From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]


1. Old Testament . That in the OT the existence of angels is taken for granted, and that therefore no account of their origin is given, is to be explained by the fact that belief in them is based upon an earlier Animism, * [Note: This view is supported by the various names in the OT for angels, and their varied functions (see below).] such as is common to all races in the pre-polytheistic stage of culture. The whole material for the development of Israelite angelology was at hand ready to be used. It must therefore not cause surprise if we find that in its earlier stages the differentiation between Jahweh and angels should be one of degree rather than of kind (see Angel of the Lord). This is clearly brought out in the earliest of the Biblical documents (J [Note: Jahwist.] ), e.g. in   Genesis 18:1-33; here Jahweh is one of three who are represented as companions, Jahweh taking the leading position, though equal honour is shown to all; that the two men with Jahweh are angels is directly asserted in   Genesis 19:1 , where we are told that they went to Sodom, after it had been said in   Genesis 18:33 that Jahweh ‘went his way.’ Moreover, Jahweh’s original identity with an angel, according to the early Hebrew conception, is distinctly seen by comparing, for example, such a passage as   Exodus 3:2 with   Exodus 3:4; in the former it is the ‘angel of the Lord’ who appears in the burning bush, in the latter it is God; there is, furthermore, direct identification in   Genesis 16:10;   Genesis 16:13;   Genesis 21:17 ff. In the earliest document in which angels are mentioned (J [Note: Jahwist.] ) they appear only by twos or threes, in the later document (E [Note: Elohist.] ) they appear in greater numbers (  Genesis 28:12;   Genesis 32:1-2 ); this is just what is to be expected, for J [Note: Jahwist.] , the earlier document, represents Jahweh in a less exalted form, who Himself comes down to earth, and personally carries out His purposes; by degrees, however, more exalted conceptions of Him obtain, especially as the conception of His characteristic of holiness becomes realized, so that His presence among men comes to appear incongruous and unfitting, and His activity is delegated to His messengers or angels (see Angel of the Lord).

( a ) The English word ‘angel’ is too specific for the Hebrew ( mal’akh ) for which it is the usual equivalent; for in the Hebrew it is used in reference to men ( e.g.   Genesis 32:4 (3),   Deuteronomy 2:26 ,   Judges 6:35 ,   Isaiah 33:7 ,   Malachi 1:1 ), as well as to superhuman beings. Besides the word mal’akh there are several other expressions used for what would come under the category of angels, viz.: ‘sons of God’ ( bene ’elohim ),* [Note: Cf. the analogous expression ‘sons of the prophets’ (benç nebî’îm).]   Genesis 6:2;   Genesis 6:4; ‘sons of the mighty’ ( bene ’elim ),   Psalms 89:7 (8),   Psalms 29:1; ‘mighty ones’ ( gibborim ), JL 4:11 (  Joel 3:11 EV [Note: English Version.] ); ‘the holy ones’ ( qedoshim ),   Zechariah 14:5; ‘keepers’ ( shômerim ),   Isaiah 62:6; ‘watchers’ ( ‘irim ),   Daniel 4:14 (17). There are also the three expressions: ‘the host of Jahweh’ ( zeba’ Jahweh ),   Joshua 5:14; ‘the host of the height’ ( zeba’ marom ),   Isaiah 24:21; ‘the host of heaven’ ( zeba’ shamaim ),   Deuteronomy 17:3 (see also Cherubim, Seraphim).

( b ) Angels are represented as appearing in human form, and as having many human characteristics: they speak like men (  1 Kings 19:5 ); they eat (  Genesis 18:8 ); they fight (  Genesis 32:1 , JL 4:11, (  Joel 3:11 ), cf.   2 Samuel 5:24 ); they possess wisdom, with which that of men is compared (  2 Samuel 14:17;   2 Samuel 14:20 ); they have imperfections (  Job 4:18 ). On the other hand, they can become Invisible (  2 Kings 6:17 ,   Psalms 104:4 ), and they can fly, if, as appears to be the case, seraphim are to be included under the category of angels (  Isaiah 6:8 ).

( c ) The functions of angels may be briefly summarized thus: they guide men, e.g. an angel guides the children of Israel on their way to the promised land (  Exodus 23:20 ff., see below), and it is by the guidance of an angel that Abraham’s servant goes in quest of a wife for Isaac (  Genesis 24:7;   Genesis 24:40 ); in   Job 33:23 an angel guides a man in what is right; †[Note: The word used in this passage is not the usual one for angel, though its sense of messenger’ (mçlîz) is the same as that of mal’âkh.] they are more especially the guides of the prophets (  1 Kings 13:18;   1 Kings 19:5 ff.,   2 Kings 1:3;   2 Kings 1:15 ,   Zechariah 1:9 ); they bring evil and destruction upon men (  2 Samuel 24:16-17 ,   2 Kings 19:35 ,   Psalms 35:6;   Psalms 78:49 ,   Job 33:22; in   Proverbs 16:14 the wrath of a king is likened to angels of death); on the other hand, they are the protectors of men (  Psalms 34:8 , (7),   Psalms 91:11 ), and save them from destruction (  Genesis 19:15 ff.); their power is superhuman (  2 Kings 6:17 , ‡ [Note: Though not specifically stated, angels are obviously referred to here.] cf.   Zechariah 12:8 ); they report to God what is going on upon the earth (  Job 1:6;   Job 2:1 ), for which purpose they are represented as riding on horseback (  Zechariah 1:8-10 , cf.   Psalms 18:11 (10),   Isaiah 19:1 § [Note: Cf. the Walküre in Teutonic mythology.] ); their chief duty above is that of praising God (  Genesis 28:12 ,   Psalms 103:20 ). Angelic beings seem to be referred to as ‘watchmen’ in   Isaiah 62:6 and   Daniel 4:14 (17). An early mythological element regarding angels is perhaps re-echoed in such passages as   Judges 5:20 ,   Isaiah 40:25-26 , and elsewhere.

( d ) In Ezekiel , angels, under this designation, are never mentioned, though the angelology of this book ehows considerable development; other names are given to them, but their main function, viz. messengers of God, is the same as in the earlier books; for example, in   Ezekiel 2:2 it is a ‘spirit,’ instead of an ‘angel,’ who acts as an intermediary being, see, too,   Ezekiel 3:12 ff.,   Ezekiel 11:5 ff.; in   Ezekiel 8:1 ff.,   Ezekiel 40:1 a vision is attributed to ‘the hand of the Lord’; in   Ezekiel 40:3 ff., it is a ‘man’ of a supernatural kind who instructs the prophet; and again, in   Ezekiel 9:5 ff., ‘men,’ though clearly not of human kind (see   Ezekiel 9:11 ), destroy the wicked in Jerusalem. In Ezk ., as well as in Zec ., angels take up a very definite position of intermediate beings between God and man, one of their chief functions being that of interpreting visions which Divine action creates in the mind of men; in both these books angels are called ‘men,’ and in both the earlier idea of the ‘Angel of the Lord’ has its counterpart in the prominent position taken up by some particular angel who is the interpreter of visions. In Zec . different orders of angels are for the first time mentioned (  Ezekiel 2:3-4 ,   Ezekiel 3:1-6 ,   Ezekiel 4:1 ). In Daniel there is a further development; the angels are termed ‘watchers’ (  Daniel 4:13;   Daniel 4:17 ), and ‘princes’ (  Daniel 10:13 ); they have names, e.g. Michael (  Daniel 10:13 ,   Ezekiel 12:1 ), Gabriel (  Daniel 8:16 ), and there are special angels (‘princes’) who fight for special nations (  Daniel 10:20-21 ). As in Zec . so in Daniel there are different orders among the angels, but in the latter book the different categories are more fully developed.

In the attitude taken up in these later books we may see the link between the earlier belief and its development in post-Biblical Jewish literature. The main factors which contributed to this development were, firstly, Babylon; during the Captivity, Babylonian influence upon the Jews asserted itself in this as well as in other respects; according to Jewish tradition the names of the angels came from Babylon. Secondly, Persian influence was of a marked character in post-exilic times; the Zoroastrian belief that Ormuzd had a host of pure angels of light who surrounded him and fulfilled his commands, was a ready-made development of the Jewish belief, handed down from much earlier times, that angels were the messengers of Jahweh. Later still, a certain amount of Greek influence was also exercised upon Jewish angelology.

2. The Apocrypha . Some of the characteristics of angels here are identical with some of those found in the OT, viz.: they appear in human form ( 2Es 1:40 ), they speak like men (To   Esther 5:6  Esther 5:6 ff.), they guide men ( 2Es 5:21 ), they bring destruction upon men ( 1Ma 7:41-42 ); on the other hand, they heal men ( Tob 3:17 ), their power is superhuman ( Tob 12:19 , Bel 34ff., Three 26), and they praise God ( 2Es 8:21 , Three 37). The angelology of the Apocrypha is, however, far more closely allied to that of Ezk., Zec ., and Daniel than the angelology of these to that of the rest of the OT; this will be clearly seen by enumerating briefly the main characteristics of angels as portrayed in the Apocrypha.

In 2 Esdras an angel frequently appears as an instructor of heavenly things; thus in 2Es 10:28 an angel causes Esdras to fall into a trance in order to receive instruction in spiritual matters; in 2Es 2:42 , after an angel has instructed Esdras, the latter is commanded to tell others what he had learned; sometimes an angel is identified with God, e.g. in 2Es 5:40-41 ,   Esther 7:3  Esther 7:3 , but usually there is very distinct differentiation; sometimes the angel seems almost to be the alter ego of Esdras, arguing with himself (cf. 2Es 5:21-22 , 2Es 12:3 ff.). In Tob 12:6-15 there are some important details, here an angel instructs in manner of life, but more striking is the teaching that he brings to remembrance before God the prayers of the faithful, and that he superintends the burial of the dead;* [Note: Cf., in Egyptian belief, the similar functions of Isis and Nephthys.] he has a name, Raphael ,†[Note: Names of angels occur also in 2 Esdras, viz.: Jeremiel ( 2Es 4:36 ), Phaltiel ( 2Es 5:16 ), and Uriel ( 2Es 10:28 ).] and is one of the seven holy angels (‘ archangels ’) who present the prayers of the saints, and who go constantly in and out before the presence of God; that there are ranks among the angels is thus taught here more categorically than in the later Biblical books. Further, the idea of guardian-angels is characteristic of the Apocrypha; that individuals have their guardian-angels is clearly implied in To Tob 5:21 , that armies have such is taught in 2Ma 11:6; 2Ma 15:23 , while in 2Ma 3:25 ff. occurs a Jewish counterpart of the Roman legend of Castor and Pollux; there is possibly, in Sir 17:17 , an indication that nations also have their guardian-angels;* [Note: Cf. this idea in the case of the Angel of the Lord (which see.)] if so, it would be the lineal descendant of the early Israelite belief in national gods. The dealings of angels with men are of a very varied character, for besides the details already enumerated, we have these further points: in Bar 6:3 ff. an angel is to be the means whereby the Israelites in Babylon shall be helped to withstand the temptation to worship the false gods of the land; in To Bar 6:7; Bar 6:16-17 an angel describes a method whereby an evil spirit may be driven away; in Bar 6:8 an angel gives a remedy for healing blindness; in Bel 34ff. an angel takes the prophet Habakkuk by the hair and carries him from Judah to Babylonia, in order that he may share his dinner with Daniel in the lion’s den; and, once more, in Three 26, 27 an angel smites the flame of the furnace into which the three heroes had been cast, and makes a cool wind to blow in its place (cf.   Daniel 3:23 ff.).

It will thus be seen that the activities of angels are, according to the Apocrypha, of a very varied character. One further important fact remains to be noted: they are almost invariably the benefactors of man, their power far transcends that of man, sometimes an angel is identified with God, yet in spite of this, with one possible exception, 2Ma 4:10-13 , no worship is ever offered to them; this is true also of the OT, excepting when an angel is identified with Jahweh; in the NT there is at least one case of the worship of an angel,  Revelation 22:8-9 , cf.   Colossians 2:18 . The angelology of the Apocrypha is expanded to an almost unlimited extent in later Jewish writings, more especially in the Book of Enoch , in the Targums , and in the Talmud  ; but with these we are not concerned here.

3. New Testament . ( a ) In the Gospels it is necessary to differentiate between what is said by Christ Himself on the subject and what is narrated by the Evangelists. Christ’s teaching regarding angels may be summed up thus: Their dwelling-place is in heaven (  Matthew 18:10 ,   Luke 12:8-9 ,   John 1:51 ); they are superior to men, but in the world to come the righteous shall be on an equality with them (  Luke 20:36 ); they carry away the souls of the righteous to a place of rest (  Luke 16:22 ); they are (as seems to be implied) of neither sex (  Matthew 22:30 ); they are very numerous (  Matthew 26:53 ); they will appear with Christ at His second coming [it is in connexion with this that most of Christ’s references to angels are made   Matthew 13:39;   Matthew 16:27;   Matthew 24:31;   Matthew 25:31 ,   Mark 8:38 ,   Luke 9:26 , cf.   John 1:51 ]; there are bad as well as good angels (  Matthew 25:41 ), though it is usually of the latter that mention is made; they are limited in knowledge (  Matthew 24:36 ); there are guardian-angels of children (  Matthew 18:10 ); they rejoice at the triumph of good (  Luke 15:10 ). Turning to the Evangelists, we find that the main function of angels is to deliver God’s messages to men ( e.g.   Matthew 1:20;   Matthew 2:10;   Matthew 28:5 ,   Luke 1:28;   Luke 24:23 ). On only one occasion are angels brought into direct contact with Christ (  Matthew 4:11 , with the parallel passage   Mark 1:13 ), and it is noteworthy that in the corresponding verse in the Third Gospel (  Luke 4:13 ) there is no mention of angels. Thus the main differences between Christ’s teaching on angels and that which went before are that they are not active among men, their abode and their work are rather in the realms above; they are not the intermediaries between God and men, for it is either Christ Himself, or the Holy Spirit, who speaks directly to men; much emphasis is laid on their presence with Christ at His second coming. On the other hand, the earlier belief is reflected in the Gospel angelophanles, which are a marked characteristic of the Nativity and Resurrection narratives; though here, too, a distinct and significant difference is found in that the angel is always clearly differentiated from God.

( b ) In the Acts there seems to be a return to the earlier beliefs, angelic appearances to men being frequently mentioned (  Acts 5:19;   Acts 7:30;   Acts 11:13;   Acts 12:8; etc.); their activity in the affairs of men is in somewhat startling contrast with the silence of Christ on the subject. It is possible that most of the references in the Acts will permit of an explanation in the direction of the angelical appearances being subjective visions ( e.g.   Acts 8:26 ,   Acts 10:3 ,   Acts 27:23-24 ); but such occurrences as are recorded in   Acts 5:19-20 ,   Acts 12:7 (both belonging to the Petrine ministry) would require a different explanation; while that mentioned in   Acts 12:23 would seem to be the popular explanation of an event which could easily be accounted for now in other ways. The mention, in   Acts 12:15 , of what is called St. Peter’s ‘angel’ gives some insight into the current popular views concerning angels; it seems clear that a distinction was made between an angel and a spirit (  Acts 23:8-9 ).

( c ) In the Pauline Epistles the origin of angels is stated to be their creation by Christ (  Colossians 1:16 ); as in the Acts, they are concerned with the affairs of men (  1 Corinthians 4:9;   1 Corinthians 11:10 ,   Romans 8:38 ,   1 Timothy 5:21 ); at the same time St. Paul emphasizes the teaching of Christ that God speaks to men directly, and not through the intermediacy of angels (  Galatians 1:12 , cf.   Acts 9:5 ); in   Colossians 2:18 a warning against the worshipping of angels is uttered, with which compare the worshipping of demons in   1 Corinthians 10:21; in accordance with Christ’s teaching St. Paul speaks of the presence of angels at the Second Coming (  2 Thessalonians 1:7 ).

( d ) In the Ep. to the Hebrews the standpoint, as would be expected, is that of the OT, while in the Apocalypse the angelology is that common to other apocalyptic literature (cf. also the archangel of   Judges 1:9 ).

W. O. E. Oesterley.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

Superhuman or heavenly being who serves as God's messenger. Both the Hebrew malak [   1 Kings 19:2;  Haggai 1:13;  Luke 7:24 ). "Angels" are mentioned almost three hundred times in Scripture, and are only noticeably absent from books such as Ruth, Nehemiah, Esther, the letters of John, and James.

The Old Testament From the beginning, angels were part of the divine hierarchy. They were created beings (  Psalm 148:2,5 ), and were exuberant witnesses when God brought the world into being ( Job 38:7 ). By nature they were spiritual entities, and thus not subject to the limitations of human flesh. Although holy, angels could sometimes behave foolishly ( Job 4:18 ), and even prove to be untrustworthy ( Job 15:15 ). Probably these qualities led to the "fall" of some angels, including Satan, but the Bible contains no description of that event. When angels appeared in human society they resembled normal males ( Genesis 18:2,16;  Ezekiel 9:2 ), and never came dressed as women.

In whatever form they occurred, however, their general purpose was to declare and promote God's will. On infrequent occasions they acted as agets of destruction ( Genesis 19:13;  2 Samuel 24:16;  2 Kings 19:35 ,; etc. ). Sometimes angels addressed people in dreams, as with Jacob ( Genesis 28:12;  31:11 ), and could be recognized by animals before human beings became aware of them, as with Balaam ( Numbers 22:22 ). Collectively the divine messengers were described as the "angelic host" that surrounded God ( 1 Kings 22:19 ) and praised his majesty constantly ( Psalm 103:21 ). The Lord, their commander, was known to the Hebrews as the "Lord of hosts." There appears to have been some sort of spiritual hierarchy among them. Thus the messenger who instructed Joshua was a self-described "commander of the Lord's army" ( Joshua 5:14-15 ), although this designation could also mean that it was God himself who was speaking to Joshua.

In Daniel, two angels who interpreted visions were unnamed (7:16; 10:5), but other visions were explained to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, who was instructed by a "man's voice" to undertake this task (8:15-16). When a heavenly messenger appeared to Daniel beside the river Hiddekel (Tigris), he spoke of Michael as "one of the chief princes" (10:13,21). This mighty angel would preside over the fortunes of God's people in the latter time (12:1). Thereafter he was regarded by the Hebrews as their patron angel. In the postexilic period the term "messenger" described the teaching functions of the priest ( Malachi 2:7 ), but most particularly the individual who was to prepare the way for the Lord's Messiah ( Malachi 3:1 ).

Two other terms relating to spiritual beings were prominent at various times in Israel's history. The first was "cherubim, " a plural form, conceived of as winged creatures ( Exodus 25:20 ), and mentioned first in connection with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden ( Genesis 3:24 ). Apart from their functions as guardians, however, nothing is said about their character. When the wilderness tabernacle was being fashioned, God ordered two gold cherubim to be placed on top of the "mercy seat" or lid of the covenant ark to screen it. These came to be known as the "cherubim of the Glory" ( Hebrews 9:5 ). Cherubim designs were also incorporated into the fabric of the inner curtain ( Ezekiel 26:1 ) and the veil of the tabernacle ( Exodus 26:31 ).

Solomon placed two wooden cherubim plated with gold leaf in the Most Holy Place of the temple, looking toward the Holy Place. They stood ten cubits (about fourteen feet) high and their wings were five cubits (about seven feet) long. Near Eastern archeological excavations have shown how popular the concept of winged creatures was in antiquity. The throne of Hiram at Byblos (ca. 1200 b.c.) was supported by a pair of creatures with human faces, lions' bodies, and large protective wings. It was above the cherubim that the Lord of hosts sat enthroned ( 1 Samuel 4:4 ).

The seraphim were also thought of as winged, and in Isaiah's vision they were stationed above the Lord's throne (6:1-2). They seemed to possess a human figure, and had voices, faces, and feet. According to the vision their task was to participate in singing God's praises antiphonally. They also acted in some unspecified manner as mediums of communication between heaven and earth ( Isaiah 6:6 ). The living creatures of  Ezekiel 1:5-14 were composites of human and animal parts, which was typically Mesopotamian in character, and they seem to have depicted the omnipotence and omniscience of God.

The Apocrypha In the late postexilic period angelology became a prominent feature of Jewish religion. The angel Michael was deemed to be Judaism's patron, and the apocryphal writings named three other archangels as leaders of the angelic hierarchy. Chief of these was Raphael, who was supposed to present the prayers of pious Jews to God (1Tobit 2:15). Uriel explained to Enoch many of his visions (1Enoch 21:5-10; 27:2-4), interpreted Ezra's vision of the celestial Jerusalem (  2 Esdras 10:28-57 ), and explained the fate of the fallen angels who supposedly married human women (1Enoch 19:1-9; cf.  Genesis 6:2 ). Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel (1Enoch 40:3,6) reported to God about the depraved state of humanity, and received appropriate instructions. According to contemporary thought, Gabriel sat on God's left, while Michael sat on the right side (2Enoch 24:1). The primary concern of these two angels, however, was supposedly with missions on earth and affairs in heaven, respectively. In rabbinic Judaism they assumed a character which, while sometimes dramatic, had no factual basis in divine revelation.

The New Testament Against this background of belief in angels who were involved in human affairs, it was not surprising that the angel Gabriel should be chosen to visit Zechariah, the officiating priest in the temple, to inform him that he was to become a father, and that he had to name his son John (  Luke 1:11-20 ). Gabriel was not referred to here as an archangel, the Greek term archangelos [   Luke 1:26-33 ).

Nothing in Gabriel's behavior is inconsistent with Old Testament teachings about angels. It has been pointed out frequently that, just as they were active when the world began, so angels were correspondingly prominent when the new era of divine grace dawned with the birth of Jesus. On three occasions an angel visited Joseph in a vision concerning Jesus ( Matthew 1:20;  2:13,19 ). On the first two occasions the celestial visitor is described as "the angel of the Lord, " which could possibly be a way of describing God himself. On the last visit the heavenly messenger was described simply as "an angel of the Lord." In the end, however, the celestial beings were most probably of the same order, and were fulfilling among humans those duties normally assigned to such angels as Gabriel ( Luke 1:19 ).

There is nothing recorded about the actual form of the latter, but Zechariah appears to have recognized the angel immediately as a celestial being, and was terrified ( Luke 1:12 ). His penalty for not having learned anything from his ancestor Abraham's experience ( Luke 1:18; cf.  Genesis 17:17 ) would only be removed when his son John was born ( Luke 1:20 ). When Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus ( Luke 31 ), she seems to have been more disturbed by his message than his appearance. The birth of Jesus was announced to Bethlehem shepherds by the angel of the Lord, and since he was accompanied by the divine glory he may well have been the Lord himself. The message of joy having been proclaimed, the heavenly host of angels praised and glorified God ( Luke 2:13-14 ) for a short period, as they had done at the creation of the world ( Job 38:7 ), after which they departed.

During his ministry, angels came and ministered to Jesus after he had resisted the devil's temptations ( Matthew 4:11 ). Again, when Jesus was submitting himself to God's will in the garden of Gethsemane ( Luke 22:40-44 ), an angel came from heaven to strengthen him. At the resurrection, the angel of the Lord rolled back the stone from Jesus' burial place ( Matthew 28:2 ), and he was described as having a countenance like lightning and garments as white as snow ( Matthew 28:3 ). Again, this celestial being performed a service of reassurance and love for Mary and Mary of Magdala, who subsequently reported seeing "a vision of angels" ( Luke 24:23 ). In John's Gospel Mary Magdalene saw two angels in white clothing, sitting in the empty tomb, just before she met the risen Lord ( John 20:12-16 ).

In Acts, the imprisoned apostles were released by an angel (5:19). Philip was ordered by an angel to meet an Ethiopian official (8:26-28), while another celestial being appeared to Cornelius (10:3). The angel of the Lord released Peter from prison (12:7-11), and subsequently afflicted Herod with a fatal illness (12:23). When Paul and his companions were about to be shipwrecked the apostle assured them of the presence of a guardian angel (27:23-24).

Paul referred subsequently to angelic hierarchies ("thrones, powers, rulers, or authorities") when proclaiming the cosmic supremacy of Jesus ( Colossians 1:15-16; cf.  1 Peter 3:22 ), and prohibited the worship of angels in the Colossian church ( Colossians 2:18 ) in an attempt to avoid unorthodox practices. His reference to "angels" in  1 Corinthians 11:10 may have been a warning that such things observe humans at worship, and thus the Corinthians should avoid improper conduct or breaches of decency.

The angelology of 2Peter and Jude reflects some of the intertestamental Jewish traditions concerning "wicked angels." In Revelation there are numerous symbolic allusions to angels, the worship of which is forbidden (22:8-9). The "angels of the seven churches" (1:20) are the specific spiritual representations or personifications of these Christian groups. A particularly sinister figure was Abaddon (Apollyon in Greek), the "angel of the bottomless pit" (9:11), who with his minions was involved in a fierce battle with Michael and his angels (12:7-9).

Jesus accepted as valid the Old Testament references to angels and their functions ( Matthew 22:30 ), but spoke specifically of the "devil and his angels" ( Matthew 25:41 ) as destined for destruction. He fostered the idea of angels ministering to believers (cf.  Hebrews 1:14 ), and as being concerned for the welfare of children ( Matthew 18:10 ). He described angels as holy creatures ( Mark 8:38 ) who could rejoice when a sinner repented ( Luke 15:10 ). Angels were devoid of sexual characteristics ( Matthew 22:30 ), and although they were highly intelligent ministers of God's will they were not omniscient ( Matthew 24:36 ).

Christ claimed at his arrest in Gethsemane that more than twelve legions of angels (numbering about 72,000) were available to deliver him, had he wanted to call upon them for assistance ( Matthew 26:53 ). He taught that angels would be with him when he returned to earth at the second coming ( Matthew 25:31 ), and that they would be involved significantly in the last judgment ( Matthew 13:41,49 ). Finally, angels set a model of obedience to God's will in heaven to which the Christian church should aspire (cf.  Matthew 6:10 ).

Some writers contrast the celestial beings with "fallen angels, " of which there are two varieties. The first consists of unimprisoned, evil beings working under Satan's leadership, and generally regarded as demons ( Luke 4:35;  11:15;  John 10:21 ). The second were imprisoned ( 2 Peter 2:4;  Jude 6 ) spirits because they forsook their original positions in heaven. For New Testament writers they were particularly dangerous. The precise difference in function and character is not explained in Scripture, but some have thought that the latter were the "sons of God" who cohabited with mortal women ( Genesis 6:1-2 ). This view, however, is strictly conjectural. Presumably the imprisoned angels are the ones who will be judged by the saints ( 1 Corinthians 6:3 ).

In a material world that is also populated by good and evil spirits, the Bible teaches that the heavenly angels set an example of enthusiastic and resolute fulfillment of God's will. They acknowledge Jesus as their superior, and worship him accordingly. Angels continue to perform ministering duties among humans, and this function has led to the concept of "guardian angels, " perhaps prompted by Christ's words in  Matthew 18:10 . It is not entirely clear whether each individual has a specific angelic guardian, but there is certainly no reason for doubting that an angel might well be assigned to care for the destinies of groups of individuals such as families. These celestial ministries will be most effective when the intended recipients are receptive to the Lord's will for their lives.

R. K. Harrison

Bibliography . G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers  ; A. C. Gaebelein, The Angels of God  ; B. Graham, Angels: God's Secret Agets  ; H. Lockyer, The Mystery and Ministry of Angels  ; A. Whyte, The Nature of Angels .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

a spiritual, intelligent substance, the first in rank and dignity among created beings The word angel, αγγελος , is not properly a denomination of nature but of office; denoting as much as nuncius, messenger, a person employed to carry one's orders, or declare his will. Thus it is St. Paul represents angels,   Hebrews 1:14 , where he calls them "ministering spirits;" and yet custom has prevailed so much, that angel is now commonly taken for the denomination of a particular order of spiritual beings, of great understanding and power, superior to the souls or spirits of men. Some of these are spoken of in Scripture in such a manner as plainly to signify that they are real beings, of a spiritual nature, of high power, perfection, dignity, and happiness. Others of them are distinguished as not having kept their first station,  Judges 1:6 . These are represented as evil spirits, enemies of God, and intent on mischief. The devil as the head of them, and they as his angels, are represented as the rulers of the darkness of this world, or spiritual wickednesses, or wicked spirits, τα πνευματικα της πονηριυς εν τοις επουρανιοις ,  Ephesians 6:12; which may not be unfitly rendered, "the spiritual managers of opposition to the kingdom of God."

The existence of angels is supposed in all religions, though it is incapable of being proved a priori. Indeed, the ancient Sadducees are represented as denying all spirits; and yet the Samaritans, and Caraites, who are reputed Sadducees, openly allowed them: witness Abusaid, the author of an Arabic version of the Pentateuch; and Aaron, a Caraite Jew, in his comment on the Pentateuch; both extant in manuscript in the king of France's library. In the Alcoran we find frequent mention of angels. The Mussulmen believe them of different orders or degrees, and to be destined for different employments both in heaven and on earth. They attribute exceedingly great power to the angel Gabriel, as that he is able to descend in the space of an hour from heaven to earth; to overturn a mountain with a single feather of his wing, &c. The angel Asrael, they suppose, is appointed to take the souls of such as die; and another angel, named Esraphil, they tell us, stands with a trumpet ready in his mouth to proclaim the day of judgment.

The Heathen philosophers and poets were also agreed as to the existence of intelligent beings, superior to man; as is shown by St. Cyprian in his treatise of the vanity of idols; from the testimonies of Plato, Socrates, Trismegistus, &c. They were acknowledged under different appellations; the Greeks calling them daemons, and the Romans genii, or lares. Epicurus seems to have been the only one among the old philosophers who absolutely rejected them.

Authors are not so unanimous about the nature as about the existence of angels. Clemens Alexandrinus believed they had bodies; which was also the opinion of Origen, Caesarius, Tertullian, and several others. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nicene, St. Cyril, St. Chrysostom, &c, held them to be mere spirits. It has been the more current opinion, especially in later times, that they are substances entirely spiritual, who can, at any time, assume bodies, and appear in human or other shapes. Ecclesiastical writers make a hierarchy of nine orders of angels. Others have distributed angels into nine orders, according to the names by which they are called in Scripture, and reduced these orders into three hierarchies; to the first of which belong seraphim, cherubim, and thrones; to the second, dominions, virtues, and powers; and to the third, principalities, archangels, and angels. The Jews reckon four orders or companies of angels, each headed by an archangel; the first order being that of Michael; the second, of Gabriel; the third, of Uriel; and the fourth, of Raphael. Following the Scripture account, we shall find mention made of different orders of these superior beings; for such a distinction of orders seems intimated in the names given to different classes. Thus we have thrones, dominions, principalities, or princedoms, powers, authorities, living ones, cherubim and seraphim. That some of these titles may indicate the same class of angels is probable; but that they all should be but different appellations of one common and equal order is improbable. We learn also from Scripture, that they dwell in the immediate presence of God; that they "excel in strength;" that they are immortal; and that they are the agents through which God very often accomplishes his special purposes of judgment and mercy. Nothing is more frequent in Scripture than the missions and appearances of good and bad angels, whom God employed to declare his will; to correct, teach, reprove, and comfort. God gave the law to Moses, and appeared to the old patriarchs, by the mediation of angels, who represented him, and spoke in his name,   Acts 7:30;  Acts 7:35;  Galatians 3:19;  Hebrews 13:2 .

Though the Jews, in general, believed the existence of angels, there was a sect among them, namely, the Sadducees, who denied the existence of all spirits whatever, God only excepted,  Acts 23:8 . Before the Babylonish captivity, the Hebrews seem not to have known the names of any angel. The Talmudists say they brought the names of angels from Babylon. Tobit, who is thought to have resided in Nineveh some time before the captivity, mentions the angel Raphael, Tob_3:17; Tob_11:2; Tob_11:7; and Daniel, who lived at Babylon some time after Tobit, has taught us the names of Michael and Gabriel,  Daniel 8:16;  Daniel 9:21;  Daniel 10:21 . In the New Testament, we find only the two latter mentioned by name.

