Angels, God’s Ministering SpiritsRelated Media
Theologians have often viewed angels as a very difficult subject.1 Why? Because, while there is abundant mention of angels in the Bible, the nature of this revelation is without the same kind of explicit description we often find with other subjects developed in Scripture: Every reference to angels is incidental to some other topic. They are not treated in themselves. God’s revelation never aims at informing us regarding the nature of angels. When they are mentioned, it is always in order to inform us further about God, what he does, and how he does it. Since details about angels are not significant for that purpose, they tend to be omitted.2
Though theologians have been cautious in their study of angels we have been bombarded in recent years by what could easily be called Angelmania. In fact, this is the title of an article by Dr. Kenneth Gangel in “Kindred Spirit” on the widespread discussion and fascination with angels in our time by the secular world.3
Gangel writes, In his 1990 book, Angels: An Endangered Species, Malcolm Godwin estimates that over the last 30 years one in every ten pop songs mentions an angel. But that was just romantic fun.
Now our culture takes angels seriously, if not accurately. In the last two years Time, Newsweek, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and a host of other popular magazines have carried articles about angels. In mid-1994, ABC aired a two-hour, prime time special titled “Angels: the Mysterious Messengers.” In Newsweek’s November 28, 1994 issue an article titled “In Search of the Sacred” observed that “20% of Americans have had a revelation from God in the last year, and 13% have seen or sensed the presence of an angel” (p. 54).
Newsweek is right; modern society, so seemingly secular and hopelessly materialistic, desperately searches for some spiritual and supernatural meaning. If angels can provide it, then angels it will be.4 The bookstores abound with books on this subject. These books not only claim encounters with angels, but instruct people on how to contact them. We now have a weekly program on one of the major networks entitled “Touched By An Angel.” Certainly, one might argue, this is just a story for entertainment. However, this show not only demonstrates our fascination with this topic, but a illustrates a very poor grasp of what the Bible really teaches about angels and about God along with some very definite distortions of Scripture. By these comments I do not mean to discount all the so-called encounters with angels that we occasionally read or hear about. Why? Because, as will be discussed in more detail later, angels are servants of God and described by the author of Hebrews as, “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” See also Psalm 91:11 and Matthew 4:11. So certainly, for those who believe the record of Scripture, we can trust completely in the Bible’s teaching on angels and, “with a perhaps lesser degree of certainty, consider the personal accounts of reputable Christians.” 5
A good illustration of the latter can be found in an article by Sue Bohlin entitled, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” She writes: I was about thirteen years old when I had my first encounter with an angel. I was going upstairs to my room, pulling my entire weight on the handrail, when it suddenly came off in my hand. I fell backwards, head first. Halfway into a terrible fall, I felt a strong hand on my back push me upright. There was nobody there—well, nobody visible!
Angel stories are always fascinating, and in this essay I address angels: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good angels are the holy ones, the bad angels are the evil ones, which the Bible calls demons, and the ugly angels are demons disguising themselves as good angels. These ugly angels have deceived many people in a culture that has embraced “angel mania.” 6 While many details about angels are omitted in the Bible, it is important to keep in mind three important elements about the biblical revelation God has given us.
(1) The mention of angels is inclusive in Scripture. Depending on the Bible translation searched, these celestial beings are referred to from 294 to 305 times in the Bible. References to angels occur at least 116 times in the Old Testament and 175 times in the New Testament.
(2) These many references are found in at least 34 books from the very earliest books (whether Job or Genesis) to the last book of the Bible (Revelation).
(3) Finally, there are numerous references to angels by the Lord Jesus, whom Scripture declares to be the creator of all things, which includes angelic beings. Paul wrote, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities (a reference to angels)—all things have been created by Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
It is out of the this extended body of Scripture that the study presented here will be developed. The Bible will be the authority for this study and not the speculations of men nor their experiences nor what people think sounds logical.
Angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him, though created higher than man. Some, the good angels, have remained obedient to Him and carry out His will, while others, fallen angels, disobeyed, fell from their holy position, and now stand in active opposition to the work and plan of God.
Angels are created beings
The fact of their creation is brought out in Psalm 148. There the psalmist calls upon all in the celestial heavens, including the angels, to praise God. The reason given is, “For He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:1-5).
