This is a discourse on a subject that is very rarely looked at theologically in the western world. Most Christian theologians believe in angels because they are found in scripture. Since the dawning of the Enlightenment, the church has kept its distance from both the spiritual and the mystical. Since angels are spiritual beings on our plane of existence, the modern church has decided the subject is either too mystical or too non-scientific to explore. As we stated earlier, the Celtic Christian tradition leaves space for the mystical.
It leaves space for the spiritual. In the next couple of chapters, we will take time to do our best and explain the biblical reality of angels, what they can do and what they cannot do. We cannot deny the existence of angels, to do so would deny that The Bible is true. Scripture declares to us the existence of angels and we must acknowledge this. We must also explore their interaction in this world.
Since angels are not part of the earthly created order, there are many things that we cannot fathom about them. In truth we are not really able to fathom them at all, without special revelation, because they are not part of the general revelation of the cosmos. This limitation in human knowledge can only be given to humanity through special revelation. We have not been given much information about creative activities outside of ourselves and our universe. With this in mind, it would be foolish for humankind to claim that no such creatures exist like angels.
As stated earlier, if we accept the fullness of scripture to be the inspired Word of God, we must accept the reality of angels and the fact that they do interact in this world. In the Bible, angels are mentioned over 250 times. We have accepted truths about God in scripture when it is only mentioned once, so the shyness about angels is very interesting. The sheer amount of actual interactions with angels in the Bible makes it very hard to deny and very hard to not examine as theologians. Jesus Christ Himself discussed angels and the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation discusses them.
The Old Testament almost consistently presents angels as actual and tangible creatures. No where in the scriptures are they consider figments of imagination or even illusions. They are always considered actual independent beings from the humans in which they interact with. They are always consistent in their role as messengers and always seek to praise and glorify God. Abraham ate and conversed with angels in Genesis 18. An angel executed judgement on Israel (2 Samuel 24:16) Isaiah refers to an order of angels, called Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2). Ezekiel describes another angelic order, the Cherubim (Ezekiel 10:1-3). Daniel mentions the archangels Gabriel (Daniel 9:20-27) and Michael (Daniel 10:13). Zechariah mentions angels repeatedly in chapters 1-6 and they are mentioned many times in the Psalms.
The deuterocanonical books mention angels as well, The idea of seven archangels is most explicitly stated in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit when Raphael reveals himself, declaring: “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in the glorious presence of the Lord, ready to serve him.” (Tobit 12:15) The other two archangels mentioned by name in the Bible are Michael and Gabriel.
In every case where angels are mentioned in the New Testament, their existence is affirmed by the New Testament writers. In Acts 5 and 12 angels do very physical things like open prison doors and locks. They are involved in Christs birth, life, resurrection, and ascension in the Gospels. They direct Phillip and Cornelius in Acts 8, and encourage Paul on his Roman voyage in Acts 27:23-25. Paul, Peter, the writer of Hebrews and Jude all assumed the reality of angels in their writings and the Book of Revelation is full of angelic interaction throughout.
Personality Traits of Angels
This means that although scripture describes the number of angels as “legions” they all are individual persons that have personal existences. This also means that each specific angel has a will, an intelligence and emotion. This is the case with both elect and non-elect angels, including Lucifer.
Scriptural Evidence for Angelic Intelligence (Elect and Non-Elect)
Matthew 8:29- and lo, they cried out, saying, `What — to us and to thee, Jesus, Son of God? didst thou come hither, before the time, to afflict us?’
2 Corinthians 11:3-But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
1 Peter 1:12-To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into.
From this evidence we see that angels, both elect and non-elect possess individual intelligence as a part of their creation by God.
Scriptural Evidence for Angelic Emotion
Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there came with the messenger a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, `Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men — good will.‘
James 2:19- thou — thou dost believe that God is one; thou dost well, and the demons believe, and they shudder!
Revelation 12:12-because of this be glad, ye heavens, and those in them who do tabernacle; wo to those inhabiting the land and the sea, because the Devil did go down unto you, having great wrath, having known that he hath little time.’
These verses point out happiness, fear and anger are found in angels. Similar to us and God, they feel these emotions and even have physical responses to them.
Scriptural Evidence for Wills of Angels
Luke 8:28-31- and having seen Jesus, and having cried out, he fell before him, and with a loud voice, said, `What — to me and to thee, Jesus, Son of God Most High? I beseech thee, mayest thou not afflict me!’ 29 For he commanded the unclean spirit to come forth from the man, for many times it had caught him, and he was being bound with chains and fetters — guarded, and breaking asunder the bonds he was driven by the demons to the deserts. 30 And Jesus questioned him, saying, `What is thy name?’ and he said, `Legion,’ (because many demons were entered into him,) 31 and he was calling on him, that he may not command them to go away to the abyss,
2 Timothy 2:26- and they may awake out of the devil’s snare, having been caught by him at his will.
Jude 1:6-messengers also, those who did not keep their own principality, but did leave their proper dwelling, to a judgment of a great day, in bonds everlasting, under darkness He hath kept,
It is fair from the scriptural evidence that angels qualify as persons. They have all of the characteristics of intelligent, created beings that have emotional competence and individual wills. Angels are not abstracts of good and evil, they are actual beings, created by the same God who created us.
All angels, elect or non-elect, including Satan are spirit beings. This means they do not possess a flesh and bone created body as we have. Hebrews 1:14 calls elect angels ministering spirits, and the non-elect or demons, are said to be evil and unclean In Luke 8:2, 11:24 and 11:26. Furthermore, Satan works in the sons of disobedience according to Ephesians 2:2.
Although angels are immaterial and incorporeal in the sense, they do not possess physical bodies as ours, we cannot conclude that they are not tangible beings. This is truly a mystery of our faith. On one hand, scripture does extensively state that angels are spirits (Pneumata) in Matthew 8:16, Luke 7:21; 8:2; 11:26, Acts 19:12; Ephesians 6:12 and Hebrews 1:14.
However, there is also evidence in scripture that angels do have some sort of physical body, in 1 Kings 19:5 it states:
He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.”
Angels typically “appear” to humans in one of three different ways. First, they have appeared in a humanoid form, like the encounter of the angel, by Mary (Luke 1:26-38) or the angels who appeared to Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19.
The second way they have appeared is in dreams. An angel appeared this way to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus in Matthew 1:20-21 and then again to Joseph in Matthew 2:13.
A third way angels appear is in visions like Ezekiel and John, the author of Revelation. These took place while the receiving human was awake, differing this encounter from a dream.
The scriptural evidence absolutely supports that angels are in fact spiritual beings, not normally seen on this plane of existence, but do have physical form that can interact with our physical body’s senses. They are not human and thus do not possess a physical human body, but they do have form and a physical presence that remains a mystery to those living in this plane of existence.
We know from Matthew 22:30 that angels do not procreate. Luke 20:36 shows us that angels are immortal beings. This also tells us that the non-elect angels will be punished for eternity in a place of separation from God. This is supported by scripture in Matthew 25:41 and Luke 8:31. It must also be stated that Immortal does not mean equal to God. God is not only immortal, but God is infinite, having no beginning or end. Angels have a beginning and therefore are not on the same level as God in terms of attributes or knowledge.
Angels: A Little Higher Than Humans
Hebrews 2:7-9 states:
“You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor 8and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
This is evidence that angels are higher in the created order and do possess attributes we do not, like immortality. This does not mean Jesus Christ was lower than the angels. This simply means that the Human form Jesus took on took away, for a time and by Christs choice, some of the attributes angels possess. This was necessary for the soteriological work of Christ, to become subject to death, where angels are not subject to death.
Since Genesis 1:31 states that all of the things God created began good, this must apply to all Angels since they are part of creation. Jude 1:6 further states that these beings were holy. We do know that there were angels who elected to remain holy (1 Timothy 5:21). And some chose sin and did not elect to remain holy (1 Peter 2:4). Although humans are created “a little lower” in our resurrected bodies we will judge angels. 1 Corinthians 6:3 states:
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
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