Chapter 1 The Reality of Angels
One morning during the Great Depression, while my father was away at work, someone knocked on the back door of our home. I opened it and saw a cleanly dressed individual standing there.
"I'm not a beggar," he said, "but I am hungry. Will you feed me?"
"Yes," replied my mother as she came to the door. "Come in."
While the meal was being prepared, the stranger sat at our table and talked about the wonderful truths in the Bible. He asked God's blessing on the food before he began to eat and after he had finished. Then he arose, looked at us for a few seconds, and walked out the door, closing it behind him.
My mother was the first to speak after he left. "Children, I have a very strange feeling about that visitor," she said. Quickly, she opened the door and we all went out, but the stranger was nowhere to be seen. We looked into the street and all around the house. We searched fast; we searched diligently. But we could not find him.
As I think now about that incident from my boyhood years, I recall the words of Hebrews 13:2: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Could that have been an angelic visitor to our home? I can't be sure, of course, but I do know that the Bible establishes beyond all doubt the reality of angels.
When we examine the Old Testament, for example, we find that angels are mentioned 108 times. Angels intervened in the lives of the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, as the Book of Genesis indicates (see chaps. 18,19,28,32). Moses also knew the ministry of angels in his life, both in his call to return to Egypt (see Ex. 3:2) and during the wilderness wanderings (see Ex. 14:19). In all, the word angel or angels appears in the books of the Law, the writings of Moses, a total of 32 times.
Turn to the books of history and read of angelic activity in Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 2 Kings, and in 1 and 2 Chronicles. Some 37 references to the work and ministry of angels relate to the development of the kingdom of Israel.
Those who wrote the books of poetry continued to unfold the existence of angels. The oldest book of the Bible, Job, speaks of angels (e.g., 12 4:18). Frequently the Psalms describe angels as protecting and delivering God's people from all kinds of danger (see, e.g., 34:7; 91:11). With the exception of Jeremiah, all the Major Prophets alluded to the ministry of angels. The writer Daniel gave us the names of two angels, Gabriel (see Dan. 9:20-27) and Michael (see Dan. 10:13). Of the Minor Prophets, Hosea and Zechariah speak of angels.
The Old Testament writers did not feel it necessary to offer formal proof of an gels or argue for their reality. Instead, the angels are assumed to exist, just as God is assumed to exist.
The Old Testament alone would be sufficient to establish the fact of angels, but the New Testament continues to enlarge our knowledge of angelic beings. In fact, although the New Testament is far shorter than the Old, angels are mentioned there even more often , a total of 165 times. The gospels are filled with references to them, and six times in the Book of Acts, angels ministered to the Lord's people (e.g., 5:18-20).
The writer of half the epistles, Paul, spoke of angels in many of the books that bear his name. James and Peter spoke of them in their letters, too.
The last division of the New Testament, the Revelation, refers to angels no fewer than 65 times. (Later, we shall consider those references in detail.) Surely, all these mentions of the reality and ministry of angels are convincing, but there is also the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was He, of course, who created angels in the beginning, so it comes as no surprise that He believed in and taught the existence of angels. (see, e.g., Matt. 13:39-41).
Angels are real. We know that with absolute certainty from the Bible and from the Son of God.
What are angels? Who are angels? Let's define,them this way: Angels are created, spirit beings. We know angels are created from reading Psalm 148:2,5: "Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. ... Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created." We know angels are spirit beings because of passages like Hebrews 1:14: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
Another helpful definition of angels comes through the Greek and Hebrew words for them. Angel literally means "messenger." Angels are the heavenly messengers of God, often delivering His messages to men and women.
Now that we have looked at the reality of angels and have defined their name, let me give you a general overview of angels by making a number of "angels are" statements. 14
No Dying, No Death
First, angels are immortal. Some Sadducees once came to Jesus, trying to trap Him on the subject of the resurrection, an idea which they rejected. They wanted to know, so they said, about the case of a woman who had in succession seven husbands. Whose wife would she be in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-33)?
Jesus replied that, in heaven, people neither marry nor are given in marriage. Then He added, "Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels" (Luke 20:36).
Angels never get sick, never go to the hospital, never die. You'll never read an obituary for an angel. You¿ll never go to an angel's funeral. God created angels to live forever.
Angels are of a high order. Do you remember from your school days how you learned to rank things in their proper order? A comes before B. One comes before two. Life comes in order: human, animal, plant. You can cite many examples.
Where do angels rank in the created order of God? The Bible tells us that angels constitute a higher form than man. Psalm 8:5 declares, "For thou hast made him [man] a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor." And in 2 Peter 2:11 we read that angels are greater in power and might than human beings.
Even so, angels rank far below God Himself. Lucifer, you will remember, was one of the angels who aspired to rise above God, as Isaiah 14 relates, but he failed. He didn't have that power.
Sometimes when a child learns about angels, he may say, "I'd like to be one!" No, God has something far better for those who believe in Jesus Christ. In fact, one day, in our exalted, heavenly state, we shall judge the angels (see 1 Cor. 6:3).
