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Angels

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ANGELS IN THE BIBLE

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What does the Bible teach about angels?

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Artist's depiction of angel with Matthew.
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Who or what are angels?
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How did angels originate?
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How many angels are there?
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Do angels have bodies?
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What do angels look like?
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Do people become angels after death?
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How do angels compare to human beings?
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Are all angels good?
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What is the job description for an angel?

DO PEOPLE BECOME ANGELS AFTER DEATH?

No, angels are not glorified human beings. Matthew 22:30 explains that they do not marry or reproduce like humans, and Hebrews 12:22-23 says that when we get to the heavenly Jerusalem, we will be met by "myriads of angels" and "the spirits of righteous men made perfect" - two separate groups.

Angels are a company or association, not a race descended from a common ancestor (Luke 20:34-36). We are called "sons of men," but angels are never called "sons of angels."

Author: Dr. Paul Eymann.

WHO OR WHAT ARE ANGELS?

The word "angel" actually comes from the Greek word aggelos, which means "messenger." The matching Hebrew word mal'ak has the same meaning.

Sometimes, the Bible uses these words for human beings:

Sometimes, it speaks figuratively of things or events as "messengers"…

But it usually describes the whole range of spirits whom God has created, including both good and evil angels, and special categories such as cherubim, seraphim, and the archangel.

Angels are mentioned at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament (Chafer, Systematic Theology, II, 3). Hence, there is ample information available in Scripture to allow us to build a foundation for our knowledge of angelic beings.

Author: Dr. Paul Eymann.

HOW DID ANGELS ORIGINATE?

The Scripture speaks about the creation of angels, therefore, it is clear that they have not existed from all eternity (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2,5). Colossians 1:16-17 explains:

    "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 - all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
The time of their creation is never definitely specified, but it is most probable that it occurred in connection with the creation of the heavens in Genesis 1:1. It may be that God created the angels immediately after He had created the heavens and before He created the earth - for according to Job 38:4-7, "the sons of God shouted for joy" when He laid the foundations of the earth.

Author: Dr. Paul Eymann.

HOW MANY ANGELS ARE THERE?

While the Scriptures give no definite figures, we are told that the number of angels is very great (
Daniel 7:10; Matthew 26:53; Hebrews 12:22).

It appears that all angels were created at one time. No new angels are being added to the number. Angels are not subject to death or any form of extinction; therefore they do not decrease in number.

It seems reasonable to conclude that there are at least as many spirit beings in existence as there will have been human beings in all their history on earth.

Author: Dr. Paul Eymann.

Raphael's interpretation of a winged angel.
Raphael's interpretation of a winged angel.

DO ANGELS HAVE BODIES?

Angels are essentially "ministering spirits," (
Hebrews 1:14) and do not have physical bodies like humans. Jesus declared that "a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:37-39).

The Bible does, however, make it clear that angels can only be in one place at a time. They must have some localized presence.

Angels can take on the appearance of men when the occasion demands. How else could some "entertain angels unaware" (Hebrews 13:2)? On the other hand, their appearance is sometimes in dazzling white and blazing glory (Matthew 28:2-4).

Author: Dr. Paul Eymann.

WHAT DO ANGELS LOOK LIKE?

Since angels are spirits rather than physical beings, they don't have to be visible at all (Colossians 1:16). Elisha once prayed that his servant would see the armies of angels surrounding the city, and the young man discovered that he had overlooked a lot of invisible beings (2 Kings 6:17)!

Abraham was visited by three heavenly messengers.
Abraham was visited by three heavenly messengers.
When angels do appear, they generally appear in the form of men. In Genesis 18, Abraham welcomed three angelic guests who appeared at first to be nothing more than some travellers. In the following chapter, two angels went to Sodom where they were assumed to be simply a pair of human visitors.

With the possible exception of one debatable passage in Zechariah 5:9, angels always appear as males rather than females (Mark 16:5).

Sometimes an angel appears to be a man with unusual features. Daniel saw an angel with arms and legs resembling polished metal and precious stones, and a face like lightning (Daniel 10:5-6). The angel that rolled back the stone from Christ's tomb was radiating dazzling light (Matthew 28:3; Luke 24:4). The book of Revelation describes some highly unusual beings who may be a variety of angel in Revelation 4:6-8.

Fanciful cherub.
Angels in the Bible never appear this way.

Angels in the Bible never appear as cute, chubby infants! They are always full-grown adults. When people in the Bible saw an angel, their typical response was to fall on their faces in fear and awe, not to reach out and tickle an adorable baby.

Some Bible passages picture angels with wings (Isaiah 6:2,6). Other verses talk about angels flying, and we assume that the wings would be useful for that flight (Daniel 9:21). However, I suspect that angels can move around without having to depend on wings. Most references to angels in the Bible say nothing about wings, and in passages like Genesis 18-19, it is certain that no wings were visible.

Author: Dr. John Bechtle.

HOW DO ANGELS COMPARE TO HUMAN BEINGS?

Author: Dr. Paul Eymann.

ARE ALL ANGELS GOOD?

Sorry! You can't trust every angel.

The Bible classifies some angels as "elect" (1 Timothy 5:21) or "holy" (Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38). All angels were originally holy, enjoying the presence of God (Matthew 18:10) and the environment of heaven (Mark 13:32).

Other angels oppose God under the leadership of Satan (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Ephesians 6:12). We often call these "demons."

There is actually a great unseen conflict raging that goes beyond anything we can imagine. It is not, however, a fight between two equal and eternal forces. God who created all beings is still in charge, and once He has used wicked angels to accomplish His purposes, He will bring them to a final defeat.

Author: Dr. John Bechtle.

Typical artist's depiction of a winged angel.

WHAT IS THE JOB DESCRIPTION FOR AN ANGEL?

We don't know whether every angel carries out the same tasks, or whether some of them specialize in certain areas. The Bible does speak about classes of angelic beings like cherubim (Ezekiel 1) and seraphim (Isaiah 6). We also know the names of two notable angels: Michael (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9) and Gabriel (Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19,26).

The unnamed angels who appear most often in Scripture carry out a variety of tasks - all designed to serve God...

  • Worship and praise - This is the main activity portrayed in heaven (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4-5).

  • Revealing - They serve as messengers to communicate God's will to men. They helped reveal the law to Moses (Acts 7:52-53), and served as the carriers of much of the material in Daniel, and Revelation.

  • Guiding - Angels gave instructions to Joseph about the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1-2), to the women at the tomb, to Philip (Acts 8:26), and to Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8).

  • Providing - God has used angels to provide physical needs such as food for Hagar (Genesis 21:17-20), Elijah (1 Kings 19:6), and Christ after His temptation (Matthew 4:11).

  • Protecting - Keeping God's people out of physical danger, as in the cases of Daniel and the lions, and his three friends in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3 and 6).

