Olsen Park Church of Christ

What Does the Bible Say About Angels? (Part One)

Introduction.   Recent years have seen a surge in interest in the subject of angels. The December 27, 1993 issue of  Time Magazine had an article entitled “Angels Among Us” that featured a Time/CNN poll of 500 Americans.  It found that…

  • 69% of Americans believe in the existence of angels.
  • 46 % believe they have their own guardian angel.

However, there is much confusion about the nature of angels…

  • 55% think angels are higher spiritual beings created by God with special powers to act as His agents on earth.
  • 15%  say they are spirits of people who have died.  The Country musicians the Judd’s had a song some year ago entitled “Guardian Angels” which sings of ancestors acting as guardian angels.
  • 18%  said they are important religious symbols but merely symbolic.
  • 7%  said they are figments of the imagination.

When asked if they had ever personally felt an “angelic presence in your life?”

  • 32% said “Yes.”

Former first lady Hillary Clinton used to wear a gold pin of “angel wings” for days she felt she “needed help.”   She made angels the theme of the white house Christmas tree one year.

What Does The Bible Teach About Angels?

            This morning and this evening I’d like for us to examine this question so that we can cut through the popular mythology dealing with angels and isolate what Scripture has to say about this matter.  We must note that very little is revealed about the subject.  As such, we must remember… “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, NKJV).

I.  What Is An “Angel?”  There are two (possibly three) meanings associated with the words translated “angel” in Scripture:

  • Hebrew:  malak  “1.  One sent, a messenger, 2. Specifically a messenger of God,  a.  an angel, b. a prophet, c.  a priest, d.  Once of the people of Israel, as the teacher of the nations - Isaiah 42:19” (A Hebrew & English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by William Gesenius, Eleventh ed.1860.  p. 570).
  • Greek: angelos  “messenger  1.  of human messengers:  an envoy, one who is sent   a. by men, b.  by God,  2.  of supernatural powers,  a.  angels,  b.  intermediary beings generally with no reference to their relation to God, c.  evil spirits” (A Greek -English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. by Walter Bauer.  Second Edition, 1958.  p. 8)   

A.  A Messenger (1 Samuel 11:1-4 – malak;  Luke 7:18-27 – angelos vs. 24,  27).  These are humans sent by men or God.

B.  An Apparition.  An apparition is defined as “The act of appearing; appearance;…that which appears, especially a strange or supernatural sight or thing…” (New Century Dictionary. Vol. I p. 61). It is uncertain if this was an actual definition or the reflection of Jewish superstition. It is clear that some Jews held the notion (whether true or not) that supernatural beings sometimes appeared in the image of human beings.  The Jewish Talmud speaks of angels “in the shape of Moses” or “in the shape of Solomon.”   Some associate this notion with Acts 12:13-15  (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. by John Lightfoot.  Vol. IV. p. 106-107)

C.  Divine Messengers.

1.  Heavenly beings.  Scripture speaks of “angels of heaven” (Matthew 24:36).  When the stone was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb the text says an angel “descended from heaven” (Luke 2:8-15). “Hosts”=Angels.

2.  These beings are greater than man but inferior to God.

·         Man was made “a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 1:7, 9; Psalm 8:5).

·         2 Peter 2:11 actually says angels “are greater in power and might.”

·         Matthew 24:36  teaches that angels don’t know some things.

3.  These are created beings (Colossians 1:16) “Principalities and Powers” in heaven were created by God through Jesus. 

a.       Bro. Carrol Sutton in some material he has written on angels makes the argument from Hebrews 12:22 that angels are created rather than generated (as man is).  The text refers to “a company of angels” whereas man is referred to as a “generation.”   I don’t know if this is a fool-proof conclusion or not but it is an interesting argument. 

4.  They cannot die and do not marry (Luke 20:34-36).  “Sons of God” = Angels (as in Job 1:6 where the “sons of God” present themselves before God).

II.  Various Classifications of Heavenly Angels.

A.  Elect Angels (1 Timothy 5:21).  Among these are…

1.  Archangel (or “Chief angel”).  Jude 1:9 identifies this angel as “Michael.” The Book of Daniel seems to refer to him in 10:13,21 and 12:1 referring to him as “the great prince.”

a.  Jehovah’s Witnesses equate Michael with Jesus.  They believe Jesus is merely an exalted angel rather than God in the flesh.    Colossians 1:16 teaches that all “principalities and powers” were made by Christ thus he could not be simply an angel

b.  Revelation 12:5-11 teaches about Michael warring against Satan.  I have some questions about the identity of Michael but we can know this for certain – If Michael is a reference to Jesus, “angel” is being used in the sense of a “messenger” not a created angelic heavenly being.  Jesus Christ created these.   

2.  Cherubim (plural of Cherub). These are attendants of God. Genesis 3:24  records them placed at the entrance to the garden to keep man out.  Cherubim were placed upon the lid of the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18-22, 37:7-9; Numbers 7:89).  Cerubim were represented upon the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place  (2 Chronicles 3:7).  Solomon’s temple had two enormous cherubim in the innermost court.  Wings touching each other (I Kings 6:23-28, 8:6,7; II Chronicles 3:10-13, 5:7,8).

b.      Ezekiel 10:20 calls “Cherubim” what are described in Ezekiel 1:3-11.  There is indication that some of the figure in Ezekiel 1 is intended to describe the Israelite nation.  Even so, to call this “cherubim” indicates that this would be a fearsome creature to see.

3.  Seraphim (plural of Seraph).  Meaning “fiery” or “burning ones.” These are creatures in the presence of God (Isaiah 6:1-6).

B.  Satan’s Angels.  Evil Spirits, Demons, or Sinful Angels.

1.  Angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).  What were these sins?  When did they occur?

a.       The Jews traditionally tied this to Genesis 6:1,2 - “Sons of God” taking daughters of men for wives.  A more conservative explanation of this is that the text is speaking of sons of Seth marrying daughters of Cain (i.e. good marrying evil).  Jewish tradition held that angels took human form and slept with human women. 

·         Josephus wrote, “Many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust and despisers of all that was good”  (Antiquities of the Jews. Book I, Chapter 3, Section 1).

·         Philo said the same,  “…Giants were sprung from a procreation of two natures, namely from angels and mortal women”  (Questions and Answers on Genesis One. No. 92).

b.      What we know is that angels sinned and are bound awaiting punishment.

2.  They will be cast into the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41).  This speaks of  “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Conclusion.  This is certainly a fascinating topic.  In our next lesson we will move beyond consideration of the nature and identity of angels to consider their work.  As we end our lesson let us observe from one final text something we must understand about these wondrous creatures— Christ didn’t die for angels (Hebrews 2:5-9).  The world to come is not in subjection to angels!  It is for us if we will only prepare for it.

Kyle Pope 2010

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