Angels (Part One)

Angels are mentioned throughout the Bible.  They are mentioned in Genesis.  They are mentioned in Revelation.  The word “angel(s)” appear 285 times in the King James version (108 times in the Old Testament and 177 times in the New Testament).  The word appears in 35 books of the Bible (17 Old Testament books and 18 New Testament books).  Moreover, these counts have not considered other terms for angels such as: “sons of God” (e.g. Job 38:7; Daniel 3:35); “saints” or “holy ones” (e.g. Deuteronomy 33:2; Zechariah 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13 cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7); “hosts” (e.g. Joshua 5:14-15; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:20-21; 148:2; Luke 2:13; James 5:4 – “Sabaoth” means hosts).

Let us consider what the Bible teaches, and doesn’t teach concerning angels.

Characteristics

They are a part of God’s creation (Psalm 148:1-5; Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1:16).  They were created before man (Job 38:4-7).  Many angels exist (2 Kings 6:16-17; Matthew 26:53; Hebrews 12:22).

They are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14 cf. Luke 24:39).  Man cannot see these beings unless God makes such possible by opening the eyes of man (Numbers 22:31-ff; 2 Kings 6:16-17), or unless they appear unto man in human form (Genesis 18:1-3; 16, 22, 33, cf. 19:1-5).

Their existence is very different from man’s current state.  They are not subject to physical death (Luke 20:35-36).  They do not marry or give in marriage (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35-36).  They evidently are sexless beings, without reproductive ability.

They are powerful and excel in strength (Psalm 103;20).  An angel can shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:22).  An angel can destroy a mighty army (2 Kings 19:35-36 cf. 2 Samuel 24:15-16).  An angel rolled the stone back from Jesus’ tomb revealing an empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-8).  Angels “are greater in power and might” than man (2 Peter 2:11).

They are intelligent beings.  They have the ability to discern good and evil (2 Samuel 14:17).  They have awareness of what happens on earth (2 Samuel 14:20; 1 Corinthians 4:9).

They have limitations.  They are not omniscient (Matthew 24:36).  They are not omnipresent (Daniel 10:10-14, 20).

Misconceptions

They are not depicted in the Bible with halos.  “The halo, which has become associated with angels, was adapted from mythology.  Originally, the halo was rejected by the artists of Christendom because of its pagan origin.  It was not used to exemplify angels until about the fifth century A.D.  There is no mention of halos in the scriptural teaching” (Wynelle Main, An Investigation of Angels, p. 103).  “According to mythology, a radiant light surrounded the heads of gods and goddesses when they came down from Olympus… Because it originated in paganism, it was at first rejected by early Christian artists.  About the middle of the fourth century, however, the circle of light was used in depicting Christ.  It was used to represent angels about the fifth century, but was not used for Mary until the sixth century” (ibid, p. 126).

They are not depicted in scripture with a pair of wings.  Seraphim are depicted with three pair of wings (Isaiah 6).  Cherubim are depicted with two pairs of wings (Ezekiel 1, 10).  Angels are described as flying (Daniel 9:21; Revelation 14:6), but if and how many wings they have – the scriptures do not tell us.

They do not appear as women in the Bible.  When angels appear to man, they did so in the form of men.  The two angels who are named have masculine names: Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19; 1:26), and Michael (Jude 9; Revelation 12:7).  The truth is they appear to be sexless beings (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:5; Luke 20:35-36).  Where did the idea of winged female angels originate?  Wynelle Main remarked, “We find a strong resemblance in the depiction of victory, and the feminine, beautiful winged angel.  Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory, is usually represented as a beautiful, winged woman” (ibid, p. 103).

Some think that dead saints become angels.  However, angels are a distinct creation, created before man (Job 38:4-7).  We’re told that we will in some ways be like the angels (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25 Luke 20:35-36).  We are not told that we will be angels.

There is a good lesson to be learned from these common misconceptions (and others which we could have mentioned).  We need to be careful Bible students.  Charles Hodge has written, “This error simply says that artists have influenced men more than scripture” (Hodge, Angels, p. 2).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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