There are various opinions as to the time when the angels were created. Some think this took place when our heavens and the earth were made. For this opinion, however, there is no just foundation in the Mosaic account. Others think that angels existed long before the formation of our solar system; and Scripture seems to favour this opinion,  Job 38:4;  Job 38:7 , where God says, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?— and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Though it be a universal opinion that angels are of a spiritual and incorporeal nature, yet some of the fathers, misled by a passage in  Genesis 6:2 , where it is said, "The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose," imagined them to be corporeal, and capable of sensual pleasures. But, without noticing all the wild reveries which have been propagated by bold or ignorant persons, let it suffice to observe, that by "the sons of God" we are evidently to understand the descendants of Seth, who, for the great piety wherein they continued for some time, were so called; and that "the daughters of men" were the progeny of wicked Cain As to the doctrine of tutelary or guarding angels, presiding over the affairs of empires, nations, provinces, and particular persons, though received by the later Jews, it appears to be wholly Pagan in its origin, and to have no countenance in the Scriptures. The passages in Daniel brought to favour this notion are capable of a much better explanation; and when our Lord declares that the "angels" of little children "do always behold the face of God," he either speaks of children as being the objects of the general ministry of angels, or, still more probably, by angels he there means the disembodied spirits of children; for that the Jews called disembodied spirits by the name of angels, appears from   Acts 12:15 .

On this question of guardian angels, Bishop Horsley observes: "That the holy angels are often employed by God in his government of this sublunary world, is indeed to be clearly proved by holy writ. That they have power over the matter of the universe, analogous to the powers over it which men possess, greater in extent, but still limited, is a thing which might reasonably be supposed, if it were not declared. But it seems to be confirmed by many passages of holy writ; from which it seems also evident that they are occasionally, for certain specific purposes, commissioned to exercise those powers to a prescribed extent. What the evil angels possessed before their fall the like powers, which they are still occasionally permitted to exercise for the punishment of wicked nations, seems also evident. That they have a power over the human sensory, which they are occasionally permitted to exercise, and by means of which they may inflict diseases, suggest evil thoughts, and be the instruments of temptation, must also be admitted. But all this amounts not to any thing of a discretional authority placed in the hands of tutelar angels, or to an authority to advise the Lord God with respect to the measures of his government. Confidently I deny that a single text is to be found in holy writ, which, rightly understood, gives the least countenance to the abominable doctrine of such a participation of the holy angels in God's government of the world. In what manner then, it may be asked, are the holy angels made at all subservient to the purposes of God's government? This question is answered by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews, in the last verse of the first chapter; and this is the only passage in the whole Bible in which we have any thing explicit upon the office and employment of angels: ‘Are they not all,' saith he, ‘ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation?' They are all, however high in rank and order, nothing more than ‘ministering spirits,' or, literally, ‘serving spirits;' not invested with authority of their own, but ‘sent forth,' occasionally sent forth, to do such service as may be required of them, ‘for them that shall be heirs of salvation.'"

The exact number of angels is no where mentioned in Scripture; but it is always represented as very great.  Daniel 7:10 , says of the Ancient of Days, "A fiery stream came from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him." Jesus Christ says, that his heavenly Father could have given him more than twelve legions of angels, that is, more than seventy-two thousand,  Matthew 26:53; and the Psalmist declares, that the chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels,  Psalms 68:17 . These are all intended not to express any exact number, but indefinitely a very large one.

Though all the angels were created alike good, yet Jude informs us, verse  Judges 1:6 , that some of them "kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation," and these God hath "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." Speculations on the cause and occasion of their fall are all vain and trifling. Milton is to be read on this subject, as on others, not as a divine, but as a poet. All we know, is, that they are not in their first "estate," or in their original place; that this was their own fault, for "they left their own habitation; " that they are in chains, yet with liberty to tempt; and that they are reserved to the general judgment.

Dr. Prideaux observes, that the minister of the synagogue, who officiated in offering the public prayers, being the mouth of the congregation, delegated by them, as their representative, messenger, or angel, to address God in prayer for them, was in Hebrew called sheliack-zibbor, that is, the angel of the church; and that from hence the chief ministers of the seven churches of Asia are in the Revelation, by a name borrowed from the synagogue, called angels of those churches.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

Bible Terms The term “angel” is derived from the Greek word angelos which means “messenger.” Angelos and the Hebrew equivalent, malak (which also means “messenger”), are the two most common terms used to describe this class of beings in the Bible. In general, in texts where an angel appears, his task is to convey the message or do the will of the God who sent him. Since the focus of the text is on the message, the messenger is rarely described in detail.

Another set of terms used to describe angels focuses not on angels as mediators between God and persons, but on God's heavenly entourage. Terms such as “sons of God,” “holy ones,” and “heavenly host” seem to focus on angels as celestial beings. As such, these variously worship God, attend God's throne, or comprise God's army. These terms are used typically in contexts emphasizing the grandeur, power, and/or acts of God.

A third category of heavenly beings is that of winged angels. Cherubim and seraphim make their most memorable appearances in the visions of Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 1:4-28;  Ezekiel 10:3-22 ) and Isaiah ( Ezekiel 6:2-6 ). Cherubim function primarily as guards or attendants to the divine throne. Seraphim appear only in Isaiah's vision and there attend God's throne and voice praises. All three categories present us with heavenly beings in service to God. The text may focus on the service done or on the God served but rarely on the servants themselves. As a result we are left with a multitude of questions about the angelic host. Many of the most common questions asked about angels have no clear answers in Scripture. The nature of the angelic host is at best hinted at indirectly.

Angelic Hierarchy Some scholars suggest that a heavenly “host” (i.e. “army”) must have order and that references to archangels ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16;  Jude 1:9 ) and a special class of angels which has intimate fellowship with God such as the seraphim of  Isaiah 6:2-6 , indicate that angels are organized in a rigidly fixed rank system. Some authors even attempt to list their ranks and duties.

Pseudo-Dionysius, a writer before A.D. 500 who claimed to be Dionysius the Areopagite of  Acts 17:34 , produced a ranking of angels. His schema was later adopted by Thomas Aquinas and was not seriously challenged until the Protestant Reformation. According to Dionysius, the angels are arranged in three ranks, each rank having three groups. The highest rank (seraphim, cherubim, and “thrones”) is closest to the deity. The second rank is made up of “dominions,” “powers,” and “authorities.” The lowest rank has the most direct contact with humanity. They are “principalities,” archhyangels, and angels.

Dionysius' highly speculative schema (or any like it) is flawed in several ways. Some of the entities named (“powers,” “dominions,” “principalities”) are not clearly identified in the Bible as angels at all. Others (cherubim and archangels) are never compared to one another in terms of rank. Perhaps most importantly, a schema which envisions the better angels communing with God and the lesser ones ministering to humanity has no foundation in the Bible. Scripture presents ministry as one of the most blessed of activities and God himself directly involved with humanity. Any hierarchy which serves to separate God from humanity by interposing a series of lesser beings should be suspect.

Angelic Appearance The appearance of angels varies. Only cherubim and seraphim are represented with wings. Often in the Old Testament angels appear as ordinary men. Sometimes, however, their uniqueness is evident as they do things or appear in a fashion clearly non-human ( Genesis 16:7-11;  Exodus 3:2;  Numbers 22:23;  Judges 6:21;  Judges 13:20;  John 20:12 ). The brilliant white appearance common to the New Testament angel is not a feature of the Old Testament image.

Creation of Angels Angels are created beings. Only God is eternal. But when God created angels the Bible never reveals. If the “us” in  Genesis 1:26 is a reference to God's angelic court, then the angels are simply present at the creation; their origin is not explained.

Guardian Angels Jesus' comment in  Matthew 18:10 and some passages which assign protective roles to angels (for example, Michael, angelic prince over Israel,   Daniel 12:1; angels of specific churches in  Daniel 10:13;  Acts 12:15;  Revelation 1:20;  Revelation 2-3 ) imply that a heavenly counterpart represents each person in heaven. This evidence is commonly used to assert that each individual has a “guardian” angel assigned to him or her by God. The term, “guardian angel,” however, is not biblical, and the idea is at best only implied in these passages.

The difficulty observable in answering these and many other common questions is obvious. The cause of the difficulty is the assumption that Scripture reveals a complete angelology and if all the passages concerning angels are pieced together the complete picture will be revealed. A careful survey of the biblical text, however, reveals that no such fully delineated angelology is present.

Old Testament Each of the various types of literature in the Old Testament has its own concerns, and angels appear in the texts in ways appropriate to each. Those books which narrate the great acts of God (Gen., Ex., Num., Judg., 1,2Sam. and 1,2Kings) contain numerous references to angels. In these books, especially at key points, God reveals Himself and acts on behalf of His people. Sometimes He does this directly, sometimes in the person of an angel. Often the distinction between God's action and the angel's is blurred to the point that they seem synonymous ( Genesis 19:13 ,Genesis 19:13, 19:24;  Exodus 3:2 ,Exodus 3:2, 3:4 ).

The angel's function as messenger or agent of God is acted out in terms of proclamation: revealing the will of God and/or announcing key events ( Genesis 19:1-22;  Exodus 3:2-6;  Judges 2:1-5;  Judges 13:2-23 ); protection: ensuring the well-being or survival of God's people ( Exodus 14:19-20;  1 Kings 19:1-8 ); and punishment: enforcing the wrath of God on the wicked among the Jews and the Gentiles ( Genesis 19:12-13;  2 Samuel 24:17;  2 Kings 19:35 ). In addition, some passages reflect popular ideas about angels (2Samuel 14:17, 2 Samuel 14:20 ) which the text records but does not necessarily affirm.

In the books of the prophets, angels rarely are mentioned. The most prominent exceptions are the heavenly visions of Isaiah and Zechariah. The reason for the absence is most likely that God is conceived as acting directly in relation to His people, and the messengers of God in these books are the prophets themselves.

The books of poetry and wisdom are expressions directed from humanity toward God or from a person(s) to other persons. Thus it is not surprising that angels (who figure in God to humanity communication) play a very small role in these books.

New Testament Much of the pattern observed in the Old Testament is repeated in the New. The majority of references to angelic activity are in the narrative books (the Gospels and Acts). The epistles include only some brief references to angels; several books do not mention them specifically at all. Hebrews with its lengthy contrast between Jesus and the angels is exceptional ( Hebrews 1:3-2:16 ). The Apocalypse of John in its visionary nature, apocalyptic style, and reference to angels is comparable to parts of Daniel, Zechariah, and Isaiah.

The basic tasks of proclamation, protection, and punishment are again the focus ( Matthew 1:20-24;  Matthew 4:11;  Acts 12:7-11 ) while references to the nature of angels are very brief.

