Bible Basics about Angels

Learn what the Bible really says. This study is essential for our being rooted in the Word, not some desperate quest for angels. Seek Jesus always and only.

Let’s use the outline and question-and-answer format for clarity and conciseness.

A.. What are their origins and nature?

1.. They are spirits (Heb. 1:14)

2.. God created them.

Ps. 148:2, 5 says that at the command of God they were created; and Col. 1:16 says that all things were created by God, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities—those are all spirit beings in their domains. They were created by God, and some teach that the angels were given those dominions.

They were created early in creation (Job 38:6-7), and the phrase in v. 7 can be translated as the “sons of God.”

See my post Who Were the ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis?

Gen 1:31 says that God saw all that he had made, and it was good; though the verse does not mention angels per se, some teachers say that they are tucked in the word all.

3.. They are not to be worshipped.

In Col. 1:18 Paul warns the believers not to get drawn into false humility (asceticism) or the worship of angels. And Rev. 19:10 says that an angel met with John, and John’s first response was to fall at his feet to worship him, but the angel told him not to do that.

4.. They do not marry or die.

Luke 20:35-36 says that the humans in heaven are like angels who do not marry or die.

B.. What are their names and ranks?

1.. Michael

He is mentioned in Dan. 10:13, 10:21, 12:1. He seems to be the head of all angels. He is called the “great prince.” Jude 9 says he is called the archangel. Rev. 12:1 says Michael and the angels fought against the dragon (Satan).

2.. Gabriel

He is mentioned in Dan. 8:16; 9:21 and Luke 1:19, 26. He seems to be a messenger angel with high rank. He visited Zachariah to announce the birth of John and to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. In Dan. 8:16 God tells him to interpret Daniel’s dream, and in 9:21 he gave Daniel understanding and insight.

3.. An archangel

1 Thess. 4:16 says that Jesus will descend with the archangel who shouts with his voice. The archangel is unnamed.

4.. Seraphs

Then one of the seraphim took hot coal and put it on Isaiah’s mouth and lips because he saw how unclean he was. So Seraphim can convey God’s forgiveness.

5.. Cherubs

They are spirit beings like angels who live in heaven. The plural of cherub is cherubim (-im ending in Hebrew is masculine plural). The term appears over ninety times in the Old Testament and once in the New.

In Gen. 3:24, they guarded the tree of life, so humankind could never access it and short-circuit or bypass death.

In Ex. 25:18-22, two sculpted cherubim symbolically protected the sacred content of the wooden ark, particularly the Ten Commandments. They covered their heads in their wings that stretched out towards the center of the ark. God would meet with Moses from above the mercy seat; God will speak with Moses there, for God’s holy presence settled there.

In 1 Kings 6:23-35 and 2 Chron. 3:7-14, were depicted in the temple as guardians of everything most holy. Their wingspread was fifteen feet (about 4.5 m) and covered an entire wall.

In such verses as 1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron. 13:6 and Pss. 80:1, 99:1, God is spoken of as “enthroned upon [or above] the cherubim.” They are not depicted as a fixed pedestal for God’s throne, but they are mobile. So does this hint that God’s throne is also mobile, signifying that God’s presence can be enthroned in our church services? Maybe, but this possibility has nothing to do with our lives in Christ down here, as we love our neighbors as ourselves (see Williams, vol. 1, p. 184).

In 1 Chron. 28:18, David gave instructions to Solomon that included golden chariots of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant. Since the chariot also speaks of mobility, could it be that God’s throne is mobile? Could it mean that he can be enthroned in our presence at church? Maybe. God is omnipresent, so in a sense he is always enthroned in our church services and even in our hearts if we give him place out of his gift of our free will.

In Ps. 18:10, the LORD is poetically described as answering the Psalmist’s prayer by mounting cherubim and riding to the petitioner’s rescue. Nice image and poetry, but let’s not take it literally—unless the psalmist had a vision of an angel who did that, but even in this case, it is still poetic.

In Ezek. 10:1-22, the cherubim had wings and managed wheels in heaven. So they do not sit idly.

6.. Living creatures

They are not necessarily angels, but they seem to be in a category all by themselves.

They are around God’s throne.

Ezek. 1:5-14 teaches that they have one head, but four faces, the face of a human, lion, ox, and eagle. Later interpreters cleverly said that each face represented the four Gospels, but the Scriptures are silent about this.

In Rev. 4:6-8, the four faces become four creatures, with the faces listed in Ezek. 1. Their function was to lead the praise in heaven. When they repeated three times that the Lord God Almighty is holy, holy, holy, the twenty-four elders lay their crowns at the throne of God and praise God with their own words.

