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The Ministry of Angels

by Marilyn Hickey

The invisible realm is constantly described in the Bible as something present in our midst, not as a distant reality, but present. Angels don't appear occasionally in the Bible; they manifest themselves continually! The word "angel" appears more than 250 times in the pages of GOD's eternal revelation, the Scriptures, describing not only things they have done, but those that must be done in our time, as well as those they've done in the past. The author of this study is a world renowned teacher of the Bible who reminds us of the validity the force, represented by these invisible servants and warriors of GOD, has in our days: "Are they not all spirits sent to minister to those who will receive salvation?" (Heb. 1:14). The Bible's response is, "Yes", and that means that their ministry applies to us today.

1. The quintuple ministry of angels (Psa. 103:20,21)
Angels exist to serve GOD in at least five ways.

These verses show the multiple divine purpose in relation to the angels, who exist to serve GOD in five ways: 1) To bless Jehovah (in service and worship); 2) to carry out his word (in earthly activities); 3) to obey the voice of the divine Word (just as it is announced through the saints on Earth); 4) to minister in GOD's stead (just as it is described in Hebrews 1:14); and 5) to accomplish the divine will (since their forces are under GOD's command).

2. Variety in the appearance of angels (Judges 13:6)
Angels appear in different forms, depending on their order in the creation.

Who are the angels? The appearance of angels is correctly described as "terrible in a great way". Angels appear in distinct forms, depending on the place they occupy in the creation. For example, Gabriel, GOD's messenger angel, has human appearance (Daniel 9:21). From Ezekiel 28:13,14 we know that the cherubims are exotic and beautiful, covered with precious jewels. Ezekiel 1:23 tells us that the cherubims have four wings, while the seraphims have six wings, two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly (Isaiah 6:2).

3. Organization of the structure of the angelic sphere (Col. 1:16)
Angels form a structured society with different levels of authority, according to the order created by GOD.

An organized structure appears in the angelic sphere, which exerts profound influence on the history of mankind, and in which angels occupy distinct positions, according to their respective ranks.Although there are different opinions with regard to the order of angelic officials, it's clear that the angelic host consists of a hierarchy of angelic beings. For example, Daniel 10:13 shows that angelic warriors have a principal chief, Michael, who is also called archangel, that is, one who governs over others. Seraphims and cherubims appear to be a rank of power a little bit lower, superior only to ministering angels (Heb. 1:14). However, it's possible that seraphims and cherubims fulfill a leadership role in worship, while Michael leads the fighting angels. Concerning the angels of darkness, Ephesians 6:12 offers some clarification about ranks in the realm of evil angels: principalities, powers, governors of the darkness of this world and "spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places". From the information that the Bible offers, we deduce that the angelic realm is a distinctly structured society with different levels of authority or power, according to GOD's created order.

4. Angelic influence over the nations (Dan. 10:13)
Some angels exercise influence over nations and national affairs.

Some angels have influence over determined nations. The governor of Persia, an evil angel whose dwelling was in the heavenly places (the invisible realm), intended to hold the Israelites captive so they could not return to their native land. That tells us of the great dominion that such principalities and powers of darkness could exert over the nations. In this same chapter, we meet two other angelic "princes" who govern nations: Michael, "one of the chief princes", governs and protects the activities of Israel (verse 13) and "the prince of Greece", who at that time would prevail.

5. Angels as messengers (Acts 8:26)
In their role as messengers, angels are still active in building up the Kingdom of GOD on Earth.

With the Word of GOD as our source of information, we see that angels can actively help the advance of the Church around the world by transmitting messages. Phillip had evangelized in Jerusalem and Samaria, but an angel-messenger told him to go out on a desert road, where he would encounter the Ethiopian eunuch. Acts 10 also reveals the angelic intervention on behalf of Cornelius, which contributed to the evangelization of the Gentiles. As with the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, angelic activities didn't cease after apostolic times. Angels are still actively involved in what is referred to as the edification of the Kingdom of GOD on Earth. Nevertheless, we should heed Paul's advice, "But if we, or an angel from Heaven should preach a different gospel than the one that we preach, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8). Any angelic message should be judged in light of GOD's eternal Word of truth.

