This message is the first in a series of studies of angels, demons and Satan. It will be an interesting and very profitable study, and an important subject on which to concentrate.
Much has been said about angels over the past few years. Books have been written on the subject and unfortunately, not all that has been said has been correct. When it comes to this particular aspect of study, as any study in theology, the Bible has to be our final guide. What is understood about angels is known only because of what the Bible reveals.
Church history reveals that early church leaders held many different opinions and arguments concerning angels. They pondered such things as how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. A variety of such considerations were discussed and debated. Much of what was deliberated was so absurd that it doesn’t bear mentioning and could not be backed up with Scripture.
It’s surprising how little Christians know concerning the subject of angels, demons, Satan, etc. There are many misconceptions in this particular area of study. We’ve all heard the comment when someone dies, “Well, God wanted another angel,” implying that God took the individual because He needed another angel. This is particularly true when it is a child that dies. The fact is that people do not become angels; children do not become angels. That’s a popular misconception. While such comments may bring comfort to someone who is grieving over the loss of a loved one or child, it is nevertheless wrong because people do not become angels. Angels are an entirely separate order of being and are definitely not the spirits of dead adults or children. While angels are in some ways angels similar to men, in other ways they are quite unlike men.
Farther into this study it will be seen in the scriptures that angels sometimes took on the appearance of men and walked among men. The Bible records in Genesis, chapter 18, that the angels seen by Abraham appeared as three men who walked up to Abraham as he sat in the door of his tent in the heat of the day. The Bible clearly describes them as three men. It later became obvious that these men were actually angels. When Abraham saw them, however, they had the appearance of men. They dressed like men; their form was like men. Their feet were dusty just like men who had been travelling on the road. Abraham’s response was, “Let me get some water and wipe the dust from your feet.” At Abraham’s offer of hospitality, they sat down and ate and drank with him. From all outward appearances, they looked like ordinary men. Of course, one of those angels was the pre-incarnate Christ.
The angels went on to Sodom where Genesis, chapter 19 records, they destroyed the city. When the angels went into Sodom, the Sodomites went to Lot’s house and knocked on the door. These men even tried to break in. They wanted those two men who were guests in Lot’s house, not having recognized them as being angels. So they had the appearance of men.
Depictions of angels generally portray them as baby cherubs or as soft, even effeminate in appearance. Such portraits of angels (and Jesus) are an abomination to God. Both pictures and statues of angels found in some churches have the appearance of feminine figures with wings. Angels don’t really look like that! According to the scriptures, angels take different forms because there are different types of angels. While you may not have been aware of it, the Bible says there are different kinds of angels. For the most part however, angels have taken the form of men. Not recognizing them as angels, the Sodomites wanted to get to those men. Throughout the scriptures, there are instances where angels appeared as men.
Following the resurrection (Mark 16), Mary and Salome went to the tomb to find Jesus. Upon their arrival however, they found that Jesus was gone. The stone sealing the tomb had been rolled away and the Bible says there was a young man seated there. He was attired in a long, white garment and obviously, he was an angel. “A young man” is how the women described him. Thus we see that angels can look like men in their appearance.
Believers are exhorted to offer hospitality to strangers. Why? Because some have thereby entertained angels unaware.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. [Heb. 13:2]
Believers are supposed to offer hospitality to strangers, i.e., Christians, brothers, sisters that need help, food, clothing, shelter, etc. Believers are to be a blessing to them. The Bible says that some have done that thinking they were helping a brother or sister but in actuality, they did these acts of kindness to an angel. That’s how angels often appeared in Scripture — as men.
A misconception held by some throughout church history is the erroneous belief that angels are some sort of lesser deity, i.e., smaller gods that are to be worshipped.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels…. [Col. 2:18]
This scripture makes mention of individuals who were beguiled or seduced into the worship of angels, a thing strictly forbidden by the Bible. Believers do not worship angels; God forbids it. The elect angels would themselves forbid it. They wouldn’t allow anyone to bow down and worship them.
