Angels: Fact or Fiction?
What are Angels?
Throughout this article we will explore the fundamental principles and origins of angels, according to the Bible. What are angels? Where do they come from? What role do they play in both the spiritual and physical world? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what role do angels play in God’s plan for mankind and the world at large? The basis of this article (and this author’s knowledge) relies exclusively on the Word of God. However, as with any reading or interpretation of the Bible, it is this author’s hope that his readers will thoroughly research any of the statements contained in this work and use the Bible as their sole source of inspiration and revelation; not the words or interpretations presented by one individual.
Are Angels Real?
If you study your Bible, you will find that angels are certainly real, and are mentioned on numerous occasions throughout the Scriptures. In the Old Testament alone, angels are mentioned 108 times, whereas the New Testament references angels on 165 different occasions (a total of 273 references to angels in the entire Bible). For Christians, this is a clear indicator of the reality of angels. Not only do they play a significant role in the Bible, but as we will discover in the sections that follow, they also play a fundamental role in God's overall plan for humanity and the world at large.
The Purpose of Angels
The Bible provides its readers with the overall purpose and role of angels in Hebrews 1:7, 14. It states: “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
In this portion of Scripture, we learn that God created angels to serve Him. They were also created to serve as “ministering spirits,” and were sent to Earth to be ministers to the heirs of salvation. In other words, the purpose of angels is to not only guide the children of God, but also to guard and protect them until they meet the Lord Jesus Christ.
Over the years, there has been a growing movement that denies the existence of angels. Even during the time of Jesus, the Sadducees denied the existence of these spiritual beings, as they refused to believe in anything that resembled the supernatural. In more modern times, denial continues in many forms. The Bible, however, is very clear with its description of angels, and leaves no room for doubt about their existence. In John 1:51, the Bible states: “And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the ANGELS OF GOD ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
Anytime the Lord Jesus Christ wished to emphasize something in the Bible, He always began with the word, “Verily,” which also translates to both “listen” and “pay attention.” The mere fact that He uses the word “verily” twice in one verse means that the Lord Jesus clearly felt that this statement was very important.
The Lord also refers to angels throughout His parables. In the parable of the tares, Christ states: “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.” Christ also mentions angels in Matthew 26:53: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” In this latter verse, the Lord says that He could have prayed to God the Father and that more than twelve legions of angels would have arrived to deliver Him from the Earth.
As these verses repeatedly demonstrate, angels are both real and present within the spiritual and physical world.
What are Guardian Angels?
According to the Bible, every born-again Christian is provided angels that will protect and watch over them until they enter the presence of Christ. These angels are often times referred to as “guardian angels.” The Bible teaches that at the moment an individual is saved, they are given two protectors – the Holy Spirit and angels. The Holy Spirit cares for our spiritual welfare, and serves to both lead and guide believers in their daily walk with Christ. As John 14:16-17 states, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
In addition to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, born-again believers are provided with other protectors in the form of guardian angels. Some individuals claim that believers receive only one guardian angel, while others have argued that we receive exactly two angels. However, an examination of the Bible clearly shows that born-again Christians are provided with at least two angels for protection. Notice in Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven THEIR ANGELS do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
In this verse, the Bible states “their angels” which is rendered in the plural form. This plural form is always used in reference to the angels given to born-again believers, and you will not find one place in the Bible that states we are given only one guardian angel to watch over us. The plural form is always used. As such, it is clear there are always two or more (the Bible does not specify) angels in our presence at all times, who will not only minister to us at any time of the day (or night), but will care for us until we reach the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Were Angels Created?
According to the Bible, it is unclear when angels were created. However, it is clear that they existed before the Earth was created. In Job 38:7, the Bible states that: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the SONS OF GOD shouted for Joy?”
The “sons of God” in this verse refer to the angels, making it evident that they were in existence before the foundation of the world.
The Bible also indicates that the original angels were a class of beings that were ranked just above mankind. According to Psalm 8:5, the Scripture states: “For THOU HAST MADE HIM A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” Likewise, Hebrews 2:7 states: “THOU MADEST HIM A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands.”
In their original form, angels maintained a higher level of dignity in the kingdom of God than man. However, the Bible is clear that this isn’t always the case. When individuals are saved and become born-again believers, the Bible states that we are lifted higher than the angels, as we become direct recipients of the Grace of God—something in which the angels know nothing of.
How Many Angels Are There?
The Bible is unclear about how many angels reside in Heaven and the Earth. Hebrews 12:22, however, indicates a vast number. As it states: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.”
As the verse indicates, angels are innumerable, which also translates to a “myriad of angels.” Myriad simply means that the angels are too great in their overall numbers to ever be counted. Several other Scriptures provide evidence of their vast number. Daniel 7:10, for example, indicates that: “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Likewise, Revelation 5:11 states: “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” Even Luke 2:13-14 states: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
As the aforementioned verses indicate, only God knows the exact number of angels.
Are Angels Male or Female?
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of angels pertains to their gender. The Bible is clear that angels maintain no particular gender, and are sexless. They are unable to multiply or reproduce, they do not bear children, nor do they marry one another. According to Matthew 22:30, the Bible says: “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
Although this verse is speaking about born-again believers in their resurrection state – when all saved individuals will be sexless – the final segment of this verse is indicative of the genderless nature of angels as well: “but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
What Role do Angels Play in God's Plan?
In addition to ministering unto God’s children, angels can also play a role in bringing unsaved individuals into contact with both preachers and born-again believers. In doing so, angels play a vital role in bringing souls to Christ. Notice in Acts 8:26: “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” Philip, in this verse, was told to bring the meeting in Samaria to a close and to head towards Gaza. As a result of his journey (and obedience to God), an Ehiopian eunuch was converted to Christ.
Peter and Cornelius serve as another example of angels bringing particular individuals together. In Acts 10:3-6, the Bible states: “He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an ANGEL OF GOD coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”
After the visit from the angel of the Lord, Cornelius sought out Peter which, in turn, helped lead him to Christ. Each of these examples demonstrates the ministering role that angels play in God’s plan. It is their primary role and purpose. The Bible even says that angels celebrate and rejoice every time a sinner repents and becomes saved. According to Luke 15:10, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is JOY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ANGELS OF GOD over one sinner that repenteth.” It is interesting to note here that the angels rejoice not over a hundred or a thousand people being saved, but that there is joy over just one sinner who repents and is saved. This is not to say that angels do not enjoy hundreds of individuals being saved; rather, it demonstrates the personal celebration and joy that is shared in heaven for each sinner who is brought to Christ.
Angels also serve as a “pallbearer,” of sorts, when born-again believers die. According to Luke 16:22, the Bible says: “And it came to pass, that the beggar (Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s Bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.”
According to this verse, angels play an active role in escorting born-again believers to heaven when they leave this life. In the case of Lazarus, they personally carried his soul to Abraham’s bosom (heaven). Over the centuries, numerous Christians have reported seeing angels around their deathbed just before their deaths.
Do Angels Live Among Us?
Aside from their work as ministers to the saved, the Bible also declares that angels occasionally visit individuals in human form. According to Hebrews 13:2, the Bible states: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” In this verse, the Apostle Paul warns believers to always treat strangers as they would an angel. As angels can take on the form of humans, people can often entertain “angels unawares.”
Why do angels visit in this form? Perhaps they are visiting because you are asking God to intercede in a particular manner on an issue, or perhaps you are asking God for a certain blessing. In cases such as these, angels may visit on behalf of God to determine whether or not you are willing to bless others. The whole point of this last verse is that if we are not willing to help total strangers in need of help, we should not expect God to bless us either.
Before reading this article, how familiar were you with the concept of Angels?
Comforters and Protectors
The Bible also teaches us that angels play an intricate role in not only comforting individuals, but protecting Christians from physical harm as well. In Daniel 6:22, for example, Daniel was spared from death after being thrown into a lion’s den. According to the verse: “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”
In this verse, the Bible states that angels prevented Daniel from being eaten by shutting the mouths of the lions present before him.
Angels also protect individuals during times of war. In II Kings 19:35, the Bible describes how angels helped to protect the Israelites. As it states: “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”
When the king of the Assyrians (known as Sennacherib) decided to go against Israel in this verse, the Bible says that an angel destroyed the invading force before they could even mount an attack. The Bible says that Sennacherib had been warned numerous times about the danger of attacking Israel (God’s people). But the ruler only laughed, as he possessed one of the best-trained and well-armed armies of the day. Despite these advantages, Sennacherib’s force was vanquished in the twinkling of an eye by one of God’s angels.
Angels also provide comfort to Christians. According to Psalm 34:7, the Bible states that, “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” This simply means that God’s angels protect those that devote their hearts and minds to the Lord. Although God occasionally allows things to happen that test an individual’s resolve and heart, angels continue to serve as both protectors and guardians to those that walk in God’s will.
In this capacity, the Bible also teaches that angels have even provided food to Christians. In I Kings 19:5-6, angels provided Elijah with a cooked meal. As it states, “And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.”
After preaching for some time, this verse describes how Elijah sought rest under a juniper tree. To aid in his recovery, God sent an angel to watch over Elijah, which in turn provided him with both food and water. After his rest, verse seven describes how the angel even provided Elijah with a second meal that provided him with a much-needed physical boost. As it states: “And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.”
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”— Hebrews 13:2
Angels and the Return of Christ
Finally, angels also play an intricate role in the return of Christ. According to Matthew 25:31, the Bible states: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”
This verse tells us that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, He will be accompanied by numerous angels. Likewise, Matthew 16:27 states, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Although the angels don’t know the time of our Lord’s return, when He does come, angels will certainly accompany Him according to the Bible.
In closing, the Bible is clear about the prominent role of angels in God’s plan for born-again believers. They are designed to not only protect us from harm, but to also guard and guide individuals until they reach their eternal home in heaven. Coupled with the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, God provides his children with numerous provisions to sustain them throughout their earthly lives. While angels play a key role in the lives of Christians, however, one should never place their trust in angels above Christ; for it is God, Himself, who provides us with these protectors and guardians.
Halff, Charles. The Angels of God. San Antonio, Texas: Christian Jew Foundation.
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© 2020 Larry Slawson