Abbess, Abbot


The superior of an abbey or convent of nuns. The abbess has the same rights and authority over her nuns that the abbots regular have over their monks. The sex, indeed, does not allow her to perform the spiritual functions annexed to the priesthood, wherewith the abbot is usually invested; but there are instances of some abbesses who have a right, or rather a privilege, to commission a priest to act for them. They have even a kind of Episcopal jurisdiction, as well as some abbots who are exempted from the visitation of their diocesan.



The chief ruler of a monastery or abbey. At first they were lay-men, and subject to the bishop and ordinary pastors. Their monasteries being remote from cities, and built in the farthest solitudes, they had no share in ecclesiastical affairs; but, there being among them several persons of learning, they were called out of their deserts by the bishops, and fixed in the suburbs of the cities; and at length in the cities themselves. From that time they degenerated, and, learning to be ambitious, aspired to be independent of the bishops, which occasioned some severe laws to be made against them. At length whoever, the abbots carried their point, and obtained the title of lord, with other badges of the episcopate, particularly the mitre. Hence arose new distinctions among them. Those were termed mitred abbots who were privileged to wear the mitre, and exercise episcopal authority within their respective precincts, being exempted from the jurisdiction of the bishop. Others were called crosiered abbots, from their bearing the crosier, or pastoral staff. Others were styled aecumenical or universal abbots, in imitation of the patriarch of Constantinople, while others were termed cardinal abbots, from their superiority over all other abbots. At present, in the Roman catholic countries, the chief distinctions are those of regular and commendatory. The former take the vow and wear the habit of their order; whereas the latter are seculars, though they are obliged by their bulls to take orders when of proper age.



alternative spelling “Zelpha”.
meaning “droping” or “drooping”, a trickling down, (a distillation from the mouth)
The Syrian maid of Leah (given to her by Laban Gen 29:24) to serve her as her attendant, who became the secondary wife of Jacob, and the mother of Gad and Asher, Gen 29:24; 30:9-13; 35:26; 37:2; 46:18.


gā´bri-el (גּבריאל, gabhrı̄’ēl, “Man of God”; Γαβριήλ, Gabriḗl): The name of the angel commissioned to explain to Daniel the vision of the ram and the he-goat, and to give the prediction of the 70 weeks (Dan 8:16; Dan 9:21). In the New Testament he is the angel of the annunciation to Zacharias of the birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary of the birth of Jesus (Luk 1:19, Luk 1:26). Though commonly spoken of as an archangel, he is not so called in Scripture. He appears in the Book of Enoch (chapters 9, 20, 40) as one of 4 (or 6) chief angels. He is “set over all powers,” presents, with the others, the cry of departed souls for vengeance, is “set over the serpents, and over Paradise, and over the cherubim.” He is prominent in the Jewish Targums, etc. (ISBE)

See Angel
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By David Cox

  • See Satan, Gabriel, archangel.
  • 34 of the 66 books of the Bible mention angels.

Confusion of terms

The term “angel” in both the Hebrew and Greek languages simply means “messenger.” Truthfully, these languages do not make any distinction or clarification if the term means a human messenger or a heavenly messenger (or even a demonic messenger even though that does use does not readily appear for our study). The term simply means a person who carries a message from one person to another. Our concept of a “spiritual, heavenly being” being the exclusive meaning of angel is simply wrong. We presume incorrectly that all the heavenly beings that surround and serve God would be included in this category of “angels”, and we also err in presuming that simple human servants of God cannot be “an angel of God”. Likewise we should not press the “messenger” aspect too much either, because upon closer examination of the use of the word “angel” in Scripture, it would appear that delivering a message is one meaning, but completing a task or mission might be another valid activity of “angels”.


An angel is simply a messenger (celestial or human) between two people. The idea is a “go-between” but not necessarily the concept of intercessor (which pleads cases between the sender and the receiver). The translators of our English Bible versions simply switch between the English words “messenger” and “angel” depending on how they understand the context, without any grammatical rule in the original languages to indicate this switch.

The Creation of Angels

In relation to the creation of the world in Genesis 1-2, God does not directly mean the creation of angels. We do not know much about angels in this context except that Satan is a fallen angel (created being), and that he appears to tempt Eva early in this Genesis history.

The Reformers took the position that angels were created on the first day of Creation. Scripture speak of eternity past with the phrase “before the foundation of the world” as an infinite period of time, seemingly without interruption or event except the existence of God. God is pictured as existing alone (Prov 8:22; Psa 90:2; Jn 1:1) in this time. It would seem that the angels existed when God created the earth, and Neh 9:6 clearly declares that God created all the creation, including the heavens and all that are in the heavens, and specifically mentions “the heavens of the heavens, and all their host.” This phrase very clearly identifies the angelic host as inhabiting the heaven of the heavens, and they are identified as being creatures of God. The parallel passages to this indicate Jesus as the Creator of the angels and the heavens (Col. 1:16; Gen. 2:1; Exo. 20:11; Jn. 1:1-3).

Moreover, it would seem from Psa 148:2, 5 that the angels were witnesses (existing beforehand) to creation. When compared to 1Tim 6:16 which declares that only God has immortality (living forever in the future, and forever in the past), we would exclude angels from having immortality (i.e. ever existing in the past), but we would place their appearance very early, before the creation of the heavens and the earth. Job 38:4-7 also speaks of the creation of the world, and the presence of the “sons of God” in this event (presuming a pre-existence for them before the creation of the world).

The Dwelling Place of the Angels.

References like “the angels of heaven” (Mark 13:32) and an “angel of heaven” indicate that their “normal” dwelling place is in heaven. When an angel comes to earth, he is outside of his natural environment. Angels serve God in heaven and in earth (Isa 6:1; Dan 9:21; Apo 7:2; 10:1). The Bible indicates that the earth is the territory of Satan, and this includes all of earth’s treasures (gold, silver, precious stones, etc.). As human beings, we enter this world with nothing, and we leave it the same way (Ecc 5:15; Job 1:21; Psa 49:17; Luke 12:20; 1Tim 6:7). God has pronounced a judgment of destruction on this world and the heavens (dwelling place of the sun, stars, and planets). So God’s messengers enter into the enemy’s territory when they come to earth.

The Position of Angels

Hebrews 2:7-9 reveals that God has created man a little below the angels. So angels are “higher” and greater in some way than man, and this probably refers to their intelligence, power, and abilities, but even so, the angels serve God by serving Him in relation to humanity (Heb 1:14). Even though the angels are greater than man in some sense, it is prohibited for men to worship angels, this being reserved solely for God (Mat 4:10). Again the prohibition against worshipping “messengers” has the two aspects of angels in view, celestial beings, or human messengers.

Jesus Christ is still greater and over the angels because he is the Creator of all, including the angels (Heb 1:4; Col 1:15-17), and being very God, we have a debt to worship him (Heb 1:6) as God the Father ordered all the angels of heaven to worship Christ. By his incarnation, Jesus came for a while to take on himself humanity, in itself a position “a little lower than the angels” (Heb 2:9), but only in respect of his humanity, is he a little lower than the angels. Christ is actually above the angels (1Co 15:45-48; Eph 1:20-22; 1Pe 3:18-22; Col 2:15).

Different Classes and Types of Angels.

It woud be a gross error on my part if I did not try to separate and clarify things here. An “angel” is a messenger, and even if we speak only of these spiritual beings in heaven (living or dwelling there), the word “angel” is inadequate to represent them. What we understand from Scripture is that God has a host of different kinds of spiritual beings to serve Him, and of these many varieties of spiritual beings, one class or division of them are the angels (i.e. messengers). The others perhaps protect the glory and sanctity of God’s dwelling (heaven), speak forth the praises of God constantly, or sing and make melody. It is totally unclear where one of these ends and another would begin, and how much overlap one may have with the others. A preacher may also be a song leader, and in a small church even take the offering and clean the toilets. He may also drive a school bus to pick up people coming and going to church and carry messages and flowers to the sick (a messenger duty among other duties). We do not know how angelic activities and duties are actually being done. What probably is very clear, is that angels are one of the clearly identifiable tasks of this heavenly “host”, and that is probably the one that we see. In this understanding, we see the protection of God’s children (Daniel, Joseph, and Mary) as a slightly different task than delivering a message. But we must not limit what is possible in our understanding to “just delivering a message from God to us”.

Having said all that, the Bible identifies four “groups of angels”, simple “angels”, cheribims, seraphims, and archangels. The Jews and other religions had elaborate systems of classifications for these spiritual beings, but there is little biblical support for all the specific declarations that they have developed. See my book, Angelology, by David Cox, specifically chapter 3, The Different Classification of Angels.  for more discussion here. The Bible regularly uses the designation, “the host of heaven” to refer to angels. There is this important point that asks if it is correct to refer to all the heavenly host with the description “angel.”

The concepts of cherubim and seraphim would seem to not be messengers but rather some duty clearly connected with the throne of God. Eph 3:10; 6:12; and 1Peter 3:22 have lists of spiritual creatures that would seem to have interaction with humans and the earth (not needing to mention those being which do not come to earth and interact with man). It is unclear if these different beings are like a human being that is a fireman, a policeman, a doctor, and a dentist, or if they are like a human being, a dog, a cat, etc. The differences between them are not revealed to us, but we should not presume to know.

R.A. Torrey Topical Textbook – Angels

  • Created by God, by Christ Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:16.
  • Worship God and Christ Neh. 9:6; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6.
  • They are ministering spirits  1Ki. 19:5; Psal. 68:17; 104:4; Luk. 16:22; Acts. 12:7-11; 27:23; Heb. 1:7,14.
  • They communicate the will of God and of ChristDan. 8:16-17; 9:21-23; 10:11; 12:6-7; Mat. 2:13,20; Luk. 1:19,28; Acts. 5:20; 8:26; 10:5; 27:23; Rev. 1:1.
  • They obey the will of God Psal. 103:20; Mat. 6:10.
  • They work the purposes of God Num. 22:22; Sal. 103:21; Mat. 13:39-42; 28:2; Jn. 5:4; Rev. 5:2.
  • The execute the judgments of God. 2Sa. 24:16; 2Ki. 19:35; Psa. 35:5-6; Acts 12:23; Rev. 16:1.
  • They celebrate the praises of God Job 38:7; Psa. 148:2; Isa. 6:3; Luk. 2:13-14; Rev. 5:11-12; 7:11-12.
  • The Law was given by the ministration of angels Psa. 68:17; Acts. 7:53; Heb. 2:2.

Angels as spokesmen, announcing

  • The conception of Christ Mat. 1:20-21; Luke 1:31.
  • The conception of John the Baptist Luke 1:13,36.
  • The birth of Christ Luke 2:10-12.
  • The resurrection of Christ Mat. 28:5-7; Luke 24:23.
  • The ascension and second coming of Christ Acts 1:11.
  • The ministry of Christ Mat. 4:11; Luke 22:43; Jn. 1:51.
  • Are subject to Christ Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 2:10; 1Pe. 3:22.
  • They execute the purposes of Christ Mat. 13:41; 24:31.
  • They will attend Christ at His Second Coming Mat. 16:27; 25:31; Mar. 8:38; 2Th. 1:7.
  • They know and delight in the Gospel of Christ Eph. 3:9-10; 1Ti. 3:16; 1Pe. 1:12.
  • They minister to prayer  Mat. 26:53; Acts 12:5,7.
  • They rejoice over every lost soul that repents Luke 15:7,10.
  • They take care of the children of God Psa . 34:7; 91:11-12; Dan. 6:22; Mat. 18:10.
  • They have different orders  Isa. 6:2; 1Th. 4:16; 1Pe. 3:22; Jud. 1:9; Rev. 12:7.
  • They are not to be worshiped Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9.
  • They are examples of meekness 2Pe. 2:11; Jud. 1:9.
  • They are wise  2Sa. 14:20.
  • They are powerful Psa. 103:20.
  • They are holy Mat. 25:31.
  • They are elect 1Ti. 5:21.
  • They are innumerable Job 25:3; Heb. 12:22.

Angels – David Cox’s Topical Bible Concordance

“Angel” (both in Greek and Hebrew) is the simple English word “messenger”. In many places in both testaments, its translation is “messenger”. This is usually when the translator’s believed that the person referred to was human. When they believed that the person referred to was celestial, they used the Greek work aggelos, modified in English to “angel”.
• “Angel” translated “messenger” 2Sa. 19:27.
Origin and Nature of Angels
• Created by God and Christ Gen. 2:1; Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:16.
• Because they are creatures, they are not to be worshiped Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9.
• Are ministering Spirits 1Ki. 19:5; Psa. 68:17; 104:4; Luk. 16:22; Act. 12:7-11; 27:23; Heb. 1:7,14.
• Do not marry Mat. 22:30; Mar. 12:25; Luk. 20:35.
• Are examples of meekness 2Pe. 2:11; Jude 1:9.
• Are obedient Psa. 103:20; Mat. 6:10; Luk. 11:2; 1Pe. 3:22; 2Pe. 2:11; Jude 1:6.
• Are wise 2Sa. 14:17, 20.
• Are mighty Psa. 103:20; 2Pe. 2:11.
• Are holy Mat. 25:31; Mar. 8:38.
• Are elect 1Ti. 5:21. (at least some of them)
• Are innumerable (referred to as “hosts” because of their great number) Deu. 33:2; 2Ki. 6:17; Job 25:3; Psa. 68:17; Heb. 12:22; Jude 1:14.
• Are of different orders Isa. 6:2; 1Th. 4:16; 1Pe. 3:22; Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7.
• Are immortal Luk. 20:36.
• Obey the will of God Psa. 103:20; Mat. 6:10.
• Aspects of angels Judg. 13:6; Isa. 6:2; Dan. 10:6; Mat. 28:3.

Names, Titles, and References to
• Called Morning Stars Job 38:7
• Called Hosts Gen. 2:1; 32:2; Jos. 5:14; 1Ch. 12:22; Psa. 33:6; 103:21; Luk. 2:13.
• Called Principalities, Powers Eph. 3:10; Col. 1:16.

Purpose and Ministry to serve and worship God

• Worship God and Christ Neh. 9:6; Php 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6.
• Are subject to Christ Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 2:10; 1Pe. 3:22.
• Have knowledge of, and interest in, earthly affairs Mat. 24:36; Luk. 9:31; 15:7,10; 1Ti. 5:21; 1Pe. 1:12.
• Know and delight in the gospel of Christ Eph. 3:9-10; 1Ti. 3:16; 1Pe. 1:12.
• Rejoice over every repentant sinner Luk. 15:7,10.
• Communicate the will of God and Christ Dan. 8:16-17; 9:21-23; 10:11; 12:6-7; Mat. 2:13,20; Luk. 1:19,28; Act. 5:20; 8:26; 10:5; 27:23; Rev. 1:1.
• Execute the purposes of God Num. 22:22; Psa. 103:21; Mat. 13:39-42; 28:2; Joh. 5:4; Rev. 5:2.
• Execute the judgments of God 2Sa. 24:16; 2Ki. 19:35; Psa. 35:5-6; Act. 12:23; Rev. 16:1.
– Guard Eden Gen. 3:24.
• Celebrate the praises of God Job 38:7; Psa. 148:2; Isa. 6:3; Luk. 2:13-14; Rev. 5:11-12; 7:11-12.
• Shall execute the purposes of Christ Mat. 13:41; 24:31.

• As heralds of God…

– The birth of Samson Jude 1:13.
– The conception of Christ. Mat. 1:20-21; Luk. 1:31.
– The birth of Christ. Mat. 1:20-21; Luk. 2:10-12, 28-38.
– The resurrection of Christ. Mat. 28:5-7; Luk. 24:23.
– The ascension and second coming of Christ. Act. 1:11.
– The conception of John the Baptist. Luk. 1:13,36.
– The law given by the ministration of Psa. 68:17; Act. 7:53; Heb. 2:2.
• As messengers of God… (This activity is both to deliver messages from God to men, and also to be present as witnesses or for some divine reason at special times)
– Law given by Act. 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2.
– Medium of revelation to prophets 2Ki. 1:15; Dan. 4:13-17; 8:19; 9:21-27; 10:10-20; Zec. 1:9-11; Act. 8:26; 23:9; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2; Rev. 1:1; 5:2-14; 7:1-3,11-17; 8:2-13; Rev 9; Rev. 22:6,16.
– Warns Joseph to escape to Egypt Mat. 2:13.
– Minister to Christ Mat. 4:11; Luk. 22:43; Joh. 1:51.
– Ministers to Jesus during his passion Luk. 22:43.
– Present at the tomb of Jesus Mat. 28:2-6.
– Present at the ascension Act. 1:11.
– Present with Jesus at his return (second coming) Mat. 16:27; 25:31; Mar. 8:38; 2Th 1:7; Jude 1:14-15.
– Present with Christ at the judgment Mat. 13:39; 13:41,49; 16:27; 24:31; 25:31; Mar. 13:27.

As ministers and servants.

Angels do more than just communicate messages. God gives them tasks to accomplish, and positions or ministries to perform.
• Have charge over the children of God Psa. 34:7; 91:11-12; Dan. 6:22; Mat. 18:10.
• Ministration of, obtained by prayer Mat. 26:53; Act. 12:5,7.
• Ministries to the righteous Gen. 16:7; 24:7,40; Exo. 32:34; 23:20,23; 33:2; Num. 20:16; 1Ki. 19:5-8; 2Ch. 18:18; Psa. 34:7; 68:17; 2Ki. 6:17; Psa. 91:11-12; Mat. 4:6; Luk. 4:10-11; Psa. 104:4; Ecc. 5:6; Isa. 63:9; Dan. 6:22; 7:10; Luk. 16:22; Joh. 1:51; 5:4; Act. 5:19-20; 10:3-6; 12:7-10; Heb. 1:7,14; 13:2.
• Execute judgments on the wicked Gen. 19:1-25; 2Sa. 24:16-17; 1Ch. 21:15-16; 2Ki. 19:35; 2Ch. 32:21; Isa. 37:36; Psa. 35:5-6; 78:49; Mat. 13:41-42,49-50; Act. 12:23; 27:23-24; Jude 1:14-15; Rev. 7:1-2; 9:15; 15:1.

Appearances of a. to people

– To Abraham Gen. 18:2; 22:11-18.
– To Hagar, in the wilderness Gen. 16:7.
– To Lot in Sodom Gen. 19:1-17.
– To Jacob, in his various visions Gen. 28:12.
– To Moses Exo. 3:2.
– To the Israelites Exo. 14:19; Judg. 2:1-4.
– To Balaam Num. 22:31.
– To Joshua, “the captain of the Lord’s host” Jos. 5:15.
– To Gideon Judg. 6:11-22.
– To Manoah Judg. 13:6,15-20.
– To David, at the threshing floor of Araunah 2Sa. 24:16-17; 1Ch. 21:15-16.
– To Elijah 1Ki. 19:5.
– To Elisha, while he lay under the juniper tree 2Ki. 6:16-17.
– To Daniel, in the lion’s den Dan. 6:22; 8:16; 9:21; 10:5-10,16; 10:18; 12:5-7.
– To Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, in the fiery furnace Dan. 3:25,28.
– To Zechariah, in a vision Zec. 2:3; 3:1-2; 4:1.
– To Joseph, in a dream Mat. 1:20; 2:13,19.
– At the transfiguration of Jesus Mat. 17:3; Luk. 9:30-31.
– To Mary, concerning Jesus Luk. 1:26-38.
– To Zacharias Luk. 1:11-20,26-38.
– To the shepherds Luk. 2:9-11,13-14.
– To Jesus, after his temptation Mat. 4:11.
– In Gethsemane Luk. 22:43.
– At the sepulcher Mat. 28:2-5; Mar. 16:5-7; Luk. 24:23; Joh. 20:12.
– At the ascension Act. 1:10-11.
– To Peter and John, while in prison Act. 5:19.
– To Philip Act. 8:26.
– To Cornelius, in a dream Act. 10:3,30-32.
– To Peter, in prison Act. 12:7-11.
– To Paul, on the way to Damascus Act. 27:23.
– To John, in Patmos Rev. 1:1; 5:2; 7:11; 10:9; 11:1; 17:7; 19:10; 22:8.
• Fallen angels Job 4:18; Mat. 25:41; 2Pe. 2:4; Jude 1:6; Rev. 12:9.
• Unclassified Scriptures Num. 22:35; Deu. 33:2; Job 4:15-19; 38:7; Psa. 68:17; 2Ki. 6:17; Psa. 103:20-21; 104:4; Heb. 1:7; Psa. 148:2; Isa. 6:2,5-7; Eze. 1:4-25; Ezek 10; Dan. 4:13,17; 8:13-14; 9:21-23; Zec. 1:12-14; 6:5; Mat. 4:6,11; Mar. 1:13; Mat. 13:41-42; 18:10; 24:31,36; 25:31; 26:53; Luk. 9:30-31; Mat. 17:3; Mar. 9:4; Luk. 12:8-9; Mar. 8:38; Luk. 15:10,7; Joh. 1:51; Act. 7:53; 8:26; Gal. 3:19; Eph. 1:20-21; 3:10; Col. 1:16; 2:10; 2Th. 1:7; 1Ti. 3:16; 5:21; Heb. 1:4-5,13; 2:2,5,7; Psa. 8:5; Heb. 2:16; 12:22; 13:2; 1Pe. 1:12; 3:22; 2Pe. 2:11; Rev. 4:8-11; 5:9-11; 7:9-10; 10:1-6; 14:10; 18:1-3; 19:10; 22:8-9.

Angel – Amtrak

American Tract Society Dictionary

The original word, both in Hebrew and Greek, means messenger, and is so translated, Mat. 11:10; Luk. 7:24. It is often applied to an ordinary messenger, Job 1:14; 1Sa. 11:3; Luk. 9:52; to prophets, Isa. 42:19; Hag. 1:13; to priests, Ec 5:6 Mal. 2:7; and even to inanimate objects, Psa. 78:49; 104:4; 2Co. 12:7. Under the general sense of messenger, the term, angel is properly applied also to Christ, as the great Angel or Messenger of the covenant, Mal. 3:1; and to the ministers of his gospel, the overseers or angels of the churches, Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, etc. In 1Co. 11:10; the best interpreters understand by the term “angels” the holy angels, who were present in an especial sense in the Christian assemblies; and from reverence to them it was proper that the women should have power (veils, as a sign of their being in subjection to a higher power) on their heads. See under VEIL.

But generally in the Bible the word is applied to a race of intelligent beings, of a higher order than man, who surround the Deity, and whom he employs as his messengers or agents in administering the affairs of the world, and in promoting the welfare of individuals, as well as of the whole human race,

Mat. 1:20; 22:30; Act. 7:30. Whether pure spirits, or having spiritual bodies, they have no bodily organization like ours, and are not distinguished in sex, Mat. 22:30. They were doubtless created long before our present world was made, Job 38:7.
The Bible represents them as exceedingly numerous, Dan. 7:10; Mat. 26:53; Luk. 2:13; Heb. 12:22-23; as remarkable for strength, Psa. 103:20; 2Pe. 2:11; Rev. 5:2; 18:21; 19:17; and for activity, Judg. 13:20; Isa. 6:2-6; Dan. 9:21-23; Mat. 13:49; 26:53; Act. 27:23; Rev. 8:13. They appear to be of divers orders, Isa. 6:2-6; Eze. 10:1; Col. 1:16; Rev. 12:7. Their name indicates their agency in the dispensations of Providence towards man, and the Bible abounds in narratives of events in which they have borne a visible part. Yet in this employment, they act as the mere instruments of God, and in fulfillment of his commands, Psa. 91:11; 103:20; Heb. 1:14. We are not therefore to put trust in them, pay them adoration, or pray in their name, Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9. Though Scripture does not warrant us to believe that each individual has his particular guardian angel, it teaches very explicitly that the angels minister to every Christian, Mat. 18:10; Luk. 16:22; Heb. 1:14. They are intensely concerned in the salvation of men, Luk. 2:10-12; 15:7, 10; 1Pe. 1:12; and will share with saints the blessedness of heaven forever, Heb. 12:22.

Those angels “who kept not their first estate,” but fell and rebelled against God, are called the angels of Satan or the devil, Mat. 25:41; Rev. 12:9. These are represented as being “cast down to hell, and reserved unto judgment,” 2Pe. 2:4. See SYNAGOGUE, ARCHANGEL.

Angel – BED

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible

Superhuman or heavenly being who serves as God’s messenger. Both the Hebrew malak [J; ‘m] and the Greek angelos [a [ggelo”] 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 (1Ki. 19:2; Hag. 1:13; Luk. 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.

The Old Testament From the beginning, angels were part of the divine hierarchy. They were created beings (Psa. 148:2, 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. When angels appeared in human society they resembled normal males (Gen. 18:2, 16; Eze. 9:2), and never came dressed as women.

In whatever form they occurred, however, their general purpose was to declare and promote God’s will. On infrequent occasions they acted as agents of destruction (Gen. 19:13; 2Sa. 24:16; 2Ki. 19:35, ; etc. ). Sometimes angels addressed people in dreams, as with Jacob (Gen. 28:12; 31:11), and could be recognized by animals before human beings became aware of them, as with Balaam (Num. 22:22). Collectively the divine messengers were described as the “angelic host” that surrounded God (1Ki. 22:19) and praised his majesty constantly (Psa. 103:21). The Lord, their commander, was known to the Hebrews as the “Lord of hosts.” There appears to have been some sort of spiritual hierarchy among them. Thus the messenger who instructed Joshua was a self-described “commander of the Lord’s army” (Jos. 5:14-15), although this designation could also mean that it was God himself who was speaking to Joshua.

In Daniel, two angels who interpreted visions were unnamed (7:16; 10:5), but other visions were explained to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, who was instructed by a “man’s voice” to undertake this task (8:15-16). When a heavenly messenger appeared to Daniel beside the river Hiddekel (Tigris), he spoke of Michael as “one of the chief princes” (10:13, 21). This mighty angel would preside over the fortunes of God’s people in the latter time (12:1). Thereafter he was regarded by the Hebrews as their patron angel. In the postexilic period the term “messenger” described the teaching functions of the priest (Mal. 2:7), but most particularly the individual who was to prepare the way for the Lord’s Messiah (Mal. 3:1).

Two other terms relating to spiritual beings were prominent at various times in Israel’s history. The first was “cherubim, ” a plural form, conceived of as winged creatures (Exo. 25:20), and mentioned first in connection with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden (Gen. 3:24). Apart from their functions as guardians, however, nothing is said about their character. When the wilderness tabernacle was being fashioned, God ordered two gold cherubim to be placed on top of the “mercy seat” or lid of the covenant ark to screen it. These came to be known as the “cherubim of the Glory” (Heb. 9:5). Cherubim designs were also incorporated into the fabric of the inner curtain (Eze. 26:1) and the veil of the tabernacle (Exo. 26:31).

Solomon placed two wooden cherubim plated with gold leaf in the Most Holy Place of the temple, looking toward the Holy Place. They stood ten cubits (about fourteen feet) high and their wings were five cubits (about seven feet) long. Near Eastern archeological excavations have shown how popular the concept of winged creatures was in antiquity. The throne of Hiram at Byblos (ca. 1200 b. c.) was supported by a pair of creatures with human faces, lions’ bodies, and large protective wings. It was above the cherubim that the Lord of hosts sat enthroned (1Sa. 4:4).

The seraphim were also thought of as winged, and in Isaiah’s vision they were stationed above the Lord’s throne (6:1-2). They seemed to possess a human figure, and had voices, faces, and feet. According to the vision their task was to participate in singing God’s praises antiphonally. They also acted in some unspecified manner as mediums of communication between heaven and earth (Isa. 6:6). The living creatures of Eze. 1:5-14 were composites of human and animal parts, which was typically Mesopotamian in character, and they seem to have depicted the omnipotence and omniscience of God.

The Apocrypha In the late postexilic period angelology became a prominent feature of Jewish religion. The angel Michael was deemed to be Judaism’s patron, and the apocryphal writings named three other archangels as leaders of the angelic hierarchy. Chief of these was Raphael, who was supposed to present the prayers of pious Jews to God ( 1 Tobit 2:15). Uriel explained to Enoch many of his visions (1 Enoch 21:5-10; 27:2-4), interpreted Ezra’s vision of the celestial Jerusalem (2 Esdras 10:28-57), and explained the fate of the fallen angels who supposedly married human women (1 Enoch 19:1-9; cf. Gen. 6:2). Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel (1 Enoch 40:3, 6) reported to God about the depraved state of humanity, and received appropriate instructions. According to contemporary thought, Gabriel sat on God’s left, while Michael sat on the right side (2 Enoch 24:1). The primary concern of these two angels, however, was supposedly with missions on earth and affairs in heaven, respectively. In rabbinic Judaism they assumed a character which, while sometimes dramatic, had no factual basis in divine revelation.
The New Testament Against this background of belief in angels who were involved in human affairs, it was not surprising that the angel Gabriel should be chosen to visit Zechariah, the officiating priest in the temple, to inform him that he was to become a father, and that he had to name his son John (Luk. 1:11-20). Gabriel was not referred to here as an archangel, the Greek term archangelos [ajrcavggelo”], appearing only in 1Th. 4:16 to describe an otherwise unnamed executive angel, and also in Jude 9, which refers to “Michael the archangel.” Six months after his announcement to Zechariah, Gabriel appeared to Mary to inform her that God had selected her to become the mother of Jesus, the promised Messiah (Luk. 1:26-33).

Nothing in Gabriel’s behavior is inconsistent with Old Testament teachings about angels. It has been pointed out frequently that, just as they were active when the world began, so angels were correspondingly prominent when the new era of divine grace dawned with the birth of Jesus. On three occasions an angel visited Joseph in a vision concerning Jesus (Mat. 1:20; 2:13, 19). On the first two occasions the celestial visitor is described as “the angel of the Lord, ” which could possibly be a way of describing God himself. On the last visit the heavenly messenger was described simply as “an angel of the Lord.” In the end, however, the celestial beings were most probably of the same order, and were fulfilling among humans those duties normally assigned to such angels as Gabriel (Luk. 1:19).

There is nothing recorded about the actual form of the latter, but Zechariah appears to have recognized the angel immediately as a celestial being, and was terrified (Luk. 1:12). His penalty for not having learned anything from his ancestor Abraham’s experience (Luk. 1:18; cf. Gen. 17:17) would only be removed when his son John was born (Luk. 1:20). When Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus (Luke 31), she seems to have been more disturbed by his message than his appearance. The birth of Jesus was announced to Bethlehem shepherds by the angel of the Lord, and since he was accompanied by the divine glory he may well have been the Lord himself. The message of joy having been proclaimed, the heavenly host of angels praised and glorified God (Luk. 2:13-14) for a short period, as they had done at the creation of the world (Job 38:7), after which they departed.

During his ministry, angels came and ministered to Jesus after he had resisted the devil’s temptations (Mat. 4:11). Again, when Jesus was submitting himself to God’s will in the garden of Gethsemane (Luk. 22:40-44), an angel came from heaven to strengthen him. At the resurrection, the angel of the Lord rolled back the stone from Jesus’ burial place (Mat. 28:2), and he was described as having a countenance like lightning and garments as white as snow (Mat. 28:3). Again, this celestial being performed a service of reassurance and love for Mary and Mary of Magdala, who subsequently reported seeing “a vision of angels” (Luk. 24:23). In John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene saw two angels in white clothing, sitting in the empty tomb, just before she met the risen Lord (Joh. 20:12-16).

In Acts, the imprisoned apostles were released by an angel (5:19). Philip was ordered by an angel to meet an Ethiopian official (8:26-28), while another celestial being appeared to Cornelius (10:3). The angel of the Lord released Peter from prison (12:7-11), and subsequently afflicted Herod with a fatal illness (12:23). When Paul and his companions were about to be shipwrecked the apostle assured them of the presence of a guardian angel (27:23-24).

Paul referred subsequently to angelic hierarchies (“thrones, powers, rulers, or authorities”) when proclaiming the cosmic supremacy of Jesus (Col. 1:15-16; cf. 1Pe. 3:22), and prohibited the worship of angels in the Colossian church (Col. 2:18) in an attempt to avoid unorthodox practices. His reference to “angels” in 1Co. 11:10 may have been a warning that such things observe humans at worship, and thus the Corinthians should avoid improper conduct or breaches of decency.

The angelology of 2 Peter and Jude reflects some of the intertestamental Jewish traditions concerning “wicked angels.” In Revelation there are numerous symbolic allusions to angels, the worship of which is forbidden (22:8-9). The “angels of the seven churches” (1:20) are the specific spiritual representations or personifications of these Christian groups. A particularly sinister figure was Abaddon (Apollyon in Greek), the “angel of the bottomless pit” (9:11), who with his minions was involved in a fierce battle with Michael and his angels (12:7-9).

Jesus accepted as valid the Old Testament references to angels and their functions (Mat. 22:30), but spoke specifically of the “devil and his angels” (Mat. 25:41) as destined for destruction. He fostered the idea of angels ministering to believers (cf. Heb. 1:14), and as being concerned for the welfare of children (Mat. 18:10). He described angels as holy creatures (Mar. 8:38) who could rejoice when a sinner repented (Luk. 15:10). Angels were devoid of sexual characteristics (Mat. 22:30), and although they were highly intelligent ministers of God’s will they were not omniscient (Mat. 24:36).

Christ claimed at his arrest in Gethsemane that more than twelve legions of angels (numbering about 72, 000) were available to deliver him, had he wanted to call upon them for assistance (Mat. 26:53). He taught that angels would be with him when he returned to earth at the second coming (Mat. 25:31), and that they would be involved significantly in the last judgment (Mat. 13:41, 49). Finally, angels set a model of obedience to God’s will in heaven to which the Christian church should aspire (cf. Mat. 6:10).

Some writers contrast the celestial beings with “fallen angels, ” of which there are two varieties. The first consists of unimprisoned, evil beings working under Satan’s leadership, and generally regarded as demons (Luk. 4:35; 11:15; Joh. 10:21). The second were imprisoned (2Pe. 2:4; Jude 6) spirits because they forsook their original positions in heaven. For New Testament writers they were particularly dangerous. The precise difference in function and character is not explained in Scripture, but some have thought that the latter were the “sons of God” who cohabited with mortal women (Gen. 6:1-2). This view, however, is strictly conjectural. Presumably the imprisoned angels are the ones who will be judged by the saints (1Co. 6:3).

In a material world that is also populated by good and evil spirits, the Bible teaches that the heavenly angels set an example of enthusiastic and resolute fulfillment of God’s will. They acknowledge Jesus as their superior, and worship him accordingly. Angels continue to perform ministering duties among humans, and this function has led to the concept of “guardian angels, ” perhaps prompted by Christ’s words in Mat. 18:10. It is not entirely clear whether each individual has a specific angelic guardian, but there is certainly no reason for doubting that an angel might well be assigned to care for the destinies of groups of individuals such as families. These celestial ministries will be most effective when the intended recipients are receptive to the Lord’s will for their lives.

R. K. Harrison

Bibliography. G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers; A. C. Gaebelein, The Angels of God; B. Graham, Angels: God’s Secret Agets; H. Lockyer, The Mystery and Ministry of Angels; A. Whyte, The Nature of Angels.
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton’s Bible Dictionary

Angel – Cox Bible Concordance

David Cox’s Topical Bible Concordance

“Angel” (both in Greek and Hebrew) is the simple English word “messenger”. In many places in both testaments, its translation is “messenger”. This is usually when the translator’s believed that the person referred to was human. When they believed that the person referred to was celestial, they used the Greek work aggelos, modified in English to “angel”.

• “Angel” translated “messenger” 2Sa. 19:27.
Origin and Nature of Angels
• Created by God and Christ Gen. 2:1; Neh. 9:6; Col. 1:16.
• Because they are creatures, they are not to be worshipped Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:9.
• Are ministering Spirits 1Ki. 19:5; Psa. 68:17; 104:4; Luk. 16:22; Act. 12:7-11; 27:23; Heb. 1:7,14.
• Do not marry Mat. 22:30; Mar. 12:25; Luk. 20:35.
• Are examples of meekness 2Pe. 2:11; Jude 1:9.
• Are obedient Psa. 103:20; Mat. 6:10; Luk. 11:2; 1Pe. 3:22; 2Pe. 2:11; Jude 1:6.
• Are wise 2Sa. 14:17, 20.
• Are mighty Psa. 103:20; 2Pe. 2:11.
• Are holy Mat. 25:31; Mar. 8:38.
• Are elect 1Ti. 5:21. (at least some of them)
• Are innumerable (referred to as “hosts” because of their great number) Deu. 33:2; 2Ki. 6:17; Job 25:3; Psa. 68:17; Heb. 12:22; Jude 1:14.
• Are of different orders Isa. 6:2; 1Th. 4:16; 1Pe. 3:22; Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7.
• Are immortal Luk. 20:36.
• Obey the will of God Psa. 103:20; Mat. 6:10.
• Aspects of angels Judg. 13:6; Isa. 6:2; Dan. 10:6; Mat. 28:3.
Names, Titles, and References to
• Called Morning Stars Job 38:7
• Called Hosts Gen. 2:1; 32:2; Jos. 5:14; 1Ch. 12:22; Psa. 33:6; 103:21; Luk. 2:13.
• Called Principalities, Powers Eph. 3:10; Col. 1:16.
Purpose and Ministry
to serve and worship God
• Worship God and Christ Neh. 9:6; Php 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6.
• Are subject to Christ Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16; 2:10; 1Pe. 3:22.
• Have knowledge of, and interest in, earthly affairs Mat. 24:36; Luk. 9:31; 15:7,10; 1Ti. 5:21; 1Pe. 1:12.
• Know and delight in the gospel of Christ Eph. 3:9-10; 1Ti. 3:16; 1Pe. 1:12.
• Rejoice over every repentant sinner Luk. 15:7,10.
• Communicate the will of God and Christ Dan. 8:16-17; 9:21-23; 10:11; 12:6-7; Mat. 2:13,20; Luk. 1:19,28; Act. 5:20; 8:26; 10:5; 27:23; Rev. 1:1.
• Execute the purposes of God Num. 22:22; Psa. 103:21; Mat. 13:39-42; 28:2; Joh. 5:4; Rev. 5:2.
• Execute the judgments of God 2Sa. 24:16; 2Ki. 19:35; Psa. 35:5-6; Act. 12:23; Rev. 16:1.
– Guard Eden Gen. 3:24.
• Celebrate the praises of God Job 38:7; Psa. 148:2; Isa. 6:3; Luk. 2:13-14; Rev. 5:11-12; 7:11-12.
• Shall execute the purposes of Christ Mat. 13:41; 24:31.
• As heralds of God…
– The birth of Samson Jude 1:13.
– The conception of Christ. Mat. 1:20-21; Luk. 1:31.
– The birth of Christ. Mat. 1:20-21; Luk. 2:10-12, 28-38.
– The resurrection of Christ. Mat. 28:5-7; Luk. 24:23.
– The ascension and second coming of Christ. Act. 1:11.
– The conception of John the Baptist. Luk. 1:13,36.
– The law given by the ministration of Psa. 68:17; Act. 7:53; Heb. 2:2.
• As messengers of God… (This activity is both to deliver messages from God to men, and also to be present as witnesses or for some divine reason at special times)
– Law given by Act. 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2.
– Medium of revelation to prophets 2Ki. 1:15; Dan. 4:13-17; 8:19; 9:21-27; 10:10-20; Zec. 1:9-11; Act. 8:26; 23:9; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2; Rev. 1:1; 5:2-14; 7:1-3,11-17; 8:2-13; Rev 9; Rev. 22:6,16.
– Warns Joseph to escape to Egypt Mat. 2:13.
– Minister to Christ Mat. 4:11; Luk. 22:43; Joh. 1:51.
– Ministers to Jesus during his passion Luk. 22:43.
– Present at the tomb of Jesus Mat. 28:2-6.
– Present at the ascension Act. 1:11.
– Present with Jesus at his return (second coming) Mat. 16:27; 25:31; Mar. 8:38; 2Th 1:7; Jude 1:14-15.
– Present with Christ at the judgment Mat. 13:39; 13:41,49; 16:27; 24:31; 25:31; Mar. 13:27.
As ministers and servants. Angels do more than just communicate messages. God gives them tasks to accomplish, and positions or ministries to perform.
• Have charge over the children of God Psa. 34:7; 91:11-12; Dan. 6:22; Mat. 18:10.
• Ministration of, obtained by prayer Mat. 26:53; Act. 12:5,7.
• Ministries to the righteous Gen. 16:7; 24:7,40; Exo. 32:34; 23:20,23; 33:2; Num. 20:16; 1Ki. 19:5-8; 2Ch. 18:18; Psa. 34:7; 68:17; 2Ki. 6:17; Psa. 91:11-12; Mat. 4:6; Luk. 4:10-11; Psa. 104:4; Ecc. 5:6; Isa. 63:9; Dan. 6:22; 7:10; Luk. 16:22; Joh. 1:51; 5:4; Act. 5:19-20; 10:3-6; 12:7-10; Heb. 1:7,14; 13:2.
• Execute judgments on the wicked Gen. 19:1-25; 2Sa. 24:16-17; 1Ch. 21:15-16; 2Ki. 19:35; 2Ch. 32:21; Isa. 37:36; Psa. 35:5-6; 78:49; Mat. 13:41-42,49-50; Act. 12:23; 27:23-24; Jude 1:14-15; Rev. 7:1-2; 9:15; 15:1.
Appearances of a. to people
– To Abraham Gen. 18:2; 22:11-18.
– To Hagar, in the wilderness Gen. 16:7.
– To Lot in Sodom Gen. 19:1-17.
– To Jacob, in his various visions Gen. 28:12.
– To Moses Exo. 3:2.
– To the Israelites Exo. 14:19; Judg. 2:1-4.
– To Balaam Num. 22:31.
– To Joshua, “the captain of the Lord’s host” Jos. 5:15.
– To Gideon Judg. 6:11-22.
– To Manoah Judg. 13:6,15-20.
– To David, at the threshing floor of Araunah 2Sa. 24:16-17; 1Ch. 21:15-16.
– To Elijah 1Ki. 19:5.
– To Elisha, while he lay under the juniper tree 2Ki. 6:16-17.
– To Daniel, in the lion’s den Dan. 6:22; 8:16; 9:21; 10:5-10,16; 10:18; 12:5-7.
– To Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, in the fiery furnace Dan. 3:25,28.
– To Zechariah, in a vision Zec. 2:3; 3:1-2; 4:1.
– To Joseph, in a dream Mat. 1:20; 2:13,19.
– At the transfiguration of Jesus Mat. 17:3; Luk. 9:30-31.
– To Mary, concerning Jesus Luk. 1:26-38.
– To Zacharias Luk. 1:11-20,26-38.
– To the shepherds Luk. 2:9-11,13-14.
– To Jesus, after his temptation Mat. 4:11.
– In Gethsemane Luk. 22:43.
– At the sepulcher Mat. 28:2-5; Mar. 16:5-7; Luk. 24:23; Joh. 20:12.
– At the ascension Act. 1:10-11.
– To Peter and John, while in prison Act. 5:19.
– To Philip Act. 8:26.
– To Cornelius, in a dream Act. 10:3,30-32.
– To Peter, in prison Act. 12:7-11.
– To Paul, on the way to Damascus Act. 27:23.
– To John, in Patmos Rev. 1:1; 5:2; 7:11; 10:9; 11:1; 17:7; 19:10; 22:8.
• Fallen angels Job 4:18; Mat. 25:41; 2Pe. 2:4; Jude 1:6; Rev. 12:9.
• Unclassified Scriptures Num. 22:35; Deu. 33:2; Job 4:15-19; 38:7; Psa. 68:17; 2Ki. 6:17; Psa. 103:20-21; 104:4; Heb. 1:7; Psa. 148:2; Isa. 6:2,5-7; Eze. 1:4-25; Ezek 10; Dan. 4:13,17; 8:13-14; 9:21-23; Zec. 1:12-14; 6:5; Mat. 4:6,11; Mar. 1:13; Mat. 13:41-42; 18:10; 24:31,36; 25:31; 26:53; Luk. 9:30-31; Mat. 17:3; Mar. 9:4; Luk. 12:8-9; Mar. 8:38; Luk. 15:10,7; Joh. 1:51; Act. 7:53; 8:26; Gal. 3:19; Eph. 1:20-21; 3:10; Col. 1:16; 2:10; 2Th. 1:7; 1Ti. 3:16; 5:21; Heb. 1:4-5,13; 2:2,5,7; Psa. 8:5; Heb. 2:16; 12:22; 13:2; 1Pe. 1:12; 3:22; 2Pe. 2:11; Rev. 4:8-11; 5:9-11; 7:9-10; 10:1-6; 14:10; 18:1-3; 19:10; 22:8-9.

Angel – Hastings

Hastings – Dictionary of the Apostolic Church DAC (hosted on )

1. The scope of this article.

The passages in the apostolic writings in which angels are mentioned or referred to will be examined; some of them are ambiguous and have been interpreted in various ways. The doctrine of the OT and of the apocryphal period on the subject has been so fully dealt with in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) that it is unnecessary to do more than refer incidentally to it here; and the angelology of the Gospels has been treated at length in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels (see Literature below). But the other NT writings have not been so fully examined, and it is the object of this article to consider them particularly. Of these the Apocalypse, as might be expected from the subject, calls for special attention; no book of the OT or the NT is so full of references to the angels, and it is the more remarkable that the other Johannine writings have so few. The Fourth Gospel refers to angels only thrice (Joh. 1:51; 12:29; 20:12; 5:4 is a gloss [see below 5 (b)]), and the three Epistles not at all. There are frequent references to the subject in Hebrews, and occasional ones in the Pauline and Petrine Epistles and in Jude.

2. The literal meaning of ἄγγελος.-ἄγγελος = ‘messenger,’

is found only once in the NT outside the Gospels: in Jam. 2:25; it is used of Joshua’s spies (in Jos. 6:25 [Septuagint ], which is referred to, we read τοὺς κατασκοπευσάντας οὓς ἀπέστειλεν Ἰησοῦς). In the Gospels ἄγγελος is used of John Baptist in Mat. 11:10; Mar. 1:2; Luk. 7:27 (from Mal. 3:1 but not from Septuagint , which, however, also has ἄγγελος), of John’s messengers in Luk. 7:24; and of Jesus’ messengers to a Samaritan village in Luk. 9:52. In Php 2:25; 2Co. 8:23 ἀπόστολος is translated ‘messenger.’

3. The angels as heavenly beings.

From the earliest times the Israelites had been taught to believe in angels, but after the Captivity the doctrine greatly developed. Yet some of the Jews rejected all belief in them, and this sharply divided the Pharisees from the Sadducees, who said ‘that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit’; the Pharisees confessed both (Act. 23:8).

Angels are creatures, as the Jews had always taught (Thackeray, Relation of St. Paul to Jewish Thought, p. 150). They were created in, through, and unto Christ (Col. 1:16), who is the beginning as well as the end of all things (cf. 1Co. 8:6). They are not inferior deities, but fellow-servants (σύνδουλοι) with man (Rev. 19:10; 22:9). Therefore they may not be worshipped (ib.); the worship of angels was one of the grave errors at Colossae (Col. 2:18). So idolatry is described as a worshipping of demons (Rev. 9:20).

Much emphasis is laid, lest it should be thought that angels were of the some degree as our Lord, on the fact that Jesus is immeasurably higher than they; as in Heb. 1:4 ff. (no angel is called ‘the Son’; angels worship the Firstborn), Heb. 1:13 (no angel set at the right hand of God), Heb. 2:5 (the world to come is not made subject to angels, but to man-v. 8f. shows that the Representative Man is meant, who condescended to be, in His Incarnation, made a little lower than the angels). In 1Pe. 3:22 ‘angels and authorities and powers’ are made subject to the ascended Christ; and so in Eph. 1:21. In Col. 2:15 (an obscure verse), we may understand either that our Lord, putting off His body, made a show of the principalities and the powers, triumphing over them in the cross (so the Latin Fathers); or, with the Greeks, that He, having stripped off and put away the principalities, made a show of them, etc.-i. e. that He repelled their assaults. Here the evil angels are spoken of. But the complete subjection of the powers of evil to Jesus will not take place till the end of the world (1Co. 15:23 ff.).

Angels are spirits (Heb. 1:7, 14); cf. Rev. 16:14, ‘spirits of demons.’ In Act. 23:8 f. they seem to be differentiated from ‘spirits’ (‘no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit … what if a spirit hath spoken to him or an angel?’). But this is not so. The ‘angel’ is the species, the ‘spirit’ the genus (Alford). All angels are spirits, though all spirits are not angels. In Act. 23:8 the Pharisees are said to confess ‘both,’ i. e. both the resurrection and angel-spirits; only two categories are intended. We must also remember that in Act. 23:9 non-Christian Jews are speaking.

But, though they are spirits, angels are not omnipresent or omniscient, for these are attributes of Deity. For their limited knowledge cf. Eph. 3:10 (whether good or bad angels are there spoken of); it is implied in 1Pe. 1:12 (the angels desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel) and in 1Co. 2:6 ff., if ‘rulers of this world’ are the evil angels (see Demon). It is explicitly stated in Mat. 24:36; Mar. 13:32. The limitation of the angels’ knowledge is also stated in Ethiopic Enoch, xvi. 3 (2nd cent. b. c.?), where the angels who fell in Gen. 6:2 (so ‘sons of God’ are interpreted) are said not to have had the hidden things yet revealed to them, though they knew worthless mysteries, which they recounted to the women (ed. Charles 1893, p. 86f.). In the Secrets of Enoch. (Slavonic), xxiv. 3 (1st cent. a. d.?), God says that He had not told His secrets even to His angels. Ignatius says that the virginity and child-bearing of Mary and the death of the Lord were hidden from (ἔλαθεν) the ruler of this age (Eph. 19; for this idea in the Fathers see Lightfoot’s note).

