Bella Vista Church of Christ
Angels – Who They Are and What They Do
Reading - Hebrews 2.1-4
The word angels appears fourteen times in the Book of Hebrews
. Tonight, we want to talk about WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY DO. I’m going to give you a lot of information; not so much as a sermon, but just disseminating information about the subject of ANGELS from the Bible.
Angels and the work of angels are certainly a Bible Subject. In fact, references to angels are found in (17) books of the Old Testament, and in 17 books of the New Testament. Billy Graham in his book on angels says that our belief in angels is a natural outgrowth of Biblical scholarship… One cannot believe in a literal interpretation of scripture, and dismiss a belief in angels and the work of angels.
You see, God created two worlds…
- The seen and the unseen…
- The physical and the spiritual…
- The worldly and the heavenly.
We know a lot about the physical seen world, but little about the unseen realm where angels exist. So, we must rely primarily on God’s Word about the subject.
OK… What does the Bible say about THE ORIGIN OF ANGELS?
First… We note that angels are CREATED BEINGS… CREATED BY GOD.
- Colossians 1.16 says… “For by him (That is Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, (Listen now) things visible and invisible...” Angels are among the invisible of God’s creation.
- Nehemiah 9.6 tells us that “God created everything, including (What?) the host of heaven.” This must include the angels and other spirit beings.
- Psalm 148.2 & 5 David says… “Praise Him, all his angels… all his heavenly hosts. For he commanded (And what?) and they were created.
When you put Nehemiah 9.6 and Psalm 148 together we have God as the creator of the heavenly hosts… which includes the angels.
The next question is… WHEN?... WHEN WERE ANGELS CREATED?
Perhaps our answer is found in Job 38.4-7… God asked Job… "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Where were you when the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted with joy?” Notice that the angels shouted with joy when the earth was made. So angels were created before the earth existed. How long before? I don't have a clue.
HOW MANY WERE CREATED?
We have no way of knowing. Scripture never specifies for us any exact number. But I believe we can conclude that however many God created, that’s how many there are today. The reason is because angels cannot reproduce… cannot procreate. Contrary to popular belief, based upon artist conceptions, there are no baby angels.
And, Scripture tells us that angels do not die.
Peter and Jude tell us that those angels who sinned are being held in chains of darkness until God's judgment day:
- Peter says… “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell… putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.”
- Jude writes… “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. (Listen Now!) And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home, these he has kept in darkness… bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”
So, if Angels are created beings, and they neither procreate or die, then the number of angels remains constant for all time… RIGHT? Well, what does the Bible have to say about angelic numbers?
- David records 20,000 coursing through the skyways of the stars.
- Psalm 68.17 speaks of tens of thousands and thousands of thousands of angels.
- Ten thousand angels came down on Mt. Sinai to confirm the presence of God as he gave the law to Moses in Deuteronomy 33.2.
- In Luke 2.13-15 a great company of angels, a host, appeared announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.
- Matthew 26.53 tells us Jesus could have summoned twelve legions of angels to His rescue.
- In Revelation 5.11… John, on the Isle of Patmos, heard the voice of many angels, numbering he says… thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. Ten thousand was the highest numerical figure used in the Greek language. So, ten thousand times ten thousand may be John's way of describing an inexpressibly large company of angels. Literally in the Greek John says he saw… myriads upon myriads of angels.
- Hebrews 12.22 speaks of an innumerable host. Some translations say myriads… an infinite number of angels.
- Perhaps Job put it in the proper perspective when he asked the question in rhetoric, “Can God's host be numbered?”
You see, church, there is NO way we can determine the number of the angels.
WHERE DO THE ANGELS LIVE?
Although angels apparently have access to the entire universe, God's Word seems to affirm that angels dwell in heaven and are sent out on specified errands or assignments by God Himself. For instance…
- Micah makes reference to the Lord sitting on His throne with all the host of heaven. This includes angels and other spirit beings… on His right and on His left.
- Isaiah 6.1-6 pictures angels hovering around God's throne proclaiming… “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.”
- Jesus speaks of angels “ascending and descending to and from heaven.”
- The Hebrew's writer says… “You have come to the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.”
- John in Revelation said… “I looked and heard the voice of many angels. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.”