  • Delivering - Getting God's people out of danger once they're in it. Angels released the apostles from prison in Acts 5, and repeated the process for Peter in Acts 12.

  • Strengthening and encouraging - Angels strengthened Jesus after His temptation (Matt 4:11), encouraged the apostles to keep preaching after releasing them from prison (Acts 5:19-20), and told Paul that everyone on his ship would survive the impending shipwreck (Acts 27:23-25).

  • Answering prayer - God often uses angels as His means of answering the prayers of His people (Daniel 9:20-24; 10:10-12; Acts 12:1-17).

  • Caring for believers at the moment of death - In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, we read that angels carried the spirit of Lazarus to "Abraham's bosom" when he died (Luke 16:22).

Author: Dr. John Bechtle.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ANGELS

Artist's conception of an angel.
Artist's conception of an angel who guarded the Tree of Life when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden

 

Angels: Bible Concordance

Old Testament references

Cherubim at entrance to Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:24
Appear to Abraham, Genesis 18:1-33
Saved Lot and his family, Genesis 19:1-22
Intervened with Isaac, Genesis 22:11-18
Heavenly vision of Jacob's Ladder, Genesis 28:12
Accompanied Israel through the desert, Exodus 23:20 And Numbers 20:16

Aided the prophets

Isaiah 6:2-7
Ezekiel 1:4-28
Daniel 7:9-10
Zechariah 1:9-19

New Testament references

Appeared in connection with birth of Christ

Matthew 1:20
Luke 1:26-38

Appear to:

Paul, Acts 27:23
Peter, Acts 12:7-11
Cornelius, Acts 10:3-6
Sadducees didn't believe in angels, Acts 23:8
12 Legions of Angels, Matthew 26:53

Mentioned by name:

Raphael, Tobit 12:15
Michael, Daniel 10:13
Revelation, 12:7
Gabriel, Daniel 8:16
Luke 1:19

Fall of the angels

Deuteronomy 32:17
2 Peter 2:4
Jude 1:6
Revelation 12:7-9
 
 

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Angels appear in the Bible from the beginning to the end, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation. The Bible is our best source of knowledge about angels - for example, Psalms 91:11, Matthew 18:10 and Acts 12:15 indicate humans have guardian angels.

Angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds [Luke 2:14], minister to Christ after his temptation in the desert [Matthew 4:11], comforted Jesus in his agony in the garden [Luke 22:43], and appear to announce his resurrection from the dead [John 20:12] . According to Jesus, the angels of little ones continually behold the face of the Father [Matthew 18:10]; angels will come with Him on the Day of Judgement [Matthew 24:31], and the angels will separate the wicked from the just on the last day [Matthew 13:49], although they do not know the day of Judgement[Mark 13:32]; and the children of the resurrection will be equal to the angels [Luke 20:34].

Thomas Aquinas was a great medieval theologian, and is known as the "Angelic Doctor" for his extensive writings on angels in his book, the Summa Theologica. The word "angelos" in Greek means messenger. Angels are purely spiritual beings that do God's will [Psalms 103:20, Matthew 26:53]. He points out that sometimes angels take human form, as seen in the three men who appear to Abraham in the Book of Genesis, the two angels who appeared to Lot before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, or Raphael appearing in human form to Tobias. Thomas Aquinas believed that angels, being spiritual beings, influence mankind by illuminating one's mind with an idea.

Michael is one of the leading angels, and is considered "Prince" of the heavenly hosts, and the Guardian Angel of Persia [Daniel 10:13]. He is the only one in the Bible referred to as an Archangel [Jude 1:9], and serves a major role in Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation. The angel Gabriel first appears in a vision to Daniel [Daniel 8:16], but is best known for the Annunciation to Mary that she would be the Mother of Jesus [Luke 1:26-38]. The Book of Tobias (Tobit 12:15) names Raphael as "one of the seven who stand before the Lord." Revelation 8:1-2 also refer to the seven angels who stand before the Lord.

Thomas Aquinas, quoting Scripture, the Apostle Paul and Dionysius, an Athenian converted by Paul [Acts 17:34], names 9 orders of angels in 3 groups: the highest hierarchy being next to God, Seraphim [Isaiah 6:2], Cherubim [Genesis 3:24, Ezekiel 10:1-22], and Thrones [Colossians 1:16]; the middle hierarchy involved in government, Dominations [Colossians 1:16], Virtues [1 Peter 3:22], and Powers [Col 1:16]; and the third hierarchy involved in work, Principalities [Col 1:16], Archangels [1 Thessalonians 4:16], and Angels.
Here are a few of the more noted Scriptural passages.


The Fall of Adam and Eve
"The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden,
to till the ground from which he had been taken.
When he expelled the man, he settled him east of the garden of Eden;
and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword,
to guard the way to the tree of life."
Genesis 3:23-24


Giambattista Tiepolo - Abraham and the Three Angels, El Prado Museum, Madrid, ~1750.


The Three Angels Appear to Abraham
And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, "My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant."
Genesis 18:1-3


Jacob's Ladder
"And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set. And he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!"
Genesis 28:10-12 [King James]


God Sends an Angel to Lead Moses
"Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.
Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.
But if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
Exodus 23:20-22 [Revised Standard Version]


The Angel Raphael
"I am the angel Raphael,
one of the seven who stand before the Lord."
The Book of Tobias 12:15 [Douay-Rheims]


The Book of Psalms
"The angel of the Lord, who encamps with them, delivers all who fear God."
Psalms 34:8


"For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone."
Psalms 91:11-12


Daniel in the Lion's Den
"Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. When he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish and said to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?"
Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong."
Daniel 6:19-22


The Angel Appears to Joseph
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew 1:18-21


Fra Angelico - The Annunciation


The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary
"In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary."
Luke 1:26-27


The Resurrection of Jesus
"But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him."
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"
John 20:11-15


Raphael - The Angel Rescues Peter From Jail


The Angel Rescues Peter from Jail
"The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, "Dress yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your mantle around you and follow me." And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him.
Acts of the Apostles 12:6-10


Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews
"Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Hebrews 13:1-2


The Book of Revelation

"When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Revelation 8:1-2


Raphael - Michael the Archangel


"Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it."
Revelation 12:7-9


Angels: In the Bible, the Apocrypha & the Dead Sea Scrolls

 

Introduction

"For if we desire to know God by his works, we surely cannot overlook this noble and illustrious specimen."  (John Calvin, Christian Institutes, p. 192)

Angels have been in vogue the last several years.  One sees them portrayed in movies, on television, and in books.  There are discussion forums regarding angels on the Worldwide Web.  From a Christian standpoint, however, many of these depictions are somewhat dubious.  (One must keep in mind that angels are not a solely Christian concept - they are quite popular in the New Age movement, for example).  Thus, it is difficult for many Christians to know which portrayals are Biblically accurate, and which ones are not.