The good angels are angels of light, as opposed to the powers of darkness (2Co. 11:14; contrast Eph. 6:12); so, when the angel came to St. Peter in the prison, a light shone in the cell (Act. 12:7). The name ‘seraph’ perhaps means ‘the burning one,’ though the etymology is doubtful; cf. also Psa. 104:4.

They neither marry nor are given in marriage; and so in the resurrection life there is no marrying, for men will be ‘as angels in heaven’ (Mat. 22:30; Mar. 12:25), ‘equal to angels’ (ἰσάγγελοι, Luk. 20:36). Some have thought that they have a sort of counterpart of bodies, described in 1Co. 15:40 as ‘celestial bodies’ (Meyer, Alford), though this is perhaps improbable; St. Paul’s words may refer to the ‘heavenly bodies’ in the modern sense (Robertson-Plummer), or to the post-resurrection human bodies (cf. 1Co. 15:48); not to good men as opposed to bad (Chrysostom and others of the Fathers).

They are numberless (Rev. 5:11 [from Dan. 7:14], Heb. 12:22, ‘myriads’; in the latter passage they are perhaps described as a ‘festal assembly’ [Revised Version margin, ἀγγέλων πανηγύρει]).

The unfallen angels are holy (Rev. 14:10; Mar. 8:38; Luk. 9:26; and some Manuscripts of Mat. 25:31; so perhaps 1Th. 3:13; Jud 1:14 [see below 5 (a)]; cf. Zec. 14:5 ‘all the holy ones’). This is the meaning of ‘elect’ angels in 1Ti. 5:21 -not angels chosen to guard the Ephesian Church; they are mentioned here because they will accompany our Lord to judgment or (Grimm) because they are chosen by God to rule.

4. Ranks of the angels.

There was a great tendency in later Jewish writings to elaborate the angelic hierarchy. In Isa. 6:2, 6 we had read of seraphim; in Ezekiel 10 of cherubim. But in Eth. Enoch, lxi. 10 (these chapters are of the 1st cent. b. c.?), the host of the heavens, and all the holy ones above, the cherubim, seraphim, and ophanim (= ‘wheels’; cf. Eze. 1:15), angels of power, angels of principalities, are mentioned (cf. lxxi. 7); in the Secrets of Enoch (20) we read of archangels, incorporeal powers, lordships, principalities, powers, cherubim, seraphim, ‘ten troops.’ The ‘genealogies’ of 1Ti. 1:4 and Tit. 3:9 are thought by some to refer to such speculations. St. Paul shows some impatience at the Colossian fondness for elaborating these divisions; yet in the NT we find traces of ranks of angels. In Jud 1:9 the archangel (Michael) is mentioned; so in 1Th. 4:16; where Michael is doubtless meant. In Romans, Colossians, and Ephesians no organized hierarchy is mentioned; and sometimes the reference seems to be to the whole angelic band, sometimes to the evil angels, when principalities, powers, dominions, thrones are referred to (Col. 1:16 θρόνοι, κυριότητες, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι; Col. 2:10, 15 ἀρχή, ἐξουσία; Eph. 1:21 ἀρχή, ἐξουσία, δύναμις, κυριότης; Eph. 3:10; 6:12 ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι; Rom. 8:38 ἄγγελοι, ἀρχαί, δυνάμεις; 1Co. 15:24 ἀρχή, ἐξουσία, δύναμις). In the passages in Col. and Eph. St. Paul takes the ideas current in Asia Minor as to the ranks of the angels, but does not himself enunciate any doctrine; indeed, in Eph. 1:21 he adds, ‘and every name that is named [ὀνομάζεται, i. e. reverenced] both in this age and in that which is to come.’ Some have thought that he refers to earthly powers; but, though these may perhaps in some cases be included, there can be little doubt that he is speaking primarily of angelic powers, good and bad. ‘Whatever powers there may be, Christ is Lord of all, far above them all.’ In Eph. 3:10 only evil angelic powers are referred to-they are in the heavenly sphere (ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις); and so in Eph. 6:12; where they are contrasted with ‘flesh and blood’ (see also below). With these passages we may compare 1Pe. 3:22 ‘angels and authorities and powers’; and possibly 2Pe. 2:10 f., where the ‘lordship’ (Revised Version ‘dominion’), ‘glories’ (‘dignities’), and angels are thought by some to refer to ranks of angels; if so, the highest rank is ‘angels,’ who are ‘greater in might and power’ than the ‘glories.’ The cherubim of the ark (Exo. 25:18) are mentioned in Heb. 9:5.

The Christian Fathers and the heretical teachers greatly elaborated the angelic hierarchy; of these perhaps the writer who had most influence was pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (de Cœl. Hier. vi.-ix., c. [Note: . circa, about. ] a. d. 500), who divided the heavenly host into three divisions, with three subdivisions in each: (1) thrones, cherubim, seraphim; (2) powers (ἐξουσίαι), lordships (κυριότητες), mights (δυνάμεις); (3) angels, archangels, principalities (ἀρχαί). On the analogy of this list, the Syriac-speaking Churches divided the Christian ministry into three classes, each with three sub-classes. For other divisions of angels in post-apostolic times see Lightfoot’s note on Col. 1:16.

Very few names of angels occur in the NT. Of the holy angels, only Gabriel (Luk. 1:19, 26) and Michael (Jud 1:9; Rev. 12:7) are named (from Dan. 8:16; 9:21; 10:13, 21; 12:1). We also have the proper names Satan (thirty-one one times, nineteen outside the Gospels), Beelzebub (Gospels only, six times), and Belial or Beliar (2Co. 6:15). See Devil, Belial. In the Apocrypha we have Raphael in Tob 12:15; Uriel in 2 Ezr. 4:1; 5:20; 10:28; and Jeremiel in 2Est. 4:36 (the last book perhaps is to be dated c. [Note: . circa, about. ] a. d. 90). Many other names are found in Jewish writings; see D. Stone, Outlines of Chr. Dogma, London 1900, p. 38; Edersheim, Life and Times, Appendix xiii.; Eth. Enoch 20 (Uriel, Rafael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel; the Gr. fragment [Charles, p. 356f. ] has Sariel for Saraqael, and adds Remiel [= Jeremiel]).

5. The Function of the angels.

The NT represents the angels as having a double activity, towards God and towards man. Both these aspects are found in Heb. 1:14 (see below), as in Isa. 6:1-7; where the seraphim worship before God, and one of them is sent to the prophet, and in Luk. 1:19; where Gabriel is said to stand in the presence of God, and to be sent to Zacharias.

(a) Towards God.

The angels are ‘liturgic spirits’ (λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα, Heb. 1:14; cf. Dan. 7:10 ἐλειτούργουν αὐτῷ [Theodotion; the version in our Gr. OT] for יְשַׁמְּשׁוּנֵהּ, ‘ministered unto him’; the Chigi Septuagint has ἐθεράπευον αὐτόν); their ministry is an ordered one, before the throne of God: ‘the whole host of His angels … minister (λειτουργοῦσιν) unto His will, standing by Him’ (Clem. Rom. Cor. 34; cf. the 4th cent. Ignatian interpolator, Philad. 9, ‘the liturgic powers of God’). They worship God in heaven (Rev. 5:11 f.; Rev. 7:11; 8:1-4; cf. Job 1:6; 2:1), and on earth (Luk. 2:13 f.); they worship the Firstborn when He is brought into the world (Heb. 1:6), and are witnesses of the Incarnation (1Ti. 3:16 ‘seen of angels’-but Grimm interprets ἀγγέλοις here as the apostles, witnesses of the risen Christ, and Swete thinks the reference is to the Agony in Gethsemane [Ascended Christ 1910, p. 24]). To this heavenly worship there seems to be a reference in 1Co. 13:1 ‘tongues of angels.’ In Jewish thought there were ‘angels of the presence,’ the highest order of the hierarchy, who stood before the face of God, within the veil (Edersheim, Life and Times, i. 122; Tob 12:15; Eth. Enoch 40). There may be a reference to these in Rev. 1:4 ‘the seven spirits which are before his throne’ (Swete interprets this of the sevenfold working of the Holy Spirit); Rev. 8:2 ‘the seven angels which stand before God’ (cf. Rev. 8:4); Mat. 18:10 ‘in heaven [the little ones’] angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven’; and in Luk. 1:19 (see above).

They will attend on the Son at the Last Judgment (1Th. 4:16; 2Th. 1:7; Rev. 3:5); and this seems to be the most probable reference in 1Th. 3:13 ‘with all his saints’ (or ‘holy ones’-τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ) and in Jud 1:14 ‘with ten thousands of his holy ones’ (or ‘with his holy myriads,’ ἐν ἁγίαις μυριάσιν αὐτοῦ), where the words are quoted from Enoch, i. 9, the text of the latter in the Gizeh Greek fragment being σὺν τοῖς (sic) μυριάσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ. The words in Jude are certainly to be understood of the angels, and this makes the similar interpretation of 1Th. 3:13 more likely. But Milligan (Com. in loc.) thinks that the latter reference is to ‘just men made perfect,’ who are said to judge, or to be ‘brought with’ Jesus at the Judgment (1Th. 4:14; Mat. 19:28; Luk. 22:30; cf. Wis 3:8; for 1Co. 6:3 see 7 below). No doubt the saints will rule with Christ (Rev. 2:26 f.; Rev. 20:4 etc.); but, as all men will themselves be judged (Rom. 14:10; 2Co. 5:10), the interpretation of the above passages as implying that the saints will themselves be judges at the Last Day is somewhat doubtful. The attendance of the angels on the Great Judge is mentioned in all four Gospels (Mat. 13:41; 16:27; 24:31; 25:31; Mar. 8:38; 13:27; Luk. 9:26; 12:8 f., and Joh. 1:51 [where the reference is to Gen. 28:12]).

(b) Towards man.

The angels do service (διακονία) to man as heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). They ministered to our Lord on earth, in His human nature, after the Temptation in the wilderness (Mat. 4:11; Mar. 1:13; not in || Lk.), and at Gethsemane (Luk. 22:43 : this may not be part of the Third Gospel, but is certainly part of a 1st cent. tradition; it could not have been invented by the scribes [see Westcott-Hort, NT in Greek, ii. Appendix , p. 67]. The present writer has argued for its being older than Lk., and reflecting the same stage of thought as Mk. [Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 124b]). In Mat. 26:53 Jesus says that angels would have ministered to Him, had He so willed, when Judas betrayed Him.

The angels are spectators of our lives:1Co. 4:9 ‘a spectacle (θέατρον) to angels’; 1Ti. 5:21 ‘in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels’; 1Pe. 1:12; the angels ‘look into’-‘glance at,’ or perhaps ‘pore over’ (see Bigg, Com. in loc.)-the Church and its Gospel; they rejoice over the sinner’s repentance (Luk. 15:10).

They are messengers to man. This is the office of angels which is most prominent in the NT; see Act. 7:35, 38 (Moses) Act. 8:26 (Philip) Act. 10:3, 7, 22, 30 (Peter, Cornelius) Act. 11:13 (Peter) Act. 12:7-11 (Peter in prison) Act. 23:9 (Paul) Act. 27:23 (Paul on his voyage), Heb. 13:2 (reference to Abraham, Genesis 18), and frequently in Rev. (e. g. Gen. 1:1; 22:6). St. Paul alludes to this work of the angels in Gal. 1:8; which suggests that they must be proved, as spirits must be (1Co. 12:10; 1Joh. 4:1 etc.; see Demon, § 2), to see whether they are true or false, and in Gal. 4:14; where there is a climax: ‘as an angel of God, nay, as one who is higher than the angels, as Christ Jesus himself.’ For this function in the Gospels see Mat. 1:20; 2:13, 19; 28:2-5; Mar. 16:5-7; Luk. 1:11, 13, 19, 26, 30, 35; 2:9 f., Luk. 2:21; 24:4, 23; Joh. 12:29; 20:12; here we note that the ‘angel of the Lord’ in the NT is not the same as the ‘angel of Jahweh’ in the OT: it merely means an angel sent by God. This office of the angels does not exclude the Divine message coming directly to man (Act. 9:5; 22:8; 26:14; Gal. 1:12).

They are helpers of our worship. They offer the ‘prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar’ (Rev. 8:3 f.). Their presence at Christian worship is a reason for decorum and reverence (1Co. 11:10 : a woman should be veiled in the assembly of the faithful ‘because of the angels’; this seems to be the meaning, not ‘because of the clergy who are present,’ as Ambrose, Ephraim Syrus, Primasius, nor ‘because of the evil angels,’ with a reference to Gen. 6:1 f., as Tertullian [de Virg. Vel. 7; cf. 17], nor yet ‘because the angels do so,’ i. e. veil themselves before their Superior [Isa. 6:2]; see Robertson-Plummer, Com. in loc.). For the presence of angels at worship cf. Psa. 138:1 Septuagint and Vulgate , Tob 12:12; Tob 12:15; Three 37.

They fight for man against evil, under Michael (Jud 1:9; Rev. 12:7 f., Rev. 19:14, 19; 20:1-3); they are ‘armies’ (στρατεύματα, Rev. 19:14) and a ‘host’ (στρατιά, Luk. 2:13; not in Heb. 12:22 Revised Version where μυριάσιν is translated ‘innumerable hosts’). They are the ‘armies’ sent out by the King in the Parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son (Mat. 22:7).

They were the mediators of the Law (Act. 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2); i. e. they assisted at the giving of the Law. St. Paul and the writer of Hebrews argue from this the superiority of the Gospel as being given without the interposition of created beings (Lightfoot on Galatians 3). The presence of angels is not mentioned in Exodus 19, but cf. Deu. 33:2; Psa. 68:7; it was emphasized by the Jews as extolling the Law (see Thackeray, op. cit. p. 162), and this is perhaps the meaning in Act. 7:53.
At death the angels carry the faithful departed to Abraham’s bosom (Luk. 16:22). This was a common Jewish belief (Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i. 57a).

At the Judgment they will be the reapers of the harvest (Rev. 14:17-19; Mat. 13:39, 49).

They are messengers of punishment (Act. 12:23 [Herod], Rev. 14:10), and of judgment (Rev. 8:6 ff; Rev. 19:11-14; cf. the pouring out of the bowls, Rev. 16:1-17, and the seven angels having seven plagues, Rev. 15:1). In 1Co. 10:10 the ‘destroyer’ (ὀλοθρευτής) is not Satan, bat the angel sent by God to smite the people (the reference is to Numbers 16, where no angel is mentioned; but cf. Exo. 12:23; 2Sa. 24:16). Satan is sometimes called ‘the destroyer’ (ἀπολλύων, Rev. 9:11), but ὀλοθρευτής is not used elsewhere in the Bible (see Robertson-Plummer on 1Co. 10:10).

They intervene on earth to help man: an ‘angel of the Lord’ releases the apostles (Act. 5:19) and Peter (Act. 12:7); and, according to an ancient gloss, probably African, originating before the time of Tertullian, who quotes it (de Bapt. 5), ‘an angel of the Lord’ also ‘troubled’ the water of Bethesda (Joh. 5:4). (Tertullian applies this text to Christian baptism, over which he says an angel presides.) Generally, the angels guard men from evil. This leads us to the question of guardian angels. It is an ancient idea that each human being, or even every creature animate and inanimate, has allotted to it one or more special angelic guards.

This idea is to some extent confirmed by the words of our Lord about the ‘angels of the little ones’ in Mat. 18:10. It was a popular belief that these guardians took the form of the person guarded, and the people assembled in the house of Mary the mother of Mark thought that Peter, when escaped from prison, was ‘his angel’ (Act. 12:15). This Jewish conception was long retained by the Christians. Tertullian thought that the soul had a ‘figure,’ a certain corporeity, an ‘inner man: different from the outer, but yet one in the twofold condition’ (de Anima 9); this is not quite the same idea, but we find it more clearly in the 4th cent. Church Order, the Testament of our Lord (i. 40), where all men have ‘figures of their souls, which stand before the Father of Light,’ and which in the case of the wicked ‘perish and are carried to darkness to dwell.’ Similarly there are angels of fire (Rev. 14:18), of water (Rev. 16:3 ff.; cf. Rev. 7:1 f. and Joh. 5:4), of winds (Rev. 7:1; cf. Psa. 104:4), of countries (Dan. 10:13-20; cf. Sir 17:17); and the angel of the abyss, Abaddon (q. v. [Note: quod vide, which see. ] ) or Apollyon (Rev. 9:11; cf. Rev. 20:1). For Rabbinical ideas see Thackeray, op. cit. p. 168, and Edersheim, op. cit. Appendix xiii.

6. Angels of the Churches

-In Rev. 1:20; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14 the Seven Churches are said each to have an ‘angel.’ These angels represent the Churches; what is said to them is said to the Churches (Rev. 3:22; cf. Rev. 1:4); things done by the Churches are said to be done by them. Various interpretations have been offered. (a) They are said to be angels as in the rest of the book. The strongest arguments for this view are the writer’s usage elsewhere, and the mention of Jezebel (Rev. 2:20 : ‘thy wife’ in some Manuscripts ), which is clearly symbolic. The difficulty is the sin ascribed to these angels, as in any case a good angel must, if this interpretation be taken, be meant; if so, the meaning must be that the angels bear the sins of the Churches as representing and guarding them. (b) They are thought to be earthly representatives of the Churches, either delegates to Patmos or the bishop or presbyters of the Churches. This view accords better with the later than with the earlier date assigned to Rev., with the time of Domitian than with that of Nero. (c) They are thought to be ideal personifications of the Churches. On the whole the first view seems to be the most probable. Compare and contrast the following article.

7. Fallen angels.

In the NT both good and evil angels are mentioned; but when the word ‘angel’ occurs alone, a good angel is to be understood unless the context requires otherwise, though perhaps 1Co. 6:3 is an exception (see below). The fall is mentioned in Jud 1:6; 2Pe. 2:4; and probably in 1Ti. 3:6; where it is ascribed to pride (see Devil, § 2). The Incarnation was not intended to help the angels. Jesus did not ‘take hold’ of, to help, the angels (or, as Authorized Version , did not take hold of their nature); see Westcott on Heb. 2:16. Yet in Col. 1:20 God is said to reconcile through (the death of) Christ ‘all things’ to Himself-the whole universe material and spiritual (Lightfoot); but it was not by delivering them from death (Alford): the fallen angels are not saved by Christ’s death. According to some interpretations, St. Paul says that angels will be judged by men (1Co. 6:3). Robertson-Plummer interpret this verse, tentatively, as meaning that, as Christ judges, i. e. rules over, angels, so will saints, who share in that rule; but, if the Last Judgment is intended, then fallen angels must be meant here, for good angels, not having fallen, cannot be judged. For 1Th. 3:13 see above 5 (a). In the end Satan is bound, and Babylon falls (Revelation 18, 20); nothing is said of his angels, but the inference is that his angels fall with him, and this is expressly said in Mat. 25:41. See further, Adversary, Air, Belial, Demon, Devil.

Metaphorically the ‘stake in the flesh’ is called an angel (messenger) of Satan (2Co. 12:7). See article Paul.

8. Comparison of apostolic and other teachings

(a) Comparison with that of our Lord.

Oesterley (Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , 32) contr

Compare Jesus’ teaching with that of the Evangelists and other NT writers, and says that our Lord taught that the abode and work of the angels are in heaven, not here below, while His disciples taught (as the Jews did) that they are active on earth. On the other hand, Marshall (Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i. 54a) maintains the complete identity of teaching between Jesus and the Evangelists. To the present writer the latter view seems to be the right one. It is true that in our Lord’s words the work of angels on earth is not prominent. But in Joh. 1:51 (our Lord is speaking) the order ‘ascending and descending’ shows that the angels are ‘already on earth, though we see them not’ (Westcott, Com. in loc.). The account of the angelic ministry at the Temptation, like that of the Temptation itself, could by its very nature have come only from our Lord’s own lips. Moreover, in Jesus, teaching, the angels come to the earth to fetch Lazarus’ soul (Luk. 16:22) and to reap the Harvest (Mat. 13:39, 49).

(b) Comparison with the doctrine of false teachers

In Colossians we find an elaborate angelology, taught by professing Christians whom St. Paul attacks. Their heresy was partly Jewish, partly Gnostic, though some think that two different sects are meant. The Gnostic element shows itself in the tendency to put angels as intermediaries between God and man, and to make angels emanations from God with an elaborate hierarchy of powers, dominions, etc. Against such teaching St. Paul asserts that Christ is the only mediator (Col. 1:15-22; 2:9-15), and forbids the worship of angels because it denies this. In the unique mediation of our Lord lies the significance of the repeated phrases ‘in the Lord,’ ‘unto the Lord’ (Col. 3:18, 20, 23). Jesus is the one ἀρχή, or ‘beginning’ (Col. 1:18; cf. Rev. 3:14), of creation, as against the idea, of angelic intermediaries when the world was made (see Lightfoot’s essay on the Colossian heresy [Col., p. 71ff. ]). Perhaps also in the assertion of the unique mediation of Christ lies the significance of the rhetorical passage in which St. Paul says that no heavenly powers, good or bad, can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38). Passages in Eph. (above 4) seem to show that the Colossian heresy was known also on the Asian seaboard.

A later stage of angelological error is found at the end of the 1st cent. in Cerinthus’ teaching, which resembled that of the Colossian heretics. Cerinthus (q. v. [Note: quod vide, which see. ] ) taught that the world was not made by God, but by an angel, or by a series of powers or angels, who were ignorant of God; the Mosaic Law was given by them (cf. above 5 (b)). Cerinthus is the link between the Gnosticism at Colossae and the developed Gnosticism of the 2nd century (for his doctrine see Irenaeus, Haer. i. 26; Hippolytus, Refut. vii. 21, x. 17). He claimed to have had angelic visions, and was a millenarian of the grossest sort (Caius in Eusebius, HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] iii. 28). See also Lightfoot, op. cit., p. 106ff.

Speculations such as those attacked by St. Paul found a congenial soil in ‘Asia’ and Phrygia. Even in the 4th cent. at the Council held at the Phrygian Laodicea (circa, about a. d. 380), Christians are forbidden to leave the Church of God and invoke (ὀνομάζειν) angels (can. 35; see Hefele, Councils, Eng. translation , iii. 317). It is the proper jealousy for the One Mediator, on the other hand, which has led many moderns to reject the doctrine of the existence of angels altogether. But both heavenly and earthly beings can help man without being mediators, as we see when one man helps another by intercessory prayer. The NT teaching about angelic helpers, so potent an antidote to materialism, in no way asserts that we are to pray to God through the angels, or contradicts the doctrine that Christ is the only Mediator between God and man.

(c) Comparison with current Jewish teaching and that of the later Rabbis

The apostolic teaching is quite free from the wild speculations of Jewish angelology. (For differences between it and current Jewish ideas see Edersheim, op. cit., i. 142 and Appendix xiii.) Of Jewish speculations the most elaborate were those of the Essenes (q. v. [Note: quod vide, which see. ] ), which had a decided Gnostic tinge. This Jewish sect had an esoteric doctrine of angels, and its members were not allowed to divulge their names to outsiders (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. viii. 1; Lightfoot, Col., p. 87; Edersheim, i. 330f.). A few Jewish speculations may be mentioned. It was thought that new angels were always being created-an idea derived from a wresting of Lam. 3:23 (Thackeray, op. cit. p. 150). The angels taught Noah medicine (Book of Jubilees 10). The righteous will become angels (Eth. Enoch, li. 4). An angel troubled the waters of Bethesda for healing (gloss in Joh. 5:4). An elaborate hierarchical system and numerous names were invented for them (above 4). Contrasted with these ideas, we have in the NT a wise reserve, which refuses to go beyond the things which are written.
One Jewish speculation must he noticed more fully. The Rabbis taught that none of the angels was absolutely good, that they opposed the creation of man and were jealous of him (Edersheim, ii. 754). Thackeray (p. 151f.) considers that St. Paul also makes them all antagonistic to God. If so, he contradicts the teaching both of our Lord and of the other NT writers (above 3). But this view, based on St. Paul’s language about principalities, powers, etc., and on the idea that all the angels are the enemies who must be put under Christ’s feet (1Co. 15:25), appears to be untenable. St. Paul, while affirming that some ‘powers’ are evil, does not say that they all are so. See above 4.

9. Nature of NT angelophanies.

It is unprofitable to ask whether angels took material bodies when they appeared to men or whether they merely seemed to do so. At any rate, they took the form of men to the mind, though in some cases there was something about them that produced wonder or fear (Luk. 1:12; Mat. 28:4; etc.). The accounts of the angels who were seen after the Resurrection vary. In Mat. 28:2 the angel who rolled away the stone was like lightning, his raiment white as snow. In Mar. 16:5 we read only of a, young man in a white robe. In Luk. 24:4 there are two men in dazzling apparel (cf. Luk. 24:23 ‘vision of angels’). In Joh. 20:12 there are two angels in white, sitting. In Act. 1:10 there are ‘two men … in white apparel.’ To Cornelius the angel was ‘a man … in bright apparel’ (Act. 10:30). Stephen’s face was filled with superhuman glory, ‘as it had been the face of an angel’ (Act. 6:15; so we reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord 2Co. 3:18). For an argument that the appearance of the angels was ‘objective’ see Plummer on Luk. 1:11; but this is largely a matter of definition. At the death of Herod (Act. 12:23) no appearance of an angel is necessarily intended.

