The Nature of Angelic Beings
NCW 11, August 1994
Q. Who, or what, are angels? Are they spirits, humans, or what? What is their purpose? Please would you explain fully who these beings are.
Angels are messengers. The word "angel" is used in the Bible of God, of men, and of an order of created spiritual beings whose chief attributes are strength and wisdom (2 Sam.14:20; Psa.103:20; 104:4). In the Old Testament the expression "the angel of the Lord" (sometimes "of God") usually implies the presence of Deity in angelic form (Gen.16:1-13; 21:17-19; 22:11-16; 31:11-13; Ex.3:2-4; Judg.2:1; 6:12-16; 13:3-22). This has been interpreted to mean either that the invisible God manifests Himself in an angelic body, or that God reveals His glory through an angelic being, the angel being, as it were, God's "personal messenger". A third interpretation is that God is Himself the angel or messenger in these contexts and that He is anthropomorphic (or, to be more accurate, man is theomorphic).
The Lord said through the prophet Micah: "Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal.3:1, AV). The "messenger" or "angel" here is John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ's First Coming and (indirectly), Christ's Second Coming too.
The word "angel" is used of men in Lk.7:24; Jas.2:25; Rev.1:20; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14. In Rev.8:3-5 Christ Himself is described as an angel or messenger. Finally, the word "angel" is used of the spirit of man (Matt.18:10; Ac.12:15).
The fact that the term "angel" is used of God, Christ, man and spirits in heaven suggests a common pedigree. They are all of the same origin. The angels in heaven are, for the most part, spirits (Psa.104:4; Heb.1:14), though some do have physical form also, or can manifest physically, and can conceal their glory so as to appear like ordinary men and women on the earth (Gen.19:1,5; Judg.6:11,22; 13:3,6). At other times, they do not attempt to conceal their glory (Num.22:22-31; Judg.2:1; 1 Chr.21:16,20; Matt.1:20; Lk.1:26; Joh.20:12; Ac.7:30; 12:7-8, etc.).
The word "angel" is always used in the masculine gender, though sex, in the human sense, is never directly ascribed to angels in the Bible. Indeed, Jesus states: "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven" (Matt.22:30, NIV; cp. Mark 12:25). This is one of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament and has been interpreted to mean that there is no marriage in heaven. Elsewhere Jesus said: "Follow me, let the [spiritually] dead1 bury their own [physically] dead2" (Matt.8:22). Jesus spoke in parables so that the initiated would understand. The Sadducees, to whom Jesus addressed the question of marriage after death, did not believe in the resurrection and were, to all intents and purposes, [spiritually] dead. As far as we know, none of the Sadducees (who were a wealthy, secular Jewish Úlite who made only a pretense of religion) never converted to the Gospel (unlike some of the Pharisees who did). Properly understood, then, the scripture should be interpreted to read: "When the [spiritually] dead1 rise (i.e. Sadducees), they will neither marry not be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the [physically] dead2 rising...." (Mark 12:25-26, NIV; cp. Matt.8:22 above). Here you will see that Jesus uses a code -- when he talks about the dead twice in succession, He always first refers to the spiritually dead and then to the physically dead.
Now this does not mean that the angels are spiritually dead. It means only that the marriage estate of the angels is the same as the marriage estate of those who were spiritually dead on earth, i.e. they are unmarried. Whether they are male and female, or unisexual, is not revealed in the Bible, even though, as we have seen, they are usually referred to as "he".
Angels are exceedingly numerous (Matt.26:53; Heb.12:22; Rev.5.11; Psa.68:17). Their power is inconceivable (2 Ki.19:35). Their place is about the throne of God (Rev.5:11; 7:11). Their relationship to the believer is that of "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation", and this ministry has reference largely to the physical safety and well-being of believers (1 Ki.19:5; Psa.34:7; 91:11; Dan.6:22; Matt.2:13,19; 4:11; Lk.22:43; Ac.5:19; 12:7-10). We understand also that care for believers starts in infancy and continues through life (Heb.1:14; Matt.18:19; Psa.91:11). The angels observe us (1 Cor.4:9; Eph.3:10; Eccl.5:6), a fact which ought to influence our conduct! They receive departing saints when they die (Lk.16:22).
Man is made "a little lower than the angels", and in incarnation, Christ took "for a little (time) this lower place" (Psa.8:4-5; Heb.2:6,9) that He might lift the believer into His own sphere above angels (Heb.2:9-10). The angels are to accompany Christ in His Second Advent (Matt.25:31) and to them will be committed the preparation of judgment of the nations (see Matt.13:30,39,41-42; 25:32). This is not, incidentally, the Great White Throne Judgment. The persons judged are the living nations and no books are opened: the three classes are present -- sheep, goats, brethren; the time is at the return of Christ (v.31) on the earth. All these particulars are in contrast to Rev.20:11-15. The test in the judgment is the treatment accorded by the nations to those whom Christ here calls "my brethren". These "brethren" may well be the remnant who will have preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations during the tribulation. By contrast, the test in Rev.20:11-15 is the possession of eternal life, which is not a responsibility of the angels.