The time of their creation is never stated, however, we know they were created before the creation of the world. From the book of Job we are told that they were present when the earth was created (Job 38:4-7) so their creation was prior to the creation of the earth as described in Genesis one.
The agent of their creation is specifically stated to be Christ as the One who created all things (cf. John 1:1-3 with Col. 1:16).7
The nature of their creation is as a host or a company, simultaneously. Unlike human beings and the animal kingdom created in pairs and who procreate, angels were created simultaneously as a company, a countless host of myriads (Col. 1:16; Neh 9:6). This is suggested by the fact they are not subject to death and they do not or were not to propagate. They are nevertheless an innumerable host created before the creation of the earth (cf. Job. 38:7; Neh. 9:6; Ps 148:2, 5; Heb 12:22; Dan 7:10; Matt 26:53; Rev. 5:11; with Matt. 22:28-30; Luke 20:20-36).
Angels are spirit creatures
(1) Angels are spirit beings.
Though at times they have been given the ability to reveal themselves in the form of human bodies as in Genesis 18:3, they are described as “spirits” in Hebrews 1:14. This suggests they do not have material bodies as we do. Hence, they do not function as human beings in terms of marriage and procreation (Mark 12:25) nor are they subject to death (Luke 20:36). Mankind, including our incarnate Lord, is “lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7). Angels are not subject to the limitations of man, especially since they are incapable of death (Luke 20:36). Angels have greater wisdom than man (2 Sam. 14:20), yet it is limited (Matt. 24:36). Angels have greater power than man (Matt. 28:2; Acts 5:19; 2 Pet. 2:11), yet they are limited in power (Dan. 10:13).
Angels, however, have limitations compared to man, particularly in future relationships. Angels are not created in the image of God, therefore, they do not share man’s glorious destiny of redemption in Christ. At the consummation of the age, redeemed man will be exalted above angels (1 Cor. 6:3).8 This also means they are not omnipresent. They cannot be everywhere at once.
(2) All angels were created holy, without sin, and in a state of perfect holiness.
Originally all angelic creatures were created holy. God pronounced His creation good (Gen. 1:31), and, of course, He could not create sin. Even after sin entered the world, God’s good angels, who did not rebel against Him, are called holy (Mark 8:38). These are the elect angels (1 Tim. 5:21) in contrast to the evil angels who followed Satan in his rebellion against God (Matt. 25:41).9
(3) As created beings, they are mere creatures.
They are not divine and are not to be worshipped (see Rev. 19:10; 22:9). As a separate order of creatures, they are both distinct from human beings and higher than humans with powers far beyond our abilities in this present age (1 Cor. 6:3; Heb. 1:14; 2:7). But as creatures they are limited in their powers, knowledge, and activities (1 Peter 1:11-12; Rev. 7:1). Like all of creation, angels are under God’s authority and subject to His judgment (1 Cor. 6:3; Matt. 25:41).
While all the angels were originally created holy and without sin, there was a rebellion by Satan, who, being lifted up by his own beauty, sought to exalt himself above God and rebelled. In his rebellion, he took with him one-third of the angels (Rev. 12:4). This rebellion and fall is probably described for us in Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:15 embodied in the kings of Babylon and Tyre.10
Prophesying of a future angelic conflict that will occur in the middle of the Tribulation, John wrote, “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war” (Rev. 12:7). In other words, there are good angels and there are evil angels.
As is clear from Revelation 12:7 and many other passages, the leader of these fallen angels (or demons as they are also called) is Satan (cf. Matt. 12:25-27). Satan, the leader of unholy angels, is a liar, a murderer, and a thief (John 10:10). As God’s great antagonist, He hates God and God’s people. Scripture teaches us that he prowls about like a roaring lion in search of those whom he may devour by his nefarious schemes (1 Peter 5:8). As an angelic being, Satan, along with his demon-like angels who operate under his authority, is supernaturally powerful and brilliant, and he uses all his powers against humanity. Not only is he a liar, a thief, and a distorer, but that which characterizes him above all else is deception. John describes him as the one “who deceives the whole world” (John 12:9). In his cunning, he disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). So, in view of this, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness . . .” (2 Cor. 11:15). More will be said on this below.
