God, Angels

Angels

What do you think of when you hear the word “Angel?” Maybe you think of little chubby baby-like beings flying around with wings. Maybe you think about beings who are dressed in glowing white robes. Maybe you picture them with halo’s around their head. When I was younger, my theology of Angels was based more on movies and TV shows like “Touched by an Angel,” than it was on the Bible. Maybe it was that way for you too!

While some TV shows are pleasant to watch and give you a warm fuzzy feeling, who or what are Angels? Do people become angels when they die? What are they like? What do they do?

The Bible actually has a lot to say about Angels. First, a definition: Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgement and high intelligence, but without physical bodies. [1]

Are angles God’s robots?

I really like Grudem’s definition. It is good to be reminded that Angels are in fact created beings with moral judgement. That sounds familiar right? It should, because that is what humanity is also. There are some out there that think that angels are robots without a will. They had to believe and serve because they didn’t have a choice right? WRONG!

2 Peter 2:4–“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”

Sinning impies will.

Jude 6 — ” And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—”

The angels left God.

Do people become angels?

Up to this point the explanation of angels can apply to humans as well, but angels are not people and people do not become angels.

Psalm 8:4-5–“what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

1 Corinthians 6:3–“Do you not know that we are to judge angels?”

While it is nice to think about a departed family member becoming an angel, it is not biblical. Our created order is below them, and our eternal place is to judge them (likely speaking about the fallen angels in Jude 6). In Genesis 1:27 we are told that man is created in the image of God, and that God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Nothing like this describes the creation of Angels. So, it would appear that humans and angels are two distinct crated orders.

What are angels?

Angel literally means “a messenger.” The Dictionary of Bible Themes says that angels are “Spiritual beings who assist God, especially in his work of salvation, conveying his word to human beings and attending to the needs of God’s people.” [2] However, Angels are more than just God’s glorified carrier pigeons.

We see angels doing all sorts of things in the Bible. Here is a very short sample [2]:

  • Angels deliver God’s people from their enemies: 2Kings 19:35; 2Chronicles 32:21; Isiah 37:36; Acts 5:19; 12:6-11.
  • Angels give guidance: Exodus 23:20 See also Genesis 24:7,40; Acts 8:26
  • Angels foretell Jesus Christ’s birth: Mt 1:20-21 See also Lk 1:26-38
  • Angels announce Jesus Christ’s birth: Lk 2:8-11 See also Lk 2:12-20
  • Angels announce Jesus Christ’s resurrection: Mt 28:5-7 pp Mk 16:5-7 See also Lk 24:4-7,23; Jn 20:10-14
  • Angels foretell Jesus Christ’s second coming: Ac 1:10-11
  • Angels reveal the gospel for the Gentiles: Ac 11:13 See also Ac 10:1-5,30-33; Rev 14:6-7
  • Angels foretell God’s final triumph: Rev 1:1 See also Rev 19:9; 22:1,6,16
  • Angels as agents of earthly judgments: Ps 78:49
    • Against Sodom and Gomorrah: See also Ge 19:13,24-25
    • Against opponents of God: Ex 12:23; 2Ki 19:35 pp 2Ch 32:21 pp Isa 37:36; Ps 35:4-6
    • Against Israel: Ex 32:35; 2Sa 24:16-17 pp 1Ch 21:15-16; 1Co 10:10
    • Angels restrained by God’s mercy: 1Ch 21:15-16 pp 2Sa 24:16-17 See also Ge 18:20-32
  • Angels worship God in his presence: Rev 7:11 See also Rev 3:5; 8:2

Is there a Hierarchy of Angels?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that we are not totally sure what it looks like. We are introduced to different types of angels in Scripture:

Cherubim

Originally, they were in charge of protecting the entrance of Eden after the fall of man (Genesis 3:24). They are also seen on the arc of the covenant with their wings outstretched (Exodus 25:22). I’m not exactly sure how it works, but they are described as a mode of transportation as well (Psalm 18:10; Ezekiel 10: 1-22). The meaning of the name Cherubim is a little unclear, some think “like a child” which would explain all the chubby baby-like paintings. Most have settled on something more like “blessed ones” or “mighty ones,” which fits more in with the tasks they are given in the Scripture.

Seraphim

Primarily seen in Isaiah 6:2-7, this class of angel are tasked with continually worshipping God and tending to the burning coals on the alter of heaven. The name Seraphim means “burning ones,” which could describe their fiery task, or the passion with which they worship.

Others

Additionally, we are introduced to the “archangel” Michael in Jude 9. He is also called “one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13. We find him in leading the army of heaven in Revelation 12:7-8. We can surmise from these descriptions that he is an important angel with authority over other angels. By the way Michael means “who is like God.”

The only other angel name we are given in scripture is Gabriel, which means “God is my strength.” He is found delivering a message in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, as well as to  Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1; 19, 26-27.

Aside from this we know nothing more about these angels.

For an interesting look at how “Angelology” has grown among Jewish thought see the link in the footnote below. [3]

How many angels were created?

This is a great question that we will not know completely until we arrive in heaven. We are given a glimpse of the multitude though.

  • Deuteronomy 33:2–“he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,

    with flaming fire at his right hand.”

  • Psalm 68:17–“The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands;”
  • Hebrews 12:22–” to innumerable angels
  • Revelation 5:11–“I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands

Clearly there are A LOT!

Guardian Angels?

This is the final aspect of angels I will cover in this post. Do we each have a guardian angel? I have seen number stickers that say something to the effect of “don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” It’s a cute thought but not biblically accurate.

It is true that one of the duties of angels is to look after humanity, and in some cases protect people (Psalm 91:11-12; Daniel 6:20-23). However, to say that we each have our own guardian angel takes this idea of God’s protection too far. The passage that most run to in order to support this idea is Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” The grit of this verse is whether or not it is teaching that each believer (little one) has an angel watching over them. Certainly this is one way to understand this passage. Jesus could have also be referring to the group of angels that was in charge of watching over the “little ones,” which Grudem calls a “zone” defense and not a “man-to-man.” [1]

Truly, there is not enough conclusive information to decide if each believer “get’s their own angel.” But, we can safely say that if we do, the angel would have no trouble keeping up with your driving–they are very powerful beings after all.

Any other questions?

Do you have any other questions about angels? Let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer them quickly!

 

 

 

 

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 397, 401.

[2]  Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

[3] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1521-angelology

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