What Are Angels? By Jack Kettler
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical, and commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live.
Angels: Angel means messenger. Angels are created (Psalms 148:2; Psalm 148:5; Colossians 1:16), non-human, spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14). They are immortal (Luke 20:36), innumerable (Hebrews 12:22), invisible (Numbers 22:22-31), sexless (Matthew 22:30), and do the will of God (Psalms 103:20). These angels have a ministry to believers. They guide (Genesis 24:7; Gen 24:40), protect (Psalms 34:7), and comfort (Acts 27:2; Act 27:24).
There are good angels (Genesis 28:12; Psalms 91:11) and bad angels (2Peter 2:4; Jude 1:1:6). The only angels mentioned by name are Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; Dan 9:21), Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; 112:1), and Lucifer (Luke 10:18). Michael is always mentioned in the context of battle (Daniel 10:13) and Gabriel as a messenger (Luke 1:26). Of course, Lucifer, who became Satan, is the one who opposes God.
Angels were originally created for the purpose of serving and carrying out the will of God. The fallen angels rebelled and became evil angels. Satan is such an angel (Isaiah 14:12-16; Ezekiel 28:12-15). *
Angels: God created two sorts of personal beings: angels (from the Greek term meaning “messenger”) and human beings. There are many angels (Matt. 26:53; Rev. 5:11). They are intelligent moral agents, without bodies and normally invisible, although they are able to show themselves to men in what appears as a physical form (Gen. 18:2-19:22; John 20:10-14; Acts 12:7-10). They do not marry, and are not subject to physical death (Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:35-36). They can move from one point in space to another, and many of them can congregate in a tiny area (Luke 8:30, where the reference is to fallen angels).
The Scriptures honor all holy angels as glorious creatures. They are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1) and “mighty ones” (Psa. 29:1). They are said to be radiant and powerful (Isa. 6:1-4; 2Thess. 1:7; 1Pet. 3:22; 2Pet. 2:11; Rev. 15:8) even forming the victorious army of God (Exod. 14:19). Yet, Scripture also points to the honor and splendor of being holy human beings. The Psalmist said we were made “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Psa. 8:5), which is an honorable position. Yet, the apostle Paul noted that this would not be the final order between angels and humans. He told the Corinthians that when Christ returns we will “judge the angels” (1Cor. 6:3). The human race – the image of God – will one day rule over not only the earth and its creatures but also the angels. **
From the Scriptures about angels:
“Bless the LORD, ye his angels that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” (Psalm 103:20)
From the Geneva Study Bible on Psalm 103:20:
“Bless the LORD, ye his angels that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
In that we, who naturally are slow to praise God, exhort the angels, who willingly do it, we stir up ourselves to consider our duty and wake from our sluggishness.”
From Strong’s Lexicon:
“All His angels
Noun – masculine plural construct | third person masculine singular
Strong’s Hebrew 4397: 1) messenger, representative 1a) messenger 1b) angel 1c) the theophanic angel”
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” (Luke 1:30-31)
From the Geneva Study Bible on Luke 1:30-31:
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
So the Hebrews said, saying that those men have found favour who are in favour.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”
From Strong’s Lexicon:
Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 32: From aggello; a messenger; especially an ‘angel’; by implication, a pastor.”
Regarding the Angel of the Lord:
“And it came to pass that night that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (2Kings 19:35)
From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 2Kings 19:35 and the angel of the LORD:
“(35-37) THE CATASTROPHE. SENNACHERIB’S RETREAT, AND HIS VIOLENT END.
(35) And it came to pass (in) that night.—This definition of time is wanting in the parallel text; but it is implied by the phrase in the morning (Isaiah 37:36; 2Kings 19:35). The night intended can hardly be the one which followed the day when the prophecy was spoken (see 2Kings 19:29). The expression “in that night,” may perhaps be compared with the prophetic “in that day,” and understood to. mean simply “in that memorable night which was the occasion of this catastrophe.” (Theuius sees in this clause an indication that the present section was derived from another source, probably from the one used by the chronicler in 2Chronicles 32:20-23. Reuss thinks this confirmed by the fact that neither the prediction in 2Kings 19:7, nor that of 2Kings 19:21-34, speaks of so great and so immediate an overthrow.)
