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Who Are Angels? by Rev John Brown

A few years ago, here in the USA, there were a couple of shows called "Highway to Heaven" starring Michael Landon, and "Touched By An Angel" starring Della Reese. They purported to show angels helping out in the lives of everyday, ordinary people. They also showed them at the moment of death, waiting to help escort the dying over to the other side. 

How accurate were these portrayals? Who are angels? Where do they come from? Do we become angels when we die? Perhaps they are just created beings like humans. What does the Bible say about them? In this study we will look at angels as they are found in the Bible and try to answer the above questions. 

Who Are Angels 

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14) 

As we start this study we can see that angels are ministering spirits. They are here to serve those of us who are heirs of salvation - i.e Christians. 

The word ministering used here is the Greek word diakonos from which comes our word deacon. Basically it means to be an attendant, servant, to aid or teach. It also refers to an officer for relief and service to others. 

In most Protestant and Catholic churches deacons are there to assist the pastor/priest/church in whatever capacity they are needed. Taking this in reference to angels then, angels are here to help us in whatever way we may have need of them. 

Angels are defined as spirits. This means they do not possess human bodies of flesh and bones. Jesus teaches that a spirit has not a body of flesh and bones. (See Luke 24:39). They also cannot be the souls of the dead since angels existed before the creation of humans. 

Although the Bible does not specifically say how or when they were created, it is my belief that angels are created beings with free will. As we shall see later, one third of the angels chose to use that free will to rebel against God, and were cast out of heaven to the earth. They became demons or fallen angels. 

Having said that, the Bible identifies a hiearchy of four classes of angels. Let's have a look at them and see what we can learn about angels. 

I - Archangels 

These are the messengers of God. They are also the warrior angels. The name means chief angel. In the scritpures only Michael is refered to as an archangel in Jude 1:9. However Gabriel is also recognized as a archangel by both Catholic and Protestant traditions. Raphael is also recognized by the Roman Catholic as one too. So let's take a quick look at these angels to see what they show us about angels and their ministry. 

1. Michael the Archangel 

Michael is mentioned five times in the scriptures. His name means like God. We are first introduced to him in Daniel, the tenth chapter, where his name is mentioned twice (verses 13 and 21). 

An angel had spent twenty-one days trying to get a message to Daniel from the Lord but was hindered by a demonic spirit. Michael came to the rescue, and the angel was able to deliver his message. 

Here Michael was seen as the warrior angel defending the nation of Israel against the devil. A teaching of the Roman Catholic church is that Israel represents the church. In that capacity Michael is seen as the patron saint of the church who wars against the forces of Satan on behalf of the church. This is further alluded to in our next reference in Daniel 12:1 where Michael is called the Great Prince who stands over Israel. It says he will stand up during a time of trouble, presumably to do battle for them. 

The next reference is in Jude 1:9 where Michael and Satan argued over the body of Moses, and Michael rebuked Satan in the name of the Lord. 

The final reference to Michael is found in Revelation 12:7 where we see him leading the forces of God against Satan in the rebellion and triumphing over him. The result is that Satan and one third of the angels were thrown out of heaven. 

In summation we see Michael doing two things: 
    a. He helped deliver a message from God 
    b. He is the victorious commander of heaven's forces against Satan 
        and his demons. 

2. Gabriel 

Gabriel appears four times in the Bible. He appeared twice to Daniel, once to Zechariah, and once to the Virgin Mary. His name means man of God. We first encounter him in Daniel 8:16-26. Daniel had a vision which he didn't understand, so Gabriel came to him to explain the vision, and to bring understanding to Daniel. 

He did the same thing again in Daniel 9:20-27. Gabriel came again to Daniel to give understanding of what would happen in the future. 

We next encounter Gabriel in the temple. In Luke 1:19 Gabriel appeared to Zacharias to tell him that Elizabeth, his wife, would bear John the Baptist. When Zacharias didn't believe, he became mute - unable to speak until the day the child was named. 

Finally we encounter Gabriel in Luke 1:26-38 where he appeared to Mary to tell her that she would bear Jesus, the Messiah, and Savior of the world. 

Here we have seen that angels can help bring understanding to us when we need answers to a particular problem. They can also bring a message of God to help us understand what God's plans are for us. 

3. Raphael 

To learn about this angel we need to go to the book of Tobit (Book of Tobias in the Vulgate from the Greek). It is found in the Apocrypha of the Catholic Bible. The book is about a man, Tobit, a very righteous and virtuous man, and his son Tobiah (Tobias in the Greek). They lived in Nineveh but Tobit was originally from Ecbatana in Media. One night while Tobit slept, birds came and defecated in his eyes, blinding him. 

