Angels are intelligent, powerful spirit beings created to serve God. “Angel” means “messenger.”
The Existence of Angels
Angels are mentioned about 300 times in Scripture. No one can deny the existence of angels without denying the Bible.
The Origin of Angels
1. They were created by Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16). They are made by God (Heb. 1:7).
2. They were created before the world was made. They sang when God made the universe (Job 38:7).
The Division of Angels
The Bible speaks of two major groups of angels—good and evil. One group of angels rebelled against God and followed Satan. These fallen angels are also called devils or evil spirits. Those angels which did not join the rebellion are called the elect angels and continue to serve and worship God.
Evil angels are those which followed Satan (Mt. 25:41; Re. 12:9). There was a rebellion led by Lucifer, the head cherub. This is described in Isa. 14:12-14 and Eze. 28:11-16. He became proud (1 Ti. 3:6) and determined to be “like the most high” (Isa. 14:14). Apparently the angels made choices in that event, whether to follow Lucifer or God. We read of the Father’s angels (Re. 3:5) and the devil’s angels (Re. 12:7, 9).
Fallen angels are called “the angels that sinned (2 Pe. 2:4) and “the angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 1:6). They are also called devils (Greek diamon) (Mt. 8:31) and evil spirits (Ac. 19:15). They are organized under Satan’s command to help carry out his evil designs in this world (Eph. 6:12). Some of the fallen angels are already in a place of imprisonment awaiting judgment (2 Pe. 2:4; Jude 6).
Good angels are those that continue to serve and obey God. They are God’s ministers who hear His Word and obey His commandments (Ps. 103:20-21). They are called “elect angels” (1 Ti. 5:21). In Heb. 1:14, they are called “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” They are also called “angels of heaven” (Mt. 24:36).
The Nature of Angels
1. Angels are spirits (Heb. 1:7). This is quoted from Ps. 104:4. This means that angels do not have physical bodies after the fashion of men and do not have the limitations of a physical body. They can assume the form of bodies, but they are spirit beings. They can appear at any place and are not restricted by physical barriers such as walls and doors and locks (e.g., Lu. 1:11; Ac. 5:19).
2. Angels are the size of men (Re. 21:17).
3. Angels can fly swiftly (Ps. 18:10; Da. 9:21; Re. 8:13; 14:6). This does not mean that angels have wings. The only angelic creatures that have wings are the seraphims (Isa. 6:2) and the cherubims (Eze. 1:6-11).
4. Angels are always referred to as masculine (Ge. 18:1, 2; Ju. 13:3, 6; Lu. 24:3-4).
5. Angels do not marry or bear children; they do not procreate (Mt. 22:30).
6. Angels are very powerful (“ye angels that excel in strength,” Ps. 103:20). They are called “mighty angels” (2 Th. 1:7; Re. 10:1; 18:21). They have supernatural powers. Angels smote the men of Sodom with blindness (Ge. 19:11). They destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven (Ge. 19:13). One angel destroyed the entire Assyrian army (2 Ki. 19:35). Angels can control the winds (Re. 7:1). One angel will bind Satan (Ge. 20:1-3). Angels can stand on the sea (Re. 10:5).
7. Angels are very wise (“according to the wisdom of an angel of God,” 2 Sa. 14:20), but they are not all-wise. 1 Pe. 1:12 speaks of things the angels desire to know.
8. Angels cannot die (Lu. 20:36).
9. Angels are clothed in glorious light (Lu. 2:9; 9:26; Re. 10:1; 18:1).
10. Angels are flames of fire (Heb. 1:7). This is quoted from Ps. 104:4. This has manifold meanings. First, angels as flames of fire describes the power of angels over the natural elements. They are supernatural beings and are not subject to the elements and the natural laws as man is. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire (Ex. 3:2). In Judges 13:20, an angel ascended to heaven in a flame of fire. The seraphims handle the live coals (Isa. 6:6-7). Second, angels as flames of fire describes the very appearance of the cherubims. Ezekiel described them as burning coals of bright fire and as torches and lamps, with the bright flaming light going up and down among the creatures, and with lightning emitting from the fire (Eze. 1:13). Third, angels as flames of fire describes them as beings of light. They are clothed in glory (Lu. 2:9; 9:26; Re. 18:1). Fourth, angels as flames of fire describes their activity in judgment. “... his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Th. 1:8). Fifth, angels as flames of fire describes their power, force, energy. A fire produces energy. Sixth, angels as flames of fire describes their flaming zeal, their burning devotion, as consuming fire, their passion to do God’s will. Seventh, angels as flames of fire describes their speed to do God’s will. They move quickly like a flash of lightning, which is a flame of fire (Eze. 1:14). Wherever God wills the cherubims to go, they go instantly.