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. [Rom. 1:25]
This verse speaks of those who worship the creature rather than the Creator. They worship the things God created rather than the One who created them.
Even now there are some who worship angels. We’ve all seen statues of angels with people offering up prayers, etc. to the angels. That’s yet another misconception, i.e., seeing angels as lesser deities or smaller gods. Still others have rejected any thought of angels, spirits, demons or the devil. Such things are dismissed as fantasy and fiction. They don’t believe in such things. They’re rather like the Sadducees whom the scriptures say didn’t believe in spirits. They didn’t believe in angels; they didn’t believe in demons; they didn’t believe in the devil; they didn’t believe in the afterlife; they didn’t believe in the resurrection; they didn’t believe in eternal punishment; they didn’t believe in eternal reward. Now there are many people like that today. They believe that, “When you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s all there is to it; you’re finished; you’re just dust.” There are people who don’t believe in the devil; there are people who don’t believe in angels, the resurrection or hell. Well, we hope they don’t find out too late that hell is for real. They spell “devil” without a “d” and spell “God” with two “o’s” so that “devil” becomes “evil” and “God” becomes “good”.
We don’t have to read very far in the Bible before the reality of a heavenly host of angels is seen. The Bible says these creatures (beings) exist. There is an unseen world that co-exists right alongside the world in which we live. In that unseen world are a myriad or host of unseen beings, some good and some evil. Be assured, they are real even though they are invisible to our sight. Although these angels inhabit this very planet on which we live, they exist in another dimension. While we can’t see them, they can certainly see us.
God gives some individuals the gift of discerning of spirits so that their eyes are opened spiritually. This gift enables them to actually see into that other dimension, the spirit realm. Those so gifted are able to see the demons or the angels that are around them. Just such an event is described in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, where the prophet Elisha is attacked by the Syrian army.
15And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? 16And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. [2 Ki. 6:15-17]
The context was that whenever the Syrians would attempt to attack Israel, the prophet Elisha was aware of it because the Lord revealed those things to him. Elisha would then report to Israel, thereby frustrating everything the Syrians did. It was impossible for them to ambush or entrap Israel. Every time the Syrians laid plans to attack Israel, Elisha reported it, rendering all efforts and plans of the Syrians futile. The Syrian king concluded that there was a traitor among their ranks, reporting their plans and strategies to Israel. The servants of the Syrian king responded that it was not that there was a traitor among them, but it was that prophet in Israel, Elisha, who was reporting to Israel every move made by the Syrians. To put a stop to that, the Syrian king sent out his entire army, chariots, soldiers, etc. to capture Elisha. The scriptural account is that the Syrians arrived at the mountain and Elisha was surrounded. Early in the morning Elisha’s servant awoke, went outside and saw all the Syrian army encompassed about the area. He began shouting, “What are we going to do?” Elisha looked out and said, “Don’t worry about it. There are more with us than there are with them.” Now the servant had no idea what Elisha was talking about. He thought it was just Elisha and him, surrounded by thousands of Syrians. Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open his eyes and let him see.” As one reads the account; it’s a blessing to know that God opened the servant’s eyes and enabled him to see in the spiritual dimension (realm). The servant then saw the flaming chariots of fire surrounding Elisha, i.e., God’s angels, a mighty, tremendous host. Needless to say, the servant was no longer afraid. What an encouragement to read how God blinded the eyes of the Syrians and actually made them captives! Saints, there is a spiritual dimension right alongside this one. That dimension is inhabited by angels and demons and on occasion, God gives one a glimpse into that dimension where one is able to see the beings that inhabit that dimension.
