DID GOD GIVE ANGELS FREE WILL AS HE GAVE TO MANKIND?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Friend, we will answer your question by reasoning together using the Holy Scriptures. According to the Bible, “free will” (sometimes called “volition”) is the capacity to choose between doing good and doing evil—that is, following God’s plan for your life versus following Satan’s policy of evil. To fail to believe and obey God’s Word to you is to automatically follow Satan in his rebellion against the Creator God. Let us first review “free will” as it pertains to us humans, and then it will be easier for us to address the concept as it relates to angels.
FREE WILL AND HUMANS
We will briefly look at two simple events from Scripture—Adam and Eve, and Christ’s earthly ministry—to see how free will operates in people.
First, the well-known verses God spoke to Adam before the Fall. The Bible says in Genesis 2:16-17: “ And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Please take very special care to note the words “mayest freely” in verse 16. Mankind was instructed to “freely eat.” God could have said, “Of every tree of the garden thou wilt eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou wilt not eat of it.” Why did God not say this? Because that would have made Adam a robot! God did not tell Adam exactly which tree to eat from. He simply told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God gave Adam the opportunity to enjoy such bountiful provision. He had all those trees from which to eat! “Adam, you may—not must—eat from all of these trees! Just avoid that one—just one, just one!—tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” It was a very simple arrangement, simple instructions.
However, by the time we get to chapter 3 of Genesis, great trouble is brewing. We are introduced to the Bible’s first tragic passage: “ Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?  And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.  And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
Satan is a sneaky, snake-like, deceptive character (verse 1). Notice how he questioned God’s Word and then encouraged Eve to challenge God’s Word (verse 2). In verse 3, when quoting God to Satan, Eve omitted the word “freely,” demonstrating her ignorance of her free will. She denied God’s grace, God’s provisions, and because she forgot all of that bounty, Satan enticed her to sin and gain some additional “benefits.” Satan told her that she could gain some hidden wisdom, something God had withheld from her and Adam. Eve was at a crossroads: (1) she could stay with God’s provisions and be content with the identity that God had given her with Adam, or (2) she could follow the serpent and eat of the forbidden fruit, hopefully gaining what God had not given her. What did poor, confused Eve decide?
Verses 6-7 relay the SAD outcome: “ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
It is absolutely critical to realize that God had absolutely nothing to do with this whole scenario in Genesis 3:1-7. He had given Adam clear instructions. Evidently, Adam, the spiritual head, had not adequately and clearly passed this information on to Eve. Still, God did not force Adam and Eve to do anything, one way or the other. God did not make Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. God did not make Adam and Eve not eat the forbidden fruit. Again, God left the decision in the hands of Adam and Eve. The Bible says that Eve was deceived, genuinely misled, but Adam knew exactly what he was doing when ate the forbidden fruit (1 Timothy 2:14). We need to blame the responsible party. Sin entering into the world was ultimately Adam’s fault (Romans 5:12). He should have known better. Friends, we need to quit blaming God for our stupid mistakes!
Okay, now to another brief example. John 5:40 settles the issue once for all—people choose hell for themselves! They choose sin for themselves! They choose error for themselves! The Lord Jesus Christ declared to the unbelieving Jews of His day: “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Certain theological circles (those that embrace Calvinism) argue that no one can truly go to heaven unless God first chose him or her to go to heaven. Does God really “predestinate” or “elect” some people to go to heaven and others to go to hell? No, it is theological mumbo-jumbo. It is not Bible, just theological speculation that amounts to nothing. It is not God’s Word, just man’s word that will profit us nothing.
Reading John 5:40 with its context: “ Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” And verse 43, a reference to the Antichrist: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” Will we believe the Lord Jesus Christ’s simple words? Or, will we believe what a fallible theologian says? Jesus affirmed that the reason why His audience did not have eternal life was because they refused to come to Him! It was not because God selected them for hell and eternal damnation. It was not because God selected them for unbelief and sin. They thought their religion made them “good enough” without Jesus, so Jesus did not force Himself on them. Jesus Christ did not force Himself on Adam and Eve, either.
Again, just days before He died, Jesus Christ stated in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Why did Jerusalem not come to Jesus? Was it because God selected them for unbelief? For hell? For judgment? For sin? No! He said He wanted often to gather them to Himself but they refused to come. God did not select them for hell; they chose hellfire for themselves. Beloved, may we never take away someone’s free will: it is their (eternal) loss if they refuse to come to Jesus Christ by faith. We need to respect their choice. God respects their choice, and we do as our Heavenly Father does.
FREE WILL AND ANGELS
Sometime before the Fall of mankind in Genesis chapter 3 (which we discussed in our earlier comments), Satan and the other members of God’s angelic host were all in harmony and unity with their Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Adam and Eve would later be given a special identity and position/function in the Garden of Eden, Lucifer (Satan’s name before his fall) and the angelic host had a special identity and position/function in Heaven.
The little book of Jude 6, verse 6, explains: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” The idea here is the angels’ willful abandonment of their home and position in Heaven. It is not that God just randomly tossed them out of Heaven and imprisoned them in Hell. They chose not to “keep [or, guard] their first estate” and they “left their own habitation.” They had unique roles in Heaven, levels of authority over certain heavenly realms, but this was not enough for their satisfaction. These fallen angels—called “the devil’s angels” in Matthew 25:41—were discontented with the identity and job that God had given them. They wanted to do something else and they did it. They left their identity, their authority, and so on, seeking something else. In other words, like Adam and Eve would do later, the angels sinned. The Apostle Peter discussed this in 2 Peter 2:4: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” God gave angels free will; otherwise, this verse teaches that God caused the angels to sin! But exactly what happened to cause these angels to sin and permanently lose their role in God’s plan for creation?
