All About Angels


 

Édouard Manet: The Dead Christ with Angels, 1864

The angels are very close to us and protect us and other creatures of God at his command. To be able to protect us they have long arms, and so they can easily chase Satan away when he tries to harm us. They stand before the face of the Father, next to the sun, but without effort they swiftly come to our aid.

The devils, too, are very near to us. Every moment they are plotting against our life and welfare, but the angels prevent them from harming us. Hence it is that they don’t always harm us although they always want to harm us.

Dr. Martin Luther, 1532
Luther’s Works ,Vol. 54

Originally titled, Biblical Angelology in New Age of Angles, this is a study of the angels as presented in Holy Scripture and a critique of the modern use of angels both in the church and what passes for spirituality.While I hope that some one may find this work useful, this work remains the property of its author. No rights are surrendered by it appearance here.
Original publish in 1995 as the MDiv under the supervision of Prof. Kurt Marquart, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. It was published in October, 2004 on Blog My Soul-writings (now defunct) when the blog was hosted on blogspot.com.  It continues to be corrected, now here on scotkinnaman.com.

Preface

Few realms of Biblical thought have been so resolutely ignored by the main streams of theology as that which is the subject of this paper. Angels are seldom regarded as proper objects of theological discussion. Over the centuries self-serving human interest in the exact number and nature of the spirits accumulated much irrelevant nonsense. A theologian who ventured to write about them was perceived as lacking in seriousness. Therefore, theologians were seemingly silent on the subject of angels in order to address matters of more substantial theological import.

Luther writes: “There is a ministry of the angels for our benefit, and this must always be preached. If we did not have their help, things would be different” (LW; v. 17, p 357). People of this age are apt to think of extra terrestrials and U.F.O.’s as valid super-terrestrial beings on par with the angels, while psychic guidance and after death experiences are thought of as being ‘touched’ by an angel.

Orthodox theologians failed to allow that the angels somehow mattered, let alone consider that they were intimately involved with the work of Christ and the life of the church. Even today, when forced to acknowledge the Biblical witness of God’s heavenly host, theologians find themselves unprepared. and therefore embarrassed by the Bible’s clear statements on the “powers,” “the heavenly hosts,” and the true super terrestrial beings of God’s creative Word.

After the repression of angelology for centuries, the average Christian and working theologian have little more understanding of God’s plan for, or use of, the heavenly host than does the culturally aware non-Christian. Popular culture’s theology and its proponents are using heretofore-Christian terminology and quasi-Christian doctrine to advance their claims in a ‘Christian’ society. We are, in fact, being bombarded in our culture with heretical and satanic influence hiding in the garb of a popular angelology. Stripped of a Biblical background, modern Christians have no defense against the prevalence of perverted teachings and beliefs concerning the angels.

Over the past decade or two, more attention has been given to the angels then has been witnessed since the turn of the century. However, very little of it is based in the reality of Scripture and what God has to say about his ministering spirits.

This paper is intended as a Biblical angelology to further the awareness of the Biblical reality of angels. As a result, the first portion of what follows will explore the instances of grammar and the phenomenology of angels in Scripture.

The second section explores the purpose, character, role and ministry of these “holy ones.” This second section is presented in the format of a text for a multi-session Bible study based upon this writer’s belief that theology for theologians alone does nothing to advance the whole people of God. We must not only study the topic and identify the issue, but rather put solid Biblical information into the hands and into the hearts of the people of God for their defense. It is the layperson that confronts the Devil in sheep’s clothing—societies current trends and teachings on angels.

While the overview of the history and character of popular angelology in the third section is not exhaustive, this study will establish how menacing, insidious and hostile the popular angelology is to Christianity.

Most properly the topic of the Devil and the evil angels belongs to a study of demonology, and the critical biblical work it deserves is beyond the scope of this paper. Yet, in as much as Satan is identified as a fallen angel, he is discussed in Section Two.

Introduction

Historically, church tradition has taught the existence of angels, and for centuries this has been sufficient. Not so today. We need to return to the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, which proves the reality of angels. Currently, it is impossible to embark on a study of the invisible world without admitting that such a study is no longer the strictly the purview of the theologian.

Speculation on the invisible has become a mark of the culture we live in. A problem of a special kind is involved for the theologian. Not only does he need to realize the difference between Christian beliefs and the world’s beliefs, he must recognize that the words and terms that are used often make that “difference” indiscernible. Perceptions of the spirit world have very recently and all too often become clouded over or atrophied. Thus, the Christian theologian must communicate Scripture’s clear word on the doctrine of angels.

One point overrides all others in the writing of this thesis. The angels help us understand Jesus and God’s plan for us as continuing, continual, care. Reflection on what can be learned and understood about the holy spirits of God may perhaps strengthen our own spiritual life. The whole realm of faith may, thereby, become more real and immediate as we experience God’s personal care through their immediate presence.

Part One: Biblical Background

The doctrine of angels is revealed in holy Scripture. Despite both ancient and modern theologians who argue to the contrary, holy Scripture presents this manifestation of God’s ongoing care in clear, precise words.

We can begin the process of constructing a systematic Biblical angelology by arranging relevant Scripture passages and asking:

  1. How does holy Scripture define angels?
  2. What does Scripture teach about the place of angels in the heavenly courts?

1. Nomenclature

Angels move in and out of the accounts of both the Old and New Testaments in a way which can only cause one to assume that their existence was taken for granted. They need no introduction and the Biblical writers make no apology for their presence or for their abrupt appearances and departures. The Scriptures use several different words, many of which by inspired use and tradition are translated as “angel.” Nomenclature is a system of names used to describe the various elements of a whole. The descriptive nominal of the original language expand and emphasize the role and duties of the angels.

1.1. Angelic Nomenclature Originating In The Old Testament

It has been held that there is not a developed angelology in the theology of the Old Testament scriptures, that the New Testament has magnified the “traces” of angelic belief pictured in the Old Testament to support the New Testament doctrine of angels. While great evidence is available which supports the fact that the importance of angels grew during the intertestamental and New Testament eras, one cannot discount the specific and deliberate names used of the Old Testament angels. We are not given warrant to dismiss the Old Testament doctrine of angels simply because that doctrine is assumed by the writers in their work without any attempt to prove or explain the existence of angels.

{ NOTE: The “gibberish” that appears throughout the text is the result of using the  Hebrew and Greek text in the original paper. }

1.1.1.    µyrIyBia’ mighty, valiant
(ajggevlwn); ANGEL; Angel; angel.

The appelative µyrIyBia’ is found but once in the Old Testament, “Men did eat the bread of [µyrIyBia']; He sent them food in abundance” (Psalm 78:25). The title is descriptive rather than nominal and emphasizes the strength, the might, the power of the heavenly spirits.

1.1.2. µyhiløa‘ divine ones
(ajggevlou~ / qeouv~); ANGELS; God(s); heavenly beings.

Of all the designations used of the angels in the Old Testament, none has evoked as much discourse as has µyhiloøa‘. The Septuagint (LXX) translates µyhiloøa‘ variously as “gods” and “angels.” Much has been said of many of these passages, but three passages from the Psalms may illustrate the need for the variety in translation which allows the context to dictate µyhiloøa‘ to be translated as “angels,” these are Ps 8.6; 97.9; 138.1.

Of Psalm 8.6 (LXX 8.5) Delitzsch writes

The translation of the LXX, with which the Targum and the prevailing Jewish interpretations also harmonize, is, therefore, not unwarranted, because in the biblical mode of conception the angels are so closely connected with God as the nearest creaturely effulgence of His nature, it is really possible that in µyhiloøa‘me David may have thought of God including the angels. Since man is in the image of God, he is at the same time in the likeness of an angel, and since he is only a little less than divined, he is also only a little less than angelic…. The writer has only this one thing in mind, that man is inferior to God… [and] to the angels… he is a finite and mortal being.

In Psalm 97.9 (LXX 96.9) LXX translates µyhiloøa‘ as ajggevloi, however, the context demands that µyhiloøa‘. be translated as “gods.” A survey of the context shows us that in verse seven the psalmist is writing against the idols, the graven images. “When the glory of [YHWH] becomes manifest, everything that is opposed to it will be punished and consumed by its light.”In the presence of God Almighty the deified powers will fall down before the true µyhiloøa‘. It is foreign to the text to interject God’s holy ones into this picture of judgment.

No claim can be made that these texts definitely refer to angels. Delitzsch, in commenting on Psalm 138.1 (LXX 137.1), remarks on LXX’s translation

ejantivon ajggelwn which is in itself admissible and full of meaning, but without coherence in the context of the Psalm, and also is to be rejected because it is on the whole very questionable whether the Old Testament language uses µyhla thus, without anything further to define it, in the sense of “angel.”

Given the principle of sound interpretation stated above by Delitzsch, µyhloa must be tested by its context each time it occurs. Maybe the compromise solution of BDB and the NIV translation is to be preferred when µyhiloøa‘ is rendered “heavenly beings” or “holy ones.” Where it does not violate the sense of the text, ‘angel’ remains a possible translation.

1.1.3. µyhiløa‘h; ygEB] sons of god = angels
µyhiløa‘h; ygEB], or “sons of God,”

As a term for angel is in no way exclusive to the members of the heavenly court. It is this very term that many commentators stumble over in their interpretation of Genesis 6 where, “the [µyhiløa‘h; ygEB]] saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they took them for themselves, whomever they chose.” Unable to distinguish the context, they see µyhiløa‘h; ygEB] as always referring to angels. Thus the angels would violate the will of God and their very nature, so blinded are they by the physical beauty of women.[Footnote 5: A rational discussion of the µyhiløa‘ of Ge 6.2 is written by Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), pp. 164-170.]

Context also informs us in another example, that of Job 38.7:

… while the morning stars sang together
and the [µyhiløa‘h; ygEB]] shouted for joy?

Because of the poetic style in which the section is written, the context would seem to require µyhiløa‘h; ygEB] to be seen in poetic parallelism with “the morning stars.” While this is true, this does not mitigate against the µyhiløa‘h; ygEB] being angels. This is in fact the traditional Jewish and early church fathers understanding of the text.

While we note that exceptions exist, the title µyhiløa‘h; ygEB] does in many instances refer to the angels. In Job we are given a glimpse into the court of heaven on “a day when the [µyhiløa‘h; ygEB]] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came before them.” The translations surveyed agree that Job is referring here to angels. In Psalm 8, man is written of as being “created a little lower than the µyhiløa‘h; ygEB].” LXX and KJV takes the translation as ‘angel,’ while NIV and NAS translate it as ‘holy ones.’ Hebrew and Biblical tradition tell us that Nebuchadnezzar was amazed to see a fourth man, an angel, in the fiery furnace where there was to only have been Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:25). “Look,” said the King, “I see four men… and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Schweizer, looking at the use of ygEB] in the Old Testament, writes, “The primary meaning is ‘son,’ but [the] term may also denote other degrees of relationship…. Mostly the term serve[s] to denote personal status. [This] by relating people to their fathers or ancestors.” And finally, “Sons are under the father’s authority”. In the use of µyhiløa‘h; ygEB] by the biblical writers, we are given a description of the angels. The angels have a position with God analogous to sons because they have their origin in God, they have a personal status with God, and they remain under the Father’s authority.

1.1.4. laeyrIb]G” gabri-el/ man of El
(Gabrihvl); GABRIEL; Gabriel; gabriel.

In Daniel, the one sent to the prophet to provide the interpretation of Daniel’s dream is called laeyrIb]G” (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). Whether this is an appellation or a proper name is an open question. In either case, we can easily identify the component parts as rb,G< and la or, in its most general sense “The Man of God.” The noun rb,G< comes from the verb ‘to be strong, mighty’ ‘a compelling force’. The noun carries the weight of the verb, thus BDB: “‘man’ as strong, distinguished from women, children, and non-combatants whom he is to defend.”

In the Gabriel of the Old Testament we have revealed several interesting characteristics of the one who appears on behalf of God. First, he appeared in the recognizable form of a man, not just man in the broad anthropological sense, but as a male of the species, over against the female. Second, Gabriel is commanded to reveal the meaning of the vision. He is sent. He is not acting on his own initiative. Finally, in this name we are given a glimpse at his character, for Gabriel, while strong and valiant, is bound to defend those who are weaker than he.

Gabriel also appears in the nativity account of Luke’s Gospel. He is the member of God’s heavenly court sent to Zacharias to bring the good news of a son who would be called John the Baptist. Later, he appeared to Mary announcing that she had found favor in God’s sight and would be the mother of the long-foretold Savior. Both Zacharias and Mary were troubled by the ‘Man of God’s’ appearance; it was not ordinary to be in the presence of an angel of God. In response to Zacharias’ challenge, Gabriel simply states who he is and from whence he has come. To Mary he brings the greetings and blessings of God Himself. Gabriel’s authority does not come from anywhere else but from the heavenly throne. He acts only with, and under, the authority of God.

1.1.5. bWrk] cherub
(ceroubivm); CHERUB; Cherub; cherub.

The name is used of angelic beings represented with features appearing to be a combination of animal and human forms. The word is found twenty-six times in the singular and sixty-four times in the plural form in the Old Testament. Cherubim are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24 where they guard the tree of life from fallen humanity, preventing their access to the fruit of the tree of life, the eating of which would result in living forever in sin, forever apart from God. Their appearance is not described in Scripture at that point, but evidently their mien was indelibly inscribed upon the mind and history of man.
It is impossible to know how long the garden and the cherubim remained. Quite possibly they continued until the Flood in Noah’s time. However long it was, it seems to have been sufficiently long enough to have forever impressed mankind.

When Moses was later directed to make the likeness of cherubim for the tabernacle, there is a notable absence of detail in a context filled with detailed instructions. Cherubim. Nothing more had to be said. It appears that the knowledge of their form and appearance was known. Multiple ancient cultures constructed massive winged creatures to guard gates, tombs and thrones in the Near East. Deities were pictured on, or possessing, the wings associated with these servants of God. This universal knowledge of the cherubim was corrupted in one way or another as the truths of God were forgotten or changed by the pagan cultures.

Solomon also used the image of the cherubim to adorn the temple he built (1 Kings 6:7). 1 Chronicles 28.18 refers to them as the chariot of the Lord. Psalm 18.10 speaks of YHWH riding forth on cherubim with the imagery of the fury of a storm cloud. In Psalm 104:3 the storm clouds are said to be His chariot. 1 Samuel 4:4 speaks of Him being enthroned upon the cherubim.

The greatest passages on the cherubim, though, are to be found in the account of Ezekiel. The cherubim bear the throne of God. The cherubim are said to be four in number. This does not rule out the possibility that there may actually be more than four cherubim, but the number four has special significance to Ezekiel as well as to other Old Testament writers: Ezekiel speaks of “the four winds”while Isaiah has spoken of “the four corners of the earth.” Ezekiel sees four cherubim, each with four wings, four faces, four hands, four sides, four wheels in this chariot as well as four scenes of worship in chapter 8 and four plagues in chapter 14. The number four carries with it some sense of completeness.

The whole throne-chariot moved as a single unit under the impulse of the spirit, meaning that God exercised His will upon these beings to coordinate their movements. The speed of the chariot is like that of lighting. In chapter 10 Ezekiel identifies the living creatures as the cherubim. That which had been hinted at elsewhere, now is fully described, as it is seen that the cherubim actually form the throne of God. The cherubim which had served to function as guardians of the place of God in the tabernacle, and later, the temple of the Israelites, and whose wings covered the ark, also known as the mercy seat of God, are now revealed in all their awesome significance.

Linguistically, there is wide variety to the opinions of what lies behind the meaning of the cherubim of the Bible. Eichorn attempts to identify them by relating the word to gruvpe~ “griffin.” Gaster sees the word to be identical with the Akkadian brK, which he believes is a winged monster somewhat like a griffin. Buttrick relates it to the same word, but defines it as “intercessor.” Fallon seems to take the same view explaining that a brK in Phoenician culture had the function of ushering worshipers into the presence of the deity. While in Akkadian the brK was an advisor to the gods and an advocate for devotees. Yet Fallon admits that such ideas are foreign to Israelite thinking. Goldziher believes the root brK is used in Himyarite inscriptions in titles of the kings designating them as” protectors.” He explains that in Semitic parlance, words which signify “to protect” are often derived from the fundamental idea of covering. The cherubim spread forth their wings in 1 Kings 8:7, that is, they cover the mercy seat with their wings. To spread one’s wings over someone is, in the language of Scripture, the usual expression for the protection that is afforded an individual. In Arabic, the same word means not only a bird’s wing, but also concealment and shade (see Psalm 91:1-4).[Footnote 5: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. s. v. "brK" by R. Laird Harris, p. 454.] Harris believes that the Akkadian cognate is the most suitable and probable source for the background of the Hebrew word. He gives the meaning “to bless, praise, adore.” Harris deems this most suitable since it is one of the main characteristics of the cherubim of the Old Testament.

These are only a sampling of the exegetical debates and conjecture that encircle the concept of brK. The inverse of this discussion is the belief that surrounding cultures borrowed cognates from the Hebrews, not the other way around. We must agree with Harris when he admits that the derivation of this word is extremely difficult to determine. Yet, nothing crucial hangs in the balance. The idea of cherubim in the Bible is still quite easily understandable. And whatever cognates the Hebrew may be related to, does not automatically carry all of the theological/pagan baggage of the neighboring culture.

The Talmud relates brK as the combination of the Hebrew words “as” and “a lad.” This influenced the well-known Renaissance artists’ conception of cherubs, as well as the writings of such men as John Lydgate and John Milton. This occurred not only in England but throughout Europe. Such derivation is certainly without Biblical support, but is much the reason for the mistaken appearances and concepts of angels in modern times.

1.1.6. laek;ymi micha-el/ who is like El
(Micavhl); MICHAEL; Michael; michael.

Overwhelmed by the visions and messages that he has been given, an angel comes to Daniel to bring him the peace and comfort of God. The angel reassures the prophet that “from the first day that [he] set his mind to gain understanding and humbled [himself] before [his] God, his words were heard.” The angel was sent in response to those words. Yet the response is twenty-one days in coming. The Angel explains that the “prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” Later, the Angel who brought Daniel the comforting message of God says that He will return to fight the prince of Persia, and that Michael, the prince who protects the people of Israel, will be His only supporter.

BDB defines laek;ymi only as a proper name, its meaning is “Who Is Like God?” Thus, even as “chief of the princes,” Michael’s very name ascribes to God honor and praise. Like all the appearances of the angels in the Old Testament, Michael is given no introduction, no prologue. The only expansion we have is the parenthetical remark of the angel. Michael is the “prince” of Daniel’s people. He is the chief of princes. He is the only prince who will support the Angel’s struggle with the prince of Persia. Michael is also the angel who will rise up in the last days as the champion of God’s people. Jude tells us that Michael is an archangel and that he is no stranger to confrontation with the Devil. John’s Revelation also speaks of Michael. It is this “chief of princes” who will lead God’s angels into battle against the dragon in the last days.

Biblically, we can say no more about Michael. But, the scriptural witness opens many roads of discussion, and traditional scholarship has attempted to determine more about Michael and the angels by following some of these various avenues. From the ascribed positions of ‘archangel’ and ‘prince,’ and those positional titles given by Paul, which will be discussed below, many have tried to develop a hierarchical ranking of the angels. Thus, association with Michael places the archangels in one of the closest choir of angels arrayed before God’s throne. With reference to princes of the nations in Daniel, one can adduce that each nation has a guiding/guarding angel, and at the time of Daniel, only the people of God in Israel had a prince from the heavenly court, and not just a prince, but the ‘chief prince.’ The other nation’s princes, being opposed to Michael and the Angel sent by God, were opposed to God himself. These angels are subject to the ‘Prince of this World,’ the dragon whom Michael and the heavenly angels will throw down in the last days, the fallen angel Lucifer, that is, Satan.

Michael is pictured as Christ’s champion, the Commander of the angel legions, Satan’s adversary. If we allow the Bible to speak in large terms, Michael is the champion of the church of Christ on earth, for as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, all who believe in Him are the true descendents of Abraham. The Church is the ‘nation’ of Abraham, David, and Daniel, and Michael is its prince.

1.1.7. a’l]m’ messenger
(a[ggelo~); ANGELS; Angels; angels.

A a;']l]m’ is “one who is sent” to speak on behalf of another, or, “one who is sent” to perform a deed or action on behalf of another. In the ancient world such a legate spoke with the authority of the one who sent him. Thus, when Abraham sent his servant with ten of his camels and “all kinds of good things from his master,” he was acting with Abraham’s authority and could negotiate the terms of a dowry to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). A prophet, too, speaks with the authority of the One who sent him. A human a;’]l]m’ of God is seen as speaking the very words of God, and his prophetic actions are God’s power and will manifested through that one who is His chosen messenger. Malachi admonishes the priests to be those who preserve true knowledge, “and [that] from his mouth men should seek instruction — because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty”

While a;’]l]m’ is used in Scripture to refer to such human legates, “messenger” is the term used most frequently when the Old Testament writers speak of angels. From man’s point of view, angels are indeed God’s agents, sent from God’s side to do his will and service among men. Besides describing the function of the angels, the term becomes a name for them. The term is used by the psalm writer who writes of their character and heavenly activity:

Praise the Lord, you his [a;']l]m’],
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will (Psalm 103:20, 21; see also Psalm 148:2).

The term is used of angels charged with the care of men (Psalm 91), when they are recognized as the wise and excellent creatures of God (1 Samuel 29:9; 2 Samuel 14:17:20), and even when they are in the role of destroyers (2 Samuel 24:16). As the true and loyal a;’]l]m’ of God, angels always act with and within the authority of God. They are an extension of His will and affection toward man.

1.1.8. t;rIv; minister
(leitouro;~); MINISTER; Servant; servant.

This is another name that stresses the activity of the angels, their duty of performing the will of God. It appears only twice, in successive Psalms.

Praise the Lord, you his angels
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts
you his t;r“v; who do his will (Psalm 103:20-21).

He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his t;r“v; (Psalm 104:4).

The Hebrew couplets come to our aid in discerning the context of this title. Commentators generally regard these passages as referring to the spirits of heaven as the servants, or ministers, of God.

1.1.9. ry[i watcher
(a[ggelo~); WATCHER; Angelic Watcher; messenger.

Of all the biblical authors only Daniel calls the angels by this name. “I looked and there before me was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven” (Daniel 4:13). “You, O king, saw a watcher, a holy one coming down from heaven…” (Daniel 4:23).

The root of the Aramaic ry[i is allied to Hebrew rW[ “to rouse oneself, awake,” but more closely to the Syriac ‘or, “be awake,” and New Hebrew ‘eyr, “awake.” The versions of Aquila Symmachus render it by ejgrhvgro~, while Theodotion merely transcribes it as ei[r; the Septuagint makes the interpretation a[ggelo~, “angel.” Source material being so meager, most commentators are content to note with St. Jerome that the ‘watcher’ “signifies angels, because they are ever valiant and prepared to do the commands of God.”

1.1.10. a;b;x] host
(sabawvq); HOST; Host; host.

The t/ab’x] yhwh, or, “Lord of hosts,” is an important title of God, judging from its frequent use in the Old Testament. And, while they were writing in Greek, Paul and James nevertheless used the Hebrew t/ab’x] (“hosts”) in the transliterated form of “sabawvq”.[Footnote 7: “As we have noted, the Greek Old Testament sometimes transliterated the word as sabawvq, apparently taking it as a technical term. This is probably the source of Paul’s and James’ transliteration.” S. v. “The Lord of Hosts,” p. 330. The New Open Bible, Study Edition [New American Standard Bible © THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION] (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1990).] Paul, writing of his great love for his own nation as well as his faith in God, speaks these words of hope for a future:

And just as Isaiah foretold, ‘Except the [t/ab'x] yhwh] had left to us a posterity; we would have become a Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah’” (Romans 9:29 NASB; NIV and others translate “Lord Almighty).

The “hosts” part of the divine name is plural of the noun abx. In itself the word can refer to the hosts of heaven or a host of soldiers, i.e., an army. This regal name does not appear in the Pentateuch. It first occurs in 1 Samuel 1.3: Elkanah “would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.” Now that Israel had become a nation, it became necessary to stress that the head of their nation was the Lord. However, He was not merely the head of Israel’s forces, but of all hosts, celestial and terrestrial, angels and humans.

The Biblical writers to refer specifically to God’s angels then, while being inclusive of all God’s forces, use “Hosts.” Three passages in which angels are certainly referred to with the term abx are, Micaiah’s vision, in which he saw “the Lord sitting on His throne and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left” (1 Kings 22:19), the Levites prayer in Nehemiah, “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, … You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You” (Nehemiah 9:6), and the Psalmist’s invocation, “Praise him, all his angels, praise him all his hosts” Psalm 103:20, 21).

One of the most familiar passages that uses abx is, “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:10). These are multitudes of angels gathered around the throne, bowing down and praising God. These are the host of God, not a spirit world marshaled for collective warfare (in other words, not a collective Israeli-angel army), but “His ministers, who do his pleasure” (Psalm 103:21)

1.1.11. wyn:P;; (a’l]m’) (angel) envoy, Angel of His Presence
(a[ggelo~); ANGEL OF HIS PRESENCE; Angel of His Presence; angel of his presence.

In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old (Isaiah 63:9)

All of the discussion of the possible meaning of the translation of “angel of His presence” is irrelevant, since that expression occurs nowhere else in the Bible. The majority of the orthodox writers agrees with August Pieper’s determination that Isaiah’s wyn:P; a'l]m’ “is of course, the Christ … the ‘angel of the Lord,’” and thus should be discussed in the scope of that concept. Heidt claims, “this term being synonymous with mal’akh, adds practically nothing to our knowledge of angels.” But the question remains, “Why did Isaiah use the term wyn:P; a’l]m’ [in speaking] of this particular angel?”

The use of the “angel of God’s presence” expresses the author’s desire to show to Israel God’s presence through His personal medium, the ministering spirit of the angel. Secondly, the most literal translation of wyn:P; a’l]m’, is “the angel of God’s face.” This mediating spirit, the “angel of God’s face,” while being regarded as being distinct from God, is also regarded as one that is completely hidden before Him, whose name is in him. The angel carried out the protection and redemption of the people of the olden times spoken of by Isaiah.

The context gives us possible clues as to the author’s choice of using wyn:P; a’l]m’ as opposed to the unmodified a’l]m’. The angel’s mission is, as a’l]m’ expresses, to act on behalf of God. But more than that, the Angel brings to man the very presence of God. So completely does God’s will and direction fill the ‘angel of His presence’, the Angel’s entire existence is subservient to God. Isaiah reveals this very special, very specific, nature of God’s angel to comfort the people. Through the ‘angel of His presence’ He lifted them up and carried them; He gave them daily assistance, care and protection. The representative of God is the presence of God. There is no small amount of discussion invested in this term. Many scholars see this term as synonymous with the term “Angel of the LORD,” in other words, the preincarnate presence of Christ.

1.1.12. µyvidoq] holy ones
(aJgiwn); SAINTS; Holy Ones; holy ones.

The basic meaning of the root, µyvidoq], is that which is set apart. Anything that is “holy” is set apart. It is removed from the realm of the common and moved to the sphere of the sacred. YHWH who is utterly set apart from any earthly taint is by that very fact infinitely holy — hence the threefold µyvidoq] of the seraphs in Isaiah’s vision.

Another aspect of angelic theology is advanced by this name. It is the angels who, as “the council of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:6) praise God’s faithfulness. It was to the holy ones that Job, according to Eliphaz, was unable to turn (Job 5:1). God himself, however, is so transcendent that he puts no trust in his holy ones (Job 15:16); still, on the day when God will come, “all the holy ones [shall be] with him” (Zechariah 14:5). And Daniel, amid his vision on the banks of the Ulai Canal “heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, ‘How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled…?’” (Daniel 8:2, 13)

“Holy” is most aptly applied to the angels, those members of God’s creation who are so far removed from worldly imperfection, so completely set apart for service of the all-holy One.

1.1.13. πr:c]
(serafivm); SERAPH; Seraph; seraph.

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.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:2-5).

Though this is the only passage in the Bible in which angels are called seraphs, the casual way in which Isaiah introduces them without any further explanation is sufficient evidence that the concept was not unfamiliar to the readers. Yet, like the cherubs, much speculation, controversy, and misinformation, has encircled the biblical witness of the seraphs. According to the ancient orthodox view, which originated with Dionysius the Areopagite (aka Pseudo—Dionysius), they stand at the head of the nine choirs of angels, the first rank consisting of the Holy Thrones, the Cherubim, and the Seraphim. While Dionysius contends that his celestial hierarchy is a sacred order and the majority of orthodox scholars admit that scripture really teach that there are gradations in rank in the hierarchy of heaven, few subscribe to such hierarchical arrangements as anything more than fanciful imaginations of pious men.

The etymology of the word πrc has led to much conjecture. Some commentators suggest that the seraphs were not angels at all, while others suggest that seraphs were simply a modification of cherubs used to represent the ideal creation under the form of light or fire, Still others have noticed the consonantal similarity between the seraphs of Isaiah and the serpents of Numbers (Numbers 21:6), thus, the seraphs are surely fiery winged snakes. No common derivation is yet to be agreed upon. However, there can be little doubt that the verb form πr:c] means “to burn,” occurring as it does frequently in the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 32:30, Leviticus 4:12, Numbers 19:5, 2 Kings 10:26, Psalm 74:8, etc.).

He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants

These inspired words of the psalmist recall the position of the cherubs as the throne bearers of God, and what Isaiah tells us of the seraphs hovering around the seated King,

Isaiah himself supports the plain meaning of πr:c]. Every time the seraphs raised their voices in the heavenly chorus of “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty,” “the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” Delitzch writes, “The smoke was the immediate consequence of the seraph’s song of praise.” The work then of the seraph is plain, for as awesome and noteworthy as they are in Isaiah’s vision, it is not the seraph themselves whom Isaiah notices, for Isaiah writes: “My eyes have seen the King, the YHWH of Hosts.” They are engaged in the unbroken task of chanting the glory and praise of God.

The concept of angels serves some important theological ideas. It serves first of all to illustrate the exaltedness and majesty of YHWH. Secondly, the concept of the angel world causes God’s people to rejoice over the divine help that such a world gives to the world of men at the direction of God. The Old Testament information concerning angels is also a comforting revelation from God, as well as a vital point in history of God’s dealings with his people — not just in the past but also in the present.

1.2. Angelic Nomenclature In The New Testament

Many contend that the Jewish interest in angels became heightened in the intertestamental times. This charge is made on the basis of the elaborate angelic descriptions in the book of Enoch, and the descriptions of Jewish and Rabbinic culture in the histories of Flavius Josephus. Still others add that intertestamental angelology is strongly influenced by the pagan religions of the Near East and the pantheons of gods found in the Greco-Roman world. “Certainly, early Christian perceptions of who, or what, angels are is poisoned by such incursions,” is the modern theologian’s refrain. Yet in all the occurrences of angels in the New Testament, no inconsistent information is added to the truths of the Old Testament witness. No apology is ever made for an angelic appearance. The biblical writers do not find it necessary to explain, or even introduce them, implying that their reality is to be simply and faithfully accepted by the believer.

It is an interesting and telling fact that there is more said concerning angels in the New Testament than the Old Testament Scriptures. Angels are most frequently mentioned in the beginning of the New Testament Scripture, that is, in the Gospels, and at the close, in the book of Revelation. This in it itself has deep meaning. The chief interest of the angels seems to be in connection with the redemption of man and the earth, which God gave to His creatures.

We meet angels on the threshold of the New Testament. It could not be otherwise. It was Jesus who had created the angels and was worshipped by them as Lord. Yet, by his incarnation, He was now on earth having been made a little lower than the angels. Jesus would, after a few years return, in His glorified humanity, to heaven to receive a place higher than the angels. Because He was here the angels were here and seen by human eyes. The angels accompanied him. Even after Jesus left the earth, angels were still seen by early Christians in connection with the beginning of the church for this was the body of Christ. The church was a great mystery to angels, for it had not been revealed in former ages.

