Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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From an email from a young sister in the Lord, Brittany Bodner
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 4:40 PM
Hey Pastor John I was just wondering... I know a little bit about what real angels are, but just so I know exactly what one is (ex. what it was created to do, what it looks like, how God portrays them, how they play a part in the kingdom of heaven as well as in our world, etc.), do you think you could give me some parts of the Bible where I could read about them? I would do it myself, but I don’t know where to begin to look for the info. I’m just trying to decipher what a REAL angel is, since I’ve realized I may not know the truth because of Christian mythology.
My dear little sister, Brittany:
It is always good to hear from you, and what a good question! You may be a little surprised to learn that there is no specific section of the Bible devoted to a description of angels. We have to search through the entire book and put the pieces of information together to have any hope of developing a clear picture of them. Even then, it is sketchy. Here is some of the biblical information about angels:
Angels are invisible spiritual beings (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7) who can, if God wills it, appear to humans and even can eat with them. We know that angels eat because the manna that God gave to Israel to eat in their 40-year wilderness wanderings was actually “angels’ food” (Ps. 78:25). There are so many angels in heaven that they cannot be counted (Heb. 12:22), but this is because God created them, not because they reproduce as humans do, for angels do not marry (Mt. 22:30). The nature of angels differs from that of men (Heb. 2:16), even though they are similar in some ways, such as speaking various languages (1Cor. 13:1).
We have all probably met angels and even spoken with them at times without realizing it (Heb. 13:2). This meeting with angels without realizing it would be impossible if angels had wings. Angels having wings is one of the Christian myths of which you spoke. That is a holdover from ancient Roman mythology, which we know now to be a core element of the religion of Christianity. The angels vary in size just as humans do. I base this on no Scripture but on my own experience of seeing three of them flying overhead in a vision many years ago now. There was one angel somewhat larger than the other two. Beyond that, we can say that the size of angels is roughly the size of humans (Rev. 21:17), which also helps to explain how it is possible for us to meet angels without realizing who they are. On those occasions, we would only think they were other humans like us.
Mankind was originally created “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7; 2Pet. 2:11), but in the resurrection, we will be their judges (1Cor. 6:3). Even now, among the angels themselves, there are differences. Some angels are mightier than others (e.g. an especially “mighty” angel is mentioned in Rev. 10:1), some have special anointings (Rev. 14:18), and some rank higher than others in God’s kingdom (e.g., “archangels”). But under no circumstances are people to worship angels (Col. 2:18).
Some angels are on earth, by the will of God, as our servants, to watch over us (Ps. 34:7; Mt. 18:10) and to minister to us (Heb. 1:4) in other ways. Angels came and ministered to Jesus after his temptation in the wilderness (Mt. 4:11). Certain angels were commanded from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life to watch over Jesus, to keep him from injury (Ps. 91:11). Angels were with Jesus when he ascended from earth to his Father (Acts 1), and they will be with him when he returns to earth to gather his saints to be with him (e.g. Mt. 25:31; Mk. 8:38; 2Thess. 1:7). Solomon warned us to be careful what we say because an angel might hear us (Eccl. 5:6), and sometimes God uses angels to punish evildoers (Ps. 35:5, 6).
Angels are not all-powerful and all-knowing. They do not understand the gospel and have a great desire to know what it is like to be “a child of God” (1Pet. 1:12); for some unknown reason it makes them very happy to see a sinner repent and become one of God’s children (Lk. 15:10). In comparison to God, angels are foolish (Job 4:18), and God does not really need or trust them any more than He needs or trusts humans, even His own servants (Job 4:18; 15:15). There is a verse somewhere, I believe, that states that God does not trust angels, but I cannot find it right now. That verse, however, wherever it is, was not written to say something evil about the holy angels. It only points out the surpassing greatness of the Creator.
Some angels followed Satan in his arrogance and self-will (2Pet. 2:4), and they were cast out of heaven with him after Jesus’ ascension and glorification (Rev. 12:7-9). Jesus mentioned them when he spoke of the everlasting fire that was “prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). Jude mentions them as failing to hold on to their original place in God’s creation (Jude 6). It appears to me that these fallen angels (the Devil is NOT a fallen angel, but a fallen cherub - Ezek. 28:14-16) are the evil spirits that are called “demons” in the Bible.
The word “angel” in both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek is the word for “messenger”. Most of the time, when we read of angels in the Bible, they are carrying a message from God to man or performing a task assigned to them by God. (The most unusual task performed by angels that I can think of in the Bible is mentioned by Jesus in Luke 16, where Lazarus, a poor, righteous beggar, died and was carried into Paradise by angels. I have wondered why God uses angels for that work, but there is no biblical answer.) Anyway, God apparently created angels to bear messages, as Gabriel did when he announced to Mary that she had been chosen to bear God’s Son.
Some angels are called “evil angels”, not necessarily because they themselves are evil but because they are sent with evil, or disasters, for mankind. Jesus will send “his angels” to cause division between the wise and the foolish among the saints near the end of time (Mt. 13:41). Paul described this coming event as God “sending a strong delusion” on saints who “received not the love of the truth” and “had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2Thess. 2:10, 12), thus purging the household of God before Jesus’ second coming. It was God’s angel who slaughtered nearly 200,000 Assyrians in one night because of their king’s arrogant boast against God (Isa. 37:36).
By the way, the only two names of angels given in the Bible are Gabriel and Michael. Christian tradition offers us another angel’s name, and I cannot recall it right now, but it is not important because it is just another example of Christian mythology.
Well! That turned into more of an answer than I had planned to give, Brittany, but I am glad you asked me about angels. I enjoyed thinking on those things again. Thanks for the question.