The Bible clearly teaches the existence of angels as mighty created beings, whose chief duties are to worship and serve God. They are not a race, reproducing themselves, but are a company created to minister to the heirs of salvation. There are two classes of angels, elect and fallen, and man is forbidden to worship either. Foundations of Christian Doctrine”, Kevin J Conner
The doctrine of angelology has been a neglected doctrine mainly because of unbelief in the supernatural, fear and superstition, or undue prayer and worship to angels by some. The solution is found in a thorough searching of the Word of God. Relying on personal experiences of men is an insufficient foundation for building a doctrine upon. Scripture must test any teachings, subjective experiences, or visions of angels.
Galatians 1:8,”But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Isaiah the prophet wrote;
“To the Law and the Testimony: if they(spirits) speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” Isaiah 8:19-20.
Angelic visitation has been instrumental in the delivery of some of the most important and significant messages in the history of mankind, including most notably the declaration of Christ’s birth.
In the negative sense, fallen angels have also been used to deceive and take advantage of people’s ignorance of the scriptures. The visitation of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith, the late founder of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) is a notable example of an ‘angel’ preaching another gospel. Also, the religion of Islam, and the revelations of Mohammed, its founder, resulted from an angelic visitation by a being professing to be Gabriel.
The Existence of Angels
The Scriptures reveal that in the spiritual world there are created spirit beings called angels. Angels are mentioned in thirty-four books of the Bible some 273 times (108 times in the OT 165 times in the New).
God the Father, through Jesus Christ, made Angels, like everything else in this universe, early in the creation week (NB: some commentators such as gap-theorists believe that the creation of angels took place long before the account we read in Genesis chapters one and two [Please see Module 3: Beginnings: Lesson 1 for a discussion of the Gap Theory):
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Col 1:16 NKJV)
“Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.” (Neh 9:6 KJV)
The Hebrew word for angel is “malak” which means “messenger”.
The Greek word is “angelos” which also means “messenger”.
In both the Old and New Testaments there are accounts of angels ministering to the people of God. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke often of angels and was ministered to by them.
Angels fall into two categories; good and evil angels. Originally created good, certain angels, under the deceived leadership of Lucifer (now satan), rebelled against God and were forever cut off from their Creator. It is for this reason that we now have a great spiritual warfare going on right now between the spiritual forces of good, and the rebellious forces of evil.
In this session we will be concentrating on the obedient angels, the elect angels. In the next we will consider in detail the fallen angelic host presently at work in the spiritual realm of this world.
The Order of Angels
God is the king of a universal kingdom. In this kingdom there is divine order. Scripture reveals that there are two groups of angels, elect and fallen. Elect angels did not follow Lucifer in his rebellion. The fallen angels fell by the sin of self-will and were cast out of heaven. The Scriptures speak of principalities, powers, rulers and wicked spirits in the kingdom of satan, which is simply a counterfeit of God’s kingdom. Hence, we have some clues to what the divine order seems to be. (Ephesians1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians1:16; 2:15, 1Peter 3:21-22; Romans 8:38).
Scripture speaks very specifically about various ranks of angels. These include archangels, angelic hosts, seraphim and cherubim, and the Angel (or Messenger) of the Lord.
Hebrew tradition states that there were 12 archangels. However, the Bible only specifically names Michael as being an archangel:
“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 1:9 KJV)
His name means “Who is like God”. There are four special accounts of his activities. (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1-4; Jude;9; Rev.12:7-9). Michael is the chief prince of the nation of Israel. His activities are always connected with warfare with Satan and the resurrection of the body.
Quite bizarrely, the mormon cult claims that Michael the Archangel is actually Christ!? We are clearly commanded, however, that angelic beings, however majestic, are simply servants of God, and never to be objects of worship:
“Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”” (Rev 22:8-9 NKJV)
Many scholars also believe that Gabriel is an archangel. He is certainly the only other named angel in Scripture, and while Michael can be seen as the chief warrior angel, Gabriel is the chief messenger angel. His name means “Strength of God”. He appeared to Daniel twice and then to Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, and then to Mary. Each of these visitations involves Messianic revelation (Daniel 9:21-27; Luke 1:19,26). Gabriel stands in the presence of God and is “the messenger and interpreter of the prophetic word concerning Christ” (Foundations, p88).
The Multitude of Angelic Hosts
One of God’s names is “Adonai Tsavaot” (Lord of hosts, Lord of the angel armies). “The Scriptures clearly show that there are legions or myriads of angelic beings. They speak of multitudes of spirit beings who worship and serve God” (Foundations, p88).:
“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;” (Rev 5:11)
also see Daniel 7:9-10; Luke2:13; Hebrews12:22
Seraphim and Cherubim
These mysterious celestial beings are not angels as such, because they are not messengers. There is only one scripture reference to Seraphim:
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” (Is 6:1-7 KJV)
Connor describes the Seraphim thus: “Seraphim means “the Burning Ones”. They are especially seen in relation to the throne and holiness of God. They have six wings: two to cover their feet (significant of holy service); two to cover their face (significant of their awe and reverence), and two to fly with (significant of their obedience to do God’s will). They magnify the thrice holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Foundations, p92).
