Category: (08) What is Angelology?

Angelology is the study of angels. There are many unbiblical views of angels  today. Some believe angels are human beings who have died. Others believe that  angels are impersonal sources of power. Still others deny the existence of  angels entirely. A biblical understanding of angelology will correct these false  beliefs. Angelology tells us what the Bible says about angels. It is a study of  how the angels relate to humanity and serve God’s purposes. Here are some  important issues in angelology:

What does the  Bible say about angels? Angels are an entirely different order of being from  humans. Human beings do not become angels after they die. Angels will never  become, and never were, human beings. God created the angels, just as He created  humanity.

Are angels male or  female? The Bible does not necessarily support the gender of angels being  male or female. Whenever gender is “assigned” to an angel in Scripture, it is  male (Genesis  19:10,12; Revelation 7:2; 8:3; 10:7), and the only  names assigned to angels are Michael and Gabriel, generally considered masculine  names.

Do we have guardian angels? There is no doubt that good angels help protect believers, reveal information,  guide people, and, in general, minister to God’s children. The difficult  question is whether each person or each believer has an angel assigned to  him/her.

Who / What is the angel of the  Lord? The precise identity of the “angel of the Lord” is not given in the  Bible. However, there are many important “clues” as to his identity.

What are cherubim? Are cherubs angels? Cherubim /  cherubs are angelic beings involved in the worship and praise of God. In  addition to singing God’s praises, they also serve as a visible reminder of the  majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people.

What are seraphim? Are seraphs angels? Isaiah chapter 6  is the only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim. The  seraphim (“fiery, burning ones”) are angelic beings associated with the prophet  Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple.

Angelology gives us God’s  perspective on angels. Angels are personal beings who worship and obey God. God  sometimes sends angels to “interfere” in the course of humanity. Angelology  helps us to recognize the warfare that exists between God’s angels and Satan and  his demons. A proper understanding of angelology is very important. When we  understand that angels are created beings, just as we are, we realize that  worshipping or praying to angels robs God of the glory that belongs to Him  alone. It was God, not angels, who sent His Son to die for us, who loves and  cares for us, and who alone is worthy of our adoration.

A key verse on  angelology is Hebrews  1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will  inherit salvation?”

The seraphim (fiery, burning ones) are angelic beings associated with the  prophet Isaiah’s vision of God in the Temple when God called him to his  prophetic ministry (Isaiah  6:1-7). Isaiah  6:2-4 records, “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.’ At the sound of their voices  the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”  Seraphs are angels who worship God continually.

Isaiah chapter 6 is the  only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim. Each seraph had  six wings. They used two to fly, two to cover their feet, and two to cover their  faces (Isaiah 6:2).  The seraphim flew about the throne on which God was seated, singing His praises  as they called special attention to God’s glory and majesty. These beings  apparently also served as agents of purification for Isaiah as he began his  prophetic ministry. One placed a hot coal against Isaiah’s lips with the words,  “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned  for” (Isaiah 6:7).  Similar to the other types of holy angels, the seraphim are perfectly obedient  to God. Similar to the cherubim, the seraphim are particularly focused on  worshipping God.

Cherubim/cherubs are angelic beings involved in the worship and praise of God.  The cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis  3:24, “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.” Prior to his rebellion, Satan was a cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-15). The  tabernacle and temple along with their articles contained many representations  of cherubim (Exodus  25:17-22; 26:1, 31; 36:8; 1 Kings  6:23-35; 7:29-368:6-7; 1  Chronicles 28:18; 2  Chronicles 3:7-14; 2  Chronicles 3:10-13; 5:7-8; Hebrews  9:5).

Chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Ezekiel describe the “four  living creatures” (Ezekiel 1:5)  as the same beings as the cherubim (Ezekiel 10). Each had four faces—that of a  man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezekiel  1:10; also 10:14)—and each had four wings. In their appearance, the cherubim  “had the likeness of a man” (Ezekiel  1:5). These cherubim used two of their wings for flying and the other two  for covering their bodies (Ezekiel 1:611, 23). Under their wings the  cherubim appeared to have the form, or likeness, of a man’s hand (Ezekiel 1:8; 10:7-821).

The imagery of Revelation  4:6-9 also seems to be describing cherubim. The cherubim serve the purpose  of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main  responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to singing God’s praises,  they also serve as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His  abiding presence with His people.

