5. The Designations of Angels
In the Scriptures, good or unfallen angels are designated as to their nature, dignity and power as “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14). This shows that they are ceaselessly active in the life of the believer as they were in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself. This fact explains itself, for as “ministering spirits” they sustain in relation to God and man.
They are also designated: “the angels of His might” (2 Thess. 1:7 margin) which implies that they are exceedingly powerful; “holy angels” (Lk. 9:26), “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21). In what way these angels are elected or chosen, it is not made clear, but from the context we would assume that all these good or unfallen angels are “elect angels.” It may be that they are so called in contrast with some of their original number who sinned (Mt. 25:41).
“The Scriptures speak of ‘principalities and powers in the heavenlies’ and distinguish them from ‘angels’ in Romans 8:28 and 1 Peter 3:22. Angels may be likened to the privates in an army and principalities and powers to its officers, with varying degrees in dignity” (W.W.F.)
Another class of these marvelous beings is called the “Seraphim” (Isa. 6:1-6). This particular class stood above the throne in continuous worship of Jehovah. The reference in Isaiah is the only place in the Scriptures where they are mentioned.
Another class of these mighty beings close to the throne of God is designated “Cherubim.” We meet these upon the early pages of Holy Writ as guards at the gate of Eden (Gen. 3) after Adam and Eve were expelled. Their figures in gold are seen again in connection with the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:19). It is interesting to note that Satan must have been of this class, as he is called the “annointed cherub” (Ezek. 28:12-15).
Another group of angelic beings called “living creatures,” “beasts,” in the A.V., appears in Revelation 4:6-11. It may be that the “living creatures” and the “seraphim” are identical. Some teachers say they are cherubim. Mr. A. A. Hodge in his, “Outlines of Theology” says regarding seraphim, “It probably presents under a different aspect the ideal beings commonly designated cherubim and living creatures.” At any rate, the cherubim and seraphim are supernatural beings of a very high rank and are always seen in connection with the throne of God.
Then there are those designated by name. One is the archangel Michael. His name means ‘Who is like God’ (Dan. 12:1, Jude 9, Rev. 12, 1 Thess. 4:17).
Then we note another name, Gabriel which means, the mighty one (Dan. 8:16, 9:21, Lk. 1:19:26).
There are three other angels that appear on the sacred pages who are called by name and these are fallen angels, as the context clearly shows, “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” and the “prince of Grecia” (Dan. 10:13, 20).
The third mighty and glorious being called by name is “Lucifer, the son of the morning” (Isa. 14:12), “the anointed cherub that covereth” (Ezek. 28:12-15), who became a rebel.
Another designation is given these angelic beings which must not be overlooked in a study of this nature. Sometimes they are called “the sons of God.” While this is a subject on which the great scholars are divided, we will not be dogmatic.
The expression, “the sons of God” appears six times in the Old Testament (Gen. 6:2, Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7, Ps. 29:1, 89:6).
The late editor of that great work which bears his name, The Scofield Reference Bible, says “The uniform Hebrew and Christian interpretation has been that verse two of Genesis six marks the breaking down of the separation between the godly line of Seth and the godless line of Cain.”
In an article that appeared in “Food for the Flock” (Feb. 1957), under Bible Study on the Book of Genesis, Mr. James Gunn says, “Certain scholars regard the designation, “sons of God,” to refer to angels and they urge that the abnormal union of the angels with the daughters of men produced a race of giants. While such an interpretation may appear quite ingenious, it is far from natural. In the earlier interpretation that we have given to these opening verses of chapter six, the union of the Cainite and the Sethite lines appears more in keeping with the whole tenor of Holy Scripture” (So A. R. Fausett, Matthew Henry, Adam Clark and Thomas Scott).
Mr. H.P. Barker says, “Some think that they were descendants of Seth, and that the “daughters of men” were women of Cain’s line. But this implies that the word “men” in verse 1 were men of Cainite descent exclusively, which can hardly be so. The Septuagint, in the marginal note, says that the Alexandrine Version has “angels of God,” i.e. fallen angels. G.H. Pember, in Earth’s Earliest Ages, advocates this view and quotes various authorities in support. Geoffry R. King, in his recent book, The Forty Days, pp 22, 23, develops this view: “These incarnate demons married human women and produced a race of demonized mankind so wicked that the whole earth became utterly corrupt.” So William Kelly, C.E. Stuart, Walter Scott, Bishop Ryle, C. F. Hogg, C. A. Coates, W.E. Vine, Kenneth Wuest and A. C. Gaebelein who is one of the strongest advocates of this view that I have found. Six times we read of the ‘Sons of God’ in the Old Testament and each time it means these supernatural beings. But it must be noted that while angels are called ‘Sons of God’, they are never called ‘Sons of the Lord.’ It is the Hebrew always Bnai Elohim (Elohim is God’s name as creator) and never Bnai Jehovah. The Bnai Jehovah are sinners redeemed and brought into filial relationship by redemption. The Bnai Elohim are unfallen beings, Sons of God by creation. The Angels are Sons of God in the first creation; sinners saved by grace are the Sons of God in the new creation.
Mr. William Lincoln, in his “Typical Foreshadowings in Genesis” is very strongly against this latter view. Darby’s Synopsis, Grant’s Numerical Bible and C.H.M. are perhaps the wisest, in non-committal. While there is much that is logical and scriptural in each of these views, it is the humble judgment of the writer that this latter view is more in keeping with the Scriptures.
The last designation that we want to look at is perhaps the most interesting, Malach-Jehovah, Hebrew for “The Angel of the Lord.” He has been called by some a mysterious being who is closely identified with the Lord Himself, but who is the bearer of the more intimate and personal messages from the divine throne.
The One so designated here is not a created being, but an untreated angel. “The Angel of Jehovah” appears to be a title which belongs to God. It seems to me that this Angel is more than a bearer of intimate and personal messages, for He who is called the “Angel of Jehovah” (Ex. 3:2) is called “God” (v. 6), and “I am that I am,” (v. 14). He appears at times as an Angel and even in the form of a man. Unmistakeably, this is a manifestation of Deity. There are a number of these manifestations of “the Angel of the Lord.” He appeared to Hagar (Gen. 16:7), Abraham (Gen. 18:1, 22: 11, 12), Jacob (Gen. 48:15, 16, 31:11-13, 32:24-32), Moses (Ex. 3:2, 6, 14), Joshua (Josh. 5:13, 14), Israel (Judges 2:1-2), Gideon (Judges 6:14), Manoah (Judges 13:19-22), David (Ps. 34:7). It is He who destroyed the army of Assyria, (2 Kings 19: 35), and fought for and defended His own (Zech. 14:1-4. 1 Chron. 21:15, 16).
The inevitable inference is that by the “Angel of the Lord” in such passages is meant He who is from the beginning the “Word,” i.e., the Manifester or Revealer of God. It will be observed from the context of the many such appearances, that “the angel of the Lord” not only was a messenger representing the Divine presence; He was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “It is Jehovah, the Lord, who revealed Himself at different times in the garb of an angel, and generally in the form of man. This angel of the Lord is not a messenger sent from God, but a theophany, a manifestation of Deity. Jehovah, the “I am,” is the Son of God. We have, therefore, in the repeated appearances of the Angel of the Lord very interesting pre-incarnation manifestations of the Son of God, our Lord. In each case of the manifestation of this Angel of the Lord, the marks of Deity are present!” (A.C.G.)