This course will focus on what the Bible says about angels, as well as what other Jewish sources (including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Apocrypha) from the Second Temple period add.

Key sources

The primary source for this course is the Old and New Testaments of the Bible – almost every reference to angels in the canonical Bible is referenced in this course.  Assuming that most people have access to a Bible, I’ve generally included only scripture references, as opposed to actually quotes from the Bible. 

To round out the discussion of ancient Jewish thought on angels (which, of course, greatly influenced Christian thought), I’ve also included some references to:

§         The Dead Sea Scrolls, which refer often to an ultimate battle between the “sons of light” and the “sons of darkness”.  The latter forces are led by Belial, one of the New Testament names for Satan.  The archangel Michael, and the mysterious Melchizedek also feature prominently in the Scrolls.

§         The Apocrypha – the set of 12-16 books, most of which appeared in the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, but not in Hebrew versions of the Old Testament.  Today, they appear in some Bibles (Roman Catholic, NRSV, Orthodox, etc.) but not all (NIV, KJV, etc.). 

§         1 Enoch - 1 Enoch is a 1st or 2nd B.C. Jewish work whose relative importance has been rasied in recent years because at least 20 fragmentary copies of 1 Enoch have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  1 Enoch does not appear in the Septuagint, and is not generally considered to be part of the collection of books known as the Apocrypha.  I’ve included it in this study because it has more named angels (100+) than any other Jewish work of the Second Temple period.  It also has an interesting view of “The Fall” of Satan from heaven.

Quiz on Angels: A Biblical View

1.      T/F  A clear hierarchy of angels is indicated in the Bible

2.      T/F  The term "guardian angel" is used at least once in the Bible

3.      T/F  The only angels mentioned by name in the Bible are Michael, Gabriel, and Satan

4.      T/F  Angels are commonly depicted in the Bible as having wings

5.      T/F  Angels as depicted in the Old Testament most commonly appear as normal humans

6.      T/F Raphael is named as an angel in some versions of the Bible

7.      T/F Angels play an important part in the sequence of events that define the "end times"

8.      T/F  The actions of angels in the Bible are always peaceful

9.      T/F  There is no concept of Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls

10.  T/F Angels can directly intercede in human events, changing the outcomes of human history

11.  T/F  All angels are without sin

12.  T/F  There are more references to angels in Revelation than in any other book of the Bible

13.  T/F  The term "archangel" is commonly used in the Bible to describe angels that personally attend to God on the throne

14.  T/F  The Bible tells us to worship angels, since they are close to the Father

15.  T/F  Michael is identified in the Bible as an archangel

Nomenclature

The term "angel" comes from the Greek word angelos (the Hebrew equivalent is malak).  Both words mean "messenger". 

There are a number of other terms used in the Bible to describe various heavenly beings, including cherubim, seraphim, "holy ones", "heavenly hosts", "four living creatures", and "twenty-four elders".  ("Dominions", "powers" and "authorities" may possibly also be heavenly beings.)  For the purposes of this book, I use the term "angel" to refer to any non-divine heavenly being.

Creation of the angels

The Bible is not explicit as to when or how angels were created.  However, the Bible is explicit that angels were created beings - they weren't eternal in the sense of God and Christ.

"Where Scripture speaks of the world's creation, it is not plainly said whether or when the angels were created; but if mention of them is made, it is implicitly under the name of “heaven,” when it is said, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” or perhaps rather under the name of “light...” (St. Augustine, City of God, p. 461)

 

Reference

Notes

Gen 1:26

"Let us make man in our image..."

Gen 2:1

"Thus the heavens... were completed

Psalms 148:2-6

"and they were created..."

Col 1:15-17

"all things were created by him and for him."

 

Purpose of angels

Angels have several clearly defined roles in the canonical Bible, which include:

  • Messengers - Angels act as messengers of God, delivering warnings, issuing proclamations, and interpreting visions
  • Instruments of God's will - Angels sometimes carry out the will of God on earth; angels are particularly active in the sequence of events known as the "end times".
  • Attendants - Angels act as attendants or worshippers of God in heaven
  • Ministering spirits - The New Testament book of Hebrews identifies that the purpose of angels is to minister to the saved:

Heb 1:14  "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"  (NIV)

Angels as messengers  

A key role for angels is to act as messengers between God and humans.  Sometimes angels deliver a message to a single human (Hagar), and sometimes to large amounts of people (Rev 14:6-7).  Sometimes the message is a warning (Lot), and sometimes they bring "good tidings of great joy" (to the shepherds minding their flocks in Luke). 

Angels are one of the primary ways that God chooses to communicate with His earthly flock.

Reference

Notes

Gen 16:7-13

Hagar

Gen 18:2-15

Three visitors to Abraham & Sarah

Gen 19:1-25

Warning to Lot

Judges 13:1-25

An angel appears to parents of Samson

Dan 4:13; 4:17

Messenger from heaven

Zec 1:8-17

"man riding a red horse..."

Matt 1:20-25

An angel appears to Joseph

Matt 2:13

An angel warns Joseph

Matt 2:19

An angel tells Joseph Herod is dead

Matt 28:2-8; John 20:11-13

An angel at the tomb of Jesus

Luke 2:8-15

An angel appears to the shepherd

Acts 1:10-11

"two men dressed in white..."

Acts 8:26

An angel appears to Philip

Acts 10:3-7

An angel appears to Cornelius

Acts 27:23-24

An angel appears to Paul

Rev 1:1; Rev 22:6,10,16

John's Revelation

Rev 14:6-7

An angel proclaims God's word to the whole world

 

Theophanies

There are several apparent places in the Old Testament where the Lord (Yahweh) himself, appearing in the form of an angel, seems to be speaking directly to a human (as opposed to using an angel as an intermediary).  Such passages often begin with "The Angel of the Lord..."

Many evangelical scholars (John Calvin among them) view that "The Angel of the Lord" could be a pre-incarnate Christ.  In John 1:1 Christ is referred to as the "logos" of God, which can variously be described as "word", "rationality", or "consciousness".  Colossians 1:15 describes Christ as being the "image of the invisible God".  Given these descriptions, it is not inconceivable that God would use a pre-incarnate Christ to communicate directly with humans in Old Testament times.

"The orthodox doctors of the Church have correctly and wisely expounded, that the Word of God was the supreme angel, who then began, as it were by anticipation, to perform the office of Mediator. For though he were not clothed with flesh, yet he descended as in an intermediate form, that he might have more familiar access to the faithful...I am rather inclined, however, to agree with ancient writers, that in those passages wherein it is stated that the angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, Christ was that angel."  (John Calvin, Christian Institutes, p. 161,195)

 

Reference

Notes

Gen 16:7-13

The Lord talks to Hagar

Gen 18

The three visitors; the Lord speaks to Abraham

Gen 22:15-18

An angel calls to Abraham from heaven

Ex 3:2-6

Moses & the burning bush

Joshua 5:13-6:2

Commander of the Army of God (see also Rev 19:11-16)

Judges 2:1-3

"I brought you up out of Egypt..."

Judges 6:11-23

Gideon

Zec 3:1-10

"The LORD said to Satan..."

Melchizedek

One other figure in the Old Testament (although not necessarily an angel) could fit into the idea of the appearance of a pre-incarnate Christ - this is the mysterious figure of Melchizedek. 

"Many Christian writers have thought that this was an appearance of the Son of God himself, our Lord Jesus, known to Abram at this time by this name. But as nothing is expressly revealed concerning it, we can determine nothing."  (John Wesley, John Wesley's Notes On The Whole Bible - The Old Testament, p. 88)

Certainly the Scriptures go to great length to show the similarities between Melchizedek and Christ, and Melchizedek seems to have many attributes that one would normally only associate with the triune God:

  • Melchizedek was known as the "King of Righteousness"
  • He has no recorded beginning or end (birth or death)
  • Abraham is blessed by Melchizedek "by God Most High"
  • Abraham tithes to Melchizedek
  • Christ is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (as opposed to the Levitical order)
  • Melchizedek is the "King of Peace", or the "King of Salem" - Salem is generally considered to be an early name for Jerusalem

References to Melchizedek

Gen 14:18-20

Melchizedek meets Abraham

Psalms 110:1-4

"You are a priest forever..."

Heb 5:6,10; 6:20

Christ as the high priest

Heb 7:1-17

"Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!"

 

One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, named The Heavenly Prince Melchizedek (11Q13), would seem to add to the idea of Melchizedek being a divine being, actually referring to Melchizedek as Elohim, one of the terms used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to God.  Note that letters in [ ] are extrapolated by the translator.  The translation “godlike being” is translating the Hebrew word Elohim.  Belial refers to Satan.

“For this is the time decreed for ‘the year of Melchiz[edek]’s favor’, [and] by his might he w[i]ll judge God’s Holy Ones and so establish a righteous ki[n]gdom, as is written about him in the Psalm of David, ‘A godlike being has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the divine beings he holds judgment…the true import applies to Belial and the spirits predestined to him, becau[se all of them have reb]elled, turn[ing] from God’s precepts [and so becoming utterly wicked].  Therefore Melchizedek will thoroughly prosecute the veng[ea]nce required by Go[d’s] statu[te]s.  [Also, he will deliver all the captives from the power of [B]elial, and from the power of all [the spirits predestined to him].  Allied with him will be all the [‘righteous] divine beings.’”  (The Heavenly Prince Melchizedek, translation from Wise, emphasis added)

Geza Vermes, author of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, equates Melchizedek in this scroll with Michael the Archangel.

Angels as instruments of God's will on earth

God sometimes uses angels to carry out his will on earth.  Sometimes His will is awesome in its might - the death of the 185,000 Assyrians, for example.  Other times, His will is to save individual humans, such as Isaac, Daniel, and Peter.

Reference

Notes

Gen 3:24

Garden of Eden

Gen 22:9-12

An angel stops Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac

Exodus 14:19

An angel leading Israeli army

Exodus 23:20-26; 32:34; 33:2

An angel will lead the Israelites into the promised land

Numbers 20:16

An angel leads Israelis out of Egypt

Joshua 5:13-15

Commander of the Army of God (see also Rev 19:11-16)

2 Sam 24:15-17; 1 Chron 21:15-16

Instrument of God's vengeance

2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isa 37:36

185,000 Assyrians killed

Psalms 78:49-51

Band of destroying angels

Dan 6:22

Daniel saved from the Lions

Acts 5:19-20

An angel frees Apostles from prison

Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19

Law put into effect through angels"

Acts 12:7-11

An angel frees Peter from jail

Acts 12:23

Herod struck down

 

The Apocrypha contains an interesting account of an angel directly interceding on behalf of Judas Maccabeus, the great Jewish leader who helped drive the Seleucids out of Israel in 2nd century B.C.:

“6When Maccabeus and his men got word that Lysias was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people, with lamentations and tears, prayed the Lord to send a good angel to save Israel. 7Maccabeus himself was the first to take up arms, and he urged the others to risk their lives with him to aid their kindred. Then they eagerly rushed off together. 8And there, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold. 9And together they all praised the merciful God, and were strengthened in heart, ready to assail not only humans but the wildest animals or walls of iron. 10They advanced in battle order, having their heavenly ally, for the Lord had mercy on them. 11They hurled themselves like lions against the enemy, and laid low eleven thousand of them and sixteen hundred cavalry, and forced all the rest to flee.”  (NRSV, 2 Maccabees 11:6-11, emphasis added)

In 3 Maccabees Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-204 B.C.) of Egypt is thwarted from killing the Jews in his kingdom by heavenly intervention.  The death they are saved from?  Being trampled to death by 500 drunk elephants in a hippodrome! 

18Then the most glorious, almighty, and true God revealed his holy face and opened the heavenly gates, from which two glorious angels of fearful aspect descended, visible to all but the Jews. 19They opposed the forces of the enemy and filled them with confusion and terror, binding them with immovable shackles. 20Even the king began to shudder bodily, and he forgot his sullen insolence. 21The animals turned back upon the armed forces following them and began trampling and destroying them.”  (3 Maccabees 6:18-21, NRSV)

In 4 Maccabees, the Temple in Jerusalem is saved from being plundered by a Seleucid Governor named Apollonius by “angels on horseback with lightning flashing from their weapons”:

“9While the priests together with women and children were imploring God in the temple to shield the holy place that was being treated so contemptuously, 10and while Apollonius was going up with his armed forces to seize the money, angels on horseback with lightning flashing from their weapons appeared from heaven, instilling in them great fear and trembling.”  (NRSV, 4 Maccabees 4:9-10, emphasis added)

Guardian angels?

Photo by Robert Jones

One of the most cherished notions held by many people is the idea that each Christian is assigned a "guardian angel" to watch over them.  While the Bible doesn't actually use the term "guardian angel", there are several references in the Bible to angels being assigned to protect human beings.

Reference

Notes

Psalms 34:7

"...encamps around those that fear him..."

Psalms 91:11-12

Angels will "guard you in all your ways..."

