Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Can’t Fallen Angels Repent?

            The notion that fallen angels cannot repent is, arguably, a common position held by many Christians. Since the Bible does not offer an explicit teaching on this theme, some Christians believe that fallen angels can repent. Since this is not an essential theme to uphold Historic Christianity, there is adequate scope for contradictory opinions.

            Understanding this theme will enable us to understand God’s expectation of man and the most appropriate response of man towards God.

Fallen Angels Cannot Repent

   states that fallen angels cannot repent:1

First, Satan (Lucifer) was one of the highest angels, perhaps the highest (Ezekiel 28:14). Lucifer—and all the angels—were continually in God’s presence and had knowledge of the glory of God. Therefore, they had no excuse for rebelling against God and turning away from Him. They were not tempted. Lucifer and the other angels rebelling against God despite what they knew was the utmost evil…Second, God did not provide a plan of redemption for the angels as He did for mankind…Finally, the Bible gives us no reason to believe that angels would repent even if God gave them the chance (1 Peter 5:8). The fallen angels seem completely devoted to opposing God and attacking God's people. The Bible says that the severity of God’s judgment varies according to how much knowledge a person possesses (Luke 12:48). The fallen angels, then, with the great knowledge they possessed, are greatly deserving of God’s wrath.

            Although the reasons cited are highly persuasive, the question still remains as to why the fallen angels cannot repent.

The Intriguing Inability to Repent (The Freewill Conundrum)

            Angels were created by God as good beings. Hence the angels that rebelled against God should have had the freedom or freewill that caused them to rebel. This is affirmed by, “Satan was an angel who was cast out of heaven along with many other angels who decided to follow him and chose to sin (2 Peter 2:4). In terms of free will, the Bible reveals this was an exercise of their ability to choose (Jude 1:6).”2

            Hence, it is reasonable to believe that the angels had freewill. They would not have rebelled against God, in the first place, had they not possessed freewill. Moreover, God could not have created them as evil beings, since evil does not proceed from God.

            Since these fallen angels possess freewill, shouldn’t they be able to repent (they know God since the time of their creation, hence they have the opportunity to observe HIS goodness.)? If they cannot repent, does it mean that they have lost their freedom entirely or just the freewill to repent?

            If we believe that fallen angels cannot repent, then we need to resolve the freewill mystery. If fallen angels cannot repent, then it is quite plausible that they were deprived of their freewill after their fall. On the other hand, if their freewill is intact, why are they unable to exercise their freewill to repent?

            There could be another perspective to resolving this conundrum.

            When a pastor was exorcising a demon from a young girl, the demon apparently told him that they are under the tight control of Satan. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation between that pastor and the demon:3

Demon: I hate you. You get to go to heaven. I just hate you people. I believed Satan. He told us that we were gonna be greater. Ohh its so late…
Pastor: What happened when you were cast out of heaven?
Demon: Mmmmm….Jesus…HE just…I don’t know…I don’t know…
Pastor: You want to go back to heaven, don’t you?
Demon: Yes, if only I had a chance…if only I had a chance I’ll go back…
Pastor: God might have mercy on you. If you stop doing the things you are doing and making people sin.
Demon: I can’t do that. I can’t do that. Satan won’t let me. I can’t stop people from doing bad things; that’s what I am supposed to do. He makes me do it.

            From this conversation, an inference that the demons cannot repent since they are under Satan’s control is quite plausible. But to formulate a doctrine from a fallible source cannot be bulletproof, for the conversation between the pastor and the demon may have been fictitious.

   states that the direct knowledge of God may be the cause for the inability of the fallen angels to repent (by virtue of being in God’s presence), “Lucifer—and all the angels—were continually in God’s presence and had knowledge of the glory of God. Therefore, they had no excuse for rebelling against God and turning away from Him. They were not tempted. Lucifer and the other angels rebelling against God despite what they knew was the utmost evil.”4

            So the key to the demons’ inability to repent, it seems, is their direct knowledge of God. This is a conjecture, if not explicitly validated by the Bible. 

             If the Bible teaches about man’s inability to repent (a man who was a believer), then as an extension of that teaching, the inability of the demons to repent can be comprehended or justified.

            The Bible teaches that a man who has truly experienced God cannot be brought back to repentance if he/she rejects God, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6, RSV, Emphasis Mine). Such a person, after his rejection of God, still possesses freewill. Although this freewill precludes the ability to repent.

            Since the Bible teaches that a man, who has truly experienced God, cannot repent if he rejects HIM, fallen angels who have rejected God cannot repent, for they rejected HIM while they were in HIS presence.

            The inability of the fallen angels to repent need not necessarily be construed as an unforgivable sin committed by the fallen angels. The doctrine of the unforgivable sin presupposes the ability to repent, for the process of forgiveness cannot be initiated without repentance.

            Therefore, the teaching that repentance is impossible for those who reject God after having truly experienced HIM provides clarity to the inability of the fallen angels to repent even while possessing freewill. (The metaphysics of this freewill that precludes the ability to repent would be an intriguing theme to discuss, but that’s for another day.)

God’s Expectation & Man’s Most Appropriate Response

            What does this theme (the inability of fallen angels to repent) teach us?

            God expects HIS people to love HIM and love HIM more. God has done everything for us to love HIM and not reject HIM. Our love for God would be strengthened if we [strive to] remain in HIS presence always.

            The world and its ruler – Satan, will do everything possible to distract us from loving God. If we consciously or unconsciously allow that distraction to gain strength in our Christian life, then our relationship with God would be on shaky ground.

            Therefore, our most appropriate response is to remain with God; love, obey and trust HIM at all times – be it in moments of joy or pain, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NET).


1 (last accessed on 10th August 2017)

2 (last accessed on 10th August 2017)

3 (last accessed on 10th August 2017)

4 (last accessed on 10th August 2017)

1 comment:

Denny Benjamin said...

I have to agree on the difficulty in repenting once you know God and then go away. It is Satan's biggest deception that sin is not costly. Sin is disobedience / distrust in God.