Angels – A Biblical View
This is a Bible study on the topic of angels.
Why The Bible?
Why seek answers from the Bible? Why not a Roman Catholic doctrinal study of angels? Why not an ancient Babylonian study on angels? Why not a Muslim study of angels? Or Mormon? Or Spiritualist?
Serious Christians and serious Jews seek information from the Bible because they view the Bible as the book that came from God and not man.
The Bible itself claims to have come from God and not something that man made up. The expression “Thus saith the LORD…” (i.e. “The LORD said…”) appears over 400 times in the Bible. This “LORD” is either a euphemism for the Jewish name of God in the Old Testament, or it applies to Jesus in the New Testament, whom Christians call “the Son of God.”
In addition to the Bible being God’s direct word to man, writers of the Bible tell what happened to them and what God did through them. Moses claimed God spoke to him “face to face” (Exodus 33:11). The apostle John said, “That… which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1). The apostle Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)
Other sources of information about angels do not claim to be from God Himself. Mohammad (of Islam fame), claimed the information he got came from the angel Gabriel. Joseph Smith claimed the information he got came started with an angel named Moroni. Spiritualists claim to talk to spirits, especially spirits of dead people – ghosts.
Thus, the Biblical source of information about angels claims to be from God himself, and the other sources claim to be from a person, or from someone who spoke to an angel, or from someone .
Concerning the matter of receiving information about angels from angels, the Bible says, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). It also says, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14). It further says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8). And finally the Bible says, “For… God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment…” (2 Peter 2:4)
From those scriptures, we find that the Bible says not all angels are trustworthy; that they can lie and deceive. We owe our allegiance to God, not to angels. Therefore the Bible issues a warning about people who talk to angels: “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize [of eternal life in Jesus Christ]. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.” (Colossians 2:18)
There is no end of opinions. In religion or any spiritual matter; everybody has his own thoughts. We all have opinions. Siddhartha Gautama, through intense meditation, started Buddhism. Mohammad, through prayer and conversation with Gabriel, started Islam. Joseph Smith, talking with Moroni, started Mormonism. Mary Baker Eddy started Christian Science through her own imagination.
Anybody can start anything if they have an imagination. That doesn’t mean there’s a whit of truth involved in their final conclusion. Current day spiritualists study books about spirits and angels. But who wrote those books? Another human. Where did this other human get his information? Usually we don’t know, but it’s a safe guess that he 1) got it from another human, or 2) made it up through his own imagination, or 3) got it from an angel (or spirit).
Do you think getting information from a spirit or angel is a good source? If yes, then do you believe in evil spirits and fallen angels? If yes, then how can you think spiritual or angelic information is legitimate? No liar says, “I’m a liar.” Every liar says, “I’m a truth teller.” And every truth teller says, “I’m a truth teller.” So, how do you know if an angel or spirit is telling the truth?
It is written that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14). If we could tell that Satan was Satan by looking at him, then how could he appear to us as an “angel of light”? The deception is that evil angels can appear as good angels, and we wouldn’t know the difference.
Serious Christians and serious Jews tend to believe the Bible comes from God. It’s a spiritual truth from the Source of Truth. Nonbelievers may say, “Well the Bible was written by humans and they could be wrong too.” But I’m not writing to nonbelievers. I’m writing a Bible study about angels for people who believe the Bible is true, is from God and worthy of study and consideration.
What Are Angels?
The English word for “Angel” comes from the Greek word angelos. The word is not translated, but transliterated. If it were translated, it would be “messenger.” Since we don’t say “messenger” but “angel,” a word that we don’t associate with anything else, our minds create a void that we fill in with an image. We tend to think of a beautiful mythical being that has wings and can do magic, something like an adult-sized fairy. We put angel figurines on our Christmas trees. We paint pictures of them. Our concept of what an angel is does not come from the Bible.
The Hebrew and Aramaic words for angel are mal’ak. It means “messenger.”
The New Testament Greek word for angel is angelos, which means “messenger,” or a spirit who is sent from God with a message.
