Angels apparently fascinate human curiosity. Our culture abounds with many references to them. For example, Wikipedia lists over 40 films about angels since 1935 and there are nearly fifty video games mentioning some kind of angel. The web site Goodreads lists 241 books with the word “angel” in the title. The web site Ranker lists over a hundred songs with the word “angel” in the title. New Age practitioners make up all kinds of things about angels. With so many references to angels, there is bound to be much error taught regarding them and there is. But let us briefly see what the Bible says about them.
First, angels are created beings. God is the only One Who is eternal and self-existing (Psalm 90:2; John 5:26). There is none like Him (Ex. 8:10). Angels were created at His command (Psalm 148:2-5). Indeed, all things, including angels, were created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16,17). Though the Bible does not expressly say when they were created, at the very latest they were created very early during the creation week for the Bible tells us that the sons of God shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth was laid (Job 38:4-7).
Second, Peter tells us that angels are greater in power and might than man (II Pet. 2:11; Psalm 103: 20). They were made just a little higher than man (Heb. 2:7). With their great power they have stricken men with blindness (Gen. 19:11), destroyed 70,000 men on one occasion (II Sam. 24:15-17) and 185,000 men on another (II Kings 19:35,36; II Chron. 32:1). They have great speed for they can fly swiftly from one location to another much more quickly than any human (Rev. 14:6; Dan. 9:21). Yet, though angels are greater than man in these respects, they, too, are limited. Indeed, from God’s perspective, they are just as far from God as is man.
Third, there seems to be some kind of hierarchy or ranking among the angels. There are at the very least different roles for the different angelic hosts. For example, mention is made of Michael, who is called the archangel (Jude 9; I Thess. 4:16), suggesting that there are angels under him. We find mention of cherubim (Gen. 3:24), seraphim (Is. 6:2), watchers (Dan. 4:13), and a host of angels including principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10; Rom. 8:38; Eph. 6:12), and possibly thrones and dominions (Col. 1:16). Besides Michael, there is the angel Gabriel mentioned by name, who is connected with announcing important events, and who also stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19,26; Dan. 9:21).
The word “angel,” whether in the Old Testament or New Testament usage simply means a messenger. Sometimes the word angel is used to refer to a human messenger, being applied to such men as Haggai (Hag. 1:13), John the Baptist (Mal. 3:1), the messengers of John (Luke 7:24) and John (Jam. 2:25). But angels have been involved in delivering the law to mankind (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2).
Angels are also intensely interested in the affairs of mankind for they desire to look into the matters regarding man’s salvation (I Pet. 1:11,12). Paul said that they were ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salivation (Heb. 1:14). And yet, while exercising this role they, themselves cannot influence man with regard to salvation. When the Ethiopian eunuch was ready to be taught the gospel, an angel was not sent to do it but the angel sent Philip to teach him (Acts 8:26). Yet the angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10).
While angels are at work in the affairs of man they work behind the scenes. Just as we have a soul and spirit that are not seen by the naked eye (II Cor. 4:16-18), nevertheless they have real existence, so also do angels exist and work out God’s providence. Both Daniel (Dan. 10:10-21) and John (Rev. 12:1-17) describe events which seem to indicate that unseen forces are at work behind the scenes of events transpiring in this world. None of these passages teach that what is happening overpowers the will of man so that he is helpless to act in any fashion but freely. The Bible clearly teaches that if we resist the devil he will flee from us (James 4:7).
There is much more that could be said about angels from God’s word. There is much that could be correctly deduced from the teaching of the Bible about angels. There is even more that could be imagined that is not found in the Bible, either explicitly or by implication and there has been no shortage of such imagination. We must be careful when dealing with such an issue to not read into the teaching of the Bible something that is not there.
Eric L. Padgett