Angels are intelligent. Recently a young man was interviewed on television and was said to have an I.Q. of 206. That's simply amazing. But he wouldn't fare too well in a one-to-one confrontation with an angel. Angels have great intelligence. In 2 Samuel 14:20 we read about being wise "according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth."
There are some things, of course, that angels don't know, such as the hour of our Lord's return from heaven (see Matt. 24:36). But angels want to know all they can about what God is doing. For example, they are trying to understand God's great plan of salvation for mankind (1 Pet. 1:12). I've never heard the expression "smart as an angel," but perhaps we should coin it.
No Sin, No Stain
Angels are holy. When we consider that angels constantly dwell in the presence of God, we can well understand that they, too, must be holy. Mark 8:38 speaks specifically of angels as being holy. That's the way He created them.
Have you ever seen drawings of angels done by various artists? Always they are pictured as being clothed in white, representing their purity as revealed in Scripture.
Count Them if You Can
Angels are innumerable. Men and women have often wondered how many angels there are. We are told that during the Middle Ages some people used to stand around debating how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. That would be nothing but vain speculation, of course, but still our minds wonder how many angels God created.
Once again, Scripture gives us a little information. Hebrews 12:22 speaks of those who 46 are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company, of angels." The word innumerable means one thing: You cannot count them. The group is so vast that numbers cannot be assigned.
The Book of Job gives us the same idea in this reference to God's angelic armies: "Is there any number of his armies?" (25:3).
The shepherds were given an incredible view of the angelic multitudes on the night our Savior was born. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:13,14). How many angels came to take part in that announcement and call to worship, we do not know. Perhaps the entire sky as far as the shepherds could see was filled with the heavenly messengers. What a sight!
No Need for Workouts
Angels are strong. Second Thessalonians 1:7 tells us of a coming day "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels." Why do they need to be strong? Because they will perform all the things for God that need doing on the face of this earth. Perhaps Revelation 18:1 gives us one good example: "And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory." Imagine that angel of superhuman strength lighting up the darkness with his appearance.
Consider also Psalm 103:20, which teaches that angels "excel in strength." Outside the Godhead, there is no order of creation any stronger. Angels are able to act effectively, with power, because they were given that ability by God.
Out of Sight
Angels are invisible. Although men and women have seen angels many times, as recorded in the Bible, we must remember that angels are spirits and only take on forms visible to human beings on relatively rare occasions, when God has them do so for some specific reason. We see an example of how they do God's work even when invisible to man in Numbers 22:22-31.
Not Made for Marriage
Angels do not marry. We do not know why the Lord Jesus chose to tell us this, but in Matthew's gospel we are informed that angels do not marry (see 22:30). We are not told anywhere in Scripture whether there are even female angels, and it would be pointless to speculate about the matter. What we do know, simply, is that angels do not participate in the institution of marriage.
That fact does tell us a little about angelic service to God, however, especially in light of the apostle Paul's advice to Christians in 1 Corinthians 7. In that chapter, he explained that it is good, if one feels so led, to remain unmarried in order to devote full attention to serving and pleasing God (see vv. 32-34). The married person must please his spouse as well as God, but the single person can concentrate exclusively on the Lord.
Therefore, since angels do not marry, they are free to give their full devotion to God. There are no distractions, no earthly companions whose pleasure they might seek above the Lord's. They can be single-minded in going about the purposes for which God created them.
Sing for Joy
Angels are joyful. Could angels possibly have long faces or be depressed? I think not because of Luke 15:10: "Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." In this world there is somebody being saved every moment of the day. Somebody is finding God, somewhere. Thus, what a good time angels must have! They are constantly filled with joy because of sinners coming to know Jesus as their personal Savior. When we consider that angels dwell in heaven with God and serve Him in holiness, they have great cause, indeed, for joy.
No, Don't Do It
When we stop to consider how wonderful the angels are, we may feel that we ought to make a little statue and bow down to worship them. n a sense, that must have been the way the apostle John felt when be was given all the tremendous insights be recorded in the Book of the Revelation. Read what he wrote:
And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. 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 which keep the sayings of this book: worship God (Rev. 22:8,9).
So not only does the Bible say we must not worship angels, but it also says that angels do not want to be worshiped.
The apostle Paul also spoke to the matter of angel worship: "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen" (Col. 2:18). So if someone says to you, in effect, "We ought to worship angels," don't listen to him. He's wrong. His teaching is contrary to God's Word.
This has been a brief introduction to the great theme of angels. We've looked at just a few of the characteristics angels possess. Is this an important study? It is, indeed, particularly in the time in which we live. It is my earnest belief that in these last days we are going to see more angels, see more of their work and power, than at any other time since that recorded in Revelation. There are going to be tremendous things happening in the very near future, and we don't want through unbelief or unconcern to be blinded to or to miss what God is doing in our time.