What Does the Bible Say About the Origin, Nature, and Role of Angels?
PROFESSOR: "Do you believe in the tooth fairy?
PROFESSOR: “What about leprechauns? Do you concede the existence of these little Irish gentlemen?”
STUDENT: “Of course not.”
PROFESSOR: “Why not?”
STUDENT: “Simply because there is no factual basis for believing in these mythical characters.”
Then comes the question for which the student has been baited.
PROFESSOR: “Do you believe in angels? If so, how can you defend your answer?”
Why Do Christians Believe in Angels?
Why does the Christian believe in the existence of angels when he has neither seen nor heard them? He has no firsthand, empirical knowledge that they are real beings.
The answer is surprisingly simple. We assert our confidence in the existence of angels simply because the Holy Scriptures inform us of their existence. Our trust in the integrity of the Bible, grounded in careful investigation, is the basis of our faith in the unseen realm.
What does divine revelation teach about the origin, nature, and role of angels? This is a fascinating topic upon which the Scriptures do shed some light.
We should note initially that the term “angel” derives from a Greek term which suggests the idea of sending a message. It can be used in a very ordinary way of one who simply brings a message, as in the case of John the Baptizer (Mt. 11:10).
The Hebrew form of the term is even employed of the pre-incarnate Christ (see Mal. 3:1), though certainly Jesus was no angel in the common sense of that term – as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” allege. The first chapter of Hebrews clearly refutes that notion.
Ordinarily, though, the word “angel” denotes a heavenly order of beings, below deity (Heb. 1:6), but above humanity (Heb. 2:7).
Where Did Angels Come From?
Angels are created beings. Only deity possesses the intrinsic quality of eternality. The psalmist wrote:
“Praise ye him [God], all his angels ... let them praise the name of Jehovah; for he commanded, and they were created” (Ps. 148:2, 5).
Elsewhere the Scriptures affirm that:
“[God] made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts ... and the host of heaven worships you” (Neh. 9:6).
When Were the Angels Created?
When were the angels created? In the absence of explicit testimony a plausible opinion would be that they were brought into existence at the commencement of the creation week.
All created things came into being during the first week (Ex. 20:11), and since the angels “shouted for joy” when the “foundations of the earth” were laid (Job 38:4, 7), it is not unreasonable to assume that they came into existence during the initial stages of God’s creative activity.
What is the Nature of Angels?
What is the essence of angels? We do not precisely know.
As indicated earlier, they possess the nature of neither deity nor humanity. Scripture does affirm that they are “spirits” (Heb. 1:14). But then we do not know much about the nature of a spirit.
A spirit is not physical. It does not possess flesh and bones (Lk. 24:39). Angels thus do not engage in physical relationships (e.g., marriage – see Mt. 22:30). There is little positive information about the makeup of these heavenly creatures.
Angels are accountable to some type of heavenly law; for some angels sinned (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), and sin is defined as transgression of divine law (1 Jn. 3:4). Where there is no law, there can be no sin (Rom. 4:15)
When angels sin, however, the gospel plan of redemption apparently is not applicable to them. An inspired writer affirms:
“For verily not to angels does he give help, but he gives help to the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16 ASV).
Is it possible that their intimacy with God made angelic rebellion inexcusable and thus beyond the pale of redemption? The Bible does not explain this mystery.
What Is the Role of Angels?
Angels are “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14) that carry out the bidding of the Creator.
They worship God and serve Him (Is. 6:2; Rev. 22:8, 9). In ancient times they often temporarily assumed human form and delivered messages for Jehovah (see Lk. 1:26f). Sometimes they functioned as protectors of the Lord’s people (Dan. 6:22; Acts 12:7).
Some scholars believe that the expression “their angels” (Mt. 18:10) may suggest the idea of guardian angels (McGarvey), but the passage is too ambiguous to draw any firm conclusion.
It is apparent that angels have an interest in the activities of Christians (see 1 Cor. 11:10; 1 Tim. 5:21; Heb. 1:14).
When Lazarus died, his spirit was conveyed to the hadean realm by angels (Lk. 16:22), hence, they appear to be employed in the Christian experience of death.
Too, the Lord indicated that at the time of the judgment angels will be used to gather evil persons out of God’s kingdom (Mt. 13:41). It is significant that at the time of Christ’s return, He will be accompanied by “all the angels” (Mt. 25:31).
While there are obviously many things about angels that we do not know, it is clear that these rational beings serve a useful place in the divine scheme of things.