Dan 12:1

Michael "protects your people"

Matt 18:10

Children have "their angels in heaven"

Luke 15:7,10

Rejoicing in heaven

Acts 12:12-15

Peter's angel

Heb 1:14

Angels as "ministering spirits"

 

The Protestant Reformers, while not necessarily accepting the idea of individual Christians being assigned individual guardian angels, certainly viewed that one of the main roles of angels was to protect the saved:

"But the point on which the Scriptures specially insist is that which tends most to our comfort, and to the confirmation of our faith, namely, that angels are the ministers and dispensers of the divine bounty towards us. Accordingly, we are told how they watch for our safety, how they undertake our defense, direct our path, and take heed that no evil befall us. " (John Calvin, Christian Institutes, p. 196)

"They may prevent our falling into many dangers, which we are not sensible of; and may deliver us out of many others, though we know not whence our deliverance comes. How many times have we been strangely and unaccountably preserved, in sudden and dangerous falls!...And who can hurt us while we have armies of angels, and the God of angels, on our side?"  (John Wesley, Sermon on Good Angels, p. 406, 408)

An interesting example of how an angel (Raphael) is sent to protect two individuals is found in Tobit, from the Apocyrpha:

“16At that very moment, the prayers of both of them were heard in the glorious presence of God. 17So Raphael was sent to heal both of them: Tobit, by removing the white films from his eyes, so that he might see God’s light with his eyes; and Sarah, daughter of Raguel, by giving her in marriage to Tobias son of Tobit, and by setting her free from the wicked demon Asmodeus.”  (NRSV, Tobit 3:16-17)

Angels interacting with Jesus  

Several times in the New Testament, angels are depicted as acting in a protective role with Jesus.  An especially important example is when angels attend to Jesus after he has been tempted for 40 days by Satan.

Reference

Notes

Matt 4:11, Mark 1:13

Angels attend Jesus after 40 days of temptation by the devil

Luke 22:39-43

Jesus strengthened by an angel from heaven

Angels during the end times

Photo by Robert Jones

Angels are assigned important and active roles during the end times.  Their roles are clearly defined in both the synoptic Gospels, and the Book of Revelation.  (There are more references to angels in the Book of Revelation than in any other book of the Bible.)  Christ is accompanied by the "armies of heaven" during the second coming.

 

Reference

Notes

Zec 6:1-8

"four chariots"

Matt 13:39-43, 49-50

"the harvesters are angels..."

Matt 16:27; Matt 24:30-31; Matt 25:31; Mark 8:38; Mark 13:27; John 1:51; 2 Thess 1:7

Son of Man will come with his angels

Matt 24:36

Angels don't know the time of the end times

1 Thess 4:16

Voice of the archangel

Jude 1:14-15

Enoch's prophesy

Rev 6:1-8

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Rev 7:1-3

Angels at four corners of the earth

Rev 8:2-10:10

Seven angels with trumpets

Rev 14:6-13

"Fallen is Babylon the Great"

Rev 14:15-20

Grim reaper

Rev 15:1-16:21

Seven angels with 7 last plagues

Rev 19:11-21

"armies of heaven"

Rev 20:1-3

Angel w/ the key to the Abyss

 

Angels as heavenly attendants

A number of seemingly different types of heavenly beings are identified as having the role of attending to and/or worshipping God in heaven.  These include "cherubim" (identified in Ezekiel as being one in the same as "four living creatures"), "seraphim" (referenced only in Isaiah), "heavenly hosts", and the "twenty-four elders".

The "cherubim" and "seraphim" ("the burning ones") are the only angels in the Bible that are depicted as having wings (except, possibly, Zec 5:9, and the locusts in Rev 9).  The cherubim are also mentioned in Gen 3:24, as the guards that God places at the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve have been cast out.

The "twenty-four elders" are traditionally considered to be the twelve patriarchs, and the twelve Apostles.  However, this is solely by church tradition - the canonical Bible makes no such claim.

Reference

Notes

Cherubim/Seraphim

Genesis 3:24

“…he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword…”

Ezekiel 1:1-24

Wheel in a wheel

Ezekiel 10:1-22

Winged cherubim

Rev 4:6-8

Four living creatures

Rev 5:8-10,14

Four living creatures

Rev 6:1

"Come!"

Rev 14:3

A new song before the throne

Isaiah 6:1-7

Seraphs in heaven

Twenty-four elders

Rev 4:9-11

Twenty-four elders before the throne

Rev 5:5

Elder speaks to John

Rev 5:8-10

Fall before the lamb

Rev 7:13-17

Elder interprets John's vision

Angelic hosts

Rev 5:11-12

""Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain..."

Rev 7:10-12

Angels worshipping before the throne

Rev 19:1-8

"a great multitude in heaven..."

 

The named angels

Only three angels are mentioned by name in the canonical Bible - Gabriel, Michael, and Satan.  At least two other angels are named in the Apocrypha, including Raphael (Book of Tobit), and Uriel (2 Esdras).  The Dead Sea Scrolls mention Michael prominently, and Satan (typically referred to as Belial) often.  1 Enoch lists the names of many, many angels.  In this section, we’ll concentrate on the angels named in the Old & New Testaments and the Apocrypha – with added detail from the Scrolls and 1 Enoch.

Gabriel

The angel Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, where he acts primarily as a messenger of God.  As Gabriel is given the role of announcing the births of John the Baptist and Jesus to their parents, he is perhaps the most cherished angel in the Bible in terms of Christian tradition. 

Reference

Notes

Dan 8:15-19

Interprets a vision of Daniel

Dan 9:20-23

Instructs Daniel

Luke 1:11-20

Appears to Zechariah (father of John the Baptist)

Luke 1:26-38

Appears to Mary, wife of Joseph

 

Gabriel is mentioned several times in the 1 Enoch.  Some of the references include:

“Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Ikisat, over paradise, and over the Cherubim.” (1 Enoch 20:7, Laurence translation)

“The third who presides over all that is powerful, is Gabriel.”  (1 Enoch 40:9, Laurence translation)

Also in 1 Enoch, Gabriel is one of 4 angels that will cast Satan (Azazyeel) and his minions “into a furnace of blazing fire, that the Lord of spirits may be avenged of them for their crimes, because they became ministers of Satan, and seduced those who dwell on earth.” (1 Enoch 53:6, Laurence translation)

In the Dead Sea Scrolls book War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness, the Sons of Light go into battle with the names of several angels, including Gabriel, on their shields.

Michael

Michael, like Gabriel, is also mentioned in both Old and New Testaments.  Unlike Gabriel, though, Michael's role seems to be primarily that of a protector, or as the head of an angelic army.