The good and loyal angels are the mighty servants of God who constantly serve him always doing His will. The Psalmist described them as, “Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will” (Ps. 103:20-21). It is no wonder, then, that the author of Hebrews, in showing the superiority of Christ to even the mighty angels, asked (the question here demands a positive answer both in the Greek text and contextually), “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). The answer is “Yes!” Though God can always act independently without the use of agents, He has chosen to use both angelic and human instruments to accomplish His will. In keeping with this, over and over again in the Bible, we find angels acting as God’s servants involved in variegated ministry to people.
Perhaps no aspect of their ministry to man is more talked about than the idea of a “guardian angel.” Over the years, I have often been asked, “Does everyone have a guardian angel?” While no passage specifically states that every person has a guardian angel, the Bible does teach that angels do guard or protect as Psalm 91:11 declares.
In addition, Matthew 18:10 may suggest a guardian angel because of the statement Christ made regarding little children when He said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.” But it should also be pointed out that Psalm 91:11 is directed to those who make the Lord their refuge. The psalmist explained that no harm or disaster can befall those who have made the Lord their refuge (mahseh, “shelter from danger”; . . . ) because He has commissioned angels to care for them. angels protect from physical harm and give believers strength to overcome difficulties, pictured here as wild lions and dangerous snakes. Satan, in tempting Christ, quoted 91:11-12 (Matt. 4:6), which shows that even God’s most marvelous promises can be foolishly applied.11
Some would claim that this Old Testament passage should not be applied in modern times, but the author of Hebrews does not seem to draw that distinction. That they are ministering spirits who minister to the saints is presented as a general truth of the Bible and should not be restricted to Bible times. Also, Scripture suggests that Michael, the archangel, is particularly involved in ministry to Israel. Concerning the reference to Michael in Daniel 10:13, Ryrie writes: Michael, which means “who is like God?” (v. 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7), is the special guardian of the affairs of Israel (12:1) and is designated the archangel (Jude 9). One of the chief princes shows a hierarchy among the angels (cf. Eph. 1:21). I had been left there with the kings of Persia. The good angel (cf. vv. 5-6), with Michael’s help, was left in a place of preeminence in influencing Persia. But the battle between good and evil angels over the control of nations continues (see v. 20 and Rev. 20:3).
Regarding accounts of angelic protection, Dr. Kenneth Gangel gives the following account which is similar to others I have heard about, especially with missionaries: A veteran missionary friend of mine (now retired) tells the story about a woman missionary alone on a compound in northern Africa during a riot by one of the local tribes. She hid in a closet and prayed as warriors advanced along the dusty road toward the houses where the white intruders lived. Amazingly, she never heard them. No one ever entered her building, and there was no evidence of any turmoil. My friend learned later that the warriors, who intended to kill everyone at the missionary compound and burn it to the ground, instead retreated when they found the compound guarded by tall warriors dressed in white and carrying large swords. Angels?
Another and similar account was also reported by a medical missionary at his home church in Michigan: While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, I traveled every two weeks by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. This required camping overnight half way. On one of these trips, I saw two men fighting in the city. One was seriously injured, so I treated him and witnessed to him of the Lord Jesus Christ. I then returned home without incident.
Upon arriving in the city several weeks later, I was approached by the man I had treated earlier. He told me he had known that I carried money and medicine. He said, “some friends and I followed you into the jungle knowing you would camp overnight. We waited for you to go to sleep and planned to kill you and take your money and drugs. Just as we were about to move into your campsite, we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards.”
I laughed at this and said I was certainly all alone out in that jungle campsite. The young man pressed the point, “No, sir, I was not the only one to see the guards. My Jave friends also saw them and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone.”
At this point in the church presentation in Michigan, one of the men in the church jumped up and interrupted the missionary, and asked, “Can you tell me the exact date when this happened?” The missionary thought for a while and recalled the date.
The man in the congregation told this side of the story: “On that night in Africa it was morning here. I was preparing to play golf. As I put my bag in the car, I felt the Lord leading me to pray for you. In fact, the urging was so strong that I called the men of this church together to pray for you. Will all of those men who met with me that day please stand?”
The men who had met that day to pray together stood—there were 26 of them! Again we ask, were these angels? While I cannot verify this story, I have no doubt whatsoever that it could be true.
