Can Sinning Angels Be Saved?
The simple answer to the above title is “no.” In no way can sinning angels, or for that matter sinning humans, be saved. All angels, spirits, and human beings must be reckoned sinless and have a perfect righteousness to experience the salvation offered in Christ. Yet the very essence of Christianity is the doctrine that Christ has taken all our sins upon His back so we can stand before the Father at the Judgment with complete assurance that we will be saved.
Not only will all of us in Christ be acknowledged as sinless but we will equally be declared as righteous as Christ Himself is reckoned righteous.
“For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that WE might be made the righteousness of God IN HIM [Christ].”
2 Corinthians 5:21
We are now made, through the sacrifice of Christ, to be “in Christ Jesus, who of God is made UNTO US wisdom, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). These major teachings indicate that we are to attain to the identical attributes of wisdom, sanctification, redemption, and even the same righteousness presently found in Christ Jesus. But to get to that position of sinlessness, Christ had to die for everyone’s sins, including those of the angels. Since He was a part of “God,” He can rescue even spirits.
These principles regarding salvation apply to angels and spirits throughout the universe whether they are cherubim, seraphim, principalities, or powers. If the slightest tinge of sin is found on the character of any of them, then they must experience the consequence of sin that is death, or have someone their equal or superior pay that penalty for them. True enough, there is presently a class of angels who cannot die (Luke 20:36) and as long as they remain sinless and perform the duties prescribed for them, such as in Revelation 4:8, they will never experience death. Angels are not immortal of themselves because only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16). As some redeemed humans in the future must eat of the tree of life to remain alive (Revelation 22:2), so must these angels have their lives continually renewed by God. As long as they do not sin, these angels according to Christ will not die.
But let one infraction, even a minor one, taint their character then the wages of sin for them, as it is with everyone, is DEATH. Such is the consequence of sin and nowhere in scripture is the distinction made that this penalty applies only to mankind. Paul said that death was found throughout the totality of the universe and Christ is to conquer all things, including death (1 Corinthians 15:25–28). Scripture makes clear this is exactly what Christ will do (Philippians 2:8–11; Colossians 1:15–21). Death everywhere will be destroyed. This is the plain and simple promise of the New Testament and I hope all people will be wise enough to believe it.
But, some will say it is not possible for spirit beings to die. This, of course, is nonsense, because as stated earlier. Christ was a spirit personality before He became a human being and yet He gave up that existence to become flesh and die. Paul taught this:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that he by the grace of God should taste death for everyone [not, as the King James says, for “every man,” that is, only human beings — but for “everyone”].”
This text includes everyone who has sinned because even the heavens are to be purified by Christ’s death (Hebrews 9:23). It means that any intelligent personality in the universe who sins will experience death. Look at the scriptural evidence that proves this.
In Ezekiel 28 there is shown a spiritual personality called the King of Tyre. This is not the human king of Tyre as many of us thought in the past. Under Satan, he is one of the rulers who control the nations of this world, like the princes of Persia and Greece that the angel Gabriel had to resist as stated in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 10:20–21). Within the territorial divisions in the heavenlies, there are areas known as “Persia” and “Javan” and “Tyre.” When heavenly spirit beings come to earth to supervise certain regions on earth, they take over the regions on earth that the original areas in heaven designate. Geographical areas on earth are like “colonies” of regions in the heavenlies that spiritual powers control (both in heaven and on earth). 1
The overall ruler of this world is Satan who offered all the kingdoms of this world to Christ back at the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8–10). This King of Tyre mentioned in Ezekiel 28:11–19 was a spirit ruler of one of these kingdoms. He rules in the heavenly “Tyre,” and he has his human king, called “the prince of Tyre” (in Ezekiel 28:1–2), rule in his earthly city. 2 This heavenly “King of Tyre” was called the anointed cherub that covered the mercy seat at the heavenly throne of God Almighty Himself (Ezekiel 28:14, 16). He was familiar with the most heavenly places (vs. 13–16). Interestingly, this anointed cherub remained a specimen of perfection until sin was found in him (v. 15).
Now, what is the consequence of the sin that emerged in this spiritual being called an anointed cherub? He is to be destroyed by being burnt to ASHES (vv. 16–18). Believe it or not, this “spirit being” will become ASHES. Yes, spirits can die if God wishes them to die.