God’s Messengers — The Angels
The Hebrew term that is translated angel is malak. It is sometimes translated messenger, and sometimes it is translated angel. The Greek word is aggelos but is pronounced ang-a-los. That word is translated agent, messenger, and angel. “Angel” is the transliteration of the Greek. The terms can be used of either a human or a heavenly messenger. The context determines whether it was a human messenger or whether it was to be translated as an angel, i.e., a spiritual being. In the New Testament the word is almost exclusively used of angels or angelic messengers.
I. THE NATURE OF ANGELS
A. Angels Are Created Beings.
1Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. 2Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. 3Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. 4Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. 5Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created. [Ps. 148:1-5]
The psalmist is speaking here of the entire heavenly host, exhorting them to praise the Lord. The angels, the sun, moon, stars, everything that God created, he says in verse 5, is to praise the Lord.
Let them praise the name of the Lord for he commanded and they were created. [Ps. 148:5]
angels were created also. They are included in that passage of what God created. Let all that He created praise Him!
Another passage that attests to the angels being created beings is found in Colossians, the first chapter:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.
The angels are specifically mentioned as are the things in heaven, the thrones, the things invisible, the principalities and the powers. All of these things have reference to the angelic realm, the angelic host, whether good or bad. God created them all good, of course, but some allowed sin to enter in. Even some of the angels sinned for they are created beings. Jesus Christ Himself created the angelic host.
From previous studies in theology regarding the nature and attributes of God, we learned that only God is eternal. God alone possesses the attributes of deity of which eternity is one. Only God is eternal; only God is uncreated; only God had no beginning. Angels, however, had a beginning. They were created and are not eternal; they had a beginning. The angels are created beings.
1. When were the angels created?
There are basically two views concerning when angels were created:
a. Angels were created simultaneously with the creation of the earth and the world, i.e., all the things spoken of in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. To support this view are the passages that God created everything in six days. He created the world, the planets, the universe, sun, moon, stars, life, etc. in six literal 24-hour days. The creation of angels had to occur sometime during those six days.
b. Angels were created somewhere back in eternity past before God created the physical world, the material world i.e., the earth, moon, planets, stars, universe, etc. According to this view, the creation of the physical world in six literal days did not necessarily mean that a spiritual world was not previously created in eternity past. The scriptures used to support this view are, for the most part, found in Job 38. Beginning in verse 1, God reveals Himself to Job as being almighty. He reveals His own greatness, His own infiniteness to Job, showing Job his own smallness, i.e., how finite Job is in the eyes of God. God begins asking Job these questions:
1Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? [Job 38:1-2]
There’s a message right there concerning people who speak words without knowledge, i.e., people who don’t know what they’re talking about. God is speaking to Job, “Who is this that is darkening counsel by words without knowledge?”
3Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, [Job 38:3]
[And I want some answers from you. You know so much — all right, I want some answers. Where were you?]
4Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. [Job 38:4]
God is asking Job some very pointed questions. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Comparable to how one would lay a foundation to build a house, God is speaking in similar terms about how He created the world. ” Where were you when I did this, when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
5Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [Job 38:5]
The line God is speaking of is the measuring line, similar to what is used in construction to measure and level. God is asking Job, “Now where were you? Who stretched the line on the universe? Who measured it? Were you there?”
6Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? [Job 38:6-7]
The Bible often refers to angels as stars, i.e., the morning stars and the angels as the sons of God. Angels are not sons of God as Jesus is the Son of God. Angels are, however, spoken of as sons of God on occasion in the sense that God the Father created them. They have their origin in Him. The context indicates that the angels were present and the angels were rejoicing during the course of God’s creation. During His creative activity the angels were there, the angels rejoiced when God laid the foundations of the earth and measured the universe which also indicates that the universe has limits. It’s not limitless as many think, that it goes on for infinity. Only God is infinite; the universe has limits. God has measured it.