As angels were sent by God to provide sustenance for the Lord at the end of his forty days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), so he has undoubtedly on occasion done so for believers in our day. Some would include the provision of bread and water for Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-6), but this was a ministry of “the Angel of the Lord” which could simply mean, angel sent from the Lord, but it’s probably best to understand this as a reference a theophany, a manifestation of God to Elijah.12
As an illustration of possible angelic provision, Sue Bohlin gives the following account: In 1944, the penniless wife of a pastor and evangelist in Switzerland, Susie Ware prayed, “God, I need five pounds of potatoes, two pounds of pastry flour, apples, pears, a cauliflower, carrots, veal cutlets for Saturday, and beef for Sunday.” A few hours later, someone knocked on the door, and there was a young man carrying a basket, who said, “Mrs. Ware, I am bringing what you asked for.” It was precisely what she’d prayed for—down to the exact brand of pastry flour she wanted.
The young man slipped away, and even though Rev. and Mrs. Ware watched at the window to their building, the man never exited. He just disappeared (Anderson, Joan Wester. Where Angels Walk, New York: Ballantine Books, 1992, pp. 60-62).13
My wife’s sister, Connie, had an experience about 15 years ago which is recorded in Jodie Berndt’s book, Celebration of Miracles.14 Connie, and her husband Geoff, were missionaries in Africa working with Hindu people and had an opportunity to visit missionaries in India. The trip involved a 38-hour train ride from New Delhi to an orphanage in the south. They had been warned not to eat the food on the train, but they had taken very little food with them and Connie was so famished she decided to take her chances. She ate some curried mutton, and was soon extremely ill.
After arriving at the orphanage, Connie went to bed where she remained for three days. Geoff was traveling during that time and the missionaries thinking she was reacting to the miserable poverty of their surroundings thought she didn’t want to be bothered and left her alone. It was not until it was time to move on to the next orphanage that they realized she was desperately ill. They realized she needed to get to a hospital fast so they set out for the nearest one which was three hours away. About fifteen minutes into the ride Connie’s muscles began to cramp. First her fingers then her knees and toes curled inward and her facial muscles contracted so she was unable to speak. Finally she found herself paralyzed as the jeep bounced along the primitive road.
They were concerned, thinking she might not make it because she was so dehydrated. Geoff cried out to God, “please do a miracle! Do something!” Suddenly the missionary who was driving spotted a small Red Cross building just off the trail. As the jeep pulled to a stop, Connie tried to protest. She was concerned about the rampant AIDS epidemic in these remote areas and the practice of reusing needles.
As the group made their way into the building which was well lit and very clean, an Indian man, dressed in white shirt and baggy pants, greeted them in perfect English. He said, “I know what’s wrong with her. She’s dehydrated. I have some electrolytes here in this packet. This water has already been boiled.” He mixed the electrolytes with the water and handed Geoff an eye dropper encased in a plastic bag. “It’s sterile,” he said, looking right at Connie.
Geoff was given instructions to put one drop at a time in Connie’s mouth (which had locked open) until they reached the hospital. When they reached the hospital an hour-and-a-half later, her muscles had relaxed and she was able to walk into the hospital. The doctor said it was the worst case of dehydration he’d ever seen. Her body had literally sucked the water out of the cells and she’d come within hours of dying.
A few weeks later, after returning to Africa, they received a letter from the missionary couple in India. They said, “You won’t believe this, but when we returned to our village via the route we had taken to get you to the hospital, that Red Cross building was gone. There was nothing there in the place where it was.” Was this the work of one of God’s ministering spirits? One day we will know, but in the meantime, we can certainly give praise to the Lord.
Angels Proclaim God’s Truth
Throughout the Bible we find angels involved in communicating God’s truth or message as the Spirit of God directed them.This is, of course, is very much in keeping with the basic meaning of the word angel. Both the Hebrew word for angel (mal`ak,) and the Greek word (aggelos, pronounced angelos) mean “messenger.” In a number of passages we are told that angels were instruments God used to reveal His Word (cf. Acts 7:38, 53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). But that is only half the story. Numbers of times they appeared to announce an important message. They announced the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1:11f, 26f; Matt. 1:20f). In the Tribulation, God will use them to announce key events (cf. Rev. 14:6). Today, however, God’s canon of Scripture, the Bible, is complete. Beware, therefore, of anyone claiming to have new revelation as given by an angel or of anyone claiming to be an angel with new revelation. Remember, Satan is a deceiver with his own angels of deceit promoting false doctrine (2 Cor. 11:1-4, 12-13; 1 Tim. 4:1).
