The interest in angels (like the interest in dinosaurs) has really increased in the last few years. Unfortunately, some web sites and books contain very little factual information about angels. This is unfortunate, since the facts about angels are more interesting than the “fantasized” accounts any day! Although the bible refers to angels in many ways, we will consider three forms of angels:
This happens many times in the bible. Most translations refer to this as the “Angel of the LORD.” The first example occurs in Genesis, chapter 16 where the Angel of the LORD appears to a servant of Abraham (the person whose story the Bible is relating at that time). How do we know this angel we meet in verse 7 is actually God? We have two sources of evidence. First, if you read the language, it sounds like God. After all, a normal (or angelic) person would not say “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude” (verse 10). The second reason we think the Angel of the LORD is God, is because the servant says so in verse 13. Now, we admit that if this was an isolated incident that our argument would seem weak—but meetings of this type occurred many times.
That being said, we realize that it is possible to get the wrong idea that the angels and God are about the same—only looking different because they are taking on different forms. This is a illogical jump in thought that the Bible does not support. It is one thing for God to appear as an angel and it is something quite different for God to be an angel.
If you would like to look into this further, find a concordance (a listing of the words of the Bible) and look up the word angel. Under “angel,” you will find angel, angel of God, angel of the LORD, and so forth—each referencing a text in the Bible. Read each text and make your own decision! For your convenience, we have an online Bible with a word search feature that acts as a concordance. By the way, angels are not called “angels” every time they appear in the Bible. See Ezekiel Chapter 8, verse 2 (Ezekiel 8:2) for an interesting example.
This is the most commonly stated purpose of angels in the Bible—and now we are talking about “regular” angels, too! Although God sometimes communicated with people personally (as above), He usually communicated with them through an angel. Sometimes the Bible text tells us the angel’s name. This happened three times with the angel Gabriel, who visited Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary. (See Daniel chapter 8, and Luke chapter 1.)
One of the most interesting encounters with angels occurred in chapters 10-12 of the book of Daniel. Here, the angel is referred to as a “man clothed in linen.”* Although Daniel stood his ground when the angel appeared, the men accompanying Daniel were overwhelmed with terror and fled the scene! The message this angel had for Daniel (all of chapter 11 and more) was a revelation of the future. Although this revelation is difficult to interpret (many have tried and we have not read a convincing one yet) what happened in the encounter itself gives us some insight into what angels are like. The description of this man in linen (his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, and so forth) does not resemble that of a normal man. Still, he is referred to as a “man in linen.” Therefore, this type of angel (we will describe others later) has a human form. (And humans have a godlike form, since humans were created in God’s image according to Genesis 1:26.)
*Note: Some scholars believe that this “man clothed in linen” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. (That is, appearing as He existed before being born as a baby in Bethlehem.) If true, this would be a variation of “God appearing as an angel.” We agree that the Bible text allows for this possibility.
A second interesting feature of this encounter is the fact that the angel could float (see Dan 12:6,7). There are several places in the Bible that describe how angels do not obey the law of gravity. The most striking example occurs twice in the book of Ezekiel, which describes a different type of angel. See Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10.
There are celestial beings who are constantly in God’s presence. One type of these beings is called the
The vision many of us have today when we hear the word “cherub” is a
chubby little two-year-old with wings. Yet, the Bible’s description of
a cherubim will shock anyone who has not already read the Bible’s
description. Although once again described as having “the likeness of a
man,” cherubim also: Have four different
faces and have four wings.
Read Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 to see what we mean. (These are definitely two of the coolest chapters in the Old Testament.) By the way, Ezekiel 10:20-22 confirms that the “living creatures” in chapter 1 and the “cherubim” in chapter 10 are the same thing.
The Bible refers to another type of angel, the seraphim, in Isaiah chapter 6. The description reveals that seraphim have six wings, a face, feet, hands, can fly and speak, and can be stationed at God’s throne. That still leaves us without knowing what the seraphim’s normal responsibilities are or what one looks like. (With the description we have, seraphim could physically resemble humans with six wings, cherubim with one face and two “extra” wings, or something else.)
We know from the Bible that angels do not get married. For example, in Matthew 22:30 Jesus spoke about people after they die and compared them to angels. That not only gave us a look at what heaven will be like for us, but also told us something about angels. He said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” For most of us, that is a “good deal,” since we prefer that angels watch over us instead of paying attention to one another!
Since angels neither marry nor are given in marriage, it makes sense that there are no baby angels (like those that many artists draw as “cherubs”). Also, the Bible never mentions the existence of any childlike angels. Although such “artistic” cherubs are cute, the reality is that such angels only exist in the artist’s imagination.
