There are perhaps no more fascinating beings than the created intelligences known as angels in the Bible.
In literature, in paintings, in popular culture, in many times, places, and cultures all over the world, men have wondered about angels. And no wonder, for angels are mentioned 326 times in the Bible; in the (singular) 226 times, and in the (plural) 100 times (KJV).
Yet despite the frequency with which angels are mentioned, the Bible says very little directly about them. In addition, in cultures all over the globe, men hold many popular misconceptions about angels.
If we're going to talk about angels than the Bible must be our only reference point on the reality of angels. That makes sense doesn't it?
Perhaps an aside about the Bible is in order:
"We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us, and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions shall be tried."
(Article of Faith #1; The New National Baptist Hymnal - National Baptist Publishing Board - Nashville, TN; copyright 1977, 39th edition)
In other words, the best commentary for understanding angels in the Bible is the Bible.
In this brief study of angels there are at least four major areas of interest. They are:
1. cultural misconceptions and error
2. servants of the judgment of God
3. personal protectors of and attendants to the children of God
4. ministers to the children of the King
One enduring misconception holds that angels in the bible hang around on fluffy white clouds playing the harp (lyre). The word harp appears just 30 times in scripture. But, the harp is never mentioned in connection with angels in the Bible. The Bible simply makes no connection between angels and harps.
Another popular misconception has to do with angels looking like babies. Depending on your cultural referent, angels have been frequently depicted in western culture as "cherubs" (derived no doubt from the Biblical word cherubim; which is in fact an angel) with cute little white baby bodies, with dimples, rosy cheeks, blonde hair, and diapers.
This modern portrayal of angels in pop culture and advertising is in stark contrast with the Biblical reality of angels.
Below is a short list of Biblical accounts of angels in the Bible:
Sodom and Gomorrah:
In the 16th and 17th chapters of Genesis we read the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These angels in the Bible destroyed these two cities and everyone living in them.
First born slain:
In the 12th chapter of Exodus there is the account of the Jews exodus from Egypt brought hastened by the death of every firstborn of man and beast in the country. Although the KJV specifically mentions the "destroyer". This destroyer is likely to have been an angel.
70,000 killed by one angel:
15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.
16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
2 Samuel 24:15-16 (KJV)
185,000 killed by one angel:
35 "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: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses."
2 Kings 19:35 (KJV)
These verses absolutely do not convey the mental image of something cute and helpless as a baby! Angels in the Bible are created intelligences that weld enormous spiritual and physical power as servants of Creator God.
Do angels in the Bible provide personal protection?
There is a persistent theme in cultures all over the globe that says humans have personal angels assigned to protect them! Interestingly enough the Bible does have something to say on this subject. For example:
An angel cares for Elijah the Prophet:
5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baking on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
1 Kings 19:5-7 (KJV)
The above quote is excerpted from the account of the Prophet Elijah's battle with Queen Jezebel; where an angel is dispatched to personally care for the Prophet after the battle.
Three Hebrew boys: Shadrach, meshach and abednego saved by an angel:
"28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God."
Daniel 3:28 (KJV)
The above verse is from the famous biblical account of these three boys who were willing to die rather than to bow down to the image made by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were delivered by an angel in the Bible.
Daniel in the Lion's den:
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt."
Daniel 6:22 (KJV)
King David sings of personal protection by Angels in the Bible:
9 "Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
Psalms 91:9-11 (KJV)
Jesus mentions the very special personal protection of Angels in the Bible: 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 18:10 (KJV)
In this last example of the personal protection of angels in the Bible, Jesus Himself says that "their angels" behold the face of God. In other words, angels in the Bible are assigned by God to "little ones" (not just children per se - but children of God).
From the foregoing Biblical quotes, we see ample evidence that angels in the Bible are charged with caring for and protecting Children of the Most High God. (Despite what you may have heard or been taught, not everyone is a Child of God.)
Finally, let's close this brief study of angels in the Bible with this observation:
It is striking that in Hebrews Chapter Two the Holy Spirit of God talking about Jesus via the writer of Hebrews (commonly thought to be the apostle Paul) says: "For verily he (Jesus) took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham
(Hebrews 2:16 KJV)."
In other words God shared man's mortal nature. He clothed Himself with the mortal nature of man which was subject to death and not the nature of angels. In so doing, God elevated man, honored man to a position above angels, despite the reality that angels in the Bible are are far superior to manin every way.
It's kind of like a King who has several children. Now the King has servants and staff who attend to every detail of the King's life, including the King's children. While the King's children are young, the staff directs the children according to the will of the King.
But as the children grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and mature into their roles as princes and princesses of the Kingdom of God; they gradually assume more and more command of the staff.
("Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
Food for thought is it not?
All right then, here's the wind up!
1. Angels in the Bible are not chubby cheeked beings carrying harps and wearing diapers.
2. Angels in the Bible have many functions; one of which is to implement the judgments of God as seen in Sodom and Gomorrah; and in Israel at the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite
3. Angels in the Bible also function as personal protectors of the children of God.
4. Angels in the Bible are very powerful created intelligences who are ministers to God and for God and to His children.