Then he remembered some money he had left behind in Ectbatana when he was forced to flee. Because he was blind Tobit couldn't go himself, so he sent Tobiah, his son instead. Tobiah had never been to the city where his parents were from, so Tobit prayed for someone who could take his son to the place he came from to retrieve the money. The result was the arrival of Raphael, pretending to be a distant relative with business in Ectbatana, who offered to take Tobiah with him. He promised to help Tobiah retrieve the money, and also to obtain a wife. 

Off they went to get the money. Raphael then introduced Tobiah to a woman as God's choice to marry, but there was a problem. A demon, Asmodeus, was in love with her. She had been married seven times. Each time, as she and her husband were having sex, the demon would come and kill her husbands before they could consumate the marriage. Raphael taught Tobiah how to scare off the demon by the use of incense, and thus he was able to consumate the marriage, and return to his parents with his bride. 

The name Raphael means God heals. In this case Raphael was used to heal a woman of her barrenness by allowing Tobiah to consumate his marriage with her, and after they returned to Nineveh, Raphael healed Tobit of his blindness. 

This introduces us to another ministry, that of healing. We see this again in 
John 5 where an angel came down to stir up the waters at the pool of Bethesda. The first one to get into the pool was healed. 

At one time Lucifer was an archangel and worship leader of all the angels in heaven. He lost that position when he rebelled and was cast out of heaven. I will have more to say on that when I discuss demons and fallen angels. 

In closing this section I need to mention a couple of false teachings. One is taught by the Jehovah's Witnesses, that Jesus and Michael the Archangel are one and the same person, that prior to coming to earth Jesus lived in heaven as Michael the Archangel. 

The second false teaching is taught by the Mormons who say that Jesus was an archangel and a brother to Satan. According to this teaching there was a meeting in heaven in which Jesus was picked to be the Savior of the world. Satan was angry because he wasn't chosen so he rebelled, was cast down to earth, and became the devil. 

The writer of Hebrews addressed both of these teachings in Hebrews 1:5-13 which says that God has never said to the angels that they were his Son. He also has all the angels worship his son. Worship belongs to God alone. So there is a distinction between Jesus and angels. Jesus is higher than the angels and is worshipped by them. 

II - Seraphim 

These are angels who serve in the presence of the Lord, worshipping Him. They are mentioned only once in the scriptures in Isaiah 6:1-6. They have six wings - two are for covering their faces, two to cover their feet, and two to fly with. They cry out to each other proclaiming the holiness of the Lord. They also took coals of fire from the altar and touched Isaiah's lips, purifing them. 

This shows another aspect of angelic ministry, which is the worship of God. As I mentioned earlier, Satan was heaven's worship leader prior to his fall. In that capacity he, more than likely, would have helped the seraphim in their worship of God. 

III - Cherub/Cherubim 

These are also known as guardian angels. Tradition says that everyone has at least two of them guarding us at all times. 

We are first introduced to them in Genesis 3:24 where they are posted at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to keep Adam and Eve from returning to the garden after they were evicted. This was so that they couldn't eat of the tree of life and live forever in their sinful state. It took Jesus, as the true Tree of Life to come, die, and set us free, so that we can live forever in new sinless bodies. Those new bodies will not be subject to disease, sickness, pain or any other frailties our current bodies are subject to. 

In Exodus 25:18-20 cherubim (cherubs) were a part of the mercy seat, and their wings covered it. Thus they act as a covering between God and sinful humans as we approach the mercy seat to obtain mercy and the forgiveness of our sins. 

I Samuel 4:4 says the Lord of Hosts dwells between the two cherubs of the mercy seat. So they also represent where the Lord dwelt in Old Testament times. 

Ezekiel, the tenth chapter, says that they dwell above coals of fire, that they have wings and can fly. Verses 8-22 give a description of them and of their ministry. 

Jesus spoke of them in Matthew 18:10 when He said that the little ones' angels always see the face of His Father in heaven. 

Psalms 91:11-12 may also be a reference to guardian angels and their protection of us. 

IV - Fallen Angels or Demons 

They were once angels in heaven who chose to side with Satan. They shared his fate when he was cast out of heaven, becoming demons/devils. 

Their destiny is the Lake of Fire, and meanwhile they are out to deceive as many people as they can. In heaven Satan was called Lucifer, the bright morning star. He is mentioned only one time in Isaiah 14:12-17. 

