In a previous article we introduced the subject of angels, and were especially interested in the concept of “Guardian Angels.” There is, of course, much more to be said about these beings than is encompassed in so narrow a discussion as that. As we continue our study of angels, in this article we will limit ourselves to defining angels, explaining some of the common misconceptions about angels, and showing that angels make up the family of God in heaven. As always, we appeal only to the Scriptures in our search for the truth, for the Bible alone is the revelation of God.
WHAT ARE ANGELS?
The world “angel” is derived from two words: the Greek word “angelos” and the Hebrew word “malak.’ Both words refer simply to a messenger, and in some instances are applied to a human messenger such as a prophet or some other special servant of God. An example is found in Haggai 1:13 where Haggai the prophet is denoted by the word “malak.” In the book of Malachi, the same word is used to refer to the priests (Malachi 2:7) and to John the Baptist as well (3:1). However, when these words are used in scripture, most of the time they refer to special messengers from God called “angels.” These are heavenly or celestial beings, and they are the focus of our study.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ANGELS
As we seek to understand what angels are, we might do well to consider some common ideas about angels which do not have any foundation in scripture, and in some cases are in direct conflict with what the Bible does say. These are misconceptions about angels. The first is the notion that we cannot know much about them from the Bible.
Actually, while our knowledge is limited to the revelation in God’s word, there is a considerable amount of material found in the Bible on the subject. In fact, angels are mentioned in 34 of the 66 books in the Bible. A second misconception is that angels are really an Old Testament subject. The truth is that while the world “angel” appears 108 times in the Old Testament, in the New Testament its occurrence is even more frequent – 187 times is the world “angel” used. Many people think that angels are women, another misconception. This notion no doubt arises from popular artists’ conceptions of these beings. However, the only two angels in the Bible who are named have the masculine names Michael and Gabriel. And scripture indicates that when angels appear in human form they always do so as men, such as the time Abraham entertained the three men (Genesis 18). Actually, Jesus taught that angels are neither male or female.
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matthew 22:29-30).
A fourth misconception is the association that is often made between angels and halos, harps, angelic choirs, and wings. As far as halos go, they have become symbolic of holiness, but wherever this idea has come from, it certainly does not find support in the Bible. Halos are simply not Biblical. The idea of angels playing harps is taken from Revelation 14:2. But this verse actually employs a figure to describe melodious voices, for it was “the voice of harpers harping with their harps; and they sang as it were a new song” (14:2,3). In the Bible, we find no direct mention of an angelic choir, however, the idea is taken from the above passage (Revelation 14:2, 3), and also the statement made in scripture that “a multitude of the heavenly host [were] praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men” (Luke 2:13, 14). Wings are thought to be suggested when John “saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven” (Revelation 14:6). But this is most likely a symbol of great speed. However, the seraphim clearly had wings – six in fact: “with twain he covered his face and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly” (Isaiah 6:2). And so wings upon angels are not without any scriptural support, but it seems clear that the two-winged versions of the artists are clearly fanciful. A fifth misconception is that angels have no body. This is simply not true, for the Apostle Paul teaches they have a celestial body (I Corinthians 15:40). This body is neither human nor physical, for it is a spiritual body. A common belief in today’s world has it that angels are spirits who have departed their human body, the spirits of the dead. This too is a misconception. There is no Bible evidence for this notion, and the teaching of Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22) seems to speak to the contrary. In this verse, both Lazarus and the rich man retained their identity and neither became an angel. Also, the Bible makes a distinction between “an innumerable company of angels” and “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22, 23). A seventh and final misconception we will note is that angels have no feeling. The Bible clearly defines one of the desires angels possess:
“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” (I Peter 1:12).
The Bible also speaks of the joy that angels have when sinners repent:
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10).
Obviously, angels do have compassion and they are indeed concerned about the salvation of our souls.
ANGELS ARE IN THE FAMILY OF GOD
God has family both in Heaven and on Earth, as is evidenced by what Paul the Apostle has said:
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” (Ephesians 3:14,15).
God’s family on Earth is the church as well as all who have not attained a responsible mental age (I John 3:1; Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26,27; Matthew 19:14). God’s family in Heaven is made up of the angels. We know the Heavenly family is not made up of departed saints because Peter said, “David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). Also, when Jesus died, He went to Hades (Acts 2:31), and yet to the repentant thief He called it “paradise” (Luke 23:43). Therefore, departed spirits of the righteous go to paradise and not to heaven. This leaves us with only the angels to form the family of God in heaven. The proof that God’s family in heaven is indeed made up of the angels is found in two passages of scripture which say, … That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10), and “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
There are many misconceptions about angels, but a careful investigation of the scriptures will lay these to rest. What the Bible does teach is that angels are celestial beings who are God’s special messengers, and they make up the family of God in heaven. Lord willing, in the next article on this subject we will take up the theme of “The Origin Of Angels.”