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Angels

1st September 2008, mgh

 

1) Angels in the Bible

When you think of Angels no doubt a picture comes to mind. The following will introduce you to the Angels of the Bible. These are eyewitness accounts, some of which are very detailed.

And truth is often more wonderful than fiction.

Introducing the word 'angel'

The English word 'angel' is derived from a Greek word 'aggelos', a word that means 'messenger'. If you run a message for someone you are an 'angel'! In Greek there is nothing special or Divine about this word, ordinary humans are 'aggelos'.

The Bible is partly written in Greek (the New Testament) and partly in Hebrew (the Old Testament). In Hebrew the word for messenger is 'melak'. This Hebrew word is related to 'melâkâh' meaning to deputise or employ. The same word is used for both human and Divine messengers.

Jacob(also called Israel, ancestor of the Hebrews) is afraid and sends messengers to his brother Esau (ancestor of the modern Jordanians).

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. .......[Then later]....Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. ... And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and also he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him”(Genesis 32:1-6)

The Hebrew for 'angels' and 'messengers' is the same. The messengers are clearly humans who are not the divine angels Jacob had met previously. The passage could equally read,

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. ........... And Jacob sent angels before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir.

The translators generally have worked out which messengers were Divine and which were not. But the Hebrew text makes no difference.

In English the word 'angels' is used to describe the messengers of God. But these messengers aren't always delivering messages. In the Hebrew they have another name for when they are doing other things. When speaking for God they are called by His name Yahweh. Often they are called 'Elohim', or in English 'Mighty Ones' translated 'God'.

Meeting three Angels

Abraham and his nephew Lot lived in Canaan (modern Israel) from 1921 BCE. They separated and Lot and his family moved to Sodom.

In approximately the year 1897 BCE three men came to Abraham at lunch time. These were not ordinary men, for they represented the God of Israel, who is called Yahweh. This event can be read about in Genesis chapter 18. Abraham understands that no less than the Lord, Yahweh, speaks when they speak to him. They eat (Genesis 18:8). Then Abraham accompanies them as they leave. There is a discussion among the men.

And Yahweh said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?”; (Genesis 18:17)

One of the men called 'Yahweh' speaks. He says,

“Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know”. (Genesis 18:20-21)

We note that these men have to go there to see what is going on, that is they are not 'all seeing'. They are messengers of God, not God Himself. At this point it is recorded the men depart. But not all three, only two of them. One remains in front of Abraham.

And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Yahweh. (Genesis 18:22)

Then Abraham pleads to save the city of his nephew Lot. The other two men, now called 'messengers' or 'angels' appear in the streets of Sodom the same afternoon.

And there came two angels (messengers) to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house”... and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. (Genesis 19:1-3)

These angels eat Lot's food. They look like ordinary men. They continue to appear as ordinary men until they are surrounded by people intent to do Lot harm. Then,

they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
And the men said unto Lot, “Have you here any besides? son in law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whatsoever you have in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is grown great before the face of Yahweh; and Yahweh has sent us to destroy it”. (Genesis 19:11-13)

The two men previously called 'Yahweh' by Abraham at lunchtime, as they speak the words of Yahweh, are now called 'angels' or messengers and are 'sent', or delegated, by Yahweh to destroy the city. Next these men take Lot by the hand and transport him outside the city

And while he (Lot) lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; Yahweh being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. (Genesis 19:16)

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are then destroyed. Archaeologists have found the bitumen was all burnt out at that time indicating a fire in the oil and bitumen deposits on the surface, possibly with explosions. The remains of these cities were evident until Roman times, but have since been covered by the Dead Sea.

In summary, these three angels:

a. Looked like humans, within the ethnic range expected in the region.
b. Can eat human food.
c. Can't see what's happening in a town at a distance.
d. Can make a door appear to vanish.
e. Can transport people when holding their hands.
f. Can control the action of fire on the earth.

When they speak the word of Yahweh they are called 'Yahweh', when they are employed to do a job by Yahweh and are sent they are called 'angels'. But they look like men, and may be mistaken for a human.

Jacob's experience

Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, living in Canaan, now modern Israel. In approx. 1760 BCE he leaves his family to go to Syria. He stops at Bethel on the way where he saw angels going up and down (Genesis 28:12), showing that the angels walk on earth. He then returns to Canaan in approx 1739BCE with his family and wrestles with one of them.

Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
And he (the man) said, “Let me go, for the day breaks”. And he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go, except you bless me”. And he (the man) said unto him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob”. And he said, “Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed”. And Jacob asked him, and said, “Tell me, I pray you, your name”. And he said, “Wherefore is it that you ask after my name?” And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God (Mighty Ones) face to face, and my life is preserved. (Genesis 32:24-30)

From this incident we learn that Jacob realised that the man he had wrestled with was a representative of God, as the word 'God' here is 'Mighty Ones'. The Hebrews called the angels 'Mighty ones' when they were not giving messages, as they saw them as representatives of Deity. This angel looked exactly like a man and didn't give his name. We learn that a strong person can hold an angel, and that they can shrink muscles.

Moses sees an Angel

Moses before he is given the mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in approx. 1492 BCE at Mt Horeb sees an Angel that looks like fire,

the angel of Yahweh appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. (Exodus 3:2)

This is beyond human control and Moses went out of his way to see this. We learn that the Angels or Messengers of Yahweh can control fire and are not burnt.

2) Balaam the prophet sees an Angel

Angels can be in a room and we don't see them. They can make themselves appear to us as they wish. Balaam, in 1452BCE, on a journey to curse Israel is hurt when his donkey refuses to go forward. Balaam is shown why the donkey will not go forward,

Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Yahweh standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. (Numbers 22:31)

The Angel looks like a person and carries a sword. The sword is ready for action to kill Balaam. From this we learn Angels may carry swords.

Gideon sees a Man who proves He is an Angel

Angels can sit at rest. One sat down to appear to Gideon in 1323BCE.

There came an angel of Yahweh, and sat under an oak.. Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.

Then the Angel makes himself appear.

The angel of Yahweh appeared unto him, and said unto him, “Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valour.”

Gideon addresses him as an honoured human leader, or prophet.

And he (Gideon) said unto him, “If now I have found grace in your sight, then show me a sign that you talk with me. Depart not, I pray you, until I come unto you, and bring forth my present”... Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes.. And the angel of God said unto him, “Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth”. And he did so. Then the angel of Yahweh put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of Yahweh departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of Yahweh, Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of Yahweh face to face”. (Judges 6:11-22)

Gideon doubted that the person speaking to him had the authority of Yahweh, and wanted proof. This shows that the Angel appeared as another human. The Angel causes fire to come from rock, then vanishes.

An Angel Ascends in fire

Manoah, the father of the famous strong man Sampson, and his wife had no child. About 1220BC an angel appeared to the wife, and said to her, “you shall conceive, and bear a son... he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines”. Manoah's wife then describes the Angel.

“A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not from where he was, neither told he me his name”...

The Angel looks like a man, but glows, and Manoah asked Yahweh, “O my Lord, let the man of God which you did send come again unto us”. He comes again, and Manoah's wife calls her husband saying, “Behold, the man has appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day”.

Then Manoah asks the Angel to stay to eat a lamb. The angel replies,

“Though you detain me, I will not eat of your bread: and if you will offer a burnt offering, you must offer it unto Yahweh”.

The Bible again says that they thought the angel was a human prophet,

For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of Yahweh. And Manoah said unto the angel of Yahweh, “What is your name, that when your sayings come to pass we may do you honour?” And the angel of Yahweh said unto him, “Why ask you so after my name, seeing it is secret?”
Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto Yahweh: and the angel did wondrously... For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of Yahweh ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of Yahweh did no more appear.. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of Yahweh. (Judges 13:2-21)

Some facts emerge from this,

Destroying Angels

Balaam saw an angel with a sword and Angels sometimes destroy those who disobey Yahweh. In 1048BCE many die at the hands of angels in Israel as the result of their sin due to King David's actions.

God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, Yahweh beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of Yahweh stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of Yahweh stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. (1Chron 21:15-16). (2Samuel 24:16-17)

A Nourishing Angel

When Elijah the prophet is persecuted and pursued by Queen Jezebel in about 850BC, he eats food that is prepared by an angel,

he arose, and ran for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, “It is enough; now, O Yahweh, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers”.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, “Arise and eat”. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of Yahweh came again the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee”. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. (1Kings 19:1-8)

Angel's food releases extraordinary power. We are told that the Manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness was “Angel's food”.

