Updated: Feb 18, 2021
The modern-day resurgence of interest in the spiritual realm as it pertains to angels, demons, and any other spiritual force operating in the unseen world, is due to depictions in Hollywood films, television programs, and even books that have been written to stir such interests. In recent polls, around 70 percent of people believe in angels, but their belief is based on a version of the angels influenced by mainstream ideas. For the other 30 % that do not believe, their reasons vary from atheism to skepticism. The Sadducees did not believe in the spirit, the resurrection, or angels.
In Acts 23:6-8, we read,
“But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, ‘Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!’ As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.”
To understand the perspective of the world, one author at Live Science by the name of Benjamin Radford explains, “Despite centuries of theological speculation about angels – from their number to their duties to how many can dance on the head of a pin – no one knows if they exist outside of stories and legends. Many people believe that they do.” While we know that they are real, we want to be sure that we know the real angels (genuine, authentic angelic hosts).
The Bible is a book from God that is loaded with information about the angels, but very few people are using this powerful resource to develop their understanding of angels. The occult is a highly desirable subject matter in our world, but very little is being said about the angels of God in an accurate manner (mostly we see witchcraft, magic, fortune-telling, seeking to access dead spirits through a medium, hunting ghosts, and demonology, etc.). While any Bible scholar is going to have a course in angelology (the study of angels in theology), the only education that most people get is media and movie driven and is misdirected by a movement that has been dubbed “angel mania”, where people are excited about the idea of angels but fail to study the only revelation where their identity and work is revealed. We need to learn what the word of God says and sift through the errors that many teach.
Unfortunately, the general perception of an angel or the like is falsely depicted to try and portray them like smiling babies with wings and a glowing halo (cherub), or a cartoon character that appears on your shoulder to whisper in your ear when you have a tough decision to make, in competition with a bad angel or demon to get you to make a selfish choice; or even a beam of white light accompanied by a gentle voice that speaks to the subconscious mind, when in fact angels are totally different from the mental images that we have developed over the years.
Perhaps you envision a choir holding harps that sing and play hymns, when in fact angels are only said to sing once in all of Scripture during the creation of the world. Our concept of an angel in heaven is just as distorted as our image of the devil in hell, which is often illustrated with a red suit, horns, long tongue, a pointy tail, and pitchfork in hand. The Bible's descriptions of angels or fallen angels are quite different. Angels were terrifying creatures.
So terrifying was the sight of an angel that they often started their message off with the words, “Don’t be afraid” because people that beheld them were awestruck (surprised and fearful). In Luke 1:30; 2:9-10, we read phrases like, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” or “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.” Some people were so overwhelmed with the presence of an angel that they would fall down immediately before these heavenly creatures and in many cases, seek to show reverence to them. John in the book of Revelation was commanded twice to stop, get up, and only worship God.
In Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9 we read, “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.” or “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” The angels actually fall before God in worship regularly. In Revelation 7:11, we have a record of angels worshiping God where we read, “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” Our job is to be amazed at the angels but instead of worshiping them, we need to give glory to the God of heaven who made them.
People have been led so far astray that they have started to pray to and through angels (which is a form of worship and should only be offered to God in the name of Jesus or through the intercession of the Holy Spirit), many offer direct worship to angels (which they rejected and it was condemned. In Col. 2:18, the apostle Paul said, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on [visions] he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind…” In Rom. 1:25, Paul also said in speaking of the errors of men, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” The reason it is sinful to worship angels is that it is in direct violation of the commands of God. Go back to Exodus 20:4-5 where God commanded, "You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” When Jesus was being tempted by the devil to bow down and worship him, (we will learn later he was an angel that had fallen) the words of Jesus speak clearly from the law as recorded in Deuteronomy in Matt. 4:10, “Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" Angels are not to receive worship.
Others started contriving the idea of having a personal guardian angel that stays with them everywhere that they go (which while an angel might be with you to guard at some point, they are not assigned to one person or mission for all time, but dwell before God’s throne or face, worshiping and serving Him until they are sent for a specific purpose).
It is Catholic doctrine that teaches a 1:1 assignment of angels to each living human. This is not found in the Scriptures. Islam teaches two angels are assigned, one to record the good things that you do and another to record the evil things that you do. This is false and not established by the word of God.
There are some people that believe that we become angels and get a set of wings and a halo when we die (probably a misinterpretation of Psalm 90:10, where it says that after our passing from this life we fly away, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.” This passage speaks of our spirit returning to God for judgment.
This most likely refers to being carried by the angels as in Luke 16:22, where the poor man Lazarus was escorted by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The text states, “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom, and the rich man also died and was buried.”
Angels will also be waiting at the gates of heaven to welcome us, but we do not become angels, rather we are redeemed souls that join in the everlasting worship of God in our own heavenly bodies. In Revelation 21:12 we see a picture of the New Jerusalem, “It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names [were] written on them, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” As you can see there are many false ideas in the world and as Christians, it should be our aim to know the truth.
What we believe to be true about angels is skewed by what we have been taught or rather a lack of teaching from the word of God. My grandmother told me as a boy that when thunder boomed in the heavens that God’s angels were bowling. When lightning struck, the angels got a strike. I am certain that she meant well and only tried to calm my nerves in the storm, but it is from stories like these that are false ideas are formed about angels.
This series was prepared carefully, and I have tried to be diligent in studying exactly what the Bible teaches about angels, their work in both heaven and on earth, and the understanding that we should have of these heavenly creatures. In conducting this study we will dispel many of the erroneous concepts about angels. In saying this, there are some things we will never know about these beings until the day that we join this heavenly band in eternity with the Lord.
Our fascination with angels stems from the fact that they are shrouded in mystery. It is hard for us to grasp the spiritual realm that is interwoven into our physical world. We struggle to comprehend the infinite dimensions that are surrounding our finite existence.
Some have claimed to be visited by or helped by angels in a desperate time and have even tried to provide evidence of the event taking place (audio, video, or personal testimony). Near-death experiences have also produced stories of angels coming to one's bedside or waiting in bright light to take the departing away. We need to make sure that stories like this are in harmony with the revealed word of God as most of the angelic claims are false and unwarranted.
We are left with a multitude of questions about these unique beings. What we can comprehend about them leaves us mesmerized and utterly fascinated.
In Daniel 10, the prophet Daniel beheld an angel in a vision, and here is what he experienced,
“I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with [a belt of] pure gold of Uphaz. His body also [was] like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said to me, ‘O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding [this] and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.’”
Another example that is even more detailed is found in Ezekiel 1:4-14,
“As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf's hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides [were] human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; [their faces] did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. As for the form of their faces, [each] had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another [being,] and two covering their bodies. And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went. In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning.”
Perhaps my grandmother’s story about the thunder and lightning being connected with the angels has some biblical precedence.
We need to be careful that as we study angels that our efforts do not lead us merely to become infatuated with these creatures. The purpose of our study is to show how even the angels of heaven are a great example for us in their worship and work for the Lord. If anything good comes from our research, this study should make us better worshipers and servants of our holy God. This message should exalt God and make us aware of the heavenly hosts that honor Him through obedience to His missions to which they are sent.