The small mind of man can’t fathom such things. In reading about astronomy or in looking through a telescope, it appears that the universe goes on forever. The ends of the universe are incomprehensible to the mind of man. Yet the Bible says that God is bigger than the universe, that there is no place where God is not. There is no place that all of God is not present. In any corner of the universe, even in the remotest star, hundreds of millions of light years away, God is entirely there. There is a limit to this universe. Some have suggested that perhaps the universe is like the earth, just a big circle and if one goes far enough in one direction one winds up coming back again. Some of that kind of thinking is larger than my mind, but this much I know, this universe cannot contain God. These scriptures would indicate that the angels of God were present when the universe was created, when the stars, the moon, and the foundation of the earth was set in place.
This passage also lends credence to the second view that angels were created sometime in eternity past in that the spiritual beings were present at the creation of the physical universe. Let’s not be too dogmatic about this either way. I know that some strongly suggest that everything, including the unseen world, the spiritual world, was created in six literal 24-hour days. While I won’t argue with them, I tend to lean toward this latter view that angels were created at some time in eternity past. I don’t see that one’s salvation depends upon it, one way or the other. Both views have merit, and I believe this passage in Job 38 clearly indicates that the angels were present at the creation of the universe.
B. Angels Are Personal Beings.
What is meant by personal beings? Angels possess personal intelligence. They possess purpose; they possess a will. In other words, they are personalities; they are personal beings. Angels are not just abstractions, abstract thought, not just some force, such as wind or fire. Some people think of God in abstract terms, i.e., that God is just love. God is a personal being, isn’t He? Angels are also personal beings. They’re not just energy or force or other abstract thoughts. This scripture in 2 Samuel speaks of the “wisdom” of an angel which again indicates the fact they have personality.
…and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.
[2 Sam. 14:20]
Angels have wisdom; they have personal intelligence. They’re not robots. A being who possesses wisdom, a will, and personal intelligence is not a robot, i.e., something mindless that just obeys orders. Don’t think of angels as mindless machines, robots, something without personality or emotions. Just because one can assemble a robot that will follow one’s commands, the robot cannot be considered to be a personal being. The fact that the robot obeys by responding to verbal commands doesn’t make it a personal being. Robots have no emotion, no feeling. They possess no will or volition of their own. They do not have personal intelligence so they can’t be considered a personal being. An angel, on the other hand, possesses a will, personal intelligence and feelings. Angels are personalities. They are personal beings; they can display and exert conviction, determination, i.e., a “will.”
This verse in 2 Timothy speaks of those who are deceived, those who have been snared by the devil and taken captive by him at his will.
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
[2 Tim. 2:26]
The devil has a will. As we know, the devil was an angel of God who rebelled and fell, but he possesses a will as do all angels. Angels appear to men, they speak; they think and they act. They have emotions and feelings.
An interesting passage appears in Luke’s gospel, chapter 15 and is a familiar verse. It’s one of those scriptures that when read, brings blessing in the reading. However, when examined in a different light, it brings out an entirely new meaning. Verse 7 says: (Jesus is speaking.)
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth…. [Lk. 15: 7]
There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. Then in verse 10:
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
The angels experience joy because they are personal beings. They have emotions; they have feelings; they experience joy when a sinner repents. A robot has no joy. An impersonal being such as a flower has no joy. Angels are personal beings, i.e., beings possessing personality, will, volition, feeling, emotion, and personal intelligence. They can experience personal emotion such as joy or sadness. There is joy in heaven when one sinner repents which again attests that the angels rejoice; angels experience joy; angels are personal beings.
C. Angels Are Spiritual Beings.
Angels are spiritual beings in that they possess spiritual bodies. Unlike humans, they do not have material bodies. They do not have bodies of flesh, blood and bone as do men, but they do have spiritual bodies.
In this particular context in Hebrews, chapter 1, Christ is compared to and shown to be far superior to the angels.
13But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? [Heb. 1:13-14]
Another passage reinforcing that angels are spiritual beings is found in Ephesians, chapter 6.
