By Elizabeth Prata
Angels figure very, very prominently in the NT. People don’t really know this, or they overlook angels in the created order. At the other end of the scale, some are so preoccupied with angels they nearly fall into angel worship.
Once you start studying angels, you realize how frequently they are mentioned in the New Testament. And as for the nativity story, they figure prominently, making many appearances! So let’s get to know these incredible beings better.
The Bible shows that there is another life form among us. God created the world with animals, sea creatures, flying animals. He then created humans. But before that, and we don’t know how long before, He created angels.
Like the world and like the humans, at first it was very good. The angels were holy and worshipful. They shouted in praise when God made the world (Job 38:7).
Some of the angels chose to follow Satan (probably Lucifer) in his rebellion, and they became unholy.
But whether holy or unholy, angels are among us. The holy angels obey God by performing tasks He sets out for them to do. The unholy angels perform tasks their leader satan sets out for them to do, which is whatever opposes God.
The two innocent-looking cherubs seem harmless. They’re from an excerpt of the larger piece called Sistine Madonna by Raphael. Angels are not cherubic babies. But satan and his demonic horde would like you to think so.
The Bible is rife with angel activity. They do a lot. Yet Renaissance art shows them as babies with wings, diminishing their august beauty and power. Since they are among us unawares, people tend to forget they exist. Yet the Bible shows them doing a myriad of things for God and on behalf of humans.
Angels. They exist. They were created by God and they serve God. There are multitudes and multitudes of them. (Hebrews 12:22).
The Bible shows us that angels appear on earth as men, sometimes looking like ordinary men (Joshua 5:13-14; Mark 16:5), and at other times looking like something other-worldly. So other-worldly they looked, that the people gazing upon them were gripped with fear, as in Matthew 28:3, who looked like this, “his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow”
And the keepers of Jesus’ tomb were so frightened, they ‘became as dead men when they saw an angel of the Lord’ (Matthew 28:4).
In these appearances, the first thing the angel says is “Fear not.”
When they appear to people on the earth sometimes they take on human form like in Genesis 18:1-19. Jesus and two angels appeared as men and actually ate a meal with Abraham. Later two of the angels went on to Sodom and slept overnight at Lot’s house. So we know they can incarnate, appear as men, and spend a period of time on earth.
We know that some angels fell, meaning, they sided with Satan in the angelic rebellion and were cast from their places in heaven. Satan’s fall is described in Isaiah:
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)
A third of the angels fell with satan:
“Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” (Revelation 12:3-4).
Though satan lost his high position as the covering cherub of God, he is god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) at the permission of God. Therefore, being cast out doesn’t interfere with his intent to deceive us. He still pretends to be on God’s side when interacting in human activity, as seen here. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Note the word ‘masquerades’ and ‘light’. Masquerade means “An involved scheme; a charade; as in wearing a mask or disguise”. Of course he would pretend he is one of the good guys to an unsuspecting unbeliever, or even to a Christian. His underlings pretend to be on the good side, too. His servants are the fellow angels that followed satan in the war against God and also pretend to be one of the good angels. But they only want to deceive.
“It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:15).
Hebrews 13:2 says we sometimes entertain angels unawares.
So the point is, if you were beset by an angel of light, how would you know he is one of the good guys, or one of the bad guys? There is a 1 in 3 chance he is one of the bad ones. How would you know? Would you be so gripped with fear that you just accept what the angel says? Would you be so filled with pride that one of these beings was sent to you that you would accept what he said without question? Would you be so entranced by their light that you unquestioningly accept they are from God?
The only way to know is to know the Word of God. John and Peter both warned of false teachers, and Jesus said they may come to us in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15; 1 John. 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1). John said our duty is to “test the spirits,” and Paul said: “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Not all angels come in peace. Some are your enemy. Be watchful and test all things!
But what do the holy angels do? More on those powerful created beings next time!
There is a lot of interest in angels. There is actually a study of them in systematic theology called Angelology. But the modern day books and studies are full of error and speculation. Here are some credible teachings about angels.
TableTalk Magazine: What does the Bible say about Angels? First in a series. I love angels and learning about them.
Martyn Lloyd Jones did a sermon on Good Angels, here. Though MLJ’s companion sermon sermon for about the unholy angels (demons), called The Devil and Fallen Angels is lost, the transcription of that sermon is below.
This is written from a secular point of view but contains interesting information and perspectives about angels that track with the Bible closely.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about Angels! Part 1 of two parts.