Goals:

  • To define angels
  • To understand the characteristics and functions of angels
  • To identify truths about angels that have strong biblical support
  • To identify concepts about angels that are somewhat debatable
  • To grasp ways in which an accurate understanding of the biblical doctrine of angels makes a difference in our lives

Christian Creed:  We believe angels are ministering spirits sent by God to accomplish His will among human beings (Hebrews 1:14; Psalms 103:20).

Why do a theological study on angels?

  1. It is a biblical subject, with far more references in scripture than many people suppose.

  2. It is an edifying subject, far more thrilling than is often imagined.

The word 'angel' appears 186 times in the New Testament and over 100 times in the Old Testament.

  1. The Greek word “angelos” means 'messenger'. 
  2. On many occasions beings appear which are in fact angels, but the word 'angel' is not actually used:
    • Cherubim (Genesis 3:24).
    • Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2).
    • a 'man' (Genesis 32:24; Joshua 5:13).
    • 'Chariots of fire'(2 Kings 6:17).
    • 'Powers' (Colossians 1:16).

I. ANGELS ARE CREATURES (Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1:16)

  • They are not (strictly) eternal but are everlasting. 

    • The word ‘eternal’ means there was no beginning.
    • Only God is eternal with no beginning.
  • Angels therefore had a beginning - they were created.
    • We do not know at what point after Genesis 1:1 they were created.
      • They may well have been included in the word 'heavens', a word also used to mean stars, planets, etc...
      • They were probably created before the world and mankind.
        • Genesis 1:1-2:4 does not mention angel
        • They appear first in Genesis 3:24, after the Fall.
  • It is likely that angels were the first of created beings.
    • This means that at some point there existed only the Godhead (the Trinity) and angels.

Key Scriptures

Use the following Scripture passages on angels to gain a biblical perspective on these created beings.  Make brief notes on anything you learn from the passages about:

  • The characteristics and function of angels:
Angels Characteristics Function

Psalm 34:7


Isaiah 6:1-7


Hebrews 1:13-14


Jude 5-10

 

  • However, as we are edging perilously close to speculation, we do well to remember two things:
    • Where the scriptures speak we speak, where the scriptures are silent we are silent.
    • When we are speculating we must say so – and admit we cannot speak with authority.
  • What we know: angels were created by God.
    • They are therefore not to be worshipped (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).
    • They themselves are subject to the one and only God.

II. THERE ARE TWO SORTS OF ANGELS: FALLEN AND UNFALLEN

A. Fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).

1. Some angels sinned.

  • It is thought that the chief angel was called Lucifer , 'morning star, son of the dawn' (Isaiah 14:12).
    • Isaiah may have been given unprecedented insight into the fall of the chief angel whom we know as Satan.
    • Ezekiel 28:13 places Satan in the Garden of Eden.
    • Jesus may have referred to the same event when he said, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven' (Luke 10:18).
  • Revelation 12:4 may have mirrored Satan's fall.
    • If so, it would seem that a revolt led by Satan succeeded with one third of the angelic creation.

2. Some angels 'kept not their first estate' (Jude 6).

  • They were thus created unfallen. 
    • This would have been their initial 'position of authority'.
    • We can assume they could have kept this authority.
  • What they did they did voluntarily and deliberately.
    • We can only speculate as to their motive - pride.
    • How evil emerged originally is unprofitable speculation –always!
  • What is also speculation?
    • How many angels fell.
    • How long-they existed in their unfallen state.
    • Augustine's idea that the number of God's elect will match the number of fallen angels!

3. They have not been finally punished YET.

  • 2 Peter 2:4 says they were sent to tartarus. Many translate this Greek word (only here in the New Testament) as ‘hell’.
  • Tartarus probably does not mean the place of final punishment.
  • There are at least two ways of interpreting 2 Peter 2:4:
    • That Tartarus is a name for the fallen spirit world which is yet alive and active within the limits God has set.
    • That only some fallen angels were sent to Tartarus.
  •     Satan's punishment is in some ways parallel to man's punishment.
    • Satan was cast out of heaven but still awaits his final doom (Revelation 12:12; 20:10).
    • Man was punished by death but still awaits his final doom (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15).
    • There is no promise of redemption to fallen angels, only to man!