It would appear then, that the natural habitat of angels is in heaven in the very presence of God. When they have an assigned task to perform, they leave the realm of heaven, complete their work and then return to His immediate presence.”
LET’S EXAMINE THE NATURE… FORM… & ATTRIBUTES OF ANGELS
JUST WHAT IS AN ANGEL…
There are several terms used in Scripture to refer to angels. This should not surprise us, seeing that there are more than 200 different names and titles for Jesus in the Bible.
- In the Old Testament Hebrew the word is MALAK... (My-lock) It means to dispatch as a deputy or messenger… especially a messenger of God.
- In the Greek of the New Testament the word is ANGELLOS. This word also means MESSENGER.
Notice now… some names, titles… given angels in Scripture. We’re speaking here of the good spiritual beings… versus Demons and fallen angels. These titles also give us a glimpse of WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY DO.
- They are sometimes called Holy Ones…
- Sons of God…
- Ministering Spirits…
- Mighty Ones…
- In Daniel 4.13 there’s a reference to angels, and they’re called Watchers…
- Collectively they are referred to as the Council of Holy Ones…
- Frequently angels are called the Heavenly Hosts... or Host of Heaven…
- Heavenly Beings....
- There’s an interesting verse in Deuteronomy where Angels are called Saints by our King James translators… That’s Deuteronomy 33.2.
Next we note THE NATURE OF ANGELS.
First… ANGELS ARE SPIRIT BEINGS
Angels are like God… not flesh… but SPIRIT. They are CREATED SPIRIT BEINGS.
There are two verses which specifically refer to them as Spirits Beings:
- Psalm 104.4 in the King James… “Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire…”
- Hebrews 1.14 asks in rhetoric… “Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits?”
Angels do not have physical bodies as we think of bodies. They are incorporeal, which means they are without material substance. The are made of a spirit substance. They are Celestial… Heavenly… Beings. Even though they do not have flesh, blood and bones, they at times have the ability, like God Himself, to incarnate themselves in human form.”
Now this does not mean that they can never be seen… For surely they are. They just cannot be seen with an unaided human vision. You see, our eyes are not constructed to ordinarily see spirit beings any more than we can see… a magnetic field, an electrical field or current, nuclear energy, the structure of atoms, ultraviolet light, etc., and a million other things that we may or may not be aware of. Our ability to sense all of reality is severely limited, so why should we think it strange if we fail to perceive or sense an angelic presence? Yet, when God wants us to see these beings, we can! For instance:
- God is a spirit, but He has manifested His presence in different ways, including in the personage of His Son Jesus…. Jesus is God in the flesh.
- In the Garden of Eden… Adam and Eve could see the cherubim, with a flaming sword. They were there to keep Adam and Eve out of the Garden.
- Genesis records the appearance of three men... Angels... One described as the Angel of the Lord… who appeared to Abraham.
- Genesis 19.1 says that two of these angels appeared to Lot in Sodom.
- Matthew records an angel appearance at the tomb of Jesus.
- In Acts two men in white apparel stood by those who witnessed the ascension of Jesus.
- In Acts 8 an angel was involved in the conversion of the Ethiopian, as he directed Phillip to the Ethiopian’s chariot.
- In Acts 12 an angel appeared to Peter effecting his release from prison.
The truth is that angels can appear in many forms, both animate and inanimate.
- As cherubim in the garden.
- As a burning bush in the Sinai to Moses.
- As men to Abraham… Men dressed in white at the ascension of Jesus.
- As horses and chariots to Elisha's servant.
- They appeared as supernatural beings to the Roman Guard, and they fell as dead men.
- The Hebrews writer says… “He makes his angels winds… His servants flames of fire.”
- In Revelation angels take the form of a variety of unusual living creatures with many eyes… different faces and with wings... One is clothed with a cloud and had a rainbow in his hand.
So… we can say tonight that angels are invisible to man in their natural state… but can be seen by man when God aids human vision.
Even though Angels are spirits… they are PERSONAL BEINGS... SPIRIT BEINGS.
They have all the attributes of personality. They are not things… They are living beings. For instance…
- They have INTELLIGENCE.
Angels are said to possess great wisdom and discernment. Twice in 2 Samuel 14… David is said to have the wisdom like that of an angel in discerning good and evil. 1 Peter 1.12 reads, speaking of the plan of redemption, “Even angels long to look into these things.”