The Septuagint’s word for angel is angelos (e.g. Genesis 16:7). The Septuagint is the Old Testament Hebrew translated into Greek about 250 BC. It shows that the Greek-speaking Jews knew that mal’ak meant messenger, and they translated it as such into Greek.
Psalm 104:4: “Who makes his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (King James Version). Some different translations use the word “messenger” instead of “angel,” and the word “winds” for “spirits.” (“Spirit” also means “wind” or “breath.”) Thus, some translations say, “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants” (New International Version). That is equivalent to saying, “He makes spirits his messengers.” The word “ministers,” in this case, means “servants.” Therefore we find angels – messengers – are spirits and they are servants of God.
In every instance in the Bible except one we see Angels are messengers of God (which makes them “servants”).
An angel announced the birth of Jesus to Joseph (Matthew 1:20), to Mary (Luke 1:26) and to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-9).
An angel or two told disciples that Jesus had raised from the dead (Luke 24:4-7, Matthew 28: 1-8)
An angel told a Jewish couple that Samson would be born to them (Judges 13:1)
The one exception is when the disciples of Jesus, thinking that Peter was dead, said “It is his angel,” when they saw Peter alive. (Acts 12:13-15) This shows that Jewish people and early Christians thought the holy people who died would become angels. That makes sense, because angels are spirits and messengers. Humans are spirits and God can use them to be messengers.
I’m not saying that first century Christians were theologically correct in their belief about dead saints becoming angels. I’m just saying it’s interesting that they did believe it.
What we know for sure is that the Bible says angels are spirits that are used by God as messengers. To be “used” by God does not mean to be “belittled” by God any more than a friend asking me to do something for him belittles me.
Types of Angels
Cherubim, seraphim, and archangels, what are they?
The very fact that we are told cherubim and seraphim are angels show us there are different types of angels. They’re not all the same.
Cherubim and cherub appear about 90 times in the Bible, depending on which version you read. Cherubim is the plural for cherub. Hebrew forms its plurals by adding –im at the end of the word, just as English adds –s at the end of their words to form plurals.
So the LORD God banished him [Adam] from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
And so we know that cherubim can fight, defend, protect and guard. They also can use a weapon.
God commanded the Israelites through Moses to make a box covered with gold in which to store the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. The box is called an “ark,” and the Ten Commandments is the covenant God made with Israel. Therefore, that box is the Ark of the Covenant. He told them to make a golden lid for that box, and put two golden images of cherubim on the lid.
And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other... The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I [God] will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.
Thus we learn that cherubim have wings. It did not happen that God said “put two cherubim on the lid” and some human made the cherubim with wings. Instead, God said, “put two cherubim on the lid and make their wings like this…” Therefore it was God who told us that cherubim have wings; we did not make it up ourselves.
When the prophet Ezekiel saw cherubim, he described them thus:
Their [cherubim’s] entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes.
Under the wings of the cherubim could be seen what looked like the hands of a man.
Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
Later, Ezekiel wrote a passage (chapter 28) that theologians generally agree refers to Satan. It does not use the name “Satan,” but it describes the person whom we identify as Satan. The entire passage is Ezekiel 28:11-19. Here are two excerpts:
You [Satan] were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I [God] ordained you…
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub,
We find out here that Satan is a cherub. But Ezekiel 28:14 makes us wonder. “You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you…” Does that mean the angel Satan was anointed to be a cherub, thus making cherubim an office rather than a type? Or does it mean the cherub Satan was anointed to be a guardian, meaning he was given the task of guarding something? I don’t know.
If you want to know more about cherubim, you can study more about Satan in the Bible and find out. But don’t deceive yourself and study something not using the Bible as its foundation.
Before the events described above in chapter 10, Ezekiel had seen cherubim at the Kebar River as he describes in chapter 1, but he did not realize they were cherubim at that time. He only figured it out in chapter 10.
In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings.
Later he said,
These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.
Thus we learn about cherubim:
- They look like a man, but have four faces and four wings.
- They are covered with eyes, front and back, everywhere.
- The have hands.
- Satan is a cherub.
Seraphim or seraph appear twice in the Bible, both in the book of Isaiah. Seraphim is the plural for seraph.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Thus we learn about Seraphim:
- They have six wings.
- They stand around God’s throne.
- They praise God.
- They have hands.
That doesn’t mean they do nothing else. That’s all I gleaned from Isaiah. But there’s another scripture that may shed light.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”
These “living creatures” described by John in Revelation are similar to what Isaiah called Seraphim, 600 years earlier.
- They have six wings.
- They stand around God’s throne.
- They praise God.
But there’s more:
- They have eyes all over, just like cherubim.
- They have four faces, just like cherubim.
- They have hands, just like cherubim.
It looks like the only differences between cherubim and seraphim are
- Cherubim have four wings and seraphim have six wings.
- Cherubim are guardians (warriors) and seraphim praise God (priests).
That doesn’t mean that is the standard. It only means that is what I can discern from the Bible. Since we don’t know what cherubim and seraphim are, it’s possible for those words to describe the office of a spirit rather than a type of spirit. It’s possible some cherubim have no wings. It’s possible that seraphim are simply a type or category of cherubim, just as women are a type or category of human. We don’t know the answers because we don’t have all the information necessary for a valid answer.
The word archangel is mentioned twice in the Bible, and once in the apocryphal book 2 Esdras 4:36. We’re not considering Esdras here, because it is excluded from the generally accepted Bible.
An “arch” angel is the highest one. He/she/it is over the other spirits, just like the archbishop is over other bishops. An archangel is an office a spirit holds.
But even the archangel Michael…
So, we find out the archangel’s name is Michael.
1 Thessalonians 4:16
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God
We find here that the archangel will be participating in the return of Jesus Christ. Also note it doesn’t say “an archangel,” as if there were more than one. It says “the archangel,” is if there is only one.
We can read about Michael in Daniel 10:21, Daniel 12:1 and Revelation 12:7. In Daniel, he “opposes” Satan, in Jude he “contends” with Satan, and in Revelation he fights against Satan.
Since he is a fighter, does that make Michael a cherub?
Other angels appear in the Bible, but they look like humans, and other humans don’t recognize them as angels until later.
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Abraham saw what he thought were three men, but they turned out to be the LORD and two angels.
The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.
Later, the two other “men” departed and went to the city Sodom.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening…
Yet even in Sodom no one recognized the two men as angels. The male citizens of Sodom all thought the angels were simply men, and tried to rape them. You may read the entire Sodom story in Genesis 18-19.
Joshua saw a warrior angel –perhaps Michael the archangel – and thought he was a man:
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
When some women went to the tomb of Jesus, they first thought the angel there was just another man, until subsequent events showed them otherwise.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Jesus told us about angels who keep watch over children. We call them guardian angels, and we assume everybody has guardian angels.
“See that you do not look down on [despise] one of these little ones [young children]. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
That could mean that young children have guardian angels, or it could mean that when young children die, their spirits (“angels”) see God, therefore do not despise them.
There are other creatures in heaven that we might call angels.
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.
These elders are mentioned twelve times in Revelation.
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.
Our Response to Angels
How should we respond or react to angels? After all, they are spirits, as we are. They are servants of God, as we are. They interact in the affairs of man. So, what should we do? Should we talk with them, in a spiritual sense? Should we seek their counsel? Some people do.
Fortunately, the Bible is not silent in this matter. God tells us the role spirits (“angels”) should play in our lives.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
That is God speaking, of course. And that is the first of Ten Commandments.
The Hebrew word God and gods are the same, elohim. The Hebrew word el means god and elohim means gods or God. When the Lord God Almighty is intended in the Bible, the word used is elohim (plural) but translated as singular with a capital G, God.
