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Many people have been caused to think that angels cannot die. But, the Scriptures do not state that angels would have absolute immortality. This article takes a closer look at that matter.
A note: The word “immortal” comes from the Latin adjective immortalis which really means “not dying”. Please note that that word can be used and understood in different ways. Someone who does not have to die but can under certain conditions go on living without end, can be called immortal, but that is not the same as the immortality of someone who simply cannot die.
(For more on angels in general, see the article nda070.htm.)
The question, are angels immortal in the meaning that they cannot die, is in a way a bit strange, because we know that even Jesus, the son of God who had come from Heaven, could die, and did die. He was put to death. He gave his life, in place of others. He would have remained dead, had not God the Father raised him up to a new life.
A note: Some might wonder about the words “it was not possible that he should be held by it” which some English translations have in the below-quoted verse which refers to Jesus and his death.
Acts 2:24 Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held of it. (AKJV)
The wording in the last part of that verse might cause casual bible-readers to think that Jesus did not really die at all. But, those who read the whole verse, will notice the words “whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death”. Jesus did die, but God the Father resurrected him.
Regarding the words “it was not possible” (that Jesus would be held by death) – it appears that God had on beforehand planned to resurrect Jesus. The meaning could also be that Jesus’ resurrection, as well as his death in place of others, were both a “must” in regard to mankind’s salvation. (Cf. Romans 4:25, Galatians 1:4, John 3:16 and Hebrews 2:14.)
Right here, the point is that even Jesus the son of God could die, and did die.
Psalms 82:1 God stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the gods. 2 How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. 3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. 6 I have said, You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. 7 But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations. (AKJV, highlighting added)
Whom is this talking about – men or angels? See verse 1, and consider even this: It would be meaningless to tell a human that he is going to die as a man (verse 7), because humans already know that. It is obvious that psalm 82 is not about humans but about beings of some other kind. And it says, apparently regarding some rebellious angels, “you shall die like men”.
It appears that some have thought Luke 20:36 to mean that angels have absolute immortality. Perhaps this is because of the words “neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels” which some translations have in that verse. – Let us consider that passage and matter.
The story begins in Luke 20:27. Certain Sadducees had tried to trip Jesus by a trick question regarding a theoretical situation where a woman had married a man who then died, after which she married his brother, and so on, all the way to the seventh brother. Their question was, what would happen to those people in the resurrection – who would have that woman as his wife, at that time?
(The reason why those Sadducees posed that trick question, was that they denied that there would be a resurrection.)
Jesus answered them:
Luke 20:34 And Jesus said unto them, The sons of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35 but they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 for neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (ASV)
Regarding verse 36 and the phrase “neither can they die any more”: That is a correct translation – but let us keep in mind that that passage refers to those who live “in that world” (verse 35), that is, in Heaven. So, beings who live in Heaven, do not die. But, what happens if one is thrown out from Heaven? This has to do with the tree of life. Read on.
(A side-note: The Scriptures describe Heaven as something real and tangible, a place with time and dimensions, colours, light, ground and skies, water and at least one river, at least one city, buildings with doors, at least one mountain, and things and persons that are clearly recognisable by their looks. In short: Heaven is in many ways similar to the Earth – only, it is much better and more grand than the Earth which we humans are used to. The article nba041.htm has some notes on what the Bible says about Heaven.)
The earthly garden of God (Eden, Paradise) was a type of Heaven. In that garden, there was a tree of life. When Adam and Eve were thrown out from Eden, they lost their access to that tree and its fruit, and so, they lost their immortality.
(There is a strange dogma which claims that if Adam and Even had eaten of the fruit of the tree of life, just once, they would have become immortal, without being able to die. But, the Bible does not say so. Several things indicate that it was continued access to the fruit of the tree of life that was needed, so that one would not die.)
A number of scriptures show that even Heaven has a tree of life (well, more than just one).
Here is a passage regarding the heavenly Jerusalem: [a]
Revelation 22:1 And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (NASB77)
Revelation 2:7 records that Jesus had the apostle John to write to certain disciples,
“To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God”. (NASB77)
That verse makes it clear that it is important to have access to the fruit of that tree. More:
Revelation 22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. (NASB77)
Also, verse 19 records a warning that if someone removed something from the words of the book of that prophecy, then God would not grant that person access to the holy city in Heaven and the fruit of the tree of life there. [a]
Revelation 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (NASB77).
(Some bible-versions have in that verse “book of life”, as if translated from biblou tês zôês, but older Greek manuscripts have xulou tês zôês, “tree of life”.)
Those who live in Heaven, have access to the fruit of the tree of life there. And no, that is not a mere “allegory” but refers to literal trees with literal fruit. The Scriptures indicate that eating of the fruit of that tree is needed, for immortality. (Many people have been caused to think that “spirit beings do not have to eat”. But, where does that concept come from? Does the Bible say so? No. The New Testament contains more than one mention of eating and drinking in Heaven.)
This is still regarding the earlier quoted Luke 20:35–36 which tells us that beings who live “in that world” (that is, in Heaven), do not die. Consider this: The Bible shows that certain rebel spirits have been thrown out from Heaven. What effect does that have on their immortality and survival?
Adam and Eve could have continued to live, without dying, if they kept on eating of the fruit of the tree of life. But, they sinned against God and so, they were driven out from Eden, in order to deny them access to that tree. In a similar way, some spirits who rebelled against God, were thrown out from Heaven. In and by that, they lost access to the tree of life in Heaven.
The point here is that it is clear that the immortality which God in some cases grants to his created beings, is conditional. And so, we can assume that when certain rebel spirits were thrown out from Heaven and were thus denied access to the fruit of the tree of life there, that meant that they were headed for death. (However, it appears that, lacking access to the tree of life, they could to some degree prolong their lives, by taking human or animal bodies in possession. This might explain why certain demons whom Jesus drove out, were so desperate that they begged Jesus to allow them to take some swine in possession. That clearly indicates that they needed bodies to live in, in order to stay alive.)
a The heavenly city where the tree of life is located, is indeed a heavenly one. Some have misunderstood the apostle John’s vision which is recorded in Revelation 21, and thought that that heavenly city of awesome size will be placed here on the planet Earth. But, that is not so. It is obvious that in that vision, the apostle John was standing on the ground of the heavenly land, and saw that city coming down there. In other words: He saw the by God prepared city descending to that heavenly land, down from its skies.
Some people have been caused to think that wicked and unrepentant humans or angels will not die but will instead be tormented, “for ever and ever”. Some might interpret Revelation 14:10–11 to mean that. The article nta070.htm takes a closer look at that passage. See also the next point, below.
Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, said the Lord of hosts. (AKJV)
That passage says that the wicked shall be burned up and turned into ashes. Which is to say, they will die.
This article is about angels, whether they can die. Many people have been caused to think that even Satan was or is an “angel”, or perhaps even an “arch-angel”, but the Bible does not say so.
Anyway, the Scriptures indicate that Satan is headed for death. The article nda040.htm has some notes on Satan. See even the article nxa041.htm which has some notes on Satan’s fate, as it was pictured by certain rituals on the Day of Atonement.
The article nda070.htm contains a study on angels and “arch-angels”.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa091.htm
What does the Bible say about angels? → nda070.htm
The cherubs or keruwbim, what did they look like? → nda011.htm
On what the Scriptures say about demons. → nda080.htm
What does the Bible say about Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven? → nba041.htm
What does the Bible say about Satan the Devil? A study on what the Scriptures tell us about mankind’s arch-enemy. → nda040.htm
Do Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 refer to Satan, as some claim? → nda050.htm
What does Revelation 14:10 mean? Will some humans be tormented with “fire and brimstone”, for “ages and ages”? → nta070.htm
On the Day of Atonement and its symbolism. → nxa041.htm
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