And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full. (Psalm 78:24-25)

Though on a journey the Israelites feet did not swell (Deut 8:4).

3) Surviving the fiery Furnace

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon saw an angel in approx. 530BCE. He threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a furnace heated seven times the usual. The flame of the fire slew the men who threw them in.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God”

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (Daniel 3:19-28)

This angel could convey similar fire resisting capability to others nearby.

The Lions Den

Not long after the fiery furnace Nebuchadnezzar was tricked into sending Daniel the prophet into a lions' den. An angel shuts the lions' mouths

The king said to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God, whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” Then said Daniel, “O king, live for ever. My God has sent his angel, and has shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me”. (Daniel 6:20-22)

4) A multitude of Angels

The most well known appearance of Angels is to the shepherds of Bethlehem.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. (Luke 2:8-15)

We note here these men saw a multitude of real beings, as this was not a dream. Jacob saw also many angels, but in a vision (Genesis 28:12). Job, who may have lived before 2000BC, is told by Yahweh that the angels are called “sons of God” and that they were a multitude before creation.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if you have understanding. ..Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

This means that the whole multitude of angels are older than this civilization. In Genesis it says “Mighty ones (or Angels) said, 'Let us make man in our image'” (Gen. 1:26). So humans look like angels! Angels are called the 'Morning stars', which is also a title of Jesus,

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star. (Rev 22:16)

This title will also be given to the redeemed (Revelation 2:28).

At Jesus' resurrection

There was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. (Mat 28:2-5)(John 20:11-12)

This description shows the brightness of the face and the white clothes.

The ministering work of Angels

Angels have a role in looking after those that serve God.

Because you have made Yahweh, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:9-11)
The angel of Yahweh encamps round about them that fear him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)

The angels are servants to the servants of God, and do not sit at Yahweh's right hand as Christ does.

To which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14)

The children that followed Christ had angels who looked after them.

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. (Matthew 18:10)

The Angels are servants doing Yahweh's will perfectly, even when evil,

Who makes his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: (Psalm 104:4)
He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them. (Psalm 78:49)
Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. (Psalm 103:20)
But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)

Angels may speak as if they are Deity Himself. Following is one case,

An angel of Yahweh .. said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you”.(Judges 2:1)

5) Archangel

There are only two references to 'archangel' in the Bible. The word means “chief Angel”, indicating there is one greater than the others.

we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (1Thessalonians 4:15-17)
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the slanderer he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke thee'. (Jude 1:9)

Jude calls this chief angel “Michael”, The source above that Jude quotes (Zechariah 3:2) does not give the name, however, an angel speaking to Daniel says Michael is of the angelic “chief princes” who helped him.

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. (Daniel 10:13)

It is to be noted that the angels here are actively involved in the life of the prince of Persia, even though this prince may not see them, and may withstand them. The name Michael is a title and means “One like God”.

Gabriel

Apart from Michael the only other angel mentioned by name is Gabriel, a name meaning “man (or warrior) of God”, possibly, again, a title. He is first mentioned in the book of Daniel where he reveals the future. There is another reference to Gabriel at the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.

The Cherub and Cherubim

The word Cherub is an untranslated Hebrew word most probably meaning “living creature”. Cherubim is the plural. Cherubim first appear to guard the garden of Eden holding flaming swords. They appear again as carvings in the tabernacle made from beaten gold over the mercy seat on the ark. They are a representative of the characteristics of the power of the God of Israel, Yahweh. There were two in the temple having four wings each (2 forward and two back with two meeting in the centre over the mercy seat). Ezekiel sees them in a vision and describes them,

And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another;.. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. (Ezekiel 1:5-11)

They were associated with fire and with carrying Yahweh. David also saw Yahweh riding the Cherubim in vision,

And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind. (2Samuel 22:11)

6) You, the future and the angels

The angels have a connection with the people of this world who are made in their “image” (Gen 1:26). They desire that all serve Yahweh.

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. (Luke 15:10)

They have a role in the near future, gathering the servants of Yahweh,

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31)
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (Matthew 25:31)

The faithful will be like Angels

Just as the angels are now called by Yahweh the 'sons of God' (Job 38:7), so shall be those people who after the resurrection are judged faithful,

They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God. (Luke 20:35-36).

Understanding the angels' work on Earth is knowing our future hope: Our faces will glow, our garments will be white and we will live forever.

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