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What are Angels?

Categories Theology Systematic Theology

Angels are created spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence but without physical bodies. They are God’s warriors and as a group are often referred to as the host (or armies) of heaven. They have not always existed; they are part of the universe God created. Ezra affirms this when he says of God, “You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host” (Neh. 9:6).

Since angels are “spirits” (Heb. 1:14), they do not have physical bodies, for as Jesus says, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Therefore, angels cannot ordinarily be seen unless the Lord opens our eyes (as he did with Balaam in Numbers 22:31) or they take on bodily form to appear to us (as happened at Jesus’ tomb in Matthew 28:5). Normally, though, angels are invisible as they perform their ordinary activities of guarding us in all our ways (Ps. 91:11) and joining us in our worship of God (Heb. 12:22). Angels demonstrated moral judgment when “they sinned” and were cast out of heaven (2 Peter 2:4). They demonstrate their intelligence through speaking to humans (see Matt. 28:5, for example) and singing praise to God (see Rev. 4:11, for example).

Angels have great power. They are called “mighty ones” (Ps. 103:20) and are “greater in might and power” than unrighteous humans (2 Peter 2:11). Even so, God demonstrates a greater love for humans than for angels, for “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness” (2 Peter 2:4). In contrast, when Adam and Eve sinned, though they were cast out of their paradise, they were not cast into hell. And instead of putting them in chains, God made clothes for them, covering their shame (Gen. 3:21 – 23).

As angels obediently carry out God’s plans by doing “his word” (Ps. 103:20), they serve as examples for us. They also serve as examples for us as they worship and glorify God continually (see Isa. 6:2 – 3, for example). We should, therefore, be aware of the unseen presence of angels as we go about our daily lives. They may be joining us in worship, protecting and guarding us, or even visiting us as strangers seeking hospitality (Heb. 13:2). But we are not to pray to or worship angels. When John tried to worship an angel, the angel quickly said, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 19:10). We are to worship God, and pray to God; we are not to treat angels, which are part of God’s creation, the same way we would treat God.

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