The Bible’s Viewpoint
What You Should Know About Angels
“About 3,000 religious scholars met for four days in New York last week to hear more than 500 reports on subjects ranging from the role of humor in sermons to the importance of ritual to Pentecostals. Nobody mentioned angels.”—Daily News, December 26, 1982.
TODAY, eight years later, the clergy still say little about angels. Why? Could it be that these heavenly messengers are viewed simply as part of an ancient myth? Or do they really exist? If so, what should you know about them?
Do They Exist?
Angels are not simply “powers” or “movements of the universe,” as some philosophers claim. They are real enough to be mentioned hundreds of times in God’s Word, the Bible. In the original Bible languages, the words rendered “angel” (Hebrew, mal·ʼakhʹ; Greek, agʹge·los) literally mean “one who brings a message” or simply “messenger.” These words occur nearly 400 times throughout the Bible, sometimes referring to human, but usually to spirit messengers.
The angel that appeared to Manoah’s barren wife announcing the conception of her son, Samson, was real to her. So were the three angels that appeared to Abraham and his wife Sarah, and the two that searched out Lot, and the one that sat under a big tree and talked with Gideon. (Genesis 18:1-15; 19:1-5; Judges 6:11-22; 13:3-21) At the time of Jesus’ birth, an angel suddenly appeared to a group of shepherds in the midst of a dazzling, gleaming light.—Luke 2:8, 9.
Those angels were real. They were not a figment of the imagination or an impersonal force. They fulfilled a given purpose as messengers from God, and the accounts have appropriately been recorded in the Bible for our benefit today. (2 Timothy 3:16) The Bible thus reveals important details about angels that you need to know, some of which conflict with traditional concepts.
What Do They Look Like?
Perhaps you may picture angels as beautiful women or as chubby, babylike creatures with wings, smiling sweetly in white robes, plucking at tiny harps, and hovering in the air. If so, you should know that these are misconceptions derived from pagan ideas, such as Greek mythology. Or the ideas were adopted after Bible writing was completed. In Biblical symbolic visions, spirit creatures such as seraphs and cherubs have wings.—Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 10:5; Revelation 14:6.
God’s Word describes angels as very powerful spirits, and a spirit is invisible. (1 Kings 22:21; Psalm 34:7; 91:11) It was an “angel of Jehovah” that struck down 185,000 Assyrians in the camp of the enemy of Israel in just one evening! (Isaiah 37:36) When angels showed themselves to humans, they always appeared as fully clothed men, not as women or children and never in subhuman form.
From where did these powerful spirit creatures come? The Bible says that “by means of him [Jesus] all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.” (Colossians 1:16) Jehovah God, through this firstborn Son, not only created angels long before man but also made them a higher form of life than man.—Job 38:4, 7; 2 Peter 2:11.
Do They Have Personalities?
Angels, like humans, have feelings. After witnessing earth’s creation, we are told that the angels “joyfully cried out together,” even “shouting in applause.” (Job 38:7) The Bible also reveals that “joy arises among the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” (Luke 15:10) Certainly, no impersonal “power” could have experienced the immense joy described in those verses.
Angels also have limitations. Certain facts about Christ and the future were revealed to human prophets but not to angels. God’s Word tells us that it is “into these very things angels are desiring to peer.” (1 Peter 1:10-12) As to the exact date chosen by God for the Lord’s coming, Jesus said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”—Matthew 24:36.
Then, too, the names of two angels, Michael and Gabriel, appear in the Bible. (Daniel 12:1; Luke 1:26) Does this not add to the evidence of their individuality? As individuals, they were not programmed, like a computer or a robot, to act in a certain way. Rather, angels are gifted with the power of reason and have the freedom to form personal moral decisions. Thus, as free moral agents, certain angels chose to rebel against God and became Satan and his demons.—Genesis 6:1-4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:7-9.
Should They Be Worshiped?
Although we may recognize the existence of angels as fact, not fable, we must avoid extremes. Some religious organizations have given undue prominence to angels, although angel worship is condemned in the Bible. (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 22:8, 9) The Catholic Church has transformed Michael and Gabriel into objects of devotion. And in Eastern Orthodox churches, angels are extremely important in the litany. What a contrast with the warning given by Jehovah’s angel when the apostle John fell down at his feet: “Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave.”—Revelation 19:10.
Why is there so much confusion about angels? Satan, who masks himself as “an angel of light,” “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14) Thus, would it not be reasonable to expect that many today would hold to their own opinions regarding the existence and nature of angels rather than accept what God’s Word has to say? Yes, although clergymen today may say little about angels, we have God’s guarantee through the Bible record that they really exist and perform an honored service as messengers of Jehovah.—Hebrews 1:7, 14; 6:18.
[Picture on page 20]
Angels pictured as babylike creatures with wings are derived from pagan ideas
Cupid a Captive by François Boucher, c. 1754