Angels are spiritual beings who can be at work on the earth to carry out God’s instructions. The Greek word “Angelos” literally means “messenger”. Often in the Bible angels were sent from heaven to earth to give special messages to selected people. For instance, in the Gospel of Luke we learn that the Angel Gabriel was sent to give the message to Mary that she was going to have a very special baby, none other than Jesus Himself. (Luke 1v26)
Because angels are spiritual beings, they do not normally have physical bodies that we can see or touch or feel. However, as happened in the accounts of Jesus’s resurrection, they will sometimes take on physical form and appear to people. In Matthew 28v3, we read about a man whose clothes were as bright as lightning, and the Luke account, Luke 24v4, refers to two men; these men suddenly appeared while the disciples were wondering what had happened to the body of Jesus.
Angels are spiritual soldiers in God’s army.
In the Bible, Jesus is described as Commander of the Armies of Heaven: Revelation 19v11-17: He will lead these armies into battle against the devil and the devil’s demons, and He will totally vanquish or overcome the devil and the devil’s demons. The angels make up the spiritual armies of heaven. We human beings (who are surrendered to Christ) are also part of the army of God, but our role is different to that of angels.
Angels are completely different from human beings.
Sometimes people will talk about those who have passed away, and say that they have become angels. This is not compatible with Bible teaching. Since they were created angels have always been angels, human beings are a different class of God’s creation altogether, one cannot mutate into the other. Also, because angels are supernatural or spiritual beings, they are not born, and they do not die.
Angels are powerful warriors
I was looking just recently at a picture of an adorable girl-angel. An utterly cute picture but again no basis in the Bible. Angels are not children with wings, like little cherubs. Rather they are powerful warriors. Actually the word “Cherub” comes from the Hebrew “Cherub”, or “Cheruv”, and this in the Bible referred to the angel guarding the way to the tree of life with a flaming sword, in Genesis 3v24, and also to many-faced living creatures that the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision Ezekiel 10v20. Furthermore, the biblical depiction of angels, as with all other spiritual beings (God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the devil) – is always masculine in appearance. (There is a passage in Zechariah that does refer to two women, with wind in their wings -possibly angels? Zechariah 5v9) But definitely no children. So there are no cute little girl-angels, sadly!
So also “angelic” in the Bible has nothing to do with being adorable or sweetly behaved, but everything to do with being powerful.
Angels are personalities; they have names
Angels are not merely forces of good. Rather, like people, like God Himself, they are distinct personalities, they have names. Two famous angels in the Bible are Gabriel and Michael. In the book of Daniel, Gabriel is referred to as “the man Gabriel”, but the description clearly corresponds to that of to a supernatural being: Daniel 8v15-26.
Angels are used by God to serve humanity
In the Bible, there are various descriptions of angels coming to earth, or angelic visitation. Through these, it becomes clear that
1) Angels have supernatural powers
For instance, in the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels were able to strike the inhabitants of Sodom with blindness: Genesis 19v11. In John 5v4 an angel would go down to stir up the waters of a pool, leading to healing for whoever managed to step down first into the pool after that.
2) Angels are often sent to help, or serve human beings.
Often angels do things that human beings cannot do. They use their supernatural powers to serve human beings, and to accomplish the desires of God, and to fight against the powers of the devil.
3) Angels are empowered by human beings? (Specifically, human prayers?)
In the Bible book of Daniel, a man describes himself as being hindered from delivering a message to Daniel by the Prince of Persia (referring to a demonic entity). This man tells Daniel 1) that the prayers had been heard from the first day 2)that the Prince of Persia withstood him for 21 days 2)that he was finally helped by the angel Michael – but this was only after Daniel had fasted for those 21 days. In Revelation 8, the prayers of God’s people are described as being upon a golden altar set up before the throne (of God). An angel fills the censer with fire from the altar and throws it down to the earth, where it causes an earthquake and peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. (Revelation 8v1-5)
God as an Angel?
We’ve seen that human beings cannot become angels, (while angels can take on human form). However, it seems from the Bible that God Himself can take on the form of an Angel. In the Bible, this is referred to by a special phrase: “the Angel of the LORD”. Many Bible scholars understand this to refer to God Himself, accomplishing phenomenal things on earth.
Some references to the Angel of the LORD in the Bible:
In Genesis 31v11-13: the Angel of God says “I am the God of Bethel”
In Exodus 2 v3-6: the Angel of the LORD says “I am the God of your father”
Exodus 14v19 The Angel of God leads the camp of Israel, and follows behind them with a pillar of fire
2 Kings 19v35: Overnight, the Angel of the LORD killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, who had come to wage war against the Israelites:
Some other references to angels in the Bible:
Matthew 4v11: Angels ministered to Jesus after the temptation in the wilderness
Luke 1v11: An angel appears to Zechariah to prophesy to him the birth of his son John
Luke 2: The angels who appeared to the shepherds to inform them of the birth of Jesus
Luke 22v43: An angel comforts Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His death on the cross
Photo of Angel Sculpture by Luanne on Pixabay