 

Reference

Notes

Dan 10:13

"one of the chief princes"

Dan 10:21

"No one supports me against them except Michael"

Dan 12:1

Great prince

Jude 1:9

Archangel Michael

Rev 12:7

War in heaven against Satan

 

Michael seems to be an important figure in the angelology of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (1QM, and others), Michael seems to be assigned an almost Messianic role:

“Today is his appointed time to lay low and to make fall the prince of the dominion of wickedness; and he will send eternal help to the lot he has redeemed by the power of the angel he has made glorious for rule, Michael, in eternal light, to give light in joy to all Israel, peace and blessing to the lot of God, to exalt among the gods the rule of Michael and the dominion of Israel over all flesh.” (War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, XIV, translation by Millar Burrows)

In the same book, the Sons of Light go into battle with the names of several angels, including Michael, on their shields.

The Dead Sea Scrolls also contains a book entitled Words of the Archangel Michael, in which Michael reveals a vision to Gabriel.  However, the work is so fragmented that it is difficult to make any sense out of it.

Michael is mentioned many times in 1 Enoch.  Among the references:

“Michael, one of the holy angels, who presiding over human virtue, commands the nations.” (1 Enoch 20:5, Laurence translation)

“The first is the merciful, the patient, the holy Michael.” (1 Enoch 40:8, Laurence translation)

Also in 1 Enoch, Michael is one of 4 angels that will cast Satan (Azazyeel) and his minions “into a furnace of blazing fire, that the Lord of spirits may be avenged of them for their crimes…” (1 Enoch 53:6, Laurence translation)

Satan

Alas, the angel mentioned most often in the scriptures is the "fallen angel", Satan.  We examine his various names, his fall from heaven, his characteristics, and ultimate demise in this section.  We also tackle the question of whether Satan appears in the Old Testament. 

Names of Satan

"Satan" is a Hebrew word meaning accuser, adversary, or opponent.  While the name Satan appears 53 times in the scriptures (NIV), Satan is also referred to under a number of other names, such as "devil", "evil one", "the destroyer", etc.  The table below lists many of the names of Satan. 

 

Name

Sample Reference

Notes

Satan

Zec 3:1

Adversary or accuser

Beelzebub

Mat 12:24

"Lord of the flies"; Jewish nickname for Satan

Devil

Rev 12:9

Gr. "diabolos" - "Slanderer"

Abaddon, Apollyon

Rev 9:11

"Destruction" or "Destroyer"

Angel of the Abyss

Rev 9:11

 

Evil One

John 17:15, Eph 6:16

 

Accuser

Rev 12:10

Will be hurled down

Great Dragon

Rev 12:9

 

Red Dragon

Rev 12:3

 

Ancient serpent

Rev 12:9

See Genesis 3

Belial

2 Cor 6:15, Nahum 1:15

Heb.. "useless", "worthless", "wicked"

Ruler of the kingdom of the air

Eph 2:2

 

Prince of demons

Mat 9:34

 

Prince of this world

John 12:31

 

Father of lies

John 8:44

 

God of this age

2 Cor 4:4

 

Lucifer

Isa 14:12 (KJV)

Latin trans. of Hebrew word for "morning star"

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls often refer to Satan as Belial (see also 2 Cor 6:15), which means "useless", "worthless", or "wicked".  The followers of Belial are often referred to as the “sons of darkness”:

“At the beginning of the undertaking of the sons of light, they shall start against the lot of the sons of darkness, the army of Belial…so that wickedness shall be laid low without any remnant; and there shall be no survivor of the sons of darkness.”  (The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness, translation from Burrows)

The Dead Sea Scrolls also occasionally refer to Satan as Melkiresha, which means “my king is wickedness”.  Geza Vermes views that this is in distinction to Melkizedek, which means “my king is justice”.

1 Enoch refers to Satan often as Azazyel or Azazyeel.

Characteristics and character of Satan

The Bible contains a number of descriptions of the character, capabilities and limitations of Satan.  Satan is described as the great deceiver, and the great tempter of mankind.  Christ triumphed over Satan through the cross.

Reference

Notes

Characteristics of Satan

Mat 4:1-11

Satan is a tempter - Christ is tempted by Satan, but remains sinless

Mat 17:14-18

Can bring sickness to mankind

1 John 5:19

Ruler of this world

Rev 13, 16:14

Satan can control politicians

1 John 3:8

Christ appeared to destroy the Devil's work

Col 2:15

Christ triumphs over the Devil through the cross

1 Cor 10:13, James 4:7, 1 Pet 5:8-9

Satan can tempt, but believers have the power to resist

Mat 16:23, John 13:2, John 13:27, 1 Thes 2:18

Satan can affect even the Apostles

2 Cor 11:14

Satan masquerades as an angel of light

2 Cor 12:7

Satan can be used by God for good

John 12:31-33, Heb 2:14-15

Christ's death and resurrection is the beginning of the end for Satan

Rev 16:12-14

Satan and the demons perform miraculous signs

 

A book of the Dead Sea Scrolls entitled Curses of Belial describes Belial and his followers:

“…council of the Community shall all say together, Amen, amen.  Afterwards [they] shall damn Belial and all his guilty lot.  They shall answer and say, Cursed be [B]elial in his hostile design, and damned in his guilty dominion.  Cursed be all the spirits of his [lo]t in their wicked design, and damned in their thoughts of unclean impurity.  For they are the lot of darkness and their visitation is for eternal destruction.”  (Curses of Belial, 4Q286, translation by Vermes)

The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Manual of Discipline lists characteristics of Satan and his followers:

“But to the spirit of error belong greediness, slackness of hands in the service of righteousness, wickedness and falsehood, pride and haughtiness, lying and deceit, cruelty and great impiety, quickness to anger and abundance of folly and proud jealousy, abominable works in a spirit of fornication and ways of defilement in the service of un­cleanness, and a blasphemous tongue, blindness of eyes and dullness of ears, stiffness of neck and hardness of heart, walking in all the ways of darkness and evil cunning.”  (Manual of Discipline, Burrows translation)

The Fall

The Bible contains several references to the Fall of Satan and his angels from heaven.  However, the time and reason for the Fall is not absolutely clear.  Did the Fall occur before Adam & Eve, or after?

Many commentaries and theologians view that the Fall is described in Isaiah 14:12-20 and Ezekiel 28:12-19.  Others view that neither set of verses concerns Satan or the Fall.  If we assume that the passages do indeed describe Satan and the Fall, then we learn that Satan (or the “morning star”, translated as Lucifer in KJV) had a special place of honor guarding the throne of God.  Because of his pride, Satan tries to set himself up as higher than God, and is cast out of heaven (to earth) as a result.

Revelation 12, which describes a war between Satan and the Archangel Michael, may indicate that a third of the angels in heaven were ejected along with Satan.

 

Reference

Notes

The Fall of Satan and the Angels

Isaiah 14:12-20

"Morning star" is translated as "Lucifer" in KJV

Ezekiel 28:12-19

Satan once had a special place of honor guarding the throne of God

Luke 10:18

"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."

