ANGELS – Part 2
By Tommy Thornhill
A misconception many have about angels is that dead saints become angels. We sometimes hear at a funeral of a deceased person, “he/she is now another of God’s angels.” The Bible does NOT teach this. The idea that dead people and transformed into angels probably developed over what Jesus said in Matt.22:30, in answer to the Sadducees’ hypothetical question about a woman, who was wife to seven brothers, following the OT Levirate law (Deut.25:5-6). The law was, if a man died leaving no male offspring, his wife was to become wife to the man’s brother, to produce a male heir with her in the dead brother’s name. With the Sadducees’ story, the woman became wife of seven brothers, one after the other, as each died leaving no heir. She finally dies, and then they asked Jesus, whose wife would she be in the resurrection since all had her. Jesus answered, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” Note that Jesus said, the dead would be LIKE angels, not become angels. The word “like” in this passage is a prepositional adverb, that denotes similarity in manner of existence. Both angels and the spirits of dead persons would continue to exist in heaven, a place where marriage is not practiced. Jesus is teaching the marriage relationship is for this world only, and not in heaven where they will be no need for it. So, when Jesus says the dead will be “like” angels, He is stating neither angels nor humans would be involved in marriage relationships which God has designed to be only an earthly concept for human companionship and precreation.
Take note that while the Bible teaches a resurrection, it does not teach reincarnation of men or angels. Lazarus remained a man after he died, when angels came to escort him to Abraham’s bosom Lk.16. When Samuel was summoned from the dead by the witch of Endor, he returned as a man, not an angel 1.Sam.28:14. The same is true of Moses and Elijah when they appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matt.17.
Some people think angels have no feelings. This is not true. Angels do have feelings for they are not ornaments or robots. In 1.Pet.1:12 we learn they were curious about God’s plan for human redemption. In Lk.15:10 we read where they rejoice when one repents of sin. They were praising God in Lk.2:13. All of these passages indicate they have feelings.
God created angels to worship and praise Him. He did not create them to be worshipped. Men are forbidden to worship angels.Rom.1:24-25; Col.2:18; Rev.19:10; 21:9.
Sometimes, we hear people say an angel appeared to them and told them they were saved. This is not so. There is no passage in the Bible where an angel tells men what to do to be saved. They could, and did, direct a person to a man who could tell them what to do, but there is no record of an angel ever telling someone what to do to be saved Gal.1:6-9; Acts 8; Acts 10; 2.Cor.4:7. Telling people how to be saved was the work of humans, not angels.
With these thoughts before us let us continue our study. JUST WHAT IS AN ANGEL?
In the OT the Hebrew word for angel is “malekh,” and appears ca.108 times. In the NT it is the Greek word “angellos,” used ca.186 times. In both the OT and the NT, angel means a messenger that is sent, one that delivers a message. The word angel sometimes refers to a human as God’s messenger, so translated in Hag.1:13; Mal.2:7; Mk.1:2. Sometimes angel refers to heavenly beings as in Heb.13:2; Matt.28:3; Acts 1:10-11. In either case, whether human or heavenly, angels are messengers of God, always carrying out the will of God Ps.103:20-21.
We understand God created all things in heaven and on earth Gen.1:1. Everything He created was designed to work in harmony with His divine plan Ps.19:1-4, and that included angels. Neh.9:6; Ps.148:2-5 tell us they (the host of heaven, angels) were created to praise Him and assist Him. In fact, they were created before mankind Job 38:4-7. The phrase, “the morning stars sang, and the sons of God shouted for joy” when God laid the foundations of the earth, indicate angels are animate, rational beings. Mankind was not created until the sixth day. Angels are God’s divine agents, continually praising Him and assisting Him in carrying out His purposes and will Ps.103:20-21; Col.1:16. The phrase, “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers,” refer to the ranks in the angelic host, and will be discussed later. In Heb.1:7; Ps.104:4 angels are called “spirits” (KJV). In the Septuagint version “spirits” is translated “winds.”
Angels are sometimes mentioned as flying in the heavens on the “wings of the wind,” or “chariots of fire” (forces of nature, strong as the wind, irresistible as fire, showing they were not affected by the weaknesses of men) Ps.18:10; 35:5; 2.Kgs.2:11-12; 6:16-17. Angels were designed to execute divine commands with the swiftness of wind, and the strength of fire. Dan.9:20-21 (fly swiftly). We can see why angels are defined as messengers when we read over and over again in the Bible that angels are sent by God to carry His messages, making known His will to mankind. Even though angels were invisible to “unaided human eyes” they could appear visibly when speaking to humans, delivering messages from God. God used an angel to deliver a message to Hagar in Gen.16:7-14; 21:17. God sent three angels to bring a message to Lot to save him and his family from God’s planned destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gommorah Gen.19:1-22. Three angels were sent by God to Abraham to announce he and Sarah would have a son in their old age Gen.18; 22:11-12. We also read where angels appeared with messages to Jacob Gen.31:11; 32, to Moses Ex.3:1-2, to Balaam Num. 22:32, to Elijah 1.Kgs.19:5-8; 2.Kgs.1:3, and on and on. After delivering their messages angels vanished from the scene Judges 13:20. We also read that The Old Covenant (the 10 commandments and the law of Moses) were delivered by angels to Moses and Israel Acts 7:53; Gal.3:19.
Angels are not superhuman men or lesser gods. While they are of a higher order than man, they are lower than God. Jesus was not an angel on earth. He was God in the flesh Jn.1:14, not God as an angel. Even though angels were created as animate creatures with free will (the ability to make rational choices) in doing God’s will, they are different from humans in that they are ageless and sexless (Matt.22:30). Yet they are created with a higher status than man. Heb.1:5 (Ps.8:4-5); 2:9-10; 2:16-17.
How many angels are there? What does the Bible tell us? (continued next issue).