In her book, “When Angels Appear,” Hope MacDonald describes her first encounter of an angelic kind. She says she was just four years old at the time. Her parents had driven her and her old sister Marilyn to school that morning. But instead of looking both ways before she crossed the street, her sister darted into the path of an oncoming car and was thrown 20 feet into the air. Her parents watched helplessly as she hit the pavement and rolled full speed towards a large open sewer. But instead of rolling in, she stopped right at the edge. Later as they related the story to the doctor, they shook their heads in amazement. How was she able to stop so suddenly when she had been rolling so fast?
That’s when Marilyn herself spoke up. In a voice filled with surprise, she said, “Didn’t you see that big beautiful angel, standing in the sewer, holding up her hands to keep me from falling in?” No one had except the two sisters, Marilyn and Hope. But the evidence that something mysterious had happened was obvious to all. For an hour later, covered with bruises (God’s reminder not to dart out into traffic without looking again), Marilyn returned home without serious injury, thanks to the ministry of one of God’s holy angels.
Our topic again is “Angels: God’s Secret Agents,” as Billy Graham put it in the title of one of his books. In our last study, we looked at the reality of angels and learned that the Bible is filled with references to them (108 references to angels in the Old Testament and 165 in the New Testament). We also learned what the word “angel” means (malak in the Old Testament and angelos in the New Testament). The word simply means “messenger,” for that’s what angels are—God’s messengers, sent to help His children in need. Hebrews 1:14 says they are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”
The greatest authority on angels, or any topic for that matter, is the Lord Jesus Christ whose birth was announced by angels. After His birth, Herod sent soldiers to hunt Him down and kill Him, but angels intervened and warned Joseph of the danger. Likewise, following His temptation in the wilderness, angels came and ministered to Him, as they also did on the night before His death, when He sweat great drops like blood praying for strength in the Garden of Gethsemane. An angel came and strengthened Him for His coming trials. At which point Judas Iscariot came with the religious rulers to arrest Him. Peter, in an attempt to save Him, drew his sword and sliced off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. But Jesus ordered him to put away his sword, saying, “Don’t you realize that I could call on My Father, and He would immediately put more than twelve legions of angels (that’s 72,000) at My disposal?” (Matthew 26:53)
It is clear, then, if you have respect for the authority of Jesus, that angels are real. In fact, that’s often the best way to respond to anyone who questions the authority of the Bible, whether it’s the six days of creation, the worldwide flood of Noah, Jonah and the giant fish, or any of the other miracles in the Bible. Ask the doubter whose opinion you ought to trust. Take them to the Gospels and show them that Jesus attested to the literal truth of everything that was written in the Old Testament. Then ask them, “Whose opinion should I trust? Yours or the opinion of Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in human flesh?”
But, then, believing in angels may not be a problem for you, for angels have become a very popular object of belief in recent years. Unfortunately, much of what is taught about them is erroneous. For example, do you recognize the scene below? It is from the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The older gentleman is Clarence Odbody, a man who lived a good life, died and went to heaven, and then became an angel. But he hasn’t earned his wings yet! So he’s sent to earth to help another good man named George Bailey who, because of financial difficulties, is tempted to take his own life. I love the story because of what it teaches about faithfulness and hanging in there when you’d rather give up.
But you can’t build your beliefs on it or anything else that comes out of Hollywood. First of all, its view of salvation is wrong. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Nor does it teach the truth about angels. The popular belief is that if you live a good life, you go to heaven when you die and become an angel. But this is not true. Angels and humans are two different species, neither one turning into the other, not even in heaven.
Another false teaching that comes out of the new age movement is the idea that we ought to seek the guidance of angels. But nowhere does the Bible encourage us to do that. On the contrary, it urges us to seek Jesus Christ who alone is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Furthermore, those who seek a close encounter of the angelic kind, often end up with the wrong kind of angel and find themselves far worse off than they were to begin with. For that and many other reasons, it is important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about angels. To help us do that, let me emphasize 8 facts about the nature of angels:
Fact #1: Angels are created beings, most likely created on the first day of creation, at which point Job 38:7 tells us that “all the sons of God (referring to angels) shouted for joy.” Why do I say they were created during the first week of creation? Because Exodus 20:11 says, “In 6 days God created the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.” Someone may wonder, “If Lucifer was created just 6 days before man, how did he have enough time to lead a rebellion against God and plan his temptation of Adam and Eve? The answer is we don’t know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden before the Serpent came slithering into their midst. It could have been a month or even a year!
Furthermore, because they are creatures and not the Creator, angels do not share the incommunicable attributes of God (those that He alone possesses). For example, angels are not omnipotent (all-powerful) or omnipresent (all-present). They can only be in one place at a time. Nor are they omniscient (all-knowing). For that reason, let me assure you that even though Satan, the dictator of the devils, is brilliant beyond imagination, he cannot read your mind. He can put thoughts in your mind and make a pretty good guess as to what you’re thinking. After all, he’s been doing this a long time. But only God is omniscient. Only He knows for sure what you’re thinking and how you’re going to respond in each situation. In fact, He knows things about you that you don’t yet know.