In the last book of the Bible, John’s Revelation, angels are still more prominent, for that book concerns mostly the coming of the Lord, His return to the earth. Just as the angels attended Christ at His first coming, they will attend him in His last. Angels will be seen in their heavenly glory, the invisible things will become visible. It is the angel’s attendance to the Christ that makes them so prominent in the beginning and ending books of the New Testament.

1.2.1. a[ggelo~, a[ggeloi messenger

Already established by the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, a[ggelo~ remains the vocable used in the New Testament to represent the reality of God’s personal mediators between man and Himself. They represent the heavenly realms; and their appearance is a revelation of the otherworldly in the earthly realm.

As was seen in the case of a;l]m’ in Hebrew usage (p. , above), a[ggelo~ has its secular uses in the common language of the Roman Empire. a[ggelo~, however, unlike its Hebrew counterpart, does not have a ‘common’ usage. In the Greek of the New Testament era a[ggelo~ is a technical term reserved for use within the hierarchy of the government. The a[ggeloi were the empowered emissaries of the Ceaser and the Senate. Such an emissary, carrying the proper papers, could not only deliver a message, but answer questions and clarify points related to the communication. He could initiate and conclude treatise, receive the official tribute, and receive the oaths of parties making contract with Rome. The a[ggeloi were to be received as though they were the person of the sender himself, and thus they were afforded protection and deference. Of the 175 occurrences of a[ggelo~ in the New Testament only six speak of human emissaries (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27 (of Malachi 3:1); Luke 7:24; 9:52; James 2:25).

An overview of the Evangelists’ writings shows the angels diverse functions; The angel of God appears and transmits to human beings messages and commissions from God (e.g., Matthew 1:2-23; 2:13, 19-20; 28:5; Luke 1:11ff; Acts 8:26; 10:3, etc.), frees and strengthens the apostles after Easter (Acts 5:19f; 12:7ff; 27:23f), and punishes Herod Acts 12:23). Angels, who are constantly at his service, accompany the life of Jesus (Matthew 25:53; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43; John 1:51). And, in the last days, Angels will accompany the Son of Man at the execution of the final judgment and assume functions associated with it Matthew 13:39ff; 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).  And the angels, after a lifetime of guardianship (Matthew 18:10, Acts 12:15), carry the faithful after death to the ‘bosom of Abraham’ (Luke 16:22). With only one exception, Matthew 25:41, the New Testament writers emphasize statements about God’s angels.

While a[ggelo~, strictly speaking, describes a function or duty performed from time to time by some of the holy ones of God, by the time of the New Testament ‘angel’ has reached a common usage in referring to all the members of God’s heavenly court.

1.2.2. pneu`ma spirit

[Footnote 3: Terrance Pendergrast, ed. Dictionary of the New Testament (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishing House. 1980). S. v. "pneu`ma."]

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” asks the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:14). There is no difficulty in recognizing the angels as spirit beings, in other words, without the limits of a corporeal reality. However, this terminology is not prevalent in the New Testament. Besides Hebrews, only in John’s Revelation do we have another positive reference of angels as “spirits” when John recounts the “seven spirits of God” before His throne (Revelation 1:4ff). In the Gospels Jesus always speaks of the ‘spirits’ as evil, wicked, those needing control or expulsion. Luke portrays them as the antithesis of angels (Acts 23:8). It becomes readily apparent that in common thought “spirits” were regarded as doing the Devil’s work, even being demons (fallen angels) themselves. Of the 31 occurrences of pneu`ma, the New Testament all but a few reserved “spirits” as non-angelic, non-heavenly terminology.

1.2.3. Difficulties

Under the ‘standardizing’ effect of the LXX interpretations, and the Rabbinic tradition’s acceptance and expansion of the ideal and concept of God’s personal mediators, there is little debate over the term or meaning of a[ggelo~ in the New Testament. Morrison notes of the New Testament authors: “Although uninterested in setting forth the [underlying] Jewish doctrine as such, the New Testament found the terminology which had been formed and tempered by Jewish thought valuable in the proclamation of its own message.” Yet it is within the pennings of one of the New Testament’s most prolific and influential writers that controversy and exegetical difficulties arise concerning the realm and role of angels.

Specifically, the difficulties revolve around the Apostle Paul’s us of ajrch (authorities) (Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthins 15:24), duvnami~ (power) (Romans 8:38), qrovno~ (throne) (Colossians 1:16) and, kuriovth~ (rulers) (Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:21), what we will collectively call the “Powers.”

The earliest commentators saw in Paul’s Powers clear reference to the spirit world beyond our comprehension and sight. Thus these ‘angels’ were included in hierarchical schemes and included in one or two of the various choirs that are said to surround the throne of God. Others have noted certain patterns in Paul’s usage of these terms; they always appear in pairs (notable exception is Romans 8:38), they are always seen as opposed to Christ’s salvific work, they are something to be discerned and resisted, and finally, they will eventually be subjugated under Christ in the last days.

Others, while agreeing that Paul always sees the authorities, powers, thrones, and rulers as set against Christ and his work and will, deny that Paul is speaking of angels. Citing 1) the predilection of the Roman mind to assign a god for every important or unexplainable operation in their world, and 2) the emphasis on Jewish custom of assigning ‘folk angels’ with similar abandon, opponents suggest Paul would not enter into such perilous theological ground without explanation. They contend that in Paul’s day the philosophical idea of ‘emanations of power’ was so prevalent and universally accepted, that they did not have to be defined — just identified as being against Christ. Morrison writes:

“Paul observes that life is ruled by a series of Powers. He speaks of time, of space, of life and death, of politics, and philosophy, of public opinion and Jewish law, of pious traditions, and the fateful course of the stars. Apart from Christ man is at the mercy of these Powers.” “… The main point is that by His cross Christ has unmasked and disarmed the quasi-divine authority of these structures.” “… the very presence of the church in a world is a superlatively positive and aggressive fact … for the Powers it is a sign of the end time, of their incipient encirclement and their imminent defeat.”

Did Paul conceive of these “Powers” as angels? Consider this remarkable fact. As influential as Paul’s writing has been, theology in its exposition concerning angels has drawn hardly at all upon Paul’s statements about the Powers. This seems strange at first, but was unavoidable. For what would we have to think of the “Powers” if we also thought of them as angels? Are they good angels? Most have answered in the affirmative. The startling equation Powers = Angels was probably drawn from Romans 8:38, where they are named in the same breath.

But then what are we to do with the texts which speak of victory over, or combat with, the Powers? How shall we understand the statement that “all rule and all authority and power must be dethroned” as enemies (1 Corinthians 15:24)? There are too many difficulties to permit a careful theologian to think of taking seriously all that Paul says as describing the nature and function of the good angels.

One thing is very clear: Jesus introduced a new era in world history. A new order replaced the old one. Jesus’ arrival was the coming of the new order in which Jesus superseded all intermediary powers. They lost their faculty of government forever. The main text that supports this interpretation is in Paul: On the cross “he stripped rulers and powers of their armor and made public show of them as He celebrated His victory” (Colossians 2:15 GWN). Those powers Jesus threw off were the ‘spirits’ to whom man had been subject: “When we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe…” Formerly when you did not acknowledge God, you were the slaves of beings which in their nature are no gods. But now that you do acknowledge you — or rather, now that he has acknowledged you — how can you turn back to the mean and beggarly spirits of the elements? Why do you purpose to enter their service all over again? (Galatians 4:3-9 and paraphrase). Christ cancelled the old world order. Jesus himself is our only angel. God set Jesus ‘far above all government and authority, all power and dominion, and any title of sovereignty that can be named, not only in this age but in the age to come. He put everything in subjection beneath his feet …” (Ephesians 1:21-22). What these texts are really talking about is the dethronement of the “Powers.”

The conclusion is obvious. We must set aside the thought that Paul’s “Powers” are angels. Whether they be conceived as persons, or as impersonal structures or emanations of created order, they form a category of their own. Therefore, since they are not angels as the Biblical witness has defined such, and since, as the Apostle Paul clearly states, the Powers have come under the authority of the Prince of this World and now oppose Christ and the church, the terms summarized as the “Powers” fall outside of this study, belonging most correctly in a study of Satan and the Demons.

Part Two: The Ministry of the Angels—For He Will Command His Angels Concerning You!

Having examined the linguistic evidence of angels in Scripture, the next endeavor is to set forth the Biblical teaching concerning the holy angels. The Bible tells us that God “will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” To deny the existence of angels is to deny the authority of the Bible as the Word of God.

How are the angels parts of God’s plan and care for man? Just how is it that they serve God? Do all angels serve God? Does Christianity have a place for the belief in angels? The arrangement of this section is a series of propositions, each based on a clear statement of Scripture. This will not be a philosophical or metaphysical study, but a forthright presentation of the Biblical evidence that shows how angels hold a valid place in theology — the study of God. This is a Bible Study of origins, purpose and means, of God’s holy angels. Why they do what they do, and how it affects our lives as Christians today.

We will again look at the Scriptural witness to ascertain how Scripture (1) teaches about the work of angels in the realm of man; and, (2) describes the relationship that exists between the Christian and the angels.

1.0. Angels in the Realm of Men: The Protecting Ministry Of The Angels To Believers

To begin, we need to bring to mind the authority and power of God – the all-knowing (omniscient), all-present (omnipresent), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all-sovereign God. Read the following passages and summarize what each tells us about God.

Daniel 4.35

Isaiah 41.1-4

Isaiah 46.9-11

Job 38,39

Jesus gives us a different view of his Father. God takes notice and provident care of of those things that seem to us insignificant, those things we take for granted. Read Matthew 6.25-31. Read about the caring, loving, concerned, involved Father who is our God.

Job 38.41

Psalm 104.21

Matthew 10.29-30

Psalm 103.13

1.1. Circumstantial Protection

Nothing can happen that is independent of God’s awareness and ultimate permission. Of this fact Paul assures us when he states,” that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Angels are the agents of God’s care for man. They are actively engaged in protecting us from ‘accidents’ and harm wished upon us by Satan and his angels. The angels jealously carry out the will of God and protect us from all that would thwart God’s plans. Read Psalm 91 and note the joy and security of the Psalmist.

St. Bernard, in a commentary on Psalm 91, points out an important function of the angels. They will protect us. “… ‘He has charged his angels …’ An extraordinary condescension and truly a great proof of [God’s] love. Who has been charged? Why [this special ministry]? …Let us consider the event carefully, brothers. Let us imprint it in our minds … The angels obey God. He has charged his angels to guard you wherever you go. They do not hesitate to carry you in their hands. The Lord has ordered the angels, His angels. For your sake, He has commanded those exalted and glorious beings, those who are close to Him and joined to Him in truth. But who are you …? What has He commanded for your sake? That they guard you.”

All of this is not meant to imply that you will never have problems, for “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Jesus has told us so. But the trouble will not have touched you with out having first passed through the hands of God our Father. And neither will you be confronted with circumstances that have escaped the angel’s notice. Theologians have often spoke of the guardian angels which are assigned to each believer (but especially children). This guardianship may begin in infancy, even at birth. Jesus speaks about children in this way in Matthew 18:10.

That hardships are a part of the life of the Christian is one of the great mysteries of life. To survive them, people need a higher form of aid, assistance that simply can’t be found in the human realm. Ultimately, Jesus shows Himself to be the all-surpassing guardian of our lives. Having taken human form, Jesus brings us the grace of God so that we might personally experience God’s closeness. Such grace empowers us to be God’s holy people, to live in, yet above and apart from the things of this world. Jesus conquered everything that separated us from the Father. He stands in direct relationship with every single believer, helping him and accompanying him.

Subsequent to Christ’s ascension, the believer encounters the presence of God in the church. Baptism imparts God’s grace individually to the believer. It is Baptism which joins us to the church. How could the angels, who are the so closely associated with all the works of God, be any less a part in this work? For as baptized believers we have been recreated, we are God’s work.

1.2. Physical Protection

It is not hard to imagine that our bodies are more frequently in trouble than we are aware. But whether or not we are consciously facing physical harm, the angels are aware of every difficult, dangerous, or trying situation. Explore how God protects us physically with the protecting ministry of angels in two accounts of Scripture: the three men in the fiery furnace—Daniel 3, and Daniel in the lion’s den—Daniel 6.

Explore other examples of physical protection given in Scripture: Hagar and her son, Ishmael, are protected from dying of thirst in the wilderness (Genesis 21:8); Lot’s family is saved from destruction and divine wrath by two angelic messengers who lead them out of the city (Genesis 19:1-29); Elisha is shielded from the assault of the king of Arman (2 Kings 6:8-23); an angel delivers Peter from the hands of a government official who would do him harm (Acts 12:5-11); Paul and his companions are preserved from death in a shipwreck (Acts 27:9-44); even Jesus receives the protection of the angels when in the wilderness they attend Him (Mark 1:12-13).

1.3. Spiritual Protection

Christians are not exempt from attacks instigated by Satan and his demonic forces. However, we are empowered to successfully battle these foes. James writes, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The word translated here as ‘resist’ gives the idea of ‘holding fast.’ The Christian then, can resist Satan by boldly proclaiming the reality of Christ and His love in his life. No one can defeat the devil by their own power. Jesus sends His angels to help us stand firm and defeat demonic foes. Through trust in the Lord’s protection on our behalf, we can command the Devil’s departure from our life.

Paul very clearly calls our life here on earth, and in time, as we know it, “the domain of darkness.” Reading in Ephesians 6.12, depicts that which we struggle against.

(Eph. 6:12) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
(13) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Paul cautions Christians against seeing this struggle in mere human or temporal terms. Verse 12 speaks of that struggle. More specifically, Paul is portraying us as a wrestler (hJ pavlh; i.e., “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood alone …”). In verse 13, Paul exhorts us to “put on the full armor of God” as the only defense by which we can prevail,

When one wrestles, he comes to grips with “flesh and blood;” he comes to grips with his antagonist. Wrestling is only a game, a human game. In this game the wrestler only throws his opponent, he does not set out to kill him as in war. Paul says that we are not participating in mere a hand-to-hand struggle as with a human opponent. But rather, we face a tremendous army comprised of all evil forces of the supernatural world.

Paul show us four flanks of the satanic army against which we struggle:

the rulers;
the authorities;
the powers of this dark world;
the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Every demon has his rule, a domain in which he exercises his ‘authority.’ In Ephesians 1.21, Paul identifies them by name. They are, “the world tyrants of this darkness” (Lenski); more significantly, Paul terms them “the spiritual forces of the wickedness in the heavenly places.” In addition to the abstract designations, Paul also identifies them concretely with personal names and titles.

In verse 13, Paul writes that you are to stand your ground “… Stand firm.” In the context of the verse, it is not a picture of a massive invasion into domain of evil, but of the individual soldier withstanding an onslaught. How then are we to withstand the spiritual forces of Satan as they hurl themselves against us? Paul lists in verses 14-18 the tools given to us by God to wage this warfare. But that is not all. There can be no doubt that angels honor our faithful efforts and work on our behalf toward victory. Every true believer in Christ should be encouraged and strengthened by what David writes in Psalm 34: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Angels are interested spectators, and mark well all we do, for “we have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.” Angels are watching; they mark our path. They superintend the events of our lives and protect the interests of the Lord our God, always working to promote His plans to bring about His highest will for us. God has assigned angelic powers to watch over us.

1.4. Angels – How They Differ From Man

In our discussion of the attributes of angels, it needs to be recognized that frequently Scripture uses the grammatical structure called the ‘privative’ to define the nature of these heavenly beings. A privative is essentially using a positive quality or description in a negative/limiting way, for example: ‘The sky is not as blue as it was on Tuesday’, or ‘Those arriving now will not be as comfortable as those who were seated earlier.’

In this section, we will see how the Bible further defines angels as over and against its descriptions of man.

1.4.1. Angels will be lower than man in redemption

The Bible tells us that God has made man “a little lower than the angels.”Yet it also says angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation.” To understand this, we need to remember that the author of Hebrews is talking about both Jesus and man in these passages. Jesus did “stoop” when He became man; and as a man, He was a little lower than the angels in His humanity — although without losing in any sense His divine nature. But the passage also speaks about men other than Jesus. God has made man head over all creatures of our earthly world, but with respect to his body and his place here on earth, man is lower than the angels who can transcend the earthly domain.
God commands angels to help men since they will be made higher than the angels at the resurrection, so says Jesus in Luke 20: 36. God will alter the temporary lower position of man when the kingdom of God has come in its fullness.

1.4.2. Angels are not heirs of God

Only the Christian is spoken of in all of Scripture as being adopted by God, given the position of honored sons and heirs with Christ. This adoption is a fruit of the obedience of Christ to the will of the Father. He did it to restore us, to rescue us from sin. As the angels have not sinned, they do not know Christ Jesus as their Savior. The holy angels have never lost their original glory and spiritual relationship with God. This assures them of their exalted position in the royal order of God’s creation. But as they are not heirs to God, they must stand aside on the last day when the church on earth becomes the church victorious in eternity. In Hebrews 2:9, we read that Jesus identifies Himself with fallen man by His incarnation. In verse 16, we are informed that His work of salvation is for man alone.

1.4.3. Angels are witnesses of, not participants in, salvation

Scripture tells us that heaven rejoices over the repentance of even one sinner.When a person accepts God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, the angels must surely set all the bells of heaven to ringing with their rejoicing before the throne of the Lamb of God.

Although the angels are aware of God’s love and salvation, they have not personally experienced it. As glorious as the heavenly host must be, the church holds a higher sphere. The is as a result of God’s love — the love which moved Him to give his only begotten Son. So angels, as great as they are, cannot testify to salvation the same way as those who have experienced it. This means that throughout eternity we alone, as glorified believers, will give our personal witness to the salvation God achieved for us by grace, and which we have received through faith in Jesus Christ.

1.4.4. Angels cannot experience the indwelling God

God seals the believer with the gift of the Holy Spirit when he comes to accept Christ as his Savior. Since the angels have never fallen and therefore need no salvation, they have not received the indwelling Spirit of God. Angels do not need the ministry of the Holy Spirit the way believers do. Angels already enjoy the authority endowed upon them by virtue of their creation and continued obedience to God..

Furthermore, redeemed man is not yet glorified. Once God has declared us just He embarks on a process of making us inwardly holy while we live here, outside of eternity. At death, He will make us perfect. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit begins His special ministry as part of God’s saving plan — a ministry the angels cannot perform. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit abides in our hearts. There He guides and directs our lives, conforming our lives to the image of God by making them holy like Christ’s. Angels cannot provide this sanctifying power.

2.0 The Angels In The Heavenly Realm: Who Are The Angels?

When Scripture speaks of the population of heaven, it often uses two distinct terms, “holy ones” and “angels”. After careful study, it becomes evident that while all angels are God’s holy ones, all holy ones not are “angels”; in just the same way as all generals are soldiers, but all soldiers are not generals. ‘Angel’ (from the Greek word a[ggelo~) means ‘messenger’ — ‘one who is sent.’ Not all of God’s holy ones are ‘sent ones.’ Look at one ‘job description’ in Revelation 4.1-9; also, the description of the cherubim of Ezekiel. These holy ones, also called cherubim, seem to have one purpose – to attend the throne of God.
To understand the distinction that Scripture makes at times, look at the following instances where Scripture uses the term “holy ones.” They are: Deuteronomy 33.2, 33.3; Job 5.1, 15.15; Psalm 89.5, 89.7; Isaiah 13.3; Daniel 4.17; Zechariah 14.5; 1 Thessalonians 3.13; Jude 14. As you look at these passages, notice how inclusive the term is. By the time the writers of the New Testament began to set pen to parchment, ‘angel’ had taken on a very homogenous nature. All the shades of meaning from the Old Testament were built into the single concept of ‘angel’. By the time of the New Testament, and still today, ‘angel’ is used for all the attendants of God’s heavenly court.

2.1 Angels Are Beings

Speculation about the nature of angels has been going on since ancient times. There is a vast body of writing about angels both Judeo-Christian as well as pagan. Most of the images we can readily think of as ‘angelic,’ come from the Renaissance and Victorian periods. These are strongly influenced by a common secular pagan notion of angels. Today it would be hard to find anyone who doubts that there is a “spiritual” dimension to reality. Yet, it is also a reality that the largest part of that “spiritual awareness” is dominated by the occult and mysticism – domains of the Devil and his evil spirits.

Through revelation in the Bible, God has chosen to tell us a great deal about his holy ones, the angels. Theologians have readily recognized this and have included angelology (the systematic teaching of the Biblical witness on angels) as part of every important systematic work. Sadly, in modern times, the study of the ‘good’ angels has been greatly eclipsed by the attention given the Devil and all his demons.

2.2. Angels Are Created Beings

Angels belong to a unique dimension of creation. Man, limited to the natural order, can scarcely comprehend it fully. The angels are not glorified saints in heaven. They are not fairies, or nymph-like weirdoes. They are not aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers or children, earning their wings in ‘Clarence fashion’ (Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life ). Neither are they the last link in some mystical or spiritual evolutionary chain, nor are they simply beautiful celestial beings with graceful wings and bowed heads. Instead, the Bible tells us that they were created as a separate classification of beings for the purpose of serving Jesus Christ in His management of the universe.

The Bible states that God created the angels, like man. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Speculation of the creation of angels has occupied theologians for centuries. When we exclude man’s speculation, we have to admit that the biblical account of the creation of angels is unsatisfactory testimony. All that we can be sure of is that at one point, the angels did not exist. Indeed, there was no created reality; there was only the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Paul put it clearly when he said, “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.” Notice the two underlined prepositions, they hold the key to understanding angelic creation. Angels were created both “by” and “for” Jesus Christ. They belong to Him; He is their commander-in-chief. (This is not to say that the Father or the Holy Spirit cannot give the angels their orders, but Scripture attests to only one Person of the Trinity, Jesus, who does this.) The creative Word was, “before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Even the angels would cease to exist if Jesus would chose to no longer sustain them with His power.

2.3. Attributes Of The Angels

Can we determine the angelic attributes and powers from the information that Scripture provides us? Scripture tells us much about the qualities, attributes, and powers of angels while giving no suggestion that the holy ones are baby-like, anthropomorphic, feminine in character, or possessing wings. These are merely concepts that have kept greeting card manufacturers and traditional sacred artists in business. In fact, apart from the winged cherubim and seraphim, these notions are simply artistic renderings.

2.3.1. Angels are pure spirit.

Angels have no physical form; they are not of flesh and blood. There are times when the angels take on a visible form to aid in their contacts with the human race. Whenever Scripture portrays an angel in contact with humans, the angel is described as having the appearance of a man. Read Genesis 18.1-2 and Genesis 19.1-5 as two examples of Scripture’s description of angels. In fact, when angels are visible, they are so strongly associated with normal human form and appearance that the writer of Hebrews states that they can even be entertained as just another stranger, “without [anyone] knowing it.”

Scripture also portrays angelic visitations as stunning occurrences. In most instances when appearing visibly, angels are so glorious and impressively beautiful as to stun and amaze those who witness their presence. Read again the magnificent account of the resurrection in Matthew 28. Matthew describes the angel who rolled the stone away from Christ’s tomb as dressed in a white garment that shone like a flash of brilliant lightening. Notice the effect the angel had on those who witnessed him: the tomb-keepers shook and became as dead men.

When God allowed His messengers to appear visibly in the course of their ministry, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Daniel. and others, had no problem recognizing them. For an example, look to Genesis 32.1-2 to see the instant recognition given the holy ones of God. The Bible indicates, however that angels are most often invisible to human eyes.

Can animals perceive the angel? Reacquaint yourself with the story of Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22.20-34. When the prophet beat the animal for balking in its path, God gave the donkey the power of speech and opened Balaam’s eyes to see what the donkey had seen all along — the angel who would have slain Balaam had he tried to pass.. The donkey was able to see the angel who had been invisible to Balaam.

2.3.2. Angels are not all-knowing.

Angels have a more excellent knowledge than does humankind. In 2 Samuel, King David is said to be “wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all the things that are in the earth.” While angels possess knowledge that men do not have, we can be sure that they are not omniscient. They do not know everything. Prior to the actual redemptive acts of Jesus — his birth, his life as a man, his death, and his resurrection, angels sought in vain to unravel the mystery. Angels are still increasing in their knowledge. Read Mark 13.32 where Jesus testified to the limited knowledge and the lack of foreknowledge, of the angels. Speaking of His second coming, He said, “But of that day and that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven.”

2.3.3. The strength of angels.

The strength and power of God’s angels is spoken of widely in the Bible. In 2 Thessalonians 1.7, Paul refers to the “mighty angels of God.” From Peter we hear, “angels who are greater in might and power [than men] do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” It took only one angel to destroy the first born of Egypt, and one to shut the lion’s mouth for Daniel. David writes of the angels that they “excel in strength.” It took only one to role away the heavy stone of Jesus’ grave, and Michael alone throws down the Dragon in chains on the last day. The angelic figures in the New Testament reach supreme heights, all the way to that mighty angel who comes down from heaven in Revelation 10: “He was robed in a cloud with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. … He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.”

2.3.4. The heavenly host does not increase or decrease.

Angels are not mortal; they are part of God’s eternal creation. Luke tells us that the angels will not know death. Luke also tells us that in the new age yet to come, we will be like the angels in heaven in that we will not marry, hence there will be no procreation in heaven. From this we can ascertain that the number of angels is static, that it has not changed since God created the heavenly host. Even Lucifer, and those who chose to follow him, will not know temporal death. They will be bound and cast down from the presence of God forever. This is without a doubt spiritual death, for what can exist apart from the presence of God.

2.4. Angels In The Heavenly Courts

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands.” There are different kinds of glory. Creatures give glory to God in as much as they recognize the works of God in creation. The “heavens,” being made up of the countless numbers of angels, sing his glory in a different way from the stars, the immense galaxies, or our souls here on earth. The angels, like the saints in paradise, see the glory praised by their song.

As much as we may try, we fall short of comprehending the glories of God’s heaven. Yet we need such a notion if we are to have any concept of the principle office of the angels. The angels form a joyful assembly. For it is certainly their primary role to sing the glory of God. Their contemplation of “the fullness from which all beauty is derived” is a joyful act for these beings whose love knows its object. The angels continually behold the source of their existence, while we, and all creation, long to be in the presence of our Creator. The Psalmist can conceive no greater praise than that of those who now behold the face of God:

Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.

Isaiah shows us his awesome picture of heaven, depicting the endless liturgy of the Seraphim who hover above the throne of God, chanting back and forth “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” John also beheld the glory that is paradise, and portrays for us the ecstasy of the angels:

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory
and power,
for ever and ever!”

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Another function of the office of ‘angel’ is participant in the court of heaven. The legal terminology of Scripture in this regard pictures God holding court — the ultimate Judge allowing his angels, as His attendants, to express their feelings. Micaiah writes of his heavenly vision:

I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’

This function of the angels is never pictured by Scripture as a democracy in the court, or council, of heaven. Scripture is clear on the position of the angels and the supremacy of the LORD. Read Psalm 89.

Notice the position of God above the holy ones — His angelic attendants.

Is there any way in which we can derive from Scripture with certainty that there are ranks or classes of the heavenly host, or that there are holy ones who are never sent? No, there are too many examples where ‘angel’ appears as a general term for any number of members of the heavenly host. This means questions like: “Are cherubim angels, or holy ones?” are really impossible to answer from the witness of Scripture.

2.5. Angels – How They Differ From Jesus Christ

Instead of creating categories, let’s look at the Word to see how angels are seen in relation to Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews, addressing an audience which is skeptical, of the authority of Jesus, draws this distinction clearly, as will be seen in the study below

In the Old Testament angels frequently appeared to God’s people and Jewish Christians knew and respected the high position of these heavenly beings. The author tells us Jesus is eminently “superior” to the angels, using a word that is to appear again and again in Hebrews, thirteen times in all. In fact, Jesus the Savior was superior to anything and everything.

The author of Hebrews lets the Old Testament speak for itself to these Jewish Christians who, being well versed in the Old Testament Scripture, would readily accept its authority. In every chapter of his letter there is a least one quotation from the Old Testament — in chapter one, there a seven! Reading the questions posed by the author we marvel at the depth of the Old Testament.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father” ?
Or again,
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son” ?
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.” Hebrews 1.5-6

The Messiah was at the heart and center of the whole Old Testament Scripture. Skillfully, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit as interpreter, the author shows how the Old Testament testified of Christ.

The first quotation is from Psalm 2. To prove his point that Christ Jesus has a name far greater than the angels, the author quotes verse seven of David’s psalm: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” The Father in heaven is quoted as speaking to his Son. From all eternity, Jesus is God’s Son, second person of the Trinity, true God with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

But the name “Son” is his, also, in a special sense. The angel Gabriel referred to it in Luke 1.32 when he told Mary of that child to be born of her, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” In his incarnation, Jesus inherited the name “Son” also according to his human nature. The God-man Jesus is God’s own Son. On the banks of the Jordan, and on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father said for all to hear, “You are my Son, whom I love.”

In the answer to the author’s question it becomes obvious that Jesus is uniquely the Son of God. Next follows 2 Samuel 7.14: “I will be his Father and he will be my Son.” Spoken originally about Solomon, these words have the deeper meaning of pointing beyond Solomon to David’s greater Son – Jesus. Never was such divine sonship claimed for the angels.

Not only does our author look back, but he also looks ahead. God will again “bring his first born into the world” on that great day of judgement when Christ will surely stand out as “first-born.” Look at John’s preview of that scene in Revelation 5.11-13.

In speaking of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”
But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
He also says,
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” ?
Are not all angels ministering spirits
sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebr. 1:7-14

Superior in name, the Son is also superior in nature. Quoting Psalm 104.4, the author of Hebrews speaks of angels in their exalted position as God’s messengers. Fleet as the wind they carry God’s messages to some; ferocious as fire, they execute His judgment on others. Through the angel, Mary heard the message of God (Luke 1:26-38); through an angel King Herod felt God’s judgment (Acts 12.23). That is all the angels can be – messengers and servants under God’s complete control.

Now look at Psalm 45:6,7 and see the supremacy of the Son.

Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.

“O God.” Both the psalmist and the author of Hebrews calls the Son, “God,” whose throne will last for ever and ever. No mere messenger, but the eternal ruler of all, the perfect ruler whose scepter is righteousness. “Now anointed with the oil of joy,” a reference to the perfect bliss of being at God’s right hand, the ascended God-man rules in heaven.

There is still more. Look at the splendid sunsets, the splashing expanse of the ocean, the seemingly limitless stretch of star-studded sky. While glorious and magnificent, they are creations of an all-powerful God. The Son was there before anything existed. He laid foundations for all that was created. Creation will age and decay, the Creator is eternal and unchanging.

The author concludes with the telling words of Psalm 110:1. No angel has ever heard God say, “Sit at my right hand.” That position of power and glory is reserved for the Son. All His enemies lie helpless in the dust before Him: a footstool beneath His feet. All of history becomes His-story, which He writes in the eternal interest of His church.

And the angels? The best they can do is that for which they were created. They are to be “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” To carry out God’s will for the believer is their task and also their limit. Even the lowliest believers journeying through this life on earth can have angels in their service, but far better to have Him who is in every possible way “superior” to the angels. It is only the eternal Savior who declares, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

3.0. The Fallen Angels: Lucifer And The Demons

A distinguishing feature of the Bible is its faithfulness in recording the life and character of all beings, whether human or angelic, saintly or evil. Within the sacred volume we not only have the biography of man, but also the history of those beings who occupy the foremost rank of created intelligences. In the first part of this study we considered the doctrine of those created beings of heaven, the holy ones of God, those confirmed by God in their holy position.

The Bible also unveils the record of those angels who “left their first estate” and are still in a state of rebellion against their Creator. Sad though it is, there is within Scripture the account of those angelic rebels, outcasts from the favor of God and the bliss of heaven. Here within the Bible, their origin and original happiness, their sad decline, their evil influence upon men, their present destructive work, and their future terrible doom, are brought before us as themes for trembling interest and for solemn warning.

We will consider Satan and the demons as one unit because they were one in their rejection of God’s claim and have remained one since their deposition from heaven. It is their singular and diabolical purpose to thwart God’s benign actions on man’s behalf. Our Lord spoke of “the devil and his angels,” thereby identifying them as one evil brood.

3.1. Satan’s Rise And Fall

It has been asked, “Where the devil did the devil come from?” God is the Creator of all things. Therefore, it was God who created Lucifer. There is no better way to give the account of his creation and his fall, and the disappointment of God, than to read God’s words recorded by Ezekiel.

3.1.1. Background to the text

Ezekiel speaks the word of God against the nation of Tyre in Ezekiel. 27, in Ezekiel. 28.1-10, he speaks judgment against the ruler of Tyre. In Ezekiel 28.11-19, the prophet speaks against the one who, according to variously translations, is called “king,” or “prince.” The angel in Daniel 10.13 uses the same title. Clearly, the Lord, through His prophet, is speaking against the ‘prince’ of Tyre who is directing the affairs of one of the most diabolical nations on the earth at the time. The lament portrays this ‘prince’ as fallen-Lucifer, Satan himself. Now read Ezekiel 28.11-19.

3.1.2. Lucifer: The light bearer of the Lord of Hosts

God created Lucifer the highest of the order of the cherubim. The cherubim comprise that order of the angels that directly serve the throne of God. For a description of their position see Psalm 80:1, 99:1; and 1 Samuel 37:16. Many regard this as the highest order, or rank in the angelic realm. The Lord identifies Lucifer as “the anointed cherub who covers.” Lucifer’s special position was to cover the throne of God. From that exalted position Lucifer, which means “Light-Bearer,” made himself a devil. By his own free act he lost his original supremacy and dignity and turned himself into a usurper, a fiend. Lucifer’s great wisdom, corrupted by pride, developed into craftiness and wickedness. The Light-Bearer through his folly became “The Prince of Darkness.”

3.1.3. The fall of Satan

As the anointed cherub, Lucifer covered God’s throne, that is, he guarded it. But instead of covering it he coveted it, and so Lucifer excluded himself from the ranks of the ‘holy ones.’ His sphere of activity had also included the mountain of God, or God’s special dwelling place. This may imply his original control of God’s original good and perfect creation. Our Lord referred to Satan as the god and prince of this world. During the Temptation, he offered Jesus the kingdom of this world. Were they his to give? Did he originally represent God in His creation? Does he now, by rebellion, hold the kingdom of this world? Explore these positions in Isaiah 14.12; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Luke 10:18; and 2 Peter 3:4-8.

Scriptures declares plainly that Lucifer fell from his high and privileged position. His beauty caused his heart to be lifted up in pride. His own brightness brought about his corruption. Isaiah, chapter 14:12-14, gives additional information about Lucifer. Lucifer became Satan when he tried to make himself not only equal with God, but as one above God. Note the fivefold personal pronoun “I” in the text. The “I will” spirit is the spirit of rebellion. Lucifer exulted at the thought of being the center of power throughout the universe. Pride was his overthrow. In Lucifer’s plan the creature would be over the Creator. Lucifer sinned against the divine sovereign of heaven as a result.

3.1.4. Rebellion in heaven

The Apostle Paul understood and spoke of the war of rebellion in the heavens when he referred to the former Lucifer, now Satan, as “the prince of the powers of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” He also says that in fighting the satanic forces of the kingdom of darkness we are struggling “against the powers of this dark world… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
John tells us, “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them down to the earth.” Leslie Miller, in his book, All About Angels, points out from Scriptural evidence that angels are sometimes referred to as ‘stars’. This reinforces the fact that before his fall, one of Lucifer’s titles was “Star of the Morning.” One third of heaven’s angelic host joined Lucifer in his rebellion against God and His works.

3.2. Satan’s History And Character

The Bible offers no evidence that Satan was ever benevolent, good, loving, kind, gentle, admirable, or patient. Although still an angelic being, Satan has never manifested any of those angelic graces and qualities which characterize the holy angels. From the moment of his fall, Satan, along with his evil hosts, labored with superhuman power to destroy the beneficial work of God. Who and what Satan is can be gathered from Scripture’s references to him.

3.2.1. Concerning his reality

In opposition to some who deny that there is a real or personal source of evil in Christian theology, the Bible presents Satan as a real being. Explore his reality in 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7; Psalm 109:6; Zechariah 3:1, 2; 1 Peter 5:8, 9; and Revelation 12:7-12.

Christ dealt with Satan as a real being — see Matthew 4.1-11 and Luke 4.1-13; and waged war with him as a real person — read Luke 10.18,13: 16, also see Acts 10.38; 1John 3.8; Revelation 12.7-12, 13.1-4, and Revelation 20.1-10.

Personal singular pronouns are made of Satan’s name, and he is credited with personal statements. For examples of this read Job 1.6-12; Isaiah 14.12-14; Ezekiel 28.11-17; Zechariah 3.1; Matthew 4.1-10; and Jude 9.

3.2.2. Concerning his name

There are no less than thirty-five descriptions, names and titles given of Satan. Each of these are an indication his personality and what Lucifer became when he was deposed by God. Each designation carries its own significance. None of them are good. While some of Satan’s titles picture his authority, others depict his attitude. Still others depict the Devil’s actions. Satan’s diabolical character is revealed in these various descriptions. Stephen D. Swihart’s informs us of these names and titles of Satan in his book, Angels in Heaven and Earth. His charts are reproduced in Appendix B: Concerning the Name of Satan, for further study.

3.3. The Work Of Satan

His diabolical activity against man and creation is designed to disrupt the redemptive purpose of God, and the peace of man. In the following discussions will define the spheres of Lucifer’s influence examine the role the Devil plays in the life of the believer. As we begin this study God who has declared that He will not always tolerate the evil work of Satan strengthens us.

3.3.1. …In heaven

One of the chief activities of Satan occurs before the throne of God. Here Satan earns his title of Devil. “Devil” comes from the Greek term diavbolo~, the term that also gives us the English terms “diabolic” and “diabolical.” In the Greek, the title clearly identifies Satan as the one who “sets [others] in opposition,” “accuses,” and “gives false information.” John outlines the activity of Satan in Revelation 12.10 when he says: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”

Day and night the Devil slanders Christians before our God. But for what reason, for what result? We may be inclined to believe that all he has to say are untruths. Satan is, after all, called the “Father of Lies,” But Satan does not lie because he is unable to do otherwise. Satan lies when it pleases him and advances his evil purposes. He will use the truth if there is any hope that it will do the same. Keeping Job 1-2 in mind, let’s look at the scenario which scripture describes for us.

Satan appears before God and begins to run through the list names and makes his charges against them. , Those being charged are the people he wants to wrestle away from God, people reclaimed through baptism. Satan presents a list of Christian names. When Satan (the Prosecuting Attorney) appears before the throne of God (the Judge) with his detailed list of complaints against Christians, the court of heaven is convened. When we sin, one of the devil’s cohorts notes the offense and informs Satan himself. Satan takes great satisfaction in reporting the disobedience which is so prevalent among Jesus’ so-called faithful followers. The Devil hopes to inflict some trial in these believers lives just as he did in the case of Job.

When Satan’s charge is brought before the Father, He then turns to Jesus (the Defense) for the response. If the accused has repented of his sins, Jesus responds that there is no record of sin against him. The Father pronounces the believer innocent on account of the cleansing blood of His Son, and all accusations against the Christian are nullified.

If the accused Christian has not repented, and Satan brings his accusations before God, the one being charged is seen guilty of the charge. The truth convicts without defense. The just and righteous Father is compelled to render judgement against this sin. God seems to satisfy Satan’s appetite, for the moment, as a sentence of chastisement is rendered against the unrepentant Christian. Why does God permit Satan to continue his devilish work? Why has Satan been allowed to continue his work against the believer and not bound with chains and cast into everlasting darkness as other demons have been? Let’s look at some of the discernible reasons why God continues to suffer His saints to be tried by Satan’s wiles and machinations.

One wise and holy end of Satan’s temptations is to try the believer. He tempts that he may deceive and destroy. But God permits him to tempt to try us. “Temptation is a touchstone to try what is in the heart” writes Dr. Herbert Lockyer. Job’s sincerity was tried by temptation. Satan told God that Job was a hypocrite and only served Him for what Job could get out of it. God permitted Satan to tempt Job, but Job did not curse God to His face; Job remained holy and worshiped God. Temptations for Job were the touchstone of sincerity.

Another purpose that God has in permitting Satan to tempt the believer is that his courage might be tried and strengthened. Satan’s darts may be most fiery, but our love, a reflection of God’s love in our life, is strong protection. Temptations met and triumphed results in the development of character and faith.
Additionally, suffering under the temptations of the Devil produce fruits of faith for the believer. Some of these fruits are patience, joy, knowledge, and maturity.

Then, too, God suffers His children to be tempted that they may be humble. For Paul, the thorn in the flesh – the messenger of Satan – was designed to prick the bladder of pride, which it did.

Temptation is a teaching tool. In all our temptations we are encouraged and sustained by the fact that Christ was tempted in all the same points we are. We are the beloved of the Lord. Jesus sympathizes with us, lifts us up as we face Satan in our wilderness, and preserves us as the apple of His eye.

Finally, it the temptations which we have encountered wich enable us to comfort others and to speak words of strength, hope, and compassion to those who are weary and beaten down through Satan’s confrontations. From our failures we can warn others of the stumbling blocks erected for the Christian by Satan. From our victories, we are able to succor those beset by the stratagems of the Devil.

3.3.2. …In this world

Scripture (and experience) offer abundant evidence that there is a vast number of evil spirits who, like their devilish leader, are free to roam the heavenly places and over the earth. With the devil they too fell into condemnation through pride, and since then they have been the adversaries of both God and man. These are the demons prominent in heathen mythology, and referred to by the Psalmist who wrote, “The gods of the heathen are demons.” Paul, writing to the Corinthians, speaks of Gentiles as sacrificing “to demons and not to God.”

The word ‘demon’ (daivmon) is used only in Matthew 8.31. Yet, daimovnion, ‘demonic,’ and the implied evil, pervades Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. While ‘devil,’ is used of Satan, its meaning of ‘adversary,’ ‘false accuser,’ ‘one who throws down,’ ‘a slanderer;’ is used of all evil spirits (as well as of men who are false accusers and slanderers).Other designations used by the Biblical writers for the demons, or devils, are ‘familiar spirits,’ ‘unclean spirits,’ ‘evil spirits,’ ‘seducing spirits.’ The Bible emphatically states that traffic with the demon spirits is forbidden.

As to the nature of the demons, Scripture makes it plain that they are intelligent and wise ‘angelic’ beings — powerful but not almighty, evil spirits without corporeal substance, inhuman yet seeking human possession, having knowledge but not omniscience, having faith and feelings, having wills, emotions and desires, and having their own doctrine. In the great tribulation of the last days, miraculous powers will be theirs. The demons are fierce and wrathful.

3.3.3. …And in the sky

Satan and his demonic hosts are boldly opposed to God’s plans. That means Satan must also be in constant confrontation with God’s angelic hosts. Satan’s war with God is not so much a direct combat situation as it is an indirect one. The devil utilizes a great variety of weapons in attacking both the angels and people.

When Daniel prayed for insight so that he might understand the revelation God had given to him, Daniel’s request was answered in heaven immediately. But Daniel had to wait for twenty-one days before he personally received God’s reply. Why the delay? Because God’s angel was prevented by Satan’s army from getting through any sooner.

The Lord informed Moses that he would not see the Promised Land. Moses’ ministry would only take the tiny nation of Israel to the doorway of Canaan. So Moses died in the wilderness. After his death, the archangel Michael had to dispute “with the devil about the body of Moses.”

Another illustration comes to us, not from the past, but from the future. In the vision granted John by the Holy Spirit, we are told of a time when Satan and all of his assistants will engage in the hottest battle ever experienced by angelic hosts of God. The actual period of this hostility will occur prior to Christ’s second coming. At that time Satan’s world will be greatly shaken. Not a single member of Satan’s army will escape the crushing defeat.

Once cast out of the heavenly realms, Satan will work on the earth with haste and great anger. He knows that it only a matter of time before his oppressors will follow him here. Satan will confront men swiftly and bitterly for a short time. The godly legions of heaven will round up these evil spirits and cast them into the abyss.

During the first resurrection, the “thousand year reign of Christ,” Satan and his doomed followers are imprisoned. For a short time following, John tells us, “Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth …to gather them for battle.” But Satan’s offensive assault is doomed from the start. Again, God’s angels will capture them. This time they will be sentenced to spend “forever and ever” tormented in a lake of burning sulfur.

Satan and his monstrous host fear God whom they rebelled against. They are cognizant of their deserved eternal fate. Doomed themselves, they desire to take as much of mankind with them to eternal hell as they can. Billy Graham writes:

We live in a perpetual battlefield -the great War of the Ages continues to rage. The lines of battle press in ever more tightly about God’s own people. The wars among nations on earth are merely popgun affairs compared to the fierceness of battle in the spiritual conflict is waged around us incessantly an unremittingly. Where the Lord works, Satan’s forces hinder; where angel beings carry out their divine directions, the devils rage. All this comes about because the powers of darkness press their counterattack to recapture the ground held for the glory of God.

3.4. Overcoming Satan: Our Response As Christians

From the same pericope of Scripture that tells us of Satan’s accusations against believers before the throne of God, we learn of the believers’ threefold defense against him. John writes that they overcame the devil by:

  1. the blood of the Lamb
  2. the word of their testimony
  3. not loving their lives so much as to shrink from death.

The first of these three items has already been discussed. By confessing our sins, and having them removed by the blood of Jesus shed upon the cross. Our Lord stands before the throne of God and declares us innocent. Living a life grounded in repentance is our defense against the wiles of Satan.
The second piece of artillery that we can effectively launch against Satan is the verbal confession of Jesus not only as Savior, but also as our Lord. Some believers prefer to be “silent witnesses.” But the Bible knows no such disciples (see John 12.42-43). The victory of Christ in a believer’s life is always best seen among those who testify openly and unashamedly.

The third weapon we can use against the Devil is self-denial. The more we are involved in securing the well being of others, the less opportunity exists for Satan to be able to tackle and cripple us. Those Christians who have learned to practice their Christian-love fervently have also found a way of overcoming Satan.

Simply stated, the best defense against Satan is a strong offense with Jesus Christ! Satan is now a defeated foe. Calvary was his Waterloo. Therefore, it is our solemn responsibility to constantly claim victory on the grounds of Jesus’ victory secured on the cross. By faith we appropriate all which Christ secured for us when He destroyed the works of the devil. We follow Him in the train of His triumph. Last of all, let it never be forgotten that Satan cannot exceed the limits set before him by God. When God says to Satan, “No further!” then he must stay his attacks. God knows how much of Satan’s assault we can bear, and stands close at hand to deliver us.

Our only resource against these hosts of wickedness are watchfulness, prayer, and appropriation of the victory of Christ won for us through his life, death, resurrection and glorious reign at the right hand of His Father. Abundant provision has been made for us. By the grace and power of Christ we are invincible.

4.0 Conclusions

Why study angels? Are they really important? Francis Pieper categorizes the doctrine of the angels as “non-fundamental doctrine.” Many have used such categories to limit or neglect certain avenues of study. That is not Pieper’s intent. Pieper makes this clear when he writes:

But the Christian faith should concern itself also with these non-fundamental doctrines. The knowledge of them serves faith, inasmuch as …the doctrine of angels sheds additional light upon the goodness of God, causing faith to sing anew of the goodness and grace of Him who made the angels ‘ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation’ (Heb 1.14). Faith certainly profits by the articuli non-fundamentales [non-fundamental doctrines]. …Furthermore, the denial of non-fundamental doctrines endangers faith. It involves the denial of the divine authority of Scripture. One who knows that the doctrine concerning the angels and their work is taught by Scripture and still refuses to believe in angels, is certainly rejecting the authority of Scripture. …Though we know that these articles are not fundamental, says Baier, ‘we must be at the same time on our guard lest by embracing and teaching error we rashly sin against the divine revelation and against God Himself’ (Compendium I, 65).

Martin Chemnitz writes, “The consideration [of the usefulness of and value of the doctrine of the angels] is profitable for several reasons.

  1. for doctrine, namely to show what great dignity has been added to our nature, since it was assumed by the Son of God, These holy and pure spirits minister to us who, even the purest of us, are constantly polluted in our unrighteousness. Yet nowhere does Christ call the angels His brothers.
  2. It is also profitable to teach that things are going well in the church, the state, and the home when we are preserved from danger, and do not conclude that this has happened either by accident or by our own prudence …admitting that God has commanded His good angel to protect us.
  3. It is profitable for our comfort …when we consider the craftiness, the power and the thousand tricks of the devil…
  4. Thus because the craftiness and power of the devils are greater and on the other hand the blessing and protection of the good angels are great also, we must fervently pray that God’s holy angel be with us and then that Satan find no occasion to go against us.

Furthermore, this teaching is entirely clear, if we only gather together the Scripture passages.

Part Three: Popular Angelology

Interest in angels and angel lore has increased in recent years. Books recounting personal experience with angels, as well as the history of angels in art and religion, top the religious best-seller lists. One in every ten pop songs mentions an angel. Angel conferences, clubs, and organizations are drawing people nationwide; There is a resurgence of angels in art, prose, and poetry that hasn’t been seen since the Middle and Renaissance Ages. For perhaps the first time since the Middle Ages, writes Gustav Neibuhr in The Wall Street Journal, “the ranks of angelologists are swelling.”

It does not take long, looking at the participants of this new era of angels, to see that there is little, if any, connection with the biblical witness concerning angels. In this section, we will explore how the mighty cherubim of the Garden of Eden have been turned into the rosy-cheeked infants that adorn everything from T-shirts to greeting cards, children’s books to churches. When did the army of God’s angels turn into beautiful pasteboard maidens in extravagant gowns? Ultimately we need to ask, “Are the angels of today’s culture still God’s messengers, or have they become pagan icons thinly veiled in a Christian terminology”?

1.0. Angel Lore Of The Ancient Ages

The reality of angels has been a part of the tradition and lore of every culture from the beginning of recorded time. Many of the Church fathers teach that such knowledge is a part of each culture because an angel has been appointed for each nation. No matter how corrupted by sin and idolatry a nation may become, the angel reveals the truth of God through the natural world. In a sermon, Paul declares: “In the past, He let all nations go their own way. Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” In the early Greek translation of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 32.8 supports this tradition.[Footnote 2: The BHS of Dt 32:8 reads: .la´âr:c]yI ynEèB] rPæ`s]mi˝l] µyMi+[' tlø∞buG“ b~Xey" µd:=a; ynE∞B] /˝d™yrIp]h’˝B] µyI±/G ˜Ÿ/yl][, lj´¶n“h'˝B] The footnote in the text reads: “The Dead Sea Scrolls reads la ynB, sons of God. [Hebrew-English Old Testament, ed. John R. Kohlenberger III (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987)].] Moses writes: “When the Most High divided the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. And His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord.”

Whether this may or may not substantiate the ancient tradition of guardian angels for the nations, ultimately rests on one’s translation of a difficult text. Many suggest that, while in the early conquering days of the Semites, many traditions of religion and the divine became a part of the young culture’s understanding of religion and the divine. Further, when the revelation came to Abram that there is a single God, not a pantheon of gods, a certain amount of revision and realignment was necessary to bring the old traditions and new revelations together into a consistent religion for the Hebrews. Many difficulties arise from this approach; the greatest of these is the lack of any biblical support.

Anthropologists and sociologists tell us that every culture has a belief in those things that are unseen, a sense of the divine. Even the most primitive people ‘know’ that there is something that drives the events around them; they sense God. Paul testifies of this when he writes: “He has not left himself without testimony.” What is hard to explain is the almost universal symbolism used by most peoples when they try to interpret their understanding of the divine. Over and over, again and again, the gods and angels of pagan cultures are depicted as being winged, and in many cases all-seeing, or many-eyed. There is great and logical significance to wings. In Near Eastern culture, being ‘under ones wing’ expresses care and protection. Wings also represent swiftness, the understanding that the angels can move effortlessly and gracefully, free of time and space and human weakness, hovering between us and all harm.

Anthropologists and sociologists may talk of a common consciousness, a shared understanding. The Bible knows no such shared inheritance except the inheritance of sin. The one thing we can be absolutely sure of is, that left in sin, man cannot truly recognize the testimony that creation gives of God without twisting and perverting it. The resultant denial of God is the real work of sin.

Can we then come to a Biblically supported understanding of the ancient traditions of angels that grew up along side of the Hebrew beliefs? Not in absolute terms. This author contends that it is the surrounding culture that has appropriated the knowledge of angels from the Semites and then Hebrews, instead of the other way around. In Section 1.1.5, above, we read:

It is impossible to know how long the garden and the cherubim remained. Quite possibly they continued until the Flood in Noah’s time. However long it was, it seems to have been sufficiently long enough to have forever impressed mankind.

Moses’ account of the cherubim is the preeminent Old Testament witness of angels. What a sight this must have been: the Garden of God’s goodness, guarded by the angels of God’s glory. Such an awesome witness to the presence and glory of God cannot be imagined or underestimated. Surely the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve witnessed these divine guardians, and their children, and their children’s children. Moses never records that the Garden ever ceased to exist. Is this an oversight? In fact, there is no internal evidence to support a pre-flood end of the Garden of Eden or its guardians.

If the genealogies of Genesis are taken seriously, there is a total of 1,656 years from the Creation to the Flood. It is interesting to note that Adam lived until Lamech, the father of Noah, was fifty-six years old. Noah was born only fourteen years after the death of Seth. Following the traditions of the ancient world and Near East, it is most likely the oldest living patriarch maintained the primary responsibility for preserving and promulgating God’s Word to his contemporaries. Considering the biblical testimony, there were only two, maybe three, men in line before Noah who had this responsibility: Adam; possibly Enoch; and Methuselah, who died in the same year as the flood. If Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the progenitors of all the people that now exist, did not themselves see the Garden and the cherubim, the family history surely spoke of it; they may have even heard grandfather Lamech, or great-grandfather Methuselah speak of their personal knowledge of Adam, and ‘the stories he would tell.’
It is not at all unsupported that stories of the Garden and the cherubim entered the tradition of the ancient peoples of the post-flood world by first-hand, ‘eye-ball’ witnesses, and that the family tradition, that being the account as Noah received it from his fathers, supported and fed what would become a “common” understanding of angels. However distorted and corrupted by sin they may be, the ancient accounts of angels and the divine stem from the fundamental knowledge of God’s truths as revealed to Adam and his children; Terah and his children; Jacob and his children, the nation of Israel.

1.1. Angels Of The Near And Middle East

The inherent power of angels and their position and ability to mediate between humanity and deity has made the angel a pan-cultural phenomenon that has endured for all of recorded time. There are angels in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism. Winged figures appear in nearly every ancient religion. Egyptian tombs and reliefs host a myriad of gods depicted in every form from jackals to bulls, whose deity is expressed by the presence of wings. Etruscan art contains the familiar motif of the super human winged being so beautifully fitted to the artifacts on which they are portrayed that one might conceive them as expressions of the artist’s imagination — but are, in fact, an essential part of the Etruscan beliefs.
Mithra, the Persian god, was adopted by Zoroastrians as an angelic mediator between humans and their creator six centuries before Christ, while the Greeks and then the Romans gave the power of flight to their gods and the followers of those gods.

Polytheistic cultures contained a belief in winged minor gods, but the concept of a wholly good intermediary was less developed than in the West. Where there exists many little deities, some kind, some mischievous — but all approachable, the angel mediator was less necessary than in the monotheistic religions in which an intermediary intercedes with a distant deity.

1.2. Angels Of The Inter-Testamental Age

In the period between the writing of the Old Testament and the Talmud, the holy book of the Jews, a complicated catalogue of angels was developed. The Christian community was obviously aware of these traditions, but there is little evidence they used these in their writings to the young church in the first centuries.

1.3. Angels In The Tradition And Religion Of The West (Europe)

The angels of Judaism are the ones which have most affected the European concept of angels. Judaism forbade the portrayal of images of the divine. Thus, their descriptions of angels were handed down in words rather than pictures. Because of the elasticity of language, and the inherent mystery attached to the accounts, there always seems to be room for speculation and debate. Succeeding generations of clerics and philosophers pondered the exact nature of angels, their possible corporeality, their power of flight, their spiritual superiority over man, their habitation of space. These were the absorbing preoccupations of clever man who had no scientific basis for their studies, who made the most of every biblical allusion and over analyzed phrase. The impossibility of certainty in the body of knowledge then available and their longing for a logical grounding for their faith, forced these early philosophers into torturous hair-splitting arguments.

1.3.1. Middle Ages.

Medieval theologians believed that angels had to exist to fill the gap between God and humankind. Fear of death and fear of damnation inspired a belief in winged spirits who could move easily between the layers of the universe. Angels were said to move the stars, spin the planets, make plants grow and help creatures reproduce. Where did this expanded notion of the role of angels originate? One can see it coming from the influence of the ‘Evil Horde,’ the Moors who began to sweep across Europe. While we cannot deny that the reintroduction of the gems of Hellenistic learning preserved by the Moores reignited European imagination, it was the very same influence that transformed the West’s understanding of angels. The popular imagination of angels accommodated themselves easily to pagan beliefs, to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and especially during the Moorish period of European conquest, back into Christianity.

The old order of angles, the cherubim and seraphim, were set side by side with the water spirits, wood nymphs and the flying cup bearers of Dionysis in churches all over Europe. By the time of the Middle Ages, roofs, doorways, and pew ends were decorated with angels as well as imps and gargoyles.
Little differentiation was made between these images by the average citizen of the church. Some Christian scholars questioned the danger of idolatry mingled with the Church’s high regard of angels. These doubts were swept aside by the Council of Nicaea’s formal approval of the veneration of angels in 325. But it was not until the explosion of ideas and techniques in Renaissance Italy that the full glory of the concept of angels was reached and entered into the mainstream of the culture of the church through art, literature, and scientific advancement.

1.3.2. The European Renaissance

No longer bound by the prohibition of depicting the divine, the developed skills and techniques of the Renaissance artists brought forth angels sweeping, soaring, floating over ceilings, walls and altarpieces. With the elevation of the place of art and the painter under the patronage of the princes of church and state, angels became not only spiritual subjects, but useful aids in composition.

During this period, the new understanding of anatomy and perspective continued the incorporation and confusion of pagan motifs into the Christian concept of angels. Having the advanced knowledge of how the human body was put together, how various parts related to the whole, artists were encouraged to make more human and sensual portrayals of the body. Most of the angels which populated Renaissance heavens are far from spiritual in appearance, their rosy buttocks and embracing nude and semi-nude bodies reveal the delight in the painter’s new found ability to make the figures real and earthy while retaining the powers of flight.

The angel became the single most recognized symbol for the Renaissance — its winged flight representing the freed imagination of the age. What became painfully noticeable in this period, however, is that, without any apparent religious or philosophical discussion, angels had become female. It is this image of the beautiful feminine angel figure that has lived in the imagination of succeeding generations. The Renaissance angel gradually but perceptibly flew outside the boundaries of recognized religious doctrine.

1.3.3. Reason and Reformation

The questioning spirit of the Renaissance led eventually to rebellion against the corruption and decay of the Roman church. Because the basic tenant of the Protestant Reformation was its rejection of anything that smacked of Rome, the extravagance and conspicuous splendor of Rome was suspicious. Adherents chose unadorned simplicity as their way of life, and direct communications between man and God as the way of the new religion. The ideal of a hierarchy within a spiritual kingdom was to have little appeal for post-Reformation leaders intent upon creating a new church polity wherein worshipers might speak to their Maker directly without intermediaries – even the angels. This was a reactionary church in which simplicity was more important than adornment, and decoration became almost blasphemous. For zealots among the reformers, and for the evangelicals who followed them, flying angels were worse than superfluous.

It seemed easy in this era to run into trouble on the subject of angels. The very mystery attached to them invited speculation, and speculation could so easily be adjudged heresy. In England learned men were lured by the popularity of the belief in flying spirits, claiming to have the means of summoning angels at will. Confusion between astrology, alchemy, and the supernatural made it easy for men like astrologer John Dee, with his angelic stone, to claim magical powers and angel allies for himself. To question the existence of angels, whether for Christians or Jews was even more dangerous than to claim alliance with them. Johann Kepler (1571-1630), the noted German astronomer and mathematician who designed a law of celestial mechanics, suggested that the movement of the planets might be accounted for by the angels who would push them around the sky, however regular and predictable their actions might be. Baruch Spinoza (1623-77), the seventeenth century Dutch philosopher who dared to write that angels were an hallucination, was cursed and expelled from his community in Amsterdam. Scholars, not wanting to raise the ire of the public, contorted their thinking to reconcile their scientific doubts with traditional faith.
Even when the Protestants’ dissent settled into a less embattled orderliness, bareness and directness were the admired virtues. Their new-found faith was expressed as differently as possible from the glories of pre-reformation adornment. The Puritan churches of England, white and plain, are some of the clearest examples of these values, and have within them no room for angels. No matter how strident and enthusiastic the dissidents were in abandoning the forms and symbols of the Old Church, popular belief would not surrender the idea of angels. Just as the early church had found it expedient to incorporate pagan forms into the corps of the heavenly host, Protestants gave a blinded nod to the presence of angels, though not in the church. Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael could beat no wing within the chapel, but in the chapel’s graveyard a legion of small winged figures adorned the gravestones of even the humble dead. This, in fact, reflected what was seen as the chief role of the angels in the seventeenth century, the bearer of the souls of the dead, as in this child’s prayer:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Bless the bed that I lie on.
Four corners to my bed,
four angles there be spread:
Two angels at my head,
Two to watch and two to pray
And two to bear my soul away.

1.3.4. da Vinci to Ruskin: The depiction of angels in the seventeenth to twentieth centuries

At the same time the debate raged on the continent over the place of angels in the church, the Italian Renaissance was still fueling interest in the angels in philosophy, art, decoration, and lore. The religious belief of angels in the seventeenth century might falter, but the Europeans’ delight in their decorative and aesthetic qualities saw no ebbing.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the majestic images of the biblical angel had fallen from grace. The only vestige of their glorious Renaissance existence was the night-gowned figures seen in the nineteenth century. Enid Gauldie cites three reasons for the angels fall from grace. Protestantism moved away from the need for intercessionaries; skepticism and scientific discovery produced a climate of doubt in the face of which angels could not fly.” “But the real culprit in the dwindling of angels was the spread of industrialization.” Angels, along with much of the glory of the Renaissance, were weakened by the increasing alarm and recognition of the degradation of women and children in the slums created by the technologies and the industries which advanced them both. Artists reflected the new value system that arose as society, especially the growing middle class, began to recognize the miserable conditions in which their fellow human beings were living in. These nineteenth century angels tend to be pale, sad, and flat compared to their Renaissance sisters. They are often depicted drooping over a miserable humanity. In contrast to the less than healthy children of the working class was the cherubs’ growing roundness and rosy bloom. It was out of recoil and embarrassment over suffering that the Victorian age sprang, expressing its longing for an ideal, pure, virtuous, and essentially untouched woman, even in their images of angels. Victorian angels were far removed from the carnal humanity of the Renaissance and embodied the spotless maidenhood that was the Victorian ideal of the perfect wife.

The nineteenth century saw another major influence in artistic style and technique – the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Forerunner among them was John Ruskin. His rejection of human sexuality and the preference for sentimentality ensured that by the time technology made possible cheap color printing, the image of the angel produced for the popular market would be the sickly-sweet (and fully clothed) figure of the Victorian child’s scrapbook, and the infant greeting card industry.

It was the great twentieth century wars that bore witness to the human need for spiritual help in unbearable situations and rekindled the Judeo-Christian image of the angel, even if in highly anthropomorphic forms. The flexible image of the angel which was created was only limited by the needs of the moment. Countless soldiers testified they witnessed the appearance of awesome power in the skies over the battlefields, the famed Angel of Mons. Sadistic camp officials were labeled the Angels of Death, Red Cross nurses were called Angles of Mercy.

2.0. Angelology Of The New Age

Prior to the New Age, the quintessence of authentic Christian experience of angels is that such experience does not dwell on the angel. As ‘messenger’ the angel is understood in the context of the Near East and Greco-Roman cultures from which the term arose, the messenger only has relevance, authority, and power in direct relation to the message and the one who dispatched them. Message and messenger are inexorably bound, and together do nothing more than transport the will of the sender. Undue concentration upon the angelic has the effect of distracting us from God. Thus, we have the account of John, “At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” Again, awed by the glories he has seen and the person of the angel, John writes, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’” That is the hallmark of a genuinely Christian encounter with an angel: it directs us to God. Even the pagan infested images of angels which increasingly predominate the eras since Christ maintained solid vestiges of this archetypal understanding of angels.

Of the ‘angels’ of the New Age we can no longer say this. If the angels of the Renaissance flew out of the bounds of Christian doctrine, in the popular angelology of the late twentieth century, ‘angels’ have been jet-propelled so far out of the Christian sphere that New Age angelology can only be seen as opposed to Christianity.

2.1. Sophy Burnham

Of the modern day angelologists, Sophie Burnham has emerged as the popular guru. Her first book, A Book of Angels, spent many weeks on the ‘Best Seller’ list in 1990. She has since written the sequel, Angel Letters. Together these books have sold over 766,00 copies with A Book of Angels entering its 30th printing. Burnham is widely quoted on the subject and has been featured on the PBS show In Search of Angels and the NBC specials Angels and Angels II: Beyond the Light, and episodes of CBS’s short-lived series Miracles and Other Wonders.

Burnham identifies several marks that identify angels. By these marks one can judge whether an angel or, say, a ghost, has visited them.

“Angels are different [than ghosts], and no one who has seen an angel ever mistakes it for a ghost. Angels are remarkable for their warmth and light, and all who see them speak in awe of their iridescent and refulgent light, of brilliant colors, or else of the unbearable whiteness of their being. You are flooded with laughter, happiness.”

Burnham continues,

“This is one mark of an angel. It brings a calm and peaceful serenity that descends sweetly over you, and this is true even when the angel is not seen.” “This is the second mark of an angel. Their message is always: ‘Fear not!’ Don’t worry , they say, ‘Things are working out perfectly. Your’re going to like this. Wait.’ Never once do you hear of an angel trumpeting bad news, and when we think about dying, well that’s what we want to hear from the Angel of Death.: peace and joy and light.” “And this is the third mark of an angel. You remember; you are never quite the same again.”

Burnham’s propositions imply that, in this new age of angels, it’s important to be able to discern that an angel is present. Yet, Abram needed no guidelines for recognizing the angels who approached his tent. Daniel did not have to guess whether it was a ghost or an angel who appeared to him, nor did the women at the tomb on Easter morning. These are gentle creatures which Burnham speaks of. There is no room in the new age of angels for the mighty, valiant beings of God’s court. There is no understanding of an angel who can bring a message of death and destruction like that visited on the first born of Egypt in Moses day, or like that visited on Herod in the Apostles day. There is no room for an angel who, by the command of God, will pour out pestilence and plague, some of the judgments of the Last Days recounted in John’s Revelation, or the two who called down fire and brimstone, destroying Sodom and Gomorrah.
“I never thought much of them,” writes Burnham. “For one thing, they arrive in so slight a form as to appear inconsequential. Easily ignored.” Nancy Gibb, in her article for Time, observes:

In their modern incarnation, these mighty messengers and fearless soldiers have been reduced to bit-size beings, easily digested. The terrifying cherubim have become Kewpie-doll cherubs. For those who choke too easily on God and his rules, theologians observe, angels are the handy compromise, all fluff and meringue, kind, non-judgmental. And they are available to everyone, like aspirin. …Only in the New Age would it be possible to invent an angel so mellow that it could be ignored.

And so Mrs. Burnham needs to school those who would choose to recognize angels just how they might be recognized. It is important not to miss a possible chance encounter. “Still it seems perfectly correct to disbelieve in a Higher Power until you’ve got some proof,” states Burnham.

To believe in God or in a guiding force because someone tells you to is the height of stupidity. We are given senses [with which] to receive our information. We are given experiences of our own. With our eyes we see, and with our skin we feel. With our intelligence it is intended that we understand. But each person must puzzle it out for himself or herself. And that seems to be what the joke of living is about.
What Burnham has done is turn the eyes inward instead of heavenward in the search of angels. The premier angelologist of the New Age states that angels are “imaginings, …intuitions, insights, the sudden bolts from the blue that give artists their vision and scientists the solution to their calculations.… What do we learn from the strange tale [of Jacob wrestling with an angel all night] except that even in nomadic times men wrestled with their guilty inner selves?” The power and possibility of the New Age angel is in each person. Thus, all the stories, myths and lore have equal footing for Burnham. The angels of the Jews, the Christians and the Hindus are all valid revelations. The shamanistic visions of the American Indians and the winged animal deities of the ancient Near East are equally valid with the angels of Scripture.

One of the appeals of a New Age prophet like Sophy Burnham is that she can effectively couch the prevalent thoughts of the Movement in the comfortable familiarity of Christian sounding words. At best she stands with a foot in each world unable to recognize the chasm she is attempting to straddle.

2.2. The Movement Behind the New Age of Angels

To understand this criticism a brief examination of the social-spiritual movement commonly called New Age’ is necessary. So much baggage has been pumped into the term ‘New Age’ that even those who used the term of themselves in the 1970’s and early 1980’s abandoned the umbrella term and chose to speak of the different aspects in separate and distinct terms. This can make the task of getting an understanding of the New Age Movement (NAM) something akin to holding a slippery eel. However, commentators and critics recognize the various emphases as the appendages of a many-legged octopus, the head of which is continually attempting to disguise the connections with an inky black poison.

That there is great diversity among the adherents of the NAM can’t be denied. For the serious humanists in the Movement, the spiritualists and the occultist are rejected as being too fantastic. Yet there are basic principles which, to varying degrees, define the roots of all the Various camps within the Movement. The following propositions state the principles of the NAM.

2.2.1. God is impersonal and not separate or distinct from creation.

God is no longer identified as a personal being. Instead, New Agers acknowledge a force, a center of reality, a gathering of the collective conscious of all living things. The God-possibility is always expanding, as evolution brings more and more understanding to the group consciousness. Thus possibility has no limit. There is no distinction between good and evil, or life and death, just possibilities to be explored and accepted or rejected by each individual. The only difference is how a person perceives things and the choices which result. Therefore,

2.2.2. All is one; all is divine.

There is a oneness of matter and energy, divinity and humanity. The cosmos is pure, undifferentiated, universal energy. If all is one, then there is no barrier between the forces that create the universe and a tree, a human. All the possibilities are available. There is no reserved status of divinity. Everyone can partake of the ‘divine.’ If man has access to the divine, the source of all possibilities and power, then

2.2.3. All humanity’s crises rise from ignorance of its divinity and oneness with all things.

Mankind’s problems arise from the fact that we are ignorant of our status as divine, that we have no limits to our possibility. “We are walking in darkness, not the darkness of sin, but the darkness of ignorance. We have forgotten our true identity. We need to be enlightened again to see who we really are.”

2.2.4. Humanity’s only need, therefore, is personal transformation — gaining the awareness of divinity.

We are our own creators. We create and define all that is around us. As such, we are responsible for everything that happens to us and around us. Since sin is not a reality for NAM mankind needs enlightening, not a Savior. Each person needs to pursue personal transformation to end the darkness of ignorance we all live in, and bring about a higher level of consciousness that will lead to a full realization of divinity.

2.2.5. Transformation can be brought about by any of myriad techniques that can be applied to the body, mind, and/or spirit.

“The object of each of these techniques is to dismantle a person’s perception of reality and build a new set of perceptions based on the belief that humanity is its own creator. …Almost anything is acceptable that will trigger a mystic or psychic experience powerful enough to cause a person to reject his or her former perception of reality.”

2.2.6. Personal transformation is the springboard for global transformation.

Only by bringing about the individual radical spiritual transformation en masse, can humanity’s evolution toward a golden age be possible. Such an age would be free of all war, violence, racism, disease, hunger and death. Oneness of humanity will be expressed in such practices as one language, one monetary system, one world government, as well as the same thoughts at the same time. The occult camp and the humanist camp have varying visions of the golden age. Both are striving to establish it, and many believe that the quantum leap into divinity, into the perfect world could be just around the corner.

2.2.7. All religions are one and serve the cosmic unity.

The New age thinking is that all religions are one at their basic core and teach the oneness of all things. Thus all the enlightened teachers of great religions of the world expressed the higher consciousness. Religious distinction is denied. In an effort to synchronize the religions, aspects of all religions are easily adapted to the NAM. We Christians see a need for preserving the reality of Jesus Christ. “Christ as the Mediator between God and humanity is replaced with the idea of ‘Christ-consciousness,’ which is another word for cosmic consciousness. …They use the title Christ, not in the Biblical sense, but to express the divine nature that is in each individual. …Christ consciousness is awakening in millions of Christians and non-Christians.

Interpretations of and additions to the principles above mark the distinction between the occult and humanist promoters of the NAM. “And the New Age philosophy is heavily promoted. Like a commercial product, it is packaged attractively and advertised widely, often making use of endorsements by popular entertainers and others who have enjoyed …success.”

With this cursory examination of the principles of the New Age Movement as a background, the following sections will look at three volumes which represent the kind of information available in this new age of angels.

2.3. The Angels Within Us

The swirling fog began to dissipate, and I could see the flicker of a light ahead—a darting, pulsating glow resembling a firefly. I paused for a moment to observe, and the tiny flare expanded in size and appeared as a small full moon touching the earth. As I moved closer to the radiance, it suddenly changed into a vertical beam, a pillar of transparent light.

“Are you the angel I am seeking?” I asked.

The soft yet powerful feminine voice replied, “I am the Angel of Creative Wisdom.”

“Do you have a name?”

“Some have called me Isis,” she said, and with those words the pillar of light slowly materialized to reveal the face and form of a beautiful woman wearing a flowing white robe trimmed in gold. “Why have you come?” she asked.

“I seek Greater Wisdom. It is my understanding that you, the Angel of Creative Wisdom, are the channel, the voice, for my Master Self. I know that within my higher nature I embody the wisdom of the ages, yet in my present state of consciousness I am sometimes confused. My thinking has become scattered, which has resulted in errors of judgment. So I have come to ask you what I can do to open the gates of wisdom and release that energy to flow freely in my mind and heart.

With this vision, John Randolph Price prefaces his work on The Angels Within Us. In the brief excerpt we can see several principles of the NAM at work, First we notice the monism of the NAM, the combining of divergent religious realities. In the Preface Price evokes Psalm 91.11 to introduce the discussion of angelic care, then identifies the angel he seeks as Isis. Isis, the Egyptian culture’s name for the female goddess from which all life was to have emerged and who sustains life, is the Diana of Romans. Almost unchanged in form, she can be traced through archeological evidence to the religious practices of pagan cultures for more than six centuries before Christ. The NAM monism has no problem, and even finds it necessary, to portray Christianity as compatible with other religious forms and beliefs. The attack is against the Christian church in this era of the New Age. Christian monotheism lays claim to the one God, the I AM of all eternity as the only source of truth and hope, and Christianity as the only correct vehicle for such faith. Eastern and mystic religions easily find resonance in the NAM for they already embraced a non-specific higher being, a divine thought, a cosmic reality, with which they seek to know and unite. Christians have confronted all the historic humanistic and mystic heresies that sought to unite the I AM with any of the lesser gods conceived by man. Christianity now stands apart and against the NAM that seeks to elevate man as his own god, and cast the I AM as a reflection of the overall cosmic energy, the universal Soulof which we too are a part.

Secondly, and inherent in the majority of works in this genre, is the pursuing of angelic contact. Price went looking. Later, it will be seen that the authors of Ask Your Angel, will offer a “practical guide to working with the messengers of heaven to empower and enrich your life, while Linda Georgian, founder of “The Psychic Friends Network” ™ would instruct one on how to be open, cultivate awareness and invite psychic angelic contact. The Holy Scripture never relates that angels come to man at his request. In all of Scripture the only one who calls on the angels is Jesus, the Christ who is their Creator, the One whom they serve. In every other instance, the angel appears unbidden to man by the command of God, or as God’s response to one who petitioned for guidance, help, or protection. Consequently the angels do not come by our asking, but as a measure of God’s response to our needs.

Price writes that there are twenty-two Causal powers, or angels, that control our lives. These are the powers which have been “taught since the beginning of spiritual brotherhoods and philosophical societies thousands of years ago.” The pictorial symbols of these angels, seen in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, are represented as the twenty-two major trumps of the mystic tarot deck. Price also contends that they are “found in esoteric astrology, too, as represented by the twelve signs of the zodiac, the sun, the moon, and the eight planets (Earth not included), for a total of twenty-two. These are the living Governors of Life, each controlling a Gate, or opening, leading to the phenomenal world—conditioning and determining all outer expression.”

The author sees these Causal Powers as extensions of the Spirit of God within each individual. Therefore, we have these (occult) means of contacting the angels who govern our lives. By following four consciousnesses raising steps we can tune ourselves to receiving the counsel of the twenty-two angels. His steps include 1) casting out all feelings of shame or self-condemnation, 2) recognizing the personal problems which would adulterate the message of the angels if left unresolved, 3) surrendering your mind emotions, body, and personal world to the Spirit within where they can be purified, and 4) meditating on the indwelling Power, Love, Wisdom “enfolding you for the journey within.”

Each of the twenty-two angels characterized in the balance of the book have been given a name relating to the mythological god who possessed comparable powers. “However, certain angels may prefer a name other than the one designated. It does not matter as long as the communication channels are clear.”
Price is clearly evoking the principle that each individual can raise his consciousness and, by understanding the cosmic reality. Moreover he can become part of it, can himself become divine. The cover synopsis captures this. “To restore relations with all the angels is to be cosmically whole, vibrant, strong—and free, as you were created to be. The Angels Within Us guides you to the exalted, natural existence.” Again, Price: “By joining me in probing these manifesting energies [angels] you will greatly accelerate the entire reawakening process.”

One cannot come to the cosmic truth regarding God by turning inward and cultivating self-awareness. Time and eternity have met in a very particular way, in Jesus Christ. The temporal cannot not seek to invest itself in the divine. Rather the divine, the infinite, takes up residence in the infinite. The human predicament is not ignorance, or the lack of knowledge and awareness. Our fundamental problem is not living without consciousness of our higher self. Our fundamental problem is sin. It is sin that alienates us from God, and we can sin at the level of both consciousness and unconsciousness. Our vision of wholeness comes only in Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can destroy and remove the obstacle of sin which alienates us from a relationship with God. No amount of meditation, awareness, or knowledge will restore us without the reality of Christ and what he has done being first in our lives. Thus the entire attitude of the Christian is different then the New Ager. The Christian confesses that there is no good within. The Christian looks beyond himself for reality and truth. The Christian then remains in the attitude of a bonded servant, a person who finds meaning and life outside of what he himself does. Submitting to God, rather then claiming God for himself, the Christian finds freedom, peace, vibrancy, and wholeness.

2.4. Ask Your Angels

The authors of Ask Your Angels are about the same thing as Price, yet in a less jarring form for the Christian. For the marginal Christian this is far more dangerous. The more popular books and writers lace their work with Christian sounding terms which, when examined, are seen to have been filled with a meaning particular to the NAM. “This book is different then all the rest,” they write. “It will teach you how to talk with your angels. The simple five-step method you will be using is called the GRACE Process.”
In Part One, Daniel, Wyllie, and Ramer, give a bit of historical background on historical encounters with angels. They trace the evolving perceptions of angels and their impact on “the World Mind.” In Part Two they share their experiences in talking to angels and guide the reader through the GRACE Process, which, based on meditation, tarot cards, runes, and the I Ching and their new Angel Oracle, will allow the reader to contact his guardian angels. Then having formed as basis for contact, Part Three will assist the individual in creating a “working partnership” with the angels, “for the purpose of personal and global transformation.”

