Our goal is to work toward the right way for Christians to think biblically about angels and properly relate to them. The biblical response to these heavenly beings is somewhere between worship and obsession on the one hand, and a total denial of their existence on the other. Christians can learn from Scripture how to relate to angels as they follow the great God and Savior of the world.
What Are Angels?
While God’s word does not offer us a detailed description of how and when God made the angels, or of what exactly they look like, we can nevertheless gather truths and principles from various Scripture passages that teach us about these beings that are in eternal service of God.
You have probably seen pictures, movies, or cartoons portraying angels, but it’s likely that none of them portrayed angels in any way close to what they are actually like! What does the Bible say?
Angels are created beings. First, the Bible is clear that angels, like humans, are created and living beings, made by God. In Psalm 8, the psalmist points out that human beings have been made “a little lower” than the angels and “crowned . . . with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5).
Angels, then, have greater glory and honor than humans; it is noteworthy that the natural human response to these beings when they appear is first fear and then worship. Nevertheless, angels were created by God, and therefore are less than God. They are another kind of living being that God made.
Angels are eternal, nonmortal beings. Jesus makes it clear that angels—unlike human beings—are eternal and nonmortal (they do not share in human institutions such as marriage, for example; see Matt. 22:30). Angels were created by God to live forever; they do not grow old and die. While it seems that angels can certainly take on physical form, they are spiritual beings.
Angels are servants of God. Primarily, angels were created by God to be his servants (we will talk much more about what their service looks like in the next section). You saw this in the passage from Revelation 22 that you read just above. John was tempted, as we discussed above, to bow down and worship the angel who was showing him this vision of heaven. The angel stopped him, though, reminding him that, although glorious, he was nothing more than a “fellow servant” of God with John (Rev. 22:9). Angels are not to be worshiped; they are servants of God, who alone is worthy of worship and praise.
Angels dwell in heaven with God. Angels, unlike human beings, never have lived on earth and never have been subject to the fall in the same way that human beings are. Angels, then, do not have sinful natures; they are not guilty of sin, rebellion, and death. We know this because they are portrayed (in Rev. 4, for example) as dwelling closely with the holy God in heaven. Sinful beings would not be able to do that! So the permanent dwelling place for angels is in heaven with God.
The Purpose of Angels
Now that we have considered what angels are, we are going to dig a bit deeper into their purpose, as we see it revealed in the Bible. We will identify several of the chief roles that we see angels filling in Scripture as they obey God and help his work to move forward in the world he made. While we are not certain about the work of angels in the world today, we can look at how they have worked throughout the history of God’s people.
Above all, the Bible presents angels to us as servants of God. This was the point that the angel in Revelation made clear to John when John attempted to worship him (Rev. 22:9). But what do these servants do? What is their purpose? In the Bible, we see them acting in several key ways:
- Announcement. This is the purpose that you saw in the passage from Luke that you read just above. The angel Gabriel (one of the few angels who is named in Scripture) was sent to Mary to announce the coming birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.