6. Guardian angels watch over us (Psa. 91:11,12)
Each believer has his own guardian angel.

Each of us has his own guardian angel. Dr. Billy Graham, based on the plural that is used in this text, concluded that each believer should have at least two angels to protect him. Psalms 91:4 tells us that GOD covers us with his feathers and mentions that we are under his "wings". As GOD doesn't have wings or feathers, some have suggested that those wings and feathers refer to those of our guardian angels, who cover us to protect us from falls that can destroy us or from tripping on unknown dangers in the invisible spirit dominion.

7. The Angel of the LORD receives worship (Exod. 3:2,4)
GOD is called "the Angel of the LORD"; hence he is worshipped.

An unusual "angel", the Angel of the LORD, is different than the others in that this Angel receives worship. Why is this so? No angel is allowed to receive worship; that belongs only to GOD. The angel Lucifer was expelled from Heaven for trying to receive such worship. The mystery is resolved in this text when it's revealed that the Angel is the LORD GOD (see Acts 7:30-32). But, how could Moses and the other people in the Old Testament have seen GOD face-to-face and survived, if the Scripture clearly states the contrary (Exod. 33:20)? The response: because they saw the Son of GOD in preincarnate form, whom the Old Testament called the Angel of the LORD, the "Messenger (Angel) of the covenant" (Mal. 3:1).

8. Jesus and the angels (Rev. 1:1)
Jesus appears to be associated with angels at his birth, the forty-day fast, his agony on the night he was betrayed, the resurrection, the ascension and his Second Coming.

Jesus had a close association with angels. Rev. 1:1 reveals to us that he charged them with specific tasks. An angel was sent by GOD to announce Jesus' birth to the virgin Mary and her spouse, Joseph (Luke 1:26; Matt. 1:20). The angels were also present at Jesus' birth and announced it to the shepherds (Luke 2:8). Angels protected the baby from the jealousy and ire of King Herod (Matt. 2:13,22); and some time later in Jesus' life, and at the end of his 40 day fast, angels ministered to him and strengthened him (Matt. 4:11).

During his agonizing struggle, the night that he was betrayed, an angel strengthened Jesus, preparing him for the cross (Luke 22:43). These heavenly creatures were present at the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 28:2) and at his ascension into Heaven (Acts 1:10). Finally, Jesus will return "in the glory of his Father with his angels" (Matt. 16:27), and we will meet with him in the air! (I Thes. 4:16,17).

9. Fallen angels (Rev. 12:7,9)
Fallen angels have the mind and understanding clouded by horrible deception, which makes them instruments of the satanic rebellion.

The Scriptures reveal both classes of angels: good angels and evil angels. The evil entities are those angels who rebelled with Lucifer and were cast out of Heaven along with him. Their minds and understanding have been clouded with the horrible darkness of deception: the same tactic that Satan still uses to steer his victims off course. The angels were created in GOD's original order to do his will, just as those who obediently continue to do so before his throne. But the evil angels "did not retain their lofty position" (Jude 6), and are now agents of the adversary, bound under his dark dominion and serving in Satan's rebellious undertakings.

10. Ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14)
Angels are ministering spirits who advance Jesus' ministry and his Church.

Surprisingly, it turns out that there are more references to angels in the New Testament than in the Old Testament. A careful study will reveal that the angelic activity in the New Testament usually revolves around Jesus' ministry and the establishment of his Church on Earth. They "minister" (Greek diakonia), which alludes to the "work of service, of assistance, that is offered by the angels, who are ministering spirits, or heavenly assistants, and are continually active in building up the body of Christ, that is to say, in fulfilling Jesus' ministry and the edification of his church.

11. Seraphims (Isaiah 6:2)
Seraphims are seen constantly glorifying GOD, supervising heavenly worship and flying about above GOD's throne.