11. Angels are not subject to gravity and are not bound to this world. They move freely between the natural world and spiritual worlds. Jacob saw them ascending and descending to heaven (Ge. 28:12).
12. Angels are not to be worshipped (Re. 22:8-9).
13. Angels are presently a little higher than man in his natural state (Ps. 8:5). In the glorification in Christ, redeemed man will be higher than angels (Heb. 2:6-9). This tells us many things about man’s condition in resurrection glory (e.g., he will be clothed in light; he will be awe-inspiring; he will be more powerful and intelligent than angels; he will not be subject to natural laws or bound by gravity; he will not procreate; he will fly swiftly).
The Number of Angels
They are innumerable (Heb.12:22; Ps. 68:17; Mt. 26:53; Re. 5:11).
The Purpose and Work of Angels
1. Angels are God’s ministers (Heb. 1:7).
This is quoted from Ps. 104:4. It means that they are God’s servants, created to do His pleasure. We see angels in this role throughout the Bible.
2. Angels minister to those who are heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14).
The term “heirs of salvation” refers to those who believe savingly in Jesus Christ. Though the believer is a child of God, he does not yet enjoy all of the privileges of such (Ro. 8:17-25).
Angels can relate to man and have been involved with redeemed sinners throughout human history. They are participants in God’s eternal plan “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10).
Angels protect the saints. “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Ps. 34:7). “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. 91:9-11).
Angels were at Sinai and participated in the giving of the law (Ps. 68:17; Ac. 7:53; Heb. 2:2).
Angels ministered to Hagar (Ge. 16:7-11), Lot (Ge. 19:1-15), Abraham (Ge. 24:7), Jacob (Ge. 28:12), Moses (Ex. 3:2), Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 14:19; 23:20), Israel in the times of the Judges (Jg. 21-4), Gideon (Jg. 6:11-12), Samson’s parents (Jg. 13), Elijah (1 Ki. 19:5-7; 2 Ki. 1:3, 15), Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (Da. 3:28), and Daniel (Da. 6:22).
In Zechariah, God speaks to the angels and comforts them (Zec. 1:13).
Angels had a major role in Christ’s incarnation. They appeared to Zacharias to announce the birth of John (Lu. 1:8-20), to Mary (Lu. 1:26-38), to Joseph (Mt. 1:20; 2:13, 19), and to the shepherds (Lu. 2:8-15). They were commanded by God to worship Christ (Heb. 1:6). Angels ministered to Christ after the temptation in the wilderness (Mt. 4:11) and at Gethsemane (Lu. 22:43). At the resurrection, angels rolled away the stone from Christ’s tomb (Mt. 28:2) and appeared to the disciples (Mt. 28:5; Joh. 20:12). Angels appeared at Christ’s ascension (Ac. 1:10).
Angels revealed things to the prophets (Zec. 1:9; Re. 1:1; 17:1; 21:9; 22:6).
In the early churches, angels brought the apostles out of prison (Ac. 5:19-20), directed Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Ac. 8:26), instructed Cornelius to call Peter (Ac. 10:3-6), brought Peter out of prison (Ac. 12:7-11), smote Herod for his pride (Ac. 12:23), and helped Paul (Ac. 27:23).
Since the days of the apostles, angels continue to minister to the saints. Hebrews 13:2 says that angels sometimes appear as “strangers.”
Angels are witnesses of the joy in heaven over the repentance of sinners (Lu. 15:10).
Angels carry the saints to glory at death (Lu. 16:22).
Angels assist believing children (Mt. 18:10).
Angels are involved in warning and judgment. They warned Israel in the time of the Judges (Jg. 2:1-4). They judged Israel in the time of David (2 Sa. 24:16). They smote the army of the Assyrians (2 Ki. 19:35; 2 Ch. 32:21). An angel smote Herod for not giving glory to God (Ac. 12:23).
Angels will be very active during the Day of the Lord and the Great Tribulation. They are mentioned at least 65 times in Revelation. They are round about the throne worshiping God (Re. 5:11; 7:11). They stand on the four corners of the earth holding the four winds (Re. 7:1). They announce the trumpet judgments (Re. 8:2). A mighty angel announces the imminent kingdom of Christ with a loud voice “as when a lion roareth” (Re. 10:3). An angel assists John in measuring the third temple (Re. 11:1). Michael and his angels fight against Satan and his angels and cast them out of heaven (Re. 12:7-9). An angel flies in the midst of heaven announcing the everlasting gospel (Re. 14:6). An angel announces the fall of Babylon (Re. 14:8). An angel warns men not to worship the antichrist (Re. 14:9-10). An angel announces the judgment of sinners (Re. 14:15-19). Angels exercise the seven plague judgments of the wrath of God (Re. 15:6-8). An angel shows John the judgment of religious Babylon (Re. 17:1). A mighty angel announces the judgment of commercial Babylon (Re. 18:1, 21). An angel calls to the fowls to feast on the armies of the antichrist after Armageddon (Re. 19:17). Angels show John the bride of Christ (Re. 21:9).