- Angels have EMOTION.
In Hebrews 12.22… They compose a JOYFUL assembly.
In Job 38.7… They are pictured as shouting for JOY.
In Luke 15.7… They are REJOICING in heaven.
- Angels have a SELF-DETERMINING WILL.
They can choose to obey or disobey God. Psalm 103.20 says… “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey His word.”
In Revelation an angel exercises his will by forbidding John to worship him.
It is evident in the Biblical narratives that…
- Angels can love… and desire…
- Think… and decide
- Work and worship…
- Talk… and travel.
ANGELS HAVE PERSONALITY… THEY ARE PERSONAL SPIRITUAL BEINGS.
ANGELS ARE POWERFUL… THEY HAVE SUPER-HUMAN STRENGTH.
- II Thessalonians 1.7 speaks of the “mighty angels” of God
- II Peter 2.11 says that angels have more power than men.
- It took only one angel to slay all the first born of Egypt in Moses’ day.
- An angel shut the lion’s mouth in Daniel… And rolled the stone from Jesus’ grave.
- Revelation 7.1… pictures four angels holding back the destructive force of nature… the wind… so that it did not blow on the earth, sea or tree.
- Revelation 18.21 has an angel picking up a millstone and hurling it into the sea.
So, I think we can conclude that ANGELS ARE MIGHTY… POWERFUL… SUPER-HUMAN.
Another characteristic is that… ANGELS ARE SWIFT.
In Scripture, angels go about performing their God-ordained assignments instantly. They appear to travel faster than the speed of light. The Biblical word used to describe their speed is… SUDDENLY…
- Abraham looked up suddenly… unexpectedly… unannounced… There are three angels.
- An angel suddenly blocked the road that Balaam was traveling.
- Gideon looked up from the threshing floor to see an angel. That angel instantly disappeared when Gideon placed a meal before him.
- An angel made a sudden appearance to Samson’s mother.
- Shepherds near Bethlehem witnessed a great number of angels suddenly joining the Announcing Angel at Jesus’ birth.
- Proud Herod was immediately smitten by an angel in Acts twelve.
- The Angel Gabriel came to Daniel in what is said to be… “Swift Flight.”
Traversing space in the twinkling of an eye, the angels appear to move from heaven to earth… from one place to another… at ease and without hindrance. Yet, they are not ever said to be omnipresent… as is God.
ANGELS ARE UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF GOD.
- Angels were placed under law…under obedience. Psalm 103.21 reads… “Praise the LORD, all his angels; you mighty ones who do his will.”
- In fact those angels who did not submit to the will of God are still suffering the consequences… “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment…” That’s Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2.4
- Not only are the angels subject to the authority of God, they are also under the authority of Jesus. 1 Peter 3.22 says… Speaking of Jesus… “who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
THIS BRINGS US TO THE POINT THAT ANGELS ARE GENDERLESS.
They are unmarriageable... They are sexless. Matthew 22.30 tells us… “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The word for angels always appears in Scripture in the masculine form… never in the feminine or neuter. Like God… they are referred to in the masculine gender only.
Now, having said that, we do point out that there is a reference in Zechariah 5.9, where the prophet said, “Then I looked up--and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings!” Were they angels? We don’t know for sure. If so, this is the only reference that even alludes to the effect that angels have appeared as women.
ANGELS ARE IMMORTAL.
There is nothing in Scripture that suggests in any way that angels age, become ill, or die. Indeed… think about it now; these HEAVENLY SPIRIT BEINGS are…
MINISTERS FROM GOD. Yet God has sent them to minister and serve us. They serve on our behalf! What an awesome thought… AMEN??
WHAT DO ANGELS DO?
Scripture tells us without any doubt that angels are ministering spirits… Not just Spirit Beings but MINISTERING SPIRIT BEINGS… THEY HAVE PURPOSE!
Now, I believe the Bible to teach that angels have two ministries….
One is a HEAVENLY MINISTRY… Angels are ministering before God… Angels have a heavenly purpose.
Secondly… They have EARTHLY DUTIES… Earthly ministries… Human ministries to attend to.
These Heavenly Activities… Ministries Include:
WORSHIPING & PRAISING GOD… AND JESUS.
- Job 38.7 says… “At the creation of the world… all the angels shouted for joy.”
