God's and Man's Relationship with Angels
By Lance Mosher
What is God's and man's relationship with angels? That is a difficult question to answer. It seems that humans have always been interested in the subject of angels. Truthfully, however, the Bible does not cure our curiosity on all matters concerning angels. Why is that? One thing that must be remembered is that the Bible was not written for curiosity’s sake. It was not written to answer our questions. Of course, it does answer the most important questions, but that is not why it was written. Why was it written? The apostle John writes, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). The Bible was written for us to have the opportunity to possess a quality, soul-saving relationship with our Creator.
That being said, however, the Bible does talk about angels quite a bit. The word angel appears in the English Bible about 300 times. The times that angels are mentioned, again, are not mentioned for entertainment. They are mentioned when an angel’s task is intertwined with the relationship between God and man.
What do you think of when you read or hear the word angel? Go ahead and picture it in your mind. Do you think of a humanoid being, glowing, with wings, wearing a robe, maybe a trumpet in one hand? Is this angel male or female? How much of that image is biblical, and how much has the world imposed? The Greek word for angel is ἄγγελος (angelos). That word basically means, "a messenger" or "one who is sent." So, an angel is a messenger. It is obvious, however, that there is something more to those who are specifically called angels and those who are mere human messengers.
ANGELS AS CREATED BEINGS
When God was speaking to Job, He said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? […] And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7). Apparently there were beings such as “sons of God” when God created the earth. We know that does not refer to Adam and Eve, because God created them after He laid the foundations of the earth (Gen. 1). So, are these “sons of God” angels? Perhaps. If that is the case, it would be good to note that they are not eternal the way that God is (“everlasting to everlasting” [Ps. 90:1-2]). God still created them, but He did so before Genesis 1. Notice Nehemiah 9:6: “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.” If the host of heaven refers to angels, then it is evident that God created them; they are not eternal. Also see Psalm 148 and Hebrews 12:22-23.
Of course, being created by God would automatically put angels under the authority of God. Psalm 103:20-21 teaches that angels are “mighty in strength,” but are also “obeying the voice of His word” (cf. 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
Although angels are lower than God, they are higher than man. Christ, in heaven, had all the glory of God (John 17:5). However, when He became human, He was made “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7). Angels are not superhuman. They are not gods. They are different beings all together, created by God.
THE FORM OF ANGELS
What do angels look like? Are you still picturing what you pictured in the beginning of this lesson? As far as I know, the Bible never describes angels as having wings (aside from cherubim and seraphim, which are different living heavenly beings – a separate study altogether). However, in Revelation, in a vision, John saw an angel flying (Rev. 14:6). In Hebrews 1:14, angels are called spirits. They are invisible to the human eye unless God reveals them. There are times in the Bible where angels were sent to accomplish a task from God, and humans could not see them until God aided the humans in their vision (Num. 22:31). Almost every time angels appear to humans in the Bible, the angels are in the form of humans (sometimes with very distinct features) (Gen. 19:1-2; Jud. 13:8-10; Acts 1:10-11). We do not know if angels have genders, but every time in Scripture where angels appear to humans, they have are in the form of males. Sometimes angels are described as announcing God’s declarations with trumpet blows (Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 8:6).
THE NATURE OF ANGELS
The nature of angels is quite different from human nature. As humans marry each other, angels do not marry (Matt. 22:30). Just like their authority is below God’s, but higher than man’s, so is their intelligence. The “wisdom of the angel of God” is a wisdom that knows “all that is in the earth” (2 Sam. 14:20). But they know less than God, even concerning the second coming of Christ (Matt. 24:36). Again, angels are described as “mighty in power” (Ps. 103:20; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). The number of angels is described as many (Rev. 5:11), thousands of thousands (Rev. 5:11), legions (Matt. 26:53), and innumerable (Heb. 12:22, KJV). These uncountable angels find bliss in praising God, specifically, in regard to the salvation of man (Luke 2:13, 15:10). Angels are also sent as ministers to those who are righteous (this is likely from where the “guardian angel” concept has arisen) (Matt. 4:11, 18:10; Luke 22:43; Heb. 1:14). Aside from ministering, angels have been given several different colossal tasks from God that humans could never perform. For example, they have been assigned to guard the gates of heaven (Rev. 21:12), receive the souls of the righteous at death (Luke 16:22), execute judgment (Gen. 19:13), wage war against Satan (Rev. 12:7-9), and appear with Christ at His second coming (Matt. 25:31).
Some people have made reference to archangels, as in plural. If it turns out that there is more than one archangel, that is God's business. However, the Bible only speaks of one archangel. Jude 9 tells us that the archangel is Michael (despite popular belief, Gabriel is never called an archangel). Michael, the archangel, is described as the prince of the people of Israel in the Old Testament (Dan. 10). In the New Testament, it is promised that he is the one who will announce the second coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16). Michael also has angels of his own, which he is able to take to war with him against Satan (Rev. 12:7-9).
There are a lot of questions we humans have. Vagueness just adds to our curiosity. I am not disturbed by what I do not know concerning angels. God has a reason for everything He does, and that includes giving us and not giving us certain bits of information. I am thankful and encouraged by what we can know. Of course, in this article alone, I have not exhausted all that we can know concerning angels. Perhaps no single author has or can.
Except where noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation