Who were the sons of God? Are they angels or people?
The phrase “sons of God” occurs ten times in the Bible. It occurs five times in the Old Testament (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) and five times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:14, 19; Galatians 3:26). The phrase has different meanings in the Old compared to the New Testament.
Meaning of Son of God In The Old Testament
Sons of God in Job 1:6 and 2:1
The passages that provide the clearest meaning of the phrase “son of God” in the Old Testament occur in the book of Job. The first two passages are found in Job 1-2.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. Job 1:6 (NASB)
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. Job 2:1 (NASB)
In both passages Satan and the “sons of God” appear before the Lord. It is important to notice that the “sons of God” presented themselves before God. Therefore, since the holy angels in heaven are continually in the presence of God according to Matthew 18:10, the “sons of God” are not holy angels. Instead they are the followers of Satan.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 12:26 that Satan has his own kingdom. His followers are demons or angels who were cast out of heaven along with Satan. In Luke 10:18 Jesus states that He saw Satan cast out of heaven like lightning (Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:16-17). Revelation 12:9 helps us understand that some angels had joined Satan in his rebellion and were cast out of heaven too!
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelation 12:9 (NASB)
Revelation 12:7 clearly teaches that Satan and his angels are like an army.
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war . . . Revelation 12:7 (NASB)
Therefore, we are to understand that the “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and 2:1 are the angels who fell with Satan. They are also called fallen angels, evil angels, spirits or evil spirits in the Bible.
Sons of God in Job 38:7
In Job 38:7 the “sons of God” are angels too! In Job 38 God is speaking to Job and reviewing how the universe was created. In verse 4 God asks Job if he was present when God laid the foundation of the world. Verses 5 and 6 are more questions about the creation. Then verse 7 asks if Job was present when the stars sang and the “sons of God” shouted for joy. Again “sons of God” refers to the holy angels who existed at the time of the creation.
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7 (NASB)
Sons of God in Genesis 6:2, 4
The “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 and 4 are also angels. They are fallen angels once again. There are three New Testament passages that make this clear. The first is Jude 6-7.
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 6-7 (NASB)
Notice three important points. First, there were some angels who did not keep their own domain. The Greek word for “domain” is arche. The word means “beginning” or “origin.” That is, these angels did not keep to their original assignment or role or domain.
Second, these angels are now in “eternal bonds” or prison and it is dark. Third, these angels are compared to Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice that the angels “indulged in gross immorality” just like Sodom and Gomorrah. The Greek that is translated as “indulged in gross immorality” is ekporneuo. It is a compound word of ek and porneuo. Porneuo is the verb form of porneia, which refers to a wide variety of sexual sins. The word of ek intensifies the behavior in this case. These angels did not keep to their assignment in creation and committed some type of sexual sin. Also, notice that the events in Sodom and Gomorrah occurred after the angels sinned.
The next passage of interest is 2 Peter 2:4-10. Verses 4-6 state some angels sinned and were cast into pits of darkness at the time of Noah. Then after referring to Noah, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned. Notice the time when the angels sinned. They sinned at the time of Noah.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter . . . 2 Peter 2:4-6 (NASB)
The third passage is 1 Peter 3:19-20. In this passage notice that the angels are now called spirits who are in prison and observe the timeline of the events. This occurred at the time of Noah.
. . . in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 1 Peter 3:19-20 (NASB)
Objection – Sons of God Does Not Refer To Angels
There are two passages that seem to prove that “sons of God” does not refer to demons. The first passage is Matthew 22:30 (also Luke 20:34-35). In Matthew 22:30 Jesus is speaking and says,
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30 (NASB)
But notice that the verse does not say angels cannot affect a woman’s pregnancy. Scripture clearly teaches that people can be demon possessed and demons can affect the human body. Might they in some way affect the sperm’s impregnation of the female egg at the moment a man and woman have intercourse? (This is speculative since Scripture does not provide any details about demons, who were involved sexually with the daughters of men in Genesis 6:2.) What is clear is that Matthew 22:30 is only one verse in opposition to four clear passages that teach angels did something to women in Genesis 6:2, 4. They did not constrain themselves and indulged in sexual behavior that Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4-6 call sin.
Hebrews 1:5 is the second passage that seems to suggest that angels were not called “sons of God.”
For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?
“I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM
AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”? Hebrews 1:5 (NASB)
The message of the verse is that God the Father never called any of the angels “My Son.” In order to clearly understand this verse, we must notice that the first quote is from Psalm 2:7 and the second is from 2 Samuel 7:14. “My Son” appears in Psalm 2:7 and is a continuation of Psalm 2:6. Psalm 2:6-7 refers to the coming Messiah. It is about Jesus Christ. That is, the phrase “My Son” refers to Christ and the message of Hebrews 1:5 is that no angel has been called “My Son” or the Messiah. The purpose of Hebrews 1 is to prove that Christ is greater than the angels. The reader is encouraged to visit “Jesus is Superior to Angels.”
Therefore, the “sons of God” in the Old Testament refer to angels and normally to fallen angels or demons.
Meaning of Son of God In The New Testament
Sons of God in Matthew 5:9
The first time the phrase “sons of God” appears in the New Testament is in Matthew 5:9.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 (NASB)
This verse is the seventh beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes describe the behavior that is expected of a Christian. For more information about the beatitudes, please visit the study series Sermon on the Mount. We should ask, Who are peacemakers?” Galatians 5:22 tells us that only Christians will have the fruit of Spirit which includes peace. That is, only Christians are capable of being peacemakers.
Sons of God in Luke 20:36
In Luke 20:36 we are told that the “sons of God” are “sons of the resurrection.” The phrase “sons of the resurrection” refers to Christians.
. . . for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Luke 20:36 (NASB)
Sons of God in Romans 8:14, 19
Romans 8:14, 19 both define the phrase “sons of God” as Christians. Only Christians are led by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:9 states, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 (NASB)
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:19 (NASB)
Therefore, the phrase “sons of God” in both of these passages refers to Christians.
Sons of God in Galatians 3:26
The final passage in the New Testament that uses the phrase “son of God” is Galatians 3:26 and it clearly refers to Christians, as well.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26 (NASB)
Here we are told that a person who puts their faith in Christ is one of the sons of God. This verse is similar to John 1:12 where we are told that we can become children of God by receiving Christ.
The phrase “sons of God” primarily refers to demons or fallen angels in the Old Testament. In the New Testament it consistently refers to Christians. Are you one of the sons of God, that is, a Christian? If you are not sure visit, “Are You a Christian?” or “Searching For God” and make sure that you are going to be with God after you die.
Suggested Links:Who were the sons of God and daughters of men in Genesis 6:2-4?
Jesus is Superior to Angels
Peacemakers Are Sons of God
Are You a Christian?
Searching for God
What is the meaning that Jesus is the Son of God?
Porneia Definition — What is the meaning of the Greek word porneia in the Bible?