- In Isaiah six… the Seraphim are praising God's holiness and His almightiness.
- David repeatedly mentions the angels praising God.
- Luke records that at the birth of Jesus… “A great company of heavenly host appeared with the announcing angel… Praising God, saying Glory to God in the highest.”
- Hebrews 1.6 says…Speaking of Christ… “Let all God’s angels worship Him.”
- There are multiple references to this worship & praise ministry in the Book of Revelation.
Indeed, Scripture tells us that from the beginning of time until eternity rolls on… angels are seen worshiping God in ceaseless praise.
ANGELS NOT ONLY WORSHIP GOD… THEY SERVE HIM.
This is the affirmation of the Hebrews’ writer, isn’t it? Angels are ministering Spirits… God's ministering servants. In Matthew 26.53… Jesus said legions of angels are standing ready to serve Him and the Father… “Don't you know I can call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
ANGELS ARE FOUND REJOICING IN HEAVEN
The Bible tells us that angels rejoice at the victories of God’s people… at Christian victories. They rejoice in heaven when a sinner repents and responds to God’s will.
ANGELS APPEAR TO BE ON CALL… 24/7 IN SERVICE TO US.
The Hebrews’ writer says… “Angels are sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”
THEN THERE IS THE EARTHLY MINISTRY OF ANGELS…
WHAT THEY DO FOR US!!
First… ANGELS HAVE AND CAN ASSIST GOD’S PEOPLE IN DISTRESS.
- Angels were sent to deliver Lot and his family from the city of Sodom.
- Hagar and Ishmael were saved from starvation by an angel in the Desert of Mamre.
- An angel told Joshua how to take the city of Jericho.
- Centuries later, an angel saves Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
- An angel is dispatched to shut the mouths of lions… keeping Daniel from being killed.
- At the cross, Jesus said, “Don’t you know that I could speak, and the Father would send legions of angels to my defense?”
- In Acts 5.19-20… “An angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out… Telling them to go stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life in Christ.”
- An angel delivers Peter from a Roman prison.
These are only a few examples of how angels intervened ….
- And defending… mankind here on earth.
Perhaps David sums up our first point well in Psalm 34.7 where he writes, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”
Someone says, Well, Preacher, I don’t believe that. Well, what can I say? You have the right to believe what you want.
Not only do angels assist God’s People… THEY ALSO TROUBLE GOD’S ENEMIES.
- In Sodom, it was God’s Angelic ministers who smote the men with blindness.
- In 2 Kings 6.18… Blindness came over an entire Syrian army.
- Psalm 78.49 tells us that it was a band of angels that unleashed the ten plagues.
- The King of Assyria lifted his siege of Jerusalem in 2 Kings 19.35… after an angel killed 185,000 Syrian soldiers.
- Paul says that it was an angel that killed the Israelites who murmured in the Wilderness.
- An angel smote King Herod because he did not give God the glory for his ability.
- In the Book of Revelation, angels are seen wrecking havoc on the enemies of God.
Another earthly ministry includes COMFORTING AND ENCOURAGING.
- Hagar and her son Ishmael are alone in the desert… Genesis 21… It looks like Ishmael is about to die. Hagar can’t stand to watch the death of her son; so, she lays him under a bush and goes a few yards away and waits. As she begins to cry, an angel appears to her and encouraged her with this promise… “God will make a great nation from your son.”
- Daniel is now an old man… His people are sill in captivity… He is depressed and despondent and has been in mourning for weeks. As he walks along the Tigris River… suddenly, there is a roar and a blaze of light. Daniel sees a heavenly being. This angel comforts him with these words, “Do not be afraid… Peace! Be strong now… Be strong!!”
- Twice in the life of Jesus… angels come to comfort and encourage.
1. In the Judean wilderness, after forty days of fasting, Matthew and Mark tell us that angels came and ministered to Jesus.
2. In the Garden… Jesus prayed for deliverance from suffering. Sweat, like great drops of blood, begin falling from His brow. Jesus is in anguish and agony… Luke tells us that… “Angels come and strengthen Him.”
Church… there are many Scriptures that tell us that God provides us with Strength… Comfort… Encouragement… and Edification.
- In Psalm 23… David says, “He restores… renews… our soul.”
- In Romans… Paul says… “He helps us with our prayers.”