What does all of this indicate about Jesus, then? He read people’s thoughts. He ruled over the wind and the waves. He healed diseases. He fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, raised Lazarus from the dead, forgave sins, and welcomed the worship of His followers. Angels do not have that right or power. Consider the reaction of the angel in Revelation 19:10, when the Apostle John fell at his feet in worship? He said to him, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Consequently, who must Jesus be if He welcomes our worship and possesses all the attributes of God. He is Lord! “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10). Hebrews 1:5-10 makes His identify even more clear. It asks, “To which of the angels did He (God) ever say, ‘You are my Son …let all God’s angels worship Him’…of the Son He (God) says, ‘Your throne is forever… and You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.’” Angels are created beings, whereas Jesus Christ is the only begotten (not created) Son of God, co-equal with God the Father from eternity past and throughout eternity to come!
Fact #2: Angels are spiritual, not physical creatures. Hebrews 1:14 says they are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” They may at times take on physical form with God’s permission. But their basic nature is spiritual, which makes it highly unlikely that they can interbreed with humans.
That is a popular interpretation of Genesis 6:2 which says that before the Flood, “the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” The theory is that fallen angels had sexual relations with human women resulting in the giants that were on the earth at that time. Two things to say about that: 1) If a simple interpretation of Scripture is available, one that’s in harmony with the rest of Scripture, go with the simple explanation instead of the exotic one. 2) Always let the context be your guide.
In this case, what Moses has been describing in Genesis 3 and 4 are the two original families of man: the line of Cain and the line of Seth. Not one person in Cain’s family was said to be righteous, whereas many of Seth’s descendants were righteous. For example, Genesis 4:26 says when Seth was born, “men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” Enoch, for one, “walked with God and was not because God took him.” The simple explanation, supported by the context, is that the godly sons of Seth married unbelievers (daughters of Cain), because they were sexy, and soon the only believer left on earth was Noah and his family. That is also in keeping with Jesus’ statement that in the resurrection, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be like the angels in heaven. (Matthew 22:30) The point is, if Jesus said angels do not marry, how can we say that the sons of God were angels who married the daughters of men?
Fact #3: Angels are immortal beings, impervious to disease and aging and death, and even though they had a beginning, they will have no end. They will either live with Christ or without Him forever in the lake of fire, depending on the choice they made when Lucifer rebelled against God in the beginning. One evidence of that is the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Daniel in chapter 9. 500 years later, the same angel appears to the Virgin Mary in Luke chapter 1 without one sign of having grown older.
Fact #4: They are powerful beings. It was an angel who shut the lions’ mouths and saved Daniel. It was also the angel of death who slew all the firstborn of Egypt during the first Passover. It was also an angel who rolled the massive stone away from the empty tomb of Jesus, so the disciples could see that He was not there, but was risen just as He said.
Fact #5: They innumerable beings. Both Daniel (Daniel 7:10) and John (Revelation 5:11) were given glimpses of heaven and described the number of angels worshiping before God’s throne as “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” A myriad is 10,000. But in this case, the word is plural—”myriads of myriads.” And in math, when you see the little word “of,” it means you multiply the two figures together. Consequently, what do we get when we multiply tens of thousands times tens of thousands? It means there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of holy angels who love and adore our God, twice as many as those who are in rebellion against Him. (Revelation 12:4)
Fact #6: They are highly organized creatures, divided into various classes and ranks like cherubim, seraphim, principalities, powers, rulers, and spiritual forces. (Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 6:2; Ephesians 6:12)
Fact #7: They are intelligent creatures, far smarter than any human being. Ezekiel 28:12 says, for example, that in the beginning Lucifer, “the anointed cherub who covers” was “full of wisdom.” Unfortunately, though he remains intellectually brilliant, he became the greatest of all fools.
Fact #8: They are glorious beings. For example, Ezekiel 28:12 says that before his fall, Lucifer “was perfect in beauty.” Paul adds that he can still appear as an angel of light, in order to lead us away from Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:14) Daniel also describes an interesting example. In chapter 10, an angel appears to him, in order to help him understand a message from God. However, this angel is of lesser power and authority than the fallen angel who rules over the king and kingdom of Persia. So for 21 days, he is prevented from coming to Daniel until Michael the archangel comes to his aid. What is interesting about that is that even though Daniel’s messenger is of lesser rank, he is still so glorious that Daniel has to take a nap in order to recover from the glory of seeing him.
Are you enjoying this study of angels so far? To read more about it, I highly recommend the books by both Billy Graham and David Jeremiah called “Angels.” As for us, next time our focus will be on the ministry of angels.