ANGELS

"What does the Bible say about angels?"

Angels are personal spiritual beings, having aspects of intelligence, emotions, and will. This is true of both the good and evil angels. Angels possess intelligence (Matthew 8:29; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 1:12), show emotions (Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Revelation 12:17), and demonstrate that they have wills (Luke 8:28-31: 2 Timothy 2:26; Jude 6). Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), with no true physical body. The fact that they do not have bodies does not affect their being personalities (any more than it does with God).

The knowledge angels possess is limited by their being created beings. This means they do not know all things as God does (Matthew 24:36). They do seem to have greater knowledge than humans, however. This may be due to three causes. (1) Angels were created as a higher order of creatures in the universe than humans are. Therefore, innately they possess greater knowledge. (2) Angels study the Bible and the world more thoroughly than humans do and gain knowledge from it (James 2:19; Revelation 12:12). (3) Angels gain knowledge through long observation of human activities. Unlike humans, angels do not have to study the past; they have experienced it. Therefore, they know how others have acted and reacted in situations and can predict with a greater degree of accuracy how we may act in similar circumstances.

Though they have wills, the angels are, like all creatures, subject to the will of God. Good angels are sent by God to help believers (Hebrews 1:14). Here are some activities the Bible ascribes to angels:

A.They praise God (Psalm 148:1,2; Isaiah 6:3).
B. They worship God (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:8-13).
C. They rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7).
D. They serve God (Psalm 103:20; Revelation 22:9).
E. They appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1).
F. They are instruments of God's judgments (Revelation 7:1; 8:2).
G. They bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10).
H. They aid in winning people to Christ (Acts 8:26; 10:3).
I. They observe Christian order, work, and suffering (1 Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12).
J. They encourage in times of danger (Acts 27:23,24).
K. They care for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16:22).

Angels are entirely a different order of being than humans. Human beings do not become angels after they die. Angels will never become, and never were, human beings. God created the angels, just as He created humanity. The Bible nowhere states that angels are created in the image and likeness of God, as humans are (Genesis 1:26). Angels are spiritual beings that can, to a certain degree, take on physical form. Humans are primarily physical beings, but with a spiritual aspect. The greatest thing we can learn from the angels is their instant, unquestioning obedience to God’s commands.

"What do angels look like?"

Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), so they do not have any essential physical form. But angels do have the ability to take on human form. When angels appeared to humans in the Bible, they resembled normal males. In Genesis 18:1-19, God and two angels appeared as men and actually ate a meal with Abraham. Angels appear as men many times throughout the Bible (Joshua 5:13-14; Mark 16:5), although they never appear in the likeness of women.

At other times, angels appeared not as humans, but as something other-worldly. At times, their appearance was terrifying to those who encountered them. Often the first words from these angels were “do not be afraid,” because extreme fear was such a common reaction. Zacharias in Luke 1:12 was speechless before the angel who visited him, as were the keepers of Jesus’ tomb, who became as dead men when they saw the angel of the Lord (Matthew 28:4). The shepherds in the fields in Luke 2 were “sore afraid” when the angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them. To others, however, angelic appearances did not produce terror. Mary’s encounter with the angel who announced the birth of Jesus produced confusion at the pronouncement, but did not seem to produce the same fear experienced by Zacharias.

As for physical characteristics, angels are often described as winged. The cherubim on the ark of the covenant have wings that cover the mercy seat (Exodus 25:20). Isaiah also saw winged seraphim in his vision of the throne of heaven, each one having six wings (Isaiah 6:2). Ezekiel, too, saw visions of winged angels. Isaiah 6:1-2 depicts angels having human features—voices, faces and feet. Angel voices are heard singing and praising God in unison several other passages. One of the most complete descriptions of an angel is in Daniel 10:5-6: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” The angel guarding Jesus’ tomb was similarly described: “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).

Whatever appearance angels take on, there is reason to believe they are incredibly beautiful in appearance. First, Ezekiel tells us that Lucifer’s beauty was such that it caused his heart to be “lifted up” in pride. In addition, it stands to reason that angels have extraordinary beauty. because they are continually in the presence of Almighty God, whose glory is reflected upon all that is around Him.

"Why did God allow Satan and the demons to sin?"

With both the angels and humanity, God chose to present a choice. While the Bible does not give many details regarding the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels, it seems that Satan, probably the greatest of all the angels (Ezekiel 28:12-18), in pride, chose to rebel against God in order to seek to become his own god. Satan (Lucifer) did not want to worship or obey God, he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Revelation 12:4 is understood to be a figurative description of one-third of the angels choosing to follow Satan in his rebellion, becoming the fallen angels / demons.

Unlike humanity, however, the choice the angels had, to follow Satan or remain faithful to God, was an eternal choice. The Bible presents no opportunity for the fallen angels to repent and be forgiven. Nor does the Bible indicate that it is possible for more of the angels to sin. The angels who remain faithful to God are described as the “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21). Satan and the fallen angels knew God in all His glory. For them to rebel despite what they knew about God, it is the utmost of evil. As a result, God does not give Satan and the other fallen angels the opportunity to repent. Further, the Bible gives us no reason to believe they would repent even if God gave them the chance (1 Peter 5:8). God gave Satan and the angels the same choice He gave Adam and Eve - to obey Him or not. The angels had a free will choice to make - God did not force or encourage any of the angels to sin. Satan and the fallen angels sinned of their own free will - and therefore are worthy of God's eternal wrath (Matthew 25:41).

