The Unfallen Hosts Of Heaven
Nearly three hundred times in our Bible God speaks of the angels. The word translated “Angel” in both the Old and New Testaments literally means “Messenger.” While in the large majority of these references the word is used to describe the hosts of heaven, in a few the appellation is applied to men (Matt. 11:10. Luke 7:24).
These spiritual and heavenly beings were so interested in the affairs of our earth that they sang at its birth (Job 38:7). They also sang at the birth of the Redeemer when He came to reclaim it from the ruin into which it had been plunged by sin (Luke 2:13-14). Apparently they will join in the universal song when the Lord comes to reign over a subdued earth, “Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev. 19:6). Let us consider what the Scriptures teach about these heavenly beings. We shall look at the characteristics of their creation, the classification of their ranks, and the concepts of their ministry.
The Characteristics Of Their Creation
The Scriptures teach that angels are mighty, but not almighty (Psa. 103:20. Dan. 10:13); that they are intelligent, but not omniscient (2 Sam. 14:20. Mark 13:32); and, that they are swift, but not omnipresent (Dan. 1:13). They are sexless and therefore their number is the result of direct creation and not the consequence of successive generation (Matt. 22:30). In their nature they are holy (Matt. 25:31), in their character humble, and in their service, swiftly obedient (Psa. 103:20-21. Isa. 6:2). They are spirit beings (Heb. 1:14), yet this does not rule out the possibility of their possessing bodies. In all probability they do possess celestial bodies which can be rendered visible or invisible at will (Judges 6:21; 13:20. Luke 2:13), as was our Lord’s spiritual body after His resurrection, and as probably the spiritual bodies of the saints will be in a coming day (1 Cor. 15).
Although limited in their knowledge they are not limited in their capacities to enlarge their knowledge of God and their appreciation of Christ. Through the Church they are learning more of the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10), and with holy wonder and contemplation they study the great mystery of redemption (1 Pet. 1:12).
They share with us a common relationship to God as sons (Job 1:6), and we share with them the large fellowship of the family of God (Eph. 3:15), “for we are come unto mount Sion … to an innumerable company of angels” (Heb. 12:22). We shall share with angels the love and worship of God and join with them in a joyous and ceaseless service for God throughout Eternity.
They are not mediators between men and God. Christ alone is that (1 Tim. 2:5), and although they are superior to men in strength and intelligence yet men are forbidden by God to pray to them, even they themselves refuse such homage (Col. 2:18. Rev. 19:10; 22:9).
It appears from a reference in Jude that they have definite habitations in the heavens. This strengthens the belief that they possess spiritual bodies. Yet at the behest of God they visit, with divinely imparted capabilities, every part of the universe. When Satan fell we are told that “his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth” meaning that at least one third of the angelic host was affected by his rebellion. Is it not interesting to note, as Dr. Gaebelein points out, that the hosts of heaven mean both the stars and the angels. God is Lord of the stars and Lord of the angels (1 Kings 22:19. Luke 2:13. Gen. 2:1).
The Classification Of Their Ranks
There is a variety of orders in their organization such as principalities, powers, and dominions. There are other designations such as Archangel, Cherubim, Seraphim. The fact that Michael is called one of the chief princes is further proof that there are various orders of delegated authority among them.
Whether the Cherubim and the Seraphim are the same creatures, we do not know, but it seems plain that to the Cherubim is committed the guardianship of the Throne of God (Gen. 3:24. Exod. 25:20. Exek. 1. Rev. 4:6-8). This seems to have been the original assignment of Lucifer who forfeited his position by his fall. The four faces of the Cherubim would suggest God’s desire for the blessing of all creation, a desire that could only be realized when consistent with His own righteousness. Moreover, those four faces depict the features of the Eternal Son of God in Whom alone the attributes of God could be harmonized in the blessing of creation. In Matthew we see Him with the face of a lion for He alone, by virtue of His atonement, has the right to universal dominion. In Mark we see the face of the calf for He served both God and man sacrificially even unto death; He was ever bearing burdens. He bore the burden of our infirmities and sorrows in life, and the awful burden of our sins in death, thus enabling God to be just and the justifier of everyone who believes in Jesus. In Luke we see the face of a man, the only perfect Man that ever walked this earth. How perfectly human He was! He was ever loving and always doing good; ever sympathizing with poor frail man in all his infirmities. He experienced life as we know it, sin apart, and in doing so He fitted Himself for His High Priestly ministry above, a ministry that meets all our need as saints along the way to glory. In John we see the face of the eagle with its aspirations heavenward. The Son of God, though on earth, was ever in the bosom of the Father.
Gabriel And Michael
These two are the only ones of the angelic host who are individually named, except for Lucifer, the fallen one. Gabriel means “The Mighty One,” or “The Man of God.” His work seems to consist in carrying important messages from God to man (Dan. 8:16. Luke 1:19-26). Other angels may appear at certain times in the presence of God (Job 1:6), but Gabriel stands there continually as God’s divine courtier (Luke 1:19). In the execution of his duty his path lies through enemy territory which involves him, and other angels, in conflict with evil principalities and powers (Dan. 10:13). What a revelation of how nations are affected by the invisible powers of the heavens and of the battles fought in the protection of God’s people on earth!
Michael is the only angel who is called the Archangel. His name means “Who is like God.” He is brought before us in four books of our Bible; Daniel, 1 Thessalonians, Jude, and the Revelation. He is described as one of the chief princes (Dan. 10:13); Israel’s guardian angel (Dan. 10:21), the guard of the body of Moses (Jude 9), the Commander-in-chief of the armies of heaven (Rev. 12:7), and as he who summons the angelic host to guard and conduct the Church into the heavens (1 Thess. 4).