How you are fallen from heaven, 
O Lucifer, son of the morning! 
How you are cut down to the ground, 
You who weakened the nations! 
For you have said in your heart: 

'I will ascend into heaven, 
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; 
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation 
On the farthest sides of the north; 
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, 
I will be like the Most High.' 

Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, 
To the lowest depths of the Pit. 
Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: 

'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, 
Who shook kingdoms, 
Who made the world as a wilderness 
And destroyed its cities, 
Who did not open the house of his prisoners?' 

We see here then that pride was what got Lucifier kicked out of heaven. He wanted to like God, and when his rebellion failed he was cast out to the earth. How did this happen? 

Ezekiel 28:12-19 gives a better idea of who Lucifer was, what happened, and what his future will be. This passage reveals Lucifer as the most perfect creation of God. There was no one more perfect than he. He was covered in every precious stone imaginable, an expert in timbrels and harps, the anointed cherub who walked on the holy mountain with God. He was in the Garden of Eden and was absolutely perfect until iniquity was found in Him. From that moment on he became profane, and was cast out of heaven. It also confirms pride as the cause of Lucifer's fall. 

Revelation 12:7-9 revealed war in heaven in which the dragon (symbol of Satan) and his followers lost. The result was that they were cast out of heaven to the earth.

Jesus confirmed that this happened in Luke 10:18 when he said that He saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven. 

Revelation 12:4 says that the dragon drew a third of the stars with him. Stars here refer to angels, so one third of the angels fell with Satan. However please note, that leaves two thirds that remain loyal to God. They are on our side, ready to help us. That, along with the Triune Godhead, makes an unbeatable combination, no matter how you look at it. 

Revelation 20:10 reveals Satan's ultimate future, that he will be cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever. 

What We Need To Remember About Satan 

Something we need to remember about Satan and demons is they are not all powerful. Their power is limited and restricted to within established borders set by God, and which cannot be crossed by them. 

In Job 1:6-12 Satan comes to ask permission of God to try Job. Permission is granted but with certain restrictions put on him, which he cannot go against. This happens again in Job 2:1-6. 

In Matthew 4:1-11 we see that Satan can make suggestions to Jesus of what he would like Jesus to do. However Satan can't force Jesus to do what he wants him to. When Jesus refuses to do as Satan desires, Satan is forced to flee. As we shall see, he can't force us to do anything either. 

Paul says in I Corthinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (NKJV) 

Jesus won't allow Satan to try us beyond what we are able to endure. If we are in a trial it's because Jesus knows that we can make it through victoriously. This also confirms that Satan is not all powerful and can't make us do anything against our wills. We have the choice to resist as Jesus did, and if we do Satan will flee. 

Satan is not omnipresent. He can only be in one spot at a time. Going back to the Job passages we looked at earlier it says that Satan had been walking back and forth on the earth. In other words he had to move from spot to spot to tempt people. Most of us, I suspect, have never dealt with Satan himself, but with one of his many demons. 

Satan is not all knowing and has only limited knowledge. 

Summary 

I Corinthians 2:8 says that if the rulers had known what they were doing they would never have crucified Jesus. 

In John 14:30, Jesus, in reference to Satan, calls him the ruler of this world. So then according to Paul, had Satan known what would happen after the crucifixion in the resurrection, he would never have allowed Jesus to be killed. Satan thought he was getting rid of a troublemaker and his troubles would all be over. Instead, however, of one Christ walking the earth he was faced with millions of little christs running around doing the works of Christ. 

Satan then has limited power. He can inspire, plant thoughts, even predict the future, partially. Why? Because he knows what he plans to do. Therefore he can tell the pschyics, astrologers, false prophets etc what is going to happen because he is the one planning them. However that knowledge is at best limited. Most psychics will admit they only have an 80% success rating, which means they miss 20% of the time. However that means they fail the Biblical test of a prophet, as the prophet had to be 100% accurate every time. If he wasn't, he was to be taken out and stoned to death. (See Deuteronomy 18:20). 

In the book of Exodus we see Moses operating under the power of God, outwitting and overcoming all the magicians of Egypt. We can also see it in the book of Daniel where, on several occasions, Daniel outshone all the astrologers and diviners with his Godly wisdom, given to him directly by God. 

In closing then I believe this gives us a pretty good picture of who angels are, what they do, and at least from a biblical perspective, we know they do indeed exist. I hope this study has blessed you and provides a basis for our discussion on Sunday nite. 

God Bless You All! 
Rev. John W. Brown