Angels: Are There Angels Around Us?

Question
Angels: Are There Angels Around Us?
Answer

In recent decades there has been a resurgence of interest in angels. Unfortunately, many teachings on angels are speculative at best. So, it is important to know what the Scriptures teach on this subject. Reformed theology as a whole has not placed much emphasis on the subject of angels, but they are mentioned in Reformed catechisms and confessions (e.g., WLC 12, 13, 16, 19).

God created two sorts of personal beings: angels (from the Greek term meaning "messenger") and human beings. There are many angels (Matt. 26:53; Rev. 5:11). They are intelligent moral agents, without bodies and normally invisible, although they are able to show themselves to men in what appears as a physical form (Gen. 18:2-19:22; John 20:10-14; Acts 12:7-10). They do not marry, and are not subject to physical death (Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:35-36). They can move from one point in space to another, and many of them can congregate in a tiny area (Luke 8:30, where the reference is to fallen angels).

Heaven is the angels' home (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; Rev. 5:11), where they constantly worship God (Psa. 103:20-21; 148:2). They move out from there to various tasks at God's bidding (Heb. 1:14). These are the "holy" and "elect" angels (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22; 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 14:10), to whom God's work of grace through Christ is currently demonstrating more of the divine wisdom and glory than they knew before (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12).

Angelic activity was prominent at the great turning points in the divine plan of salvation (the days of the patriarchs, the time of the Exodus and giving of the law, the period of the Exile and restoration, and the birth, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ), and will be prominent again when Christ returns (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38).

Holy angels guard believers (Psa. 34:7; 91:11), particularly little ones (Matt. 18:10), and constantly observe what goes on in the church (1 Cor. 11:10). It may be that they are more knowledgeable about divine things than humans generally are (Mark 13:32), and that they have a special ministry to believers at the time of their death (Luke 16:22). Yet, the Scriptures gives only the barest information about these things. Good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives.

The mysterious "angel of the Lord" or "angel of God" appears often in the early Old Testament. He is sometimes identified with God and at other times distinguished from him (Gen. 16:7-13; 18:1-33; 22:11-18; 24:7, 40; 31:11-13; 32:24-30; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2-6; 14:19; 23:20-23; 32:34-33:5; Num. 22:22-35; Jos. 5:13-15; Judges 2:1-5; 6:11-23; 9:13-23). Some scholars conclude that, in some sense, the angel of the Lord is a manifestation of God in which he acts as his own messenger; often he is seen as a pre incarnate appearance of God the Son. Others believe that he is identified closely with God because he is God's representative (see notes on Gen. 16:7; Exod. 3:2; 14:19; Judges 2:1).

The Scriptures honor all holy angels as glorious creatures. They are called "sons of God" (Job 1:6; 2:1) and "mighty ones" (Psa. 29:1). They are said to be radiant and powerful (Isa. 6:1-4; 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Pet. 3:22; 2 Pet. 2:11; Rev. 15:8) even forming the victorious army of God (Exod. 14:19). Yet, Scripture also points to the honor and splendor of being holy human beings. The Psalmist said we were made "a little lower than the heavenly beings" (Psa. 8:5), which is an honorable position. Yet, the apostle Paul noted that this would not be the final order between angels and humans. He told the Corinthians that when Christ returns we will "judge the angels" (1 Cor. 6:3). The human race - the image of God - will one day rule over not only the earth and its creatures but also the angels.

Notes from the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Dr. Richard Pratt, ed. (Zondervan, 2003).

Copyright:

Copyright, Authors, and Theological Editors of the SORSB

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries and adjunct Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.