What is perhaps most remarkable is what the New Testament texts do not say about angels. The interbiblical period, under Persian and Greek influences, had seen an explosion of speculation about angels. Angels (or comparable spiritual beings) in detailed hierarchies came to be understood by many as necessary mediators between God and humanity. Knowing the names, ranks, and how to manipulate these lesser spiritual beings enabled one to gain blessings in this life and attain the level of the divine in the next.

The New Testament texts contain no developed angelic hierarchy and do not present angels as semi-independent lesser gods. Angels are not used to explain the existence of evil, nor are they needed as intermediaries or as agents of revelation. See Cherubim; Demons; Seraphim .

Mike Martin

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [5]

A spiritual intelligent substance, the first in rank and dignity among created beings. The word angel is Greek, and signifies a messenger. The Hebrew word signifies the same. Angels, therefore in the proper signification of the word, do not import the nature of any being, but only the office to which they are appointed especially by way of message or intercourse between God and his creatures.

Hence the word is used differently in various parts of the scripture, and signifies,

1. Human messengers, or agents for other,  2 Samuel 2:5 . "David sent Messengers (Heb. angels) to Jabesh Gilead,  Proverbs 13:17 .  Mark 1:2 .  James 2:25 .

2. Officers of the churches, whether prophets or ordinary ministers,  Haggai 1:13 .  Revelation 1:20 .

3. Jesus Christ,  Malachi 3:1 .  Isaiah 63:9 .

4. Some add the dispensations of God's providence, either beneficial or calamitous,  Genesis 24:7 .  Psalms 34:7 .  Acts 12:23 .  1 Samuel 14:14; but I must confess, that, though I do not at all see the impropriety of considering the providences of God as his angels or messengers for good or for evil, yet the passages generally adduced under this head do not prove to me that the providences of God are meant in distinction from created angels.

5. Created intelligences, both good and bad,  Hebrews 1:14 . Jude

6. the subject of the present article.

As to the time when the angels were created, much has been said by the learned. Some wonder that Moses, in his account of the creation, should pass over this in silence. Others suppose that he did this because of the proneness of the Gentile world, and even the Jews, to idolatry; but a better reason has been assigned by others, viz. that this first history was purposely and principally written for information concerning the visible world; the invisible, of which we know but in part, being reserved for a better life. Some think that the idea of God's not creating them before this world was made, is very contracted. To suppose, say they, that no creatures whatever, neither angels nor other worlds, had been created previous to the creation of our world, is to suppose that a Being of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, had remained totally inactive from all eternity, and had permitted the infinity of space to continue a perfect vacuum till within these 6000 years; that such an idea only tends to discredit revelation, instead of serving it.

On the other hand it is alleged, that they must have been created within the six days; because it is said, that within this space God made heaven and earth, and all things that are therein. It is, however, a needless speculation, and we dare not indulge a spirit of conjecture. It is our happiness to know that they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation. As to the nature of these beings, we are told that they are spirits; but whether pure spirits divested of all matter, or united to some thin bodies, or corporeal vehicles, has been a controversy of long standing: the more general opinion is, that they are substances entirely spiritual, though they can at any time assume bodies, and appear in human shape,  Genesis 18:19 :   Genesis 32:1-32 :   Matthew 28:1-20 :   Luke 1:1-80 : &c. The scriptures represent them as endued with extraordinary wisdom and power,   2 Samuel 14:20 .  Psalms 103:20; holy and regular in their inclinations; zealous in their employ, and completely happy in their minds,  Job 38:7 .  Hebrews 1:7 .  Matthew 18:10 . Their number seems to be great,  Psalms 68:17 .  Hebrews 12:22; and perhaps have distinct orders,  Colossians 1:16-17 .  1 Peter 3:22 .  1 Thessalonians 4:16 .  Daniel 10:13 . They are delighted with the grand scheme of redemption, and the conversion of sinners to God,  Luke 2:12 .  1 Peter 1:12 .  Luke 15:10 .

They not only worship God, and execute his commands at large, but are attendant on the saints of God while here below, Psa 91:1-16;11:12.  Hebrews 1:13 .  Luke 16:22 . Some conjecture that every good man has his particular guardian angel,  Matthew 18:10 .  Acts 12:15; but this is easier to be supposed than to be proved; nor is it a matter on consequence to know. "What need we dispute, " says Henry, "whether every particular saint has a guardian angel, when we are sure he has a guard of angels about him?" They will gather the elect in the last day, attend the final judgment,  Matthew 25:31 .  Revelation 14:18 .  Matthew 13:39 , and live for ever in the world of glory,  Luke 20:36 . Although the angels were originally created perfect, yet they were mutable: some of them sinned, and kept not their first estate; and so, of the most blessed and glorious, became the most vile and miserable of all God's creatures. They were expelled the regions of light, and with heaven lost their heavenly disposition, and fell into a settled rancour against God, and malice against men. What their offence was is difficult to determine, the scripture being silent about it.

Some think envy, others unbelief; but most suppose it was pride. As to the time of their fall, we are certain it could not be before the sixth day of the creation, because on that day it is said, "God saw every thing that he had mad, and behold it was very good;" but that it was not long after, is very probable, as it must have preceded the fall of our first parents. The number of the fallen angels seems to be great, and, like the holy angels, perhaps have various orders among them,  Matthew 12:24 .  Ephesians 2:2 .  Ephesians 6:12 .  Colossians 2:15 .  Revelation 12:7 . Their constant employ is not only doing evil themselves, but endeavoring by all arts to seduce and pervert mankind,  1 Peter 5:8 .  Job 1:6 . It is supposed they will be restrained during the millennium,  Revelation 20:2 , but afterwards again, for a short time, deceive the nations,  Revelation 20:8 , and then be finally punished,  Matthew 25:41 .

The authors who have written on this subject have been very numerous; we shall only refer to a few: Reynolds's Enquiry into the State and Economy of the Angelical World; Doddridge's Lect. p.10. lect. 210. to 214; Milton's Paradise Lost; Bp. Newton's Works, vol. 3: p. 538, 568; Shepherd of Angels; Gilpin on Temptations; Casmanni Angelographia; Gill and Ridgeley's Bodies of Divinity.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Angel.  Genesis 24:7. The word for angel, both in the Greek and Hebrew languages, signifies a Messenger, and in this sense is often applied to men.  2 Samuel 2:5;  Luke 7:24;  Luke 9:52. When the term is used, as it denotes the office they sustain as the agents by whom God makes known his will and executes his government. Our knowledge of such beings is derived wholly from revelation, and that rather incidentally. We know, from their residence and employment, that they must possess knowledge and purity far beyond our present conceptions, and the titles applied to them denote the exalted place they hold among created intelligences. Christ did not come to the rescue of angels, but of men. Comp.  Hebrews 2:16. The angels are represented as ministering spirits sent forth to do service to the heirs or salvation.  Hebrews 1:14 They appear at every important stage in the history of revelation, especially at the birth of Christ,  Luke 2:9-13; in his agony in Gethsemane,  Luke 22:43; at his resurrection,  Matthew 28:2;  Mark 16:5;  Luke 24:4, and at the final judgment,  Matthew 13:41. Of their appearance and employment we may form some idea from the following passages, viz.,  Genesis 16:7-11. Compare  Genesis 18:2;  Genesis 19:1, with  Hebrews 13:2;  Judges 13:6;  Ezekiel 10:1-22;  Daniel 3:28;  Daniel 6:22;  Matthew 4:11;  Matthew 18:10;  Matthew 28:2-7;  Luke 1:19;  Luke 16:22;  Luke 22:43;  Acts 6:15;  Acts 12:7;  Hebrews 1:14;  Hebrews 2:16;  2 Thessalonians 1:7;  Revelation 10:1-2;  Revelation 10:6. Of their number some idea may be inferred from  1 Kings 22:19;  Psalms 68:17;  Daniel 7:10;  Matthew 26:53;  Luke 2:9-14;  1 Corinthians 4:9;  Hebrews 12:22. Of their strength we may judge from  Psalms 103:20;  2 Peter 2:11;  Revelation 5:2;  Revelation 18:21;  Revelation 19:17. And we learn their inconceivable activity from  Judges 13:20;  Isaiah 6:2-6;  Matthew 13:49;  Matthew 26:53;  Acts 27:23;  Revelation 8:12-13; but the R. V. reads "eagle" in verse 13. There is also an order of evil spirits ministering to the will of the prince of darkness, and both active and powerful in their opposition to God.  Matthew 25:41. Though Scripture does not warrant us to affirm that each individual has his particular guardian angel, it teaches very explicitly that angels minister to every Christian.  Matthew 18:10;  Psalms 91:11-12;  Luke 15:10;  Acts 12:15;  Hebrews 1:14. They are the companions of the saved.  Hebrews 12:22-23;  Revelation 5:11. They are to sustain an important office in the future and final administration of God's government on earth.  Matthew 13:39;  Matthew 25:31-33;  1 Thessalonians 4:16. But they are not proper objects of adoration.  Colossians 2:18;  Revelation 19:10. Angel of his Presence,  Isaiah 63:9, by some is supposed to denote the highest angel in heaven, as Gabriel, who stands "in the presence of God,"  Luke 1:19; but others believe it refers to the incarnate Word-Angel of the Lord,  Genesis 16:7, is considered, by some, one of the common titles of Christ in the Old Testament.  Exodus 23:20. Compare  Acts 7:30-32;  Acts 7:37-38. Angel of the church.  Revelation 2:1. The only true interpretation of this phrase is the one which makes the angels the rulers and teachers of the congregation, so called because they were the ambassadors of God to the churches, and on them devolved the pastoral care and government.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [7]

 Genesis 16:7 (b) This heavenly person probably was the Holy Spirit of GOD because He is the Lord of the harvest. Some think that this person was the Lord Jesus Since the Holy Spirit is the Lord of the harvest, it seems that this person must be the Spirit, because the passage refers to the harvest of lives that was to follow in Hagar's experience. It certainly is one of the Persons of the Godhead, because He said in verse10 "I will multiply thy seed." In  Genesis 16:13 she calls Him Lord. This indicates clearly that He was one of the persons of the Trinity. The name that she gave to this Lord was EI-Shaddai which means "The God of the Breast," or "The God who is enough."

 Genesis 22:11 (c) This person was probably a genuine angel out of Heaven. He lays no claim to deity, and does not affirm his authority to do anything. The message in verse  Genesis 22:16 of this chapter evidently is a quotation of the GOD of Heaven, and is not a message from the angel. Some, however, think that the angel in verse  Genesis 22:15 is one of the persons of the Godhead, and that He Himself was making the statement found in verse  Genesis 22:16.

 Genesis 24:40 (b) Here the angel is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit who leads the child of GOD in the ways of the Lord and brings about His desire in the world. This would seem to be confirmed by the statement in verse  Genesis 24:7 of this chapter.

