Could Elect Angels still Fall as Satan did?
We are all aware that in some way, seemingly inexplicable, Satan fell in a hideous rebellion against God and his glory. Continue reading . . .
We are all aware that in some way, seemingly inexplicable, Satan fell in a hideous rebellion against God and his glory. How or why an angelic being who lived perpetually in God’s presence might turn in such an ugly act of treachery is beyond our ability to understand. But he did. And so too did numerous angels with him.
But what of those angels who did not join Satan in his rebellion? The Apostle Paul refers to them in 1 Timothy 5:21 as “the elect angels.” Might they also, at some future time, sin and fall from their exalted status? Jonathan Edwards says no, and I agree with him. In the first place, there is no biblical text that gives us any indication that angels turn against God subsequent to the original rebellion of Satan. This is, of course, an argument from silence, but it is a silence that is deafening!
Edwards also cites several reasons why “the angels that stood are doubtless confirmed in holiness and their allegiance to God, so that they never will sin, and they are out of any danger of it” (Miscellany 442; Yale, 13:490). He believes that God makes use of certain means to secure them in their position. Some of those means include the following:
“They were confirmed by the sight of the terrible destruction that God brought upon the angels that fell; they see what a dreadful thing it is to rebel” (ibid.).
“They were further confirmed by the manifestation God had made of his displeasure against sin, by the eternal damnation of reprobates amongst men and by the amazing discovery [or revelation] of his holy jealousy and justice in the sufferings of Christ” (ibid.).
“They are confirmed by finding by experience their own happiness in standing, and finding the mistake of the angels that fell with respect to that which was their temptation, and by new and greater manifestations of the glory of God which have been successively made in heaven, and by his dispensations towards the church, and above all by the work of redemption by Jesus Christ” (ibid.).
What I find most helpful in Edwards’ thoughts on this point is that once again we see God securing his purposes and fulfilling his promises, even to the angels, by use of certain means. God does not will that they should persevere except through their response to the revelation of his holiness and judgment and grace and mercy, a response that he himself so graciously enables.
Likewise, God wills that we, the elect, should persevere by means of that faith which he upholds in us throughout the course of life. This is surely what Peter meant when he described the elect as those “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith” (1 Peter 1:5a). God suspends the consummation of that “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5b) on the exercise of the “faith” that he has promised to graciously and powerfully supply to us.