Angels Punish or Carry Out God’s JudgmentsWith their enormous God-given power, they can carry out anything God sends them to do. It is no wonder then that we find them as vital agents in pouring out the awful judgments of the Tribulation as described in Revelation and even in doing battle with Satan and his evil angels to restrict them from any access to heaven, confining them to the realm of this earth and its immediate atmosphere in the middle of the Tribulation (Rev. 12:7f). This will be done in anticipation of Satan’s bondage and final defeat as described in Revelation 12 and 20.
But such is not the picture we find in our modern day fascination with angels. As Gangel writes, “I doubt that many figurines of punishing angels found their way into gift boxes last Christmas, but the Bible doesn’t hesitate to describe this part of their activity.” 15
Final Thoughts on the Ministry of Angels
Surely it is comforting to know that God may protect, provide, and encourage us is supernatural ways, but this does not always guarantee such deliverance and certainly and we should never presume on this provision of God. So having consider the various ways angels minister, we should keep in mind that God does not always deliver us from danger or supply our needs in such miraculous ways whether by angels or by His direct intervention. For His own sovereign purposes in His plan for using suffering (a tool of growth, to manifest the character of Christ, to witness to others, etc.), the opposite is sometimes His will, as life clearly illustrates and Scripture declares (see Heb. 11:36-40).16 Sue Bohlin has an excellent discussion of what to look for to discern the activity of these demonic, evil angels. She writes:
You know you’re around “ugly angels,”or demons masquerading as angels of light and holiness, when you see or hear these terms:
1. Contacting or communing with angels.
There are now books available with titles like Ask Your Angels (Daniel, Alma, Timothy Wyllie, and Andrew Ramer, Ask your Angels, New York: Ballantine, 1992) and 100 Ways to Attract Angels (Sharp, Sally, 100 Ways to Attract Angels, Minnesota: Trust Publications, 1994). But the Bible gives neither permission nor precedent for contacting angels. When people start calling on angels, it’s not the holy angels who answer. They’re demons, disguising themselves as good angels to people who don’t know how to tell the difference.
2. Loving our angels, praying to our angels.
Some self-styled “angel experts” instruct their followers to love their angels and call upon them for health, healing, prosperity, and guidance. But angels are God’s servants, and all this attention and emphasis and glory should go to God, not His servants. God says, “I will not share my glory with another” (Isaiah 42:8). Scripture makes no mention of loving angels—only God, His word, and people. And it never tells us to pray to angels, only to the Lord Himself.
3. Instruction, knowledge, or insight from angels, particularly ones with names.
Some angel teachers are proclaiming that angels are trying very hard to contact us, so they can give us deeper knowledge of the spiritual (Karyn Martin-Kuri, in an interview with Body, Mind and Spirit Journal, May/June 1993. Also, Albright, Naomi, Angel Walk, Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Portals Press, 1990). Invariably, this “angel knowledge” is a mixture of truth and lies, and never stands up to the absolute truth of Scripture.
There are four angel names that keep popping up in the angel literature: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. Michael and Gabriel are the only angels mentioned by name in the Bible. The other two show up in the apocryphal First Book of Enoch, which includes a fanciful account of the actions of these four beings. Those who report modern day angel teachings are actually channeling information from demons.
4. Special knowledge or teachings from angels.
Naomi Albright distributes teachings about the deep meanings of colors, and numbers and letters of the alphabet which she claims is “knowledge given from above and brought forth in more detail by the High Angelic Master Sheate, Lady Master Cassandra, and Angel Carpelpous, and the Master Angel, One on High.” (Paths of Light newsletter, Angel Walk F.O.L., Followers of Light, No. 24, July 1994, p. 6-10). These same beings told Mrs. Albright to stress two main teachings: first, that God accepts all religions, and second, Reincarnation.(Albright, Angel Walk, p. 77-78). These two teachings keep showing up in much of the New Age angel literature, which shouldn’t be surprising since they are heretical lies that come from the pit of hell, which is where the angel teachers are from.
Other angel teachings are that all is a part of God (pantheism); the learner is set apart from others by the “deep” knowledge that the angels give (this is a basic draw to the occult); and that eventually, the one who pursues contact with these angels will be visited by an Ascended Master or a Shining Angel (which is a personal encounter with a demon).