10. The immediate successors of the apostles

Angelology was a favourite topic of the time; but, the literature of the sub-apostolic period being very scanty, the references are few. For Clement of Rome see above 5 (a). Ignatius says that the knowledge of angelic mysteries was given to martyrs (Trall. 5): ‘heavenly things and the dispositions (τοποθεσίας) of angels, and musterings of rulers (συστάσεις ἀρχοντικάς), seen and unseen’ (cf. Col. 1:16). The ‘dispositions’ would be in the seven heavens. The ἄρχοντες, ‘rulers,’ would be St. Paul’s ἀρχαί i. e. angels (Lightfoot, Ign. ii. 165). In Smyrn. 6 it is said that the angels, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, are judged; this seems to imply that their probation is not yet ended. Sea also above 3. Papias (quoted by Andreas of Caesarea, in Apoc., ch. 34, serm. 12; Lightfoot-Harmer, Apostol. Fathers, p. 521) says that to some of the angels God ‘gave dominion over the arrangement (διακοσμήσεως) of the universe … but their array (τάξιν) came to naught, for the great dragon, the old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceiveth the whole earth, was cast down, yea, was cast down to the earth, and his angels’ (quotation from Rev. 12:9). Papias seems to date the fall of the angels after the creation of the world. Hermas (for his possibly early date see Salmon, Introd. to NT, xxvi.) describes the building of the tower [the Church] upon the waters by six young men (cf. Mar. 16:5), while countless other men bring the stones; and the former are said to be the holy angels of God, who were created first of all; the latter are also holy angels, but the six are superior to them (Vis. iii. 1, 2, 4). In the Martyrdom of Polycarp 2, martyrs are said to become angels after death (see above 8). In the Epistle to Diognetus 7, God is said to have sent to men a minister (ὑπηρέτην) or angel or ruler (ἄρχοντα). Justin interprets Psa. 24:7, 9 [Septuagint ] as addressed to the rulers appointed by God in the heavens (Dial. 36). To angels was committed the care of man and of all things under heaven, but they transgressed through the love of women (Apol. ii. 5, referring to Gen. 6:1 ff.). Angels, like men, have free will (Dial. 141).
Literature.-A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah 9, London 1897, i. 142, ii. 748 (Appendix, xiii.), etc.; H. St. J. Thackeray, The Relation of St. Paul to Contemporary Jewish Thought, do. 1900; A. B. Davidson in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Angel’ (almost entirely for OT); W. Fairweather in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , vol. v., article ‘Development of Doctrine in the Apocryphal Period,’ § iii.; J. T. Marshall in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , article ‘Angels’; and the Commentaries, esp. H. B. Swete, Apocalypse of St. John, London 1906; B. F. Westcott, Hebrews 3, do. 1906; G. Milligan, Thessalonians, do. 1908; J. B. Lightfoot, Colossians and Philemon, do. 1900 (1st ed. 1875); A. Robertson and A Plummer 1 Corinthians, Edinburgh 1911.

A. J. Maclean.

Angels – Easton

a word signifying, both in the Hebrew and Greek, a “messenger,” and hence employed to denote any agent God sends forth to execute his purposes. It is used of an ordinary messenger (Job 1:14:1Sa. 11:3; Luk. 7:24; 9:52), of prophets (Isa. 42:19; Hag. 1:13), of priests (Mal. 2:7), and ministers of the New Testament (Rev. 1:20).

It is also applied to such impersonal agents as the pestilence (2Sa. 24:16-17; 2Ki. 19:35), the wind (Psa. 104:4).

But its distinctive application is to certain heavenly intelligences whom God employs in carrying on his government of the world. The name does not denote their nature but their office as messengers. The appearances to Abraham at Mamre (Gen. 18:2, 22. Comp. 19:1), to Jacob at Peniel (Gen. 32:24, 30), to Joshua at Gilgal (Jos. 5:13, 15), of the Angel of the Lord, were doubtless manifestations of the Divine presence, “foreshadowings of the incarnation,” revelations before the “fulness of the time” of the Son of God.

(1.) The existence and orders of angelic beings can only be discovered from the Scriptures.

Although the Bible does not treat of this subject specially, yet there are numerous incidental details that furnish us with ample information. Their personal existence is plainly implied in such passages as Gen. 16:7, 10, 11; Judg. 13:1-21; Mat. 28:2-5; Heb. 1:4; etc.

These superior beings are very numerous. “Thousand thousands,” etc. (Dan. 7:10; Mat. 26:53; Luk. 2:13; Heb. 12:22, 23). They are also spoken of as of different ranks in dignity and power (Zec. 1:9, 11; Dan. 10:13; 12:1; 1Th. 4:16; Jude 1:9; Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16).

(2.) As to their nature, they are spirits (Heb. 1:14), like the soul of man, but not incorporeal.

Such expressions as “like the angels” (Luk. 20:36), and the fact that whenever angels appeared to man it was always in a human form (Gen. 18:2; 19:1, 10; Luk. 24:4; Act. 1:10), and the titles that are applied to them (“sons of God,” Job 1:6; 38:7; Dan. 3:25; comp. 28) and to men (Luk. 3:38), See m all to indicate some resemblance between them and the human race. Imperfection is ascribed to them as creatures (Job 4:18; Mat. 24:36; 1Pe. 1:12). As finite creatures they may fall under temptation; and accordingly we read of “fallen angels.” Of the cause and manner of their “fall” we are wholly ignorant. We know only that “they left their first estate” (Mat. 25:41; Rev. 12:7, 9), and that they are “reserved unto judgement” (2Pe. 2:4). When the manna is called “angels’ food,” this is merely to denote its excellence (Psa. 78:25). Angels never die (Luk. 20:36). They are possessed of superhuman intelligence and power (Mar. 13:32; 2Th. 1:7; Psa. 103:20). They are called “holy” (Luk. 9:26), “elect” (1Ti. 5:21). The redeemed in glory are “like unto the angels” (Luk. 20:36). They are not to be worshipped (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10).
(3.) Their functions are manifold. (a) In the widest sense they are agents of God’s providence (Exo. 12:23; Psa. 104:4; Heb. 11:28; 1Co. 10:10; 2Sa. 24:16; 1Ch. 21:16; 2Ki. 19:35; Act. 12:23). (b) They are specially God’s agents in carrying on his great work of redemption. There is no notice of angelic appearances to man till after the call of Abraham. From that time onward there are frequent references to their ministry on earth (Gen. 18; 19; 24:7, 40; 28:12; 32:1). They appear to rebuke idolatry (Judg. 2:1-4), to call Gideon (Judg. 6:11, 12), and to consecrate Samson (13:3). In the days of the prophets, from Samuel downward, the angels appear only in their behalf (1Ki. 19:5; 2Ki. 6:17; Zech. 1-6; Dan. 4:13, 23; 10:10, 13, 20, 21).

The Incarnation introduces a new era in the ministrations of angels. They come with their Lord to earth to do him service while here. They predict his advent (Mat. 1:20; Luk. 1:26-38), minister to him after his temptation and agony (Mat. 4:11; Luk. 22:43), and declare his resurrection and ascension (Mat. 28:2-8; Joh. 20:12-13; Act. 1:10, 11). They are now ministering spirits to the people of God (Heb. 1:14; Psa. 34:7; 91:11; Mat. 18:10; Act. 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7; 27:23). They rejoice over a penitent sinner (Luk. 15:10). They bear the souls of the redeemed to paradise (Luk. 16:22); and they will be the ministers of judgement hereafter on the great day (Mat. 13:39, 41, 49; 16:27; 24:31). The passages (Psa. 34:7; Mat. 18:10) usually referred to in support of the idea that every individual has a particular guardian angel have no such meaning. They merely indicate that God employs the ministry of angels to deliver his people from affliction and danger, and that the angels do not think it below their dignity to minister even to children and to the least among Christ’s disciples.

The “angel of his presence” (Isa. 63:9. Comp. Exo. 23:20-21; 32:34; 33:2; Num. 20:16) is probably rightly interpreted of the Messiah as the guide of his people. Others have supposed the expression to refer to Gabriel (Luk. 1:19).

Angel – Faussett

(“messengers”.) Often with “of God” or “Jehovah” added. Sometimes called the “holy ones,” “saints.” The “Angel of God” often means the Divide Word, “the Image of the invisible God,” God Himself manifested (Col. 1:15; Gen. 22:11-12; 16:7, 13; 31:11, 13; 48:15-16; 33:14; compare Isa. 63:9; Exo. 3:2, 6; 3:14; 23:20-22; Act. 27:23-24, compare Act. 23:11; Num. 22:22-32-35); accepting as His due the worship which angels reject as mere creatures (Rev. 19:10; 22:9); this manifestation was as man, an anticipation of the incarnation (Joh. 1:18; Gen. 18:2, 22; 19:1; 32:24, 30; Jos. 5:13, 15).

“Angel,” “Son of God,” “Gods” (Elohim), “Holy One,” in the fullest sense, are names of the divine Word alone. His incarnation is the center by reference to which all angelic ministration is best understood. Compare Joh. 1:51; Greek (aparti), “from this time forth ye shall see heaven open” (heretofore shut, against man by sin: Heb. 9:8; 10:19-20) “and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man,” as the antitypical Jacob’s ladder, the center of communication between men and God, the redeemed and the angelic world; Jesus’ miracles, of which mention immediately follows (John 2), are firstfruit of this newly opened communion of earth and heaven (Gen. 28:12-17). Secondarily, God’s created messengers; as Israel (Isa. 42:19), Haggai (Hag. 1:13), John (Mal. 3:1; 2:7), the priesthood, ministers (Ecc. 5:6), the rulers or angels of the Christian churches (Rev. 1:20), as Elohim, “gods” is applied to judges (Psa. 82:6); compare Jesus’ application, Joh. 10:34-37.

As to the nature of “angels” in the limited sense, they are “spirits” (Heb. 1:7, 14), of wind-like velocity, subtle nature, capable of close communion with God; sharers in His truth, purity, and love, since they ever behold His face (Mat. 18:10), even as the redeemed shall (1Jn. 3:2); not necessarily incorporeal; Luk. 20:36 (compare Phi. 3:21), 1Co. 15:44; seemingly but not certainly imply their having bodies. Their glorious appearance (Dan. 10:6), like our Lord’s when transfigured and afterward as the ascended Savior (Rev. 1:14-16), and their human form (Luk. 24:4; Act. 1:10), favor the same view. Close kindred of nature between angels and men is implied in both being alike called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 38:7; Dan. 3:25, 28) and “gods” (Elohim) (Psa. 8:5; Hebrew Elohim “angels,” Psa. 97:7; Luk. 3:38).

Finite, but ever progressing in the participation of God’s infinite perfection (Job 4:18; Mat. 24:36; 1Pe. 1:12). Our fellow servants, “sent forth unto ministry for the sake of them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14), i. e., on ministrations appointed by God and Christ for the good of them who shall be heirs of salvation. Worship and service are their twofold function; priests in the heavenly temple (Isa. 6:1-3; 1Ki. 22:19; Dan. 7:9-10; Rev. 5:11), and sent forth thence on God’s missions of love and justice. As finite, and having liberty, they were capable of temptation. Some “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” (2Pe. 2:4; Jud 1:6). “The elect angels” fell not; they take part, by act and sympathy, in our affairs, and shall witness the Judgment (Luk. 15:10; 1Co. 4:9).

The fallen are not yet actually confined in the bottomless pit, but are doomed to it, “reserved unto judgment,” and though seeming free, and ranging in our air, under the prince of the powers of the air (Eph. 2:2), are really in “chains of darkness” already, able only to hurt to the length of their chain. Satan is their prince, a liar, murderer, slanderer; and such are they (Joh. 8:44). The probation of the elect angels is over; their crown is won, they are the “holy ones” now (Dan. 8:13), under the blessed necessity of sinning no more. “Watchers” of men, jealous for God’s honor (Dan. 4:13, 23). Bad angels are permitted to try believers now, as Job; good angels are God’s ministers of vengeance on the bad (Rev. 12:8-9; 20:1-2). Such shall the saints be at last, “equal to the angels,” holy, made perfect, judges of angels and the world, ministering mediators of blessing to subject creatures (Heb. 12:23; 1Co. 6:2-3; Rev. 5:10).

In the natural world angels minister, as in directing wind and flame (according to one translation of Psa. 104:4; Heb. 1:7): “the angel of Jehovah” wrought in the plague on the Egyptian firstborn (Exo. 12:23; Heb. 11:28), and on the rebels in the wilderness (1Co. 10:10), on Israel under David (2Sa. 24:16; 1Ch. 21:16), on Sennacherib’s army (2Ki. 19:35), on Herod (Act. 12:23). An angel troubled the pool of Bethesda (the Alex. manuscript supports the verse, the Sin. and the Vat. manuscripts reject it), giving it a healing power, as in our mineral springs (Joh. 5:4): They act, in an unknown way, in and through “nature’s laws.” In the spiritual world too: by their ministration the Sinaitic law was given, “ordained by angels” (Gal. 3:19), “spoken” by them (Heb. 2:2), by their “disposition” or appointment (Act. 7:53; compare Deu. 33:2; Psa. 68:17).

From the first creation of our world they took the liveliest interest in the earth (Job 38:7). When man fell by evil angels, with beautiful propriety it was ordered that other angels, holy and unfallen, should minister for God in His reparation of the evil caused to man by their fallen fellow spirits. They rescued at Jehovah’s command righteous Lot from doomed Sodom, Jacob from his murderous brother (Genesis 19; 32). “Manna” is called “angels’ food,” “the grain of heaven”; not that angels eat it, but it came from above whence angels come, and through their ministry (Psa. 78:25). When Elisha was in Dothan, surrounded by Syrian hosts, and his servant cried, “Alas! how shall we do?” the Lord opened his eyes to see the mount full of chariots and horses of fire round about (2Ki. 6:15, 17; compare Psa. 94:7). By God’s angel Daniel was saved in the lions’ den (Dan. 6:22); compare Dan. 3:28 as to the fiery furnace.

Michael (whom some questionably identify with the Son of God) is represented as Israel’s champion against Israel’s (the literal and the spiritual) accuser, Satan (Dan. 12:1; compare Rev. 12:7-10). Daniel 10 unfolds the mysterious truth that there are angel princes in the spirit world, answering to the God-opposed leaders of kingdoms in the political world, the prince of Persia and the prince of Grecia standing in antagonism to Michael. In patriarchal times their ministry is more familiar, and less awful, than in after times. Compare Gen. 24:7, 40 (the angelic guidance of Abraham’s servant in choosing a wife for Isaac, and encouraging Jacob in his loneliness at Bethel on first leaving home, Genesis 28) with Judg. 6:21-22; 13:16, 22. They appear, like the prophets and kings in subsequent times, in the character of God’s ministers, carrying out God’s purposes in relation to Israel and the pagan world powers (Zechariah 1; 2; 3; 4, etc.).

When the Lord of angels became flesh, they ministered before and at His birth (Luke 1; 2; Mat. 1:20), after the temptation (Mat. 4:11), in the agony of Gethsemane (Luk. 22:43), at His resurrection and ascension (Mat. 28:2; Luk. 24:4; Joh. 20:12; Act. 1:10-11). Their previous and subsequent ministrations to men (Act. 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7; Peter’s deliverance, Act. 27:23) all hinge on their intimate connection with and ministry to Him, redeemed man’s divine Head (Psa. 91:11; Mat. 4:6), Hence they are the guardians of Christ’s little ones, not thinking it beneath their dignity to minister to them (Mat. 18:10); not attached singly to single individuals, but all or one ready at God’s bidding to minister to each. (In Acts 12, the remark, “it is his Peter’s angel,” receives no countenance from Peter or the inspired writer of Acts, Luke; but is the uninspired guess of those in Mary’s house.)

Rejoice over each recovered penitent (Luk. 15:10); are present in Christian congregations (1Co. 11:10); exercising some function in presenting the saints’ prayers, incensed by Christ’s merits, the one Mediator, before God (Rev. 8:3; 5:8); not to be prayed to, which is thrice forbidden (Rev. 19:10; 22:9; Col. 2:18): when we send an offering to the King, the King’s messenger durst not appropriate the King’s exclusive due. Ministers of grace now, and at the dying hour carrying the believer’s soul to paradise (Luk. 16:22), but ministers of judgment, and gathering the elect, in the great day (Mat. 13:39, 41, 49; 16:27; 24:31). Their number is counted by myriad’s (Heb. 12:22; Greek “to myriads, namely the festal assembly of angels”) (Deu. 33:2; Psa. 68:17; Dan. 7:10; Jud 1:14).

There are various ranks, thrones, principalities, powers in the angelic kingdom of light, as there are also in Satan’s kingdom of darkness (Eph. 1:22; 6:12; Col. 1:16; Dan. 10:13; 12:1; Rom. 8:38). (See SERAPHIM; CHERUBIM; MICHAEL; GABRIEL) Some conjecture that angels had originally natural bodies, which have been developed into spiritual bodies, as the saints’ bodies shall (1Co. 15:40-46); for they in Scripture accept material food (Genesis 18) and appear in human form, and never dwell in men’s bodies as the demons, who, naked and homeless, seek human bodies as their habitation (see Luk. 20:36, “equal unto the angels”: Phi. 3:20-21).

Many of the momentous issues of life are seen often to hinge upon seemingly slight incidents. Doubtless, besides the material instruments and visible agents, the invisible angels work in a marvelous way, under God’s providence, guiding events at the crisis so as to carry out the foreordained end. They “desire to look into” the mysteries of redemption, and they learn “by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10; 1Pe. 1:12). The saints (the living creatures and 24 elders) occupy the inner circle, the angels the outer circle, round the throne of the Lamb (Rev. 5:11).

Angel – Hastings

Hastings Dictionary of the Bible

1. Old Testament

That in the OT the existence of angels is taken for granted, and that therefore no account of their origin is given, is to be explained by the fact that belief in them is based upon an earlier Animism,* [Note: This view is supported by the various names in the OT for angels, and their varied functions (see below).] such as is common to all races in the pre-polytheistic stage of culture. The whole material for the development of Israelite angelology was at hand ready to be used. It must therefore not cause surprise if we find that in its earlier stages the differentiation between Jahweh and angels should be one of degree rather than of kind (see Angel of the Lord). This is clearly brought out in the earliest of the Biblical documents (J [Note: Jahwist. ] ), e. g. in Gen. 18:1-33; here Jahweh is one of three who are represented as companions, Jahweh taking the leading position, though equal honour is shown to all; that the two men with Jahweh are angels is directly asserted in Gen. 19:1; where we are told that they went to Sodom, after it had been said in Gen. 18:33 that Jahweh ‘went his way.’ Moreover, Jahweh’s original identity with an angel, according to the early Hebrew conception, is distinctly seen by comparing, for example, such a passage as Exo. 3:2 with Exo. 3:4; in the former it is the ‘angel of the Lord’ who appears in the burning bush, in the latter it is God; there is, furthermore, direct identification in Gen. 16:10, 13; 21:17 ff. In the earliest document in which angels are mentioned (J [Note: Jahwist. ] ) they appear only by twos or threes, in the later document (E [Note: Elohist. ] ) they appear in greater numbers (Gen. 28:12; 32:1-2); this is just what is to be expected, for J [Note: Jahwist. ] , the earlier document, represents Jahweh in a less exalted form, who Himself comes down to earth, and personally carries out His purposes; by degrees, however, more exalted conceptions of Him obtain, especially as the conception of His characteristic of holiness becomes realized, so that His presence among men comes to appear incongruous and unfitting, and His activity is delegated to His messengers or angels (see Angel of the Lord).

(a) The English word ‘angel’ is too specific for the Hebrew (mal’akh)

for which it is the usual equivalent; for in the Hebrew it is used in reference to men (e. g. Gen. 32:4 (3), Deu. 2:26; Judg. 6:35; Isa. 33:7; Mal. 1:1), as well as to superhuman beings. Besides the word mal’akh there are several other expressions used for what would come under the category of angels, viz.: ‘sons of God’ (bene ’elohim),* [Note: Cf. the analogous expression ‘sons of the prophets’ (benç nebî’îm).] Gen. 6:2, 4; ‘sons of the mighty’ (bene ’elim), Psa. 89:7 (8), Psa. 29:1; ‘mighty ones’ (gibborim), JL 4:11 (Joe. 3:11 EV [Note: English Version. ] ); ‘the holy ones’ (qedoshim), Zec. 14:5; ‘keepers’ (shômerim), Isa. 62:6; ‘watchers’ (‘irim), Dan. 4:14 (17). There are also the three expressions: ‘the host of Jahweh’ (zeba’ Jahweh), Jos. 5:14; ‘the host of the height’ (zeba’ marom), Isa. 24:21; ‘the host of heaven’ (zeba’ shamaim), Deu. 17:3 (see also Cherubim, Seraphim).

(b) Angels are represented as appearing in human form, and as having many human characteristics:

they speak like men (1Ki. 19:5); they eat (Gen. 18:8); they fight (Gen. 32:1; JL 4:11, (Joe. 3:11), cf. 2Sa. 5:24); they possess wisdom, with which that of men is compared (2Sa. 14:17, 20); they have imperfections (Job 4:18). On the other hand, they can become Invisible (2Ki. 6:17; Psa. 104:4), and they can fly, if, as appears to be the case, seraphim are to be included under the category of angels (Isa. 6:8).

(c) The functions of angels

may be briefly summarized thus: they guide men, e. g. an angel guides the children of Israel on their way to the promised land (Exo. 23:20 ff., see below), and it is by the guidance of an angel that Abraham’s servant goes in quest of a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:7, 40); in Job 33:23 an angel guides a man in what is right;† [Note: The word used in this passage is not the usual one for angel, though its sense of messenger’ (mçlîz) is the same as that of mal’âkh. ] they are more especially the guides of the prophets (1Ki. 13:18; 19:5 ff., 2Ki. 1:3, 15; Zec. 1:9); they bring evil and destruction upon men (2Sa. 24:16-17; 2Ki. 19:35; Psa. 35:6; 78:49; Job 33:22; in Pro. 16:14 the wrath of a king is likened to angels of death); on the other hand, they are the protectors of men (Psa. 34:8, (7), Psa. 91:11), and save them from destruction (Gen. 19:15 ff.); their power is superhuman (2Ki. 6:17,‡ [Note: Though not specifically stated, angels are obviously referred to here. ] cf. Zec. 12:8); they report to God what is going on upon the earth (Job 1:6; 2:1), for which purpose they are represented as riding on horseback (Zec. 1:8-10, cf. Psa. 18:11 (10), Isa. 19:1§ [Note: Cf. the Walküre in Teutonic mythology. ] ); their chief duty above is that of praising God (Gen. 28:12; Psa. 103:20). Angelic beings seem to be referred to as ‘watchmen’ in Isa. 62:6 and Dan. 4:14 (17). An early mythological element regarding angels is perhaps re-echoed in such passages as Judg. 5:20; Isa. 40:25-26, and elsewhere.

(d) In Ezekiel,

angels, under this designation, are never mentioned, though the angelology of this book ehows considerable development; other names are given to them, but their main function, viz. messengers of God, is the same as in the earlier books; for example, in Eze. 2:2 it is a ‘spirit,’ instead of an ‘angel,’ who acts as an intermediary being, see, too, Eze. 3:12 ff., Eze. 11:5 ff.; in Eze. 8:1 ff., Eze. 40:1 a vision is attributed to ‘the hand of the Lord’; in Eze. 40:3 ff., it is a ‘man’ of a supernatural kind who instructs the prophet; and again, in Eze. 9:5 ff., ‘men,’ though clearly not of human kind (see Eze. 9:11), destroy the wicked in Jerusalem. In Ezk., as well as in Zec., angels take up a very definite position of intermediate beings between God and man, one of their chief functions being that of interpreting visions which Divine action creates in the mind of men; in both these books angels are called ‘men,’ and in both the earlier idea of the ‘Angel of the Lord’ has its counterpart in the prominent position taken up by some particular angel who is the interpreter of visions. In Zec. different orders of angels are for the first time mentioned (Eze. 2:3-4; 3:1-6; 4:1). In Daniel there is a further development; the angels are termed ‘watchers’ (Dan. 4:13, 17), and ‘princes’ (Dan. 10:13); they have names, e. g. Michael (Dan. 10:13; Eze. 12:1), Gabriel (Dan. 8:16), and there are special angels (‘princes’) who fight for special nations (Dan. 10:20-21). As in Zec. so in Daniel there are different orders among the angels, but in the latter book the different categories are more fully developed.

In the attitude taken up in these later books we may see the link between the earlier belief and its development in post-Biblical Jewish literature. The main factors which contributed to this development were, firstly, Babylon; during the Captivity, Babylonian influence upon the Jews asserted itself in this as well as in other respects; according to Jewish tradition the names of the angels came from Babylon. Secondly, Persian influence was of a marked character in post-exilic times; the Zoroastrian belief that Ormuzd had a host of pure angels of light who surrounded him and fulfilled his commands, was a ready-made development of the Jewish belief, handed down from much earlier times, that angels were the messengers of Jahweh. Later still, a certain amount of Greek influence was also exercised upon Jewish angelology.

