ANGELS – Part 3
By Tommy Thornhill
How many angels are there? What does the Bible tell us? (continued from last issue). The Bible teaches that angels are an innumerable host Heb.12:22-23. In Matt.26:5. Jesus says He could call 12 legions of angels -12 x 6000) to save Him. In Rev.5:11 they are said to number 10,000 x 10,000, 1000s of 1000s of angels. Dan.7:10 tells us there are myriads (uncountable number) of angels, yet there is really no way to know how many angels there are. But, be assured the number is sufficient to do the work of God.
When we read in the Bible about the “tongues of angels” and “angel food,” are these terms to be taken literally? I don’t believe so. In 1.Cor.13:1, when Paul speaks of the tongues of angels, he is using hyperbole, to illustrate that regardless of what language people might use, it doesn’t replace love. In Ps.78:25 angel manna is the food supplied by God each morning to the Israelites while wandering in the wilderness. The manna received from heaven was supplied by angels, fulfilling God’s benevolence in caring for His people. .
Some angels in the Bible are called evil angels Ps.78:49 (KJV). They are not evil by nature, but are good angels, doing activities that were considered evil or bad in the sense that the acts were hurtful as they carried out God’s punishing judgment and destruction He had promised to visit on people and nations who had sinned against Him Ps.34:7-8; 2.Kgs.6:16. But, we also know that sometime after they were created, some of the angels rebelled against God, and were cast out of heaven to be reserved for future judgment 2.Pet.2:4; Jude 6. In some fashion they possessed free will that enabled them to choose to turn against God.
As I continue to explore the subject of angels, I am answering some questions that people have about angels. How great is the ability possessed by angels? Angels have great abilities, but not as much as God. Since they were created by God, they are not as great as God. That which is created cannot be as great as the One who created it. Only God is infinite and unlimited in everything. When I write this about God, I am referring to God in three persons, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. All three are referred to God and all have the attributes of God. God in His word did not choose to explain this concept of God existing in three persons, so I certainly cannot explain it. I simply accept it by faith that it is so.
While I cannot explain the concept of the Godhead (hood) I do know that no angel, or any other created being possesses the unlimited attributes of God. From what I can read in the Bible angels certainly possess greater abilities than human beings. I know this is true when I read about Jesus coming to earth as God in the flesh Jn.1:14. We are told that Jesus lowered Himself by making “Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” Phil.2:7. By coming to earth in the form of man, He was made “a little lower than the angels” Heb.2:5-9. In doing this He did not surrender His Godhood, only His position in the Godhead, for a time. He was still God clothed in flesh Jn.1:14.
So, coming back to the question, how great is the ability of angels? Their abilities are not as great as that of God. They are not omniscient, but they are super intelligent as can be seen in 2.Sam.14:20; Matt.24:36. They are not omnipotent, but they have super powers. Read Ps.103:20-21; 2.Thes.1:7-9; 2.Pet.2:11. While they are invisible to the unaided eye (note “unaided”), they can become visible as the occasion arises Num.22:22-31; 2.Kgs.6:13-17. So, while angels have abilities greater than humans, as creatures, and not the Creator, their abilities are still less than the abilities of the God that created them.
Another question that comes to mind is, Do angels have ranks? Are some angels higher in authority than other angels? Yes. Think with me. 1.Pet.3:22 tells us Jesus “has gone into heaven, and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” Then we read in Col.1:16, “for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities, or powers.” Eph.6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Similar statements are found in Eph.1:19-20; Col.2:10.
All these statements above are expressive of positions of power and authority and rankings, some higher than others, whether in the earthly or spiritual realm. Noting the words found in Col.1:16 and summarizing the definitions in Vine’s dictionary of NT words, we have the various order of angels in descending order. “Thrones” stands first depicting seats of authority, followed by “dominions” which denotes lordship. It stands second in the angelic order. “Principalities,” means supramundane beings (angels) who govern and, exercise rule. “Powers” have delegated authority and possess the ability and might and right to act. It would seem that the ones on thrones rule over those who have “dominions” (angels over various domains), who in turn govern the principalities who also exercise rule within the domain. Under them are those who have less authority, but still have the power to rule and act in their own areas within the principalities.
The issue of rank will be continued in next issue along with some other thoughts.
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