Why did God give the angels this choice, when He knew what the results would be? God knew that one-third of the angels would rebel, and therefore be cursed to the eternal fire. God also knew that Satan would further his rebellion by tempting humanity into sin. So, why did God allow it? The Bible does not explicitly give the answer to this question. The same can be asked of almost any evil action – why does God allow it? Ultimately, it comes back to choice. God created free beings, the angels and human beings. If God wanted beings who simply did what they were programmed to do, the animals would have sufficed. No, God desired beings with whom He could have a genuine relationship, and therefore He gave us all the ability to choose, and presented us with a choice.

"Do we have guardian angels?"

Matthew 18:10 states, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." In the context, "these little ones" could either apply to those who believe in Him (v. 6) or it could refer to little children (vv. 3-5). This is the key passage when the discussion of guardian angels comes up. There is no doubt that good angels help protect (Daniel 6:20-23; 2 Kings 6:13-17), reveal information (Acts 7:52-53; Luke 1:11-20), guide (Matthew 1:20-21; Acts 8:26), provide for (Genesis 21:17-20; 1 Kings 19:5-7), and minister to believers in general (Hebrews 1:14). There are many more instances of these angelic activities in Scripture.

The question that arises is whether each person—or each believer—has an angel assigned to him/her. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel had the archangel (Michael) assigned to it (Daniel 10:21; 12:1), but nowhere in Scripture does it state that an angel was "assigned" to an individual (they were sometimes sent to individuals, but no mention of "permanent" assignment is given). One commentator states that the Jews had fully developed the belief in guardian angels during the time between the Old and New Testament periods. Some early church fathers believed that each person had not only a good angel assigned to him/her, but also a demon. The belief in guardian angels has been around for a long time, but there is no scriptural basis for it.

To return to Matthew 18:10, the word their is a collective pronoun in the Greek and refers to the fact that believers are served by angels in general. These angels are pictured “always” watching the face of God so as to hear His command to them to help a believer when needed. If one is to take from the Matthew passage that guardian angels are referred to, it would seem that these angels are not on active duty, but rather "always see the face of" the Father in heaven. The active duty or oversight seems, then, to come more from God than the angels, which makes perfect sense because God alone is omniscient. He sees every believer at every moment, and He alone knows when one of us needs the intervention of an angel. Because they are continually seeing His face, the angels are at His disposal to help one of His “little ones.”

In Western society today, it is "in" to believe in angels. We have movies that focus on angels; we have TV series which portray angels as being assigned to help humans. Scripture makes it clear that although angels possess superhuman power and knowledge, they are created beings just as we are and are "nothing" compared to God. As such, they are not to be worshipped (Exodus 20:1-6; Colossians 2:18). Rather, worship is to be reserved for the Triune God alone. Unfortunately, while the shows about angels give lip service to God, the Son of God is rarely mentioned (if at all). And God says in John 5:23 that if one does not honor the Son, he does not honor the Father who sent Him.

It cannot be emphatically answered from Scripture whether each believer has a guardian angel assigned to him/her. But as stated earlier, God does use them in ministering to us. It is scriptural to say that He uses them as He uses us; i.e., He in no way needs us or them to accomplish His purposes but chooses to use us and them nevertheless (Job 4:18; Job 15:15). In the end, whether we have an angel assigned to protect us or not, we have a greater assurance that God gives: if we are His children through faith in Christ, He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28-30), and Jesus Christ will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). If we have an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God with us, does it really matter whether or not there is a finite angel alongside us?

"What are cherubim? Are cherubs angels?"

Cherubim / cherubs are angelic beings involved in the worship and praise of God. The cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3:24, "After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." Prior to his rebellion, Satan was a cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-15). The tabernacle and temple along with their articles contained many representations of cherubim (Exodus 25:17-22; 26:1,31; 36:8; 1 Kings 6:23-35; 7:29-36; 8:6-7; 1 Chronicles 28:18; 2 Chronicles 3:7-14; 5:7-8; Hebrews 9:5).

Chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Ezekiel describe the "four living creatures" (Ezekiel 1:5) as the same beings as the cherubim (Ezekiel 10). Each had four faces - that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10; also 10:14) - and each had four wings. In their appearance, the cherubim "had the likeness of a man" (Ezekiel 1:5). These cherubim used two of their wings for flying and the other two for covering their bodies (Ezekiel 1:6,11,23). Under their wings the cherubim appeared to have the form, or likeness, of a man's hand (Ezekiel 1:8; 10:7-8,21).

The imagery of Revelation 4:6-9 also seems to be describing cherubs. The cherubs served the purpose of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to singing God's praises, they also served as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people.

"What are seraphim? Are seraphs angels?"

The seraphim, "fiery, burning ones," are angelic beings associated with the prophet Isaiah's vision of God in the Temple when he was called to his prophetic ministry (Isaiah 6:1-7). Isaiah 6:2-4 records, "Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke." Seraphs are angels that worship God continually.

Isaiah chapter 6 is the only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim. Each seraph had six wings. They used two to fly, two to cover their feet, and two to cover their faces (Isaiah 6:2). The seraphim flew about the throne on which God was seated, singing His praises as they called special attention to God’s glory and majesty. These beings apparently also served as agents of purification for Isaiah as he began his prophetic ministry. One placed a hot coal against Isaiah's lips with the words "your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged" (Isaiah 6:7). Similar to the other types of holy angels, the seraphim are perfectly obedient to God. Similar to the cherubim, the seraphim are particularly focused on worshipping God.