10… be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; [Eph. 6:10-14]
Paul says that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. He goes on to mention these principalities and powers, and then says we wrestle against wicked spirits — “spiritual wickedness” which is actually wicked spirits in high places, i.e., the heavenly places. These are wicked spirits and do not possess flesh and blood, material bodies.
In speaking of angels as spirits, keep in mind everything already learned from our studies in theology. Think back to what was taught when first we studied the important subject of the very nature of God, i.e., God as spirit. In all the universe, God alone is spirit. As spirit, God is infinite, eternal, and omnipresent. There is no place in all the universe where God is not present. All of God is in every place at any time, at every time. Only God is spirit in that sense, i.e., eternal spirit. As spirit, God does not have a body. He is spirit; He is other than what we are. As eternal spirit, God can manifest Himself in whatever ways He pleases. In our study of the nature of God, we emphasized that He does not have a body. Angels do have bodies; however, they are spiritual bodies. Angels are not in every place as God can be because angels do not possess the attributes of deity. The angels are not omnipresent. An angel can only be in one place at a time. Don’t think of angels as spirit in the sense that God is spirit.
The passage in Hebrews, chapter 2, as well as others that attest that angels are ministering spirits, infers that angels are spiritual beings, possessing spiritual bodies. Although those bodies are invisible to us, angels have real existence as spiritual creatures. God as spirit fills the universe. He alone in the entire universe, in all of creation, only God is spirit. Angels are spiritual beings; they do have bodies. Since angels do not possess material or physical bodies as do men, they neither age nor grow. Neither do the angels marry nor do they procreate. Further study into that aspect will come later.
Also, angels do not die. They do not age; they do not grow older; they do not grow. Humans begin life as infants, followed by growth, maturity and the accumulation of knowledge by learning. This is not the case with the angels. They are not born in the physical sense. Neither do they progress by growth through childhood. The angels were created all at once and their spiritual bodies remain as they were at the time of their creation. The angels that were on the earth 8-9-10,000 years ago remain in the same form and are still with us today. They have experienced no growth, aging or change insofar as appearance. For the angelic host, there is no death.
Some have observed that during deliverance sessions a person may speak of events that occurred 500 years ago. Demons are speaking through that individual. Demons speak of events that happened 500 years ago as though they were present at the event. Those individuals, who have in the past submitted themselves to hypnosis, hypno-therapy and age regression, etc., have opened themselves to demonic oppression. The hypnotist supposedly takes a person back into a past life. During the session the individual sometimes speaks with amazing detail about things that took place 500 years ago, saying, “I used to be John Smith. I lived in the nation of Turkey, and I lived in such-and-such a house. I buried gold coins in my backyard, etc.” Such incidents have occurred with circumstances such as gold coins actually being found buried in the backyard. Unknowing individuals are then led to say, “Now see, this proves reincarnation.” Well no, it doesn’t prove a thing! The demons that inhabited that person 100-500 years ago now inhabit the individual undergoing hypnosis. The demon that drove that person to bury his gold out of fear 100 years ago is now revealing 100 years later where it is buried. These demons have been around for centuries, thousands of years. The same demons inhabit people today that inhabited Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, and Cain when he killed his brother. Those demons are still around inhabiting living individuals. People become awed. “How did they know that? Reincarnation!” No, it’s not reincarnation, it’s a demon. It’s a demon that was in that person 200 years ago and now he’s in this other individual. Demons don’t age.
Sometime ago I read a book regarding demon manifestation where a minister was taking a demon possessed individual through deliverance. As the minister was casting out the demons, one demon began to manifest, throwing the person down on the ground. The minister commanded the demon to name itself. The demon replied, “I’m the spirit of insanity.” The demon went on to say, “I’m the same spirit that drove so-and-so insane.” The demon spoke the name of a person who had died hundreds of years before – a well-known figure — who had committed suicide and died totally insane. This demonic spirit said, “I’m the same one that drove so-and-so insane hundreds of years ago.” The demon could have been telling the truth at that point because demons don’t age. Unlike humans, the demons possess spiritual bodies. Demons don’t age. Neither do the demons experience growth or death. Humans acquire knowledge through learning, but the spirits already “know.” Their knowledge is already fully acquired and mature because they are spiritual beings.
