“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” –The author of the Hebrews (13:2) in the New Testament
Halloween is quickly approaching in a few days on October 31st, and the entire month of October is when several TV stations announce “31 days of Halloween” movies, and new spooky movies show up at the theaters. Of course, on Halloween children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door “trick or treating” just as I did when I was a kid. My mom always had to ration out the goodies so I didn’t eat too many sweets at any one time. Spooks and goblins and Harry Potter type stuff, along with The Addams Family who first showed up in 1991 and they are still quite popular today, proliferate during this month. However, when I woke up this morning I got to thinking about “the other side” of the spirit world–Angels–as they appear in the Bible many times including their association with us human beings. In fact, Hebrews 13:2 states:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Imagine entertaining an angel and not even knowing it. Obviously, according to this Bible verse they are able to take on human form. Most likely if we think of angels at all it is sort of like this picture as being “bright, glowing, ethereal, winged messengers or guardians” (quote source here). However, the angels of the Bible are described as follows:
Superhuman or heavenly being who serves as God’s messenger. Both the Hebrew malak and the Greek angelos indicate that these beings also act decisively in fulfilling God’s will in the world. But these two terms also apply to human beings as messengers (1 Kings 19:2 ; Hag 1:13 ; Luke 7:24 ). “Angels” are mentioned almost three hundred times in Scripture, and are only noticeably absent from books such as Ruth, Nehemiah, Esther, the letters of John, and James.
From the beginning, angels were part of the divine hierarchy. They were created beings (Psalms 148:2 Psalms 148:5), and were exuberant witnesses when God brought the world into being (Job 38:7). By nature they were spiritual entities, and thus not subject to the limitations of human flesh. Although holy, angels could sometimes behave foolishly (Job 4:18), and even prove to be untrustworthy (Job 15:15). Probably these qualities led to the “fall” of some angels, including Satan, but the Bible contains no description of that event [Note: see “The Devil” on History.com at this link]. When angels appeared in human society they resembled normal males (Genesis 18:2 Genesis 18:16 ; Ezek 9:2), and never came dressed as women. (A full explanation including some Old Testament and New Testament examples along with the quote source above is located here.)
Angels have been the featured subject of national news magazines, countless books, many movies, and several television shows. They have even surfaced on the Internet. You can find them on postcards, T-shirts, calendars, and sunglasses. In fact, entire seminars, newsletters, and boutiques have been devoted to these beings. There’s no doubt about it, America is experiencing a wave of angel-mania.
Polls have shown that most Americans do believe angels exist. Many people also believe that they have personal guardian angels, or that they have felt an angelic presence at some time. Even most teenagers say they believe there are angels.
Our word “angel” comes from the Greek word meaning “messenger.” Angels have superhuman intelligence and powers. People today often describe angels as kind, non-judgmental, wise, and loving beings. But do they take into account that there are also fallen angels who may not be so nonthreatening and loving? In many cases, the answer is no. Let’s examine what the Bible teaches us about these angelic beings.
Angels are beings created by God
“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. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
Angels generally operate undercover
They are God’s secret agents, not seeking to draw attention to themselves, but to do God’s bidding. One of the reasons we may not be personally aware of angels in our life is because they are doing their job properly. The Bible cites a limited number of instances when God has given people a glimpse of these beings at work.
Angels have a special work and ministry in the lives of Christians
Angels are all around us, taking care of us and ministering to us even when we are not aware of their presence. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are sent by God to deliver us from our troubles. “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). God also sends angels to bring His messages to guide us in our own ministry (Acts 8:26).
Angels are intelligent, powerful, and invisible spirit beings
Angels are not visible to us, with the exception of those occasions when God sends them on a special mission or clothes them in human form (see Hebrews 13:2). The descriptions of angels in Scripture are certainly awe-inspiring. If we could remove the veil that blocks our view of the unseen spiritual world, we would see that there are angels all around us. That happened to the servant of Elisha the prophet in the Old Testament. Seeing his servant’s fearfulness of the vast enemy army surrounding their city, Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see the invisible hosts protecting them. “Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).
Angels do not seek our worship
If an angel were to appear to us right now, we might be tempted to worship it. This happened to the apostle John. “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:8–9). The angel would not accept John’s worship.
There are not only holy angels, but also unholy ones (fallen angels or demons). If an awe-inspiring angel were to appear to us right now, we would be inclined to believe just about anything he said—even if it were a different gospel! That is why Scripture tells us to test any so-called angel’s message with what we find in God’s Word. “But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Angels are numerous
The world of angels is mysterious and, to a large degree, unknown to us. The Bible does not precisely say how many angels exist. It was a “multitude” of the heavenly host that told the shepherds of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13). Daniel 7:10 tells us, “A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.” That would mean there are more than 100 million angels—a number almost too vast to imagine. Perhaps that is why Job asks, “Can His forces be numbered?” (Job 25:3 NIV).
