Angels - Part 1
"Why study about angels?" is a good question. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and any mention of something in it is therefore of genuine significance. All Scripture is inspired of God and profitable for teaching and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), which means that a study of this biblical topic will also be useful. Let us remember that no part of Divine truth can be neglected without spiritual loss (Acts 20:27).
- Angels are mentioned about 300 times in the Bible and are interested in our salvation (1 Peter 1:12), and rejoice when even one lost soul is saved (Luke 15:7,10). If they are so interested in us, then we should show some interest in them.
- We shall be like them, "for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36). Such a study can whet our appetite for heaven, and help us in this life to choose what is right even when evil looks very attractive. Sadly, many people will not realize what God is offering to them until it is too late. What sort of wonderful existence is being promised in the statement, "they are like angels"? We need to find out what angels are in order to understand what we will be like!
- We need to increase our awareness and enhance our appreciation for what angels do on our behalf (Hebrews 1:14)
- The Bible teaches us that angels are our source of transport for this world to paradise. When a Christian dies, angels carry his spirit to a place of comfort and rest (Luke 16:22). Christians who are alive at the Second Coming of Jesus will be gathered together by the angels (Matthew 25:31; Luke 9:26).
- There is always the danger of being sucked into "angel worship" (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 22:8-9). This study will also help us combat false doctrines that are widespread in the religious world on this subject. In our modern society it seems that many people are more impressed with angels than they are with God. "Mention the word angel and what do you visualize? In my mind’s eye. I see a beautiful woman with long, golden hair; a full, flowing, white robe; and lovely, shining wings that flutter gracefully, propelling with wonder along. Her voice is soft and gentle. Other times the picture is of a fat, pink baby with a crossbow and heart-shaped arrows, aiming at some hapless fellow…According to the Bible, both these images are totally inaccurate. But many people share these misleading mental pictures" (A Study of Angels, Edward P. Myers, p. 1).
What Are Angels?
The Hebrew word malak occurs 108 times in the Old Testament and Angellos is the Greek word translated "angel" in the New Testament. Both words can literally be translated "messenger" and can be further defined as "one sent, envoy, to dispatch as a deputy or agent". Angels are, therefore, so called not to indicate their nature, but simply as designating their official character. In a very special manner, they are employed in numberless ways as the messengers of God, to saved and sinners alike. While the term can be used in reference to human messengers (Haggai 1:13; Luke 7:24), it is predominately used in reference to spiritual beings (Hebrews 1:14). Unfortunately, when people today use the term angel, it is more often used as a term of endearment, or one stressing unusual delicacy, purity, innocence, or kindness.
- Various other descriptive titles are also given to angels: "Holy ones" (Daniel 4:13); "Saints" (Deuteronomy 33:2); "sons of God" (Job 1:6; 2:1); "Ministers of God" (Psalm 103:21; Hebrews 1:7); "Watchers" (Daniel 4:13). Each of these titles, including the term angel,stresses the fact that angels are in full agreement with God and His will. They are holy and refuse to corrupt themselves or violate His will. They serve God and His purposes. They are sons of God in the sense that they manifest the moral nature and character of God. "The title watchers indicates the guardianship of God’s divine program, kingdom, and will. They are trusted servants to see that God’s will is carried out, and as such, they must be in full sympathy with His program" (What the Bible says about Angels and Demons, Victor Knowles, p. 35).
The Origin of Angels
Angels are created beings. The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus created all things, "both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). In Psalm 148:2 angels are placed in the category of "For He commanded and they were created" (148:5). In Job 38:4-7, it appears that the angels were created prior to the creation of the entire universe and were present and rejoicing when God laid the foundation of the earth.
The Number of Angels
"Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will as once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). A legion in the Roman army was six thousand soldiers. Jesus said that it was possible for God to immediately dispatch seventy-two thousand angels to defend His Son. "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels" (Hebrews 12:22). "Myriads"-is a large number, innumerable, beyond counting. See also Revelation 5:11 and 2 Kings 6:17.