Angels will return with Christ and divide the saved from the unsaved before the establishment of Christ’s kingdom (Mt. 13:41; 24:31; 2 Th. 1:7-8).
An angel will bind Satan and cast him into the bottomless pit (Re. 20:1-3).
Angels will be witnesses of Jesus’ judgments on men after His return (Lu. 12:8-9). This probably refers to the judgment of the nations (Mt. 25:31-48).
Angels guard the gates of the New Jerusalem (Re. 21:12).
The Education of Angels
Angels are not the objects of redemption, but they are learning from God’s redemption of men.
“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Pe. 1:12).
That the angels “desire to look into these things” must mean that they use every opportunity to study these things; they meditate upon these things; they discuss these things among themselves.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he charged him “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels” (1 Ti. 5:21), which would mean that the angels were aware of Paul’s writings and are observers of the churches.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 11:10, where the women are instructed to cover their heads as a sign of submission to authority “because of the angels.” Angels are watching and learning.
Paul said that “we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Co. 4:9), which again reveals that angels are witnesses of the business of gospel preaching.
The angels are learning about God’s character and dealings and plans. They were eyewitnesses of the rebellion led by Lucifer. The angels heard Lucifer’s boasting, “I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:12-14). They heard his slanders against God. Now through the revelation and outworking of God’s redemption of fallen sinners, the angels are learning marvelous things of God’s love and grace, as well as of His terrible holiness and justice.
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).
Archangel refers to the first or highest angel (Da. 10:13; 12:1; 1 Th. 4:16). “The term ‘archangel’ denotes a definite rank by virtue of which one is qualified by special work and service. The archangels are said to stand before the throne of God (Lu. 1:19)” (Spiro Zodiates).
The two archangels mentioned by name in Scripture are Gabriel (Da. 8:16; 9:21; Lu. 1:19, 26) and Michael (Da. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Re. 12:7).
It is possible that there are seven archangels. Compare Re. 8:2 with Lu. 1:19.
The cherubims are mentioned 145 times in Scripture.
They are highly intelligent, powerful creatures, created to do God’s will. They aren’t called angels, but they seem to angelic type creatures.
They are intimately associated with God’s throne. They are associated with the glory of God (Eze. 10:14-15) and are called “the cherubims of glory” (Heb. 9:5).
Cherubims is the plural of cherub.
Four times they appear in the Scripture:
1. They guarded the tree of life (Ge. 3:24).
2. They were carved upon the ark in the tabernacle and in the holy of holies in Solomon’s Temple (Ex. 25:18-20; 1 Ki. 6:23-28). These were patterns of things in heaven (Heb. 8:5; 9:23). We see that the cherubim stand over the very presence of God in glory.
3. Lucifer was the anointed cherub that covereth (Eze. 10:14-15).
4. They were seen by Ezekiel (Eze. 10:1-22).
The appearance of the cherubims is described in detail in Ezekiel 1 and 10.
The overall appearance of the cherubims transporting God’s throne is like a tornado and a great thundercloud, but it is a tornado of fire infolding itself (Eze. 1:4).
The cherubims appear as burning coals of bright fire and as torches and lamps, with the bright flaming light going up and down among the creatures, and with lightning emitting from the fire (Eze. 1:13).
The cherubims have the general likeness of a man, but they have four faces: one like a man’s, one like an ox’s, one like a lion’s, and one like an eagle’s (Eze. 1:5-6, 10) It appears that the man’s face looks forward, the lion’s face looks right, the ox’s face looks left, and the eagle’s face looks rearward. (Ezekiel 10:14 describes the faces as a man’s, a lion’s, a cherub’s, and an eagle’s, so that the ox face is here described as a cherub face.) “The chariot would present to the beholder two faces of a man, of a lion, of an eagle, and of an ox, according to the quarter from which he looked upon it” (Barnes). As creatures made to be associated with God’s throne, the cherubims bear the characteristics of God. The face of a man is the face of intelligence; that of the lion is the face of power; that of the ox is the face of servanthood; that of the eagle is the face of majesty.