We need to remember that God’s angels are not teachers. God’s word says they are messengers—that’s what “angel” means—and they minister to us. God has revealed to us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), so any hidden knowledge that spirit beings try to impart is by nature occultic and demonic.
5. Human divinity
The message of the ugly angels is that we need to recognize that we are one with the divine, we are divine... we are God. In Karen Goldman’s The Angel Book: A Handbook for Aspiring Angels, she says things like, “Angels don’t fall out of the sky; they emerge from within.” (Goldman, Karen, The Angel Book—A Handbook for Aspiring Angels, New York: Simon & Shuster, 1988, p. 20). And, “The whole purpose in life is to know your Angel Self, accept it and be it. In this way we finally experience true oneness.” (Ibid., p. 95).
The following bit of heretical garbage was channeled from a demon posing an angel named Daephrenocles: “The wondrous light of the Angels, from the Elohim to the Archangels to the Devas and Nature Spirits, are all bringing to you the realization that you are magnificent—you are divine now and divine first.” (These Celestial Times newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 1, Gaithersburg, Maryland, p. 4).
Much of the angel literature refers to “the angel within.” But angels are a separate part of the creation. They were created before man as a different kind. They are not within us. The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” notwithstanding, when we hear a bell ring it does not mean that an angel is getting his wings. Nor do good people, especially children, become angels when they die. We remain human beings—not angels, and certainly not God.
What our culture needs in response to the angel craze is strong discernment built on the foundation of God’s word. We need to remember, and share with others, three truths about angels:
1. The ministry of holy angels will never contradict the Bible.
2. The actions of holy angels will always be consistent with the character of Christ.
3. A genuine encounter with a holy angel will glorify God, not the angel. Holy angels never draw attention to themselves. They typically do their work and disappear.
It’s very true that many have “entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2). But we need to make sure we’re entertaining the right kind of angels!17
Never Worship Angels
As pointed out in the introduction to this study, everywhere we find angels mentioned in the Bible, the reference to angels is incidental to some other issue. They are not the primary subject of the passage. God’s love and grace is. When they are mentioned, it is always in order to inform us further about God, what He does, and how He does it. This very fact should teach us that not only are angels not the focus, but they should certainly not be worshipped.
In two places in the book of Revelation, John was so awed by the revelation he had received from God through an angel, a very glorious creature, that he bowed down to worship the angel. Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” And then again in Revelation 22 we are told:
Revelation 22:8-9 And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God.”We told not to worship angels, but why? First, they are but “fellow servants” with believers called upon to serve the Lord. Then he was told to “worship God.” Angels are powerful and awesome in many ways, but, like us, they are only creatures and servants of the living God who alone deserves our worship. This means we don’t pray to them or trust in them, even though God may use them as our guardian. Our trust is to be in God, not angels. They minister at His bidding.
Remember, the church at Colossae had been invaded by false teachers who were teaching a false humility and the worship of angels, claiming special mystic insights by way of visions in connection with their worship of angels (Co. 2:18). This was demonic because it was usurping the preeminent place and sufficiency of Christ as Savior and Lord. The claim was, He is not enough for salvation and spirituality. What you need is to worship angels, etc.
Do Not Participate in Angel Gimmickry
Closely associated with the worship of angels, but in a more subtle way, is all the angel gimmickry going on in our culture today. Sometimes this is not just a matter of collecting and enjoying angel figurines much as someone would collect and enjoy figurines and pictures of eagles. Regarding this, Gangel has a word of advice: Of course there is nothing wrong with enjoying angel figurines on the coffee table as long as they do not become icons that somehow replace our dependence upon God’s Word and the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives.18
Do Not Become Critical of the Reports of Angels
When we hear of reports of angels, it is only natural for us to be skeptical, but and there is the need for a certain amount of skepticism, what Gangel calls “healthy skepticism.” The reasons a healthy skepticism is needed are the deceptions of Satan referred above and the spiritually bankrupt condition of our culture and its willingness to accept anything but the truth.
The gullibility of people today is due in part to pendulum swings of society. Society had swung from the gross mystical speculations of the middle ages to the rationalism of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now due in part to the failure of rationalism, the vacuum that naturally occurs in the minds of people, and the rise of demonism and the occult in these last days, the pendulum has swung back to mysticism seen so prominently in the New Age movement, the occult, and in the cults.