4.  Fallen angels are also known as demons, evil spirits or authorities and powers (Ephesians 6:12).

  • They exist to torment and to oppress (2 Timothy 2:26).
  • They sometimes inhabit God's creatures (Mark 1:23).

B.  Unfallen angels.  What this study is mainly about.

  • These are those who 'kept' their first position of authority. (They are experienced in spiritual warfare.)
  • They are also called ‘elect’ angels (1 Timothy 5:21).
  • They are powerful (2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter 2:11).
  • They are given various roles; there are apparently some that have more authority or prominence, e.g.:
    • (a)   Gabriel (Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19).
    • (b)   Michael the archangel (Jude 9).
    • (c)   The cherubim (Genesis 3:24).
    • (d)   The seraphim (Isaiah 6:2).
  • Angels are 'spirits'. 'Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?' (Heb. 1:14).
    • This means they are invisible; you cannot normally see an angel.
    • There are exceptions.
      • Sometimes God allows an angel to be visible.
        • An angel appeared to Gideon (Judg. 6:11).
        • An angel appeared to Manoah's wife, Samson's mother (Judg. 13:3). 
      • Sometimes an angel is visible but not at first recognizable as an angel. 'Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it' (Heb. 13:2). 
      • One reason angels are invisible is to keep us from focusing on them or even worshipping them.
  • God’s angels are guardians not for those who reject Christ but for “those who will inherit salvation”—Christians (Hebrews 1:14)
  • One of the more difficult questions:  in what way are angels any different from the Holy Spirit?
    • In what way they are alike:
      • They strengthen (1 Kings 19:5-8).
      • They protect (Psalms 34:7; 91:11).
      • They are self-effacing (Revelation 19:10).
    • In what way they are different:
      • Angels are created (Colossians 1:16).
      • Angels are not to be worshipped (Colossians 2:18).
      • Angels do not possess people; only the Holy Spirit does (Ephesians 5:18).
      • Angels are not omniscient (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12).
      • Angels will be judged (1 Corinthians 6:3).
      • Angels can only be at one place at a time (Psalm 34:7).
  • They behold the Father's face (Matthew 18:10).

III. THE PURPOSE OF ANGELS

  • They are perfect worshippers of God (Isaiah 6:2-3).
    • They refuse any worship of themselves (Revelation 19:10).
    • They have already resisted Satan's recruitment.
      • For these are angels that 'kept' their positions.
      • Very likely Satan tried to recruit every single one of them.
    • They worship Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:6).
  • They serve God
    • God calls them his servants (Hebrews 1:7).
      • They are perfectly obedient (Psalm 103:20).
      • What God sends them to do, they do (Daniel 6:22; Acts 12:7).
  • They guard God's people (Psalm 34:7; 91:11).
    • This could well have begun before we were even converted (Hebrews 1:14).
    • When we get to heaven God may let us see the very angel he dispatched to our side in this world.
  • They have more to do in the future.
    • They escort us to heaven when we die (Luke 16:22).
    • They figure prominently in the Last Day.
      • An archangel will announce the Second Coming! (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
      • They will gather God's elect from all over the earth (Matthew 24:31).
      • They will accompany Jesus at his Second Coming (Matthew 16:27; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
      • Angels escort believers into heaven at the moment of death (Luke 16:22; Jude 9)