The ministry of the seraphims is strictly associated with the throne and praises to GOD. They are continually glorifying GOD, exalting his nature and attributes, and they apparently supervise heavenly worship. It could be that seraphims are the angels referred to in Psalms 148:2, although it doesn't specifically identify them as such. Although the cherubims are next to and around the divine throne (Psa. 99:1; Rev. 4:6), the seraphims, with their six wings, fly about the throne while they minister.

12. The cherubims (Gen. 3:24)
Cherubims guard GOD's throne and appear closely related to GOD's presence and the withdrawal of his glory.

The cherubims were created beings, to whom the protection of God's throne has been assigned (Psa. 99:1), as well as the protection of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat (Exod. 25:18-22; 37:7-9). The cherubims protected the Tree of Life, so that human beings couldn't eat of it, and thus live in their sins forever. Therefore, contrary to popular opinion, more than an angel protected the entrance to Eden. The most detailed description of the cherubims is encountered in Ezek. 10, where they are strictly associated with God's glory and form part of the heavenly host.

13. Archangels (Jude 9)
Archangel means "to be the 1st (in political rank and power)"; he holds the highest dignity in the heavenly forces.

The only archangel whom the Scriptures specifically mention is Michael. It's probably his voice we will hear in the Second Coming (I Thes. 4:16). As Gabriel is a prominent person in the Bible, and also due to his name being derived from a root word meaning, "force" or "chief" (political), which characterizes the archangels, there are some who also consider Gabriel to be an archangel. That opinion, even though it has no scriptural support, gained popularity with the classical work, "Paradise Lost" by John Milton.

Many scholars hold that Lucifer was an archangel before his fall (Ezek. 28). This is only speculation, however, based on the influence he exercised over the angels who fell with him.

14. Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12)
Satan was an angel. He was full of arrogance and pronounced five declarations against GOD, who gave him five responses.

Satan was an angel called Lucero or Lucifer, who was enamored with his own beauty, fell in his pride and overestimation of himself. His rebellion manifested itself in five actions directed against GOD (verses 13,14). The five phrases declared that he would take the place of the Most High. But verses 15-20 reveal that the last word belonged to GOD, the Most High, who responded in the following way: "Satan, you 1) will be cast into Hell; 2) they will consider you (they will make a spectacle of you); 3) they will speak of you (they will make fun of you and curse you); 4) you will be cast out of your grave as a corpse and 5) you will be alone". GOD's "final word" over Satan is even applicable to any challenge intended against GOD's people.

15. The believers accompanied by angels (Luke 16:22)
Angels bring believers into GOD's presence at the time of death and join Christ in his return.

The Bible mentions the presence of angels in the future of all believers, at death or in the Second Coming of Christ. If we die, our transition between this life and the one to come won't be a solitary and dreadful experience. Angels will accompany us to the eternal joy, just as they bore Lazarus' spirit to the place of rest which GOD assigned to him. For us, it will be Jesus' presence (II Cor. 5:1-8). However, if Christ returns before we die, in the Second Coming, the angels will meet us with Christ "from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of Heaven" (Mark 13:26,27).

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ANGEL (IDB) - a member of an order of heavenly beings who are superior to man in power and intelligence By nature angels are spiritual beings (Heb. 1:14). Their nature is superior to human nature (Heb. 2:7), and they have superhuman power and knowledge (I Sam. 14:17,20; II Pet. 2:11). They are not, however, all-powerful and all-knowing (Ps. 103:20; II Thess. 1:7).

Artistic portrayals of angels as winged beings are generally without basis in the Bible. Rarely is an angel so described. (For exceptions, compare the cherubim and seraphim and the living creatures - Ex. 25:20; Ezek. 1:6; Rev. 4:8).