The Cherubim are associated with guarding or protecting. They guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden after the fall of man (Genesis 3:24). They also guarded the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-22). Psalm 99:1 says, “He dwells between the cherubim” referring to the mercy seat. Representations of cherubim were woven on the veil in the tabernacle (Exodus26:31) and carved on the walls of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron 3:7). In the Most Holy Place were two huge cherubim overlaid with gold (2 Chron 3:10-14; 5:7-9).
They are also associated with the throne and glory of God. (Ezekiel Chs. 1 and 10). Ezekiel’s vision showed the cherubim as having four wings and four faces; a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle and they moved with the throne of God. They are also found in Revelation 4:6-8 described in a similar way and called “Living Creatures”. It may have been that Lucifer was a cherub before his fall as Ezekiel 28:14 describes him as “the anointed cherub who covers”.
The descriptions of the Cherubim are difficult to picture, but we can be certain that they are a striking and fearful creature, certainly not plump baby-faced angels with tiny wings and miniature harps!
The Nature of Angels
(As outlined in “Foundations of Christian Doctrine”, Kevin J Conner)
Angels are created beings
(Psalm148:2,5, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11) Angels were created by God, and for God’s pleasure. Because angels are created beings, owing their existence to God, they are finite, limited and dependent beings. Scripture does not tell us when they were created, but it can be assumed that it was early in creation because they sang and shouted for joy at the foundation of the earth:
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7 KJV)
Angels are spirit beings
(Hebrews1:13-14; Psalm104:4 )
God created angels as spirit beings, ministering spirits and flames of fire. They are not limited to the physical or material realm as man is but neither are they omnipresent as God. At times angels could assume human form and perform human deeds. (Hebrews 13:2)
Angels are immortal
God the Creator is immortal and so are the angels. They are not subject to physical death as is humanity.
Angels are a company
Angels are a company of beings, not a race. They are not involved in marriage, they do not reproduce; they were created as individual spirit beings. Each angel is a direct creation of God, which may be why they are referred to in places as “sons of God”, much as Adam, as a direct creation, is called the “son of God” (Luke 3:38). We also, as creatures of the new creation, are also called sons of God (John 3:3).
Angels are higher than man
(Psalm 8:1-4; Hebrews 2:7).
In the order of created beings, angels are the first before man. Man is made up of spirit, soul and body, whereas angels are spirit beings, thus of a higher order. However, angels are not heirs of God as believers are. God is their creator but not their Father. Angels are superior to man in strength and wisdom, but inferior to Christ (Hebrews1:5).
In another sense, however, they are inferior to man, who is created in the very image of God, and will one day stand with their Father and judge angelic beings (1 Corinthians 6:3).
Dr. L. S. Chafer writes:
“In Old Testament terminology, sometimes angels are called sons of God while men are called servants of God. In the New Testament this is reversed. Angels are servants and Christians are the sons of God. This particular order may be due to the fact that, in the Old Testament men are seen as related to this sphere over which angels are superior; while in the New Testament, saints are seen as related to their final exaltation into the likeness of Christ, compared to which the angels are inferior.” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II)
Angels are a freewill creation
(Isaiah14:12-14; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6,9) Angels were created with a freewill, having the freedom of choice. The fact that some angels sinned and others did not shows they all had the power to choose to follow satanic self-will or obedience to God’s will.
Angels are now divided into two groups:
i. The devil’s fallen angels (Matt 25:41; Rev 12:9)
ii. The holy elect angels (Mark 8:38; 1 Tim 5:21).
Angels are invisible
(Colossians1:16). As spirit beings, angels are invisible, though at times they can become visible to human eyes.
The Character of Angels
Consider the following scriptures regarding the character of elect angels as revealed in the Book
Their worship (Nehemiah9:6, Rev.5:11-12; Rev 22:8-9)
Elect angels never accept worship, they direct all worship to God. They are worshippers
Their obedience (Psalm103:20-21)
Their strength (Psalm103:20; Rev18:1,21; 2Thess.1:7; Acts 5:19; 12:7; Matt.28:2)
Their holiness (Rev 14:10; Mark 8:38)
Their joy (Luke 15:10; Job 38:7)
The Titles of Angels
- Watchers (Daniel 4:13-23; I Cor 4:9)
Angels are ever awake and view this earth as a theatre.
- Hosts of God (Psalm33:6; 103:21; Luke 2:13; I Kings 22:19)
They are the heavenly host, the armies of God.
- Saints (Deut 33:2; Jude14)
Saints are holy ones and this title is used of both angels and men.
- Ministering Spirits (Hebrews 1:13-14; Psalm103:21)
The angels serve God for the benefit of mankind.
- Flames of fire (Psalm104:4)
Significant of the holiness of God upon them.
- Sons of God (Job1:6; 2:1; 38:7)
It is generally accepted that it is angels that are here referred to as sons of God.
- Morning Stars(Job.38:7)
Angels are like stars of light. Lucifer was called the Day-star before his fall and he can still transform himself into an angel of light (2Cor 11:14)
- Sons of the Mighty (Psalm 89:6)
The angels are also spoken of as Mighty Ones (Psalm29:1; Isaiah13:3)
- Princes (Daniel 10:13,20,21; 12:1)
Angels are designated as princes over various nations. Satan is also spoken of as being a prince or ruler over the world systems (John12:31; Ephesians 2:2; 3:10; 6:12; 1Peter 3:22)
- Thrones, Dominions and Powers (Colossians1:16)
Thrones are symbolic of rulership; dominions speak of lordships or spheres of influence, and powers speak of authorities or administration which God has given to certain angels.