In Isaiah chapter 14, we see a flashback. What was Satan’s origin? How did such a wicked creature come about? If God can create nothing evil and sinful, then what happened to Satan? Just before Satan (working through the Antichrist) is utterly defeated, yet future from our day, we see Israel mocking him in Isaiah chapter 14. Lucifer had such great hopes in outsmarting God, such great endeavors to gain the worship of all creation, and God in His infinite wisdom foiled them all! Satan’s original plan fell apart because of God’s ingenuity! Marvelous!
The Bible says in Isaiah 14:12-15: “ How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”
As we briefly noted earlier, the Prophet Isaiah reflects on Satan’s original five-fold plan of long ago. Satan uttered an “I will” statement five times. What does the term “will” denote? Satan had made a choice—five choices actually. It was not a simple mistake, an accident, but something methodical, a carefully planned scheme that would end up spanning long ages of time. Lucifer made five deliberate decisions, and all were poor choices. In other words, Lucifer exercised free will. As with Adam and Eve, God did not make Lucifer choose evil. Like with Adam and Eve, God did not make Lucifer choose good, either. Lucifer decided to operate independently of God’s will and plan for him. Mark it—the greatest definition for sin is Isaiah 53:6ab: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Just what righteous path did Lucifer swerve from to pursue his malevolent goals?
In Ezekiel’s prophetic masterpiece, we see another flashback to Lucifer/Satan’s original role in God’s creation. Lucifer—Hebrew, “the light bearer”—was basically creation’s “choir director.” Chapter 28, verses 13-19, paint a fascinating portrait of this wise and beautiful creature. Lucifer was one of the five cherubs (angelic-like creatures) that surrounded God’s throne. In fact, Lucifer’s wings functioned as a canopy, a “covering” for God’s throne. Lucifer wore a garment that was decorated with precious stones, similar to Israel’s high priest’s breastplate. Lucifer’s clothing, when paired with God’s radiance, provided a “kaleidoscope” and/or “prismatic” rainbow-effect in Heaven! To fulfill his office in Heaven, Lucifer’s body generated music. “Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created; till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:15). Something developed in Satan, an evil plan formed in his brilliant mind, and he sought to execute that plan—no matter the cost!
The Bible says of Lucifer, “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). In verse 3, “Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee.” Lucifer was a very cunning, creative creature, the most brilliant of all God’s creatures. God had intended Lucifer to use his ingenuity to invent songs, write and perform musical arrangements, et cetera, to praise the Lord Jesus Christ (Creator). Lucifer, however, fell into pride. “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness” (verse 17). Paul commented, “lifted up with pride… the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). Basically, Lucifer fell in love with himself and lost focus of His Creator. Finally, Lucifer concluded that he was so beautiful and so wise, he belonged on the throne instead of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he should be worshipped and served instead of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Matthew 4:8-10 and Luke 4:5-8).
The Prophet Ezekiel, in chapter 28, verse 18, describes how Lucifer “defiled [his sanctuaries] by the multitude of [his] iniquities, by the iniquity of [his] traffick….” Lucifer tainted those holy places in Heaven that he was originally functioning in. In other words, he filled Heaven with wickedness, his plot to overthrow Jesus Christ as rightful King of the Universe (Colossians 1:16-18). That word “traffick” in this context means “trade or dealings.” To wit, Lucifer was enticing other angelic creatures to follow him in his rebellion against the Creator God. With the exception of Michael and Gabriel, it seems as though all of God’s most powerful angels followed Lucifer. At this point, God created hell. “Everlasting fire…prepared for the devil and his angels,” the Lord Jesus called it in Matthew 25:41. The dreadful reality of eternal hellfire evidently halted any more angels from following Lucifer. Lucifer and his fallen cohorts are now restricted to the second heaven (outer space) and the first heaven (Earth and its atmosphere). “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” Jesus commented in Luke 10:18. While we could continue into the future, Satan’s doom, we must (unfortunately) stop here for sake of brevity.
Yes, angels have free will, just as we humans have free will. The God of the Bible values free will, even to the extent of risking His plan for creation. He did not and does not want robots. He wanted and wants creatures who delighted (and delight) in doing in His will with Him. Sin is doing whatever you want, you refusing to follow God’s plan for you. Lucifer and his angelic cohorts wanted to decide for themselves what was good and what was evil. Satan later used this attitude to entice Eve, and attack Adam (all of mankind), in the Garden of Eden. Satan and his angels abandoned God’s purpose and plan for them. Then, Satan encouraged Adam and Eve to abandon God’s purpose and plan for them. In short, the fallen angels and fallen man did not want the Creator God to reign over them. This parallels what eventually happened when Israel and Rome conspired to kill Jesus Christ. Note Psalm 2:1-3, written about 1,000 years before it happened: “ Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,  Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Verse 3 says Israel and Rome did not want the LORD [Father God] and His Anointed [Messiah/Christ Jesus His Son] ruling over them! This is, again, free will.)