The angel of the Lord went out.—the destroying angel, who smote the firstborn of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12-13; Exodus 12:23), and smote Israel after David’s census (2Samuel 24:15-17). These passages undoubtedly favour the view that the Assyrian army was devastated by pestilence, as Josephus asserts. Others have suggested the agency of a simoom, a storm with lightning, an earthquake, &c. In any case, a supernatural causation is involved not only in the immense number slain, and that in one night (Psalm 91:6), but in the coincidence of the event with the predictions of Isaiah, and with the crisis in the history of the true religion:
“Vuolsi così colà dove si puote
Ciò che si vuole; e più non dimandare.”
In the camp of the Assyrians.—Where this is was not said. That it was not before Jerusalem appears from 2Kings 19:32-33; and the well-known narrative of Herodotus (ii. 141) fixes Egypt, the land of plagues, as the scene of the catastrophe. “Of the details of the catastrophe, which the Bible narrative is content to characterize as the act of God, the Assyrian monuments contain no record, because the issue of the campaign gave them nothing to boast of; but an Egyptian account, preserved by Herodotus, though full of fabulous circumstances, shows that in Egypt, as well as in Judea, it was recognized as a direct intervention of Divine power. The disaster did not break the power of the great king, who continued to reign for twenty years, and waged many other victorious wars. But none the less it must have been a very grave blow, the effects of which were felt throughout the empire, and permanently modified the imperial policy; for in the following year Chaldea was again in revolt, and to the end of his reign Sennacherib never renewed his attack upon Judah” (Robertson Smith).
And when they arose early.—The few who were spared found, not sick and dying, but corpses, all around them. (Comp. Exodus 12:33: “They said, we be all dead men.”) (1)
From Strong’s Lexicon:
Noun – masculine singular construct
Strong’s Hebrew 4397: 1) messenger, representative 1a) messenger 1b) angel 1c) the theophanic angel
Of the LORD
Noun – proper – masculine singular
Strong’s Hebrew 3068: Jehovah = ‘the existing One’ 1) the proper name of the one true God 1a) unpronounced except with the vowel pointings of H0136
“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 1:9)
From Matthew Poole’s Commentary regarding an Archangel:
“Michael the archangel: either this is understood of Christ the Prince of angels, who is often in Scripture called an Angel, or of a created angel; and that either:
1. One of the archangels: Daniel 10:13, Michael is called one of the chief princes, which though the word archangel be not found in the plural number in Scripture, may well imply a plurality of them; for what is one of the chief princes among the angels, but an archangel? Or:
2. A principal angel, or one that is chief among others.
When contending with the devil; it may be meant either of Christ contending with the devil, as Matthew 4:1-25, in his temptation, and Zechariah 3:1,2, and Revelation 12:7; or rather, of Michael, a created angel.
He disputed about the body of Moses:
1. If Michael the archangel be meant of Christ, then the body of Moses may be taken figuratively, for that body whereof the Mosaical ceremonies were shadows, Colossians 2:17, i.e. the truth and accomplishment of the law given by Moses; that accomplishment was to be in Christ, who is represented by Joshua, Zechariah 3:1-10: him Satan resists in the execution of his office, and by him strikes at Christ, whose type he was, and whom he afterward opposeth in the execution of his office, when he was come in the flesh. Or:
2. If we take Michael for a created angel, which agrees best with the parallel place in Peter, then the body of Moses must be taken properly, (as most take it), and the dispute seems to be: Whether Moses’s body should be so buried as to be concealed from the Israelites? Deut. 34:6, it is said God buried him, (which might be by the ministry of Michael the archangel), and that no man knoweth of his sepulchre. The devil opposeth the angel, desiring to have the place of his burial known, that in after-times it might be a snare to that people, and a means to bring them to idolatry. And this seems very probable, if we consider what work the devil hath made in the world with the bodies of saints and martyrs, and how much idolatry he hath brought in thereby. This passage Jude, most probably, had (as was observed in the argument) from some known tradition among the Jews, the truth of which we are now sure of, because certified here concerning it.
Durst not bring against him; or, could not endure, (as the Greek word is often taken among profane writers), or find in his heart, not from fear of punishment, but by reason of the holiness of his own nature, and to give an example to us. And this sense agrees to the scope of the place, whether we understand it of Christ, or of a created angel, Hebrews 12:3 1Peter 2:23.
A railing accusation: see 2Peter 2:11.
