What Are Angels?
There are many terms used in the Bible to describe angels: host, creatures, throne, dominions, principalities, powers, sons of God, and the angel of his presence. The phrase “the angel of the Lord” usually implies the presence of deity in angelic: form (Gen. 16:1-13; 22:11-16; 31:11-13; Exod. 3:2-4; Judg. 6:1216). Most interpret the phrase “the angel of the Lord” as Christ and call this appearance a “Christophany.” However, the phrase in Luke 1:11 and Acts 12:7, 23 is not a description of deity.
When were the angels created? Obviously before the beginning of the earth, because angels watched the magnificent drama of creation. God asked the question, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4). The narrative goes on to indicate, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). The angels were rejoicing as God created the world.
The record of the creation of angels appears in the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heaven(s) and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, plural added). In the Hebrew language, the plural form of “heavens” reveals that God created the whole of heaven, composed of all its innumerable separate parts. The heavens included not only the stars but the present abode of God, plus the angelic beings.
Angels were the first created beings and later, while the earth was being created, they admired God’s beauty, orderliness, and power. Since one task of angels is to give glory to God, they sang and shouted during the creation.
Even though the Father and the Holy Spirit were active in the creation of angels, Jesus Christ is identified as their Creator. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16). The terms thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers are all terms used in the Bible to describe angels. David urged the angels to praise the Lord because they were created (Ps. 148:2-5).
Though angels have appeared to men in physical form, they are essentially spiritual beings. Since they are without physical bodies, they are spirits. David recognized and blessed the Lord “Who maketh his angels’ spirits; and his ministers a flaming fire” (Ps. 104:4).
Even though angels are spirits, they have the ability to become visible in the semblance of a human body (Gen. 19:1; Exod. 3:2; Judg. 2:1; Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:26; John 2012). Angels are always referred to as being masculine, but. without specific reference to gender.
David reflected on the nature of man and observed, “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). In the hierarchy of heaven, angels are above man, yet they are listed below Christ. “Being so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4).
All angels were originally created holy to praise God and to serve him. Perhaps the best-known phrase that came from the mouth of angels is, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3): The word “host” means “angels,” hence God is the Lord of the angels. Again the angels were fulfilling their task when they sang, “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev. 5:12).
They were created holy because their message of praise is holy. But there was a group of “angels who kept not their first estate but left their own habitation” (Jude 6). Some theologians believe that some of these fallen angels are demons who now serve Satan, while those who didn’t fall are holy angels, who serve the Lord God. Even these demons were originally created in a state of holiness.
Another group of the fallen angels are “chained under darkness,” awaiting the judgment of God (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). But the holy angels that did not sin are in fellowship with God and can look upon him. Jesus warned his disciples not to abuse children be cause their angels are in the presence of God. “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” (Matt.
18:10). The fact that angel are in fellowship with God and remain in his presence implies their holiness. If they did not flee from the presence of God, he would judge the sin he finds in them.
Angels are similar to God and man in that they have a personality, which is intellect, emotion, and will. Having personality or being a person gives the angel the power of self-perception and self-direction. God created angels with intellectual ability. They are identified as wise (2 Sam. 14:20). Throughout the Scriptures, angels are portrayed in the obedient service of God, thus demonstrating the existence of a will.
The angel who showed John the Revelation would not allow John to worship him. “Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren, the prophets, and of them who keep the sayings of this book: Worship God” (Rev. 22:9).
Today, the will of angels to choose evil has apparently been preempted by God because they choose not to follow Satan. Today, angels are surrendered to God and cannot choose evil. When the Scriptures indicate that “the angels desire to look into” the glories of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12), it is an indication of their emotions and the interaction of their will-obviously a reflection of personality.
The personality of angels is further demonstrated in the work of communication with God and men. On several occasions an angel was sent by God to an individual to communicate a special message from God. To accomplish that task, he possessed the powers of speech that involved word recognition, memory, and rational ability to form sentences. Angels have the ability to discern (used to answer questions), wisdom, and basic knowledge regarding life on earth and the plan of God. These are all elements of personality. Deathless beings.
When God created angels, he did not plan for their death; as a matter of fact, death is inconsistent with the nature of God and cannot be a part of his original purpose. Jesus taught we would someday be “deathless” like angels. “Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels” (Luke 20:36). Death is an experience of the human race because of the entrance of sin into the world (Rom. 5:12). Angels were created in a state of holiness. When Satan rebelled against God, they chose to follow God, therefore they have no sin that leads to death.
Hell was created for those angels that rebelled against God and someday they will be eternally consigned there. John noted that “the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10). Jesus described it as “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
Angels are unseen until they choose to appear for some special purpose. They seemed to have manifested themselves at certain times in Bible history more than others. They were frequent visitors during the period from Abraham to Moses, then primarily around the life of Christ. They were said to be present when the world was created. They appeared when circumstances on earth changed and God needed to give specific “messages” to his people about new covenants or different responsibilities.
Because they don’t appear frequently as persons in bright apparel does not mean they have no ministry today, for they constantly minister to “them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14). In their work, they are not perceived, but perhaps work through people, or perhaps they appear as a person. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2).
The Work of Angels
The Bible describes more specifically some of the works of angels. Angels served God throughout the life of Christ, at times prepared to do more than they were called on to perform. In some aspects of their work in relationship to the work of Christ, the angels were waiting for service. Currently, much of the work of angels in this age affects the church and various political states. Even the lost are not exempt from the work of angels today.