As spiritual beings, angels, for the most part, appear to take human form. In other words, when a person sees an angel, the angel appears human. Even though they are spiritual beings, angels look like human beings when people see them. The likeness of the angelic beings doesn’t resemble the drawings, the pictures, the statues depicted by artists and sculptors. Angels are certainly not feminine looking beings as portrayed in forms of art.
The Bible however, does speak of different orders of angels that don’t look at all like human beings. For example, the cherubim have four faces and six wings and are a different order of angel altogether. Obviously, they don’t look like humans. As spiritual beings, they are invisible to ordinary sight. They have spiritual bodies; they are invisible to ordinary sight but prophets and donkeys can see them.
Previously mentioned was the passage (2 Kings 6) where the prophet of God, Elisha, saw the angels surrounding the area where he lived. Elisha asked that God open his servant’s eyes so that he could also see them. Another interesting passage is found in Numbers, chapter 22, concerning a donkey belonging to a renegade prophet named Balaam. God had told the prophet not to prophesy against Israel, yet he was going to do it anyway. Balaam was a prophet who accepted money or bribes and was going to prophesy against Israel. As Balaam traveled along on his donkey, an angel of God stood in the roadway ready to kill the prophet. The donkey saw the angel and turned the other way. After several attempts to redirect the donkey that persistently turned to go another route, the prophet became so angry that he said to the donkey, “Why are you doing this to me?” As the prophet persisted in striking the little donkey on the head, the donkey spoke, saying, “Why are you hitting me like this?” Balaam is so enraged that he doesn’t consider that his donkey is talking to him. He said, “Hitting you? If I had a stick or sword, I’d kill you.” The donkey went on to say, “I’ve been a faithful donkey to you for all these years. You think I’d do something like this if there wasn’t a cause for it?” Then the prophet sees the angel standing there and he realizes that the donkey had saved his life. Balaam should have been kissing that donkey, not hitting him on the head. The Bible records some amazing incidents that bless us with the reading. So even though angels may be invisible to our sight, donkeys and prophets can see them.
C. Angels Possess Super-human Power and Intelligence.
A passage in 2 Peter, chapter 2, speaks of false teachers, i.e., false prophets who speak against government and those in positions of authority. They’re not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. [2 Pe. 2:11]
Peter is talking about men who dare to speak evil against dignities. These men boldly speak evil against what they know not of, but angels who are greater in power and might than men, wouldn’t consider doing that. This passage reveals that angels possess super-human strength and super-human might. Their strength and might is far greater than that of any man. Being spiritual beings, their strength, power and ability is in super-human proportion. Unlike men, angels are beyond comprehension in that they are spiritual beings. Because they possess spiritual bodies, angels possess the ability to pass through walls and other solid obstructions.
The scriptural account (Acts 12) of Peter in prison is an example. Wanting to make certain that Peter remained in prison, the authorities placed guards outside the prison doors. Peter was securely locked behind iron bars and iron doors, even chained to the prison floor. Guards were posted on either side of him. The jailers wanted to ensure that Peter didn’t go anywhere. However, in the middle of the night, an angel walked right into the jail cell, struck Peter on the side, and said, “Get up!” As Peter awakened, the chains fell from him. The guards had fallen into a sleep so sound that they were immovable, hearing nothing. The angel told Peter to put on his garment and “Go!” Perhaps Peter thought he was dreaming, but he got to his feet and followed the angel. As the angel and Peter walked through the prison, iron doors opened automatically before them, seemingly of their own accord. While the angel could have just walked through those iron doors, Peter could not. Angels possess super-human powers, super-human abilities that men do not have. The angel led Peter to freedom outside of the prison.
Most are familiar with the passage in the Old Testament book of Daniel where Daniel is thrown into the den of hungry lions. He was going to be lions’ food but in Daniel, chapter 6, Daniel says:
My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths…. [Dan. 6:22]
Just one angel stopped the mouths of all those lions. There’s no estimating how many lions were in that lair as lions were kept half-starved and in large numbers so they would readily devour anyone thrown in with them. One single angel was all that was required for the job. Submitting to the strength and power of the one lone angel, the hungry lions were subdued, becoming quiet and docile.
Though angels are considered to be beautiful creatures, the Bible does not project them as creatures of beauty as much as it accentuates them as creatures of tremendous strength and power. For example, consider the strength of the lone angel that rolled away the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb in which Jesus had been laid. Conservative accounts estimate that the stone was solid granite, eight-ft. in diameter and one-ft. thick. Even if the stone was rolled along in a groove, it still weighed over four tons. No problem for an angel! It was effortlessly rolled aside by one who possessed super-human strength and power.
It was two angels who walked into Sodom, bringing destruction on that wicked city and its sister city, Gomorrah. Angels were responsible for killing the firstborn of Egypt. Another account is found in 2 Samuel, chapter 24, where David sinned by numbering or taking a census count of Israel. God was displeased with David’s disobedience and gave David a choice among three consequences, i.e., pestilence, running from his enemies as they chased him, etc. David chose the pestilence at the hand of God and one angel slew 70,000. If that number appears large, a passage in 2 Kings says that one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. It took but a single angel to wipe out the Assyrian army.
And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand…. [2 Ki. 19:35]
Strength and power are the predominate characteristics of the angels.
Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. [Ps. 103:20]
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. [2 Thess. 1:7]
The angels are characterized by tremendous strength. When individuals saw angels, it wasn’t so much their beauty that was impressive, but their strength. Repeatedly in the Bible, at the appearance of angels, people were terrified, so much so they became immobile. Individuals literally could not move when observing these tremendous creatures, these powerful creatures.
Being stronger than men doesn’t make angels superior to men. It would be well to bear this in mind. The Bible doesn’t say that angels are superior to men; it does say that they are stronger. That could be said about many things. A horse is stronger than a man; an ox is stronger than a man; an elephant is stronger than a man but that doesn’t make any of these creatures superior to a man.
While angels possess great strength, even their strength is not infinite. They’re not omnipotent like God even though their power and knowledge is super-human, yet it is finite, it’s limited. Angels are not omniscient; they don’t know all things although they possess tremendous wisdom and tremendous intelligence.
When Jesus speaks of His own return, He says that no man knows when that day is going to be, not even the angels of heaven. So their knowledge, though great, is limited.
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. [Matt. 24:36]
Angels are not spoken of as being superior to men. More will be said about that at another time.
E. Angels Are Distinct from Man.
5For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 6But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Here is seen a contrast between angels and men. The nature of men and the nature of angels are contrasted in these two verses and they are obviously distinct. Angels are not men; men do not become angels. Angels are not glorified men; they’re not glorified human spirits. Men do not become angels. Our point is that angels are a separate and distinct order of beings. They are not glorified men.
In the following passage, the angels in heaven are contrasted with the church, i.e., the saints, and there appears to be two distinct companies.
22But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. [Heb. 12:22-23]
– Closing Prayer –
Father, we ask that you impress these things upon our hearts, upon our minds, enabling us to have a fuller and deeper comprehension of your Word and the spiritual realities that surround us. The unseen world, though invisible to our sight, is very real. Father, cause to be impressed deeper in our hearts the invisible realities that yet we do not see, but hope and believe for — eternal reward and eternal bliss. Father, cause us to see that this physical world is actually a temporal world that it is even now decaying and passing away, but that what is unseen abides forever. Father, cause us to loosen our attachments to this physical, temporary world.