What About Angels?
The interest in angels (like the interest in dinosaurs) has really increased in the last few years. Unfortunately, some web sites and books contain very little factual information about angels. This is unfortunate, since the facts about angels are more interesting than the fantasized accounts any day! Although the bible refers to angels in many ways, for now, we will consider three forms of angels:God Appearing as an Angel
Angels as Gods Messengers to People
Angels Who Remain in Gods Presence
God Appearing as an Angel
This happens many times in the bible. Most translations refer to this as the Angel of the LORD. The first example occurs in Genesis, chapter 16 where the Angel of the LORD appears to a servant of Abraham (the person whose story the Bible is relating at that time). How do we know this angel we meet in verse 7 is actually God? We have two sources of evidence. First, if you read the language, it sounds like God. After all, a normal (or angelic) person would not say I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude (verse 10). The second reason we think the Angel of the LORD is God, is because the servant says so in verse 13. Now, we admit that if this was an isolated incident that our argument would seem weakbut meetings of this type occurred many times.
That being said, we realize that it is possible to get the wrong idea that the angels and God are about the sameonly looking different because they are taking on different forms. This is a illogical jump in thought that the Bible does not support. It is one thing for God to appear as an angel and it is something quite different for God to be an angel.
If you would like to look into this further, find a concordance (a listing of the words of the Bible) and look up the word angel. Under angel, you will find angel, angel of God, angel of the LORD, and so fortheach referencing a text in the Bible. Read each text and make your own decision! For your convenience, we have an online Bible with a word search feature that acts as a concordance. You can access it by clicking this sentence. By the way, angels are not called angels every time they appear in the Bible. See Ezekiel Chapter 8, verse 2 (Ezekiel 8:2) for an interesting example.
Angels as Gods Messengers to People
This is the most commonly stated purpose of angels in the Bibleand now we are talking about regular angels, too! Although God sometimes communicated with people personally (as above), He usually communicated with them through an angel. Sometimes the Bible text tells us the angels name. This happened three times with the angel Gabriel, who visited Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary. (See Daniel chapter 8, and Luke chapter 1.)
One of the most interesting encounters with angels occurred in chapters 10-12 of the book of Daniel. Here, the angel is referred to as a man clothed in linen.* Although Daniel stood his ground when the angel appeared, the men accompanying Daniel were overwhelmed with terror and fled the scene! The message this angel had for Daniel (all of chapter 11 and more) was a revelation of the future. Although this revelation is difficult to interpret (many have tried and we have not read a convincing one yet) what happened in the encounter itself gives us some insight into what angels are like. The description of this man in linen (his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, and so forth) does not resemble that of a normal man. Still, he is referred to as a man in linen. Therefore, this type of angel (we will describe others later) has a human form. (And humans have a godlike form, since humans were created in Gods image according to Genesis 1:26.)
*Note: Some scholars believe that this man clothed in linen was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. (That is, appearing as He existed before being born as a baby in Bethlehem.) If true, this would be a variation of God appearing as an angel. We agree that the Bible text allows for this possibility.
A second interesting feature of this encounter is the fact that the angel could float (see Dan 12:6,7). There are several places in the Bible that describe how angels do not obey the law of gravity. The most striking example occurs twice in the book of Ezekiel, which describes a different type of angel. See Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10.
Angels Who Remain in Gods Presence
There are celestial beings who are constantly in Gods presence. One type of these beings is called the cherubim. The vision many of us have today when we hear the word cherub is a chubby little two-year-old with wings. Yet, the Bibles description of a cherubim will shock anyone who has not already read the Bibles description. Although once again described as having the likeness of a man, cherubim also:Have four different faces.
Have four wings.
Read Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 to see what we mean. (These are definitely two of the coolest chapters in the Old Testament.) By the way, Ezekiel 10:20-22 confirms that the living creatures in chapter 1 and the cherubim in chapter 10 are the same thing.
The Bible refers to another type of angel, the seraphim, in Isaiah chapter 6. The description reveals that seraphim have six wings, a face, feet, hands, can fly and speak, and can be stationed at Gods throne. That still leaves us without knowing what the seraphims normal responsibilities are or what one looks like. (With the description we have, seraphim could physically resemble humans with six wings, cherubim with one face and two extra wings, or something else.)
More Interesting Information About Angels
Angels Are Single
We know from the Bible that angels do not get married. For example, in Matthew 22:30 Jesus spoke about people after they die and compared them to angels. That not only gave us a look at what heaven will be like for us, but also told us something about angels. He said, For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. For most of us, that is a good deal, since we prefer that angels watch over us instead of paying attention to one another! (Note: you can find out more about guardian angels by clicking on this sentence.)
There Are No Baby Angels
Since angels neither marry nor are given in marriage, it makes sense that there are no baby angels (like those that many artists draw as cherubs). Also, the Bible never mentions the existence of any childlike angels. Although such artistic cherubs are cute, the reality is that such angels only exist in the artists imagination.
Dont Angels Look Like Women?
Many paintings of angels show them as pretty women with wings, wearing flowing gowns. Yet, if you read the Bible, only one sentence (Zechariah chapter 5, verse 9) describes female beings with wings. They are not identified as angels, although these beings may be angels. All of the rest of the references to angels in the Bible (hundreds of them) describe angels as looking like men or having human form. Yes, we admit that the description of the cherubim (above) seems to stretch our concept of human form. Still, if we consider that man is made in Gods image, perhaps the angels are also! Therefore, if we all resemble God, a human (who does not have another visual point of reference) could describe an angel as having human form.
Although we would not enter a debate over this point, angels seem to be a creation just as the living creatures here on Earth are a creation. In this way, angels can have different appearances from each other, just as a lion, an eagle, and a human look different from one another. There is no question about it, things are not boring in Heaven!
Angels Have Ranks
The angel talking with Daniel, in Daniel chapters 10-12, refers three times to Michael, who is obviously an angel. He calls him a one of the chief princes in Daniel 10:13, a prince in Daniel 10:21, and the great prince in Daniel 12:1. Michael is also described as an archangel in Jude. In Revelation chapter 12, Michael and his angels appear in a battle, implying that Michael is a military leader. (Note: the angels referred to in Daniel, Jude, and Revelation may refer to different angels named Michael.) We will not attempt to classify any ranks, but it is apparent that there are greater angels that perform special services. It is also interesting to note that the Bible never records Michael talking with people, like Gabriel does.
Is Jesus an Angel?
Some folks would lead you to believe that Jesus is sort of an advanced angel, (perhaps even implying that Jesus is sort of a good version of the fallen angel Satan). This false belief has been circulating since the first century AD. (The writer of the book of Hebrews took the time to refute this errorand Hebrews was written around 68 AD.) It is clear that Jesus is completely different from and superior to the angels. For example:
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:
Today I have begotten You?
And He shall be to Me a Son?
It is obvious that if angels are to worship Jesus Christ, that Jesus is not an angel. (Angels are not to be worshiped. See Revelation chapter 19, verse 10 for one example.)
A variation of this same false belief is that Jesus and the Archangel Michael are the same being. That is also not the case. To learn more, click on the link below.
Angels Are Tough
Angels are also used to carry out Gods judgment. When they are on a mission of this type, you do not want to be on their to do list! There are numerous examples of this type in the Bible, including some that show the tremendous strength of an angel. See the example in 2 Kings chapter 19, where an angel destroys 185,000 Assyrians in one night.
Angels Might Not Sing
There is a great deal of singing in the Bible. The Psalms mention singing often. Mark 14:26 and Matthew 26:30 record a time when Jesus and His apostles sang. The heavens and mountains cry out or sing in Isaiah 49:13, and even trees sing or rejoice in 1 Chronicles 16:33. (Note: different Hebrew wordsranan and rinnahare used for the singing of inanimate objects, instead of shiyr and zamarthe words normally used for human singing in the Old Testament.)
Although there is a lot of singing going on, it is interesting that the Bible never states that angels sing. Yes, many Christmas songs have lyrics indicating that the angels sang when Jesus was bornand we suspect that angels have the ability to sing. Still, it is interesting that the Bible never actually reports that angels do sing.
Note: the text in some English translations of the Bible contain verses stating that angels sing, but they are poor translations of the original Greek word lego, which means to say or to speak. Typically, this happens in Luke chapter 2, verse 13 and in Revelation chapter 5, verses 12 and 13.
Want Some More Information?
One page in our Frequently Asked Questions section contains answers to specific questions we have received about angels. Clicking on the link below will take you there.
All Bible passages were taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Graphics courtesy of Shawnas Background Graphic Sets
Copyright © 1998-2000 by Clarifying Christianity (SM).
All information contained in Clarifying Christianity is a resource for questions dealing with Christian issues. It is not to be taken as Christian counseling. Seek a qualified Christian counselor for help with all such issues. If you choose to work with a Christian counselor, it is your responsibility to ask pertinent questions before you begin, to assure yourself of their qualities and abilities.2739