The precise identity of the “angel of the Lord” is not given in the Bible.  However, there are many important “clues” to his identity. There are Old and New  Testament references to “angels of the Lord,” “an angel of the Lord,” and  “the angel of the Lord.” It seems when the definite article “the” is  used, it is specifying a unique being, separate from the other angels. The angel  of the Lord speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the  responsibilities of God (Genesis  16:7-12; 21:17-18; 22:11-18; Exodus 3:2Judges 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-2413:3-222 Samuel  24:16; Zechariah  1:12; 3:1; 12:8). In several of  these appearances, those who saw the angel of the Lord feared for their lives  because they had “seen the Lord.” Therefore, it is clear that in at least some  instances, the angel of the Lord is a theophany, an appearance of God in  physical form.

The appearances of the angel of the Lord cease after the  incarnation of Christ. Angels are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament,  but “the angel of the Lord” is never mentioned in the New Testament after  the birth of Christ. It is possible that appearances of the angel of the Lord  were manifestations of Jesus before His incarnation. Jesus declared Himself to  be existent “before Abraham” (John 8:58), so  it is logical that He would be active and manifest in the world. Whatever the  case, whether the angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ  (Christophany) or an appearance of God the Father (theophany), it is highly  likely that the phrase “the angel of the Lord” usually identifies a physical  appearance of God.

 Matthew  18:10 states, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in  heaven.” In the context, “these little ones” could either apply to those who  believe in Him (v. 6) or it could refer to the little children (vs. 3-5). This  is the key passage regarding guardian angels. There is no doubt that good angels  help protect (Daniel  6:20-23; 2 Kings  6:13-17), reveal information (Acts  7:52-53; Luke  1:11-20), guide (Matthew  1:20-21; Acts 8:26),  provide for (Genesis  21:17-20; 1 Kings  19:5-7), and minister to believers in general (Hebrews  1:14).

The question is whether each person—or each believer—has an  angel assigned to him/her. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel had the  archangel (Michael) assigned to it (Daniel  10:21; 12:1), but  Scripture nowhere states that an angel is “assigned” to an individual (angels  were sometimes sent to individuals, but there is no mention of permanent  assignment). The Jews fully developed the belief in guardian angels during the  time between the Old and New Testament periods. Some early church fathers  believed that each person had not only a good angel assigned to him/her, but a  demon as well. The belief in guardian angels has been around for a long time,  but there is no explicit scriptural basis for it.

To return to Matthew 18:10, the word  “their” is a collective pronoun in the Greek and refers to the fact that  believers are served by angels in general. These angels are pictured as “always”  watching the face of God so as to hear His command to them to help a believer  when it is needed. The angels in this passage do not seem to be guarding a  person so much as being attentive to the Father in heaven. The active duty or  oversight seems, then, to come more from God than from the angels, which makes  perfect sense because God alone is omniscient. He sees every believer at every  moment, and He alone knows when one of us needs the intervention of an angel.  Because they are continually seeing His face, the angels are at His disposal to  help one of His “little ones.”

It cannot be emphatically answered from  Scripture whether or not each believer has a guardian angel assigned to him/her.  But, as stated earlier, God does use angels in ministering to us. It is  scriptural to say that He uses them as He uses us; that is, He in no way needs  us or them to accomplish His purposes, but chooses to use us and them  nevertheless (Hebrews  1:7). In the end, whether or not we have an angel assigned to protect us, we  have an even greater assurance from God: if we are His children through faith in  Christ, He works all things together for good (Romans  8:28-30), and Jesus Christ will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). If we  have an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God with us, does it really matter  whether or not there is a finite guardian angel protecting us?

There is no doubt that every reference to angels in Scripture refers to them in  the masculine gender. The Greek word for “angel” in the New Testament,  angelos, is in the masculine form. In fact, the feminine form of  angelos does not exist. There are three genders in grammar—masculine (he,  him, his), feminine (she, her, hers), and neuter (it, its). Angels are never  referred to in any gender other than masculine. In the many appearances of  angels in the Bible, never is an angel referred to as “she” or “it.”  Furthermore, when angels did appear, they always appeared dressed as human males  (Genesis  18:2, 16; Ezekiel 9:2). No angel ever  appeared in Scripture dressed as a female.

The only named angels in the  Bible—Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer—had male names and all were referred to in the  masculine. Revelation  12:7 – “…Michael and his angels.”; Luke 1:29 –  “Mary was greatly troubled at his (Gabriel’s) words.”; Isaiah 14:12 – “Oh,  Lucifer, son of the morning.” Other references to angels are always in the  masculine gender. In Judges 6:21,  the angel held the staff in his hand. Zechariah asked an angel a question and  reports that he answered (Zechariah  1:19). The angels in Revelation are all spoken of as “he” and “his” (Revelation 7:1; 10:1, 5; 14:19; 16:2, 4, 17; 19:17; 20:1).

The  confusion about genderless angels comes from a misreading of Matthew 22:30, which  states that there will be no marriage in heaven because we “will be like the  angels in heaven.” The statement that there will be no marriage has led some to  believe that angels are “sexless” or genderless because (the thinking goes) the  purpose of gender is procreation and, if there is to be no marriage and no  procreation, there is no need for gender. But this is a leap that cannot be  proven from the text. The fact that there is no marriage does not necessarily  mean there is no gender. The many references to angels as males contradict the  idea of genderless angels. But we must not confuse gender with sexuality.  Clearly, there is no sexual activity in heaven, which we can safely derive from  the statement about no marriage. But we can’t make the same leap from “no  marriage” to “no gender.”

Gender, then, is not to be understood strictly  in terms of sexuality. Rather, the use of the masculine gender pronouns  throughout Scripture is more a reference to authority than to sex. God always  refers to Himself in the masculine. The blurring of the distinction between male  and female can lead to heresies such as “mother/father God” and the Holy Spirit  as an “it,” ignoring the references to Him in Scripture (John 14:17; 15:16; 16:8, 13-14). The Holy Spirit is  never described as an “it” or an inanimate force. God’s perfect plan for the  order and structure of authority, both in the church and the home, imbues men  with authority to rule in love and righteousness, just as God rules. It would  simply be inappropriate to refer to heavenly beings as anything other than  masculine because of the authority God has granted to them to wield His power  (2 Kings  19:35), carry His messages (Luke 2:10),  and represent Him on earth.

Angels are personal spiritual beings who have intelligence, emotions, and will.  This is true of both the good and evil angels (demons). Angels possess  intelligence (Matthew  8:29; 2  Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter  1:12), show emotion (Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Revelation 12:17), and  exercise will (Luke  8:28-31; 2 Timothy  2:26; Jude 6). Angels  are spirit beings (Hebrews  1:14) without true physical bodies. Although they do not have physical  bodies, they are still personalities.

Because they are created beings,  their knowledge is limited. This means they do not know all things as God does  (Matthew  24:36). They do seem to have greater knowledge than humans, however, which  may be due to three things. First, angels were created as an order of creatures  higher than humans. Therefore, they innately possess greater knowledge. Second,  angels study the Bible and the world more thoroughly than humans do and gain  knowledge from it (James 2:19Revelation  12:12). Third, angels gain knowledge through long observation of human  activities. Unlike humans, angels do not have to study the past; they have  experienced it. Therefore, they know how others have acted and reacted in  situations and can predict with a greater degree of accuracy how we may act in  similar circumstances.

Though they have wills, angels, like all  creatures, are subject to the will of God. Good angels are sent by God to help  believers (Hebrews  1:14). Here are some activities the Bible ascribes to angels:

They  praise God (Psalm  148:1-2; Isaiah 6:3).  They worship God (Hebrews 1:6Revelation  5:8-13). They rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7).  They serve God (Psalm  103:20; Revelation  22:9). They appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1). They are instruments of  God’s judgments (Revelation  7:1; 8:2).  They bring answers to prayer (Acts  12:5-10). They aid in winning people to Christ (Acts 8:26; 10:3). They observe Christian  order, work, and suffering (1  Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians  3:10; 1 Peter  1:12). They encourage in times of danger (Acts  27:23-24). They care for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16:22).

Angels are an entirely different  order of being than humans. Human beings do not become angels after they die.  Angels will never become, and never were, human beings. God created the angels,  just as He created humanity. The Bible nowhere states that angels are created in  the image and likeness of God, as humans are (Genesis  1:26). Angels are spiritual beings that can, to a certain degree, take on  physical form. Humans are primarily physical beings, but with a spiritual  aspect. The greatest thing we can learn from the holy angels is their instant,  unquestioning obedience to God’s commands.