2 Peter 2:4

Angels that sinned are placed in hell, awaiting judgment

Jude 1:6

Fallen angels are held in darkness for Judgment Day

Revelation 12:4

May indicate that Satan took a third of the angels with him

Revelation 12:7-12

War in heaven between Archangel Michael and Satan

 

1 Enoch gives a somewhat different view of the cause of the Fall, amplifying on Genesis 6:1-4, which states:

“1When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”  (NIV, Gen 6:1-4)

1 Enoch describes it this way:

“It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other: Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget child­ren…Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantation, and the dividing of roots and trees.  And they conceiving brought forth giants…”  (1 Enoch, Chapter 7, Laurence translation)

1 Enoch further goes on to identify one particular angel that holds all the blame:

“All the earth has been corrupted by the teaching of the work of Azazyel.  To him therefore ascribe the whole crime.” (1 Enoch 10:12, Laurence)

1 Enoch (Chapter 87), like Revelation 12, also discusses the Fall of the angels in terms of stars falling from heaven.

The end of Satan

The Bible is clear about the ultimate disposition of Satan and his minions.  Matthew 25:41 tells us that an “eternal fire” has been prepared for Satan and his angels.  In Revelation 20:10, Satan is thrown into a lake of burning sulfur – forever.

 

Reference

Notes

Mat 25:41

"Eternal fire" was prepared for Satan and his angels

Rom 16:20

God will crush Satan under the feet of the Church

Rev 20:1-3

Satan thrown into the abyss for 1000 years

Rev 20:10

Satan thrown into lake of burning sulfur forever

 

In the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras describes what will happen to the evil, after a final judgment day:

36The pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of hell shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. 37Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised from the dead, ‘Look now, and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised. 38Look on this side and on that; here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments.’ Thus he will speak to them on the day of judgment…” (2 Esdras 7:36-38, NRSV)

The Dead Sea Scrolls describe a similar fate for all who follow the “spirit of error”:

“…the spirit of error…And the visitation of all who walk by it is for abundance of afflictions by all destroying angels, to eternal perdi­tion in the fury of the God of vengeance, to eternal trembling and ever­lasting dishonor, with destroying disgrace in the fire of dark places. And all their periods to their generations will be in sorrowful mourning and bitter calamity, in dark disasters until they are destroyed, having no remnant or any that escape.”  (Manual of Discipline, Burrows translation)

1 Enoch describes the final disposition of Satan…

“Bind Azazyel hand and foot; cast him into darkness…” (1 Enoch, 10:6, Laurence translation)

…and what will happen to his followers:

“…bind them for seventy generations underneath the earth, even to the day of judgment, and of consummation, until the judgment, the effect of which will last forever…”  (1 Enoch, 10:15, Laurence translation)

Satan in the Old Testament

One last bit before we let Satan go.  Some Bible scholars state that Satan doesn’t appear in the Old Testament – he only appears in the New.  This interpretation is based on the fact the Hebrew word for Satan can be interpreted either as a name (“Satan”), or to mean “accuser”, “adversary”, or “opponent”.  For example, some translations translate “satan” in Job as “The Adversary”.  However, in 3 books of the Bible, Satan is usually translated as a proper name:

 

Reference

Notes

1 Chr 21:1

"Satan rose up against Israel"

Job 1-2

Satan is clearly represented as a being, not a concept; "roaming through the earth"

Zec 3:1-2

"The LORD rebuke you, Satan!" - Satan as an accuser and adversary of God

 

Revelation 12:9 also identifies Satan as being the "ancient serpent" in Genesis (3:15).

Raphael

Raphael features prominently in the Book of Tobit  from the Apocrypha, where he is a companion of Tobit and his son Tobias for much of the book.  It is not until the end of the book that Raphael is revealed as an angel:

"I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of God…18As for me, when I was with you, I was not acting on my own will, but by the will of God. Bless him each and every day; sing his praises. 19Although you were watching me, I really did not eat or drink anything—but what you saw was a vision. 20So now get up from the ground, and acknowledge God. See, I am ascending to him who sent me. Write down all these things that have happened to you.” And he ascended. 21Then they stood up, and could see him no more…”  (NRSV, Tobit 12: 11, 18-21)

Note that Tobit seems to identify that Raphael is one of seven angels that have special status.

Raphael is mentioned several times in the 1 Enoch.  Some of the references include:

“Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men.” (1 Enoch 20:3, Laurence translation)

“The second is he who presides over every suffering and every wound of the sons of man, the holy Raphael.”  (1 Enoch 40:9, Laurence translation)

Also in 1 Enoch, Raphael is one of 4 angels that will cast Satan (Azazyeel) and his minions “into a furnace of blazing fire, that the Lord of spirits may be avenged of them for their crimes…” (1 Enoch 53:6, Laurence translation)

 In the Dead Sea Scrolls book War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness, the Sons of Light go into battle with the names of several angels, including Raphael, on their shields.

Uriel

In 2 Esdras, a series of apocalyptic visions are presented through the device of a dialogue between the prophet Ezra and the archangel Uriel (once seemingly referred to as Jeremiel).  It has similarities in tone, content, and style to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament and to the 2nd century Christian work Shepherd of Hermes.  An example of the dialogue:

“1Then the angel that had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, answered 2and said to me, “Your understanding has utterly failed regarding this world, and do you think you can comprehend the way of the Most High?” 3Then I said, “Yes, my lord.” And he replied to me, “I have been sent to show you three ways, and to put before you three problems. 4If you can solve one of them for me, then I will show you the way you desire to see, and will teach you why the heart is evil.”  (NRSV, 2 Esdras 4:1-4)

1 Enoch mentions Uriel several times, including:

“Uriel, one of the holy angels, he it is who is over clamor and terror.” (1 Enoch 20:2, Laurence translation)

“And the days, Uriel shewed me; the angel whom the Lord of glory appointed over all the luminaries.” (1 Enoch 74:7, Laurence translation

Numbers of angels

The Bible doesn't indicate exactly how many angels exist, but there are a number of references that show that there are many, many angels.

