“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”[Hebrews 1:14 – NIV]
Angelology — or the study of angels — is one of the most underemphasized and misunderstood doctrines in all of Scripture.
Many have oversimplified their understanding of the unseen realm by reducing it down to God, the devil, and a few angels. This simplistic view of the heavenly host does not accurately represent what the Bible says about the heavenly host .
Putting church tradition and popular culture aside, we always must ask what does the Bible really say about these angelic beings?
For starters here are some fun facts about angels.
- The host of heaven — including but not limited to angels — numbers in the hundreds of millions, if not more. [Daniel 7:10, Psalm 68:17, Nehemiah 9:6, Luke 2:13, Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 5:11]
- Although angels are invisible spirits, they typically manifest in human form and sometimes get mistaken as mere men. (Genesis 18-19, Daniel 10:18, Luke 1:19-26, John 20:12, Hebrews 13:2)
- There is NO Biblical teaching that states or even implies that humans turn into angels when they die.
- Although angels have the capacity to fly (Daniel 9:21), they are never described in Scripture as having wings. [Only the cherubim and seraphim are described as having wings]
- Angels often are described as being dressed in white (Acts 1:10) and sometimes radiant in appearance (Matthew 28:3, Luke 24:4).
- The Scriptures imply that there is an order of rank among angelic beings which includes archangels, or chief princes, such as Michael (Daniel 10:21, Jude 1:9, Revelation 12:7-9)
- Several angels are personally named in Scripture — Satan, Michael, Abaddon (Apollyon), Gabriel, Legion, and Beelzebub.
- Angels are also called holy ones, sons of God, stars, winds, and spirits.
- Scripture teaches that some angels “sinned” and abandoned their proper domain, introducing all sorts of evil to mankind [Genesis 6:1-5, Psalm 82, 2 Peter 2:2-4, Jude 1:6-7]. In response to these serious transgressions, the LORD punished this group of angels, casting them to the bottomless pit and binding them with chains until the day of judgment.
- Jesus says that the fires of hell are reserved specifically for “the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41].
I will limit my focus for this post on the God-fearing angels who faithfully serve and obey the LORD. I will not address the cherubim and seraphim, having dealt with them in my last post here. And you may also want to read my post about The Angel of the LORD here.
I will deal with the fallen angels — aka demons — in my next post.
Angels are Created Spiritual Beings
Angels are called holy ones and the sons of God, and although they are portrayed to have extreme power, supreme intelligence, and some god-like atributres, they are created beings nonetheless. This means that the very existence of all spiritual beings is entirely contingent upon the One True Creator God (Colossians 1:15-17). No angel could or would exist without God, who is the only Necessary Being who exists.
“You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.”[Nehemiah 9:6]
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,[Hebrews 1:6]
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
“The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,[Psalm 103:19-21]
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!”
Angels are Servants of the Most High
It is important to understand the title of angel as more of a job description than anything else. In others words, “angel” more appropriately describes role and function than essence or being. While the ontological descriptions in the Bible include holy ones, sons of God, morning stars, and heavenly host, angel better implies what a being does as opposed to what a being is.
The Bible sheds some light on the jobs that angels perform.
Angels perpetually serve and worship Yahweh, presenting themselves before His throne (Daniel 7:10, Revelation 5:11-12), and are ever prepared to do His holy will as emissaries and ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:7).
Angels attended to Jesus immediately after he resisted the devil’s temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11) and as he agonized in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). Jesus also made reference to having the authority to command 12 legions of angels at any moment to serve Him.
“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”[Matthew 26:53]
The LORD sent an angel to deliver Peter from prison (Acts 12:6-10), and angels are identified as end-time reapers, who harvest both the righteous and the wicked at the end of the age (Matthew 13:39-41, Revelation 14:14-20).
Angels are God’s Heavenly Messengers
The word angel — both the Hebrew word, malak, and the Greek word, aggelos — literally means messenger. Again, the word angel is more descriptive of function, and one of the primary jobs of angels is to deliver God’s messages to mankind.
The Greek word used for evangelism (euaggelizó,) which literally means to bring good news, finds its root in the same word, aggeols, or angelic messenger.
The Bible says that when the LORD gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, it was mediated by angels. [Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19]. Angels announced “good news for all people” to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-14, and God will send an angel to proclaim the eternal gospel to every nation before the return of Christ [Revelation 14:6-7].
Angels were there to tell the women at the tomb that Jesus had risen from the dead and also to encourage the disciples at the ascension of Jesus. The angel Gabriel in particular is named in both the Old and New Testament, as he helped Daniel understand his visions of the last days (Daniel 8-9) and later announced the birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1).
Angels War against the Spiritual Forces of Darkness
The Scriptures provide rare glimpses into the spiritual battle raging around us at any given moment, but we can be sure that there are angelic armies at war in the heavenly realm. Although the LORD sometimes sends his angelic army to engage in earthly affairs, such as when God struck down the Syrian army in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 6), the heavenly conflict is just as real (Ephesians 6:12).
John’s account of the Revelation of Jesus is one of the most obvious references to this spiritual war in heaven.
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”[Revelation 12:7-9]
An angel also informed Daniel on one occasion that the dark prince of Persia prevented him from coming to Daniel sooner.
“However, the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia … ‘Do you know why I have come to you?’ he said. ‘I must return at once to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I have gone forth, behold, the prince of Greece will come.'”[Daniel 10:13, 20]
Angels Carry out God’s Divine Judgments
From beginning to end, the Bible speaks of angels as God’s instruments of judgment upon the ungodly.
In Genesis 18-19 the LORD sends two angels into Sodom to deliver Lot before the destruction of the plain.
In the account of the Exodus, the LORD sends the destroying angel throughout Egypt to strike down ever first born son.
The Day of the LORD is described as a day of great judgment and fire and is often associated with an angelic army, such as with the prophet Joel.
“The LORD utters his voice[Joel 2:11]
before his army,
for his camp is exceedingly great;
he who executes his word is powerful.
For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome;
who can endure it?”
When Jesus returns in all His glory, He is coming on the clouds with all His holy ones with Him to judge and make war on His enemies (see Matthew 25:31, Jude 1:14-15, Revelation 19:11-16).
“To grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”[2 Thessalonians 1:7-8]
Angels are Amazed by the Divine Mystery of the Gospel
While the Scriptures implicitly teach that the fate of the devil and his angels is sealed and that they cannot be redeemed for their rebellious treason against God, salvation has been offered to mankind through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It is perhaps the greatest divine mystery of all! How can a holy God forgive sinful man and yet maintain His righteousness?
Of course the answer is found in the cross of Jesus Christ, who is both the Just and the justifier of all who believe. The Bible says that there is “joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10), and the Apostle Peter says that the revelation of God and the gospel of our salvation is of great significance to the angels.
“It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”[1 Peter 1:12]
Angels Protect God’s People from Harm
Although we can’t be dogmatic about the existence of individual guardian angels, the Scriptures do seem to suggest that God’s angels are tasked with protecting His people.
Consider these passages.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”[Hebrews 1:14]
“For he will command his angels concerning you[Psalm 91:11]
to guard you in all your ways.”
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”[Matthew 18:10]
Angels will be Judged by the Saints of God
One of the most profound statements in all of Scripture is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Almost in passing Paul says …
“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!”[1 Corinthians 6:2-3]
As joint heirs and co-regents with Jesus Christ — the King of kings – the saints of God will be given authority to rule and reign with Christ in His eternal kingdom, which means that the redeemed of the LORD will be given the right to judge the world and even the angels.