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The Truth About Angels by Donald L. Deffner © Copyright 1996 Int’l LLL Revised 2010 Lutheran Hour Ministries is a global media and congregational outreach ministry supporting churches worldwide.
It is also a volunteer movement of more than 100,000 people strong.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE; NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
Capitalization of pronouns referring to the Deity has been added and is not part of the original New International Version text.
I grew up during the Great Depression in the early 1930s. My father was a minister. Behind our small home was a dirt alley which led nine blocks to downtown Wichita, Kansas.
I can remember when I was a boy the hungry, destitute men who came to the back door begging for food. My mother never turned them down. She shared what little we had, even if only a couple of pieces of bread and a glass of milk.
My mother didn’t just say, “Depart in peace!
I’ll pray for you! Keep warm and well fed!” (See James 2:16.) No. She acted. She gave.
Often I was curious about these mysterious and somewhat scary men. I had a sense that they were “different” than I was, not worse, not better, just different. I always watched these strangers heading back up the alley toward downtown, and sometimes, in a cops-and-robbers fashion, I secretly followed them, jumping behind bushes so I wouldn’t be seen. I think I half expected them to suddenly disappear. After all, my Sunday school teacher, encouraging us to be kind and care for strangers, told us the Bible says that, by doing so, many people have entertained angels without knowing it (see Hebrews 13:2).
I never saw any of the men disappear.
They were ordinary, hungry human beings.
But my Sunday school teacher was right. God does send His angels to us, they do interact with us every single day—not just to test us and see if we are kind, but to protect us and guide us.
The Nature of Angels I fervently believe in angels and their constant presence with us. Please do not misunderstand what I mean by “I believe.” Some people believe in everything—at least a little, like the actress who said she believed in a certain thing. Her friend replied, “Oh, I didn’t know you believed in that!” “Oh, I believe in everything a little bit,” responded the actress.
But I believe firmly in angels because God tells us about them very clearly in His Holy Word, the Bible.
The Bible abounds with references to them, their origin, some names, even their ranks and tasks. In this booklet we will review some of what we know about angels from God’s Word.
We’ll spend a little time looking at angel “data,” but most of our time will be spent focusing on the extraordinary mission and message these heavenly beings bring.
Their Origin “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). That’s the way God’s Word begins. What follows in Genesis, chapter one, is a description of how the earth and everything in it, on it, and around it, came to be. But what about the angels? They aren’t mentioned at all.
Were they always there with God? Were they created? And, if so, when?
Other parts of the Bible help us gain some understanding. (As we begin, though, we do need to realize that God has not told us everything we might want to know about angels or anything else; He has told us everything that we need to know—there’s quite a difference.) In the New Testament we read this about
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:15-16).
While this tells us more about Jesus than it does about angels, it does make an interesting point. It says that Jesus, as Creator-God, brought “all things” into being—including all things “invisible,” that is, within the spirit realm, and that would include the angels.
So, we know that angels were created, butwhen? Look at this passage in Exodus 20:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
This passage uses God’s creation schedule as the rule for how His people were to order their daily lives. It clearly says all creative activity took place in the six days of creation as recorded in Genesis chapter 1. Because angels are created beings, we must infer that they, too, were created within those six days.
But, when? One Bible passage that might help comes from the book of Job (pronounced Jobe, long “o”). In this passage, God is questioning Job (a man) and pointing out that Job really doesn’t know quite as much as he thought
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell Me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).
According to this passage, the “morning stars” (another term in the Bible that refers to angelic beings) were singing and the angels were shouting for joy when God “laid the earth’s foundation.” According to this passage, then, the creation of the spirit beings (angels) must have happened on the first day of creation. This fits nicely with the rather general statement in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens [the spiritual beings?] and the earth.” Ranks or Orders of Angels From Scripture we learn angels are personal, conscious, intelligent beings. They are complete in their spiritual nature which requires no body. They have great knowledge. They excel in superhuman strength and can move about, unobstructed by time, space, or physical laws. There are multitudes of them, legions (Matthew 26:53), “ten thousand times ten thousand” (Daniel 7:10).
Several ranks, or types of angels are mentioned in the Bible. They include, cherubim, seraphim, and archangels.
Cherubim Cherubim is the plural of the Hebrew word “cherub.” Now, when we think of a “cherub” we tend to picture a chubby little tyke with two wings, a halo and perhaps a harp or bow and arrow. This is far from the true picture given in the Bible! The word “cherub” actually denotes someone ready for service, a worker ready to carry out a task.
Scripture tells us Cherubim are close to God’s throne ready to carry out His commands at a moment’s notice. And, their appearance?
“I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light.
The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze.
Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle.
Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead.
Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.
The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning... Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army.
When they stood still, they lowered their wings. Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings” (Ezekiel 1:4-14, 22-25).
Later on, Ezekiel sees them again and
“These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim” (Ezekiel 10:20) Seraphim Seraphs, on the other hand, are the “burning ones.” They are so close to the glorious presence of God they burn with His holy brilliance. Isaiah gives us a description of
these marvelous beings:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 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” (Isaiah 6:1-4).
In the book of Revelation, John describes, but does not name, some very similar creatures
engaged in very similar activity:
“Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.
The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’” (Revelation 4:6-8).
Archangels In Scripture only the cherubs and seraphs have wings. All other angels, including those described as “archangels,” are described as not having wings. (This serves as yet another reminder to be on guard about the many non-biblical misrepresentations of angels prominent today.) The term “archangel” itself only appears twice in the Bible. Once in a general reference to Jesus’ return on the Last Day (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and once, in Jude 9, as a specific title for an angel named Michael. Though there may be more than one archangel, the Bible itself only mentions Michael by name. (Some traditions accept seven archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raguel, Seraquel, Haniel and Raphael. This tradition arises from a Jewish book called 1 Enoch, written about 100 B.C.) Satan and the “Evil” Angels The account of creation in Genesis 1 ends with the statement, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).
Because everything was created “good,” many people wonder where the devil came from and when did he become the evil enemy of God and His creation.
Once again, God has not given us all the answers we want to know. What He has revealed to us in His Word, however, is enough for us to know that Satan and the angels that followed him in rebellion against God, are powerful, evil, and bent on destroying (eternally) all that God has created— including, and especially, man!
Here’s what we know from the Bible: Before the rebellion in heaven, Satan was an angel named Lucifer. The name Lucifer is Latin and means “light bearer.” In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, his name was translated, “shining one,” or “day-star.” Sometime after the six days of creation (Genesis 1) and before the event we call “Man’s fall into sin” (Genesis 3), pride took the place of humble service and
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Other angels apparently followed this evil angel and were, with Lucifer (now called Satan or “the enemy,”) cast out of heaven. How many angels, or what percentage of them, followed Satan into rebellion we do not know. All Scripture reveals is that they are many, and like their chosen master, Satan, their goal is the destruction of all God’s creation.