The word LORD (spelled with all capital letters) is in Hebrew the actual name of God, just as Jerald is my actual name. It is written as LORD because the Bible translators wish neither to spell it nor to pronounce it, because it is holy. So they use a euphemism. The Jewish people today say Hashem (The Name) instead of LORD. The actual name of God is spelled in Hebrew almost like this YHWH, and it is pronounced something like Yahweh or Yahveh. Over the last 500-1000 years, scholars have started spelling it like Jehovah. So, in this Bible study example, I’m going to use Jehovah as God’s personal name, just as Jerry is my personal nickname.
With that in mind, I’m going to restate the First Commandment,
I am Jehovah your gods, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
The Hebrew word elohim, meaning gods, can stand for Jehovah God, idols, false gods, angels, mighty men, rulers, and judges.
God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”.
The “great assembly” is the throng of angels that surround the throne of God. It is also translated as “congregation of the mighty” (KJV) and “divine counsel” (NRSV).
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.
Satan wants to rule over the assembly of angels – spirits – that surround the throne of God.
You [Satan] said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars [angels] of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
“Stars” is a euphemism for “angels.”
The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.
You could equally say, “The seven stars are the spirits of the seven churches,” or “The seven stars are the messengers of the seven churches.”
Satan wants to put his throne above the other angels, not above God. Currently, God is above the other angels, and so is Michael, the archangel. Perhaps Satan is jealous and wants Michael’s job.
I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
In this case, the Bible calls people “gods,” as attested to by Jesus in
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? …he called them [humans] ‘gods,’”
And so we see in Psalm 82 that people and angels are called gods. Therefore, when God said, “You shall have no other gods before me” in Exodus 20:3, he was using the proper meaning of the word gods to include angels and men.
The First Commandment is, You shall have no other gods, angels, spirits or mighty men before me. That “before” means “besides.” You shall have no gods, angels, or mighty men before me, besides me, in place of me, between you and me. That means no priests, either, should be between you and God.
The Second Commandment is,
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,
That is also saying, You shall not make an image like an angel. You shall not seek it out or pay homage to it.
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.
Remember that an “angel” is a spirit. In the above scripture, God forbids us to have communion with spirits outside of the Spirit of God. He said, “You shall have no other gods before me.” That is, no spirits, no angels, no mediums, nothing between, before or besides you and God. He said that the other nations in Canaan were kicked out and destroyed by God because they did that very thing. That is what is forbidden to God’s people. No communion with spirits or angels.
God forbids us to have interaction with spirits, angels and ghosts (spirits of dead people). It breaks the first two of the Ten Commandments, and it is a sin that will be punished by God.
These things we learn about angels in the bible:
- The word “angel” means messenger
- Angels are spirits
- Angels are spirits that are sent to do tasks (carry a message) by God.
- Some Angels are evil and have rebelled against God
- Early Christians and Jews thought dead saints became angels.
- There are different types of angels: cherubim, seraphim, archangel, and human-like angels. Possibly more.
- God forbids us to engage in communication with angels and other spirits. Although angels may bring us a message from God, we may not seek them out for our own reasons. God wants us to deal solely with himself and not with another spirit.
I omitted two topics about angels because they are both lengthy and call for too much speculation.
One omitted topic is about angels being the (spiritual) kings of nations. Michael is the angel over Israel (Daniel 12:1). Satan is the angel – or king – over Persia and Tyre (Daniel chapter 10 and Ezekiel chapters 27-28). Possibly he is the angel over other nations, too, although not over Israel. Satan is called “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), also equally translated, “the god of this age.”
It’s possible that each nation has its own archangel overseeing the affairs of that nation, and Michael is the archangel over Israel. He, being the archangel, has office above the other angels that are assigned to Israel. But this is only speculation. It might possibly be implied in the Bible, but it’s not taught overtly.
The other omitted topic is about the assembly of angels (spirits) surrounding the throne of God and the twenty-four elders. It looks like they may be humans from earth, as implied in Revelation chapters 6, 19 and elsewhere. If that is so, then it’s true that humans become angels. Which is to say, when the human body dies, the spirit may be called upon by God to serve as a messenger.
I did not think those topics worthy to be included in this Bible Study of Angels.