The Nature of Angels
Angels are called "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14). In contrast to man who has a spirit and a body, angels are pure spirit beings. Yet, like God, they have the ability to manifest themselves in a human form (Luke 24:4,23; John 20:12). In contrast to God, they are not eternal, all-powerful (2 Samuel 24:15-16), omnipresent (Daniel 9:21-23), or, omniscient (1 Peter 1:12). Angels are put in stark contrast with Jesus, who is God (Hebrews 1:5-14). In their nature state, angels are invisible to the eyes of man (Numbers 22:31; 2 Kings 6:15-17). "Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire" (Hebrews 1:7). Angels can also assume other forms or appearances, they can appear as wind or fire (Exodus 3:2f).
- Angels are always referred to in the masculine gender. Masculine pronouns are always used to refer to the angels. The only two angels who are named in Scripture, Michael and Gabriel, have masculine names. "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Matthew 22:30). From this passage many have concluded that angels are "sexless. In addition, we never find angels appearing in a female form.
- We do not find any evidence in Scripture that God continues to renew His supply of angels. Clearly, angels do not die (Luke 20:36).While Jesus said the faithful will be "like" angels, the text doesn’t say that we will become angels. Since the angels existed prior to the creation of man, it would seem clear that angels are not simply glorified men who once lived on earth. In addition, angels, as a class, are clearly distinguished from men and women who are faithful (Hebrews 2:16).
- Acts 12:15 "And they kept saying, ‘It is his angel’": According to one writer, "Jewish people had a common belief that every Israelite had a guardian angel. According to those Jewish ideas they must have been assuming that Peter’s guardian angel had appeared in human form (resembling Peter), and was speaking Peter’s voice which he had also assumed" (Acts, Reese, p. 437).
- Angels are very swift. Abraham looked up one day and three men stood before him, their appearance was sudden, unexpected, and unannounced (Genesis 18:2). They appeared and could suddenly disappear (Judges 6:11-21; 13:3-9; Luke 2:13). The angel Gabriel came to Daniel in "swift flight" with an important message (Daniel 9:21).
- Angels are not omnipotent and yet they are very powerful, "whereas angels who are greater in might and power (than men)" (2 Peter 2:11). The apostle Paul calls the angels "mighty" in (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The word he used for "mighty" is dunamis. We get "dynamite" from that word. Dynamite packs a powerful punch; so do the angels of God. "An angel appeared in the center of a white-hot furnace to protect Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The raging fire had no power over him or the three Hebrews (Daniel 3:24-28). Fierce lions were about to mangle Daniel when an angel appeared in their midst and forced their drooling jaws shut (Daniel 6:22). The hovering death angel killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35). An angel rolled away a very great stone at the tomb of Jesus—a stone so large that the combined strength of several people could not budge it (Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5)" (Knowles p. 50). See also Revelation 10:1-2 and 18:21.
- Several passages state that angels take a great interest in what is happening to man on earth (1 Corinthians 4:9 " because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men"). They had a tremendous interest in how God was going to redeem man, "things into which angels long to look" (1 Peter 1:12). The word "long" comes from a Greek word epithumeo, which means "to set the heart on, to want passionately". The Greek word parakupto, here translated "to look into", literally means, "to stoop and look intently". The angels are passionately interested in man’s salvation. We see the same passion in Luke 15:10 "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God". Therefore, angels do have emotions, feelings, desires, and are not stoic beings.
- Angels have self-restraint: "do not bring a reveling judgment against them before the Lord" (2 Peter 2:11); "did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’" (Jude 9). Angels are dignified, they don’t ramble at the mouth or speak on their own authority, rather, they leave room for the wrath of God. Though it may be necessary to tell others that their conduct is hypocritical, deceitful, or destructive, it must never be done from a malicious motive on our part. The angels, though superior in every way than these men, did not speak to them abusively.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503) 644-9017