The Holy Angels (Part 1)
Do angels exist, what are their names, when were they created and how many are there? Are angels really persons? As part of Ariel Ministries’ Come & See discipleship course — which FaithEquip is promoting this year in English, Afrikaans and IsiXhosa (soon) — we now focus on Angelology, or the Doctrine of Angels. Since a lot of material is to be covered, we will do so piecemeal. This material is based on an article written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum (of Ariel Ministries) called Angelology: The doctrine of the elect angels.
Into which three main divisions can the study of what the Bible teaches about angels (Angelology) be divided into? Angelology can be divided into what the Bible teaches about holy or elect angels (Angelology Proper), into what the Bible teaches about Satan (Satanology) and into what the Bible teaches about fallen angels (Demonology). Notice the emphasis: since we are not to go beyond what is written in the Bible (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6), the Bible is our source for Angelology and not the subjective experiences of human beings.
In this series about Angelology, the term ‘celestial being’ (or infrequently ‘angelic being’) refers to either cherubim, seraphim or to angels. Sometimes people use the word ‘angel’ when they mean all three kinds of celestial beings, but this can be confusing. Most of the time, however, when one considers ‘angels’, one is focusing not on cherubim or seraphim, but on the third kind of celestial being, called ‘angels’. We will consider what the bible reveals about all three kinds of celestial beings.
Celestial beings are persons, not mere ‘emanations’ or ‘forces’, since celestial beings have intellect (2 Samuel 14:20; Matthew 24:36; Ephesians 3:10), emotion (Job 38:7; Luke 15:10) and will (Luke 2:13; Hebrews 1:6; Jude 6). We can be sure that cherubim, seraphim and angels are persons.
Angels are mentioned 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament, that is, angels are mentioned 273 times in Scripture. Angels are mentioned in 33 of the 66 books of the Bible: in 18 books of the Old Testament and in 15 books of the New Testament. Furthermore, Jesus clearly taught the existence of angels (Matthew 13:39, 41, 49; Mark 12:25, Luke 12:8-9; John 1:51) — to name but a few references. The reason why Jesus taught about angels is because they really do exist. To argue that angels — be they holy or fallen, be they cherubs, seraphs or angels — do not exist, questions not only the inspiration of Scripture, but also implies that Jesus was wrong to teach that angels exist (but Jesus was not wrong and God’s Word is true).
Names for angels
The Bible uses several names for celestial beings. The names that are mentioned below refer mostly to holy or elect celestial beings, but are sometimes also used of fallen celestial beings (so do consider the context).
The first name is the most common one, namely ‘angel’. The word ‘angel’ in both Hebrew and Greek means ‘a messenger’. Since human beings can also perform the function of a messenger, sometimes that word is used of human beings (cf. Genesis 32:3), but more often than not it is used of celestial beings (and mostly the third kind of celestial beings, namely angels) sent by God as messengers (cf. Genesis 32:1). So the office of an angel is that of a messenger (Hebrews 1:7).
A second name for celestial beings (all kinds of them) is ‘the sons of God’ (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).
A third name is ‘the sons of the mighty’ (Psalm 29:1; 89:6).
The fourth name, ‘the holy ones’ (Psalm 89:5, 7; Daniel 4:13, 17; 8:13), refers to celestial beings that did not fall. They include the holy angels (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26), also called the elect angels (1 Timothy 5:21) that did not fall with Satan.
A fifth name is ‘watcher’, emphasising the function of angels that observe whether God’s will is being carried out (Daniel 4:13, 17).
A sixth name is that of ‘watchmen’ (Isaiah 62:6), angels that not only observe but also watch over a situation as guardians.
The seventh name is ‘spirits’, because angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14).
An eight name for angels are ‘stars’ (Job 38:17; Revelation 1:20; 9:1; 12:4), with one exception, the ‘star’ in Numbers 24:17 refers to Christ.
Ninth is the name ‘ministers’, emphasising that angels are ministers of God, carrying out His will (Psalm 103:21; 104:4; Hebrews 1:7).
A tenth name for celestial beings is ‘host’, an English translation of the Hebrew word that means ‘army’. The host comprises the heavenly army of God, which explains why God is often referred to as ‘Jehovah of hosts’ or as the ‘Lord of hosts’, for He is the Lord of this angelic army (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:20-21; 148:2).
An eleventh name is ‘chariots’, emphasising the speed of celestial beings in carrying out God’s will (2 Kings 6:16-17; Psalm 68:17; Zechariah 6:1-8).
Lastly, the twelfth name for angels is ‘elohim’ meaning ‘god’ — not because celestial beings are God, but because the holy and elect angels act as representatives of God and have God’s delegated authority to speak in His name (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7).
Where do angels come from?
Colossians 1:16 clearly teaches that angels were created by God. They were created simultaneously by God and since they are not a race, angels do not increase or decrease in number. How many angels are there? Scripture does not give the precise number, so the answer is that God created an ‘innumerable hosts of angels’ (Hebrews 12:22).
Obviously angels are inferior to God (who created them in the first place) but they are higher beings than human beings (Psalm 8:4-5; Hebrews 2:5-7; 2 Peter 2:11). In relation to the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man, celestial beings are inferior to Christ because of his divinity but celestial beings are also inferior to Jesus in his humanity (Hebrews 1:4-2:3; 2:5-8).
But what happened, why did some celestial beings fall and others not?
When God created the celestial beings, they were created holy but with the power of contrary choice (Mark 8:38; Jude 6). This means they had the ability to choose in a manner contrary to their created nature. If they chose holy in conformity with God’s will, these celestial beings were confirmed in their holiness. This is what two-thirds of the celestial beings did. Having been confirmed in their holiness, these holy and elect celestial beings do not have the ability of contrary choice anymore —in other words, they cannot sin. But as it turned out, Satan and a third of all celestial beings chose to make an unholy choice (cf. Revelation 12:4). These fallen celestial beings cannot be ‘saved’ and will spend eternity in the everlasting fire (Hebrews 2:16; Matthew 25:41).
Next time we will focus on where elect or holy angels live and how they appear. We will also consider the nature of angels and how they are organised.
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