The topic of angels is one that inexorably incites curiosity and keen interest from both Christian and non-Christians. It is a subject that is frequently explored in literature, music, art, film, cyberculture, television and religious circles.
A TV series that fuelled much of the angel hysteria in the 1990s was Touched by an Angel (featuring Della Reese and Roma Downey). This series became such a cultural phenomenon that it was nominated for eleven Primetime Emmy Awards between 1997 and 2000.
It might interest you to know that it’s not only Christianity that believes in angels. Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, even Wicca, Hermetic Qabalah and New Age spirituality also believe in angels, but their angelogy contradicts Christianity and the Bible.
This is why a fine line should be drawn. In the age of deception which we live in, a biblical view of angels is vital, so that we do not veer out of the original faith handed to the saints in a bid to get “touched by an angel.”
What you need to know
The Bible defines angels as “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). In plain words, angels are sent forth to minister for God or to serve us, God’s people.
The use of the present participle in that verse emphasizes the continuance of angelic ministry even in our day. The word translated angels from the original Greek language is angelos which carries the same meaning as “messenger.”
Angels are also called “ministers” (Greek: leitourgous) of God, that is, servants of God. Though they are spirits, they can manifest themselves physically (cf. Gen. 18:2). They are living beings that possess personality (intellect, emotion and will).
They are variously called the sons of God, morning stars (Job 38:7), sons of the mighty (Ps. 29:1 NASB), watchers (Dan. 4:13-15), holy ones (Matt. 25:31), princes (Dan. 10:13), thrones and dominions (Col. 1:16).
The angels of God were created long before the earth. God said “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth … when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38: 4, 7).
This indicates that at Creation, angels were shouting for joy when they saw what God was doing.
We also learn that there are innumerable angels with God. At one place Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
In the ancient Roman army, a legion consists of 3,000 – 6,000 soldiers. So when Jesus speaks of 12 legions of angels, it’s clear that He refers to tens of thousands of warrior angels. These are possibly the “armies of heaven” that will come with Him at the Second Advent (Rev. 19:14).
In another place, the Bible speaks of “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” where there are “thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (Heb. 12:22).
It’s also worthy to note that these angels are organized into ranks (Col. 2:18) and are sent for various assignments:
They guard gates (Rev. 21:12); wage war in actual bodily contact (2Th. 2:10); execute judgements (Gen. 19; 2Kgs. 19:35 etc.); lead sinners to gospel workers (Acts 10:3); witness confessions (Lk. 15:8-9); impart God’s will (Acts 5:19-20); take the saints at their death to God’s presence (Lk. 16:22); strengthen them in trial (Mt. 4:11); protect the saints (Ps. 34:7); give revelations (Lk. 15:8-9) and bring answers to prayers (Dan. 9:31-23) etc.
Five Popular Myths about Angels
#1 All angels have wings
In arts and popular culture, angels are always depicted having wings on their backs. Renaissance European arts even added a twist to it: they portrayed angels as winged chubby infants holding bows and arrows (obviously borrowed from depictions of the Roman god, Cupid).
Many Christians today still adhere to this hallowed myth, that all angels have wings. But with the exception of cherubims and seraphims described in the Old Testament, there is no description in the Bible of angels with wings.
Every time an angel made an appearance to someone in Scripture, the person always thought the angel was human. Humans did not observe that angels had wings or could fly.
Cherubims are a special group of angels attached to the throne of God whose task is to guard the Holiness of God.
For instance, a cherub was placed at the gate to Eden so that people might not enter after Adam and Eve were cast out. The two likenesses of angels that were placed on the Ark of the Covenant were were cherubs (Ex. 25:18-22).
The Bible also speaks of seraphims (from the word “burners”) who had six wings. These are angels who are concerned with the holiness of God. They cry out continually: “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3).
So technically, angels don’t have wings, but cherubims and seraphims – which are higher order of angels – do.
God’s angels are powerful beings; they are not the sweet-faced chubby infants found in Catholic art.
#2. Female angels
This was one of the misleading concepts popularized by the Touched by an Angel series.
Many statues and artwork also depict angels as female. In Choo Thomas’s Heaven is so Real, she also claimed to encounter a female angel.
But going to the Bible, we see that the word angel is always used in the masculine gender both in Hebrew and Greek. Sex, in a human sense, is not ascribed to them.
#3. Everyone has a Guardian Angel
This myth is a very popular one. It pervades both religious and secular circles, for obvious reasons.
In the Touched by an Angel series, the angel usually appears to a person who is a derelict or has some moral problems and helps them solve their problems with the credit going to the angels. This sort of teaching is loved by the world.
Plenty of people (even if non-religious), are fascinated with the idea of having a personal spiritual protector working out their life’s hassles without really submitting to God. So, they seek a spirituality that gives comfort to such warm, fuzzy sentiments.
Some Christians actually believe every child born on earth has a personal guardian angel assigned to him/her by God. He follows, helps and protects them until the point where they start to sin. Though they appeal to Matt. 18:10, the doctrine doesn’t appear to be based on sound exegesis.
Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. The unsaved have no angel. “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psa. 34:7).
The unsaved are excluded from angelic protection and deliverance. (Though it doesn’t mean God, in His grace, cannot sovereignly protect them). Children having angels who see God’s face (cf. Matthew 18:10) most likely refers to those that have come to know the Lord or are born to Believing parents.
Of course, there have been many accounts of personal supernatural angelic experiences in books, documentaries and daytime talk shows. But two things are common to many of such “angel” narratives:
One, these individuals are not Christians. Two, the angel frequently occupies a central figure in their lives. He – not God – becomes their personal saviour/guru, which makes their experiences highly suspect.
How can a non-Christian who is not in the light nor has yielded to the authority of Scripture be able to discern between what is coming from God or what may be of the devil? Answer: They don’t! Everything is accepted as true because it resonates with their emotions.
#4. We need to locate our guardian angels and listen to them
This myth is circumscribed on #3. In recent times, the Internet has become cluttered with “angel reading” ads aimed at luring people into seeking out messages purportedly coming from their “guardian angels” in heaven.
These online readings are said to guide inquirers on their life purposes, relationships, weekly plans and their future.
Though the terms have changed a bit, it’s the same old stuff that many people have sought at seances, palmists, star gazers, crystal ball readers and other brand of diviners for centuries.
When you read these “message from your angel” ads carefully, you will realize that the so-called angels being contacted for information are spirits imitating the departed. The old spirit guides have been rebranded as “angels” and sold in the market place.
Some Charismatic churches also teach that we need to communicate with our angels and “put them to work” – to bring us money, healing, peace and helpers. These are more based on Frank Peretti’s school of the spirit world than a historic, biblical thought.
Talking about Frank Peretti. His Christian fiction novel, This Present Darkness, has sadly been used as the manual of spiritual knowledge for many believers. That was one of the books which popularised the idea of localised angels contacting humans.
But in every instance of an angel physically appearing to individuals like Abraham, Lot and his family, Gideon, Moses, Manoah etc., it’s clear that the angels had the physical appearances that matched the people to whom they appeared; they dressed like them and spoke their languages.
There were no “European” angels contacting Asians or “American” angels, “Chinese” angels or “African” angels doing the same.
Aside that, the angels that appeared to God’s people and gave them revelations did so only at God’s sovereign arrangements.
Daniel wasn’t trying to contact angel Gabriel for visions. Zechariah wasn’t in the temple, trying to locate an angel. Mary the mother of Jesus didn’t seek an angel. Apostle Peter or John wasn’t seeking an angel for a revelation. Neither should we.
#5. We need to pray to and invoke angels for help
This is often a consequence of myth #4. When folks have been seduced to believe that angels have a corner in the market where they can be contacted for knowledge, the next best thing would be to learn their names, call on them and make them intermediaries.
In African syncretic/ “spiritual” churches (as well as Roman Catholicism), the special invocation of and prayer to angels is inextricably linked with their rituals.
They invoke and pray to angels Michael and Gabriel, as well as names of “angels” found in post-exilic rabbinical traditions and ceremonial magick, like Raphael and Uriel. These are all fallen angels.
In the Bible, only three angels’ names are recorded: Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel. Lucifer fell, and with him a host of angels known as fallen angels.
The Bible distinguishes between these unrighteous angels (or unclean spirits) who followed Satan and “the elect angels” who follow God (1 Tim. 5:21).
These fallen angels are the force behind the “angel craze” in pseudo-Christian religions, New Age spirituality and the secular world, leading many down the path of a false god.
They give their followers false miracles and supernatural experiences that deepen their delusion and strengthen them in their iniquities.
An ex-satanist who worked with such evil spirits said:
“The sylphs [elemental spirits] do shout and make noise when they are in full control of the medium. Besides this, they teach series of rituals that are unscriptural. They are fond of doing rituals with eggs, sugar, ginger nuts, earthenware, coins and cereals …
“The sylphs [also] make their congregation abstain from meats, especially pork, rabbit, crab, snail, mudfish, duck meat, grass cutter and other forest animals … The spiritual churches erect altars by burying alive ram, crucifix, doves and Bible’s as a ritual. That serves as a point of contact to the spirits of the air or fallen angels. The powers in the church depend on the number of days fasted for the rituals, some fast 21 days while others for 14 days.
“Those who have learnt advanced magick, as I did, buried the general seal of the spirits called ShemHamephorash in Hebrew or Seal of Solomon according to magick. This higher seal of magick attracts fallen angels and Olympian spirits to execute their duties in the church” (Romanus Monday Ekeocha, Christian Alive, vol. 2. No. 14, 2006, p. 2).
The angels being invoked in these syncretic churches are Olympian spirits also invoked in occultism. Angels of God do not accept worship, prayer or veneration from anyone (cf. Rev. 22:8-9).
Nevertheless, true Christians enjoy angelic intervention just as God’s Word says. I have personally experienced this, and I will be sharing them in my next post.