2. The Apocrypha.

Some of the characteristics of angels here are identical with some of those found in the OT, viz.: they appear in human form (2Est. 1:40), they speak like men (To 2Est. 5:6 ff.), they guide men (2Est. 5:21), they bring destruction upon men (1Ma 7:41-42); on the other hand, they heal men (Tob 3:17), their power is superhuman (Tob 12:19; Bel 34ff., Three 26), and they praise God (2Est. 8:21; Three 37). The angelology of the Apocrypha is, however, far more closely allied to that of Ezk., Zec., and Daniel than the angelology of these to that of the rest of the OT; this will be clearly seen by enumerating briefly the main characteristics of angels as portrayed in the Apocrypha.

In 2 Esdras an angel frequently appears as an instructor of heavenly things; thus in 2Est. 10:28 an angel causes Esdras to fall into a trance in order to receive instruction in spiritual matters; in 2Est. 2:42; after an angel has instructed Esdras, the latter is commanded to tell others what he had learned; sometimes an angel is identified with God, e. g. in 2Est. 5:40-41; 2 7:3; but usually there is very distinct differentiation; sometimes the angel seems almost to be the alter ego of Esdras, arguing with himself (cf. 2Est. 5:21-22; 2 12:3 ff.). In Tob 12:6-15 there are some important details,—here an angel instructs in manner of life, but more striking is the teaching that he brings to remembrance before God the prayers of the faithful, and that he superintends the burial of the dead;* [Note: Cf., in Egyptian belief, the similar functions of Isis and Nephthys. ] he has a name, Raphael,† [Note: Names of angels occur also in 2 Esdras, viz.: Jeremiel (2Est. 4:36), Phaltiel (2Est. 5:16), and Uriel (2Est. 10:28).] and is one of the seven holy angels (‘archangels’) who present the prayers of the saints, and who go constantly in and out before the presence of God; that there are ranks among the angels is thus taught here more categorically than in the later Biblical books.

Further, the idea of guardian-angels is characteristic of the Apocrypha; that individuals have their guardian-angels is clearly implied in To Tob 5:21; that armies have such is taught in 2Ma 11:6; 2Ma 15:23; while in 2Ma 3:25 ff. occurs a Jewish counterpart of the Roman legend of Castor and Pollux; there is possibly, in Sir 17:17; an indication that nations also have their guardian-angels;* [Note: Cf. this idea in the case of the Angel of the Lord (which see.)] if so, it would be the lineal descendant of the early Israelite belief in national gods. The dealings of angels with men are of a very varied character, for besides the details already enumerated, we have these further points: in Bar 6:3 ff. an angel is to be the means whereby the Israelites in Babylon shall be helped to withstand the temptation to worship the false gods of the land; in To Bar 6:7; Bar 6:16-17 an angel describes a method whereby an evil spirit may be driven away; in Bar 6:8 an angel gives a remedy for healing blindness; in Bel 34ff. an angel takes the prophet Habakkuk by the hair and carries him from Judah to Babylonia, in order that he may share his dinner with Daniel in the lion’s den; and, once more, in Three 26, 27 an angel smites the flame of the furnace into which the three heroes had been cast, and makes a cool wind to blow in its place (cf. Dan. 3:23 ff.).

It will thus be seen that the activities of angels are, according to the Apocrypha, of a very varied character. One further important fact remains to be noted: they are almost invariably the benefactors of man, their power far transcends that of man, sometimes an angel is identified with God, yet in spite of this, with one possible exception 2Ma 4:10-13, no worship is ever offered to them; this is true also of the OT, excepting when an angel is identified with Jahweh; in the NT there is at least one case of the worship of an angel, Rev. 22:8-9; cf. Col. 2:18. The angelology of the Apocrypha is expanded to an almost unlimited extent in later Jewish writings, more especially in the Book of Enoch, in the Targums, and in the Talmud; but with these we are not concerned here.

3. New Testament.—

(a) In the Gospels

it is necessary to differentiate between what is said by Christ Himself on the subject and what is narrated by the Evangelists. Christ’s teaching regarding angels may be summed up thus: Their dwelling-place is in heaven (Mat. 18:10; Luk. 12:8-9; Joh. 1:51); they are superior to men, but in the world to come the righteous shall be on an equality with them (Luk. 20:36); they carry away the souls of the righteous to a place of rest (Luk. 16:22); they are (as seems to be implied) of neither sex (Mat. 22:30); they are very numerous (Mat. 26:53); they will appear with Christ at His second coming [it is in connexion with this that most of Christ’s references to angels are made Mat. 13:39; 16:27; 24:31; 25:31; Mar. 8:38; Luk. 9:26; cf. Joh. 1:51]; there are bad as well as good angels (Mat. 25:41), though it is usually of the latter that mention is made; they are limited in knowledge (Mat. 24:36); there are guardian-angels of children (Mat. 18:10); they rejoice at the triumph of good (Luk. 15:10). Turning to the Evangelists, we find that the main function of angels is to deliver God’s messages to men (e. g. Mat. 1:20; 2:10; 28:5; Luk. 1:28; 24:23). On only one occasion are angels brought into direct contact with Christ (Mat. 4:11; with the parallel passage Mar. 1:13), and it is noteworthy that in the corresponding verse in the Third Gospel (Luk. 4:13) there is no mention of angels. Thus the main differences between Christ’s teaching on angels and that which went before are that they are not active among men, their abode and their work are rather in the realms above; they are not the intermediaries between God and men, for it is either Christ Himself, or the Holy Spirit, who speaks directly to men; much emphasis is laid on their presence with Christ at His second coming. On the other hand, the earlier belief is reflected in the Gospel angelophanles, which are a marked characteristic of the Nativity and Resurrection narratives; though here, too, a distinct and significant difference is found in that the angel is always clearly differentiated from God.

(b) In the Acts

there seems to be a return to the earlier beliefs, angelic appearances to men being frequently mentioned (Act. 5:19; 7:30; 11:13; 12:8; etc.); their activity in the affairs of men is in somewhat startling contrast with the silence of Christ on the subject. It is possible that most of the references in the Acts will permit of an explanation in the direction of the angelical appearances being subjective visions (e. g. Act. 8:26; 10:3; 27:23-24); but such occurrences as are recorded in Act. 5:19-20; 12:7 (both belonging to the Petrine ministry) would require a different explanation; while that mentioned in Act. 12:23 would seem to be the popular explanation of an event which could easily be accounted for now in other ways. The mention, in Act. 12:15; of what is called St. Peter’s ‘angel’ gives some insight into the current popular views concerning angels; it seems clear that a distinction was made between an angel and a spirit (Act. 23:8-9).

(c) In the Pauline Epistles

the origin of angels is stated to be their creation by Christ (Col. 1:16); as in the Acts, they are concerned with the affairs of men (1Co. 4:9; 11:10; Rom. 8:38; 1Ti. 5:21); at the same time St. Paul emphasizes the teaching of Christ that God speaks to men directly, and not through the intermediacy of angels (Gal. 1:12; cf. Act. 9:5); in Col. 2:18 a warning against the worshipping of angels is uttered, with which compare the worshipping of demons in 1Co. 10:21; in accordance with Christ’s teaching St. Paul speaks of the presence of angels at the Second Coming (2Th. 1:7).

(d) In the Epistle to the Hebrews

the standpoint, as would be expected, is that of the OT, while in the Apocalypse the angelology is that common to other apocalyptic literature (cf. also the archangel of Jud 1:9).

W. O. E. Oesterley.

More Resources on Angels (Angelology)

If you have the free Bible program, TheWord, you can follow  the links for Books on Angels in my library and download these resources and do an intense study on angelology. Note that some of the books below have a very good chapter on “angels” within say a doctrines or systematic theology book. Please take that into consideration when viewing the links.

Angels – Hastings Christ and Gospels Dictionary

ANGELS.—The statements as to angels which meet us in the Gospels are in most respects the same as are found in the Jewish literature of the period, both Biblical and extra-Biblical. In the main, Christ and His Apostles appropriated the Angelology of current Judaism—but not without critical selection. It would be difficult to point to a time when the Jews, as a people, did not believe in angels; yet there were exceptions. Possibly it was the exuberance of the belief that produced in some minds a reaction. At all events, it is a fact that the portion of the OT known to criticism as the Priests’ Code is silent on the subject of angels; and it is also noteworthy that the Sadducees, who were the descendants of the high-priestly families, protested in the time of our Lord against some, if not all, of the popular notions respecting angels (Act. 23:8).

It is probable that belief in angels is originally a corollary from the conception of God as King. A lone king—a king without a court—is almost a contradiction in terms. And inasmuch as the recognition of God as King is the earliest and most prevalent of Israel’s conceptions of God, we naturally expect the belief in angels, as God’s court, serving Him in His palace and discharging the function of messengers, to be ancient and pervasive. We have then, doubtless, a very primitive conception of angels in the words of Micaiah to Ahab, in 1Ki. 22:19 ‘I saw Jahweh sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him, on his right hand and on his left.’ A second and quite distinct feature of the Angelology of the OT is found in the appearances of one who is called ‘the Angel of Jahweh’—who is described as undistinguishable from man in appearance, and yet claims to speak and act in the name of Jahweh Himself (Gen. 18:2, 16-17; 32:24, 30; Judg. 13:3, 6; 13:22). It is noteworthy as a feature of OT criticism, that, as P [Note: Priestly Narrative. ] is silent as to angels, so the appearances of an angel as a manlike manifestation of God and not a mere messenger, are confined to those portions of the OT which, on quite other grounds, are assigned to JE [Note: E Jewish Encyclopedia. ] . Thirdly, when the Jews came to have more exalted views of God, and of the incompatibility between Divinity and humanity, spirit and matter, good and evil, and, in consequence, conceived of God as aloof from the world and incapable of immediate contact and intercourse with sinful mortals, the doctrine of angels received more attention than ever before. The same influences which led the Persians to frame such an elaborate system of Angelology, led the Jews, during and after the Exile, to frame a similar system, or in some respects to borrow from the Persian system; to believe in gradations among the angelic hosts; to give names to those who were of high rank, and to assign to each of these some definite kind of work to do among men, or some province on the earth to administer as satrap under ‘the King of Heaven’ (see art. ‘Zoroastrianism’ in vol. iv. of Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible ).

In the Gospels there are clear indications of the first and third of these phases of belief. The second is of interest to the NT student as a preparatory discipline in the direction of Christology: and as such has no further importance for us at present. Ewald has said (OT and NT Theology, p. 79) that in Christianity there is ‘no denial of the existence of angels, but a return to the simpler colouring of the early narratives.’ So far as simplicity of narrative is concerned, there is certainly a close resemblance between the angel-incidents of St. Luke and Acts on the one hand, and of Genesis on the other; but in the NT the angel never identifies himself with Jahweh as is done in Genesis; and there are in the NT some phases of Angelology which belong, not to ‘the early narratives,’ but to post-exilic conceptions.

We wish now, with the help of Jewish literature, more or less contemporary, to make a systematic presentation of those beliefs as to angels which are found in the discourses and narratives of the four Gospels. It might be supposed that we should find it helpful to keep apart the utterances of our Lord from the descriptions of the Evangelists; but, in fact, there is such complete unity of conception underlying both discourses and narratives, that no useful purpose can be served by treating them separately.
i. Angels in Heaven.—

1. They form an army or host.

Luk. 2:13 ‘There was with the angel (who appeared to the shepherds) a multitude of the heavenly host’ (στρατιά). Our Lord carries the military metaphor even further when He speaks of ‘more than 12 legions of angels’ (Mat. 26:53). Oriental hyperbole was fully employed in expressing the magnitude of the heavenly army. Rev. 5:11 speaks of ‘myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands’; and Heb. 12:22 speaks of ‘the myriads of angels’—both in probable allusion to Dan. 7:10. In Job 25:3 also the question is asked: ‘Is there any number of his armies?’ Similarly the Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian. ] Targ. [Note: Targum. ] to Exo. 12:12 tells of 90, 000 myriads of destroying angels; and in Deu. 34:5 the same Targum speaks of the glory of the Shekinah being revealed to the dying Moses, with 2000 myriads of angels and 42, 000 chariots; as 2Ki. 6:17 tells of a ‘mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.’

2. They form a court.

Heaven is ‘God’s throne’ (Mat. 5:34; 23:22), and there also ‘the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory’ (Mat. 19:28). The angels, as courtiers, stand in vast multitudes before the throne (Rev. 5:11; 7:11). As in earthly courts there are gradations of rank and dignity, so in heaven. It is St. Paul who speaks most explicitly of ‘the principalities and powers in the heavenly places’ (Eph. 3:10), and of Christ’s being ‘exalted far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion’ (Eph. 1:21); and ‘evidently Paul regarded them as actually existent and intelligent forces’ (Robinson, in loco); but the same conception presents itself in the Gospels in the reference to archangels, who were four, or in some authors seven, in number: Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, and Uriel being those most frequently mentioned. In Luk. 1:19 the angel who appears to Zacharias says: ‘I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God’; as in Tob 12:15 the angel says to Tobit: ‘I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints and go in before the glory of the Holy One.’ Even in the OT the angels are spoken of as forming ‘a council’: e. g. in Psa. 89:7; where God is said to be ‘very terrible in the council of the holy ones,’ and in Psa. 82:1 where He is said to ‘judge amidst the Elohîm.’ This idea was a great favourite with later Jews, who maintained that ‘God does nothing without consulting the family above’ (Sanhedrin 38b). To the same circle of ideas belong the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘Every one that shall confess me before men, him will the Son of Man confess before the angels of God; but he that denieth me in the presence of men shall be denied in the presence of the angels of God’ (Luk. 12:8-9). Evidently the angels are interested spectators of men’s behaviour, responsive to their victories and defeats, their sins and struggles; and we are here taught that to be denied before such a vast responsive assembly intensifies the remorse of the apostate, as to be confessed before them intensifies the joy of those who are ‘faithful unto death.’ Again, in many courts, and particularly in that of the Persians, there were secretaries or scribes, whose business it was to keep a ‘book of records’ (Est. 6:1), in which the names and deeds of those who had deserved well of the king were honourably recorded. The metaphor of heaven as a palace and court is so far kept up, that the Jews often spoke of books in heaven in which men’s deeds are recorded. Not only do we read in Slavonic Enoch 19:5 of ‘angels who are over the souls of men, and who write down all their works and their lives before the face of the Lord’; and in the Apocalypse of John, where symbolism abounds, of ‘books’ being ‘opened,’ and of the ‘dead’ being ‘judged according to what was written in the books’: but even in an Epistle of St. Paul we read of those ‘whose names are in the book of life’ (Php 4:3), and in Heb. 12:23; of ‘the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven’; and precisely in accord with the above our Lord bade

His disciples rejoice, because their names ‘are written in heaven,’ i. e. enrolled for honour (Luk. 10:20).

3. They form a choir in the heavenly temple.

The description of heaven in the Apocalypse is quite as much that of a temple as a palace. Heaven contains its altar (Rev. 8:5; 9:13), its censers (Rev. 5:8; 8:3), its musicians (Rev. 5:8; 15:2), and its singers (Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3). In extra-Biblical literature the veil is often mentioned, concealing the abode of God in the Most Holy Place, within which the archangels are permitted to enter (Tob 12:12; Tob 12:15; Enoch 40:2). The only reference in the Gospels under this head is the song of the angels, described in Luk. 2:13 f. It is possible, in spite of the reading of some very ancient Greek MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts. ] (א* ABD), that this song, like that of the seraphim in Isa. 6:2; is a triple antiphonal one—

‘Glory to God in the highest [heaven],Peace on earth,
Among men [Divine] good pleasure.’

4. They are ‘sons of God.’

In this respect the saints who are raised again are ‘equal to the angels’ (Luk. 20:36). They are sons of God by creation and by obedience (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). They ‘do not owe their existence to the ordinary process of filiation, but to an immediate act of creation’ (Godet, OT Studies 7); thus resembling in their origin the bodily nature of those who are ‘sons of the resurrection.’ Hence we find that they are frequently described as ‘holy’ (Mat. 25:31; Mar. 8:38; Luk. 9:26; Job 5:1; 15:15; Dan. 8:13), and by implication we learn that angels obey God’s will in heaven, since we are taught by our Lord to pray that God’s holy will may be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10; cf. Psa. 103:20).

5. They are free from sensuous feelings.

This is taught in Mat. 22:30 ‘In the resurrection they neither marry [as men] nor are given in marriage [as women], but are as the angels of God in heaven.’ These words were spoken by our Lord in response to the doubts of the Sadducees on the subject of the resurrection. Christ’s reply is in effect this: The source of your error is that you do not fully recognize the power of God. You seem to think that God can make only one kind of body, with one sort of functions, and dependent on one means of life. In that way you limit unduly the power of God. ‘In that age’ (Luk. 20:35), ‘when they rise from the dead’ (Mar. 12:25), men do not eat and drink (Rom. 14:17). Not being mortal, they are not dependent on food for nourishment, nor have they, by nature, sensuous appetites, but are ἰσάγγελοι (‘equal to the angels’). Thus skilfully did Jesus give a double-edged reply to the teachings of the Sadducees (Act. 23:8). While answering their objection against the resurrection, He affirms that ‘those who are accounted worthy to attain to that αἰών, and the resurrection from the dead … are equal to the angels’—thus plainly disclosing His belief in angels and setting it over against their disbelief. As to the spiritual nature of angels, Philo speaks of them as ἀσώματοι καὶ εὐδαίμονες ψυχαί (‘incorporeal and happy souls’); and again, as ‘bodiless souls, not mixtures of rational and irrational natures as ours are, but having the irrational nature cut out, wholly intelligent throughout, pure-thoughts (λογισμοί, elsewhere λόγοι) like a monad (Drummond’s Philo 145–147; cf. Philo’s Confusion of Tongues, p. 8, Allegory, iii. 62). The Rabbis interpreted Dan. 7:10 to teach that the nature of the angels is fire. ‘They are nourished by the radiance which streams from the presence of God. They need no material nourishment, and their nature is not responsive to bodily pleasures’ (Weber, Jud. Theol. 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] 167; Pesikta 57a; Exodus R. 32). They are also said to be ‘spiritual beings’ (Lev. R. 24), ‘without sensuous requirements’ (Yoma 74b), ‘without hatred, envy, or jealousy’ (Chag. 14). The Jewish legends which interpret Gen. 6:4 as teaching a commingling of angels with women, so as to produce ‘mighty men, men of renown,’ seem at variance with the above belief as to the immunity of celestial intelligences from all passion. It is true that Jud 1:6 and Enoch 15:3–7 both speak of the angels as having first ‘left their habitation’ in heaven; but the fact that they were deemed capable of sexual intercourse implies a much coarser conception of the angelic nature than is taught in the words of our Lord, of Philo, and of the Talmud.

6. They have extensive, and yet limited, knowledge.

This is clearly taught in one utterance of Christ’s, recorded in Mat. 24:36 || Mar. 13:32 ‘Of that day and hour knoweth no man, not even the angels of heaven.’ The implications clearly are (1) that angels know most things, far better than men; but (2) that there are some things, including the day of the Second Advent, which they do not know. Both these propositions admit of copious illustration from Jewish literature. First, as to their extensive knowledge. There are numerous intimations of the scientific skill of the angels, their acquaintance with the events of human lives, and their prescience of future events. The Book of Jubilees, a pre-Christian work extensively read, affirms (Jubilees 1:27) that Moses was taught by Gabriel concerning Creation and the things narrated in Genesis; that angels taught Noah herbal remedies (Jubilees 10:12), and brought to Jacob seven tablets recording the history of his posterity (Jubilees 32:21). In Enoch 8:1 Azazel is said to have taught men metallurgy and other sciences; as Prometheus was said to have taught the Greeks. In Tob 12:12 the angel assures Tobit that he was familiar with all the events of his troublous days: as in 2Sa. 14:17, 20 the woman of Tekoa flatters Joah that he was ‘as wise as an angel of God to know all things that are in the earth.’ But this knowledge has its limits. Angels were supposed to understand no language but Hebrew (Chagigah 16a). In 2Est. 4:52; in revealing eschatological events, the angel gives the tokens of the coming end, but confesses his ignorance as to whether Esdras will be alive at the time. The Midrash on Psa. 25:14 affirms that ‘nothing is hidden from the angels’; but according to Sanhedrin 99a, and other Talmudic passages, ‘they know not the time of Israel’s redemption.’ In 1Pe. 1:12 we are told that ‘the angels desire’ (but in vain) ‘to look into’ some of the NT mysteries; and in Slav. Enoch 24:3; 40:2; Enoch tells his children that not even the angels know the secrets which he discloses to them.

7. They take a deep interest in the salvation of men.

We gather this from the evident joy with which angels announced the advent of the Messiah to the shepherds at Bethlehem. The angel who brought the ‘tidings of great joy’ (Luk. 2:10) clearly felt the joy himself; and the song which the heavenly host sang in praise to God was the outcome of joyous hearts. Even more explicitly is this taught in Luk. 15:10 ‘There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.’ The word ἐνώπιον seems here to mean ‘in the midst of,’ ‘among.’ ‘Joy is manifest on every countenance.’ Even if the joy intended be ‘the joy of God, which breaks forth in presence of the angels’ (Godet, in loco), still the implication would be that the heart of the angelic throng is en rapport with the heart of ‘the happy God.’

On this point the words of the angel are instructive which are recorded in Rev. 22:10 ‘I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book.’ The interpreting angel confesses to unity of service with the Church, and in so doing implies a oneness of sympathy and love with the saints. So also when, in 1Pe. 1:12; we read that ‘the angels desire to look into’ the marvels of redemption, there is, as Dr. Hort says, ‘a glimpse of the fellowship of angels with prophets and evangelists, and implicitly with the suffering Christians to whom St. Peter wrote.’ The same deep interest in the progress of the Church appears in Eph. 3:10; where we are taught that one great purpose which moved God to enter on the work of human salvation was, that ‘through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.’ The Church on earth is the arena on which the attributes of God are displayed for the admiration and adoration of ‘the family in heaven’ (Eph. 3:15).

ii. Angels as Visitants to Earth.—

1. To convey messages from God to man.—

(a) In dreams.

It is a peculiarity of the Gospel of the Infancy, as recorded by St. Matthew, that the appearances of the angels are in dreams to Joseph, bidding him acknowledge Mary as his wife (Mat. 1:20), take the young child and His mother to Egypt (Mat. 2:13), and return to Palestine on the death of Herod (Mat. 2:19). The only OT parallel to this is Gen. 31:11; where Jacob tells his wives that ‘the angel of God spake’ to him ‘in a dream.’

(b) In other instances, the message of the angel is brought in full, wakeful consciousness.

It was while Zacharias was ministering at the altar of incense in the Holy Place that an angel who called himself Gabriel appeared, foretelling the birth of John (Luk. 1:11). It was while the shepherds were keeping watch over their flock that the angel stood near them and directed them to the babe in Bethlehem (Luk. 2:9, 11); and it is narrated by the three Synoptists that it was through angelic agency that the disciples were informed of the Resurrection. St. Matthew narrates that it was an angel who had ‘descended from heaven’ (Mat. 28:2), that spoke to the women at the tomb (Mat. 28:5, 7). St. Mark speaks of a young man ‘arrayed in a white robe’ (Mar. 16:5), and St. Luke of ‘two men in dazzling apparel’ (Luk. 24:4), who assured the women that Christ was risen. The author of the Fourth Gospel is silent as to angelic appearances at the Resurrection, but he bears testimony to the popular belief in angelic voices (Joh. 12:29). When a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have glorified and will again glorify (my name),’ the Evangelist records: ‘Some of the people said, An angel spake to him.’

We reserve for special consideration the sacredly mysterious interview of the angel Gabriel with the Virgin Mary (Luk. 1:26-38). The salutation of the angel was: ‘Hail, thou favoured one! The Lord is with thee.’ When she was perplexed at the saying, the angel announced: ‘Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bear a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.’ This Son is further described as ‘Son of the Most High’ and He to whom ‘the Lord God will give the throne of his father David.’ Then, in reply to the Virgin’s further doubts and perplexities, the angel vouchsafes the dread explanation, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power (δύναμις) of the Most High shall overshadow thee.… No word from God shall be devoid of power.’ The full consideration of these words will be fittingly considered under Annunciation (which see). On us it seems to devolve to speak of the view which arose very early in Jewish Christian circles, and which regarded the angel as not merely the messenger, but the cause of the conception. It was a general belief among the Jews that a spoken word has causal efficacy. This lay at the root of the belief in the potency of spells and charms. And if every spoken word is mighty, the words of God are almighty. The expression ‘No word from (παρά) God shall be devoid of power’ (Luk. 1:37) was accordingly interpreted to mean that the message brought from God through the angel had causal efficacy: the Divine word spoken by the angel caused the conception. In the Protevangelium of James (11:2) the angel is recorded to have said: ‘Thou shalt conceive from His word’ (ἐκ τοῦ λόγου αὐτοῦ), and the same expression occurs in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. This is the origin of the curious doctrine of the ancient Church, that the Virgin conceived through the ear. The word of the angel, which was a Divine message, reached the Virgin through the ear. The ear was thus believed to be the channel through which the Divine potency was operative. Even Augustine says: ‘Virgo per aurem impregnabatur.’ As bearing on this subject, we may note that in the Ascension of Isaiah the angel Gabriel is called ‘the angel of the Holy Spirit’ (3:18; 7:23; 9:36). In pseudo-Matthew (c. 10), Joseph says: ‘Why do ye mislead me to believe that an angel of the Lord hath made her pregnant?’ and in the Protevangelium of James the Virgin explains her condition to Joseph in these words: ‘The case is the same as it was with Adam whom God created. He said, “Let him be”; and he was.’

2. Angels as performing physical actions.

This is an ancient representation of which the OT furnishes many instances: Psa. 91:11 f. (cited Mat. 4:8; Luk. 4:10 f.), ‘angels … shall bear thee up on their hands’; in Dan. 6:22 angels shut the lions’ mouths; in Psa. 34:7 angels encamp round about them that fear God; so in Apocrypha (Bel 36, Three 26). It is therefore precisely in accord with Jewish modes of thought that we read in Mat. 28:2 ‘There was a great earthquake: for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone’; and in Mar. 1:13 ‘He was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him’ (cf. Mat. 4:11).

3. As performing psychical actions.

When Jesus was in the garden, and ‘being in an agony prayed more earnestly,’ we are told that ‘there appeared to him an angel from heaven strengthening him’ (Luk. 22:43).* [Note: On the question of the genuineness of this passage see the ‘Notes on Select Readings’ in Westcott and Hort’s NT in Greek. ] So in Dan. 10:17 f. Daniel records that there was ‘no strength in him, and no breath left in him,’ and an angel ‘touched him and strengthened him.’ The Hebrews drew no distinction between the physical and the psychical. It was in their regard just as easy for these spiritual existences to roll away a stone as to infuse vigour into the system, and give power to the enfeebled nerves and will.

4. Angels are deputed to guard the righteous from danger.

In Gen. 24:7 Abraham prays for his servant: ‘May God send his angel before thee’; and Jacob saw angels ‘ascending and descending’ over him in his sleep (Gen. 28:12). In the time of Christ it was a Jewish belief not merely that angels are sent to guide and guard men, but also that every man has his own guardian spirit, or, as others teach, two guardians. In the Talmudic treatise Berakhoth (60b), when a man goes into an unclean place, he prays his guardian angels to wait outside till be returns. In Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian. ] Targum to Gen. 33:10 Jacob says to Esau, ‘I have seen thy face as if I saw the face of thy angel’; on Gen. 48:16 the same Targum reads: ‘May the angel whom thou hast assigned to me bless the lads.’ Similarly the Sohar to Exodus (p. 190) says: ‘From the 13th year of a man and onwards, God assigns to every man two angels, one on the right hand and one on the left; and the Testament of Joseph (circa (about) 6) names the angel of Abraham as the guardian of Joseph. It is here more than elsewhere that we seem to recognize the influence of Persia on Jewish beliefs.

The question now occurs, What connexion is there between the above and Mat. 18:10 ‘See that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of my Father who is in heaven’? It is evident that ‘their angels’ means angels that watch over them. But did our Lord refer to the ‘angels of the presence’ or to individual guardian angels? The former is more probable for two reasons—(1) It was not part of the Jewish creed that any angels behold the face of God except the archangels; (2) the guardian spirits accompanying men on earth could hardly at the same time be said to be in heaven continually beholding the face of the Father who is in heaven. The allusion probably is, then, to the ‘angels of the presence,’ and especially to Michael the guardian of the pious and the helpless. It must be admitted that in Act. 12:15 we seem to have the popular Jewish notion in all its later development. When many brethren were met in the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, and were unable to believe that Peter had really been delivered, they said to Rhoda, first, ‘Thou art mad,’ and then, ‘It is his angel.’ This, if pushed to its apparent implications, seems to contain an allusion to a notion which occurs in some Jewish writings, that heaven is a counterpart of earth, and every man has his double in the celestial sphere; or at all events the guardian angel is like him whom he guards. It is quite likely, however, that on the lips of the disciples these words might be merely an allusion to a popular conception, without carrying with them any literal belief.

5. Angels visit wrath on the adversaries of the righteous.

This is implied in Christ’s words: ‘See that ye despise not one of these little ones’ (Mat. 18:10). The word ὀρᾶτε implies ‘beware!’ and the teaching clearly is that angels are capable of punishing any who injure those whom it is their business to guard. The OT contains instances of their punitive abilities. It was an angel of the Lord who smote 185, 000 in the camp of the Assyrians (2Ki. 19:35), and who destroyed the children of Israel till, when he came to Jerusalem, the Lord said to him, ‘It is enough’ (2Sa. 24:16); and Psa. 35:5 f. presents a picture calculated to inspire terror in every breast: ‘Let them be as chaff before the wind, the angel of the Lord driving them on. Let their way be dark and slippery, the angel of the Lord pursuing them.’ It is very noteworthy that the Lord Jesus, even in His hour of intensest agony, drew comfort from the thought of angelic help. It was a real comfort to Him that the angels were at His control, if He needed them. The military band led by Judas could not arrest or injure Him unless He voluntarily submitted Himself to them. He had ‘authority to lay down’ His ‘life’; and when the struggle was over, and the resolve retaken that the path of the cross was the path of duty, he conveyed to the Eleven the fact of His self-surrender by saying of Peter, who had impetuously used the sword in his Lord’s defence, ‘Thinkest thou that I cannot now beseech the Father, and he would even now send me more than twelve legions of angels’? (Mat. 26:53). We note here that the prayer is not to be addressed to angels. There are very few instances of Jews praying to angels. The Rabbis discouraged it. Every pious Jew would, as Jesus did, pray to God that He would send angelic ministry; as in 2Ma 15:23; where Judas is said to have prayed: ‘O sovereign Lord, send a good angel before us to bring terror and trembling.’

6. Angels render aid at death.

Luk. 16:22 ‘Lazarus was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.’ We come here upon a widespread belief among Jews and Jewish Christians—that angels convey the souls of the righteous to Paradise. Michael is usually the one entrusted with this duty. If he has a companion, it is Gabriel. The Gospel of Nieodemus records that when Jesus descended into Hades and released the righteous dead from captivity, He delivered Adam and all the righteous to the archangel Michael, and all the saints followed Michael; and he led them all into the glorious gate of Paradise: among them being the penitent thief. The History of Joseph the Carpenter records that Michael and Gabriel drew out the soul of Joseph and wrapped it in a silken napkin, and amid the songs of angels took him to his good Father, even to the dwelling-place of the just. In the Testament of Abraham we have a similar account of the death of Abraham. The Ascension of Isaiah (7:25) affirms that ‘those who love the Most High and His Beloved will ascend to heaven by the Angel of the Holy Spirit.’

7. Angels are to be the ministrants of Christ at His Second Advent.

‘The reapers’ in the great Harvest ‘are angels’; and they separate the tares from the wheat (Mat. 13:39). ‘The Son of Man will send forth his angels to gather out all that offend’ (Mat. 13:41). ‘He shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him’ (Mat. 25:31). ‘He shall send forth his angels with the great sound of a trumpet to gather the elect’ (Mat. 24:31; cf. 1Th. 4:17; 2Th. 1:7).
8. To complete our survey, we must add one word as to the appearance of angels when men were conscious of their presence. It is taken for granted that there needs to be a preparation of vision before man can recognize their presence. As Balaam was unaware that the angel confronted him until the Lord opened his eyes (Num. 22:31), and as Elisha prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant (2Ki. 6:17), so when the risen Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus, those who travelled with him ‘saw no man’ (Act. 9:7). (a) Angels had a manlike appearance. As Abraham and Manoah’s wife mistook them for men (Gen. 18:16; Judg. 13:6), so, in describing the Resurrection, St. Mark says that the women ‘saw a young man’ (Mar. 16:5), and St. Luke that ‘two men stood by them’ (Luk. 24:4).—(b) Their appearance was usually with brilliant light or ‘glory.’ When the angel appeared to the shepherds, ‘the glory of the Lord shone round about them’ (Luk. 2:9), and when the Son of Man cometh, He will come ‘in the glory of the holy angels’ (Luk. 9:26). So in Tob 3:16; Cod. B reads: ‘The prayer of both was heard before the glory of the great Raphael’; in 2Ma 3:26 two young men appeared, ‘notable in their strength and beautiful in their glory’; and the Protevangelium of James narrates that ‘an angel of the Lord appeared in the great light to Joachim.’—(c) They wear raiment of great luminousness. Mat. 28:3 ‘His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow’; cf. Dan. 10:6; Eze. 1:13; Rev. 1:14; 19:12. So Apocalypse, Apocalyptic of Peter says of the angels, ‘their body was whiter than any snow.’

iii. Differences between NT and Rabbinism as to Angels.

—We undertook to show that ‘in the main Christ and His Apostles appropriated the Angelology of Judaism’; and the above systematic treatment has surely rendered this evident. It has often been observed that ‘Jesus says very little about angels’; and, so far as the bulk, of His sayings is concerned, this is quite true; but when we classify His utterances, we find that they constitute almost a complete Angelology; and so far as it goes, it is in harmony with the Jewish beliefs of the period. The Jews believed all that the NT says of angels, but they also believed much more.

1. It is very significant that the Gospels are silent as to the mediation of angels.

In Judaism this was very prominent. In Tobit, e. g., one great function of angels is said to be to carry the prayers of saints within the veil, before the glory of the Holy One (Tob 12:12; Tob 12:15). In Enoch 40:6 the seer says: ‘And the third voice heard I pray and intercede for those who dwell on the earth, and supplicate in the name of the Lord of spirits.’ In the Greek Apocalypse, Apocalyptic of Baruch (c. 11), Michael is said to have a great receptacle in which the prayers of men are placed to be carried through the gates into the presence of the Divine glory (Texts and Studies, v. i. 100). In the Midrash Exodus Rabba 21 an angel set over the prayers of men is said to weave them into crowns for the Most High.—But not only are the Gospels silent as to the need of angels to be mediators in carrying the prayers and necessities of saints into the unapproachable chamber of the Most High, the teaching of Jesus was designed to counteract such a view of God. When our Lord said: ‘Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things’ (Mat. 6:32); ‘Your heavenly Father feedeth the fowls’ (Mat. 6:26); ‘Thy Father seeth in secret’ (Mat. 6:18); ‘Pray to thy Father who is in secret’ (Mat. 6:6),—He certainly wished to break down the barriers which the Jewish mind had placed between itself and God, and encourage men to come direct to the Father in childlike confidence.

2. In other respects the only difference is, that the Gospels are free from the extravagant embellishment in which the Rabbis indulged, when speaking of angels:

(a) as to their size. The Talmudic treatise Chagigah (13b) says that Sandalfon is taller than his fellows by the length of a journey of 500 years; and the Gospel of Peter (c. 9) tells how the Roman soldiers saw two men descend from heaven, and the head of the two reached unto heaven, but that of Him whom they released from the tomb overpassed the heavens.—(b) As to a fondness for the marvellous in describing their appearance and actions. For instance, Yoma 21a narrates how a high priest was killed by an angel in the Holy of Holies, and the impress of a calf’s foot was found between his shoulders. Joshua ben Hananiah is reported to have told the Emperor Hadrian that God hears the song of new angels every day. When asked whence they come, he replied, ‘From the fiery stream which issues from the throne of God’ (Dan. 7:10); see Bacher, Agada der Tannaiten, i. 178.—(e) The Jews also speculated much as to the origin of the angels, their connexion with the four elements, etc.; and they had ingenious methods of computing their number by Kabbalistic Gematria—the whole thing being the extravaganza of Oriental phantasy.

iv. The objective value of the NT doctrine of Angels.

—The most difficult part of our task now awaits us, to give some account of modern views as to the reality of angels, and to discuss whether there are valid reasons why we, as Christians, are bound to accept the prima facie NT teaching as to the angelic ministry. Every Christian must feel that it is of very great importance to decide whether the Lord Jesus really believed in the objective existence and ministrations of angels. To this question the present writer feels obliged to give an affirmative reply [but see art. Accommodation, above, p. 20], and that for the following reasons: (1) Though Jesus did not speak much concerning angels, yet His recorded sayings cover, with some intentional exceptions, almost the complete Angelology of the Jews—which is evidence that He was, in the main, in agreement with it. (2) If the disciples had been radically mistaken on this subject, surely this is a matter as to which Christ’s words were applicable: ‘If it were not so, I would have told you,’ Joh. 14:2. (3) In controversy with the Sadducees, who were sceptical as to angels, He adroitly gave them such a reply to their objection against the resurrection as to show that the existence and nature of angels was to Him a settled matter, and might be used to elucidate the nature of the resurrection body. There is a wealth of conviction in the words of Jesus: ‘Those who rise again are like the angels.’ (4) Christ made mention of angels not merely in the parables, where we expect symbolism and pictorial illustration, but also in the interpretation (Mat. 13:39, 41, 49). (5) He used the punitive ability of angels to warn men against despising the little ones in His kingdom (Mat. 18:10). Apart from a literal belief in angels, such words are an empty threat. (6) In the time of His most intense agony He evidently derived comfort from the loving sympathy of the ‘cloud of witnesses’; for when He emerges from the trial and its bitterness is past, He assures Peter that, had He permitted it, more than twelve legions of angels would readily have intervened to deliver Him (Mat. 26:53).—Stevens (Theology of NT, p. 80) is impressed by other passages. ‘In several places,’ he says, ‘Christ seems to refer to angels in such a way as to show that He believed in their real existence. He will “come in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mar. 8:38). “Angels in heaven” neither marry nor are given in marriage (Mar. 12:25). Of the hour of his Advent “not even the angels in heaven” know (Mar. 13:32).’

In recent times the views of scholars are much divided on this subject. 1. There are large sections of the universal Church to whom the existence of angels is very real, not only as a matter of theoretical belief, but as a matter of religious experience. They set great value on the services of angels as mediators between themselves, in their sins and needs and miseries, and the holy, infinite God; and they delight to think that the spiritual strength and light and succour which come to them in answer to prayer, reach their low estate through the mediation of angels. We might readily quote from saints of the Greek and Roman Churches on this head, but we prefer to give the ‘disclosures’ of Swedenborg. ‘According to him, we are every moment in the most vital association with the spirits both of heaven and hell. They are the perpetual prompters of our thoughts: they incessantly work by insinuating influences on our loves; and they give force on the one hand to the power of temptation, and on the other fortify the soul, by hidden influx, to resist temptation’ (Rev. G. Bush, Disclosures of Swedenborg 79).

2. There are many who believe in angels theoretically.

They take the teaching of the NT in a thoroughly literal sense. They are prepared to maintain and contend that Jesus Christ believed in the real existence of angels; and, in consequence, a belief in angels forms part of their ‘creed’; but angels have no part in their inner religious life. Some admit, not without regret and self-reproach, that angels do not seem so real to them as they did to Jesus; while others are reluctant to admit that it can be a fault to yearn as they do for heart-to-heart fellowship with God Himself, without the intervention of an angel ministry—to seek for direct interaction with God, without even the holiest angel intervening in the sacredness of the communion. As a specimen of this attitude, we quote from an article in the First Series of the Expositor (viii. 409 ff.) by R. Winterbotham: ‘I do not mean to imply that we disbelieve either the existence or the ministry of angelic beings: we cannot do so without rejecting and denying point blank the unquestioned and unquestionable dicta of our Lord and of His apostles. But I do say that our belief in angels is formal only, or at the best merely poetic. It does not strike its roots down into our religious consciousness, into that inner and unseen, but most real and often passionate, life of the soul towards God and the powers of the world to come.’

3. There are others yet again who set such a high value on the immediacy of the interaction of fellowship with God, believing, as they do, that it was the chief feature of Christ’s teaching to reveal the possibility of fellowship with God as our Father—or led perhaps by scientific predilections to feel that there is now no room for angels in our modern world—that they sweep away the intervention of angels, and are reluctant to admit that the Lord Jesus really believed in their existence. They would believe rather that He accommodated Himself in this matter to current popular notions. For instance, Beyschlag maintains that ‘the immediate relation to the world in which Jesus viewed His heavenly Father left no room for such personal intermediate beings’ [as the Jews of that time believed in]. In passages like Luk. 12:8; 15:10 angels are ‘a poetic paraphrase for God Himself.’ ‘The holy angels of the Son of Man, with whom He will come again in His glory, are the rays of Divine majesty which is then to surround Him with splendour: they are the Divine powers with which He is to waken the dead.’ And again, ‘The most remarkable passage is Mat. 18:10; and it is the very passage which we can least of all take in prosaic literalness. According to it, even the least of the children of men has his guardian angel who at all times has access to the Heavenly Father, viz. to complain to Him of the offences done to his protégé on earth. But as God, according to Jesus, knows what happens to each of His children without needing to be told, in what other way can we conceive this entirely poetical passage, than that in every child of man a peculiar thought of God has to be realized, which stands over his history, like a genius, or guardian spirit, and which God always remembers, so that everything which opposes its realization on earth comes before Him as a complaint?’ (New Test. Theology, i. 86 f.). Dr. Bruce is even more pronounced. In his Epistle to the Hebrews (p. 45) he says: ‘For modern men, the angels are very much a dead theological category. Everywhere in the old Jewish world, they are next to nowhere in our world. They have practically disappeared from the universe in thought and in fact.’ Then, with a strange lapse of the historic sense, he adds: ‘This subject was probably a weariness to the writer of our Epistle. A Jew, and well acquainted with Jewish opinion, and obliged to adjust his argument to it, he was tired, I imagine, of the angelic regime. Too much had been made of it in Rabbinical teaching and in popular opinion. It must not be supposed that he was in sympathy with either.’

A belief in angels among men of to-day depends entirely on one’s religious outlook, one’s general view of God and the world. The man who has scientific proclivities, who has toiled through much doubt and uncertainty before he can sincerely affirm the first article of the Christian creed, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty,’ will probably be reluctant to take more cargo aboard than his faith can carry. In other words, he will employ the Law of Parsimony, ‘Entia praeter necessitatem non multiplicanda sunt,’ and, finding the full satisfaction of his religious needs in direct intercourse with God the Father, will reject, or ignore as superfluous, the ministry of angels. So also the man of mystical tendencies, whose eager desire is to have communion with the Divine—who claims to be endowed with a faculty by which he can cognize God, and receive immediate communications from Him, is also likely to regard the intervention of angels between his spirit and the Divine Spirit as an intrusion. And not less so is this the case with one who has leanings to Pantheism—whether he regards God as altogether immanent in the world, or as both immanent and transcendent. In proportion as one’s thoughts centre on Divine immanence, and as one regards God as more or less identical with Force, variant but transmutable, present everywhere, and everywhere causative, in that proportion are one’s thoughts drawn away from every theological conception but that of the One Great Cause of motion, life, and mind. There is no room for angels.

The only scientific conception which to some minds seems to foster the belief in angels is the Law of Evolution, or, to speak more accurately, the anticipation of gradation of being, encouraged by that law. T. G. Selby, in his volume of sermons headed by one on ‘The Imperfect Angel,’ contends that a true science welcomes the belief in angels as intervening between man and God. ‘It is surely not unscientific,’ he says, ‘to assume the existence of the pure and mighty beings spoken of by seers and prophets of the olden time.’ ‘The spirit of inspiration, in seeking to convey to us some faint hint of the strict and awful and absolute holiness of God, depicts ranks of angels indefinitely higher and better than the choicest saints on earth: and then tells us that these angels, which seem so lofty and stainless and resplendent, are creatures of unwisdom and shortcoming in comparison with the ineffable wisdom and surpassing holiness of God’ (p. 7). Godet in his Biblical Studies on the OT has elaborated a scientific apologia on behalf of angels. He contends that science recognizes three forms of being: species without individuality, in the vegetable world; individuality under bondage to species, in the animal world; individuality overpowering species, in the human race. He holds, therefore, that it is antecedently probable that there is a fourth form of being—individuality without species—each individual owing his existence no longer to parents like himself, but immediately to the Creative Will. This fourth form would exactly be the angel (p. 2 ff.).

It remains now to show that a belief in angels is in precise accord with the fundamental views of God and the world which present themselves in the recorded life and teaching of the Lord Jesus. Were the belief in angels at variance with Christ’s personal religious outlook, we might readily regard it as an excrescence which modern thought might lop off without much detriment; but if it is closely allied to our Lord’s fundamental doctrines, then this will surely confirm the impression arrived at from other evidence, that Jesus sincerely believed in the reality of angels, and would have us derive from the belief the same comfort and support which He did. Where shall we look with more assurance for the first principles of the doctrine of Jesus than to the Lord’s Prayer? There our Saviour taught His disciples to say, ‘Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name.… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Beyond all contradiction, then, it is an axiom of the creed of Jesus that there are beings in heaven who do God’s will. It is generally recognized that Jesus presented to men a conception of God which meets the needs of man’s religious nature, rather than of his reason and intellect. Men of culture and philosophical training may aspire to know God as ‘the One in all,’ ‘the Absolute,’ ‘the First Cause’; and may appeal for support to isolated sayings of the Apostles, but not to sayings of the Master. His sayings owe their eternal permanence to the fact that they appeal to that which is common to all men—the innermost in all men—the heart—the religious nature. To conceive of God as the Absolute, or the First Cause, may satisfy the reason; but before the heart can be satisfied, it must know God as Father, the ‘Father in heaven.’ But the very phrase ‘Father in heaven’ seems to imply that He has sons in heaven. And that this implication is warranted, is irrefragably substantiated by the words which follow: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Surely no one can deny that Christ firmly believed that there are beings in heaven who do God’s will, to say the least, far more perfectly than we do, since their obedience is the model to which we are constantly taught to pray that we may attain. Again, it was the outstanding feature of Judaism to push God aloof from men and the world, whereas Jesus brought God nearer to men, as a Father who takes a minute interest in all that concerns us. But if Jesus thus brought heaven nearer to man, He must, in the very act, have brought the occupants of heaven nearer, and must wish us to believe that they also are deeply interested in our welfare. There is no need that angels should tell God anything that concerns us. He knows already far more than they can tell. Those who object to the doctrine of angels because it interposes a barrier between our prayers and our Father’s love, misunderstand Christ’s teaching. His disclosure of the Fatherliness of God was meant to correct Judaism, in so far as it made angels the bearers of our prayers and the informants to God of our requirements. Those Christians also who approach God through angels contravene in this way Christ’s teaching: and also His example, for in the garden He said to Peter (Mat. 26:53): ‘I could pray the Father, and he would send … angels.’ Christ’s teaching and example both show that it is our duty and privilege to have direct intercourse with God in prayer and fellowship. But this is not to say that there is no room for the ministry of angels. We may still believe that angels are sent on errands of mercy. Indeed, we may well say to those who on this subject are of doubtful mind, as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews said: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service on behalf of those who shall inherit salvation?’ (Mat. 1:14). There is nothing at all in the Gospel doctrine of angels which is at variance with the religious needs of the most cultured among us. It may present difficulties to reason, as everything which is supernatural does; but the heart of man which loves God must surely rejoice to think that the heavenly Father has also a ‘family in heaven’ as on earth (Eph. 3:15). It must always find a responsive chord in the nature of men who allow the heart a place in their creed, to be told that there are beings who ‘continually behold the face of our Father,’ who are deeply interested in us (Mat. 18:10); that our penitence gives the angels joy (Luk. 15:10); that in our times of depression and anguish it may be our privilege to have ‘an angel sent from heaven, strengthening’ us (Luk. 22:43), as in our times of gladness it is our privilege to ‘give thanks to the Father from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named’ (Eph. 3:14 f.).

Literature.—Articles on ‘Angels’ in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible (by Davidson; cf. also Extra Vol. p. 285 ff.), Schenkel’s Bibellexicon (by Schenkel), Riehm’s HWB [Note: WB Handwörterbunch. ] (by Delitzsch). Encyclopaedia Britannica (by Robertson Smith). For Jewish beliefs see Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i. p. 583 ff.; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, vol. ii. Appendix xiii.; Bousset, Religion des Judenthums 313–325; Gfrorer, Urchristenthum, i. 352–378; Weber, Judische Theologie 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] (see Index 8. ‘Engel’); Donehoo, Apocryphal and Legendary Life of Christ; Schiefer, Die religiosen and ethischen Anschauungen des IV Ezrahuches: Kohut, Die Judische Angelologie. On the general subject see Everling, Die Paulinische Angelologie: Latham, The Service of Angels; Martensen, Christian Dogmatics 127 ff.; Expositor, First Series, viii. 409 ff.; Expository Times, iii. 437, vi. 145, 193; Davidson, Theology of OT 289–306; Beyschlag, NT Theology 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , i. 86 ff.