Let’s consider some of the distinctions in the angelic realm. In the Bible, we are given the names of two angels in particular: Michael the archangel and Gabriel (there are three named angels, if you want to count Lucifer, who once was a high-ranking angel in God’s service, but is now in rebellion against God, and is now called Satan). The Bible also mentions the cherubim and the seraphim.
Michael, the Archangel
The term “archangel” occurs just twice in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9). In both instances, it is used in the singular and is preceded by the definite article “the.” This would indicate that there is only one archangel. It would appear that Michael is the top-ranking angel in God’s heavenly host. He will play a special role in the rapture of the church:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)
As powerful as Michael is, he does have his limitations—as well as a healthy respect for his adversary, Lucifer. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 1:9). Ultimately, however, Scripture says that Michael and the angels will prevail over Satan and cast him out of Heaven forever (see Revelation 12:7–9).
This high-ranking angel brought special messages to God’s people.
The Bible depicts these beings as powerful and majestic angelic creatures, servants of God, which surround God’s throne (see Ezekiel 1:5–14; Psalm 99:1). They appear as winged human-animal forms (Revelation 4:6–8). God sent them to guard Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve: “So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
These angelic beings seem to hold a special position of worshiping and praising God. The prophet Isaiah vividly describes them in his vision of God:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! (Isaiah 6:1–3).
Angels have many duties to carry out for God. They protect, guide, encourage, and assist people. They bring messages from God. They interpret God’s Word and carry out God’s will for His people. They sometimes punish God’s enemies. Here are some examples in Scripture of how angels work.
Angels in the lions’ den
One of the most dramatic and well-known stories about angels in Scripture is the story of Daniel in the lions’ den (see Daniel 6:16–22). The aged prophet found himself in this dilemma because God had raised him up to a position of honor in the kingdom of Darius. His enemies scrutinized his every move, but they could find no inconsistency in his life. So they baited a trap. They had the king unwittingly sign a decree that no one could pray to any god but him. Daniel prayed to the true God, as his enemies expected, and his punishment was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions. Just when it appeared that all was lost, God dispatched one or more of His angels to deliver him by shutting the mouths of the lions.
Angelic activity in Daniel’s prayer
Daniel chapter 10 gives us a rare glimpse into what happens behind the scenes when we pray. In that story, Daniel’s prayer is heard in Heaven, and an angel is dispatched with a special message for Daniel. The angel encountered opposing forces, and he became engaged in supernatural combat, delaying the message for 21 days! Michael, the archangel, was finally dispatched to help the other angel, who then gave the message to Daniel. This incident makes it clear that delays in God’s answering of our prayers are not necessarily denials.
The angel and the donkey
In Numbers chapter 22, we read the story of Balaam, who was asked by the king of Moab to place a curse on the Israelites. When Balaam began his journey to the king, his donkey saw an angel standing in their path and refused to go on. After several beatings from Balaam, God enabled the donkey to talk and protest Balaam’s beatings. At that point, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel. The angel then explained that he had come to stop Balaam because he was headed for destruction.
We probably will never know how many times angels have delivered us, gotten us out of tight situations, protected us from harm, or even directly spoken to us. Does that mean that each of us has a guardian angel? Matthew 18:10 seems to indicate that possibility: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
God dispatched an angel to personally escort Peter from prison in response to the prayers of believers (Acts 12:5–11). Yet, it is unclear whether we actually have personal guardian angels. One thing is certain: God promises His protection to those who closely follow Him. In Psalm 91:1, God promises, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
The Hebrew word used for dwell literally means “in quiet and resting; enduring and remaining with consistency.” The phrase shall abide literally means “to stay overnight,” much like someone being offered the protection and comfort of home. When we follow this condition, we are also promised angelic protection: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).
For our part, we are to stay as close to Jesus as possible. To “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” would indicate extreme closeness. Have you ever tried to walk in someone’s shadow? You have to stay very close.
We are not to test the Lord, but to trust the Lord. If we do our part, God will do His. His promise of angelic protection and guidance stands. (Quote source: Article starts here and each section can be located by clicking on the link in the lower right hand corner at this link.)
This gives us a view from “the other side” this Halloween season which is usually filled with ghosts and goblins and witches riding brooms. There are “fallen angels” briefly mentioned above that fit right in with the Halloween theme, but there are many, many innumerable angels still on God’s side.
I’ll end this blog post with this verse from Psalm 34:7—The angel of the Lord…
Encamps around . . .
Those who fear him . . .
And he delivers them . . . .
YouTube Video: “Angels” by Amy Grant: