The Truth about Angels
Never before do I recall such interest in angels, with some it has become an unhealthy preoccupation. Some at Colosse had extreme interest in angels to the point of worshipping them (Col. 2: 18, more later). Of course, it is good that we are concerned about any biblical subject, providing we allow the Bible to govern us in that pursuit (cf. Num. 22: 18).
There are approximately three hundred clear references to angels in the Bible. The Greek word transliterated "angel" (angelos) simply means, "messenger." Vine points out, "(from angello, to deliver a message)" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, to use this dictionary click on the "Links" button and scroll down). Angels are spirit beings which means they do not have material bodies as men have (Heb. 1: 14). However, on occasion they have assumed human form (Lk. 24: 4, 23). There are good and bad angels (Mk. 8: 38, Matt. 25: 41). Many of the graphic depictions of angels present them as female; however, they are always presented as "masculine" in the scriptures.
The origin of angels. Angels are created beings (Ps. 148: 2-5). Hence, angels are not to be worshipped (Col. 2: 8). Angels were created as free moral agents. Some remained loyal to God, others rebelled (2 Pet. 2: 4).
The design and purpose of angels. As seen, angels are primarily God's messengers (Matt. 1: 20). Angels also minister or serve. Speaking of angels the Hebrews writer wrote, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb. 1: 14.) Angels have also served as instruments (though whom God has worked, Gen. 19: 13).
Similarities between angels and man. Both angels and man were created by God (Ps. 148: 2-5, Gen. 1, 2). Hence, both are subservient to God (Heb. 1: 6, Matt. 4: 10). Angels and man are also both free moral agents (freedom of choice in service, 2 Pet. 2: 4, 6; Gen. 2, 3). At times, angels have resembled man physically (Gen. 18: 1-22).
Dissimilarities between angels and man. Angels are now superior to man (2 Pet. 2: 11). Angels are genderless (Matt. 22: 30). In this vein, angels do not marry or procreate (Matt. 22: 30). Moreover, angels are spirit beings and are not heirs of God as man is (Heb. 1: 14; I Pet. 1: 12, Rom. 8: 17).
Angelic organization. The term "archangel" is indicative of rank (I Thes. 4: 16). We read of cherubim and seraphim (Gen. 3: 24, Isa. 6: 2, 3). The Cherubim, apparently high ranking angels, are presented as winged (Ex. 25: 20). In this angelic hierarchy, there is also what is called the "theophany," perhaps the highest in rank. The theophany, while an angel, assumes the "position" of God himself (Ex. 3: 2-6). He is called "the angel of the Lord" (Ex. 3: 2). The archangel, cherubim, seraphim, and the "theophany" all appear to be over angels in general.
Angelic activity. Angels were the agents in the destruction of the cities of the plain (Gen. 19), an angel destroyed the Assyrian army (2 Kgs. 19), and angels were associated with the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2: 13, ch. 1). The "angel of the Lord" rolled back the stone from the door of Jesus' grave (Matt. 28: 2), and two were present at Jesus' ascension (Acts 1: 10). Angels comforted Jesus and Paul (Matt. 4: 11, Acts 27: 23 ff.). Angels shall accompany Jesus in the Judgment and shall separate the saved and the lost (Matt. 13: 36 ff.).
How about angelic activity today? There are some things we know with absolute certainty. For instance, angels are not to present another gospel or change Jesus' gospel (see "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," also in Archives) in any way (Gal. 1: 6-9). Hence, all the religions which are built on the claim of angelic revelation are wrong! We also know that angels do not violate in any way God's present means of working with man. For instance, God saves man through the gospel, not angelic intervention or coercion (Rom. 1: 16). In this vein, angels must not be perceived as miraculously working (miracles, as such) in man's behalf (I Cor. 13: 8-10).
Two verses which are very intriguing relative to angels' present activity are: Matthew 18: 10, see addendum, and Hebrews 1: 14. Angels are certainly interested in man (Lk. 15: 10) and some believe angels are presently active, in view of the foregoing verses. Hebrews 1: 14 does apply to this final dispensation (see Heb. 1: 1 ff.). Any believed activity, though, must be governed by the foregoing and presented in harmony with such verses as I Peter 3: 12 and I Corinthians 10: 13. More than this we cannot say (Deut. 29: 29).
Addendum regarding Matthew 18: 10: There is absolutely no doubt that angels have had an active role and part in the affairs of man. Angels were involved in the giving of the Ten Commandment Law to Moses and are presented as escorting Lazarus to Abraham's bosom (Acts 7: 53, Lk. 16: 22). It is also undeniable that angels have a special interest in man's salvation (Lk. 15: 10). It is also apparent that Jesus' language, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" is teaching the existence of a special angelic connection between "these little ones" and angels (Matt. 18: 10). The essential question is in what manner and to what extent is there an angelic connection?
The expression "their angels" (hoi aggelio auton) indicates intimacy in the connection, so much so that one should not despise one of "these little ones." These angels ("their angels") themselves have a consequential connection by reason of they "do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."
Many believe that "their angels" is teaching a special angelic connection, awareness, and posture "between" angels in general and the saved in general (cp. Heb. 1: 14).
Some contend the verse is teaching more. They are persuaded Matthew 18: 10 teaches that each individual saved person has his own specific angel assigned to him. This assigned angel they call "a guardian angel."
Regarding the first view, there is no doubt. However, the second view requires some imaginative exercise.
For sure, any view regarding man and angels in any providential circumstance must not present angels as interfering with man's free moral agency, responsibilities, or acting inharmoniously with the gospel (Jn. 7: 17; Acts 2: 40; Gal. 1: 6-9, I Cor. 13: 8-10).