Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Angels: what are they in the Bible and what purpose they serve in our lives today

Angels are supernatural heavenly beings created by God. While Scripture does not give a time of creation, but Job 38:7 implies they were created before the creation of man as they “shouted for joy” at God’s work. There are only two angels specifically named in the Bible. Gabriel, the messenger, and Michael, the archangel. While Scripture as a whole is silent regarding details of the time and cause of a rebellion leading to fallen angels, there are a few verses which reference it. 2 Peter 2:4 says that God sent the fallen angels to be bound up in hell. There is so much information about angels out there. I will try to be as concise and clear as I can. I will discuss what the Bible says about the angels’ descriptions, their work in heaven as well on earth, and their appearances in the Old and New Testaments. Lastly, I will cover evil angels and their purpose.

First, the descriptions of angels are limited; however, Scripture does give some details. There are a vast multitude of angels (Revelation 5:11). They are without a bodily organism; they often appear as men on multiple occasions. Jesus said they do not marry or die (Luke 20:34-36). They constitute a company rather than a race developed from an original pair. They possess superhuman intelligence; however, they are not omniscient. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says that angels do not know the day or hour of his return and 1 Peter 1:12 says that the angels long to see what believers experience through Christ. They are stronger than man but not omnipotent. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Paul writes that powerful angels will appear with Christ at his second coming. 2 Peter 2:11 describes the angels are stronger and more powerful than man. Angels are distinct beings and are not glorified human beings. Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are ministering angels who will serve those who inherit salvation.

Second, angels work toward believers include a variety of tasks. They guide as described in Genesis 24:7 as an angel guided Abraham’s servant to find Isaac’s wife. They provide as described in 1 Kings 19:5-8 as angels provided Elijah food and drink as he fled from King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, plot to kill him. They deliver men from harm. As in Daniel 6:22 as an angel protected Daniel from harm in the lion’s den. In Acts 12:7-10, an angel helped Peter escape from prison. They direct. In Acts 8:26, an angel sent Philip into the desert where he encountered the Ethiopian who needed help understand Scripture. They comfort. In Acts 24:23-24, an angel is sent to give Paul comfort as he sailed for Rome and trial before Caesar.  Angels work toward non-believers as well. Angels were sent to destroy Sodom for their sins (Genesis 19:13). When the Lord sent a plague on Israel and an angel stretched his hand out to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord told him to stop (2 Samuel 24:15-17). An angel struck down Herod Agrippa I when he did not praise God (Acts 12:23).

Third, angels had an important role in Jesus’ life too. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and announced Jesus’ conception (Matthew 1:20-21). Angels heralded his birth to shepherds in the field (Luke 2:8-15). Angels attended to Jesus after his temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:11). Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16 that the angels witnesses his resurrection. In Matthew 28:1-7, an angel appeared to Mary Magdalene and Mary to proclaim his resurrection and show the women the empty tomb. Lastly, angels accompanied Jesus on his ascension to heaven (Acts 1: 9-11). Angels will play an important role in Jesus’ return to earth. Jesus said that angels will help “weed out everything that causes sin and all who do evil (Matthew 13:41) when he gave the explanation for his parable of the weeds. In doing so, angels will separate the wicked from the righteous (Matthew 13:49). An angel will be instrumental in binding Satan for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).

Angels appeared to people many times in the Old Testament. Including the Old Testament instances I mentioned previous paragraphs, there are many stories of angels appear to individuals. Three angels came to Abraham and proclaimed that the same time the following year, his wife, Sarah, will have a son in her old age (Genesis 18:1-15). An angel appeared to Hagar, the maidservant, when she ran away from Sarah’s mistreatment (Genesis 16:7-8). Angels appeared to Lot at the Sodom city gate (Genesis 19:1) and hurried Lot and his family out of the city before its destruction (Genesis 19:15). Jacob has a dream of stairway of heaven which angels were ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12). An angel appeared to Moses in the flames of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). An angel came to Joshua to give him God’s instruction to attack the city of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15). An angel appeared to all Israelites to remind them of God’s deliverance and his covenant (Judges 2:1-4). Gideon was given a special message from God by an angel (Judges 6:11-13). An angel appeared to the wife of Manoah to proclaim the coming of their son, Samson, after years of childlessness (Judges 13:2-5). Angels were active in the New Testament as well. Luke 1:26-38 states that the angel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary to deliver the message that she will give birth to a son. In Acts 5:19-20, an angel appeared during the night and opened the jail, freeing the apostles to continue to spread Jesus’ message. An angel appeared to a Roman centurion named Cornelius and told him to seek out Peter (Acts 10:3-8). The apostle John writes that the vision documented in Revelation was given to him by God through the angels he sent (Revelation 1:1).

Evil angels or demons are spirits whose purpose is to oppose God and try to defeat his will and frustrate his plans. Romans 8:38-39 states that nothing, not even demons, can separate believers from the love of God. The book of Job is a perfect example of demons hindering man physical and eternal welfare by a limited control over natural phenomena. In Job 1:12 states that the Lord allowed Satan to take everything from Job, but he was not allowed to physical touch him. His cattle was carried off by attackers (Job 1:13). Then the house where his children were feasting was destroyed by a mighty wind, killing everyone (Job 1:18-19). Demons often will inflict disease on believers. In Luke 13:11, 16 tells the story of Jesus healing a woman who had been “inflicted with a spirit for eighteen years (verse 11) and Jesus states it was Satan who bound her (verse 16). Demons will often be sent to tempt man to sin. In Matthew 4:3-10, Satan attempts to tempt Jesus to use his power to make bread from rocks. Whatever power demons have is limited by the permissive will of God.

In conclusion, angels are mentioned over 300 times in the Bible. Both good and bad angels, they serve a purpose in the will of God. You may be asking “well that’s great but does angels have to do with me?” Do you think God would stop using angels as his messengers? I don’t think so. Hebrews 13:2 says “do not forget to entertain strangers; for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” As I discussed above, many from the Bible entertained angels without realizing it until it was revealed to them. Entertaining or being hospitable is simply helping others feel comfortable and at home. With people coming in and out of our lives, never to be seen again, you never know if one of them was really an angel.  A customer, someone you pass on the street may be an angel passing through with a message, a reminder.

Zondervan New International Bible Dictionary

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible