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Are the holy angels perfect, or do they sometimes fail God?

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Scripture contains many stories of angels doing God’s work. Angels are used in the Bible to protect believers (Psalm 91:11; Matthew 4:6), carry messages to humankind (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26–28; Daniel 9:20–21), and help judge the earth (Matthew 13:39–49). Angels praise God and intercede for believers (Psalm 148:2; Matthew 18:10), but they are not omniscient (Matthew 24:36). They are described as mighty beings that do God’s bidding and obey His word (Psalm 103:20). We know that God is perfect (Matthew 5:48) and that nothing imperfect can dwell in His presence. Since we know that angels do dwell in His presence (Matthew 18:10), we can assume that the holy angels are indeed perfect. Jesus calls them “holy angels” for a reason (Luke 9:26).

There are two passages in Job that seem to contradict the idea of angels being perfect. The first is Job 4:18, and the second is Job 15:15. These two verses are part of two separate speeches by Job’s friend Eliphaz, who is attempting to help Job make sense of his misfortunes. Job was a righteous man, a good man who feared God and lived blamelessly (Job 1:1). Therefore, the multiple tragedies he suffered seemed very odd to the religious minds of his friends, for they reasoned that God rewards the good with pleasurable things and the evil with painful things. From that wrong premise, they told Job that his pain and tragedy were the result of sin in his life. When Job maintained his innocence, his friends doubted him.

Eliphaz then steps forward and argues against Job’s innocence, using angels as proof: “If God . . . charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay?” (Job 4:18–19). In other words, if even the angels are faulted before God, certainly human beings are incapable of living innocently! In another speech to Job, Eliphaz returns to the same theme: “If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt?” (Job 15:15–16).

There are two things that we must keep in mind. First, Eliphaz was not a truth-teller. In fact, at the end of the book of Job, when the Lord Himself appears, we read this: “[God] said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me’” (Job 42:7). Thus, it is important to always know who is speaking in the book of Job. The words of Eliphaz and the other two of Job’s friends are unreliable.

Second, in the verses previous to Job 4:18, we see that Eliphaz got his information from a spirit that had visited him in the night (Job 4:12–16). This spirit did not appear to Eliphaz the way the holy angels appeared to Daniel or Mary or Joseph. The holy angels came in the light, announced that their messages were from God, and told the humans they visited not to fear. The spirit that appeared to Eliphaz, on the other hand, frightened him, hid in the darkness, and whispered in his ear. It is certain that the spirit that appeared to Eliphaz was a demon, a fallen angel who was expressing its own bitterness at being charged with error by a holy God.

These two passages in Job, though they at first glance may appear to contradict the idea of holy angels, do not prove the imperfection of God’s angels. Instead, they prove the imperfection of man, who is easily deceived and must always ask God for wisdom instead of relying on his own susceptible intellect (see Proverbs 3:5–6; James 1:5).

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Questions about Angels and Demons

Are the holy angels perfect, or do they sometimes fail God?
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This page last updated: March 8, 2024