IV. THE MINISTRY OF ANGELS

  • They protected the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)
  • They surrendered individuality.
    • They are called 'flames of fire' (Psalm 104:4).
    • They can become winds (Psalm 104:4).
    • The burning bush Moses saw was an angel (Acts 7:30; see Exodus 3:2).
    • They appear as strangers (Hebrews 13:2).
  •     They inaugurated the Law (Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). 
  •     One or more carried out God's will on behalf of God's people at various times:
    • Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 12; 14:19).
    • Appeared to Gideon (Judges 6:12).
    • Appeared to Samson's parents (Judges 13:3-21).
    • Appeared to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5).
    • Rescued Elisha (2 Kings 6:16ff.).
    • Defeated Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:36).
    • Delivered Daniel (Daniel 6:22).
    • Appeared to Zechariah (Luke 1:11).
    • Appeared to Joseph (Matthew 1:20).
    • Appeared to Mary (Luke l:26).
    • Appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:8- 14).
    • Appeared to Peter in prison (Acts 12:7ff.).
    • Appeared to Paul on the ship (Acts 27:23).
    • Appeared to John on Patmos (Revelation 1:1).
    • They ministered to Jesus.
      • After his temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1 1).
      • In the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
  • They interact with us.
    • There is rejoicing when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7).
    • They learn from us (Ephesians 3:10).
      • Angels watch us to learn more about God (1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:12).
    • They seem to intervene mostly in times of severe stress.

Biblical principle: Three things very important to remember about angels:

  1. Angels are never to receive Worship! (Colossians 2:18; 1 Corinthians 6:3; Revelation 19:10; 22:9).
  2. Angels are never to be prayed too.  God needs help from the angels in hearing the prayers of His children (Psalm 34:15; 65:2).
  3. Since the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, they NEVER impart Divine revelation, which is now the exclusive ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (John 14:16-17, 26).

Question:  Does not the Bible teach that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents?

Answer:  That may be true, that is not what Jesus said:  Let’s look at Luke 15:10, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. Does the joy come from the angels themselves or from the One in whose presence they are?  The language of the text seems to indicate that someone else is rejoicing and the angels witness and benefit from the rejoicing. This probably the Old Testament saints who have died and are now in Paradise.  Possibly the New Testament saints today.

Angels and the Mystery of Salvation:

Colossians 1:26 says:  “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord's people.”

  • Salvation is a mystery revealed to the Lord’s people.
  • The Bible does NOT say “A mystery revealed by angels.”

1 Peter 1:12 says:  : It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

  • The mystery of salvation is delivered by God’s people (preached) by the Holy Spirit.
  • The church’s foundation of truth is the body of revelation that Jesus Christ gave US through his apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5).
  • Angels can’t preach or lead someone to salvation.
  • Angels long to understand the mystery of salvation.

Let me repeat this:  Since the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, angels NEVER impart Divine revelation, which is now the exclusive ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (John 14:16-17, 26).

Observations about Angel Visitations:

  • First, we can possibly entertain a stranger un-ware, they can possibly be an angel (see Hebrews 13:2).
  • Second, Satan masquerades as an angel of light (see 2 Corinthians 11:14)

The big concern is to know when Satan is masquerading as an angel of light in order to deceive.

FIVE WARNINGS:

  1. Angels whose messages conflict with Scripture are either demonic or imagined (see Gal. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:14; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1). 
  2. Angels that introduce new doctrines or new practices into Christianity are not from God.  We already have “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (see Jude 3).  Again, delivered NOT by angels.
  3. Angels who encourage or permit worship or excessive devotion to angels are not from God (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:8 – 9).
  4. Angels who claim to be departed human beings are not from God. No human that dies becomes an angel.
  5. Angels who leave unbelievers with a feeling of peace or spiritual security are not from God!

According to the Bible, those who do not yet believe in Jesus Christ need to do so in order to have peace with God — in order to be reconciled to God (see Romans 5:1-11).  An angel can’t perform this function of peace with God.
 

Further Reading:

  • Billy Graham, Angels, God’s Secret Agents (1975)
  • Ron Rhodes, The Secret Life of Angels: Who They Are and How They Help Us (2014)
  • David Jeremiah, Angels: Who They Are and How They Help--What the Bible Reveals (2009)
  • Wayne Grudem, “Bible Doctrines,” ("Angels, Satan, and Demons,") Chapter 10