Angels in the Bible
There, I said it. There are angels in the Bible. The Roman, Orthodox, and Episcopal churches still celebrate them, but denominational Protestantism and the Evangelical churches generally do not. Most arguments about them arise from things that the Bible writers quoted, that are not in the Bible. Let me be clear: our Bible has references in it about angels from sources that are not part of the Bible. Believers in the early church accepted these things readily, while some believers today do not, except perhaps for the singing choir of angels in Christmas pageants, which is not Biblical. Read on a bit, and I’ll show it in Luke.
New Testament writers recorded multiple angelic visits surrounding the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus, extending beyond that into the Church period. If we forget about angels in the OT for now, there is still plenty to go on.
Gabriel appears to Zechariah the priest to announce the birth of John the baptist. He appears to Mary to announce the birth of Christ. An angel appears to the shepherds at Christ’s birth, with the hosts of heaven saying (not singing) “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace, goodwill toward men” – Luke 2:13 NKJV. One of the strange bits of trivia from the Bible regarding angels is that they do not sing – at least they are not said to be singing anywhere in the authorized 66 books.
Jesus tells his disciples that children have angels watching over them. “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 18:10-11.
He does not say if adults also have them, so maybe so, maybe no. Some of my (Protestant) teachers did not believe that angels still minister after the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. This does not negate the possibility that people without the Holy Spirit still need angels to watch over them, but read on a little further and we can resolve this from scripture.
Why do I care, you ask? Good question. I care because I have both seen angels in the presence of others who saw them, and have been ministered to by an angel that hundreds of others saw, after I believed and was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was healed of a congenital heart defect, and have medical proof that it occurred.
If you have not seen angels, I don’t expect you to believe anything that is not expressly given in the text, but if you ask your friends and family, there are enough witnesses of good character to at least keep your mind open to the possibility.
Some of the same denominations that deny the ministering of holy angels in the Church Age are the first to say that demons (fallen angels) are active in their communities. To me that would suggest an enemy that is better organized and more active than God. If you have personal knowledge about demonic activity, it should not be difficult, by the same discernment, to see holy angelic activity also.
An angel comes to strengthen Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Angels roll away the stone to show Mary Magdalene and the disciples that Jesus is no longer in the tomb where Joseph and Nicodemus laid him. An angel springs Peter from his prison cell when he was to be executed.
The Epistle to the Hebrews provides an essay on why the ministration of Christ is better than the ministration of angels. Nowhere does the writer suggest that angels are no longer needed, now that Christ has come. Instead he writes,
But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:13-14 NKJV
Some of the angels mentioned in the Bible are fallen. There is Lucifer, who is also called Satan, the devil, the serpent, the dragon, or Abaddon the destroyer. Jude mentions that some of the fallen angels left heaven (in the time of Genesis 6) to practice sexual immorality upon the earth; and that Michael, the archangel, disputed with the devil about the body of Moses.
The concept of ranks of angels, including the rank of archangel, is in the authorized 66 books. Paul mentions other ranks: thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, rulers of darkness in high places, etc. in connection with statements about angels. Does this give us a comprehensive ranking? No, he assumes his readers already know about it, and only mentions them in passing. We have to go to Jewish and Orthodox sources to see what his terms mean.
The Book of Revelation has angels everywhere, including the letters to the seven churches of Asia – indicating the Church Age. Every church, Jesus tells John, has an angel assigned to it. Now, if he meant the pastor or elder, why did he say angel there, but in other places he mentions elders? We can’t arbitrarily say he did not mean angels in Chapters 2-3 when the same word means heavenly angels in all the chapters that follow.
Daniel meets with Gabriel and learns from him that Michael, the Prince, or one of the chief princes, had to come help him contend with a fallen angel called the Prince of Persia.
When Paul therefore speaks of principalities, he is speaking about fallen angels with the same ranking as Michael. It is not much of a conjecture from this to suppose that there are a certain number of archangels on each side of the great conflict between the Ruler of the Day and the Ruler of the Night. Although there are differences in the archangel lists of different branches of the Church that still celebrate the help of angels, they are remarkably similar:
|Pope Gregory I||Byzantine||Coptic||Anglican/Episcopal|
The table above shows names used by Roman and Orthodox Catholic, Byzantine, Coptic, and Anglican Churches for archangels. The modern Roman Church only accepts the first three from Pope Gregory I, but the Orthodox Church still uses all seven. The Byzantine Church lists eight, while the Anglican or Episcopal Church accepts four.
Pharisaic Judaism had ten ranks of angels, while the Medieval Church listed nine: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels. Paul was trained as a Pharisee and would have accepted a detailed angelic ranking without argument. He also had visions of heaven, and was visited by an angel while upon the sea:
then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ – Acts 27 NKJV
One of the strangest names we encounter in the traditions about angels is the seraph Metatron, who was called the scribe of heaven. I mention him because he has become popular in modern occult and fictional literature, but the name itself is old. In Ezekiel Chapter 9, the Lord calls out the “guards of the city” of Jerusalem, a cadre of six angels, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. In the LXX version, they are carrying axes. With them was a higher-ranking angel clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side, like a scribe. He made a mark on the forehead of any that sorrowed over the idolatry being practiced in Jerusalem, so that the destroying angels would not harm them as they passed by.
How will we understand references to angel names in prophesy if we do not accept what the Bible plainly teaches about them?
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army – your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. Persia, Cush, and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops – the many nations with you’” – Ezekiel 38:1-6.
Who is Gog? A fallen angel, a principality who is like the prince of Persia who resisted Gabriel. What land is he chief prince over? Russia, Central Asia and Turkey. Who does he bring with him as allies? Iran, Sudan, and Ukraine. Does this sound like a modern scenario?
Yes, it does.