Their hands are like a man’s (Eze. 1:8). The human hand is an amazing product of God’s creative wisdom and power.
Their feet are straight with soles like that of a calf (Eze. 1:7). Instead of a man’s foot, they have a different type of foot that is fitting for their purpose. Their feet shine like burnished brass.
They have four wings, two of which cover their bodies and two of which stretch out and touch the wings of the cherub next to them (Eze. 1:11).
The four cherubims form a square under the platform of God’s throne (Eze. 1:9-11). “The four together formed a square, and never altered their relative position. From each side two faces looked straight out, one at each corner--and so all moved together toward any of the four quarters, toward which each one had one of its four faces directed; in whatsoever direction the whole moved the four might be said all to go ‘straight forward’” (Barnes).
They fly in a straight line (Eze. 1:6, 9, 12; 10:11). They move straight and sure in God’s will, turning neither to the right nor the left.
They move quickly like a flash of lightning (Eze. 1:14). This speaks of the speed with which the angels accomplish God’s will. Wherever God wills the cherubims chariot to go, it goes instantly. His omnipotence guarantees that nothing can hinder His will or cause Him to take a detour.
Their wings make a great noise, like the noise of great waters or a great host of an army (Eze. 1:24; 10:5, 21). Niagara Falls is an example of great waters. When you are near the falls, such as when riding the Maid of the Mist boats, the noise is so loud that you have to shout to be heard by someone standing right beside you.
They have many eyes showing their great awareness and intelligence (Eze. 1:18; 10:12). They are not omniscient, but God has given them great wisdom. Natural man thinks that he can do things in secret, when no other man sees him, but there are no secrets before God. Joseph Parker observes, “What can shut out the beings who do the will of heaven, and who are full of eyes, their very chariot wheels being luminous with eyes, everything round about them looking at us critically, penetratingly, judicially? We live unwisely when we suppose that we are not being superintended, observed, criticised, and judged. ‘Thou God seest me’; ‘The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.’”
The wheels of the cherubims are described in Ezekiel (Eze. 1:15-18; 10:9).
The wheels are the color of beryl, which is bright sea-green (Eze. 1:16).
The wheel looks like a wheel within a wheel (Eze. 10:10). “One wheel intersects another wheel at right angles; thus they can roll in four directions without being turned and could move with the cherub” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). The chariot can move instantly in any direction.
The rings or rims of the wheels are extremely high (Eze. 1:18).
Like the cherubims themselves, the wheels are full of eyes (Eze. 1:18).
They are called whirling wheels (Eze. 10:13). They are loud and active.
The wheel moves with the cherub, and the spirit of the cherub is in the wheel (Eze. 1:19-21; 10:16-17). The cherubims are controlled by the spirit (Eze. 1:20). Whatever the spirit wills, they can do immediately. The resurrection body of the redeemed, too, is a spiritual body, meaning it will be under complete control of the spirit (1 Co. 15:44). John Gill observes, “The body will then be subject to the spirit and soul of man; it will be employed in spiritual service, for which it will be abundantly fitted and assisted by the Spirit of God.”
God’s throne is transported by the cherubims.
According to Ezekiel’s vision, the throne of God is transported by the cherubims.
Over the cherubims is a firmament or expanse or platform, and on that expanse is God’s throne. See Eze. 1:22, 25; 10:18-19; 11:22.
God is spirit and He is omnipresent, but He also appears in glory on His throne. In Scripture, the throne is seen in heaven (Re. 4:2-11), and it is also seen traveling with the cherubims acting as a divine chariot.
From this throne flows all power and authority throughout creation; from it all things are upheld, all things ordered and commanded. The throne and the cherubims “show forth and symbolize the purposes of God in the execution of His inerrant governmental dealings on earth. God controls it all, and His Spirit directs every movement” (The Annotated Bible).
David was instructed to make “the chariot of the cherubims” for Solomon’s Temple (1 Ch. 28:18).
Psalm 18:10 says Jehovah rides upon a cherub.
The platform of the throne is “the colour of the terrible crystal” (Eze. 1:22). Moses described this “as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness” (Ex. 24:10). Thus, the pavement beneath the throne looks like bright clear crystal with a deep bluish tint. It is like crystal glass (Re. 4:6), thus it is transparent but also reflects the light like crystal or the clearest quartz or diamond. The transparent pavement beneath the throne would gather and reflect the lightnings and rainbow and other aspects of the glory of God’s throne.
