Were it not for the Word of God, we would know very little about the unseen heavenly hosts called angels. Anyone at all familiar with the Holy Scriptures will see their prominence in both the Old and New Testaments. Since God has spoken, then all that we know about these heavenly powers is by direct revelation. And it is to this source of knowledge that we turn for a study of the doctrine of angels which we shall consider under seven divisions:
1. The Attestation to the existence of Angels
2. The Origination of Angels
3. The Numeration of Angels
4. The Limitations of Angels
5. The Designations of Angels
6. The Habitation of Angels
7. The Ministration of Angels
The Attestation to the existence of Angels.
That Angels exist is a fact which no true Christian will deny. Using Strong’s Concordance we note that the words “Angel” and “Angels” appear 297 times in the Bible. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word is mal’ah, from a root meaning to dispatch as a deputy, a messenger, and occurs 114 times in 17 of its books. In the New Testament, the Greek word is aggelos, a messenger, and occurs 180 times in 17 of its books. The other three references to angels in the Old Testament have a different meaning into which we will not go during this study. These make the total of 297, references to “angel” or “angels” in the Scriptures. Literally then, both Old and New Testament words rendered angel, mean messenger.
An angel, then, is a messenger sent either by God, by man, or by Satan. Generally the word is used in connection with an order of supernatural beings of the spiritual realm belonging to Heaven (Mt. 24:36; Mk. 12:25) and to God (Lk. 12:8) and engaged in His service (Ps. 103:20). The term is occasionally used in other connections; for example, in Jude 6, “The Angels which kept not their first estate.” These are supernatural beings who have fallen. There is also the expression, “The Angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16:7; 22:11 etc.), which refers to the Lord Jehovah Himself in His pre-incarnate appearances to men as the Divine Messenger. Note, He is “the Angel” in contrast to “an angel.” In Revelation 2 and 3 men are alluded to as angels in the letters to the then actual churches existing in Asia.
There are only 3 of these supernatural beings mentioned by name. First, Michael, the archangel (Jude 9), the only archangel mentioned in the Scriptures. Christendom would add more. In Daniel 12:1, he is seen as an emmisary of God for a specific purpose, namely in behalf of the remnant of Israel. In Jude 9, he contends for Moses’ body with the devil, and in the Revelation, we see him leading in war against Satan and his Angels.
Then there is Gabriel (Lk. 1:19, 26) who announced the Baptist’s birth, and who carried the answer to the praying prophet of God, Daniel (Dan. 9:21-23). But the greatest message ever carried by an angel was the announcement by Gabriel of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lucifer (Isa. 14:12), the third, is none other than a glorious angel, the day star, the morning star fallen.
We conclude then, that there can be no question as to the existence of these supernatural beings for the fact of their existence is sufficiently vouched for by 34 books of the infallible Word of God, giving attestation to their existence by its many references naturally and without apology. The Sadducees did not believe in angels (Acts 23:8). Modernism (today’s Sadduceeism) also denies their existence, but we accept what God has spoken as proof of angelic reality.
The Origination of Angels
The Bible teaches that Angels are created beings whose position is above man (Heb. 2:7), that is the original creation, but in the new creation man is carried into a higher position than angels will ever occupy.
As to the period or time of their creation, the Bible is silent. We do know from Job. 38:3-7, that they were present when God created the heavens and the earth. Vain is the research of men who seek to find out the when of their origin. They were, therefore, in existence when the foundation of this vast universe was laid, and as they witnessed His wonders and epochal events, called into being by the Word of His power, they lifted their voices in chorus and “shouted for joy” in admiration and adoration.
The Numeration of Angels
The Scriptures not only tell us of the existence and the origin of angels but also inform us that their number is stupendous and incalculable. Daniel in vision saw “thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Dan. 7:10). Matthew makes mention of “more than twelve legions of angels” (26:53). Luke refers to a “multitude of the heavenly host” (2:13). Hebrews 11:22 speaks of an “innumerable company of angels” (literally: myraids). The aged Apostle closes with this statement that he “beheld and heard the voice of many angels and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11). So we see that from the beginning their number is great. No doubt their number runs into the millions. It is said that the Hebrew had no word for million and expressed it by saying, “a thousand thousands,” and so the expression thousand thousands means a million, and ten thousand times ten thousand, of course, would be a hundred million. Be this as it may, how large the number of the angelic host is only known to Him whose name is Jehovah-Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. There is no increase in their number by generation, nor is their number lessened by cessation of their existence by expiration (Mt. 22:30).
The Limitations of Angels
The question is often asked, what then, is the nature of these angelic beings? That they belong to an order of beings above that of man, we have seen. The Bible says that they are spirits. They have the attributes of strength, swiftness, wisdom, and holiness and are depicted as winged (Isa. 6:6, Dan. 9:21, Rev. 4:6), and as radiant in countenance (Mt. 28:3). We must keep in mind that these beings are limited in these attributes. While they are wise, they know not all things. They have not all-preceiving knowledge, omniscience, which only their Creator possesses. While they travel with exceeding swiftness, not an all-prevading presence, omnipresence, which is a divine attribute of the Lord Himself. And while great and mighty feats are ascribed to them, they have not all-prevailing power, omnipotence. Being created beings, such as we are, they like us, can only do things by His permission and will, and are limited just as we are; the only difference being one of degree and extent of these creature limitations.
Do they have bodies? It so, what kind? These are questions often asked by thoughtful believers. I do not know that we are told specifically that they have bodies, but Paul speaks of “spiritual bodies” (1 Cor. 15:44), which they must possess, if they have bodies. But being purely spiritual in their nature, they are immaterial and invisible to the human eye. Yet, these angels are sometimes shown as possessing a material appearance, inhabiting material bodies, human in form, appearing as men (Acts 1:10, Heb. 13:2). It would seem as though they possess the faculty of appearing in corporeal form at will. “They possess personality and, though spirits, they have their own distinctive bodies” A.C.G.
Whether they were given special bodies for these occasions, or whether it is the capacity of such spiritual bodies to assume human form, or to disappear and appear at will, as the risen Christ did in His resurrection body, we do not know. We do know that there are different kinds of bodies (1 Cor. 15), terrestrial and celestial, a natural and spiritual and that angels have spiritual, that is celestial bodies, corresponding to their exalted, glorious spiritual nature. As created beings, then, they have all the limitations of creatures and we know from the Scriptures that they are spirits and assume human form at will, swiftly appearing and disappearing in the same manner; they have bodies, the nature of which we do not know for it is unrevealed.