 Genesis 48:16 (a) This portion brings before us the three Persons of the Trinity. The first mention of GOD in verse  Genesis 48:15 refers to the Father. The second mention of GOD probably refers to the Holy Spirit. The third mention in which we read "The angel which redeemed" must be the Lord JESUS. The Jews in Old Testament days were Trinitarians. They all believed that there were three persons in the Godhead. Not until several centuries after Christ did the Jews become Unitarians. Most Jews have always believed that GOD had a Son who was to be the Messiah. They did not believe, however, that JESUS was that Son.

 Judges 5:23 (b) This angel undoubtedly was the Holy Spirit. His message was in reference to the failure of the inhabitants of Meraz to come to the help of Barak when Israel was fighting the Canaanites. We must remember that the Holy Spirit curses as well as blesses. We find this truth in  Isaiah 40:7, as well as in other places.

 Acts 8:26 (b) This one was probably the Holy Spirit who directed Philip as to his new place of service. Philip had just conducted a great campaign which was most successful, but now the Spirit took him away from that work to deal with one man down on the road to Gaza. Verse  Acts 8:29 indicates clearly that it was the Holy Spirit who was directing Philip in all his service and ministry. We would expect Him to do so because He is the Lord of the harvest.

 Acts 10:7 (a) The angel who spoke to Cornelius was the Holy Spirit. Verse  Acts 10:30 reveals that this one was in the form of a man, looked like a man, had the shape of a man, and wore the clothing of a man. The angel in verse7 who was the man in verse30 is identified in verse  Acts 10:19 as the Holy Spirit. As the Lord of the harvest He told the seeking sinner Cornelius to send for the evangelist Peter. The Spirit came to Peter who wanted to be used of GOD and told him where to go to find a troubled soul. The Spirit said to Peter "Behold, three men seek thee; go down with them doubting nothing, for I sent them." The Holy Spirit Himself identifies the man in bright clothing as being Himself. The Spirit of GOD has a human form, as do the other two persons of the Trinity. He was seen plainly and rather frequently in both the days of the Old Testament and the New.

 2 Corinthians 11:14 (a) The passage clearly states that Satan, the Devil, is an angel of light. He takes the place of being a very good and holy person. He is called a minister of righteousness. His business is to get people to be good in order to be saved. He leads men to devise and design many kinds of religion to keep sinners away from the Saviour. He leads women to invent religions of an aesthetic character which presents beautiful phraseology, and sweet, lovely ideas, all of which is intended to keep the hearts and lives of the people away from Jesus Christ and His saving power. He never suggests that anyone will be saved by getting drunk, or gambling, or living wickedly. He knows very well that this philosophy would not appeal to the human mind. He therefore sets about to arrange a religion of good works and self-righteousness as a substitute for the Person and work of the Lord JESUS. We should be on the watch for every religion that exalts man's goodness, and detracts from the personal glory of Christ Jesus

 Hebrews 13:2 (b) The angels referred to in this passage possibly may be the Lord JESUS and the Holy Spirit. They must have been the ones who came to visit Abraham and afterwards went to Sodom. They accepted the worship of Abraham and therefore they seemed to be two persons of the Trinity. It is not at all clear who the third person was. He might have been one of the archangels or another angel. Some think that all three Persons of the Trinity were there.

 Revelation 1:20 (b) This word is probably the title given to the leader or the shepherd or the pastor of each of the seven churches mentioned in chapters  2,3. The messages were sent to these seven men who in turn were to instruct the church concerning GOD's Word. It seems as though the leader is held responsible to obtain special messages from GOD for the people that compose the flock.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

The original word, both in Hebrew and Greek, means messenger, and is so translated,  Matthew 11:10   Luke 7:24 . It is often applied to an ordinary messenger,  Job 1:14   1 Samuel 11:3   Luke 9:52; to prophets,  Isaiah 42:19   Haggai 1:13; to priests,  Ecclesiastes 5:6   Malachi 2:7; and even to inanimate objects,  Psalm 78:49   104:4   2 Corinthians 12:7 . Under the general sense of messenger, the term, angel is properly applied also to Christ, as the great Angel or Messenger of the covenant,  Malachi 3:1 , and to the ministers of his gospel, the overseers or angels of the churches,  Revelation 2:1,8,12 , etc. In  1 Corinthians 11:10 , the best interpreters understand by the term "angels" the holy angels, who were present in an especial sense in the Christian assemblies; and from reverence to them it was proper that the women should have power (veils, as a sign of their being in subjection to a higher power) on their heads. See under Veil .

But generally in the Bible the word is applied to a race of intelligent beings, of a higher order than man, who surround the Deity, and whom he employs as his messengers or agents in administering the affairs of the world, and in promoting the welfare of individuals, as well as of the whole human race,

  Matthew 1:20   22:30   Acts 7:30 . Whether pure spirits, or having spiritual bodies, they have no bodily organization like ours, and are not distinguished in sex,  Matthew 22:30 . They were doubtless created long before our present world was made,  Job 38:7 .

The Bible represents them as exceedingly numerous,  Daniel 7:10   Matthew 26:53   Luke 2:13   Hebrews 12:22,23; as remarkable for strength,  Psalm 103:20   2 Peter 2:11   Revelation 5:2   18:21   19:17; and for activity,  Judges 13:20   Isaiah 6:2-6   Daniel 9:21-23   Matthew 13:49   26:53   Acts 27:23   Revelation 8:13 . They appear to be of divers orders,  Isaiah 6:2-6   Ezekiel 10:1   Colossians 1:16   Revelation 12:7 . Their name indicates their agency in the dispensations of Providence towards man, and the Bible abounds in narratives of events in which they have borne a visible part. Yet in this employment they act as the mere instruments of God, and in fulfilment of his commands,  Psalm 91:11   103:20   Hebrews 1:14 . We are not therefore to put trust in them, pay them adoration, or pray in their name,  Revelation 19:10   22:8,9 . Though Scripture does not warrant us to believe that each individual has his particular guardian angel, it teaches very explicitly that the angels minister to every Christian,  Matthew 18:10   Luke 16:22   Hebrews 1:14 . They are intensely concerned in the salvation of men,  Luke 2:10-12   15:7,10   1 Peter 1:12; and will share with saints the blessedness of heaven forever,  Hebrews 12:22 .

Those angels "who kept not their first estate," but fell and rebelled against God, are called the angels of Satan or the devil,  Matthew 25:41   Revelation 12:9 . These are represented as being "cast down to hell, and reserved unto judgment,"  2 Peter 2:4 . See Synagogue , Archangel .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [9]

Mal'âk ( מַלְאָךְ , Strong'S #4397), “messenger; angel.” In Ugaritic, Arabic, and Ethiopic, the verb le'ak means “to send.” Even though le'ak does not exist in the Hebrew Old Testament, it is possible to recognize its etymological relationship to mal'âk . In addition, the Old Testament uses the word “message” in Hag. 1:13; this word incorporates the meaning of the root le'ak “to send.” Another noun form of the root is mal'âk “work,” which appears 167 times. The name Malachi —literally, “my messenger”—is based on the noun mal'âk .The noun mal'âk appears 213 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its frequency is especially great in the historical books, where it usually means “messenger”: Judges (31 times), 2 Kings (20 times), 1 Samuel (19 times), and 2 Samuel (18 times). The prophetical works are very moderate in their usage of mal'âk with the outstanding exception of the Book of Zechariah, where the angel of the Lord communicates God’s message to Zechariah. For example: “Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked to me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ And the angel answered and said unto me, ‘These are the four spirits [pl. of mal'âk ] of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth’” (Zech. 6:4-5).

The word mal'âk denotes someone sent over a great distance by an individual (Gen. 32:3) or by a community (Num. 21:21), in order to communicate a message. Often several messengers are sent together: “And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers [pl. of mal'âk ] and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease” (2 Kings 1:2). The introductory formula of the message borne by the mal'âk often contains the phrase “Thus says … ,” or “This is what … says,” signifying the authority of the messenger in giving the message of his master: “Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon” (Judg. 11:15).

As a representative of a king, the mal'âk might have performed the function of a diplomat. In 1 Kings 20:1ff., we read that Ben-hadad sent messengers with the terms of surrender: “He sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Benhadad …” (1 Kings 20:2).

These passages confirm the important place of the mal'âk . Honor to the messenger signified honor to the sender, and the opposite was also true. David took personally the insult of Nabal (1 Sam. 25:14ff.); and when Hanun, king of Ammon, humiliated David’s servants (2 Sam. 10:4ff.), David was quick to dispatch his forces against the Ammonites.

God also sent messengers. First, there are the prophetic messengers: “And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:15-16). Haggai called himself “the messenger of the Lord,” mal'âk Yahweh .

There were also angelic messengers. The English word angel is etymologically related to the Greek word angelos whose translation is similar to the Hebrew: “messenger” or “angel.” The angel is a supernatural messenger of the Lord sent with a particular message. Two angels came to Lot at Sodom: “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground …” (Gen. 19:1). The angels were also commissioned to protect God’s people: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. 91:11).

Third, and most significant, are the phrases mal'âk Yahweh “the angel of the Lord,” and mal'âk 'elohim,— “the angel of God.” The phrase is always used in the singular. It denotes an angel who had mainly a saving and protective function: “For mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off” (Exod. 23:23). He might also bring about destruction: “And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces” (1 Chron. 21:16).

The relation between the Lord and the “angel of the Lord” is often so close that it is difficult to separate the two (Gen. 16:7ff.; 21:17ff.; 22:11ff.; 31:11ff.; Exod. 3:2ff.; Judg. 6:11ff.; 13:21f.). This identification has led some interpreters to conclude that the “angel of the Lord” was the pre-incarnate Christ.

In the Septuagint the word mal'âk is usually translated by angelos —and the phrase “angel of the Lord” by angelos kuriou . The English versions follow this twofold distinction by translating mal'âk as simply “angel” or “messenger” (Kjv, Rsv, Nasb, Niv )

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

  • Their functions are manifold. (a) In the widest sense they are agents of God's providence ( Exodus 12:23;  Psalm 104:4;  Hebrews 11:28;  1 Corinthians 10:10;  2 Samuel 24:16;  1 Chronicles 21:16;  2 Kings 19:35;  Acts 12:23 ). (b) They are specially God's agents in carrying on his great work of redemption. There is no notice of angelic appearances to man till after the call of Abraham. From that time onward there are frequent references to their ministry on earth ( Genesis 18;  19;  24:7,40;  28:12;  32:1 ). They appear to rebuke idolatry ( Judges 2:1-4 ), to call Gideon ( Judges 6:11,12 ), and to consecrate Samson (13:3). In the days of the prophets, from Samuel downward, the angels appear only in their behalf ( 1 Kings 19:5;  2 Kings 6:17;  Zechariah 1-6;  Daniel 4:13,23;  10:10,13,20,21 ).