But said, The Lord rebuke thee; i.e. put thee to silence, restrain thy insolence, hinder thy design, &c.: hereby the angel refers the cause to God.” (2)
“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” (Ezekiel 28:14)
From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Cherub:
“14. Anointed cherub—Gesenius translates from an Aramaic root, “extended cherub.” English Version, from a Hebrew root, is better. “The cherub consecrated to the Lord by the anointing oil” [Fairbairn].
covereth—The imagery employed by Ezekiel as a priest is from the Jewish temple, wherein the cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat, as the king of Tyre, a demi-god in his own esteem, extended his protection over the interests of Tyre. The cherub—an ideal compound of the highest kinds of animal existence and the type of redeemed man in his ultimate state of perfection—is made the image of the king of Tyre, as if the beau ideal of humanity. The pretensions of Antichrist are the ulterior reference, of whom the king of Tyre is a type. Compare “As God … in the temple of God” (2Th 2:4).
I have set thee—not thou set thyself (Prov. 8:16; Ro 13:1).
Upon the holy mountain of God—Zion, following up the image.
in … midst of … stones of fire—In ambitious imagination he stood in the place of God, “under whose feet was, as it were, a pavement of sapphire,” while His glory was like “devouring fire” (Ex 24:10, 17).” (3)
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain, he covered his face, and with twain, he covered his feet, and with twain, he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3)
From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers regarding Seraphim from Isaiah:
“(2) Above it stood the seraphims . . .—it is noticeable that this is the only passage in which the seraphim are mentioned as part of the host of heaven. In Numbers 21:6, the word (the primary meaning of which is the burning ones) occurs as denoting the fiery serpents that attacked the people in the wilderness. Probably the brazen serpent which Hezekiah afterwards destroyed (2Kings 18:4) had preserved the name and its significance as denoting the instruments of the fiery judgments of Jehovah. Here, however, there is no trace of the serpent form, nor again, as far as the description goes, of the animal forms of the cherubim of Ezekiel 1:5-11, and of the “living creatures” of Revelation 4:7-8. The “burning ones” are in the likeness of men, with the addition of the six wings. The patristic and mediaeval distinction between the seraphim that excel in love, and the cherubim that excel in knowledge, rests apparently on the etymology of the former word. The “living creatures” of Revelation 4:7-8, seem to unite the forms of the cherubim of Ezekiel with the six wings of the seraphim of this passage. Symbolically the seraphim would seem to be as transfigured cherubim, representing the “flaming fire” of the lightning, as the latter did the storm-winds and other elemental forces of nature (Psalm 104:4).” (4)
Angels are not to be worshiped:
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)
Rarely does one find an entry as detailed as the following.
Angel from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
an’-jel (mal’akh; Septuagint and New Testament, aggelos):
I. Definition and Scripture Terms.
The word angel is applied in Scripture to an order of supernatural or heavenly beings whose business it is to act as God’s messengers to men, and as agents who carry out His will. Both in Hebrew and Greek the word is applied to human messengers (1Ki 19:2; Lu 7:24); in Hebrew it is used in the singular to denote a Divine messenger, and in the plural for human messengers, although there are exceptions to both usages. It is applied to the prophet Haggai (Hag 1:13), to the priest (Mal 2:7), and to the messenger who is to prepare the way of the Lord (Mal 3:1). Other Hebrew words and phrases applied to angels are bene ha-‘elohim (Ge 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1) and bene ‘elim (Ps 29:1; 89:6), i.e. sons of the ‘elohim or ‘elim; this means, according to a common Hebrew usage, members of the class called ‘elohim or ‘elim, the heavenly powers. It seems doubtful whether the word ‘elohim, standing by itself, is ever used to describe angels, although Septuagint so translates it in a few passages. The most notable instance is Ps 8:5; where the Revised Version (British and American) gives, “Thou hast made him but little lower than God,” with the English Revised Version, margin reading of “the angels” for “God” (compare Heb. 2:7,9); qedhoshim “holy ones” (Ps 89:5,7), a name suggesting the fact that they belong to God; `ir, `irim, “watcher,” “watchers” (Da 4:13,17,23). Other expressions are used to designate angels collectively: codh, “council” (Ps 89:7), where the reference may be to an inner group of exalted angels; `edhah and qahal, “congregation” (Ps 82:1; 89:5); and finally tsabha’, tsebha’oth, “host,” “hosts,” as in the familiar phrase “the God of hosts.”
