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How did Satan and other angels sin if heaven is sinless?

angels sin if heaven sinless

The Bible teaches that Satan was created in perfection and given a prominent position in heaven (Ezekiel 28:11–15). He was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (verse 12). God appointed him the highest-ranking angel. From his place of great privilege, Satan led possibly one third of heaven’s angels in a rebellion against God (Ezekiel 28:16–17; Revelation 12:4). God expelled him from heaven, casting him down to the earth (Ezekiel 28:16–18).

The sin that caused Satan to fall from heaven was pride (1 Timothy 3:6). Isaiah describes how it happened: “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths” (Isaiah 14:12–15, NLT).

Demonstrating the epitome of arrogance and self-importance, Satan wanted to be like God. He used his high position for personal gain and self-promotion (Ezekiel 28:16). Rather than submit to God, Satan rebelled. He refused to worship and obey His Creator. He desired to be his own god. His sin was particularly offensive because it was a monumental abuse of privilege and power. It also had a sweeping effect on other angels (Revelation 12:7), on people (Ephesians 2:2), and on all nations of the world (Revelation 20:3).

Satan’s “I will” statements present a clue as to how he and other angels could sin in heaven, even though heaven is a sinless place. God had given Satan a choice, a free will, and he exerted it. He said, “I will ascend. . . . I will preside. . . . I will climb.” God gave both angels and humans free will. They were presented with a choice: to obey God or not. Satan was created in perfection, and Adam and Eve were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; 5:1–3; 9:6; James 3:9) and placed in a perfect paradise (Genesis 2:5–25). Humans, like the angels, were given a choice to obey God (Genesis 2:15–16), but they exerted their will to disobey (Genesis 3:1–24). Their sin produced the fall of humankind, and Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise. Satan and other angels exerted their free will, and those who rebelled were expelled from heaven. God did not predispose the angels to rebel or coerce them to obey. The angels who sinned did so knowingly and freely and, therefore, are deserving of God’s eternal wrath.

God has graciously made a way for humans to repent from sin and be forgiven (Acts 2:38; 3:19; Luke 24:47), but Scripture presents no such opportunity for Satan and the fallen angels. The decision to rebel against God or stay faithful to Him appears to have been an eternal choice for angels. Christian theology proposes that some angels—“the elect angels”—are those who remained loyal to God (1 Timothy 5:21). Other angels exercised their free will in rebellion and sinned against God (2 Peter 2:4). The Bible also seems to indicate that it is no longer possible for more of the angels to sin. It is as if all angels went through a type of probationary trial, and those who stayed true are now qualified to remain in their original state of perfect holiness. The elect angels successfully passed the test of faithfulness and are confirmed in holiness forever. The angels who failed and fell became “unclean spirits” or “demons” (Mark 1:23; Luke 8:2; 11:24) and are now eternally confirmed in their evil, rebellious state.

In God’s eyes, all sin is grievous. All sin impacts others. But the consequences are even more far-reaching for those who sin in high places. Satan and the angels had experienced God in all His heavenly glory. Those who sinned did so of their own volition and in full knowledge of their crime. Such heinous insurrection is unforgivable.

Satan’s sin cost him his place in heaven. His example is a powerful reminder of the dangers of pride and rebellion. We have a choice to love God and obey Him. When we don’t, our decisions can have a profoundly detrimental influence on ourselves and those around us.

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Questions about Angels and Demons

How did Satan and other angels sin if heaven is sinless?
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This page last updated: February 28, 2024