Angels are mentioned almost three hundred times in the bible. Let’s look at who these created beings are and what they do for God. This essay will be divided into three sections. First, we’ll have a very brief overview in looking at what angels do and who they are, from scripture. I say very brief because the subject is so deep that one essay, or even a dozen essays, can’t do it justice.
In the second section there will be some fast facts and trivia.
In the third section at the end I’ll look at some weighty matters concerning angels.
The bible says that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Since God has always existed, ‘the beginning means’ the beginning of what He wants to reveal to us. Job 38:4-7 says that when God did that work, the angels praised Him by singing with joy. So the angels already were created by God.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7)
“Sons of God” is a term sometimes used to describe angels. (Job 1:6, Genesis 6:2). Angels then, were created before the foundation of the world was laid, but the point is, they are created beings. They have intellect, will, and emotions. They are a higher order than humans. (Hebrews 2:7). They are spirit beings that sometimes take on a body likeness when they come to earth. And they do come to earth. (Genesis 32:24, Hebrews 13:2).
In Genesis 18:2, Abraham saw three ‘men’ approaching him but in the next verse Abraham immediately bowed and called one of them Lord. Though they were in the form of men, Abraham knew they were not of this world. Sometimes an angel appears and they do not look like men but they do look like they are from glory. (Matthew 28:2-4). Usually in those cases where even their full stature and countenance is hidden, the men and women viewing them still fall down.
They serve us by obeying God. They praise and honor God in His temple (Revelation 4:8; Hebrews 12:22) bring messages, (Luke 1:19, Daniel 10:11), minister to us, (Hebrews 1:14), fight for God against the forces of evil, (2 Kings 6:17).
Or not, as the case may be. Angels rebelled in heaven and a third of the angels sided with satan. (Revelation 12:4). These became the demons. They attempt to thwart God and His people. They may seem to be temporarily successful but of course they are not in any sense victorious over God. His plan reigns supreme. All that happens to those who love God He turns to the good for His glory.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains more eloquently. Click on the link FMI
“But its distinctive application is to certain heavenly intelligences whom God employs in carrying on his government of the world. The name does not denote their nature but their office as messengers. The appearances to Abraham at Mamre (Genesis 18:2, 22. Comp. 19:1), to Jacob at Peniel (Genesis 32:24, 30), to Joshua at Gilgal (Joshua 5:13, 15), of the Angel of the Lord, were doubtless manifestations of the Divine presence, “foreshadowings of the incarnation,” revelations before the “fulness of the time” of the Son of God.
(1.) The existence and orders of angelic beings can only be discovered from the Scriptures. Although the Bible does not treat of this subject specially, yet there are numerous incidental details that furnish us with ample information. Their personal existence is plainly implied in such passages as Genesis 16:7, 10, 11; Judges 13:1-21; Matthew 28:2-5; Hebrews 1:4, etc.
These superior beings are very numerous. “Thousand thousands,” etc. (Dan. 7:10; Matthew 26:53; Luke 2:13; Hebrews 12:22, 23). They are also spoken of as of different ranks in dignity and power (Zechariah 1:9, 11; Dan. 10:13; 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16).
(2.) As to their nature, they are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), like the soul of man, but not incorporeal. Such expressions as “like the angels” (Luke 20:36), and the fact that whenever angels appeared to man it was always in a human form (Genesis 18:2; 19:1, 10; Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10), and the titles that are applied to them (“sons of God, ” Job 1:6; 38:7; Dan. 3:25; Comp. 28) and to men (Luke 3:38), seem all to indicate some resemblance between them and the human race. Imperfection is ascribed to them as creatures (Job 4:18; Matthew 24:36; 1 Peter 1:12). As finite creatures they may fall under temptation; and accordingly we read of “fallen angels.”
FMI: Sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Common and Special Grace, Ephesians 6:10-13, The Fall of man; man cannot save himself; the history of redemption; God is concerned about the salvation of man; God is defending His own character; God ordained government to control the effects of the Fall; man’s need of discipline; common grace and special grace; examples of special grace in Scripture; the ministry of angels.
FMI: Sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Good Angels, “The term ‘angel’ defined; do angels have bodies? the archangels Michael and Gabriel; two groups of angels; the work of the angels as messengers; in salvation and deliverance; as revealers of God’s purpose; examples of the intervention of angels. NOTE: Sadly there is no recording of the subsequent lecture titled ‘The Devil and the Fallen Angels’.”
Note: Even though the audio is lost, for now at least, the companion lecture to Good Angels, titled “‘The Devil and the Fallen Angels’.” has been transcribed and can be read at this link.
Trivia question: Who are the only named angels in the bible? Answer below.
Fast Fact: Angels that rebelled will not be redeemed. Their condemnation is fixed. (Matthew 25:41)
Fast Fact: Humans do not turn into angels when we get to heaven. Angels and humans are separate orders of beings in creation. Angels are angels and humans are humans. Forever.
Cherubim guarded the way back to the tree of life with a flaming sword. (Genesis 3:24)
Peter was freed from prison by an angel. Even locks and prison bars cannot stop angels from ministering to us, when God sends them! (Acts 12:4-8)
An angel announced the birth of Samson. (Judges 13:1-7,24)
Food for thought: If sometimes we entertain angels unaware, and a third of them sided with Lucifer and turned into unholy demons, then there is a 1-in-3 chance that when an angel visits us he is an unholy demon. (Genesis 6:1-2). However the good news is that they obey God and do His bidding within limits. (Job 1:12, 2 Chronicles 18:21)
Do angels marry? Not in heaven. (Mark 12:25). But the rebellious ones did on earth. (Genesis 6:1). That’s why they are in chains awaiting judgment. (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4)
Trivia answer: The three named angels in the bible are Gabriel Michael, and … Lucifer!
The Renaissance was a period of renewal and discovery. So much beautiful art, architecture, and advanced thought came out of that period between the 14th and 17th century that we have much to be grateful for. However, not all that came from the Renaissance was good. We have our current view of angels as chubby munchkins with tiny wings shooting love darts into people insidiously placed in our minds thanks to the Italian painters.
Wikipedia explains the difference between putti and cherubs (as opposed to the biblical cherubim).
“A putto (plural putti) is a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude and sometimes winged. Putti are commonly confused with, yet are completely unrelated to, cherubim. In the plural, “the Cherubim” refers to the biblical angels, which have four heads of different species and several pairs of wings. While “cherubs” represent the second order of angels, putti are secular and present a non-religious passion. However, in the Baroque period of art, the putto came to represent the omnipresence of God. A putto representing a cupid is also called an amorino (plural amorini). During the Middle Ages, the putto disappeared and was revived during the 15th century. The revival of the figure of the putto is generally attributed to Donatello, in Florence in the 1420s”
At least at the end of the Gothic age as the Renaissance dawned, Giotto, the era’s most famous painter, was depicting angels as full grown men. Below is his “Nativity” from the Arena Chapel, Late Gothic/Early Italian Renaissance 1305-1306. The angels are engaged in full-blown worship of God. They had wings, unfortunately, but at least they were fully grown. By the beginning of the Renaissance around 1420, they had been reduced to putti/cherubs.
Here is an example. Though the putti were meant to be secular, their similarity to cherubs in vastly reduced in size and position contributed to the false imagery about angels that persists to this day. They are constantly shown as mischievous sprites chasing love and napping, not full the grown, powerful created holy beings who serve Almighty God that they are. I’m harping on this for a reason.
Here is a piece of art called “The Cherub Harvesters,” Francis Boucher, ca. 1733-34
Angels in the bible are massively potent beings with incredible power. Did you know that the Law was given to Moses by angels?
“you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:53),
“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.“(Galatians 3:19)
Deuteronomy 33:2 mentions that He came to give the Law with myriads and ten thousands of His holy ones. Angels by the side of God as He delivered the Law! Incredible!
How powerful are angels? This was astounding to me when I read it. I studied the book of Revelation. In it, it becomes terribly obvious that angels are the means that God uses to deliver judgment.
Begin with Chapter 5:2,
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
The word loud in this verse is from megas, meaning ‘in the widest sense’, large, great. It’s where we get ‘mega’ from. Mighty is from a word meaning powerful in the physical sense.
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12)
Angels hold back the wind and rise with the sun. They proclaim praise, render judgment, and fulfill God’s wishes.
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:1-3)
How about this powerful scene with angels from Revelation 8:1-5
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings,a flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”
Cherubs? NO! Flying babies? Never! They are holy and powerful! Skim through Revelation to see the massive amount of angelic intercession in the affairs of men during the Tribulation. I could quote many more instances but if I did, I’d essentially be repeating the entire book of Revelation. John MacArthur sums it up
“Angels, you know, have played very prominent roles already in Revelation. The four horsemen that we saw in chapter 6 were called by angels, the seven trumpets were blown by angels, Satan and demons were defeated by angels, the seven bowls will be poured out by angels, Armageddon is announced by an angel, Satan and demons are bound by an angel, and here is another angel. And this angel comes out of the temple in heaven and he also has a sharp sickle.” This is the angel that reaps the earth.
Matthew 13:39 says that angels reap at the end of the age:
“and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.” (Matthew 13:39)
Once you’ve read through, then ask the Spirit to heighten your awareness of the holy work of angels in the bible. They are mentioned quite often, and as you read through the book you’re reading through, you will notice their works. Even the demons are powerful. The fallen ones are still called majesties and those false teachers who unwisely mock and deride them are themselves awaiting judgment. (2 Peter 2:10-11). Even Archangel Michael dare not bring an accusation against satan but instead said simply, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9).
Not that we worship angels, (Revelation 22:9) but be aware of their powerful work for our Holy God. Just as we are instruments of His plan used to bring Him glory, so are angels. Yet they have supernatural powers and dwell in the very temple of heaven. Refuse to allow this image to stay with you-
and instead remember that even this image won’t do them justice.
They are majestic, intelligent, powerful and we are not to revile even the fallen ones. Our God is amazing in His creation of all the universe, the worlds, the animals, stars, humans … and angels.