Let’s summarize seraphim, cherubim and the living creatures. All of them are concerned with God’s holiness; they are its guardians. Cherbim uphold his throne and even serve as his chariot.  The seraphim form a circle above the throne, while the cherubim form one below the throne. This may indicate their ranks.

6.. Rulers and authorities

Eph. 3:10 names them as rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm, and they appear to be assigned by God to these jurisdictions. Col. 1:16, as noted, repeats the same idea of their thrones, rulers, power, and authorities.

7.. There are numerous angels.

Deut. 33:2 says there are tens of thousands holy ones who accompanied the LORD on Mt. Sinai.

Ps. 68:17 teaches that there tens of thousands and thousands of thousands (= innumerable) of chariots of God, again connected with the LORD on Mt. Sinai, where the law of Moses was given.

Heb. 12:22 contrasts the mountain of fear (Mt. Sinai) with Mt. Zion, the mountain of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, where myriads (but NIV correctly says “innumerable”) of angels are gathered together in joyful assembly. So Mt. Zion is where Jesus was crucified. Mt. Sinai is where the law of Moses was fearfully thundered from on high and three thousand people died (Ex. 32:28).

Rev. 5:11 says they numbered thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousands. You can do the math. The point is innumerable.

C.. What are their duties in regards to humanity?

1.. They were intermediaries who revealed the law of Moses (Acts 7:38 and Gal. 3:19 and Heb. 2:2).

2.. They bring messengers from God (Zech. 1:14-17).

In those verses the angel asked the LORD how long he was going to withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the town of Judea. Then the angel was commissioned to tell Zechariah that God was going to return to Jerusalem with mercy, and the nations used to punish the city went too far. In Acts 10:3-6 an angel of the Lord appeared to Cornelius the centurion and told him to go to Peter’s house in Joppa, on the coast. Peter ministered to him and the centurion and his household received the Holy Spirit. We already saw how Gabriel brought a message to Zachariah and Mary (Luke 1:19, 26).

3.. They praise and worship God.

In Heb. 1:6, quoting Deut. 32:43, the Septuagint (3rd century to first century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), says all the angels shall worship God.

In Rev. 5:11-12 the thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand said, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain!”

4.. They provide for God’s people.

In 1 Kings 19:5-8 an angel told Elijah to get up and eat. Elijah looked and a dinner was cooking for him. Only an angel could have done that. God was concerned for Elijah’s physical health.

Ps. 103:14 says he knows how we were formed and remembers that we are but dust. God takes us as we are.

Matt. 4:11 says that angels ministered to Jesus after he was tempted by Satan. Maybe they gave him more than just spiritual comfort, but food, as well.

Heb. 1:14 says they minister to those who will inherit salvation. The future tense indicates that angels take care of those who are not yet saved. Or “salvation” in this verse could speak of final salvation when we get our glorified bodies. Or it mans right now and in the future.

5.. They protect God’s people.

Ps. 91:11 says he will command his angels to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up and prevent your feet from striking stones. Read the whole psalm.

Dan. 6:22 says that God sent his angel who shut the mouths of the lions.

Acts 12:7-10 says that an angel freed Peter from prison. Apparently God and the angel overrode—broke—civil law when it was unjust.

6.. Some serve as guardian angels.

Angels who watch over the “little ones” always see the face of God (Matt. 18:10). Some interpret the “little ones” as weak disciples or children. I prefer to see them as children.

Acts 12:15 says that some in the church believed that after Peter was released and knocking on Mary’s door, his angel, not Peter, was knocking. This indicates an early belief in the church about guardian angels. I say it is legitimate, not superstition or a sectarian belief.

7.. They guide people.

An angel told Philip to go down to a road that foes from Jerusalem to Gaza, without telling him why. Philip took the step of faith (Acts 8:26).

In Acts 27:23-24 an angel told Paul that he and everyone on the ship would come through the storm safely. This word encouraged him and everyone else.

8.. They interpret God’s will.

Dan 7:16 says that an angel revealed the meaning of Daniel’s dreams about the four beasts.

Zech. 1:9, 13-14, as noted, says that an angel revealed to Zechariah that God would return to Jerusalem with mercy.

9.. They carried out carry out God’s will.

In Num. 22:22, an angel blocked Balaam’s path, so he could not look out over Israel and curse God’s people.

Ps. 103:20-21 says that angels do his bidding and carry out his will.

In Matt. 28:2 a violent earthquake happened at the tomb, for an angel rolled back the stone and sat on it.

10.. They punish God’s enemies who live outside the New Covenant and sometimes those who still live in the Old Covenant.

