The Bible is literally filled with references to the holy angels of God. But who are the angels and what can we learn about them?
These are some of the questions that we ask about angels. Let’s look at what the Bible says about these topics.
Our first Bible text is from the Gospel of Mark 8:38. Here are the words of our Jesus, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
This statement uses the very words, “The Holy Angels.” The angels are called holy in other places of the Bible, for instance in Matthew 25:31 and Revelation 14:10. In the Bible, we read of many holy things, particularly the Holy Scriptures themselves, the Holy Spirit, and now the holy angels.
The angels existed before the death of any human being; therefore they are not the spirits of our dead loved ones. We read in Genesis 3:24 that God placed at the gate in the Garden of Eden cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life. Cherubim are an order of angels. They are also of a higher order than man.
In Psalm 8:5 we read, “For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.” It is quite clear even from this verse itself, that the angels were made before man.
In Revelation 5:11, we read the description given by the apostle John when he saw the vast company of shining angels:
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” (10,000 x 10,0000 = 100 million.)
The prophet saw other groups like this at the same time. In fact, in Hebrews 12:22 the apostle declares that there are “an innumerable company of angels.” So we do not know their exact number.
Speaking of Jesus Christ, the Scripture says in 1 Peter 3:21, “Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
As we read in Joshua 5:13-15, Jesus Christ is certainly “captain of the Lord's host.”
There are several descriptions in the Bible of angels' appearing in their glory. In Daniel, the tenth chapter, we read the prophet Daniel’s description of Gabriel, “His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude” (Daniel 10:6).
Of the angel that rolled away the stone from Christ's tomb, we read the following, “His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:3,4).
Angels are real and not made up from our imagination. In Genesis chapters 18 and 19 we read of the appearance of angels to God's servant Abraham. “So he [Abraham] took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate” (Genesis 18:8). And when two angels visited Lot, “...he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat” (Genesis 19:3).
Anyone who eats unleavened bread, butter, and roasted veal, and drinks milk is certainly real in the sense that we understand reality. It is true that angels can appear and disappear at will, but they are no less real.
It is so with the element of water. At ordinary temperatures it is a liquid, but it also can become an invisible vapor. Millions of tons of water float about us in the atmosphere. Under certain conditions it appears as steam. When the weather is cold enough, it can be frozen into ice with almost the consistency of rock. Water is real in all these forms. This is simply an illustration of the changes possible in things we quite fully understand. So the angels of God may appear and disappear at will, and yet are real beings.
The apostle refers to Abraham's experience with the angels and says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). These angels appeared as strangers at the tent door of Abraham.
Now just a word about what angels are like. We are told in Psalm 103:20 that angels “...excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” All the holy angels are commandment keepers. That's why they are holy, why they are sinless. They hearken to His word. O, that men would do the same!
The word “angel” means messenger. Angels are the messengers of God, as we read in Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
They have a part to do in the work of salvation. They are ministering spirits, guiding God's children, watching over them, helping them. You will remember that in his dream at Bethel, Jacob saw a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. “...and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12).
Every true child of God, even little children, are accompanied by the holy angels. There is a guardian angel for each, for we read in Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” The guardian angels of God's children have access to the very throne of God.
As I write this article, God's angel is by me, the angel appointed to be my guardian and guide through life. He knows all about me and is never far from me. He surrounds me with his sweet influence. He protects me from evil, for we read in Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Someday, in that glorious land of eternity, it will be my privilege to see my guardian agnel and know him and talk with him of the days gone by, of the dangers from which he has kept me, of the record of my life he has preserved.
This wonderful Bible truth of the holy angels of God and their work for us is a comforting, blessed, glorious revelation. The holy angels protected God's servants in the fiery furnace of old. He “sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him” (Daniel 3:28). The angel delivered Daniel from the lions' den. Daniel said: “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Daniel 6:22).
When the army of the Syrians surrounded the little town of Dothan where the prophet Elisha with his young assistant was spending the night, angels delivered them. “Fear not [said the prophet]: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:16,17).
You ask, “What are these chariots of fire?” Psalm 68:17 says, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.”
The holy angel of the Lord came by night and opened the prison door and brought the apostle Peter out of the cruel hands of Herod. (Acts 12:7-10.) What we call physical laws are no hindrance to angels. Bolts and bars and prison doors disappear at their command. Dungeons, like palaces, shine in their presence.
The angels know our weaknesses and needs. The angel of the Lord came to Elijah when he was fleeing from Jezebel “...and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” (1 Kings 19:7,8).
When our Saviour was in the wilderness of temptation, “angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:11). And at last in the Garden of Gethsemane, when all the world was against Him and the burden of our sins rested upon Him, we read that an angel appeared unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43.)
The angels are interested in our salvation. In 1 Peter 1:12 we read that they desire to look into God's redeeming plans. Then, too, they are filled with joy when a sinner repents (Luke 15:10.)
The holy angels are unseen witnesses to our actions and our words. “Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error.” (Ecclesiastes 5:6).
God knows what you said. God knows what you wrote. The angels of God were witnesses to every word. Every lie, every falsehood, has been recorded. In the day of judgment the angels will be the holy, truthful witnesses to every word and act.
“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
That the angels of God do take part in the judgment, we read in Daniel 7:10, “A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.”
What a solemn scene it is! And, since the angels are our ministering spirits and our lives are open before them, it is reasonable to believe that they make the records of our lives and that, when the books are examined, they will be present to minister before God.
It is then that Revelation 3:5 is overwhelmingly true, “He who overcomes...I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Here is something to encourage us all. God has promised protection to His people in times of trouble, especially in the final days of this world, at the time of the seven last plagues. Here is His promise in Psalm 91, a chapter which in our family was taught as children. As a boy I learned it, and every verse of it is precious to me and will be to you too if you will memorize it. It will fill your heart with comfort in dark hours.
Listen to this promise from God, “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; [Why?] For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:10-12).
Think of it, “He shall give His angels charge over you.” How wonderful, how precious! God has given His angels charge over you, friend, if you are a child of His, if you have given your heart to Him.
When our Saviour comes in glory, He will not come alone. “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” “...and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 16:27; 24:31).
So the angels will take part in the final gathering of God's people. All the holy angels come with Him, not simply a part of them. They are all interested in our salvation, for they have all been ministering spirits to the children of God.
Turn to Matthew 25 and read this beautiful picture of the second coming of Christ, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
What a scene, what glory, what a day! Remember, all the holy angels will be there, your guardian angel and mine. All the angels will be with Christ. Then comes the last act in this great drama.
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
We do not speak much today of the wicked and dark acts of evil angels. Part of the angelic host fell into sin and followed Lucifer into bondage. They are even now kept in “chains of darkness” to the judgment of the great day. (2 Peter 2:4.)
The presence and work of the holy angels are simply a part of God's love and care for us. Are we willing, with all our hearts, to love and serve Him? We might well pray in the words of Francis of Assisi:
“Lord, grant that I may seek rather...
To comfort—than to be comforted;
To understand—than to be understood;
To love—than to be loved;
For it is by giving that one receives:
It is by self-forgetting that one finds;
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven;
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.”