- “He works all things out to our benefit… to our betterment… to our good.”
- In Corinthians… Paul says, “The Spirit helps overcome temptations.”
- In the Philippian Letter… “He gives us strength.”
Who is to say that these helps from God and the Holy Spirit are not carried out by angels? Is it possible that God providentially works through angels to bring us this… Strength… Comfort… Encouragement… and Edification?
ANGELS HAVE BEEN USED BY GOD TO ENLIGHTEN MANKIND.
- Moses’ call to service came from an angel in the Burning Bush.
- Hannah heard an angel say… “You will conceive and bear a son.”
- Zechariah was told of John the Baptist’s birth by an angel.
- Gabriel said to Mary, “Be not afraid… You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you’re to name Him Jesus.”
- At the resurrection, the message was… “He’s not there… He has risen.”
- On a hilltop overlooking Jerusalem… “Why stand you gazing into the heavens… This same Jesus will come again, in like manner as you have seen Him go.”
- Several years later in a howling storm on the Mediterranean an angel stands beside Paul and says, “Be not afraid… You must stand trial before Caesar… and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”
- We see an old man on a pile of rocks overlooking the Aegean Sea… His name is John. He too was visited by none other than the resurrected Christ. In his apocalyptic vision, several of the messages were delivered to him by angels.
- The Law came through angels… Twice in the New Testament, we are told that the Law of Moses came through the medium of angels: 1) Stephen said, “The Law was put into effect by angels.” and 2) Our Hebrews’ writer refers to the Law as being, “A message spoken by angels.”
There should be no doubt tonight that angels have been MESSENGERS… Those who have, in the course of human history, delivered enlightening messages from GOD.
This brings us to… ANGELS ARE ACTIVE IN LEADING THE LOST TO TRUTH.
- In Acts eight, an angel is responsible for sending Philip to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza… And was instrumental in the salvation of the Ethiopian Treasurer.
- In Acts ten, an angel appeared to Cornelius, telling him to send to Joppa for Peter. God worked through this angel to bring the preacher and the sinner together.
It’s interesting to note here that in these two instances, the angels did not preach the Gospel… but providentially arranged for the two individuals to meet. I wonder if angels are used today to effect God’s Divine providence? Especially in bringing the willing heart and the messenger together?
SOMETIMES GOD USES ANGELS TO ANSWER PRAYER.
- In Daniel nine… Gabriel told Daniel that he had come to deliver the answer to his prayer.
- In Acts ten… an angel came to Cornelius… saying he came in answer to his prayers.
- In the Garden… the angels ministering to Jesus seem to be God’s answer to His Son’s prayer. No… God did not deliver Jesus from His suffering and the death of the cross, but he did provide what Jesus needed… Strength for the journey to the cross.
ANGELS ARE PRESENT... AND MINISTER… AT OUR DEATH.
In the narrative of the Richman and Lazarus, we find… “Lazarus died and was carried (HOW???) by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.”
The angels appear to be our source of transport to heaven when we die. You see, we may be more dependent upon angels of God more than we ever thought.
“O come… Angel band…
Come and around me stand…
O bear me away on your snowy wings…
To my eternal home!!!” AMEN?
Then lastly… ANGELS WILL MINISTER AT THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS.
Scripture tells us that when Jesus comes again, he will not come alone. He will be accompanied by the ANGELS OF HEAVEN….
- Matthew 16.27… “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels.”
- Luke 12.9… “He who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.”
- Matthew 24.31… “And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
- Matthew 13.49… “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.”
- Jude 1.14… “The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict the ungodly…”
- 2 Thessalonians 1.6-7… “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”
- Revelation 20.1 & 10 says their last activity will have to do with the judgment of Satan… “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Praise God tonight for the EARTHLY MINISTRY of angels on our behalf… Amen??
I hope this lesson has been both interesting and informative, and that tonight we can go home with an elevated appreciation for ANGELS… WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY DO.
If you are here tonight and have never responded to the MESSAGE DELIVERED, not by angels, BUT BY JESUS… that you will tonight. Believe in Him…Confess His name… Repent… Change your life according to God’s will…and be born again in Genuine New Testament Baptism, immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins.
As Children of God, may we be found faithful to the Message of Jesus… Amen?
Respond to God’s invitation as we stand and sing together.