All nations contain records of belief in spirit beings. Ancient Israelites, Egyptians, and Romans each believed that spirit beings existed. Modern American society is no different; television shows, architectural designs, articles of fashion, and more have brought the idea of angels and demons to the attention of mainstream society. Some folks are obsessed with spirit beings, doing acts such as praying to or even worshipping angels (e.g. Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).
However, a lot of misconception exists about angels. Ancient historical documentation shows angels as females, but angels always appear in the Bible in the masculine form (for example, Daniel 9:21). Also, in common folklore, angels are represented as human-like, not as birds, animals, or even evolved humans.
What exactly does the Bible say about angels? Angels are found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. They are very active in the events of Genesis and beyond. They are present in the Garden of Eden; they appear to Hagar, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, the angel of Lord in the book of Exodus, Joshua, the judges in the book of Judges, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel, to Daniel, and Zechariah. In the New Testament, angels are connected with almost every major event in the life of Jesus and the apostle Paul.
What are angels like? The first characteristic of angels is they are immortal. Angels are created beings (Psalm 148:2, 5); in fact, they were present very early in creation (Job 38:4-7; Psalm 104:4-5). But they were created to neither age nor die, and to last throughout eternity (Luke 20:36).
The second characteristic of angels is that their population is innumerable. The Bible says there is “an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22). That does not mean there is an infinite amount of angels; it means no one can count how many there are. Approximately how many angels are there? Scripture gives a hint. “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11). Ten thousand times ten thousand equals one hundred million, yet there are thousands more angels than that.
The third characteristic of angels is they are invisible. Angels are spirits and generally cannot be seen (Luke 24:39; Psalm 104:4). At times, they can become visible to humans. When angels are visible, they sometimes appear bright with a long white garment. “And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came, and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:2-3). “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel” (Acts 1:10).
The fourth characteristic of angels is they are superior to humans in certain ways. In the journal Reformation & Renaissance Review, Andrew Sulavik wrote that “Reformation thinkers defined angels as either good or evil, created spiritual beings that are more powerful and intelligent than humans.” An angel shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:22); another time, an angel rolled the stone away that covered the Lord’s sepulchre (Luke 24:1-4). They can also move swiftly and are not bound by gravity (Daniel 9:21).
The fifth characteristic of angels is they are curious. They watch human beings (1 Corinthians 4:9) and wonder about them (1 Peter 1:12). In an article in the Concordia Theological Quarterly, Jonathan Naumann says, “Human salvation is of immense interest to God’s angels, both the holy and the unholy...Peter makes it known in his first epistle that angels are fascinated by the unfolding of our lives and the working out of God’s plan to save us through the sacrifice of His Son.” Their curiosity will never fully be answered because they cannot understand what it is like to be lost and then be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
So do angels flutter around heaven doing as they please or are they under direct command from God? Psalm 103:20 answers the question this way: “Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word." According to Scripture, angels are assigned to do God’s bidding in specific ways: influence nations (Daniel 10:12-13, 20-21),represent children (Matthew 18:10), and minister to Christians (Acts 12:7-15). Furthermore, at least some of them are personal assistants. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)? The Bible records instances where angels have guided believers (Genesis 19:15), encouraged believers (Judges 6:12), delivered believers (Psalm 34:7; Acts 12:7), protected believers (Psalm 91:11-12), delivered messages to believers (Matthew 2:19-20), and empowered believers (Luke 22:43).
In conclusion, angels are spirit beings that fill the mind with awe and wonder. They are both powerful and intelligent, yet they are limited, having only the ability God grants them. Currently, humans are lower than angels (Hebrews 2:9); yet, in the future when King Jesus reigns in Jerusalem, God’s children will rule over angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). In the meantime, let us give heart-felt adoration and the sacrifice of praise to the Lamb who is worthy of all. After all, when the apostle John fell on his face before an angel, they rejected the honor and implored instead, “Worship God!”
The above article was written by Jim Larger. He is the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Farmersburg, IN. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at email@example.com.
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