In New Testament the word aggelos, when it refers to a Divine messenger, is frequently accompanied by some phrase which makes this meaning clear, e.g. “the angels of heaven” (Mt 24:36). Angels belong to the “heavenly host” (Lu 2:13). In reference to their nature they are called “spirits” (Heb. 1:14). Paul evidently referred to the ordered ranks of supra-mundane beings in a group of words that are found in various combinations, namely, archai, “principalities,” exousiai, “powers,” thronoi, “thrones,” kuriotetes, “dominions,” and dunameis, also translated “powers.” The first four are apparently used in a good sense in Col 1:16, where it is said that all these beings were created through Christ and unto Him; in most of the other passages in which words from this group occur, they seem to represent evil powers. We are told that our wrestling is against them (Eph. 6:12), and that Christ triumphs over the principalities and powers (Col 2:15; compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24). In two passages the word archaggelos, “archangel” or chief angel, occurs: “the voice of the archangel” (1Th 4:16), and “Michael the archangel” (Jude 1:9).
II. Angels in Old Testament.
1. Nature, Appearances and Functions:
Everywhere in the Old Testament, the existence of angels is assumed. The creation of angels is referred to in Ps 148:2, 5 (compare Col 1:16). They were present at the creation of the world, and were so filled with wonder and gladness that they “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Of their nature, we are told nothing. In general, they are simply regarded as embodiments of their mission. Though presumably the holiest of created beings, they are charged by God with folly (Job 4:18), and we are told that “he putteth no trust in his holy ones” (Job 15:15). References to the fall of the angels are only found in the obscure and probably corrupt passage Ge 6:1-4, and in the interdependent passages 2Pe 2:4 and Jude 1:6, which draw their inspiration from the Apocryphal book of Enoch. Demons are mentioned (see DEMON); and although Satan appears among the sons of God (Job 1:6; 2:1), there is a growing tendency in later writers to attribute to him a malignity that is all his own (see SATAN).
As to their outward appearance, it is evident that they bore the human form, and could at times be mistaken for men (Ezekiel 9:2; Ge 18:2, 16). There is no hint that they ever appeared in female form. The conception of angels as winged beings, so familiar in Christian art, finds no support in Scripture (except, perhaps Da 9:21; Re 14:6, where angels are represented as “flying”). The cherubim and seraphim (see CHERUB; SERAPHIM) are represented as winged (Ex 25:20; Isa 6:2); winged also are the symbolic living creatures of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:6; compare Re 4:8).
As above stated, angels are messengers and instruments of the Divine will. As a rule they exercise no influence in the physical sphere. In several instances, however, they are represented as destroying angels: two angels are commissioned to destroy Sodom (Ge 19:13); when David numbers the people, an angel destroys them by pestilence (2Sa 24:16); it is by an angel that the Assyrian army is destroyed (2Ki 19:35); and Ezekiel hears six angels receiving the command to destroy those who were sinful in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9:1,5,7). In this connection should be noted the expression “angels of evil,” i.e. angels that bring evil upon men from God and execute His judgments (Ps 78:49; compare 1Sa 16:14). Angels appear to Jacob in dreams (Ge 28:12; 31:11). The angel who meets Balaam is visible first to the ass, and not to the rider (Nu 22:1-41 ff). Angels interpret God’s will, showing man what is right for him (Job 33:23). The idea of angels as caring for men also appears (Ps 91:11 f), although the modern conception of the possession by each man of a special guardian angel is not found in Old Testament.