 

Reference

Notes

Psalms 68:17

Chariots of God

Dan 7:10

"Thousands upon thousands attended him"

Matt 26:53

12 Legions (4,500-6,000 men ea.)

Heb 12:22

Angels on Mt. Zion

Rev 5:11

Angels in heaven

Rev 9:16

200,000,000 angels

 

1 Enoch states:

“After this I beheld thousands of thousands, and myriads of myriads, and an infinite number of people, standing before the Lord of spirits.”  (1 Enoch 40:1, Laurence translation)

Hierarchies/Relationships

The Bible as used by most Protestant churches contains no detailed hierarchies of angels. However, it was common during the Middle Ages to attempt to assign complicated hierarchies to angelic beings.  A pre-500 A.D. writer named Dionysius produced such a hierarchy, which was later adopted by theologian Thomas Aquinas.  The Protestant Reformers almost uniformly rejected such non-canonical hierarchies.  John Calvin, for example, said:

"Wherefore, if we would be duly wise, we must renounce those vain babblings of idle men, concerning the nature, ranks, and number of angels, without any authority from the Word of God."  (Calvin, p. 193/94)

While no hierarchies of angels can be discerned in the canonical Bible, several relationships are fairly clear:

  • God is above all, including all heavenly creatures
  • Christ is greater than the angels
  • While humans are identified as being "a little lower than the heavenly beings", the Bible also identifies a) the world to come is for humans, b) by the end times (at least), angels and humans will be "fellow servants" and c) the role of angels is to minister to the saved.
  • The term "archangel" ("chief", or "first" angel) appears only twice in the Bible.  No name is assigned in 1 Thess 4:16, but in Jude 1:9, Michael is designated as an archangel.

 

Reference

Notes

Psalms 8:4-5

Man is a little lower than the heavenly beings

Psalms 89:5-8

God is above all

Philippians 2:9-11

"every knee should bow..." to Christ

Col 1:15-20

"all things were created by him and for him..."

1 Tim 5:21

Elect angels

Heb 1:4-13

Christ greater than the angels

Heb 2:5-9

"not to angels that he has subjected the world to come..."

Heb 2:16

God doesn't help angels

1 Pet 3:22

Angels in submission to Christ

Jude 1:9

Archangel Michael

Rev 19:9-10; Rev 22:8-9

"a fellow servant with you and with your brothers..."

Archangels

As mentioned above, only Michael is named as an archangel in the canonical Bible.  In the Apocrypha, Jeremiel (Uriel?) is also named as an archangel (2 Esdras 4:36).

So, how many archangels are there?  One?  Two?  Another argument could be made for four, as this passage in 1 Enoch shows – these four angels stand on the “four sides” of God:

“The first is the merciful, the patient, the holy Michael.  The second is he who presides over every suffering and every wound of the sons of men, the holy Raphael.  The third who presides over all that is powerful, is Gabriel.  And the fourth, who presides over repentance, and the hope of those who will inherit eternal life, is Phanuel.  These are the four angels of the most high God, and their four voices which at that time I heard.”  (1 Enoch 40:8-9, Laurence)

Another passage in 1 Enoch singles out 6 angels:

“These are the names of the angels who watch:

·         Uriel, one of the holy angels, he it is who is over clamor and terror

·         Rapahel, one of the holy angels, who is over the spirits of men

·         Raguel, one of the holy angels, who inflicts punishment on the world and the luminaries

·         Michael, one of the holy angels, who presiding over human virtue, commands the nations

·         Sarakiel, one of the holy angels, who presides over the spirits of the children of men that transgress

·         Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is over Iskisat, over paradise, and over the Cherubim”  (1 Enoch 20:1-7, Laurence translation)

Tobit, in the Apocrypha, suggests that there are seven angels of note:

"I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of God"  (Tobit 12:15, NRSV)

The Dead Sea Scrolls War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness list the names of four angels on the shields of the sons of light as they go into battle – however, there are gaps in the manuscript:

“They shall write on all the shields of the towers: on the first, Michael, [on the second, Gabriel, on the third] Sariel, and on the fourth, Raphael.  Michael and Gabriel [shall stand on the right, and Sariel and Raphael on the left]…” (War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness, Chapter 9, translation by Vermes)

Don't worship angels

Colossians 2:18 would seem to infer that worshipping angels is wrong.  Colossians 1:15-17 affirms that all earthly and heavenly creatures are submissive to the triune God.

The Protestant Reformers were particularly strong against the practice of worshipping angels:

"And although the angels in heaven pray for us (as Christ Himself also does), as also do the saints on earth, and perhaps also in heaven, yet it does not follow thence that we should invoke and adore the angels and saints, and fast, hold festivals, celebrate Mass in their honor, make offerings, and establish churches, altars, divine worship, and in still other ways serve them...For this is idolatry, and such honor belongs alone to God." (Martin Luther, The Smalcald Articles, p. 15)

"Even Paul appears to have had a severe contest with some who so exalted angels as to make them almost the superiors of Christ. Hence he so anxiously urges in his Epistle to the Colossians, (Colossians 1:16, 20) that Christ is not only superior to all angels, but that all the endowments which they possess are derived from him; thus warning us against forsaking him, by turning to those who are not sufficient for themselves, but must draw with us at a common fountain."  (John Calvin, Christian Institutes, p. 199)

 "Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature..."  (Westminster Confession, Chapter 23)

Characteristics of Angels

The Bible mentions a number of miscellaneous characteristics of angels, usually in passing.  These include a) angels don't marry b) angels walk among humans without being recognized c) angels don't know everything, etc.

As to the appearance of angels, they appear most often to humans as ordinary people.  Other references to appearance include being clothed in white, and  having a body like chrysolite.  As mentioned earlier, only cherubim and seraphim are identified in the Bible as having wings.

 

Reference

Notes

Gen 19:3

Angels on earth can eat food

Gen 28:12

Angels climbing the stairway between heaven & earth

Psalms 103:20-21

Angels do the bidding of the Lord

Matt 22:30; Mark 12:25

Angels don't marry

Luke 20:35-36

Angels don't die

1 Pet 1:12

Angels don't know everything!!

2 Pet 2:10-11

Angels more powerful then humans

Dan 10:5-6

His body was like chrysolite..."

Matt 28:3

"clothes were white as snow..."

Acts 1:10-11

"two men dressed in white..."

Heb 13:2

Angels can look just like humans

 

Sources

Title

Author

Publisher

Year

Book of Confessions

 

Presbyterian Church (USA)

 1994

City of God

St. Augustine; translated by the Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D., of Glasgow

The Sage Digital Library

 1996

Holy Bible - New International Version

 

Zondervan

 1984

Holy Bible - New Revised Standard Version

 

National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. / Zondervan

 1989

Institutes of the Christian Religion

John Calvin; translated by Henry Beveridge

The Sage Digital Library

 1996

John Wesley's Notes on the Whole Bible - The Old Testament

John Wesley

The Sage Digital Library

 1996

Religious Stained Glass

 

Corel

1993

Smalcald Articles

Martin Luther; translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau

The Sage Digital Library

 1996

The Book of Enoch – From the Ethiopic

Translation by Richard Laurence, LL.D.

Hoffman Printing Co.

1996

The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English

Geza Vermes

Penguin Books

1998

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Millar Burrows

The Viking Press

1961

The First Messiah

Michael O. Wise

HarperSanFrancisco

1999

Works of John Wesley, Vol. VI

John Wesley

The Sage Digital Library

 1996


 
 
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