Many paintings of angels show them as pretty women with wings, wearing flowing gowns. Yet, if you read the Bible, only one sentence (Zechariah chapter 5, verse 9) describes female beings with wings. They are not identified as angels, although these beings may be angels. All of the rest of the references to angels in the Bible (hundreds of them) describe angels as looking like “men” or having “human form.” Yes, we admit that the description of the cherubim (above) seems to stretch our concept of “human form.” Still, if we consider that man is made in God’s image, perhaps the angels are also! Therefore, if we all resemble God, a human (who does not have another visual point of reference) could describe an angel as having human form.
Although we would not enter a debate over this point, angels seem to be a “creation” just as the living creatures here on Earth are a “creation.” In this way, angels can have different appearances from each other, just as a lion, an eagle, and a human look different from one another. There is no question about it, things are not boring in Heaven!
The angel talking with Daniel, in Daniel chapters 10-12, refers three times to Michael, who is obviously an angel. He calls him a “one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13, a “prince” in Daniel 10:21, and “the great prince” in Daniel 12:1. Michael is also described as an archangel in Jude. In Revelation chapter 12, “Michael and his angels” appear in a battle, implying that Michael is a military leader. (Note: the angels referred to in Daniel, Jude, and Revelation may refer to different angels named Michael.) We will not attempt to classify any “ranks,” but it is apparent that there are greater angels that perform special services. It is also interesting to note that the Bible never records Michael talking with people, like Gabriel does.
Some folks would lead you to believe that Jesus is sort of an “advanced angel,” (perhaps even implying that Jesus is sort of a “good version” of the fallen angel Satan). This false belief has been circulating since the first century AD. (The writer of the book of Hebrews took the time to refute this error—and Hebrews was written around 68 AD.) It is clear that Jesus is completely different from and superior to the angels. For example:
It is obvious that if angels are to worship Jesus Christ, that Jesus is not an angel. (Angels are not to be worshiped. See Revelation chapter 19, verse 10 for one example.)
Angels are also used to carry out God’s judgment. When they are on a mission of this type, you do not want to be on their “to do” list! There are numerous examples of this type in the Bible, including some that show the tremendous strength of an angel. See the example in 2 Kings chapter 19, where an angel destroys 185,000 Assyrians in one night.
There is a great deal of singing in the Bible. The Psalms mention singing often. Mark 14:26 and Matthew 26:30 record a time when Jesus and His apostles sang. The heavens and mountains “cry out” or “sing” in Isaiah 49:13, and even trees “sing” or “rejoice” in 1 Chronicles 16:33. (Note: different Hebrew words—ranan and rinnah—are used for the “singing” of inanimate objects, instead of shiyr and zamar—the words normally used for human singing in the Old Testament.)
Although there is a lot of singing going on, it is interesting that the Bible never states that angels sing. Yes, many Christmas songs have lyrics indicating that the angels sang when Jesus was born—and we suspect that angels have the ability to sing. Still, it is interesting that the Bible never actually reports that angels do sing.
Queen of Angels
May the angels keep you till morning,
May they guide you through the night,
May they comfort all your sorrows,
May they help you win the fight.
May they keep watch on your soul,
May they show you better ways,
May they guard you while you're sleeping,
May they see you through your days.
May they show you new hopes,
May they still your every doubt,
May they calm your every fear,
May they hear you when you shout.
May the angels keep you till morning,
More than this, I cannot pray,
And if the angels ever fail you,
Then may God be there that day.
A Frail Old Angels Cry
Last night I had a dream
It had a tale to tell.
I dreamed I saw an Angel;
Poor thing, he wasn't feeling well.
His body bruised and battered
His wings were ripped and torn
This Angel could hardly walk,
He looked so tired and worn.
I walked right up to him to ask;
Angel? How can this be?
He turned around and paused a (bit),
Then he spoke these words to me:
"I'm Your Guardian Angel,
A great task as you can see.
You've run amok most all your life:
Look what it's done to me.
These bruises are from shielding Ýou
In times both dire and íll.
Those alcoholic bouts and drugs you've used
I've often paid the bill
You see my wings are ripped and torn;
How often they have flown you
From evils unaware.
Each mark is it's own story
of deadly wounds destroyed.
You made me wish~~more than once-
That I was unemployed.
If only you could make ít
Standing on your own;
Oh, don't you fret or worry
but please try to remember
I'm getting old and frail.
I could not believe all I had heard,
Let alone how much he cared.
I wept upon his shoulder,
Then left him ín despair.
The next day I sat and pondered:
Should I really try?
Ånd ín the distance I thought I heard;
A frail Old Angel Cry.