Angels are everywhere. Or at least, everywhere in pop songs, children’s literature, films and Valentines cards. They’ve even been in a string of recent Cambray sermons.
Yet they hardly seem to fit with our term’s theme, Grow Up, Grow Deep in Christ, despite the Bible’s 196 references across 34 books. Or do they?
Angels, a word in both Hebrew and Greek meaning ‘messenger’, are spiritual beings created by God before the world itself, made to serve Him.
The Bible uses a series of overlapping images to refer to them: ‘holy ones’, ‘cherubim’, ‘seraphim’, ‘sons of God’, ‘living creatures’, ‘watchers’, ‘ministering spirits’, ‘the angel of the LORD’ (most commonly referring to God himself), each emphasizing a different angelic role.
Some have remained obedient to God, carrying out His will on earth and (or?) praising him as the ‘heavenly host’ above, whilst others have disobeyed and fallen from their holy position, now standing in active opposition to the work of God on earth, to be eternally punished in future.
But so what? What possible use can the doctrine of immaterial spirit beings have for today?
That God has created a realm of personal beings other than mankind – indeed, a higher form than mankind – should broaden our understanding of who God is, how He works in his universe and how we respond to the spiritual realm.
First, our culture’s apparent fascination with angels may well be a longing for the spiritual and supernatural in reaction to society’s secular materialism.
It may seem strange that belief and interest in angels is ‘acceptable’, but belief and interest in God is somehow not. Yet if angels can provide a way in, then angels it will be – a great starting place for spiritual conversations.
Second, the fall of Satan and his angels from heaven may help explain the origins of evil. Whilst we may struggle to unite the Bible’s teaching that God is both good and sovereign in the face of evil, ancient Israelite and some modern Jewish thought goes to Genesis 6:1-4 and talk of the Nephilim – fallen angelic offspring – to answer this question, rather than man’s fall in Genesis 3.
The fall of angels as well as man stems from the God-given power to choose rebellion over obedience, a choice given to all moral creatures. That many think the fall of angels pre-dates the fall of man may give us further insight into where evil came from (this is explored further in the book of Job).
Third, angels motivate and help us worship God. Perhaps the standout image of angels in the Bible, found particularly in the Psalms and the apocalyptic picture language of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation, is that of the heavenly host.
They are pictured in worshipful adoration around the throne of God, an image that surely must inspire us in our worship – singing, praying, speaking, living.
Yet we have even more reason to rejoice than they – unlike angels, we have received the gift of salvation from sin – Hebrews 1:14 says they are sent to serve us even as we serve and worship God.
So there we have it: fascination, explanation and motivation. My prayer is that exploring this subject (should you wish to) – interesting and difficult in equal measure – will help us make better sense of God and how he operates in His world.
P.S. If you felt like diving deeper into angelology, try thinking through (together with a good Study Bible or commentary) some of the following:
Gen. 3:23-24; 6:1-4; 22:11-18
Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; 38:1-7
Psa. 29:1-2, 89:5-8; 91:11-12; 148:1-6
Isa. 6:1-8; 14:3-23
Eze. 10:1-3; 28:1-19
2 Pet. 2:4-6
Rev. 5:11-14; 20:1-10