The Relation of Angels. Angels were created by GOD (Ps. 148:2,5) and were present to rejoice when He created the world (Job 38:4-7). In their original state they were holy, but before the creation of the world some of them rebelled against GOD and lost this exalted position. The leading angel in this revolt became the devil, also known as Satan (Gen. 3:4,14; Ezek. 29:12-16; Rev. 12:4,7-9). Another of the fallen angels is named Abaddon or Apollyon (Rev. 9:11), "the angel of the bottomless pit" [abyss], NASB, NIV, RSV.

Two of the vast company of unfallen angels are named in the Bible. They are the archangels Michael (Dan. 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7) and Gabriel (Dan. 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19,26). Michael has the special task of caring for Israel, and Gabriel communicates special messages to GOD's servants.

The vast army of unfallen angels delight in praising the name of the LORD continually (Ps. 104:21; 148:1-2). Large numbers of them remain at GOD's side, ready to do His every command (I Kings 22:19). Angels in GOD's presence include the cherubim, seraphim, and living creatures (or living beings ( *Ex. 25:20; Is. 6:2; Ezek. 1:5-6; Rev. 4:6).

Unfallen angels are known for their reverence for GOD and their obedience to His will. Angels represent GOD in making significant announcements of good news (Gen. 18:9-10; Luke 1:13,30; 2:8-15). On His behalf they also warn of coming dangers (Gen. 18:16-19:29; Matt. 2:13). In some cases they are GOD's agents in the destruction and judgment of evil (Gen. 19:13; II Sam. 24:16).

Of special importance in the Old Testament is the Angel of the LORD (Gen. 16:7; 22:11; 31:11). This angel is depicted as a visible manifestation of GOD Himself. He has powers and characteristics that belong only to GOD, such as the power to forgive sins (Ex. 23:20-21). His similarities to Jesus lead most scholars to conclude that He is the pre-incarnate Word present with GOD at the creation of the world (John 1:1,14).

The Relation of Angels to Man. When visible to human beings, angels consistently appear in human form (Gen. 18:2; Dan. 10:18; Zech. 2:1). Sometimes, however, their appearance inspires awe (Judg. 13:6; Matt. 29:3-4; Luke 24:4).

Angels are never known to appear to wicked people - only to those whom the Bible views as good, such as Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus, Peter, and Paul. They are charged with caring for such people and serving them in times of need (Ps. 91:11-12; Heb. 1:14). They also guide and instruct good people (Gen. 24:7,40; Ex. 14:19). This task is illustrated by the role the angels played in GOD's giving of the Law to Moses (Acts 7:38,53; Heb. 3:3). Sometimes their guidance comes through human dreams (Gen. 28:12; 31:11).

Angels also protect the people of GOD (Ex. 14:19-20; Dan. 3:28; Matt. 26:53). They meet a hunger and thirst (Gen. 21:17-19; Mark 1:13) and overcoming loneliness and dread (Luke 22:43). They sometimes deliver the people of GOD from danger (Acts 5:19; 12:6-11).

Although they are not the objects of salvation, angels are interested in the salvation of human beings (Luke 15:10; I Cor. 4:9). They also were particularly active in the events surrounding the birth and resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 1:20; 2:13, 19; 29:2; Luke 1:11-38; 2:9-15; 22:43; 24:23; John 20:12). The frequency with which angels participate in human affairs has diminished since Pentecost, probably because of the larger role played by the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians since then.

Jesus spoke frequently of angels, both good and bad (Matt. 13:41; 26:53; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8-9). Angels are quite real, and they play a vital part in GOD's plan for the world.

ANGEL OF THE LORD (IDB) - a mysterious messenger of GOD, sometimes described as the LORD Himself (Gen. 16:10-13; Ex. 3:2-6; 23:20; Judg. 6:11-18), but at other times as one sent by GOD. The LORD Used this messenger to appear to human beings who otherwise would not be able to see Him and live (Ex. 33:20).

The Angel of the LORD Performed actions associated with GOD, such as revelation, deliverance, and destruction; but he can be spoken of as distinct from GOD (II Sam. 24:16; Zech. 1:12). This special relationship is a mystery similar to that between Jesus and GOD in the New Testament.