[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: VIII. Spiritual Beings

Lesson: A. Angels

Objective: To describe angels, their functions, and their authority.

We will look at the teaching about Angels contained in the Bible. Much of what is commonly believed about angels comes from other sources, such as church traditions, the apocropha, and early church writings. We do not consider these sources to be authoratative. Therefore, although there may be an angel named Raphael (in the Apocropha), we cannot be certain that there actually is such an angel, and it is not a Bible belief that Raphael exists. We will discuss where angels came from, what they are, what they can do, what they cannot do, what God created them for, and some guidelines for believers in thinking about angels.

1. Origin

Angels were created by the LORD before the creation of the earth. "Praise him, all his angels, ... Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created."(Psalm 148:2,5) We know that angels are created beings. Cults often view Jesus as an angel, yet this cannot be. Jesus, being God, is NOT a created being. Angels, being created, did not exist in eternity past with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet they were created before the earth. "On what were its (the earth's) footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"(Job 38:6-7) Just as the earth was created by God's command, so were angels created, God spoke them into being.

2. Nature

Angels are spirit, with intellect, emotion and will. "Are not all angels ministering spirits ..."(Hebrews 1:14) Angels are spirit. People are spirit and physical body, but angels are spirit (although they may appear in a body). They are persons in the sense of having intellect, emotion, and will. For instance, they 'long to look into' God's plan and salvation. Therefore, they reason, and have a desire. "... Even angels long to look into these things."(1st Peter 1:12)

Although angels are spirit, they are different in location than God. God is spirit, and is everywhere at once (omnipresent). Yet angels are spirit but not omnipresent, rather they go from place to place but are only in one location at a time. This is true of Satan also. "Gabriel ... came to me in swift flight ..."(Daniel 9:21) This explains why Gabriel traveled to bring a message to Daniel.

Angels, being spirit, are normally not seen. "Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."(2nd Kings 6:17) Elisha's servant was given spiritual insight to see the army of God, which consisted of angels. Angels are also immortal, their spirit never dies. This is true of the human spirit, the body dies but the spirit lives (either in darkness apart from God or in His presence). The human body will also be resurrected some day and joined with the spirit. But angels, being spirit and not body, never die. In speaking of the human spirit after death, Jesus said, "and they can no longer die, for they are like the angels."(Luke 20:36) Whatever this says about departed saints, it is clear that angels cannot die.

3. Power and Influence

Angels are strong and organized in the spirit world. "... these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not ..."(2nd Peter 2:10-11) Peter compared sinful men and angels, saying that although angels are stronger and more powerful than men they do not dare slander. Angels are strong compared to men. "For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him."(Colossians 1:16) We normally interpret this verse as refering to angels or spiritual beings (as well as humans) when we read that God created all things, including thrones, powers, rulers, or authorities. This implies that angels are organized, having some sort of hierarchy.

4. Limitations

Since angels are so powerful, we should consider what they cannot do. They do not marry, they have limited knowledge (as compared to God), and they are held accountable to God. "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."(Matthew 22:30) Angels cannot reproduce as humans do (and humans will not reproduce in the eternal state). "Even angels long to look into these things."(1st Peter 1:12) Although angels are smart, and have lived many years and learned much, they do not know everything. They do not have God's full knowledge. That is why Peter says angels long to look into the plan of salvation.

Finally, angels are subject to God. "... Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."(1st Peter 3:21-22) Angels are lower than God and lower than Jesus, for Peter says that angels are in submission to Him. This also indicates that Jesus has authority even over Satan, who is a fallen angel.

5. Purpose

Angels worship, serve, fight, and carry messages. The Hebrew word for angel means 'messenger'. "Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word."(Psalm 103:20) "Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, ... but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth."(Dnaiel 10:20-21) The angel told Daniel he would soon fight, but first gave him the message of what was in the Book of Truth.

Angels are involved in the affairs of nations. In the last verse, the angel would fight against the Prince of Persia. This spiritual battle is the reality behind the conquest of Persia by Greece about 100 years after these words were written. The angel Michael is specifically assigned to protect the people of Daniel, the Jews. "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise."(Daniel 12:1) Daniel was a Jew, and his people are the nation of Israel, specifically protected by the angel Michael. Finally, an avenging angel killed a great number of soldiers from Assyria who were camped outside of Jerusalem and were attacking it (in the times of the Kings of Judah). This angel was both defending Israel and punishing the enemies of Israel. "That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp."(2nd Kings 19:25)

Angels reveal truth, interpret scripture, and guide the people of God. Paul said "The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator."(Galatians 3:19) We don't know exactly how, but angels were involved in the giving of the Law to Moses. "I asked, 'What are these, my lord?' The angel who was talking with me answered, 'I will show you what they are.'"(Zechariah 1:9) In many visions, prophets are given interpretations by angels when they don't understand a vision. Angels also guide believers, sometimes unknown to us but other times by a voice or through dreams. In the New Testament, angels sometimes directed Christians. "Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go ...'"(Acts 8:26) Angels may direct Christians today (although we are to test the spirits to see if they are from God).

Angels encourage and protect the people of God. "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul.'"(Acts 27:23-24) Paul was encouraged by an angel who spoke to him. Perhaps they encourage us, behind the scenes. Jesus warned his disciples to not look down on children, because 'their angels in heaven' have access to the Father. This means that angels protect children. It does not mean that there is one particular angel for each particular child (although that is possible), but it at least means that there are angels who look after children, and this is reason to treat children carefully. "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."(Matthew 18:10)

Angels have delivered believers. "But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out."(Acts 5:19) It may be that angels have delivered us - perhaps a close call or an accident that almost happened was averted by an angel. "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side."(Luke 16:22) When Jesus gave a parable about a beggar, Lazarus, he said that when he died, angels carried him to Abraham's side. This indicates that angels will be with a believer when he/she dies.

6. Guidelines

Do not worship or pray to angels. They are not God. "At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.'"(Revelation 19:10) As wonderful as angels are, the Apostle John was rebuked when he tried to worship one. Rather, the angel said 'I am a fellow servant'. We should not revere or worship or pray to any angel or any spiritual being other than the triune God.

Angels may guide us, reveal truth, or interpret visions. Yet we must be careful. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"(Galatians 1:8) Paul warns us that even if an angel speaks in a way contradicting the Gospel given by Jesus and the Apostles, the angel would be condemned. This implies that angels could present a false gospel. There are fallen angels, and not every spiritual being is good. So ... we must be on guard, and test revelations from angels against the written word, the Scriptures.

Be encouraged by the presence of angels. "I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favortism."(1st Timothy 5:21) Paul encouraged Timothy to serve faithfully in the sight of God and the elect angels (elect as opposed to fallen angels). "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"(Hebrews 1:14) We should be encouraged that angels are sent to serve the saved (although we may not be aware of their presence). "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."(Hebrews 13:2) This happened when Abraham served a meal to three men who were really angels. This also implies that we may see angels today, in the guise of men, and never know the difference.

Written Assignment:

How are angels active today?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 17-21

Key Verses:

"Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"(Hebrews 1:14)

"... Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."(1st Peter 3:21-22)

All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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