Angels are unseen attendants of the saints of God: they bear us up in their hands lest we dash our foot against a stone. Loyalty to their Lord leads them to take a deep interest in the children of His love. They rejoice over the return of the prodigal to his father’s house, and they welcome the advent of the believer to the King’s palace above.
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
There is a renewed public interest in angels today as evidenced by the many books, magazine articles, TV shows and stories about angelic encounters. People have a need to feel protected; they are searching for the meaning to life and seeking spirituality.
A new Associated Press - GfK poll shows that seventy-seven percent of adults believe in angels. Belief is primarily tied to religion, with eight-eight percent of Christians, ninety-five percent of evangelical Christians and ninety-four percent of those who attend weekly religious services of any sort saying they believe in angels. Belief in angels is fairly widespread even among the less religious. A majority of non-Christians think angels exist, as do more than four in ten of those who never attend religious services. www.cbsnews.com/.../poll-nearly-8-in-10-americans-believe-i...
The Bible gives detailed descriptions of angelic encounters with men and women over a period of thousands of years. For Christians, to be uninformed about angels and their purpose is unpardonable since Scripture clearly speaks of them. Christians are not to worship or pray to angels, but see them only as ministers of God’s providence.
The Spiritual Bodies of Angels
“All flesh is not the same…there are…heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies…a natural body…a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15: 39-40, 44) In both the Old and New Testaments the root word for angel means “messenger.” Angels, are the elect (1 Timothy 5:21) ambassadors or emissaries of God. In general, angels do God’s bidding, whatever that may be. In the Bible, angels appear as helpers and protectors to people in need. They proclaim news and act as mediators of revelations from God. They are guides and guardians and all that they do can be summarized in their title in Hebrews 1:14, “ministering spirits.”
The primary charge of angels is to protect and guard the faithful. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them,” (Psalm 34:7). And God “Will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways,” (Psalm 91:11). Jesus was ministered to by the angels following His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11). In the book of Revelation we read of an even greater role given to angels as helpers, assistants and servants of God. Angels by acting as mediators, bridge the gulf between the unseen world of the divine presence and the created world inhabited by humanity. Angels communicate God’s word and His will (Hebrews 2:2; Revelation 1:1). In the book of Revelation, angels are assigned the role as agents of affliction. They send plagues of God’s wrath on unbelieving nations (Revelation 15-16). Angels are also enlisted as warriors in God’s army to fight against the rebel hosts of the Antichrist (Revelation 12:7-9; 14:14-20).
Unlike humans, angels can see God (Matthew 18:10). It is their ability to see God that leads to their praise and worship of God. In all their service to God, nothing is more perfect than the angel’s prostration and worship before the divine throne (Revelation 7:11). Angels are “spiritual” beings, but they are able to manifest themselves as active and virtuous agents in the experiential world. In Genesis 19:1-2, two angels appear in Sodom and Lot greets them with customary hospitality, totally unaware that they are not men. Prior to Samson’s birth, his father Manoah received a visit from an angel, although, he did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord (Judges 13:16). The appearance of Yahweh to Abraham at the oak of Mamre in Genesis 18:1 is such that the patriarch at first saw only three strangers. Such incidents are an indication that angels can, and at times do, affect an extraordinary likeness to humanity. Such a likeness is also seen in Genesis 32:23-32 where Jacob has a wrestling match at Peniel and there is some confusion as to whether Jacob’s opponent is a man or God. Because of incidents like these, subsequent Jewish tradition formulated a principle of hospitality that extended into the Christian era. “Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 31:2).
Angels evoke deep respect from humans (1 Corinthians 11:10) and fear and terror (Isaiah 6:1-5; Luke 1:11-12; 2:9; Revelation 22:8). On occasion angels appear to humanity in various natural forms. In Exodus 3:2 an angel speaks to Moses in the form of a burning bush (see also Acts 7:30, 35). The angel of the Lord led the Israelites through the wilderness by means of a cloud (Exodus 14:19). Angels also make appearances in dreams as to Joseph prior to the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:20, 24; 2:13, 19), and in visions, as to Cornelius, the centurion (Acts 10:3). The Bible, however, does not dwell on the nature and essence of angels themselves, but rather on the effect of angelic visitation on men and women.
One quality noted of angels is their strength and power. In certain scriptures angels are explicitly identified as strong, mighty and powerful (2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter2:11; Revelation 5:2; 10:1; 18:21. In other scriptures the angel’s power is reflected in picturesque imagery, like that of thundering waters (Revelation 16:5). Yet another quality of angels is their beauty and sublimity. At the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, it is said that Stephen’s face shone like that of an angel (Acts 6:15).
Angels are marvelous creatures, surrounded with splendor and glory and a God-given source of strength, inspiration and encouragement to the faithful. But it must be noted that the Bible clearly relegates angels to their rightful place in the created order of things. We are not to confuse them with God. As divine ambassadors, angels are clearly placed in the intermediate realm between God and man. Angels are not eternal but created (Colossians 1: 16-17). Though they are beyond human understanding (Judges 13:18), angels are not omniscient. They do not know the time of the return of the Son of Man (Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:36), nor do they fully perceive the mysteries of God (1 Peter 1:12). Like all creation, angels are capable of making mistakes (Job 4:18; Psalm 78:49; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). None of the angels possess the essence or attributes of God or any member of the Holy Trinity, including Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus, according to the clear testimony of the New Testament, is both the creator of the angels’ powers and virtues (Colossians 1: 16-17) and their Lord, just as He is of all creation, whether seen or unseen (Hebrews 1:4, 5, 6, 13; 1 Peter 3:22).
Angels are wonderful and marvelous creatures whose glory consists in their unique service to the divine will of God. However we are never to elevate angels and the things associated with them at the expense of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:18). The book of Revelation speaks of angels more than any other book in the Bible. And even the writer of the book, John, had to be admonished not to worship an angelic messenger but to worship God (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9). There is an ever present threat to be blinded by the angel rather than enlightened by its message. We must not be so fascinated with the angels themselves as much as we are with the purpose for which they are sent; to direct our gaze upon God and to lead us in God’s will for our lives.
“Angels are creations of God, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit they help us carry out our assignments as believers.
The Truth about Angels, 1994
All the Angels in the Bible, Lockyer, 1995