His glory and power, that an angel is held to a higher standard. An angel must have a very hard heart to actually be with God, see his power and still refuse to follow Him. One most likely can conclude that if an angel is willing to rebel while in the presence of God, that his heart is so hard that he will never repent or that such an action can never be forgiven. 

This may be similar to why “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is called “unforgivable” in the Bible. Jesus said in (Mark 3:29-30):
 “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” 

These individuals were so hardheaded that even though they saw Jesus do a miracle, they attributed the miracle to the Devil. This action is “unforgivable”. A possible parallel may be found in the actions of an angel who see God in all His glory, see His amazing power and still choose not to follow Him.

By Cliff Sabroe - Scripture quotations unless otherwise noted are from the New American Standard Bible 1995.