More About Angels

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Adapted from the article “Angel
in
Easton's Bible Dictionary

“Angel” is a word signifying, both in the Hebrew and Greek, a “messenger,” and hence employed to denote any agent God sends forth to execute his purposes. It is used of an ordinary messenger (Job 1:14: 1 Samuel 11:3; Luke 7:24; 9:52), of prophets (Isaiah 42:19; Haggai 1:13), of priests (Malachi 2:7), and either the Pastors or perhaps the spirit beings assigned as guardians of the seven assemblies. (Revelation 1:11,20).

It is also applied to such impersonal agents as the pestilence (2Samuel 24:16,17; 2Kings 19:35), the wind (Psalm 104:4).

But its distinctive application is to certain heavenly intelligences whom HaShem employs in carrying on His government of the world. The name does not denote their nature, but their office as messengers. The appearances to Avraham at Mamre (Genesis 18:2,22. Comp 19:1), to Ya'akov at Peniel (Genesis 32:24,30), to Y'hoshua at Gilgal (Joshua 5:13,15), of the Angel of the Lord, were without a doubt manifestations of the pre-incarnate Yeshua HaMashiach, “foreshadowings of the incarnation,” revelations before the “fulness of the time” of HaShem haBen.

The existence and orders of angelic beings can only be discovered from the Scriptures. Although the Bible does not deal with this subject specifically, there are numerous incidental details that furnish us with ample information. Their personal existence is plainly implied in such passages as Genesis 16:7,10,11; Judges 13:1-21; Matthew 28:2-5; Hebrews 1:4, etc.

These superior beings are very numerous. “A thousand thousands,” etc. (Daniel 7:10; Matthew 26:53; Luke 2:13; Hebrews 12:22,23). They are also spoken of as having different ranks in dignity and power (Zechariah 1:9,11; Daniel 10:13; 12:1; 1Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16).

As to their nature, they are spirits (Hebrews 1:14), similar to the soul of man, but not totally (or at least not always) incorporeal. Such expressions as “like the angels” (Luke 20:36), and the fact that whenever angels appeared to man it was always in a human form (Genesis 18:2; 19:1,10; Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10), and the titles that are applied to them (“sons of God,” Job 1:6; 38:7; Daniel 3:25,28) and to men (Luke 3:38), seem all to indicate some resemblance between them and the human race. Imperfection is ascribed to them as creatures (Job 4:18; Matthew 24:36; 1Peter 1:12).

As finite creatures they may fall under temptation; and accordingly we read of “fallen angels.” Of the cause and manner of their “fall” we are somewhat ignorant, though a good case can be made that when HaSatan was evicted from heaven, he took a full third of the heavenly host with him (Yesha‘yahu [Isaiah] 14:12-17); (Yechezk'el [Ezekiel] 28:11-19); Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:3,4; Revelation 12:7 - 9.

We know that “they left their first estate” (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7,9), and that they are “reserved unto judgment” (2Peter 2:4). When the manna is called “angels’ food,” this is merely to denote its excellence (Psalm 78:25). Angels never die (Luke 20:36). They are possessed of superhuman intelligence and power (Mark 13:32; Psalm 103:20). They are called “holy” (Luke 9:26), “elect” (1Timothy 5:21). The redeemed in glory are “like the angels” (Luke 20:36). They are not to be worshipped (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10).

Their functions are manifold.

 (a) In the widest sense they are agents of HaShem’s providence (Exodus 12:23; Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 11:28; 1 Corinthians 10:10; 2Sam 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:16; 2Kings 19:35; Acts 12:23).

 (b) They are specially HaShem’s agents in carrying on his great work of redemption. There is no notice of angelic appearances to man till after the call of Abraham. From that time onward there are frequent references to their ministry on earth (Genesis 18; 19; 24:7,40; 28:12; 32:1). They appear to rebuke idolatry (Judges 2:1-4), to call Gideon (Judges 6:11,12), and to consecrate Samson (13:3). In the days of the prophets, from Samuel downward, the angels appear only in their behalf (1Kings 19:5; 2Kings 6:17; Zech. 1-6; Daniel 4:13,23; 10:10,13,20,21).

The Incarnation introduces a new era in the ministrations of angels. They come with their Lord to earth to do Him service while here. They predict His advent (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-38), minister to Him after his temptation and agony (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43), and declare His resurrection and ascension (Matthew 28:2-8; John 20:12,13; Acts 1:10,11). They are now ministering spirits to the people of HaShem (Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7; 91:11; Matthew 18:10; Acts 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7; 27:23). They rejoice over a penitent sinner (Luke 15:10). They bear the souls of the redeemed to paradise (Luke 16:22); and they will be the ministers of judgment hereafter on the great day (Matthew 13:39,41,49; 16:27; 24:31). The passages (Psalm 34:7, Matthew 18:10) referred to in support of the idea that every individual has a particular guardian angel can not be proven to have that meaning. They probably merely indicate that HaShem employs the ministry of angels to deliver his people from affliction and danger, and that the angels do not think it below their dignity to minister even to children and to the least among Yeshua’s disciples.

The “angel of his presence” (Isaiah 63:9. Compare Exodus 23:20,21; 32:34; 33:2; Numbers 20:16) is probably rightly interpreted of the Messiah as the guide of his people. Others have supposed the expression to refer to Gabriel (Luke 1:19).

Bibliography

C. Arnold, Powers of Darkness
W. Carr, Angels and Principalities (1981)
C. F. Dickason, Angels: Elect and Evil
_____, Demon Possession and the Christian
Billy Graham, Angels: God’s Secret Agents (1975)
J. W. Montgomery, ed: Demon Possession
H. Schier, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament (1961)
M. Unger, Biblical Demonology;
_____, What Demons Can Do to Saints
M. Wink, Naming the Powers
_____, Unmasking the Powers
_____, Engaging the Power

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