This divine description of a cherub being destroyed and burnt to ashes is very upsetting to the theology of most professing Christians. They feel it necessary to claim that from verse 16 onwards the reference must revert to the human King of Tyre and that the subject is no longer the anointed cherub that covered the throne of YHVH in heaven. But this interpretation does utter violence to the context of Ezekiel 28:11–19. The fact is, any cherub, angel, or spirit who starts to commit sin (even in the slightest) is destined to die because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). In Ezekiel 28 we have the plain statements of scripture that destruction and punishment to a state of ashes awaited this anointed cherub who began to sin. There was no need to use the words “destruction” and “ashes” in only a metaphorical sense because we know that Christ was changed from a spirit being into a fleshly individual and He died. It is feasible that other spirit beings could also be changed into mortal flesh and die. There is no guarantee in the Scripture, however, that this is the only method by which spirits could die.
As a matter of fact, Eusebius in the early 4th century 3 mentioned what he considered “proof positive” that spirits (demons) can die like men. Let me relate one historical incident Eusebius quotes from Plutarch that occurred during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, the period in which Christ was crucified and when Christ gained the victory over all demons and spirits. It is found in Preparation of the Gospel, Book V, chapter 17. 4
The account is about an Egyptian ship on the way to Italy that found itself in calm waters just off the island of Paxi in the Adriatic Sea. Just after supper a voice came from the island calling the name of the captain of the ship. In no way could any person on the island have known his name. At the third call the captain responded. The voice from the island said: “The Great Pan is Dead.” The captain was told to shout this toward an area on the coast of Greece many miles north.
A few days later the captain did this and instantly sounds were heard of great moanings and lamentations from the shore. All on board the ship witnessed this, including several prominent individuals whose testimony was reckoned as beyond dispute. When the vessel got to Rome the story was told to the emperor Tiberius and all Rome was amazed. Eusebius went on to say that it was important to observe the time at which the death of the demon took place. It was in the time of Tiberius when our Savior, making His sojourn among men, is recorded to have been ridding human life from demons of every kind. You have therefore the date of the overthrow of the demons of which there was no other record of the time.
Now whether we moderns wish to believe the story or not, it is certain that the emperor Tiberius, the people of Rome, Plutarch at the end of the 1st century, and Eusebius himself, had no doubt that this was evidence of the death of a prime demon of the pagan world. And why not? There is nothing within the Holy Scriptures, when one understands the true meanings of Hebrew and Greek words, that would deny the reality of a major demon (or many of them) dying at the time Christ gained the victory over them with His crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. All that the Father would have to do in order to extinguish the life of any demon, any spirit, any angel, or any cherub, is for God to take the spirit of life away from them.
There can be no doubt that everything that lives in the universe, including Satan the Devil himself, was made alive and is sustained with life because God the Father at the behest of Christ dispenses to them “the spirit of life” (Job 33:4; Isaiah 38:16; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:2; Revelation 11:11). Now if angels do not sin, they are given a promise from God that they will not die (Luke 20:36), but let them sin even once, then the wages of sin will always be death (Romans 6:23).
God needs only to cut “the silver cord” that exists between all living creatures (humans or spirits), “the spirit of life” will no longer flow through that cord and the individual will die. True enough, if God wishes to keep a human or spirit alive for punishment before their deaths occur, He has the authority to do that. Satan the Devil, for example, must be chained in a living condition of restraint for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1–5), but there is nothing in proper Greek to suggest his punishment is eternal. 5
Without doubt, spirits can die (such as the Sons of God in Psalm 82:6–7), but they can also be made alive again. Recall that Christ was once a spirit being and the first begotten of the Father, Who emptied Himself and became obedient even unto death, but God raised Him from the dead and “the last Adam was made [that is, once again He was made] a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The apostle Peter said that Christ “was made alive in spirit [not “by the spirit” as the King James states]” (1 Peter 3:18).
This means that “the anointed cherub that covers,” a spiritual being near the highest level of spirituality, will one day be destroyed and burnt to ashes (Ezekiel 28:16–19). But he also will be returned to life when death itself is destroyed at the conclusion of the ages when God renews the universe and He becomes all in all (1 Corinthians 15:22–28). The whole of creation is destined to be reconciled to God (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:15– 21). 6
Of course, no one in heaven and earth is going to be given a salvation in Christ, to have his or her sins forgiven and wiped clean by the death of Christ, unless the individual repents of those sins and accepts the sacrifice of Christ in his or her stead. But this will happen in the future, or as Paul worded it in the original Greek: “in its own times” (1 Timothy 2:6). Professor Weust paraphrased Paul’s expression very well: God will save all “in His own strategic time periods.” The final salvation of all in the universe will occur in the future, as Paul spoke about it:
“that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he [Christ] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in the heavens and which are on earth; even in him.”
All the sins of the universe must be reckoned to Christ, individuals must repent of their sins, must believe on Christ for salvation, must confess Him with the heart as savior, and express a full faith in the efficacy of Christ’s grace. And it is God who gives us the power to do these things.
First realize the fact that no one in heaven or earth can come to Christ except the spirit of the Father call him or her (John 6:44, 65). None of us decided on our own to accept Christ and the power of His Atonement to work in one’s life. And while there is work that must be done, the apostle Paul said that:
“It is God which works in you both to will and to do [to perform] of his good pleasure.”
Even the will to accept Christ (often called “free will”) is something supernaturally supplied by God. This also has application to each work or performance that you accomplish — it is all attributed in the long run to the actions of God working in your life.
A major work of God must be witnessed in each of our lives. We all must have an attitude of genuine repentance for our evil ways. Look at repentance. If there is anything that one must do to be saved, it is that one must repent. But even here, the Holy Scriptures state that God grants this privilege to you (Acts 11:18).
Even your belief that is essential to your salvation is a gracious gift from God (Philippians 1:29). Individuals everywhere in the universe will confess Christ (which is needful for salvation, see Romans 10:10). We are told that everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (and this includes spirit beings) will confess Christ. Such confessions will be thoroughly prompted by the Holy Spirit and will not emanate from within anyone’s own will (1 Corinthians 12:3). And importantly, there is faith. Paul says dogmatically that the faith you express in Christ for salvation is something that is a pure gift from God. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). God must take away the hardness of our hearts.
These factors of salvation apply to all beings throughout the universe. Everyone must express them and God promises that He will inspire all His creatures eventually to respond. And though in the meantime God can exert considerable amount of punishment and judgment upon those who remain hostile to the love and mercy that He gives through Christ, the final outcome of the Atonement will be a complete harmony and reconciliation of all to God the Father. This will occur because of Christ’s work for all mankind (John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:6–6) and for the universe (1 Corinthians 15:20–28; Ephesians 1:10, Philippians 2:9–11, Colossians 1:15–21).
The Holy Scriptures are plain. When Christ died at the crucifixion, He died in body (flesh), soul, and spirit, and His salvation reaches out to embrace all intelligent beings in the universe. This will include all the angels of God (even those now wicked and rebellious). They will one day repent of their ways when God grants to them the power of repentance and loving-kindness that God has graciously bequeathed to each of us by His divine power and grace. This means (as God designed the plan) that all will finally be saved!
1 This may seem strange to imagine, but this is what the Bible teaches regarding these matters. These spiritual entities were some of the spiritual principalities and powers that Paul talked about who presently have rulership in the world under Satan the Devil (Ephesians 6:11–12). ELM See Dr. Martin’s article “The Geography of Heaven” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d990501.htm, which goes into this matter in detail. DWS
2 This heavenly “Tyre” is also referred to in Psalm 45:12 along with a heavenly “Ophir” (Psalm 45:9). As I have stated, the earthly geographical areas are simply named after their heavenly counterparts. ELM See Dr. Martin’s article that discusses this King of Tyre “Discovering the Mark of the Beast” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p900501.htm. DWS
3 An early historian of the Church, Eusebius of Caesarea compiled a great quantity of information from prior centuries to help explain what was happening in the secular world in the period of Christ’s first advent. ELM
4 The original statement of this incident comes from the 1st century historian and pagan priest Plutarch in his work “On the Cessation of Oracles” in Moralia, book 5:17. DWS
5 I have long shown in earlier publications, that the word or phrase translated “eternal, forever, or forever and ever” come from the Hebrew word olam or the Greek word aeon which mean an indefinite length of time, but always with a beginning and an ending. Indeed, in the case of Jonah, he was in the belly of the fish for three days and nights but in Jonah 2:6 the King James translators rendered the time period as “for ever.” The words really mean “age” or “age-lasting” and should be consistently translated in that fashion or something similar. ELM
6 Even if the entities are spirit beings of high rank, they will experience death unless they repent and apply the sacrifice of Christ in their lives to avoid that death. This is why Christ died both in flesh and soul, and also in spirit, in order that spirit beings (along with us who have sins on our spirits) can be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5). Yes, even our own spirits must be cleansed and that represents the spiritual part of us supplied to us by God through our attachment to “the silver cord” (Ecclesiastes 12:6). But if that “silver cord” is severed, we instantly die. This applies equally to every being (both fleshly and spirit) in the universe with the exception of the Father (who does not need to die) and also of Christ who no longer dies. ELM
Order our Book: Essentials of New Testament Doctrine to read all the chapters.
© 1976-2017 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge - ASK is supported by freewill contributions