Have you ever seen an angel? No, I’m not talking about your precious baby lying in the crib “looking like an angel.” And I’m not talking about Monica on “Touched By An Angel.” I’m talking about a real angel. On the one hand, no one can concretely confirm that they encountered an angel. On the other hand, how do you know you haven’t?
Angels are real. The Bible is saturated with angels, making direct reference to them over 230 times. Over 275 times in Scripture God is referred to as the “Lord of hosts” (“hosts” being a reference to the angelic armies of heaven). Angels are mentioned in 39 biblical books (19 in the OT; 20 in the NT). One writer said, “We can as easily think of summer without flowers as of the Bible without angels.”
Who are angels?
Angels are created beings
They didn’t evolve. There is no such thing as “angelic metamorphosis”. Butterflies start out as butterfly eggs that, after a few weeks, become caterpillars. With the passage of more time, the caterpillar eventually grows wings. Angels and butterflies have nothing in common except the fact that God created both of them. No angel “earns his wings” contra Clarence Odbody in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And as created beings, angels are no more worthy of our worship than a butterfly! And Paul warns about such angelic worship in Colossians 2:18.
When were they created?
They are not referred to in the creation week of Genesis 1. Perhaps the best clue we have to when angels were created is Job 38.4-7. God ask Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
The terms “morning stars” and “sons of God” apparently refer to angelic choruses that broke out in joyous praise of God as He created. Thus, angels were created prior to the creation of the earth.
How many were created?
A LOT! While we do not know a specific number, the Bible makes it vividly clear that is wasn’t just a handful.
Jesus in Gethsemane makes reference to the ease with which He could have had twelve legions of angels at His side (Matthew 26:53). A Roman legion at full strength had 6000 soldiers. Sometimes they would have equal the number of support troops. So, twelve legions could be anywhere from 72,000 to 144,000.
At Jesus birth there was a “multitude of the heavenly host” (Luke 2.13). Something tells me that a “multitude” is much larger than even 144,000.
Scripture clearly teaches the same. Sometimes they are compared to the stars (“host of heaven” is used to describe the stars in Deut. 17.3 and the angels in 1 Kings 22.19).
A new study (http://huff.to/gcE35Q) in 2010 suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars! That’s a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.
Could there really be billions upon billions of angels? Evidently. Consider Revelation 5:11 where an expression (“myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands”) is used by John to denote a number that is innumerable! That’s the same conclusion the writer of Hebrews reinforces (see Hebrews 12:22).
Now, just because the innumerable number is unknown to us, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t know how many angels He created. If He knows how many hairs are on our heads (Mt 10.30) and how many stars decorate the universe (and even knows them by name! Ps. 147.4), then He obviously knows the total count of angels.
Angels are personal beings
Angels are persons. Not “super humans” but persons. They have intellect, feelings and the ability to make decisions and obey commands.
On resurrection morning an angel converses with the two Marys and gives instructions to come and see where Jesus had previous been buried (Matthew 28:5–6).
Consider Ezekiel 28.12: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty….” These words are written to an earthly king who personified the devil and has things addressed to him as if he were Satan. From this passage it seems safe to conclude that Lucifer, the archangel who fell and became Satan, was the most intelligent of all the angels and perhaps of all creation!
No angel, however, is omniscient! 1 Peter 1.12 makes it clear that they do not understand everything that is involved in the gospel and unfolding drama of redemption, but they are greatly interested!
When you read Revelation 19.9-10 it seems very obvious that the angel here responds with strong emotion when telling John to not worship him. “Don’t you dare do that!”
Study Luke 15.8-10 and note especially the woman’s words in verse 9: “Rejoice with me…!” Then the connective application made about the Lord in verse 10: “Likewise there is joy/rejoicing before the angels of God.” God’s joy over someone who repents is compared with the woman’s joy. If her friends joined her in rejoicing, surely the angels do likewise with the Lord!
Angels are spirit beings
Hebrews 1:13–14 refers to angels as “ministering spirits”. They have no material body, at least not the kind we’re familiar with. But that doesn’t prevent them from appearing in visible form when God deems it necessary. Throughout Scripture, whenever they do make these “appearances”, the angel is always described as a man. Masculine pronouns are used w/o exception. In Gen 18-19 when angels visit Abraham and Lot in Sodom, they looked and acted just like ordinary men. They conversed in human language, they walked, sat down and ate food.
Angels are servant beings
They were specifically sent to minister to Jesus (Matthew 4.11)
How did they minister to Jesus? The text doesn’t tell us, but we can use our sanctified imaginations and figure they probably brought food for His body. Undoubtedly they still worshiped Him as was their normal response to God the Son. Surely they offered words of encouragement.
They are specifically sent to minister to believers (Hebrews 1.14)
The Bible gives us no reason to think that angels minister to unbelievers. Nowhere that I’m aware of are angels serving unbelievers.
If someone claims to have encountered an angel and that person does not know Christ as Savior, it doesn’t mean they definitely did not meet an angel—it simply may have been a fallen one! Not all angels are from God (2 Corinthians 11.14)!
This is the first of what will be a series of posts on angels. Hopefully, other questions you may have about angels will receive a biblical answer in these future posts.