The Kingdom Age or Millennium is not to be subject to the angels., but to Christ and those for whom He was made a little lower than the angels (Heb.2:5). An archangel, Michael, is mentioned as having a particular relation to Israel and to the resurrections (Dan.10:13,21; 12:1-2; Jude 9; 1 Thess.4:16). The only other angel whose name is revealed in the Bible, Gabriel, was employed in the most distinguished services (Dan.8:16; 9:21; Lk.1:19,26).
This is the sum of what is known about good angels in the Bible. Though the Holy Order is in possession of revelation which tells us more about the angelic orders, their names, etc., this is not mentioned here.
A final word about the fallen angels, of which two classes are mentioned in the Bible:
This, then, as far as we can tell, represents the sum of the revelation on angels -- good and evil -- to be found in the Bible. Other Scriptures, which are sealed up in the Holy Order, reveal more, but these are not cited here and are reserved for members of that Order.
(1) "The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation", are "chained under darkness" awaiting judgment (2 Pet.2:4; Jude 6; 1 Cor.6:3; John 5:22). It has been suggested that these are the angels mentioned in Gen.6:4: "The Nephilim [giants] were on the earth in those days -- and also afterward -- when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown" (NIV). If they are angels, then they must be of a different order to the ones we have been discussing for two reasons: (a) They have physical bodies, since they were able to have intercourse with earthlings, and (b) They have gender, being male.
The alternative explanation is that "the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose" (v.2), represents intermarriage between the God's covenant people (the line of Seth -- see Gen.4:26) and the heathen (the line of Cain). However, this seems a rather excessive punishment for intermarriage and does not explain the resultant "nephilim" or giants. There is an old tradition concerning these passages which speaks of the union between divine and mortal beings. The Nephilim were seen by Israelite spies when they entered Canaan, and they reported: "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them" (Num.13:33). Goliath was probably one of these surviving Nephilim in the days of Saul and David (1 Sam.17:4). These fallen angels may well be the ones who appeared before God with Satan (Job 1:6).
It is the belief of the New Covenant that the fallen angels theory is the correct one for the reasons above, plus the fact it must be remembered that these evil unions led to such wickedness in the earth that the race had to be destroyed by a universal flood. The race was no longer strictly human, being the product of humans and evil angelic entities, "for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (Gen.6:12).
There are numerous legends of "gods" coming from the heavens and intermarrying with humans and it is the belief of the New Covenant that these "angels" may, in fact, have been beings from other probation worlds like our own with more advanced technology. Some of these broke the divine law forbidding intermixing of different planetary civilisations and began colonisation here, resulting in the necessity of the species being destroyed. We also believe that many UFO visits (where there are thousands of reports from victims of breeding experiments being conducted) may, in fact, constitute the continuing interference of extra-terrestrial races and be a part of the Satanic plan to destroy the world (see our pamphlet, Unwelcome Visitors). These "angels" may therefore have been UFOnauts (extra-terrestrials); it is not surprising, therefore, that a terrible judgment awaits them. This may also explain why the earth, at the end of this dispensation, must be destroyed by fire, if these breeding experiments (whose purpose seems to be to create a kind of false, satanic "immortality" by preying on other [human] life in vampire-fashion) are still continuing (2 Pet.3:10).
(2) The second category of fallen angels described in the Bible are spirit entities, those who have Satan as their leader (Gen.3:1; Rev.20:10) and are synonymous with demons (Matt.7:22). Satan himself is one of these fallen angels or demons. Originally created as one of the Cherubim and anointed to a position of great authority, perhaps over the primitive creation (Gen.1:2), and may originally have been one of the Elohim, though this is inconclusive. He may also have been one of the four Cherubim ("living creatures") who are particularly associated with the holiness of God as outraged by sin (Ezek.1:5), unlike the other angelic Order, the Seraphim, who are associated with the cleanliness of God's people (Isa.6:2-7).
Satan's fall is described in Ezek.28:11-15. He fell through pride (Isa.14:12-14). His "I will" marks the introduction of sin into the universe (Isa.14:13). If Satan (or Lucifer as he was known then) had responsibility over the primitive physical creation, then we have an explanation for the corrupted form of the natural world which existed outside the Garden of Eden and which eventually swamped that place too.