The throne is “like the appearance of a sapphire stone ... as it were the body of heaven in clearness” (Eze. 1:26; 10:1). The throne of God appears to be the same material as the pavement beneath. It is crystal clear with a deep bluish tint. The blue sapphire is the most beautiful sapphire. The word “sapphire” is from the Latin saphirus and the Greek sapheiros, both of which mean blue.
A bright rainbow surrounds the throne (Eze. 1:28). The rainbow is part of the glory of God’s throne. It is “the brightness round about” (Eze. 1:28). It is colorful and splendid in appearance. Its predominant color is emerald green (Re. 4:3), the color most pleasant to the human eye, possibly signifying “the reviving and refreshing nature of the new covenant.” The rainbow was the token of God’s covenant with mankind following the flood of Noah’s day (Ge. 9:13-16). It was a covenant of undeserved grace. The rainbow, therefore, reminds us that God is love; He is gracious and longsuffering and merciful; He keeps His promises. Though He is holy and just, He has given His own Son to make atonement for man’s vile sin and has offered eternal salvation to all who will receive Christ as Lord and Saviour. The very colors of the rainbow depict God’s mercy. The pure white light signifies God’s righteousness and holiness and justice, but in a rainbow the white is broken up into a variety of colors, signifying other attributes of God’s character, His mercy, patience, kindness, love, etc. Thus, when the believer beholds God’s throne he is comforted by the presence of the rainbow and reminded that for him, in Christ, the throne of God is a throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Those who refuse God’s grace will drink of the full measure of His holy wrath. At the Great White Throne there is no rainbow, and the sinner will stand before God’s holiness without a Redeemer and without mercy (Re. 20:11-15). The rainbow follows the storm, and even though God will pour out fearful judgments upon mankind during the Great Tribulation, He will not unsheathe His sword forever. His wrath is “little” (Isa. 54:8), and afterwards He will comfort and heal. “The appearance of the rainbow, therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and peace” (Matthew Henry).
The rainbow was “round about” (Eze. 1:28; Re. 4:3). Unlike the rainbows on earth, which are not more than a half circle, it appears that the rainbow pertaining to God’s throne might go all the way round or be reflected in such a way that it appears to go all the way around. This would signify the perfection and completion of God’s grace and mercy.
God’s appearance is “as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it” (Eze. 1:27). Amber is deep yellow and orange.
The fiery scene of God’s throne reminds us of God’s awful holiness and justice which is the foundation and anchor of the moral law of the universe. He can abide no sin, no infraction of His holy laws. Every sin will be duly judged, either in Christ in the case of believers, or in the sinner himself in the case of those who reject Christ.
The seraphims are seen in Scripture only in Isaiah 6.
They are angelic beings that are associated with God’s throne and can communicate with man.
They have one face and six wings (Isa. 6:2).
Isaiah sees them standing above God’s throne crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). This does not mean that the seraphims remain in this place at all times, for in Isaiah 6:6 we see one of them flying to the altar and cleansing the prophet with a live coal.
The cherubims are also associated with God’s throne, but they have four faces (Eze. 1:5, 6, 10) and four wings (Eze. 1:11).
Learning from Angels
1. We learn to worship God (Re. 5:11).
2. We learn to hear God’s Word and obey Him (Ps. 103:20-21).
3. We learn to be interested in and to study God’s work and plan (1 Pe. 1:12).
4. We learn love for Jesus (Lu. 2:13-15; Mt. 4:11).
5. We learn to be excited about sinners being saved (Lu. 15:10).
The “Angels” of Revelation 2-3
For the following reasons we believe these “angels” are not heavenly beings, but the elders or appointed representatives of the seven churches referred to in these chapters. Some of the following is adapted from Baptist Bulletin, June 1982:
1. Angel means “messenger,” but not necessarily heavenly messenger. In the following passages the same Greek word translated “angel” is used to refer to men: John the Baptist (Mt. 1:20; Mr. 1:2); John’s disciples (Lu. 7:24); Jesus’ disciples (Lu. 9:52); and the Israelite spies (Jas. 2:25). Thus it would not be wrong to interpret the angels of the churches in Revelation to be men as well.
2. John wrote to these messengers. In no other case in the Bible do we find men writing to heavenly angels. Men write to men.
3. Jesus gave the Revelation by His angel (Re. 22:16). Are we to think that the angel wrote through the apostle to other angels?
4. No other passage teaches that each church has a heavenly angel through whom God sends messages.
5. The church messengers are always said to be the elders and appointed representatives. The angels of the churches of Asia were possibly men appointed to receive John’s letters. Epaphroditus was the messenger of the church of Philippi (Php. 2:25). The churches of Macedonia appointed messengers to assist Paul (2 Co. 8:23).
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