Vol. 6, No. 4
~ Page 5 ~
Recently, while sitting in my study, I received a phone call from a woman who could be classified as a typical elderly grandmother. She was sweet and sensible. During the course of the conversation, she told me, "I see angels. I've seen them all my life. God speaks to me through them." I asked her to relate one of those experiences. She told of a time when her teenage grandson was three years old. While babysitting him, she became upset that he would not settle down and go to sleep. Going in to admonish him, she lay on the bed with him. It was then, she said, that a "whole angel" appeared, having large wings, longish hair, and a face like Christ. She said he was blinding white and held two round circles over the head of the grandson for what must have been ten minutes. She said she sat perfectly still and quiet, then finally the angel said to the toddler, "I've come to take care of you." Then, she said, he left as gracefully as you could ever imagine.
There is no doubt in my mind that this dear lady believes she saw this. Other people have told me angels appear to them. You may have been told similar stories from family members or friends.
Sadly, most people (including Christians) know way too little about angels. As a result, cupid-like creatures or winged beings right out of medieval paintings dominate people's concepts of what angels are. In fact, there are many misconceptions about angels. Adding to the confusion has been the Hollywood trend to explore the concept of angels through the mystical lenses of New Ageism. Wading through the false ideas, let us ask a few questions about angels, and let the Bible give us clear answers.
Only God is eternal (Genesis 21:33; 1 Chronicles 16:36). In fact, the Bible informs us that angels were created (Psalm 148:5). Job 38:7 may imply, in the phrase "sons of God," that the angels were created before the "foundation of the earth," (Job 38:4; Edward P. Myers, A Study of Angels: Systematic Bible Doctrines, 9-10). Furthermore, as God the Son created the angels (Colossians 1:16), they had to be created perfect and sinless. (Compare Habakkuk 1:13; James 1:13.) That angels were not spared when they sinned (2 Peter 2:4) and did not keep their own domain and abandoned their proper abode (Jude 6) necessarily implies that they were once in a sinless state in heaven with God. The righteous angels remain there even now. (Compare Mark 12:25; et. al.)
Of their nature, so much is revealed. Some of it may be difficult to understand, but at least four things are said about such. First, they are spirits (Hebrews 1:14). As flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50) and a spirit is not constituted of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), it follows that angels are spirit beings. Angels are part of that spirit, invisible realm of which we read in 1 Corinthians 4:18. As spirits, they are accountable (Matthew 25:41; 1 Corinthians 6:3).
Second, they are sexless. That is, they are not males in a fleshly, biological sense. They are non-sexual beings (Luke 20:35-36), and so shall we be despite the teachings of the Muslims on this matter. It is noteworthy that when angels chose to appear in human form they chose a masculine form (Genesis 19:1-5; 32:24; Luke 1:19; Jude 9; et. al.). (Zechariah 5:9 is a symbolic version and the word angel is not used in connection with the two women.)
Third, they are superhuman, both in intelligence (2 Samuel 14:20) and in power (2 Peter 2:11). Man is made a little lower then the angels (Hebrews 2:7, 9). Through the angels, God carried out miraculous feats and acts (2 Chronicles 32:21; Judges 13:19; Revelation 18:21).
Fourth, angels are servants of God (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 22:8-9). Though there are some things hard to understand about the nature of this service, the Hebrew writer declares them "ministering spirits sent out to render service" to Christians (Hebrews 1:14).
In such limited space, an exhaustible list is not possible covering all that is attributed to the work of angels. Consider, however, a representative list of their divinely-appointed activities. They have carried out and will carry out tasks assigned to them by God (Hebrews 2:2; Matthew 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). They may be agents of God's providence in working out the destiny of nations, as in Daniel 20:21-22 (Howard A. Blazer, Sr. Angels: Their Origin, Nature, Mission, Destiny, 21-22). They minister to the saints, though unquestionable in an unseen, unfelt and invisible way (Hebrews 1:14). They appear in the assembly of the saints, though again in a way entirely imperceptible (1 Corinthians 11:10, noting context). They have a work relative to the righteous dead (Luke 16:22). They also will have a part in the proceedings at the end of time (Matthew 16:27). William Hendrickson, with a play on the first six letters of the alphabet, summarizes their activities as (1) Attendants of Christ, (2) Bringers of good tidings, (3) Choristers of heaven, (4) Defenders of God's children, (5) Examples in obedience, and (6) Friends of the redeemed (The Bible on the Life Hereafter, 213-214).
For all that the Bible attributes as their work, there are some things man claims they do that contradicts clear Bible teaching. First, they do not function as personal, guardian angels, as there is no biblical evidence of individual angels being assigned to individual people. They all serve, in a way understood and seen by God, all of the safe and saved (Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14). Further, they do not appear personally today with messages. If they did, they would be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). Finally, they do not work miracles of God today as they once did (1 Corinthians 13:10).
Sadly, there is much ignorance and gross misunderstanding about angels. People prefer a "Touched by an Angel" theology over the simple, concrete Gospel. A clearer understanding of this subject will lead people away from a whimsical, flighty and unsubstantial religious life and toward a more solid foundation. While it is awe-inspiring to ponder all that goes on behind the scenes of life in that invisible realm, may we never lose touch with the reality of all of God's nature and expectations of us while we live in this temporal world.