2. The Angelic Host:
The phrase “the host of heaven” is applied to the stars, which were sometimes worshipped by idolatrous Jews (Jer. 33:22; 2Ki 21:3; Zep 1:5); the name is applied to the company of angels because of their countless numbers (compare Da 7:10) and their glory. They are represented as standing on the right and left hand of Yahweh (1Ki 22:19). Hence God, who is over them all, is continually called throughout Old Testament “the God of hosts,” “Yahweh of hosts,” “Yahweh God of hosts”; and once “the prince of the host” (Da 8:11). One of the principal functions of the heavenly host is to be ever praising the name of the Lord (Ps 103:21; 148:1 f). In this host, there are certain figures that stand out prominently, and some of them are named. The angel who appears to Joshua calls himself “prince of the host of Yahweh” (Jos 5:14 f). The glorious angel who interprets to Daniel the vision which he saw in the third year of Cyrus (Da 10:5), like the angel who interprets the vision in the first year of Belshazzar (Da 7:16), is not named; but other visions of the same prophet were explained to him by the angel Gabriel, who is called “the man Gabriel,” and is described as speaking with “a man’s voice” (Da 9:21; 8:15 f). In Daniel, we find occasional reference made to “princes”: “the prince of Persia,” “the prince of Greece” (Da 10:20). These are angels to whom is entrusted the charge of, and possibly the rule over, certain peoples. Most notable among them is Michael, described as “one of the chief princes,” “the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people,” and, more briefly, “your prince” (Da 10:13; 12:1; 10:21), Michael is therefore regarded as the patron-angel of the Jews. In Apocrypha Raphael, Uriel and Jeremiel are also named. Of Raphael it is said (Tobit 12:15) that he is “one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints” to God (compare Re 8:2, “the seven angels that stand before God”). It is possible that this group of seven is referred to in the above-quoted phrase, “one of the chief princes”. Some (notably Kosters) have maintained that the expressions “the sons of the ‘elohim,” God’s “council” and “congregation,” refer to the ancient gods of the heathen, now degraded and wholly subordinated to Yahweh. This rather daring speculation has little support in Scripture; but we find traces of a belief that the patron-angels of the nations have failed in establishing righteousness within their allotted sphere on earth, and that they will accordingly be punished by Yahweh their over-Lord (Isa 24:21 f; Ps 82:1-8; compare Ps 58:1 f the Revised Version, margin; compare Jude 1:6).
3. The Angel of the Theophany:
This angel is spoken of as “the angel of Yahweh,” and “the angel of the presence (or face) of Yahweh.” The following passages contain references to this angel: Ge 16:7 ff–the angel and Hagar; Ge 18:1-33–Abraham intercedes with the angel for Sodom; Ge 22:11 ff–the angel interposes to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac; Ge 24:7,40–Abraham sends Eliezer and promises the angel’s protection; Ge 31:11 ff–the angel who appears to Jacob says “I am the God of Beth-el”; Ge 32:24 ff–Jacob wrestles with the angel and says, “I have seen God face to face”; Ge 48:15 f–Jacob speaks of God and the angel as identical; Ex 3:1-22 (compare Ac 7:30 ff)–the angel appears to Moses in the burning bush; Ex 13:21; 14:19 (compare Nu 20:16)–God or the angel leads Israel out of Egypt; Ex 23:20 ff–the people are commanded to obey the angel; Ex 32:34 through Ex 33:17 (compare Isa 63:9)–Moses pleads for the presence of God with His people; Jos 5:13 through Jos 6:2–the angel appears to Joshua; Judges 2:1-5–the angel speaks to the people; Judges 6:11 ff–the angel appears to Gideon.
A study of these passages shows that while the angel and Yahweh are at times distinguished from each other, they are with equal frequency, and in the same passages, merged into each other. How is this to be explained? It is obvious that these apparitions cannot be the Almighty Himself, whom no man hath seen, or can see. In seeking the explanation, special attention should be paid to two of the passages above cited. In Ex 23:20 ff God promises to send an angel before His people to lead them to the promised land; they are commanded to obey him and not to provoke him “for he will not pardon your transgression: for my name is in him.” Thus, the angel can forgive sin, which only God can do, because God’s name, i.e. His character and thus His authority, are in the angel. Further, in the passage Ex. 32:34 through Ex. 33:17 Moses intercedes for the people after their first breach of the covenant; God responds by promising, “Behold mine angel shall go before thee”; and immediately after God says, “I will not go up in the midst of thee.” In answer to further pleading, God says, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Here a clear distinction is made between an ordinary angel, and the angel who carries with him God’s presence. The conclusion may be summed up in the words of Davidson in his Old Testament Theology: “In particular providences one may trace the presence of Yahweh in influence and operation; in ordinary angelic appearances one may discover Yahweh present on some side of His being, in some attribute of His character; in the angel of the Lord He is fully present as the covenant God of His people, to redeem them.” The question still remains, Who is theophanic angel? To this many answers have been given, of which the following may be mentioned: (1) This angel is simply an angel with a special commission; (2) He may be a momentary descent of God into visibility; (3) He may be the Logos, a kind of temporary preincarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Each has its difficulties, but the last is certainly the most tempting to the mind. Yet it must be remembered that at best these are only conjectures that touch on a great mystery. It is certain that from the beginning God used angels in human form, with human voices, in order to communicate with man; and the appearances of the angel of the Lord, with his special redemptive relation to God’s people, show the working of that Divine mode of self-revelation which culminated in the coming of the Saviour, and are thus a fore-shadowing of, and a preparation for, the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Further than this, it is not safe to go.