An angel of the LORD was sent to punish people because of David’s sin of an unauthorized census (2 Sam. 24:16-17). Leaders must learn to obey God or the people who serve under him will suffer.

In 2 Kings 19:35, the angel of the Lord put to death 185,000 Assyrian enemies who had besieged Jerusalem, in about 701 B.C.

Acts 12:23 says that Herod Agrippa was struck down by an angel because he did not give glory to God. Herod was steeped in Judaism, and in the Old Covenant, God judged them like that.

See my post Why Did Ananias and Sapphira Drop Dead?.

1 Cor. 10:10, in the context of Corinthians who grumbled, Paul reminds his readers that in the Old Covenant God through a destroying angel wiped out the ancient Hebrews. Of course God would not destroy Corinthian grumblers like this (I should think not!), but Paul is merely saying that Christians should be careful.

In Rev. 14:17-16:21 angels are shown to be fighting and winning against God’s enemies.

11.. They fight demons and demonic hordes.

In Dan. 10:13, Michael the heavenly prince fought against the spirit ruler over Persia.

Rev. 12:7-8 teaches that Daniel fought against the dragon (Satan) and his allies, who were thrown out of heaven.

In Rev. 20:1-3 an angel seized Satan and bound him with a chain and confined him for a thousand years.

D.. What are their duties in regards to Christ?

1.. Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary.

Luke 1:5-25 reveals that Gabriel told Zechariah about the birth of John, the future Baptist.

In Luke 1:26-38, Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit.

2.. An angel announced to Joseph in a dream the divine conception.

Matt. 1:20-21, as the bold point says, an angel appeared in a dream. Renewalists believe angels still do this (it has happened to me on many occasions—in my dreams).

3.. An angel announced his birth to shepherds.

In Luke 2:9-12, of course the shepherd were terrified. Who wouldn’t be? Then a chorus of angels appeared in the sky and sang praises to God.

4.. An angel warned Joseph in a dream to flee into Egypt.

In Matt. 2:13 an angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided him. And once again, Renewalists (Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics) believe angels can do the same thing today.

5.. An angel told Joseph in a dream to return to Israel.

Matt. 2:19-20: See points nos. 2 and 4.

6.. Angels strengthened Jesus after he successfully resisted temptation.

Matt. 4:11 and Mark 1:13 say angels (plural) visited Jesus. It is a mystery as to what they said.

7.. An angel from heaven helped Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In Luke 22:43, this was a very necessary visitation because Jesus was in such anguish that he sweat drops of blood.

8.. Twelve legions of angels could have helped Jesus destroy his enemies and avoid death on the cross.

In Matt. 26:53, Jesus said this to Peter, after the apostle had cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear. No violence needed to stop the crucifixion, which was God’s will (and so was the resurrection.

9.. An angel rolled away the stone which covered the opening to Jesus’s tomb.

As noted, above, Matt. 28:2 says God sent an angel to push back the gigantic stone.

10.. Angels announced Jesus’s resurrection.

Matt. 28:5-7 says, “He is not here! He is risen!”

Luke 24:23 says that on the Emmaus Road, Cleopas, Jesus’s uncle, reported to a mysterious traveler (Jesus) that angels had told some women that the tomb was empty.

In John 20:11-13 two angels appeared to the women and dialogued with them, asking why they were weeping. God often asks questions that appear out of context, but lifts people higher than their limited contexts.

11.. Angels were present at Jesus’s ascension.

In Acts 1:11, after Jesus ascended and went into the cloud, the apostles were standing and looking up. Two angels shook them out of their wonderment and told them that Jesus would return in the way he went up—visible and bodily.

12.. Angels will return with Christ.

Matt. 25:31 says very straightforwardly that Jesus will return to sit on his throne, and his angels will be with him.

2 Thess. 1:7 reveals that Jesus will appear in a blaze of fire, with his angels.

Note: some of those above data were repeated in another related post.

How does this post help me grow in my knowledge of God?

God’s got you covered. When you are in need, he will send his angels to watch over you. I was getting stung by a swarm of aggressive bees. I had to run up a hill to escape, but I was not going fast enough to get out of range. I cried out to the Lords: “Jesus, make the stop!” As God is my witness, they instantly stopped and flew off. I believe an angel, though unseen by me, brushed them away. Even when you get hurt, God will intervene and by his angels remain there until help arrives. Never lose your faith. God will command his angels to watch over you (Ps. 91:11).

RELATED

Angels: Questions and Answers

Angels: Their Duties and Missions

Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence

Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature

SOURCES

Works Cited

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