Again, note the NAM principles at work here. The shared cosmic reality of which all humanity belongs, the “World Mind.” The need for transformation which is facilitated by knowledge. And, the possibilities which knowledge and awareness make each individual capable of. These New Age principles lie side by side with Christian-sounding verbiage found throughout the book. The NAM denies that any individual or group has the monopoly on truth. In fact Christianity is part of the old, unacceptable way of life which is in need of transformation.

The authors, based on their own personal revelations from the ‘celestials,’ and the “skillful mediation of the angel Abigrel, have devised a process for communication denoted by the anachronism GRACE. Grounding, Releasing, Aligning, Conversing, and Enjoying the connection, are the key words for meditation according to their plan. The instructions for personal mediation and the exercises that are designed to open the individual to the ongoing discourse with their angels amount to the majority of the book. There is also a section that allows the individual to contact the angels of another individual, in that way initiating him to the “joy of angelic communication” and bringing him the messages of the celestial spirits he does not yet recognize. Thus, channeling, or acting as the mouthpiece for another intelligence than your own, is part of the angelology of the NAM.

The explicit goal of the authors is to show the reader how he can draw on the power of the angels to reconnect with his lost inner self and to achieve his goals, whether they be better relationships, healing, or recovery. All this is available through talking with angels in your mind, in letters, in dreams, or on the computer. Their direction and guidance is available in all matters of life from the inspired to the mundane.

2.5. Your Guardian Angels

Linda Georgian’s book, Your Guardian Angels, is a basically unremarkable book. The source of its popularity is not hard to delineate. Georgian is the founder of the single most popular phone-in psychic ‘network’ in operation in the U. S. today, “The Psychic Friends Network”. Coupled with the current popularity of angels, her book is difficult to find on bookstore shelves.

The first part of the book is biographical. Georgian talks about her ‘special gift’ of psychic ability and her enduring Catholic upbringing. Part Two is a rehashed glossary of the angels of Christian and popular literature, including apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works; Hindu and Zoroastrian sources; as well as mystic and Mormon sources. Georgian then relates other personal testimonies of angelic encounters before she talks about how the reader can begin psychically contacting their own personal guardian angels in Part Four.

What is most remarkable about Your Guardian Angels, is Georgian’s own confusion of New Age occult and Catholic tradition and perceptions in her work, and presumably life. For Georgian, it can be seen as a “growing sense of responsibility.” Religion, in her case Catholicism, gives us the structure to recognize the divine, the working of the universe, and the Creator. “As we grow we [must] take on more and more responsibilities.” At some point each individual needs to take control of his own spirituality to become a ‘spiritual adult.’ For the author, intuition, hunches, feelings, are all angelic attempts to contact and guide individuals. Psychic training and channeling are means to refine one’s understanding of the importance of such contact—learning how to use the guidance these powers of the universe reveal is part of spiritual maturity. The New Age principles run through all of Georgian’s writing, but are not as clearly stated as other angel works, like those above.

3. Conclusions

What should we learn from all this? What has this attempt to discern the angels uncovered? Let me try to summarize in a few theses.

First, the church needs to reclaim the teaching of angels over and against the angels of the New Age. It is good to remember the words of Baier, “Though we know that these articles are not fundamental we must be at the same time on our guard lest by embracing and teaching error we rashly sin against the divine revelation and against God Himself”  It has been observed that prior to the New Age of angels little information was available on angels, and in this New Age even less solid Biblical information is available. In the absence of right teaching, the devil has been able to get a foothold in the hearts and minds of those looking for spiritual truths. Why study the angels? Because we are ignorant of them. Our ignorance has left us defenseless against the advances of the devil. Whether he disguises himself in the misrepresentations of the sumptuous nymphs and demigods passed off as angels in the Renaissance, or in the imaginings of angels in the New Age Movement, it is still the devil.

What defense do we have against those who tell us that “we are all angels in training,” or that “the Holy Guardian Angel, be it remembered, is really our own higher self”? We have only one defense, the Holy Scripture, and the right teachings derived from them. If we do not avail ourselves of the armor supplied us by God against the advances of Satan, we will have no quarter against him. We must reclaim the teaching of angels. It is a gift of God for our benefit, and our heritage.

Second, Pastors, theologians, and church leaders should take the New Age Movement seriously. On the whole, the NAM is not a laughing matter. No longer can clergy ignore what is going on by mumbling glib invectives, implying that the New Age is silly or superstitious. Some silliness is present to be sure. Nevertheless, the New Age should be considered important to church leaders on two counts. For one thing, it involves large numbers of people both inside and outside the churches. New Age spiritual practices are being sought because they appear to offer answers to urgent spiritual needs not being met in the church. Prof. Richard E. Muller said, “‘cults are the unpaid bills of the mainline denominations,’ that being, when churches fail to do what they are supposed to do and teach what they are supposed to teach, cults grow up in the voids.” This makes New Age spirituality an issue of pastoral concern. This means dipping into the reservoir of the Christian traditions and teachings, retrieving spiritual practices that have been set aside. One such teaching and tradition is the doctrine of angels.

Church leaders on all levels should take the new age seriously for another reason, The theological issues are of great magnitude. The intellectual stakes may turn out to rival those in the battle that took place in the ancient Roman Empire between Christianity and Gnosticism, perhaps even the struggle between the Christian faith and paganism. It is a time for apologetic theology. This brings us to the doctrinal issues and to the last thesis.

Third, the Gnostic monism at the heart of New Age teaching is dangerous because it leads to naïveté and to a denial of God’s great grace. There are at least two ways in which New Age affiliation can be harmful. First, it can be harmful if it leads one to enter cult-like organizations with an authoritarian center. This leads inevitably to a loss of one’s independence and often to psychological or physical abuse. Second, it can be harmful if it leads one to make a full commitment to the metaphysical world view that New Age theoreticians promulgate.

What the New Age teaches is clearly naive, almost blind, to the reality of human sin and the existence of evil in the world. Perhaps this is a voluntary naïveté. It may result from the fact that many of us have been hurt in our lives. As a result of the NAM, people are apt to think of themselves only positively, only in terms of their essential goodness. They find it exciting to hear that goodness and blessing and fulfillment are very close at hand — already within themselves — so that all they have to do is execute the right psycho technique to bring it to full flower. In this mood of high expectancy, just thinking about sin constitutes negative thinking and may block the eruption of all this goodness. They are tempted to buy into a fast path to bliss, into a brightness that casts no shadow.

The problem of course, is that it is unrealistic. When we least expect it, sin will sneak up on us and attack. This is what frequently happens in the New Age and its cults. The master teacher — the one who is expected by all to embody perfection — most easily becomes the one to wreak abuse. The raising of our consciousness does not transform our wills, Only grace can do that. No matter how aware we have become, we may still make decisions that lead to great harm both to others, and ourselves even to those whom we love. This is simply the human predicament in which we find ourselves. To deny it is folly.
To deny it is also to fail to recognize how the Spirit of God actually works. We have divinity within us, to be sure. But it is an alien divinity. It does not become part of our nature. It has come into us from the outside. It is the gift of grace. The Holy Spirit dwells within, empowering us toward renewal, toward transformation. The paradox is that God’s presence shows us that He loves us “while we were still sinners,” while at the same time transforming us through the spiritual power of the Gospel. It is this double dynamic that we dare not forget, otherwise we will lose ourselves in unreality.
What this means is that we cannot equate God with ourselves; nor can we equate God with the cosmos. You and I, along with all that exists, belong to what we call ‘the creation.’ We have been created. We are the creatures. We are not the creator. Oh, yes, by our hands we bring things about. Science may even one day ‘create’ life, but in the initial and definitive sense, we are creatures who are totally and completely dependent upon the free and loving act of God by which we were brought into existence out of nothing.
With all of this we get the promise of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of eternal life with our God. Among other things, this means that we anticipate the ultimate transformation yet to come, the consummate arrival of the Last Days. In the interim, we thank God for the ministering spirits, for

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Appendix: A Brief Study Of The Angel Of The Lord

Introduction. As has been discussed above, there are literally hundreds of references to angels in the Bible. The Old Testament Hebrew word a;l]m’, and the New Testament (NT) Greek word a[ggelo~, both translated ‘angel,’ usually refer to the spirit-beings created by God some time in the six-day creation. As God’s servants they carry out His commands and minister to God’s people. Some of the angels, following the fallen angel Lucifer, now carry on rebellious warfare against Him. They are still called ‘angels;’ so the term can refer to good or to evil angels.

Since the root words in both a;l]m’ and a[ggelo~ means ‘messenger,’ or ‘ambassador,’ the terms can also be applied to any being who serves as a spokesman. This common uses does occur occasionally in Scripture. However, the greatest use of these terms made by the inspired authors of the Bible, is to refer to those spiritual beings who occupy the heavenly courts of YHWH.

But a special use is made of a;l]m’ in the Old Testament in which the word cannot be interpreted to mean a created being, human or spirit. “The Angel of the LORD,” the Hebrew, hwhy a;l]m’ is the title given to a Being who claims equality with God, assumes authority which can only belong to God, seems at times to identify with God Himself. When we analyze the passages in which a;l]m’ is linked with hwhy, it leads to the conclusion that He can be no other than one of the Persons of the Godhead, namely Jesus Christ Himself. There are 19 sections in the Old Testament which speak of the “Angel of the LORD” … This is not to say that there are only 19 passages in the entire Old Testament which speak of Jesus Christ; there are of course many, many more. Every prophecy of the Old Testament that speaks of the promised Messiah is a reference the Jesus Christ. … But, in 19 of sections He is called “Angel of the LORD.” Sometimes the Old Testament may speak of ‘angel of God,’ or of simply ‘His angel’ or ‘an angel.’ But the especial term “Angel of the LORD,” hwhy a;l]m’, is identified in most Bibles by the capitalization of the word ‘LORD.’ Wherever the capitalized LORD is used, the original Hebrew has the word hwhy, the special covenant name of God. There are other Hebrew words that are seen translated as “Lord.” These can refer to either God, other gods, or human lords; but the “LORD” always refers to God, to the true God, to Israel’s Covenant God. When the “angel” is linked with “LORD,” a study of the context will reveal that the reference is to the pre-incarnate Christ, Jesus.

The texts. “LORD” occurs more than 6000 times in the Old Testament. “Angel of the LORD” occurs more than fifty times in the following 19 passages: Ge 16. 7-14; Ge 22.9-19; Ex 3. 1-15; Nu 22. 22-35; Jdg 2. 1-5; Jdg 5. 23; Jdg 6. 11-25; Jdg 13. 2-23; 2Sa 24. 15-17 (Parallel: 1Ch 21. 9-30); 1Ki 19. 4-18; 2Ki 1. 3-15; 2Ki 19. 35-37 (Parallel: Isa. 35. 36-38); Ps 34. 7; Ps 35. 5,6; Zec 1. 7-13; Zec 3. 1-10; Zec 12. 8-10.

Other Old Testament uses of “angel,” referring to Christ, but not using the term “Angel of the LORD:” Ge 24. 7; Ge 31. 11; Ge 48. 16; Ex 23. 20; Jos 5. 13- 6. 2; Ex 33. 2; Isa 63. 9; Mal 3. 1.

Other possible appearances of Jesus under the term “angel:” Da 3. 28; Da 6. 22.

Let’s look at some of the passages.

Ge 16. 7-14. The designation, “Angel of the LORD,” occurs for the first time in Ge 16. 7: “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.” Sarai had given Hagar, her maid, to Abraham to be his concubine; Hagar conceived, and began to behave arrogantly toward her mistress. Sarai retaliated, and Hagar ran away. The Angel found her in the wilderness, and ordered her to return and to submit to her mistress: “ Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ 10 The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count … [Hagar] gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” Notice that the Angel identifies Himself as greater than an ordinary angel by promising that He will give numerous descendants; and yet seems to differentiate between Himself, the Angel of the LORD, and YHWH Himself by speaking of Him in the third person: “The LORD has heard of your misery.” Hagar reckons Him as God Himself calling Him “the One who sees.” The people of Abraham called the place ‘Beer Lahai Roi’ which means “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” This is no ordinary angel, but the description and conversation fits the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. When Hagar and her son Ishmael are dismissed after the birth of Isaac, there is a similar encounter recorded in Ge 21. 14-21, but in this passage, the One who appears is called “Angel of God.”

Gen. 22. 9 -19. This is the well known story of the offering of Isaac where the “angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,” he replied.’ “Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’” (emphasis here, and following is mine). Abraham names this place of sacrifice ‘The LORD Will Provide.’

Later, “the angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”

If these were the words of a mere angel he surely would have suffered under the same judgment as the angel Lucifer who coveted the power and position of God. One conclusion only is possible for this angel who claims for Himself to speak with the authority, power, and position of YHWH. He is the Christ, the pre-incarnate Jesus. He himself may be referring to his meeting with Abraham when, in John 8. 56, he tells the Jews that Abraham “saw my day, and was glad.”

Ex 3. 1-15. One more very clear and enlightening passage is that recorded by Moses in Exodus 3. Moses tells of himself tending sheep on the mountain of God in Midian. “There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’

Moses indeed recognized the Angel as God himself; for he says “to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?’” “… God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ … ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers —the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob —has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever.” Remember that this whole dialogue is carried on between Moses and the Angel of the LORD — title after title claims divinity for the ANGEL OF THE LORD.

Nu 22. 22-35. There is nothing else like the story of Balaam and the talking mule to be found anywhere else in the Bible. Balak, king of the Maobites, hired the prophet Balaam to put a curse on Israel. As Balaam sets out to do the kings bidding, the Angle of the LORD stands in his way obstructing his path. However, Balaam does not perceive the Angel’s intervention for He has chosen to remain invisible, that is invisible to everyone but the ass. The beast balks, turns this way and that, and finally refuses to go any further, because the Angel bars the way. In frustrated anger Balaam beats his faithful beast. The Lord “opens the mouth of the donkey” and she asks, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Seeing nothing unusual, Balaam claims the beast has made a fool of him, and threatens her life. “ Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.” Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.” Later Balaam responds to the king, “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”

Briefly, other passages:
Judges 2. 1-5. In this passage the Angel of the LORD identifies himself as the One who “made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you into the land which I promised to your fathers.”

Judges 5. 23 is one of the passages where the Angel appears as an avenger. This role is also seen in 2Sa 24. 15-17, 2Ki 19. 35-37, and their parallels. Jesus Christ, in the person of the Angel of the LORD, acting as an agent of God’s wrath and punishment, is not out of character. We think of him as the agent of God’s grace and love. While that is very true, in the deliverance of the children of Israel out o Egypt, the Angel of the Lord brought terrible plagues upon the Egyptians, and destroyed the hosts of Pharaoh. Think of Jesus cleaning the temple, His angry denunciations of the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites. Jesus shall come again. He shall come in judgement. The pictures of Jesus in the book of Revelation as the instrument of God’s wrath is the way the world will receive him on the Last Day. Even the magnificent mosaic of Christ the King at our Seminary depicts a stern King. We cannot forget this side of Jesus, nor does the Old Testament neglect Him in this capacity when it describes the Angel of the Lord.

Finally, in this last example. The Angel of the Lord appears in visions to Zechariah. In clear language the Angel of the LORD and the LORD Almighty are seen as one-in-the-same Person. 1. 7-13. 3. 1-10. 12. 8-10. Though these appearances are in visions, they support the interpretation of he Angel of the LORD as being personal revelations of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.

2 thoughts on “All About Angels

  1. Scot,

    I jumped over to your blog from “Lutheranism 101″ and am really glad I did! Thank you for such an interesting and enlightening treatise on Angel theology. I have read through Part I and already looking forward to working my way through Part II.

    I’m one of the many, many modern Christians who paid little heed to Angels and just kind of dismissed them as ancient phenomena.

    You are most certainly expanding my thinking about Angels and helping me to see that perhaps we “moderns” have been experiencing a grossly atrophied Christianity by ignoring a spiritual reality so expansive and rich.

    I’m glad I found you Lutherans! I’m learning more every day through your grace and willingness to share your hearts.

    Grace and Peace,
    Joel

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