III. Angels in New Testament.
Nothing is related of angels in New Testament, which is inconsistent with the teaching of Old Testament on the subject. Just as they are specially active in the beginning of Old Testament history, when God’s people is being born, so they appear frequently in connection with the birth of Jesus, and again when a new order of things begins with the resurrection. An angel appears three times in dreams to Joseph (Mt 1:20; 2:13, 19). The angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, and then to Mary in the annunciation (Lu 1:1-80). An angel announces to the shepherds the birth of Jesus, and is joined by a “multitude of the heavenly host,” praising God in celestial song (Lu 2:8 ff). When Jesus is tempted, and again during the agony at Gethsemane, angels appear to Him to strengthen His soul (Mt 4:11; Lu 22:43). The verse which tells how an angel came down to trouble the pool (Joh 5:4) is now omitted from the text as not being genuine. An angel descends to roll away the stone from the tomb of Jesus (Mt 28:2); angels are seen there by certain women (Lu 24:23) and (two) by Mary Magdalene (Joh 20:12). An angel releases the apostles from prison, directs Philip, appears to Peter in a dream, frees him from prison, smites Herod with sickness, appears to Paul in a dream (Ac 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7 ff; Ac 12:23; 27:23). Once they appear clothed in white; they are so dazzling in appearance as to terrify beholders; hence they begin their message with the words “Fear not” (Mt 28:2-5).
2. The Teaching of Jesus about Angels:
It is quite certain that our Lord accepted the main teachings of Old Testament about angels, as well as the later Jewish belief in good and bad angels. He speaks of the “angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30), and of “the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). According to our Lord the angels of God are holy (Mark 8:38); they have no sex or sensuous desires (Mt 22:30); they have high intelligence, but they know not the time of the Second Coming (Mt 24:36); they carry (in a parable) the soul of Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Lu 16:22); they could have been summoned to the aid of our Lord, had He so desired (Mt 26:53); they will accompany Him at the Second Coming (Mt 25:31) and separate the righteous from the wicked (Mt 13:41, 49). They watch with sympathetic eyes the fortunes of men, rejoicing in the repentance of a sinner (Lu 15:10; compare 1Pe 1:12; Eph. 3:10; 1Co 4:9); and they will hear the Son of Man confessing or denying those who have confessed or denied Him before men (Lu 12:8 f). The angels of the presence of God, who do not appear to correspond to our conception of guardian angels, are specially interested in God’s little ones (Mt 18:10). Finally, the existence of angels is implied in the Lord’s Prayer in the petition, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth” (Mt 6:10).
3. Other New Testament References:
Paul refers to the ranks of angels (“principalities, powers” etc.) only in order to emphasize the complete supremacy of Jesus Christ. He teaches that angels will be judged by the saints (1Co 6:3). He attacks the incipient Gnosticism of Asia Minor by forbidding the, worship of angels (Col 2:18). He speaks of God’s angels as “elect,” because they are included in the counsels of Divine love (1Ti 5:21). When Paul commands the women to keep their heads covered in church because of the angels (1Co 11:10) he probably means that the angels, who watch all human affairs with deep interest, would be pained to see any infraction of the laws of modesty. In Hebrews 1:14 angels are (described as ministering spirits engaged in the service of the saints. Peter also emphasizes the supremacy of our Lord over all angelic beings (1Pe 3:22). The references to angels in 2Peter and Jude are colored by contact with Apocrypha literature. In Revelation, where the references are obviously symbolic, there is very frequent mention of angels. The angels of the seven churches (Re 1:20) are the guardian angels or the personifications of these churches. The worship of angels is also forbidden (Re 22:8 f). Specially interesting is the mention of elemental angels—“the angel of the waters” (Re 16:5), and the angel “that hath power over fire” (Re 14:18; compare Re 7:1; 19:17). Reference is also made to the “angel of the bottomless pit,” who is called ABADDON or APOLLYON (which see), evidently an evil angel (Re 9:11 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “abyss”). In Re 12:7 ff we are told that there was war between Michael with his angels and the dragon with his angels.
IV. Development of the Doctrine.
In the childhood of the race, it was easy to believe in God, and He was very near to the soul. In Paradise, there is no thought of angels; it is God Himself who walks in the garden. A little later, the thought of angels appears, but, God has not gone away, and as “the angel of Yahweh” He appears to His people and redeems them. In these early times the Jews believed that there were multitudes of angels, not yet divided in thought into good and bad; these had no names or personal characteristics, but were simply embodied messages. Till the time of the captivity the Jewish angelology shows little development. During that dark period they came into close contact with a polytheistic people, only to be more deeply confirmed in their monotheism thereby. They also became acquainted with the purer faith of the Persians, and in all probability viewed the tenets of Zoroastrianism with a more favorable eye, because of the great kindness of Cyrus to their nation. There are few direct traces of Zoroastrianism in the later angelology of the Old Testament. It is not even certain that the number seven as applied to the highest group of angels is Persian in its origin; the number seven was not wholly disregarded by the Jews. One result of the contact was that the idea of a hierarchy of the angels was more fully developed. The conception in Dan of angels as “watchers,” and the idea of patron-princes or angel-guardians of nations may be set down to Persian influence. It is probable that contact with the Persians helped the Jews to develop ideas already latent in their minds. According to Jewish tradition, the names of the angels came from Babylon. By this time the consciousness of sin had grown more intense in the Jewish mind, and God had receded to an immeasurable distance; the angels helped to fill the gap between God and man.
The more elaborate conceptions of Daniel and Zechariah are further developed in Apocrypha, especially in 2Esdras, Tobit and 2Macc.
In the New Testament, we find that there is little further development; and by the Spirit of God its writers were saved from the absurdly puerile teachings of contemporary Rabbinism. We find that the Sadducees, as contrasted with the Pharisees, did not believe in angels or spirits (Ac 23:8). We may conclude that the Sadducees, with their materialistic standpoint, and denial of the resurrection, regarded angels merely as symbolical expressions of God’s actions. It is noteworthy in this connection that the great priestly document (Priestly Code, P) makes no mention of angels. The Book of Revelation naturally shows a close kinship to the books of Ezekiel and Daniel.
Regarding the rabbinical developments of angelology, some beautiful, some extravagant, some grotesque, but all fanciful, it is not necessary here to speak. The Essenes held an esoteric doctrine of angels, in which most scholars find the germ of the Gnostic eons.
V. The Reality of Angels.
A belief in angels, if not indispensable to the faith of a Christian, has its place there. In such a belief there is nothing unnatural or contrary to reason. Indeed, the warm welcome which human nature has always given to this thought is an argument in its favor. Why should there not be such an order of beings, if God so willed it? For the Christian the whole question turns on the weight to be attached to the words of our Lord. All are agreed that He teaches the existence, reality, and activity of angelic beings. Was He in error because of His human limitations? That is a conclusion, which it is very hard for the Christian to draw, and we may set it aside. Did He then adjust His teaching to popular belief, knowing that what He said was not true? This explanation would seem to impute deliberate untruth to our Lord, and must equally be set aside. So we find ourselves restricted to the conclusion that we have the guaranty of Christ’s word for the existence of angels; for most Christians that will settle the question.
The visible activity of angels has come to an end, because their mediating work is done; Christ has founded the kingdom of the Spirit, and God’s Spirit speaks directly to the spirit of man. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ, upon whom faith can yet behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Still they watch the lot of man, and rejoice in his salvation; still they join in the praise and adoration of God, the Lord of hosts, still can they be regarded as “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation.” John Macartney Wilson (5)
1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 2Kings, Vol.3, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.182-183.
2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Jude. Vol. 3. (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 945.
3. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 710.
4. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol.4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.432-433.
5. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “ANGELS,” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 132-135.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics
** Angels at http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/40882
Can angels be spirit guides?
Popular Angels and the Occult by: The John Ankerberg Show https://www.jashow.org/artic…/popular-angels-and-the-occult/
What are spirit guides? Should Christians consult spirit guides? https://www.gotquestions.org/spirit-guides.html