Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Conversation Continues: What's the deal with angels?

Note: This is a series of responses to questions that we did not get to discuss in our summer church family fellowship.

Question: What’s the deal with angels? When were they "created"? What’s the order/rank of angels?


The Bible teaches that angels are distinct, spiritual creatures who function as God’s special messengers and servants. They were created by God at some point in holy history. In Nehemiah 9:6 we read, "Thou, even thou art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host…." The Bible does not give us a direct narrative description of the creation of angels, as it does of the creation of human beings (see Genesis 2). We must assume that they were created sometime before the sixth day of creation (see Exodus 20:11: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them….). The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture states that the Bible does not provide us everything that we could possibly know but only with everything that we need to know.

Just as the creation of angels is never directly described in Scripture, neither is there a direct narrative of the rebellion and fall of some of the angels. By Genesis 3:1 the serpent is there to deceive Adam and Eve. In Revelation 12:9 John describes "the great dragon that was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan." Satan has "his angels" who oppose the cause of Christ (see Rev 12:7, 9). Jude 1:9 speaks of "the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation" whom God "hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the last day (cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

We are told the specific names of only two angels in Scripture: Gabriel (Dan 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26) and Michael (Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7). As to the order of angels, there are distinctive groups of angels, like the cherubim (Gen 3:24; Psalm 18:10; Ezek 10:1-22); the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-7); and the four living creatures (Ezek 1:5-14; Rev 4:6-8). Michael is called a "one of the chief princes" in Daniel 10:13 and an "archangel" in Jude 1:9 (cf. 1 Thess 4:16 for the only other use of this word in the Bible). He leads the hosts of heaven against Satan in Revelation 12:7. Through the years, many have been tempted to veer into detailed speculation about the order and ranks of angels, but we should beware of going beyond what is clearly revealed in Scripture.

Angels are our fellow creatures. Mankind is made "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8:5) and at the resurrection we will be "as the angels" in that we will not marry or be given in marriage, but our entire focus will be on the service and worship of God.

It is certainly wrong to have an unhealthy interest in angels. There are two great scenes in Revelation in which the apostle John falls down in worship before angels, but then he is firmly rebuked by the angel: "See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God…" (Rev 19:10; cf. 22:9). God will not share worship or devotion with any creature—even with angels!


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