J. T. Marshall.

Angel – ISBE

an’-jel (mal’akh; Septuagint and New Testament, aggelos):
1. Nature, Appearances and Functions
2. The Angelic Host
3. The Angel of the Theophany
1. Appearances
2. The Teaching of Jesus about Angels
3. Other New Testament References

I. Definition and Scripture Terms

The word angel is applied in Scripture to an order of supernatural or heavenly beings whose business it is to act as God’s messengers to men, and as agents who carry out His will. Both in Hebrew and Greek the word is applied to human messengers (1 Kings 19:2; Luke 7:24); in Hebrew it is used in the singular to denote a Divine messenger, and in the plural for human messengers, although there are exceptions to both usages. It is applied to the prophet Haggai (Haggai 1:13), to the priest (Malachi 2:7), and to the messenger who is to prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 3:1). Other Hebrew words and phrases applied to angels are bene ha-‘elohim (Genesis 6:2,4; Job 1:6; 2:1) and bene ‘elim (Psalms 29:1; 89:6), i.e. sons of the ‘elohim or ‘elim; this means, according to a common Hebrew usage, members of the class called ‘elohim or ‘elim, the heavenly powers. It seems doubtful whether the word ‘elohim, standing by itself, is ever used to describe angels, although Septuagint so translates it in a few passages.

The most notable instance is Psalms 8:5; where the Revised Version (British and American) gives, “Thou hast made him but little lower than God,” with the English Revised Version, margin reading of “the angels” for “God” (compare Hebrews 2:7,9); qedhoshim “holy ones” (Psalms 89:5,7), a name suggesting the fact that they belong to God; `ir, `irim, “watcher,” “watchers” (Daniel 4:13,17,23). Other expressions are used to designate angels collectively:

codh, “council” (Psalms 89:7), where the reference may be to an inner group of exalted angels; `edhah and qahal, “congregation” (Psalms 82:1; 89:5); and finally tsabha’, tsebha’oth, “host,” “hosts,” as in the familiar phrase “the God of hosts.”
In New Testament the word aggelos, when it refers to a Divine messenger, is frequently accompanied by some phrase which makes this meaning clear, e.g. “the angels of heaven” (Matthew 24:36). Angels belong to the “heavenly host” (Luke 2:13). In reference to their nature they are called “spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). Paul evidently referred to the ordered ranks of supra-mundane beings in a group of words that are found in various combinations, namely, archai, “principalities,” exousiai, “powers,” thronoi, “thrones,” kuriotetes, “dominions,” and dunameis, also translated “powers.” The first four are apparently used in a good sense in Colossians 1:16, where it is said that all these beings were created through Christ and unto Him; in most of the other passages in which words from this group occur, they seem to represent evil powers. We are told that our wrestling is against them (Ephesians 6:12), and that Christ triumphs over the principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15; compare Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24). In two passages the word archaggelos, “archangel” or chief angel, occurs:
“the voice of the archangel” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and “Michael the archangel” (Jude 1:9).

II. Angels in Old Testament.

1. Nature, Appearances and Functions:

Everywhere in the Old Testament the existence of angels is assumed. The creation of angels is referred to in Psalms 148:2,5 (compare Colossians 1:16). They were present at the creation of the world, and were so filled with wonder and gladness that they “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Of their nature we are told nothing. In general they are simply regarded as embodiments of their mission. Though presumably the holiest of created beings, they are charged by God with folly (Job 4:18), and we are told that “he putteth no trust in his holy ones” (Job 15:15).

References to the fall of the angels are only found in the obscure and probably corrupt passage Genesis 6:1-4, and in the interdependent passages 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6, which draw their inspiration from the Apocryphal book of Enoch. Demons are mentioned (see DEMON); and although Satan appears among the sons of God (Job 1:6; 2:1), there is a growing tendency in later writers to attribute to him a malignity that is all his own (see \SATAN\).

As to their outward appearance, it is evident that they bore the human form, and could at times be mistaken for men (Ezekiel 9:2; Genesis 18:2,16). There is no hint that they ever appeared in female form. The conception of angels as winged beings, so familiar in Christian art, finds no support in Scripture (except, perhaps Daniel 9:21; Revelation 14:6, where angels are represented as “flying”). The cherubim and seraphim (see CHERUB; SERAPHIM) are represented as winged (Exodus 25:20; Isaiah 6:2); winged also are the symbolic living creatures of Eze (Ezekiel 1:6; compare Revelation 4:8).

As above stated, angels are messengers and instruments of the Divine will. As a rule they exercise no influence in the physical sphere. In several instances, however, they are represented as destroying angels:

two angels are commissioned to destroy Sodom (Genesis 19:13); when David numbers the people, an angel destroys them by pestilence (2 Samuel 24:16); it is by an angel that the Assyrian army is destroyed (2 Kings 19:35); and Ezekiel hears six angels receiving the command to destroy those who were sinful in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9:1,5,7). In this connection should be noted the expression “angels of evil,” i.e. angels that bring evil upon men from God and execute His judgments (Psalms 78:49; compare 1 Samuel 16:14). Angels appear to Jacob in dreams (Genesis 28:12; 31:11). The angel who meets Balaam is visible first to the ass, and not to the rider (Numbers 22). Angels interpret God’s will, showing man what is right for him (Job 33:23). The idea of angels as caring for men also appears (Psalms 91:11f), although the modern conception of the possession by each man of a special guardian angel is not found in Old Testament.

2. The Angelic Host:

The phrase “the host of heaven” is applied to the stars, which were sometimes worshipped by idolatrous Jews (Jeremiah 33:22; 2 Kings 21:3; Zechariah 1:5); the name is applied to the company of angels because of their countless numbers (compare Daniel 7:10) and their glory. They are represented as standing on the right and left hand of Yahweh (1 Kings 22:19). Hence God, who is over them all, is continually called throughout Old Testament “the God of hosts,” “Yahweh of hosts,” “Yahweh God of hosts”; and once “the prince of the host” (Daniel 8:11). One of the principal functions of the heavenly host is to be ever praising the name of the Lord (Psalms 103:21; 148:1). In this host there are certain figures that stand out prominently, and some of them are named. The angel who appears to Joshua calls himself “prince of the host of Yahweh” (Joshua 5:14 f). The glorious angel who interprets to Daniel the vision which he saw in the third year of Cyrus (Daniel 10:5), like the angel who interprets the vision in the first year of Belshazzar (Daniel 7:16), is not named; but other visions of the same prophet were explained to him by the angel Gabriel, who is called “the man Gabriel,” and is described as speaking with “a man’s voice” (Daniel 9:21; 8:15). In Daniel we find occasional reference made to “princes”: “the prince of Persia,” “the prince of Greece” (Daniel 10:20). These are angels to whom is entrusted the charge of, and possibly the rule over, certain peoples. Most notable among them is Michael, described as “one of the chief princes,” “the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people,” and, more briefly, “your prince” (Daniel 10:13; 12:1; 10:21); Michael is therefore regarded as the patron-angel of the Jews. In Apocrypha Raphael, Uriel and Jeremiel are also named. Of Raphael it is said (Tobit 12:15) that he is “one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints” to God (compare Revelation 8:2, “the seven angels that stand before God”). It is possible that this group of seven is referred to in the above-quoted phrase, “one of the chief princes”. Some (notably Kosters) have maintained that the expressions “the sons of the ‘elohim,” God’s “council” and “congregation,” refer to the ancient gods of the heathen, now degraded and wholly subordinated to Yahweh. This rather daring speculation has little support in Scripture; but we find traces of a belief that the patron-angels of the nations have failed in establishing righteousness within their allotted sphere on earth, and that they will accordingly be punished by Yahweh their over-Lord (Isaiah 24:21; Psalms 58:1 f the Revised Version, margin; compare Jude 1:6).

3. The Angel of the Theophany:

This angel is spoken of as “the angel of Yahweh,” and “the angel of the presence (or face) of Yahweh.” The following passages contain references to this angel:

Genesis 16:7–the angel and Hagar; Genesis 18–Abraham intercedes with the angel for Sodom; Genesis 22:11–the angel interposes to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac; Genesis 24:7,40–Abraham sends Eliezer and promises the angel’s protection; Genesis 31:11–the angel who appears to Jacob says “I am the God of Beth-el”; Genesis 32:24–Jacob wrestles with the angel and says, “I have seen God face to face”; Genesis 48:15 f–Jacob speaks of God and the angel as identical; Exodus 3 (compare Acts 7:30)–the angel appears to Moses in the burning bush; Exodus 13:21; 14:19 (compare Numbers 20:16)–God or the angel leads Israel out of Egypt; Exodus 23:20–the people are commanded to obey the angel; Exodus 32:34-33:17 (compare Isaiah 63:9)–Moses pleads for the presence of God with His people; Joshua 5:13-6:2–the angel appears to Joshua; Judges 2:1-5–the angel speaks to the people; Judges 6:11–the angel appears to Gideon.

A study of these passages shows that while the angel and Yahweh are at times distinguished from each other, they are with equal frequency, and in the same passages, merged into each other. How is this to be explained? It is obvious that these apparitions cannot be the Almighty Himself, whom no man hath seen, or can see. In seeking the explanation, special attention should be paid to two of the passages above cited. In Exodus 23:20 God promises to send an angel before His people to lead them to the promised land; they are commanded to obey him and not to provoke him “for he will not pardon your transgression:
for my name is in him.” Thus the angel can forgive sin, which only God can do, because God’s name, i.e. His character and thus His authority, are in the angel. Further, in the passage Exodus 32:34-33:17Moses intercedes for the people after their first breach of the covenant; God responds by promising, “Behold mine angel shall go before thee”; and immediately after God says, “I will not go up in the midst of thee.” In answer to further pleading, God says, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Here a clear distinction is made between an ordinary angel, and the angel who carries with him God’s presence. The conclusion may be summed up in the words of Davidson in his Old Testament Theology: “In particular providences one may trace the presence of Yahweh in influence and operation; in ordinary angelic appearances one may discover Yahweh present on some side of His being, in some attribute of His character; in the angel of the Lord He is fully present as the covenant God of His people, to redeem them.” The question still remains, Who is theophanic angel? To this many answers have been given, of which the following may be mentioned:

(1) This angel is simply an angel with a special commission;
(2) He may be a momentary descent of God into visibility;
(3) He may be the Logos, a kind of temporary preincarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Each has its difficulties, but the last is certainly the most tempting to the mind. Yet it must be remembered that at best these are only conjectures that touch on a great mystery. It is certain that from the beginning God used angels in human form, with human voices, in order to communicate with man; and the appearances of the angel of the Lord, with his special redemptive relation to God’s people, show the working of that Divine mode of self-revelation which culminated in the coming of the Saviour, and are thus a fore-shadowing of, and a preparation for, the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Further than this, it is not safe to go.

III. Angels in New Testament.


Nothing is related of angels in New Testament which is inconsistent with the teaching of Old Testament on the subject. Just as they are specially active in the beginning of Old Testament history, when God’s people is being born, so they appear frequently in connection with the birth of Jesus, and again when a new order of things begins with the resurrection. An angel appears three times in dreams to Joseph (Matthew 1:20; 2:13,19). The angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, and then to Mary in the annunciation (Luke 1). An angel announces to the shepherds the birth of Jesus, and is joined by a “multitude of the heavenly host,” praising God in celestial song (Luke 2:8). When Jesus is tempted, and again during the agony at Gethsemane, angels appear to Him to strengthen His soul (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43). The verse which tells how an angel came down to trouble the pool (John 5:4) is now omitted from the text as not being genuine. An angel descends to roll away the stone from the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:2); angels are seen there by certain women (Luke 24:23) and (two) by Mary Magdalene (John 20:12). An angel releases the apostles from prison, directs Philip, appears to Peter in a dream, frees him from prison, smites Herod with sickness, appears to Paul in a dream (Acts 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7; 12:23; 27:23). Once they appear clothed in white; they are so dazzling in appearance as to terrify beholders; hence they begin their message with the words “Fear not” (Matthew 28:2-5).

2. The Teaching of Jesus about Angels:

It is quite certain that our Lord accepted the main teachings of Old Testament about angels, as well as the later Jewish belief in good and bad angels. He speaks of the “angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30), and of “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). According to our Lord the angels of God are holy (Mark 8:38); they have no sex or sensuous desires (Matthew 22:30); they have high intelligence, but they know not the time of the Second Coming (Matthew 24:36); they carry (in a parable) the soul of Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22); they could have been summoned to the aid of our Lord, had He so desired (Matthew 26:53); they will accompany Him at the Second Coming (Matthew 25:31) and separate the righteous from the wicked (Matthew 13:41,49). They watch with sympathetic eyes the fortunes of men, rejoicing in the repentance of a sinner (Luke 15:10; compare 1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 4:9); and they will hear the Son of Man confessing or denying those who have confessed or denied Him before men (Luke 12:8). The angels of the presence of God, who do not appear to correspond to our conception of guardian angels, are specially interested in God’s little ones (Matthew 18:10). Finally, the existence of angels is implied in the Lord’s Prayer in the petition, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth” (Matthew 6:10).

3. Other New Testament References:

Paul refers to the ranks of angels (“principalities, powers” etc.) only in order to emphasize the complete supremacy of Jesus Christ. He teaches that angels will be judged by the saints (1 Corinthians 6:3). He attacks the incipient Gnosticism of Asia Minor by forbidding the, worship of angels (Colossians 2:18). He speaks of God’s angels as “elect,” because they are included in the counsels of Divine love (1 Timothy 5:21). When Paul commands the women to keep their heads covered in church because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11:10) he probably means that the angels, who watch all human affairs with deep interest, would be pained to see any infraction of the laws of modesty. In Hebrews 1:14 angels are described as ministering spirits engaged in the service of the saints. Peter also emphasizes the supremacy of our Lord over all angelic beings (1 Peter 3:22). The references to angels in 2 Peter and Jude are colored by contact with Apocrypha literature. In Revelation, where the references are obviously symbolic, there is very frequent mention of angels. The angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:20) are the guardian angels or the personifications of these churches. The worship of angels is also forbidden (Revelation 22:8 f). Specially interesting is the mention of elemental angels–“the angel of the waters” (Revelation 16:5), and the angel “that hath power over fire” (Revelation 14:18; compare Revelation 7:1; 19:17). Reference is also made to the “angel of the bottomless pit,” who is called \ABADDON\ or \APOLLYON\ (which see), evidently an evil angel (Revelation 9:11 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “abyss”). In Revelation 12:7 we are told that there was war between Michael with his angels and the dragon with his angels.

IV. Development of the Doctrine.

In the childhood of the race it was easy to believe in God, and He was very near to the soul. In Paradise there is no thought of angels; it is God Himself who walks in the garden. A little later the thought of angels appears, but, God has not gone away, and as “the angel of Yahweh” He appears to His people and redeems them. In these early times the Jews believed that there were multitudes of angels, not yet divided in thought into good and bad; these had no names or personal characteristics, but were simply embodied messages. Till the time of the captivity the Jewish angelology shows little development. During that dark period they came into close contact with a polytheistic people, only to be more deeply confirmed in their monotheism thereby. They also became acquainted with the purer faith of the Persians, and in all probability viewed the tenets of Zoroastrianism with a more favorable eye, because of the great kindness of Cyrus to their nation.

There are few direct traces of Zoroastrianism in the later angelology of the Old Testament. It is not even certain that the number seven as applied to the highest group of angels is Persian in its origin; the number seven was not wholly disregarded by the Jews. One result of the contact was that the idea of a hierarchy of the angels was more fully developed. The conception in Da of angels as “watchers,” and the idea of patron-princes or angel-guardians of nations may be set down to Persian influence. It is probable that contact with the Persians helped the Jews to develop ideas already latent in their minds. According to Jewish tradition, the names of the angels came from Babylon. By this time the consciousness of sin had grown more intense in the Jewish mind, and God had receded to an immeasurable distance; the angels helped to fill the gap between God and man. The more elaborate conceptions of Daniel and Zechariah are further developed in Apocrypha, especially in 2 Esdras, Tobit and 2 Macc.

In the New Testament we find that there is little further development; and by the Spirit of God its writers were saved from the absurdly puerile teachings of contemporary Rabbinism. We find that the Sadducees, as contrasted with the Pharisees, did not believe in angels or spirits (Acts 23:8). We may conclude that the Sadducees, with their materialistic standpoint, and denial of the resurrection, regarded angels merely as symbolical expressions of God’s actions. It is noteworthy in this connection that the great priestly document (Priestly Code, P) makes no mention of angels. The Book of Revelation naturally shows a close kinship to the books of Ezekiel and Daniel. Regarding the rabbinical developments of angelology, some beautiful, some extravagant, some grotesque, but all fanciful, it is not necessary here to speak. The Essenes held an esoteric doctrine of angels, in which most scholars find the germ of the Gnostic eons.

V. The Reality of Angels.

A belief in angels, if not indispensable to the faith of a Christian, has its place there. In such a belief there is nothing unnatural or contrary to reason. Indeed, the warm welcome which human nature has always given to this thought, is an argument in its favor. Why should there not be such an order of beings, if God so willed it? For the Christian the whole question turns on the weight to be attached to the words of our Lord. All are agreed that He teaches the existence, reality, and activity of angelic beings. Was He in error because of His human limitations? That is a conclusion which it is very hard for the Christian to draw, and we may set it aside. Did He then adjust His teaching to popular belief, knowing that what He said was not true? This explanation would seem to impute deliberate untruth to our Lord, and must equally be set aside. So we find ourselves restricted to the conclusion that we have the guaranty of Christ’s word for the existence of angels; for most Christians that will settle the question.

The visible activity of angels has come to an end, because their mediating work is done; Christ has founded the kingdom of the Spirit, and God’s Spirit speaks directly to the spirit of man. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ, upon whom faith can yet behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Still they watch the lot of man, and rejoice in his salvation; still they join in the praise and adoration of God, the Lord of hosts, still can they be regarded as “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation.”


All Old Testament and New Testament theologies contain discussions. Among the older books Oehler’s Old Testament Theology and Hengstenberg’s Christology of Old Testament (for “angel of Yahweh”) and among modern ones Davidson’s Old Testament Theology are specially valuable. The ablest supporter of theory that the “sons of the Elohim” are degraded gods is Kosters. “Het onstaan der Angelologie onder Israel,” TT 1876. See also articles on “Angel” in HDB (by Davidson), EB, DCG, Jew Encyclopedia, RE (by Cremer). Cremer’s Biblico- Theological New Testament Lexicon should be consulted under the word “aggelos.” For Jewish beliefs see also Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus, II, Appendix xiii. On the Pauline angelology see Everling, Die paulinische Angelologie. On the general subject see Godet, Biblical Studies; Mozley, The Word, chapter lix, and Latham, A Service of Angels.
John Macartney Wilson
Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Entry for ‘ANGEL'”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915.

Angel – Morrish

The words malac [Hebrew] aggeloj [Greek], signify ‘messenger.’

1. It is used for the mystic representation of the divine presence,

as in Gen. 31:11-13. “The angel of God” spake unto Jacob saying, “I am the God of Bethel.” “The angel of Jehovah” spake to Hagar and said, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” Gen. 16:7-11. “The angel of Jehovah” spake to Abraham saying, “By myself have I sworn,” etc. Gen. 22:11, 15,16. Three ‘men’ drew near to Abraham’s tent. One said Sarah should have a son:at which Sarah laughed, and Jehovah said, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” Two of the three left, and were called ‘angels’ at the gate of Sodom, while Jehovah, the third, talked with Abraham. Gen. 18:1-33:cf. also Ex. 3:2, 6-15; Num. 22:22-35. Jacob, in blessing the sons of Joseph, said, “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads.” Gen. 48:16. It is generally believed that it was the second person in the Trinity who appeared as a man in the O.T. It is no doubt the same who is called ‘the mighty angel’ in Rev. 10:1-3.

2. The intelligent spiritual beings who are constantly referred to in scripture as God’s messengers both as carrying good tidings and, as executors of God’s judgements.

We know little of their nature:”of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire,” Heb. 1:7; and man is described as being a little inferior to the angels. Ps. 8:5 ; Heb. 2:7. There are apparently gradations in rank among them, described as principalities and powers, of which Christ as Man is now the head. Col. 2:10. Twice we meet with ‘archangel:’ an archangel’s voice will accompany the rapture of the church, 1 Thess. 4:16; and ‘Michael the archangel’ contended with Satan about the body of Moses. Jude 9. He with his angels will fight with the dragon and his angels and cast them out of heaven. Rev. 12:7, 8. Gabriel is the only other name of an angel revealed to us:he appeared to Daniel, to Zacharias, and to Mary,:he said that he stood in the presence of God. Dan. 8:16; Dan. 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26.

Though we are unconscious of the presence of angels we know that they are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall inherit salvation, Heb. 1:14:cf. Ps. 34:7; and we read also that they ministered to the Lord when He was here. Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43. There are ‘myriads’ of these angels, Matt. 26:53; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:11; and they are described as ‘mighty,’ ‘holy,’ ‘elect,’ 2 Thess. 1:7; Mark 8:38; 1 Tim. 5:21:they do not marry, Mark 12:25. We are not told when they were created, but doubtless they are referred to as ‘the sons of God’ who shouted for joy when God created the earth. Job 38:4-7.

The law was given by their ministry, Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Ps. 68:17; and they had to do with proclaiming the birth of the Saviour, Luke 2:8-14; and they attended at the resurrection. Matt. 28:2; John 20:12. Angels are not the depositaries of the revelation and counsels of God. They desire to look into the things testified by the Spirit of Christ in the prophets, and now reported by the apostles in the power of the same Spirit. 1 Peter 1:12. The world to come is not to be put in subjection to them, but to man in the person of the Son of man, Heb. 2:5-8; and the saints will judge angels. 1 Cor. 6:3. It is therefore only a false humility that would teach the worshipping of angels. Col. 2:18. When John fell down to worship the angel in the Revelation, being overpowered by reason of the stupendous things revealed, he was on two occasions restrained from worshipping his ‘fellow servant,’ as in Rev. 19:10 ; Rev. 22:9.

In Ps. 8:5 the word is elohim, ‘God:’ the name of God being given to the angels as His representatives:cf. Ps. 82:6. In Ps. 68:17 it is shinan ‘repetition;’ reading “even thousands upon thousands.” In Ps. 78:25 it is abbir, ‘mighty:’ “every one did eat the bread of the mighty” margin.


a. We read of angels who kept not their first estate,’ but left their own habitation, and are kept in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day. Jude 6. God spared not the angels who sinned. 2 Peter 2:4. The nature of their sin may be referred to in Gen. 6:2. Their punishment and that of Sodom and Gomorrah is held up as a warning against fleshly indulgence, and despising government. 2 Peter 2:10; Jude 6-8.

b. Besides the above which are kept in chains we read of angels connected with Satan. The great dragon and his angels will be subdued by Michael and his angels, and be cast out of heaven. Rev. 12:9. The lake of fire, or Gehenna, has been specially prepared for the devil and his angels, though, alas, man will also be cast therein. Matt. 25:41. Abaddon or Apollyon is the name of ‘the angel of the bottomless pit,’ Rev. 9:11, that is, ‘the abyss,’ not hell, which, as seen above, is the place of punishment. Isa. 14:12-16 and Ezek. 28:14-19, may throw some light on the fall of Satan, but whether the fall of those called ‘his angels’ was brought about by the same cause and at the same time is not revealed. Scripture is quite clear that all of them will be overcome and eternally punished.

4. The term ‘angel’ is used metaphorically for a mystical representative.

When Peter was delivered from prison, and knocked at the door, those who had been praying for his release said, “It is his angel.” Acts 12:15. They supposed Peter was still in prison, and that the one at the door was his representative, his spirit personified, perhaps with very vague ideas of what they really meant. In Revelation 2, 3, the addresses to the seven churches are made to the angel of each. It signifies the spirit and character of the assembly personified in its mystical representative, each one differing from the others, according to the state of the assembly. The messages, though addressed to churches existing at the time, no doubt set forth the state of the church in its varied phases ever since apostolic times down to its entire rejection as the responsible witness for Christ at the close of the dispensation.

Angel #1 – Naves

• A Celestial Spirit.

