Questions on Angels

This is a paper addressing questions that I was given about angels.  It doesn’t cover everything, but is a good start.

The term ‘angel’ literally means messenger.  Sometimes it is ambiguous as to whether the Bible is talking about a human agent who is sent as a messenger or a spiritual being (See Rev 2:1, 2:8, 2:12; 3:1, 3:7, 3:14).  For most of this paper, we will be referring to spiritual beings.

Are there different types of angels?

There are different types of spiritual beings, divided into two categories.  One is good, what we call angels and the other bad, normally referred to as demons or evil spirits and are lead by a chief being called Satan.  

Even within these categories we have different types of angels: Cherubim who seem to have more of a guardian role (Gen 3:24; Ex 25:18-20; Ps 18:10, 80:1, 99:1); Seraphim who seem to have more of an announcing role (Isa 6:2,6).  There is a hierarchy: Michael is referred to as an archangel (Jude 9) or a prince (Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1).

There is a mysterious Angel of the Lord who sometimes is seen as acting on behalf of God as his messenger (Gen 16:7-13) and sometimes seems to be God himself (Ex 3:2-6).  There has been a lot of discussion as to whether the true ingenuity of the Angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus.

Are angels alive?

Definitely.  As J. I. Packer puts it “They are intelligent moral agents, not embodied or ordinarily visible, although they are able to show themselves in what appears as a physical form.” (Concise Theology, p64).  When they do appear physically, it is with great effect (Matt 28:5; Luke 1:11-13, 2:9-11, etc.).  They have names: Michael (Jude 9, Rev 12:7), Gabriel (Luke 1:19, 26), etc.

What do angels look like?

Different angels have different appearances.  Some angels simply look like people (Heb 13:2).  Seraphim have six wings (Is 6:2) and the word “seraphim” means they are likely to look serpent-like”.  Cherubim also have wings (Ex 25:30).  Other angelic beings have strange appearances according to their function (Rev 4:6b-8).  Since angels are not embodied does it mean that are able to change their form?  It is difficult to say. 

Do angels have baby angels?

Since angels do not marry they don’t have ‘baby’ angels.  Their lack of marriage and procreation is the pattern we have in the new creation. “At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30).

Where are angels?

Angels are described as being attending God in heaven (Matt 18:10, 22:30, Rev 5:11).  Because of this, it means that they are sometimes mistakenly worshipped (Col 2:18, Rev 19:10).  But they are the worshippers, not the worshipped (Heb 1:6).

They often act on behalf of God in the spiritual realm (or heavenly realms (Eph 6:12)).  This realm is invisible to the physical eye, but it is made known through the revelation of God.

Are angels created and do they die?

Angels are like all of things that are not God, they are therefore created (John 1:3).  Being created beings, there are only a finite number of angels, though we don’t know what that number is, it appears to be very large (Matt 26:52).  Angels, however, do not die (Luke 20:35-36).  Angels will continue to serve in heaven in the new creation,

Are demons fallen angels?

Jude 6 points to the fact that there are angels who do not keep their position in heaven.  These angels are awaiting judgment (2 Peter 2:4).  They are led by Satan.  We do not know the origin of Satan, but as God’s power is in his true and living word, Satan who opposed him has power in lies and deception.  It was he who was the one who deceived Eve (Rev 12:9, 20:2), whose power is in deception (John 8:44, 2 Cor 11:14).  While Satan and his followers oppose God with power (1 Peter 5:8, Rev 12:8), that power is a power that is given to him and will be taken away.  

Some demons are sent to a place called the Abyss (Luke 8:31, Rev 20:1-3) which is a temporary holding place where evil spirits are not able to use their power.  However, their final destiny, after judgment is the lake of fire for all eternity (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10).

Are angels still active today?

While some of their activities continue throughout history: they protect (Ps 34:7, 91:11, Matt 18:10), observe the church (1 Cor 11:10, Eph 3:10) and have a special ministry to Christians at their death (Luke 16:22, Heb 1:14).

However, their physical form usually only appears at great turning points of salvation history: e.g. the exodus; the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  This is not to say they have not had some physical interactions.

Are we above the angels or below?

Psalm 8:5, quoted in Hebrews 2:7, tells us we are “a little lower than the angels”, but we also have a special place in God’s world.  Being material and separated from God, waiting for our redemption, we are not in the same place as the angels who are worshipping God in his presence.  On the other hand, we (Christians) will be the judge of the angels (1 Cor 6:3).  We do not rule angels, but neither are we answerable to them.

Why does this matter?

Since angels have such a limited role in our life, why should it matter that we acknowledge they exist.  Firstly, they are a part of the creation that God has made and that is a good thing.  Secondly, they remind us that there is a realm we cannot see but has an effect on our lives.  Thirdly, they show us that at the centre of the universe is the worship of God.

However, we should not, as some have done, mistake their work for the work of the Spirit or of the Son particularly in interceding for us (Rom 8:26-37, 34; Heb 7:25).

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