So belief in Satan, demons and angels is more and more common place, not because people are believing the Bible, but because of the rise of their spiritual emptiness. Angels have become an easy substitute, a handy compromise to the reality of the Living God as He is revealed in Scripture. When asked “Do you believe in angels?” Jamal Mashburn, star forward of the Dallas Mavericks, responded, “Yes. For me it is like an inner voice that tells me what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go. It’s somebody like God that protects and cares for me” (Dallas Morning News, 18 December 1994).
Why not? God seems so distant and austere. Angels seem so friendly.19 On the other hand, angels are the ministering spirits of God and He can send them to anyone whom he pleases. I have never seen an angel or had an experience where I was sure an angel was involved, but I do believe many reports are true.
A good friend of ours who has gone through a whole series of very difficult health problems told me last Sunday that at one point he was so low that he’d given up hope of ever getting well again. During the night a nurse came into his hospital room to check his IV and she said to him, “You seem to be really down and are without hope, aren’t you?” He responded with, “Yes, I am.” She knelt down, took his hand, and prayed for him. Afterward, his spirits picked up and he quickly began to improve physically. He never saw this nurse again, though he asked about her and watched for her. He told his doctor about this, who happened to be a Christian, and he asked my friend if he had considered that this might have been an angel. Was this angel? Perhaps. We simply don’t know, but it certainly could be.
In addition, we need to avoid the critical spirit that questions and belittles the claims of others, especially those who do not know the Scripture. Laughing at or belittling their claims will only close the door to opportunities to witness and point them to the truth of the Gospel and the Bible.
Some Positive Things to Do
First, when confronted with claims of angels about which we are skeptical, let us seek ways to use these claims to show interest in the person and to engage them in discussion about the realities of the Savior or the truths of God’s Word.
Second, let’s be thankful to God for the ministry of angels and for those reports that do not contradict Scripture and may very well be genuine cases of angelic ministry. Even though we may not be able to validate that it was an angel, we can and should certainly praise God for the aid or encouragement experienced, as with my friend in the hospital.
Finally, let’s know what the Bible teaches about God, Jesus Christ, salvation, true spirituality, and the ministry of angels that we might not fall for the satanic counterfeits that seek to cause people to bypass the sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus Christ. The book of Colossians is an excellent commentary on this.
Gangel closes his article on angels with the following fitting comment:
So you’ve never seen or heard an angel? Be patient—I guarantee it will happen. Like John we’ll all someday see and hear “the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.” With them we will praise the Savior singing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev. 5:11-12).20
1 The following is a short study on angels in view of the present day fascination with angels. It will be followed by an in depth study on the doctrine of angelology, the study of angels as it is developed in the Bible. S
6 Sue Bohlin, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” Probe Ministries at http://www.probe.org. Probe is an excellent Christian resource and I highly recommend it.
7 The Son’s Creation includes “all” things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. These indicate the entire universe, both material and immaterial. A highly organized hierarchy of angelic beings is referred to with the word “thrones” (qronoi), “powers” (kuriothtes), “rulers” (arcai), and “authorities” (exousiai). This not only indicates a highly organized dominion in the spirit world of angels, but shows that Paul was writing to refute an incipient form of Gnosticism that promoted the worship of angels in place of the worship of Christ (cf. Col. 2:18). In this, Paul demonstrates superiority and rightful place of worship as supreme (cf. Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Phil. 2:9-10; Col. 2:10, 15).
10 The terms and descriptions given there certainly go far beyond that of any human monarch. Further, other passages clearly teach us that there are often angelic or demonic forces behind the reign of human kings or kindgoms (cf. Dan. 10; and Eph. 6:10-12).
12 Regarding the mention of “the angel of the LORD” in Genesis 16:9, Ryrie writes: “A theophany, a self-manifestation of God. He here speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and claims to exercise the prerogatives of God. See 16:7-14; 21:17-21; 22:11-18; 31:11, 13; Ex. 3:2; Judg. 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Sam. 24:16; Zech. 1:12; 3:1; 12:8. Because the angel of the Lord ceases to appear after the incarnation, it is often inferred that the angel in the OT is a preincarnate appearance of the second person of the Trinity” (Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, 1986, 1995, Moody, p. 27).
Related Topics: Angelology