– Called Angel of the Lord
Mt 1:20; Mt 1:24; Mt 2:13; Mt 2:19; Mt 28:2; Lc 1:11; Hch 5:19; Hch 7:30; Hch 7:35; Hch 8:26; Hch 12:7; Hch 12:23

– Called Morning Stars
Job 38:7

– Called Hosts
Gn 2:1; Gn 32:2; Jos 5:14; 1Cr 12:22; Sal 33:6; Sal 103:21; Lc 2:13

– Called Principalities, Powers
Ef 3:10; Col 1:16

– Created
Gn 2:1; Neh 9:6; Col 1:16

– Of different orders
Is 6:2; 1Ts 4:16; 1P 3:22; Jud 1:9; Ap 12:7

– Immortal
Lc 20:36

– Worship God
Neh 9:6; Fil 2:9-11; He 1:6

– Not to be worshiped
Col 2:18; Ap 19:10; Ap 22:8-9

– Do not marry
Mt 22:30; Mr 12:25; Lc 20:35

– Are obedient
Sal 103:20; Mt 6:10; Lc 11:2; 1P 3:22; 2P 2:11; Jud 1:6

– Have knowledge of, and interest in, earthly affairs
Mt 24:36; Lc 9:31; Lc 15:7; Lc 15:10; 1Ti 5:21; 1P 1:12

– Men called angels
2S 19:27

– Are examples of meekness
2P 2:11; Jud 1:9

– Are:

› Wise
2S 14:17; 2S 14:20

› Mighty
Sal 103:20; 2P 2:11

› Holy
Mt 25:31; Mr 8:38

› Elect
1Ti 5:21

› Innumerable
Dt 33:2; 2R 6:17; Job 25:3; Sal 68:17; He 12:22; Jud 1:14

– Aspects of
Jue 13:6; Is 6:2; Dn 10:6; Mt 28:3

• Functions of:

– Functions of:
Gn 3:24

– Law given by
Hch 7:53; Gá 3:19; He 2:2

– Medium of revelation to prophets
2R 1:15; Dn 4:13-17; Dn 8:19; Dn 9:21-27; Dn 10:10-20; Zac 1:9-11; Hch 8:26; Hch 23:9; Gá 3:19; He 2:2; Ap 1:1; Ap 5:2-14; Ap 7:1-3; Ap 7:11-17; Ap 8:2-13; Ap 9; Ap 22:6; Ap 22:16

– Remonstrates with Balaam
Nm 22:22-27

– Announces the birth of:

› Samson
Jud 1:13

› John the Baptist
Lc 1:11-20

› Jesus
Mt 1:20-21; Lc 1:28-38; Lc 2:7-15

– Warns Joseph to escape to Egypt
Mt 2:13

– Minister to Jesus after the temptation
Mt 4:11; Mr 1:13; Jn 1:51

– Ministers to Jesus during his passion
Lc 22:43

– Present at the tomb of Jesus
Mt 28:2-6

– Present at the ascension
Hch 1:11

– Will be with Christ at his second coming
Mt 25:31; Mr 8:38; 2Ts 1:7; Jud 1:14-15

– Will be with Christ at the judgment
Mt 13:39; Mt 13:41; Mt 13:49; Mt 16:27; Mt 24:31; Mt 25:31; Mr 13:27

• Ministrant to the righteous
Gn 16:7; Gn 24:7; Gn 24:40; Ex 32:34; Ex 23:20; Ex 23:23; Ex 33:2; Nm 20:16; 1R 19:5-8; 2Cr 18:18; Sal 34:7; Sal 68:17; 2R 6:17; Sal 91:11-12; Mt 4:6; Lc 4:10-11; Sal 104:4; Ec 5:6; Is 63:9; Dn 6:22; Dn 7:10; Lc 16:22; Jn 1:51; Jn 5:4; Hch 5:19-20; Hch 10:3-6; Hch 12:7-10; He 1:7; He 1:14; He 13:2

• Execute judgments upon the wicked
Gn 19:1-25; 2S 24:16-17; 1Cr 21:15-16; 2R 19:35; 2Cr 32:21; Is 37:36; Sal 35:5-6; Sal 78:49; Mt 13:41-42; Mt 13:49-50; Hch 12:23; Hch 27:23-24; Jud 1:14-15; Ap 7:1-2; Ap 9:15; Ap 15:1

• Unclassified scriptures relating to
Nm 22:35; Dt 33:2; Job 4:15-19; Job 38:7; Sal 68:17; 2R 6:17; Sal 103:20-21; Sal 104:4; He 1:7; Sal 148:2; Is 6:2; Is 6:5-7; Ez 1:4-25; Ez 10; Dn 4:13; Dn 4:17; Dn 8:13-14; Dn 9:21-23; Zac 1:12-14; Zac 6:5; Mt 4:6; Mt 4:11; Mr 1:13; Mt 13:41-42; Mt 18:10; Mt 24:31; Mt 24:36; Mt 25:31; Mt 26:53; Lc 9:30-31; Mt 17:3; Mr 9:4; Lc 12:8-9; Mr 8:38; Lc 15:10; Lc 15:7; Jn 1:51; Hch 7:53; Hch 8:26; Gá 3:19; Ef 1:20-21; Ef 3:10; Col 1:16; Col 2:10; 2Ts 1:7; 1Ti 3:16; 1Ti 5:21; He 1:4-5; He 1:13; He 2:2; He 2:5; He 2:7; Sal 8:5; He 2:16; He 12:22; He 13:2; 1P 1:12; 1P 3:22; 2P 2:11; Ap 4:8-11; Ap 5:9-11; Ap 7:9-10; Ap 10:1-6; Ap 14:10; Ap 18:1-3; Ap 19:10; Ap 22:8-9

• Appearances of:

– To Abraham
Gn 18:2; Gn 22:11-18

– To Hagar, in the wilderness
Gn 16:7

– To Lot in Sodom
Gn 19:1-17

– To Jacob, in his various visions
Gn 28:12

– To Moses
Ex 3:2

– To the Israelites
Ex 14:19; Jue 2:1-4

– To Balaam
Nm 22:31

– To Joshua, »the captain of the Lord’s host«
Jos 5:15

– To Gideon
Jue 6:11-22

– To Manoah
Jue 13:6; Jue 13:15-20

– To David, at the threshing floor of Araunah
2S 24:16-17; 1Cr 21:15-16

– To Elijah
1R 19:5

– To Elisha, while he lay under the juniper tree
2R 6:16-17

– To Daniel, in the lion’s den
Dn 6:22; Dn 8:16; Dn 9:21; Dn 10:5-10; Dn 10:16; Dn 10:18; Dn 12:5-7

– To Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, in the fiery furnace
Dn 3:25; Dn 3:28

– To Zechariah, in a vision
Zac 2:3; Zac 3:1-2; Zac 4:1

– To Joseph, in a dream
Mt 1:20; Mt 2:13; Mt 2:19

– At the transfiguration of Jesus
Mt 17:3; Lc 9:30-31

– To Mary, concerning Jesus
Lc 1:26-38

– To Zacharias
Lc 1:11-20; Lc 1:26-38

– To the shepherds
Lc 2:9-11; Lc 2:13-14

– To Jesus, after his temptation
Mt 4:11

– In Gethsemane
Lc 22:43

– At the sepulcher
Mt 28:2-5; Mr 16:5-7; Lc 24:23; Jn 20:12

– At the ascension
Hch 1:10-11

– To Peter and John, while in prison
Hch 5:19

– To Philip
Hch 8:26

– To Cornelius, in a dream
Hch 10:3; Hch 10:30-32

– To Peter, in prison
Hch 12:7-11

– To Paul, on the way to Damascus
Hch 27:23

– To John, in Patmos
Ap 1:1; Ap 5:2; Ap 7:11; Ap 10:9; Ap 11:1; Ap 17:7; Ap 19:10; Ap 22:8

• Fallen
Job 4:18; Mt 25:41; 2P 2:4; Jud 1:6; Ap 12:9

Angel #2 – Naves

• One of the Holy Trinity.

– Called Angel of God
Ex 14:19; Jue 13:6; 1S 29:9; 2S 14:17; 2S 14:20; 2S 19:27; Hch 27:23; Gá 4:14

– Called Angel of the Lord
Gn 16:7; Gn 16:9; Gn 22:11; Ex 3:2; Nm 22:23; Nm 22:25; Nm 22:27; Nm 22:32; Nm 22:35; Jue 2:1; Jue 6:11-12; Jue 6:21-22; Jue 13:3; Jue 13:6; Jue 13:9; Jue 13:13-21; 2S 24:16; 1R 19:7; 2R 1:3; 2R 1:15; 2R 19:35; 1Cr 21:15; 1Cr 21:18; Sal 34:7; Sal 35:5-6; Zac 1:11-12; Zac 3:5; Zac 12:8

– Called Angel of His Presence
Is 63:9

Angel – PCBL

Angels, a word signifying, both in Hebrew and Greek, messengers, and therefore used to denote whatever God employs to execute his purposes, or to manifest his presence or his power. In some passages it occurs in the sense of an ordinary messenger (Job 1:14; 1Sa 11:3; Luk 7:24; Luk 9:52): in others it is applied to prophets (Isa 42:19; Hag 1:13; Malachi 3): to priests (Ecc 5:6; Mal 2:7): to ministers of the New Testament (Rev 1:20). It is also applied to impersonal agents; as to the pillar of cloud (Exo 14:19): to the pestilence (2Sa 24:16-17; 2Ki 19:35): to the winds (‘who maketh the winds his angels,’ Psa 104:4): so likewise, plagues generally, are called ‘evil angels’ (Psa 78:49), and Paul calls his thorn in the flesh an ‘angel of Satan’ (2Co 12:7).

But this name is more eminently and distinctively applied to certain spiritual beings or heavenly intelligences, employed by God as the ministers of His will, and usually distinguished as angels of God or angels of Jehovah. In this case the name has respect to their official capacity as ‘messengers,’ and not to their nature or condition. In the Scriptures we have frequent notices of spiritual intelligences, existing in another state of being, and constituting a celestial family, or hierarchy, over which Jehovah presides. The practice of the Jews, of referring to the agency of angels every manifestation of the greatness and power of God, has led some to contend that angels have no real existence, but are mere personifications of unknown powers of nature: but there are numerous passages in the Scriptures which are wholly inconsistent with this notion, and if Mat 22:30, stood alone in its testimony, it ought to settle the question. So likewise, the passage in which the high dignity of Christ is established, by arguing that he is superior to the angels (Heb 1:4, sqq.), would be without force or meaning if angels had no real existence.
That these superior beings are very numerous is evident from the following expressions, Dan 7:10, ‘thousands of thousands,’ and ‘ten thousand times ten thousand;’ Mat 26:53, ‘more than twelve legions of angels;’ Luk 2:13, ‘multitude of the heavenly host;’ Heb 12:22-23, ‘myriads of angels.’ It is probable, from the nature of the case, that among so great a multitude there may be different grades and classes, and even natures—ascending from man towards God, and forming a chain of being to fill up the vast space between the Creator and man—the lowest of his intellectual creatures. This may be inferred from the analogies which pervade the chain of being on the earth whereon we live, which is as much the divine creation as the world of spirits. Accordingly the Scriptures describe angels as existing in a society composed of members of unequal dignity, power, and excellence, and as having chiefs and rulers (Zec 1:11; Zec 3:7; Dan 10:13; Jud 1:9; 1Th 4:16).

In the Scriptures angels appear with bodies, and in the human form; and no intimation is anywhere given that these bodies are not real, or that they are only assumed for the time and then laid aside. The fact that angels always appeared in the human form, does not, indeed, prove that this form naturally belongs to them. But that which is not pure spirit must have some form or other: and angels may have the human form; but other forms are possible. The question as to the food of angels has been very much discussed. If they do eat, we can know nothing of their actual food; for the manna is manifestly called ‘angels’ food’ (Psa 78:25), merely by way of expressing its excellence. The only real question, therefore, is whether they feed at all or not. We sometimes find angels, in their terrene manifestations, eating and drinking (Gen 18:8; Gen 19:3); but in Jdg 13:15-16, the angel who appeared to Manoah declined, in a very pointed manner, to accept his hospitality.

The passage already referred to in Mat 22:30, teaches by implication that there is no distinction of sex among the angels. In the Scriptures indeed the angels are all males: but they appear to be so represented, not to mark any distinction of sex, but because the masculine is the more honorable gender. Angels are never described with marks of age, but sometimes with those of youth (Mar 16:5). The constant absence of the features of age indicates the continual vigor and freshness of immortality. The angels never die (Luk 20:36). But no being besides God himself has essential immortality (1Ti 6:16): every other being therefore is mortal in itself, and can be immortal only by the will of God. Angels, consequently, are not eternal, but had a beginning, although there is no record of their creation.

The preceding considerations apply chiefly to the existence and nature of angels. Some of their attributes may be collected from other passages of Scripture. That they are of superhuman intelligence is implied in Mar 13:32 : ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no man, not even the angels in heaven.’ That their power is great, may be gathered from such expressions as ‘mighty angels’ (2Th 1:7); ‘angels, powerful in strength’ (Psa 103:20); ‘angels who are greater [than man] in power and might.’ The moral perfection of angels is shown by such phrases as ‘holy angels’ (Luk 9:26): ‘the elect angels’ (1Ti 5:21). Their felicity is beyond question in itself, but is evinced by the passage (Luk 20:36) in which the blessed in the future world are said to be ‘like unto the angels, and sons of God.’

The ministry of angels, or that they are employed by God as the instruments of His will, is very clearly taught in the Scriptures. The very name, as already explained, shows that God employs their agency in the dispensations of His Providence. And it is further evident, from certain actions which are ascribed wholly to them (Mat 13:41; Mat 13:49; Mat 24:31; Luk 16:22); and from the Scriptural narratives of other events, in the accomplishment of which they acted a visible part (Luk 1:11; Luk 1:26; Luk 2:9, sq.; Act 5:19-20; Act 10:3; Act 10:19; Act 12:7; Act 27:23), that their agency is employed principally in the guidance of the destinies of man. In those cases also in which the agency is concealed from our view, we may admit the probability of its existence; because we are told that God sends them forth ‘to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation’ (Heb 1:14; also Psa 34:7; Psa 91:11; Mat 18:10). But the angels, when employed for our welfare, do not act independently, but as the instruments of God, and by His command (Psa 103:20; Psa 104:4; Heb 1:13-14): not unto them, therefore, are our confidence and adoration due, but only unto him (Rev 19:10; Rev 22:9) whom the angels themselves reverently worship.

It was a favorite opinion of the Christian fathers that every individual is under the care of a particular angel, who is assigned to him as a guardian. They spoke, also of two angels, the one good, the other evil, whom they conceived to be attendant on each individual; the good angel prompting to all good, and averting ill; and the evil angel prompting to all ill, and averting good. The Jews (excepting the Sadducees) entertained this belief. There is, however, nothing to authorize this notion in the Bible. The passages (Psa 34:7; Mat 18:10) usually referred to in support of it, have assuredly no such meaning. The former, divested of its poetical shape, simply denotes that God employs the ministry of angels to deliver his people from affliction and danger; and the celebrated passage in Matthew cannot well mean anything more than that the infant children of believers, or, if preferable, the least among the disciples of Christ, whom the ministers of the church might be disposed to neglect from their apparent insignificance, are in such estimation elsewhere, that the angels do not think it below their dignity to minister to them [SATAN].

Angel – Peoples

Angel. Gen 24:7. The word for angel, both in the Greek and Hebrew languages, signifies a messenger, and in this sense is often applied to men. 2Sa 2:5; Luk 7:24; Luk 9:52. When the term is used, as it denotes the office they sustain as the agents by whom God makes known his will and executes his government. Our knowledge of such beings is derived wholly from revelation, and that rather incidentally. We know, from their residence and employment, that they must possess knowledge and purity far beyond our present conceptions, and the titles applied to them denote the exalted place they hold among created intelligences. Christ did not come to the rescue of angels, but of men. Comp. Heb 2:16. The angels are represented as ministering spirits sent forth to do service to the heirs or salvation. Heb 1:14 They appear at every important stage in the history of revelation, especially at the birth of Christ, Luk 2:9-13; in his agony in Gethsemane, Luk 22:43; at his resurrection, Mat 28:2; Mar 16:5; Luk 24:4, and at the final judgment, Mat 13:41. Of their appearance and employment we may form some idea from the following passages, viz., Gen 16:7-11. Compare Gen 18:2; Gen 19:1, with Heb 13:2; Jdg 13:6; Eze 10:1-22; Dan 3:28; Dan 6:22; Mat 4:11; Mat 18:10; Mat 28:2-7; Luk 1:19; Luk 16:22; Luk 22:43; Act 6:15; Act 12:7; Heb 1:14; Heb 2:16; 2Th 1:7; Rev 10:1-2; Rev 10:6. Of their number some idea may be inferred from 1Ki 22:19; Psa 68:17; Dan 7:10; Mat 26:53; Luk 2:9-14; 1Co 4:9; Heb 12:22. Of their strength we may judge from Psa 103:20; 2Pe 2:11; Rev 5:2; Rev 18:21; Rev 19:17. And we learn their inconceivable activity from Jdg 13:20; Isa 6:2-6; Mat 13:49; Mat 26:53; Act 27:23; Rev 8:12-13; but the R. V. reads “eagle” in verse 13. There is also an order of evil spirits ministering to the will of the prince of darkness, and both active and powerful in their opposition to God. Mat 25:41. Though Scripture does not warrant us to affirm that each individual has his particular guardian angel, it teaches very explicitly that angels minister to every Christian. Mat 18:10; Psa 91:11-12; Luk 15:10; Act 12:15; Heb 1:14. They are the companions of the saved. Heb 12:22-23; Rev 5:11. They are to sustain an important office in the future and final administration of God’s government on earth. Mat 13:39; Mat 25:31-33; 1Th 4:16. But they are not proper objects of adoration. Col 2:18; Rev 19:10. Angel of his Presence, Isa 63:9, by some is supposed to denote the highest angel in heaven, as Gabriel, who stands “in the presence of God,” Luk 1:19; but others believe it refers to the incarnate Word-Angel of the Lord, Gen 16:7, is considered, by some, one of the common titles of Christ in the Old Testament. Exo 23:20. Compare Act 7:30-32; Act 7:37-38. Angel of the church. Rev 2:1. The only true interpretation of this phrase is the one which makes the angels the rulers and teachers of the congregation, so called because they were the ambassadors of God to the churches, and on them devolved the pastoral care and government.

Angel – Smith

By the word “angels” (i.e. “messengers” of God) we ordinarily understand a race of spiritual beings of a nature exalted far above that of man, although infinitely removed from that of God–whose office is “to do him service in heaven, and by his appointment to succor and defend men on earth. I. Scriptural use of the word . –There are many passages in which the expression “angel of God” is certainly used for a manifestation of God himself (Genesis 22:11) with Genesis 22:12 and Exod 3:2 with Exod 3:6 and Exod 3:14 It is to be observed, also, that side by side with these expressions we read of God’s being manifested in the form of man –as to Abraham at Mamre, (Gen 18:2; Gen 18:22) comp. Genesis 19:1 To Jacob at Penuel, (Gen 32:24; Gen 32:30) to Joshua at Gilgal, (Josh 5:13; Josh 5:15) etc. Besides this, which is the highest application of the word angel, we find the phrase used of any messengers of God, such as the prophets, (Isaiah 42:19; Haggai 1:13; Malachi 3:1) the priests, (Malachi 2:7) and the rulers of the Christian churches. (Revelation 1:20) II. Nature of angels –Angels are termed “spirits,” as in (Hebrews 1:14) –but it is not asserted that the angelic nature is incorporeal. The contrary seems expressly implied in (Luke 20:36; Philemon 3:21) The angels are revealed to us as beings such as man might be, and will be when the power of sin and death is removed, because always beholding his face, (Matthew 18:10) and therefore being “made like him.” (1 John 3:2) Their number must be very large, (1 Kings 22:19; Matthew 26:53; Hebrews 12:22) their strength is great, (Psalms 103:20; Revelation 5:2; 18:21) their activity marvelous (Isaiah 6:2-6; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 8:13) their appearance varied according to circumstances, but was often brilliant and dazzling. (Matthew 28:2-7; Rev 10:1; Rev 10:2) Of the nature of “fallen angels,” the circumstances and nature of the temptation by which they fell, we know absolutely nothing. All that is certain is that they “left their first estate” and that they are now “angels of the devil.” (Matthew 25:41; Rev 12:7; Rev 12:9) On the other hand the title especially assigned to the angels of God–that of the “holy ones,” see (Dan 4:13; Dan 4:23; 8:13; Matthew 25:31) –is precisely the one which is given to those men who are renewed in Christ’s image. Comp. (Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 12:23) III. Office of the angels . Of their office in heaven we have only vague prophetic glimpses as in (1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1-3; Dan 7:9; Dan 7:10; Revelation 6:11), etc., which show us nothing but a never-ceasing adoration. They are represented as being, in the widest sense, agents of God’s providence, natural and supernatural, to the body and to the soul. In one word, they are Christ’s ministers of grace now, and they shall be of judgment hereafter. (Matt 13:39; Matt 13:41; Matt 13:49; 16:27; 24:31) etc. That there are degrees of the angelic nature, both fallen and unfallen, and special titles and agencies belonging to each, is clearly declared by St. Paul, (Ephesians 1:21; Romans 8:38) but what their general nature is it is useless to speculate.

Angel – Thomas Chain Reference

(1) Ministering

Gen 16:7; Gen 19:16; Gen 22:11; Exod 14:19; Exod 23:20; 1Kgs 19:5; Ps 91:11; Isa 63:9
Dan 3:28; Dan 6:22; Mark 1:13; Luke 16:22; Acts 5:19; Acts 12:7; Acts 27:23; Heb 1:14

(2) Appear to Men

Gen 32:1; Num 22:31; Judg 2:1; Judg 6:11; Judg 13:3; Judg 13:13; Zech 1:9; Zech 2:3
Matt 1:20; Matt 2:13; Matt 28:2; Luke 1:11; Luke 1:28; Luke 2:9; John 20:12; Acts 8:26; Acts 10:3

(3) Wait upon Christ

Matt 24:31; Matt 25:31; Matt 26:53; Luke 2:13; Luke 22:43; John 1:51
2Thess 1:7; Heb 1:6; Rev 5:11

(4) Of Wrath, Execute the Judgments of God

Gen 19:1; Judg 5:23; 2Sam 24:16; 1Chr 21:15; 2Chr 32:21
Isa 37:36; Acts 12:23

(5) Fallen Angels

Job 4:18; Matt 25:41; 2Pet 2:4; Jude 1:6; Rev 12:9

(6) In Heaven

Mark 12:25; Luke 12:8; Luke 15:10; Heb 12:22; Rev 7:11; Rev 8:2

(7) Of the Churches

Rev 1:20; Rev 2:1; Rev 2:8; Rev 2:12; Rev 2:18; Rev 3:1; Rev 3:7; Rev 3:14

Angel – Bob Utley


The rabbis thought that the angels were jealous of God’s love and attention to fallen mankind and, therefore, were hostile to them. The Gnostic false teachers asserted that salvation was only available by secret passwords through hostile angelic spheres (cf. Colossians and Ephesians), which led up to the high-god.

George Eldon Ladd has a good summary of the terms used by Paul for angels in his book A Theology of the New Testament:
“Paul refers not only to good and bad angels, to Satan and to demons; he uses another group of words to designate ranks of angelic spirits. The terminology is as follows:
‘Rule’ [arche], 1Co. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10.
‘Rules’ [archai; RSV, “principalities’], Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:15; Rom. 8:38.
‘Authority’ [exousia], 1Co. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10.
‘Authorities’ [exousiai; RSV, “authorities”], Eph. 1:21.
‘Power’ [dynamis], 1Co. 15:24; Eph. 1:21.
‘Powers’ [dynameis], Rom. 8:38.
‘Thrones’ [thronoi], Col. 1:16.
‘Lordship’ [kyriotes; RSV, “dominion”], Eph. 1:21.
‘Lordships’ [kyriotetes], Col. 1:16.
‘World rulers of this darkness,’ Eph. 6:12.
‘The spiritual (hosts) of evil in the heavenlies,’ Eph. 6:12.
‘The authority of darkness,’ Col. 1:13.
‘Every name that is named,’ Eph. 1:21.
‘Heavenly, earthly, and subterranean beings,’ Phi. 2:10 ” (p. 401).
Copyright © 2011 Bible Lessons International

Angel – Wemyss

Angels are the ministers and officers of the Divine Court and Providence in the invisible government of the world; and being now become subject to Christ, (Heb 1:6) they serve in the invisible government, and that of the Church and of the world, that it may be brought to the purpose of God in behalf of his Church; of which both together, the secular princes with the clergy, are the visible ministers. So that these invisible agents denote and imply the visible; which also for this reason are called Angels in the Revelation, in the same manner as in other Books of Holy Writ, the secular princes or magistrates have the same attributes given to them as the angels, f1 and the very name too; (2Sa 14:17; 2Sa 14:20) even though heathens, they might be so called.
The foundation of this is built upon the principle, that the intellectual world is an original copy and idea of the visible; and that there is such an union and affinity between these two, that nothing is done in the visible but what is decreed before, and exemplified in the intellectual.

Now the Revelation is a prophecy in which is declared the decree of God, both positive and permissive; that is, what he is resolved shall be performed in his kingdom, both intellectual and visible, and what he will permit to be done in that of Satan to obstruct his designs, but in reality to magnify his glory the more; and therefore, in such a prophecy, wherein the prophet is caught up in the spirit to see the first springs of events, it is sufficient, and much more lively to set down what is done in the intellec­tual world; for the symbols that describe those events must by consequence describe those of the visible.

The Angel of a Nation denotes the prince or king thereof.
The Angel of a Church, its bishop, or chief pastor.
An Angel, an inferior ruling power, or a visible agent made use of by God in bringing about the designs of his Providence.
An Angel from the Altar, an ecclesiastical minister.

f1 Compare Rom 13:6, with Heb 1:14

More Cox Bible Dictionary Definitions on Spirits