Satan was cast out of heaven (Lk.10:18) and has since made earth and air the scene of his tireless activity (Eph.2:2; 1 Pet.5:8). After the creation of man he entered into the serpent (Gen.3:1) and, beguiling Eve by his subtlety, secured the downfall of Adam and through him of the race, and the entrance of sin into the world of men (Rom.5:12-14). It should be noted here that the original "serpent" was not a writhing reptile (snake). The original serpent was probably most beautiful and was second only to man in subtlety. Traces of that beauty still remain, despite the curse inflicted on it. Every movement of a snake is graceful, and many species are beautifully coloured. In the serpent, Satan first appeared "as an angel of light" (2 Cor.11:14). New Covenant Christians believe that the serpent originally had four legs but that these were lost as a result of the curse. Some species of snake still possess vestigial limbs.
The Adamic Covenant (Gen.3:14-19) promised the ultimate destruction of Satan through the "seed of the woman". Then began his long warfare against the work of God which still continues. The present world system (Rev.13:8), organised upon the principles of force, greed, selfishness, ambition and sinful pleasure, is his work and was the bribe which he offered Christ (Matt.4:8-9). Of that world system he is prince (Joh.14:30; 16:11), and god (2 Cor.4:4). As "prince of the power of the air" (Eph.2:2) he is the head of a vast host of demons (Matt.7:22).
Demons are spirits (Matt.12:43,45) and are Satan's emissaries (Matt.12:26-27; 25:41). They are so numerous as to make Satan's power practically ubiquitous (Mk.5:9). They are capable of entering and controlling both men and beasts (Mk.5:8,11-13). They earnestly seek embodiment, without which, apparently, they are powerless for evil (Matt.12:43.44; Mk.5:10-12). Demon influence and demon possession are discriminated in the New Testament. Instances of the latter are Mt.4:24; 8:16,28,33; 9:32; 12:22; Mk.1:32; 5:15-16,18; Lk.8:36; Ac.8:7; 16:16.
They are unclean, sullen, violent, and malicious (Matt.8:28; 9:33; 10:1; 12:43; Mk.1:23; 5:3-5; 9:17,20; Lk.6:18; 9:39). They know Jesus Christ as Most High God, and recognise His supreme authority (Matt.8:31-32; Mk.1:24; Ac.19:15; Jas.2:19). They know their eternal fate to be one of torment (Matt.8:29; Lk.8:21). They inflict physical maladies (Matt.12:22; 17:15-18; Lk.13:16) but mental disease is to be distinguished from the disorder of mind due to demonic control.
Demon influence may manifest itself in religious asceticism and formalism (1 Tim.4:1-3), degenerating into uncleanness (2 Pet.2:10-12). The sign of demon influence in religion is departing from the faith, i.e. that body of revealed truth in the Scriptures (1 Tim.4:1). The demons maintain especially a conflict with believers who would be spiritual (Eph.6:12; 1 Tim.4:1-3). All unbelievers are open to demon possession (Eph.2:2). The believer's resources are, prayer and bodily control (Matt.17:21), "the whole armour of God" (Eph.6:13-18). Exorcism in the Name of Jesus Christ (Ac.16:18) was practiced for demon possession and continues to be done in the New Covenant Church. One of the awful features of the apocalyptic judgments in which this age will end is an eruption of demons out of the abyss (Rev.9:1-11). That eruption has already begun in our time and will get progressively worse.
To Satan, under God, was committed upon the earth the power of death (Heb.2:14). Cast out of heaven as his proper sphere and "first estate", he still has access to God as the "accuser of the brethren" (Rev.12:10), and is permitted a certain power of sifting or testing the self-confident and carnal among believers (Job 1:6-11; Lk.22:31-32; 1 Joh.2:1).
At the beginning of the Great Tribulation Satan's privilege of access to God as accuser will be withdrawn (Rev.12:7-12). At the return of Christ in glory Satan will be bound for one thousand years (Rev.20:2) after which he will be "loosed for a little season" (Rev.20:3,7-8), and will become the head of a final effort to overthrow the Kingdom. Defeated in this, he will be finally cast into the lake of fire, his final doom. Incidentally, the notion that he reigns in hell comes from the poet Milton, and is not Biblical. This concept has found its way into many Hollywood movies and has, as a result, wrongly influenced public consciousness. He is the prince of this present world-system, but will be tormented in the lake of fire.
In addition to the Bible revelation, there are the countless thousands of testimonies of those who have encountered angels personally. That both categories of angel exist we are in absolutely no doubt for they have been experienced by the New Covenant Christians. Knowledge about them, especially the evil ones, is particularly important in these very last days when they are being loosed by Satan like a plague of locusts on the earth. Identifying and discerning them -- and when necessary, exorcising them -- is an essential work of the ministry.
Let us remember this warning given by God concerning Satan and be sure that we never emulate the same path: "Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings" (Ezek.28:17, NIV)
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