    The Incarnation introduces a new era in the ministrations of angels. They come with their Lord to earth to do him service while here. They predict his advent ( Matthew 1:20;  Luke 1:26-38 ), minister to him after his temptation and agony ( Matthew 4:11;  Luke 22:43 ), and declare his resurrection and ascension ( Matthew 28:2-8;  John 20:12,13;  Acts 1:10,11 ). They are now ministering spirits to the people of God ( Hebrews 1:14;  Psalm 34:7;  91:11;  Matthew 18:10;  Acts 5:19;  8:26;  10:3;  12:7;  27:23 ). They rejoice over a penitent sinner ( Luke 15:10 ). They bear the souls of the redeemed to paradise ( Luke 16:22 ); and they will be the ministers of judgement hereafter on the great day ( Matthew 13:39,41,49;  16:27;  24:31 ). The passages ( Psalm 34:7 ,  Matthew 18:10 ) usually referred to in support of the idea that every individual has a particular guardian angel have no such meaning. They merely indicate that God employs the ministry of angels to deliver his people from affliction and danger, and that the angels do not think it below their dignity to minister even to children and to the least among Christ's disciples.

    The "angel of his presence" ( Isaiah 63:9 . Compare  Exodus 23:20,21;  32:34;  33:2;  Numbers 20:16 ) is probably rightly interpreted of the Messiah as the guide of his people. Others have supposed the expression to refer to Gabriel ( Luke 1:19 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Angel'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [11]

    1: Ἄγγελος (Strong'S #32 — Noun Masculine — angelos — ang'-el-os )

    "a messenger" (from angello, "to deliver a message"), sent whether by God or by man or by Satan, "is also used of a guardian or representative in  Revelation 1:20 , cp.  Matthew 18:10;  Acts 12:15 (where it is better understood as = 'ghost'), superior to man,   Hebrews 2:7;  Psalm 8:5 , belonging to Heaven,  Matthew 24:36;  Mark 12:25 , and to God,  Luke 12:8 , and engaged in His service,  Psalm 103:20 . "Angels" are spirits,  Hebrews 1:14 , i.e., they have not material bodies as men have; they are either human in form, or can assume the human form when necessary, cp.  Luke 24:4 , with  Luke 24:23 ,  Acts 10:3 with   Acts 10:30 .

     Mark 8:38 1—Timothy 5:21 Matthew 25:41 2—Peter 2:4 Jude 1:6 2—Corinthians 5:2 Luke 20:36

    Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

    An order of beings with whom we are but little acquainted; and yet, in whose ministry the heirs of salvation are much concerned. ( Hebrews 1:14) In Scripture we meet with many accounts of them. The Lord Jesus Christ himself is called the Angel or Messenger of the covenant. And his servants are called by the same name. But then, it should always be remembered, that these names, to both the Lord and his people, are wholly meant as messengers; for it is a sweet as well as an important truth, that Christ is no angel; "for verily he took not on him the nature of angels." ( Hebrews 2:16) So that as God, he is no angel; neither as man. I conceive, that it is highly important always to keep the remembrance of this alive in the mind. And that his people are no angels, they need not be told, for they are sinners; and they know themselves to be redeemed sinners, redeemed from among men. In the upper, brighter world, it is said that they shall be as the angels: that is, in glory and in happiness. But still men, and not angels, united to their glorious Head as the members of his mystical body to all eternity. ( Exodus 23:20;  Zechariah 1:12;  Malachi 3:1;  Matthew 22:30 and  Matthew 25:41;  Revelation 2:1).

    King James Dictionary [13]

    AN'GEL, n. Usually pronounced angel, but most anomalously. L. angelus Gr. a messenger, to tell or announce.

    1. Literally, a messenger one employed to communicate news or information from one person to another at a distance. But appropriately, 2. A spirit, or a spiritual intelligent being employed by God to communicate his will to man. Hence angels are ministers of God, and ministring spirits.  Hebrews 1 . 3. In a bad sense, an evil spirit as, the angel of the bottomless pit. Math. 25.  1 Corinthians 6 .  Revelation 9 . 4. Christ, the mediator and head of the church.  Revelation 10 . 5. A minister of the gospel, who is an embassador of God.  Revelation 2,3 . 6. Any being whom God employs to execute his judgments.  Revelation 16 . 7. In the style of love, a very beautiful person.

    Webster's Dictionary [14]

    (1): (n.) An appellation given to a person supposed to be of angelic goodness or loveliness; a darling.

    (2): (n.) A messenger.

    (3): (n.) A spiritual, celestial being, superior to man in power and intelligence. In the Scriptures the angels appear as God's messengers.

    (4): (n.) One of a class of "fallen angels;" an evil spirit; as, the devil and his angels.

    (5): (n.) A minister or pastor of a church, as in the Seven Asiatic churches.

    (6): (n.) Attendant spirit; genius; demon.

    (7): (n.) An ancient gold coin of England, bearing the figure of the archangel Michael. It varied in value from 6s. 8d. to 10s.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

    ( Ἄγγελος , used in the Sept. and New Test. for the Hebrew מִלְאָךְ , Malak' ) , a word signifying both in Hebrew and Greek A, Messenger (q.v.), and therefore used to denote whatever God employs to execute his purposes, or to manifest his presence or his power; hence often with the addition of יְהוָֹה , Jehovah, or אֵֹלהִים , Elohim. In later books the word קְדשִׁים , Kedoshim', Holy Ones, Οἱ Ἄγιοι is used as an equivalent term. In some passages it occurs in the sense of an ordinary messenger ( Job 1:14;  1 Samuel 11:3;  Luke 7:4;  Luke 9:52); in others it is applied to prophets ( Isaiah 43:19;  Haggai 1:13;  Malachi 3:1-18); to priests ( Ecclesiastes 5:5;  Malachi 2:7); to ministers of the New Testament (Revelations 1:20). It is also applied to impersonal agents; as to the pillar of cloud ( Exodus 14:19); to the pestilence ( 2 Samuel 24:16-17;  2 Kings 19:30); to the winds ("who maketh the winds his angels,"

     Psalms 104:4): so likewise plagues generally are called "evil angels" ( Psalms 78:49), and Paul calls his thorn in the flesh an "angel of Satan" ( 2 Corinthians 12:7).

    But this name is more eminently and distinctly applied to certain spiritual beings or heavenly intelligences, employed by God as the ministers of his will, and usually distinguished as angels of God or angels of Jehovah. In this case the name has respect to their official capacity as "messengers," and not to their nature or condition. The term "spirit," on the other hand (in Greek Πνεῦμα , in Hebrew רוּחִ ), has reference to the nature of angels, and characterizes them as incorporeal and invisible essences. When, therefore, the ancient Jews called angels Spirits, they did not mean to deny that they were endued with bodies. When they affirmed that angels were incorporeal, they used the term in the sense in which it was understood by the ancients; that is, free from the impurities of gross matter. This distinction between "a natural body" and "a spiritual body" is indicated by Paul ( 1 Corinthians 15:44); and we may, with sufficient safety, assume that angels are spiritual bodies, rather than pure spirits in the modern acceptation of the word. (See Ode, De Angelis, Tr. ad Rh. 1739.)

    It is disputed whether the term Elohim (q..v.) is ever applied to angels; but in  Psalms 8:5;  Psalms 97:7, the word is rendered by Angels in the Sept. and other ancient versions; and both these texts are so cited in  Hebrews 1:6;  Hebrews 2:7, that they are called Sons of God. But there are many passages in which the expression, the "angel of God," "the angel of Jehovah," is certainly used for a manifestation of God himself. This is especially the case in the earlier books of the Old itestament, and may be seen at once by a comparison of  Genesis 22:11 with  Genesis 22:12, and of  Exodus 3:2 with  Exodus 3:6 and  Exodus 3:14, where He who is called the "angel of God" in one verse is called "God," and even "Jehovah," in those that follow, and accepts the worship due to God alone (contrast Revelations 19:10; 21:9). See also  Genesis 16:7;  Genesis 16:13;  Genesis 21:11;  Genesis 21:13;  Genesis 48:15-16;  Numbers 22:22;  Numbers 22:32;  Numbers 22:35; and comp.  Isaiah 63:9 with  Exodus 33:14, etc., etc. The same expression, it seems, is used by Paul in speaking to heathens (see  Acts 27:23; comp. with  Acts 23:11). More remarkably, the word "Elohim" is applied in  Psalms 82:6, to those who judge in God's name.

    It is to be observed also that, side by side with these expressions, we read of God's being manifested in the form of man; e.g. to Abraham at Mamre ( Genesis 18:2;  Genesis 18:22; comp.  Genesis 19:1); to Jacob at Penuel ( Genesis 32:24;  Genesis 32:30); to Joshua at Gilgal ( Joshua 5:13;  Joshua 5:15), etc. It is hardly to be doubted that both sets of passages refer to the same kind of manifestation of the Divine Presence. This being the case, since we know that "no man hath seen God" (the Father) "at any time," and that "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him" ( John 1:18), 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. These appearances are evidently "foreshadowings of the incarnation" (q.v.). By these God the Son manifested himself from time to time in that human nature which he united to the Godhead forever in the virgin's womb. (See Jehovah).

    This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that the phrases used as equivalent to the word "angels" in Scripture, viz., the "sons of God," or even in poetry, the "gods" (Elohim), the "holy ones," etc., are names which, in their full and proper sense, are applicable only to the Lord Jesus Christ. As He is "the Son of God," so also is He the "angel" or "messenger" of the Lord. Accordingly, it is to his incarnation that all angelic ministration is distinctly referred, as to a central truth, by which alone its nature and meaning can be understood (comp.  John 1:51, with  Genesis 28:11-17, especially  Genesis 28:13). (See an anon. work, Angels, Cherubim, And Gods, Lond. 1861.) (See Logos).

    I. Their Existence And Orders. In the Scriptures we have frequent notices of spiritual intelligences existing in another state of being, and constituting a celestial family or hierarchy, over which Jehovah presides. The Bible does not, however, treat of this matter professedly and as a doctrine of religion, but merely adverts to it incidentally as a fact, without furnishing any details to gratify curiosity. The practice of the Jews of referring to the agency of angels every manifestation of the greatness and power of God has led some to contend that angels have no real existence, but are mere personifications of unknown powers of nature; and we are reminded that, in like manner, among the Gentiles, whatever was wonderful, or strange, or unaccountable, was referred by them to the agency of some one of their gods. It may be admitted that the passages in which angels are described as speaking and delivering messages might be interpreted of forcible or apparently supernatural suggestions to the mind, but they are sometimes represented as performing acts which are wholly inconsistent with this notion ( Genesis 16:7;  Genesis 16:12;  Judges 13:1-21;  Matthew 28:2-4); and other passages (e.g.  Matthew 22:30;  Hebrews 1:4 sq.) would be without force or meaning if angels had no real existence. (See Winer's Zeitschr. 1827, 2.)

    That these superior beings are very numerous is evident from the following expressions:  Daniel 7:10, "thousands of thousands," and "ten thousand times ten thousand;"  Matthew 26:53, "more than twelve legions of angels;"  Luke 2:13, "multitude of the heavenly host;"  Hebrews 12:22-23, "myriads of angels." It is probable, from the nature of the case, that among so great a multitude there may be different grades and classes, and even natures ascending from man toward God, and forming a chain of being to fill up the vast space between the Creator and man, the lowest of his intellectual, creatures. Accordingly, the Scripture describes angels as existing in a society composed of members of unequal dignity, power, and excellence, and as having chiefs and rulers. It is admitted that this idea is not clearly expressed in the books composed before the Babylonish captivity; but it is developed in the books written during the exile and afterward, especially in the writings of Daniel and Zechariah. In  Zechariah 1:11, an angel of the highest order (see Keil, Comment. ad loc.) appears in contrast with angels of an inferior class, whom he employs as his messengers and agents.(comp. 3, 4). In  Daniel 10:13, the appellation "one of the chief princes" ( שִׂר רִאשׁוֹן ), and in  Daniel 12:1, "the great prince" ( הִשִּׂר הִגָּדוֹל ), are given to Michael. The Grecian Jews rendered this appellation by the term Ἀρχάγγελος , archangel (q.v.), which occurs in the New Test. ( Judges 1:9;  1 Thessalonians 4:16). The names of several of them even are given. (See Gabriel), (See Michael), etc. The opinion, therefore, that there were various orders of angels was not peculiar to the Jews, but was held by Christians in the time of the apostles, and is mentioned by the apostles themselves. The distinct divisions of the angels, according to their rank in the heavenly hierarchy, however, which we find in the writings of the later Jews, were almost or wholly unknown in the apostolical period. The appellations Ἀρχαί , Ἐξουσίαι , Δυνάμεις , Θρόνοι , Κυριότητες , are, indeed, applied in  Ephesians 1:21;  Colossians 1:16, and elsewhere, to the angels; not, however, to them exclusively, or with the intention of denoting their particular classes; but to them in common with all beings possessed of might and power, visible as well as invisible, on earth as well as in heaven. (See Henke's Magaz. 1795, 3; 1796, 6.) (See Principality).

    II. Their Nature. They are termed "spirits" (as in  Hebrews 1:14), although this word is applied more commonly not so much to themselves as to their power dwelling in man ( 1 Samuel 18:10;  Matthew 8:16, etc. etc.). The word is the same as that used of the soul of man when separate from the body ( Matthew 14:26;  Luke 24:37;  Luke 24:39;  1 Peter 3:19); but, since it properly expresses only that supersensuous and rational element of man's nature, which is in him the image of God (see  John 4:24), and by which he has communion with God ( Romans 8:16); and since, also, we are told that there is a "spiritual body" as well as a "natural ( Ψυχικόν ) body" ( 1 Corinthians 15:44), it does not assert that the angelic nature is incorporeal. The contrary seems expressly implied by the words in which our Lord declares that, After The Resurrection, men shall be "like the angels" ( Ἰσάγγελοι ) ( Luke 20:36); because (as is elsewhere said,  Philippians 3:21) their bodies, as well as their spirits, shall have been made entirely like His. It may also be noticed that the glorious appearance ascribed to the angels in Scripture (as in  Daniel 10:6) is the same as that which shone out in our Lord's Transfiguration, and in which John saw Him clothed in heaven (Revelations 1:14-16); and moreover, that whenever angels have been made manifest to man, it has always been in human form (as in  Genesis 18:1-33;  Genesis 19:1-38;  Luke 24:4;  Acts 1:10, etc. etc.). The very fact that the titles "sons of God" ( Job 1:6;  Job 38:7;  Daniel 3:25, comp. with 28), and "gods" ( Psalms 8:5;  Psalms 97:7), applied to them, are also given to men (see  Luke 3:38;  Psalms 82:6, and comp. our Lord's application of this last passage in  John 10:34-37), points in the same way to a difference only of degree and an identity of kind between the human end the angelic nature. The angels are therefore revealed to us as beings; such as man might be and will be when the power of sin and death is removed, partaking in their measure of the attributes of God, Truth, Purity, and Love, because always beholding His face ( Matthew 18:10), and therefore being "made like Him" ( 1 John 3:2). This, of course, implies finiteness, and therefore (in the strict sense) "imperfection" of nature, and constant progress, both moral and intellectual, through all eternity. Such imperfection, contrasted with the infinity of God, is expressly ascribed to them in  Job 4:18;  Matthew 24:36;  1 Peter 1:12; and it is this which emphatically points them out to us as creatures, fellow-servants of man, and therefore incapable of usurping the place of gods. This finiteness of nature implies capacity of temptation (see Butler's Anal. pt. i, c. 5), and accordingly we hear of "fallen angels." Of the nature of their temptation and the circumstances of their fall we know absolutely nothing. All that is certain is, that they "left their first estate" ( Τὴν Ἑαυτῶν Ἀρχήν ) , and that they are now "angels of the devil" ( Matthew 25:41; Revelations 12:7, 9), partaking therefore of the falsehood, uncleanness, and hatred, which are his peculiar characteristics ( John 8:44). All that can be conjectured must be based on the analogy of man's own temptation and fall. On the other hand, the title especially assigned to the angels of God, that of the "holy ones" (see  Daniel 4:13;  Daniel 4:23;  Daniel 8:13;  Matthew 25:31), is precisely the one which is given to those men who are renewed in Christ's image, but which belongs to them in actuality and in perfection only hereafter. (Comp.  Hebrews 2:10;  Hebrews 5:9;  Hebrews 12:23.). Its use evidently implies that the angelic probation is over, and their crown of glory won.

    In the Scriptures angels appear with bodies, and in the human form; and no intimation is anywhere given that these bodies are not real, or that they are only assumed for the time and then laid aside. It was manifest, indeed, to the ancients that the matter of these bodies was not like that of their own, inasmuch as angels could make themselves visible and vanish again from their sight. But this experience would suggest no doubt of the reality of their bodies; it would only intimate that they were not composed of gross matter. After his resurrection, Jesus often appeared to his disciples, and vanished again before them t yet they never doubted that they saw the same body which had been crucified, although they must have perceived that it had undergone an important change. The fact that angels always appeared in the human form does not, indeed, prove that they really have this form, but that the ancient Jews believed so. That which is not pure spirit must have some form or other; and angels may have the human form, but other forms are possible. (See Cherub).

    The question as to the food of angels has been very much discussed. If they do eat, we can know nothing of their actual food; for the manna is manifestly called "angels' food" ( Psalms 78:25;  Wisdom of Solomon 16:20) merely by way of expressing its excellence. The only real question, therefore, is whether they feed at all or not. We sometimes find angels, in their terrene manifestations, eating and drinking ( Genesis 18:8;  Genesis 19:3); but in  Judges 13:15-16, the angel who appeared to Manoah declined, in a very pointed manner, to accept his hospitality. The manner in which the Jews obviated the apparent discrepancy, and the sense in which they understood such passages, appear from the apocryphal book of Tobit (12:19), where the angel is made to say, "It seems to you, indeed, as though I did eat and drink with you; but I use invisible food which no man can see." This intimates that they were supposed to simulate when they appeared to partake of man's food, but that yet they had food of their own, proper to their natures. Milton, who was deeply read in the "angelic" literature, derides these questions (Par. Lost, 5, 433-439). But if angels do not need food; if their spiritual bodies are inherently incapable of waste or death, it seems not likely that they gratuitously perform an act designed, in all its known relations, to promote growth, to repair waste, and to sustain existence.

    The passage already referred to in  Matthew 22:30, teaches by implication that there is no distinction of sex among the angels. The Scripture never makes mention of female angels. The Gentiles had their male and female divinities, who were the parents of other gods, and Gesenius ( Thes. Heb. s.v. בֵּן , 12) insists that the "sons of God" spoken of in  Genesis 6:2, as the progenitors of the giants, were angels. But in the Scriptures the angels are all males; and they appear to be so represented, not to mark any distinction of sex, but because the masculine is the more honorable gender. Angels are never described with marks of age, but sometimes with those of youth ( Mark 16:5). The constant absence of the features of age indicates the continual vigor and freshness of immortality. The angels never die ( Luke 20:36). But no being besides God himself has essential immortality ( 1 Timothy 6:16); every other being, therefore, is mortal in itself, and can be immortal only by the will of God. Angels, consequently, are not eternal, but had a beginning. As Moses gives no account of the creation of angels in his description of the origin of the world, although the circumstance would have been too important for omission had it then taken place, there is no doubt that they were called into being before, probably very long before the acts of creation which it was the object of Moses to relate. (See Sons Of God). That they are of superhuman intelligence is implied in  Mark 13:32 : "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, not Even the angels in heaven." That their power is great may be gathered from such expressions as "mighty angels" ( 2 Thessalonians 1:7); "angels, powerful in strength" ( Psalms 103:20); "angels who are greater [than man] in power and might." The moral perfection of angels is shown by such phrases as "holy angels" ( Luke 9:26); "the elect angels" ( 1 Timothy 5:21). Their felicity is beyond question in itself, but is evinced by the passage ( Luke 20:36) in which the blessed in the future world are said to be Ἰσάγγελοι , Καὶ Υἱοὶ Τοῦ Θεοῦ , " like unto the angels, and sons of God." (See Timpson, Angels Of God, Lond. 1837.)

    III. Their Functions. Of their office in heaven we have, of course, only vague prophetic glimpses (as in  1 Kings 22:19;  Isaiah 6:1-3;  Daniel 7:9-10; Revelations 6:11, etc.), which show us nothing but a never-ceasing adoration, proceeding from the vision of God. Their office toward man is far more fully described to us. (See Whately, Angels, Lond. 1851, Phil. 1856.)

    1. They are represented as being, in the widest sense, agents of God's providence, natural and supernatural, to the body and to the soul. Thus the operations of nature are spoken of, as under angelic guidance fulfilling the will of God. Not only is this the case in poetical passages, such as  Psalms 104:4 (commented upon in  Hebrews 1:7), where the powers of air, and fire are referred to them, but in the simplest prose history, as where the pestilences which slew the firstborn ( Exodus 12:23;  Hebrews 11:28), the disobedient people in the wilderness ( 1 Corinthians 10:10), the Israelites in the days of David ( 2 Samuel 24:16;  1 Chronicles 21:16), and the army of Sennacherib ( 2 Kings 19:35), as also the plague which cut off Herod ( Acts 12:23), are plainly spoken of as the work of the "Angel of the Lord." Nor can the mysterious declarations of the Apocalypse, by far the most numerous of all, be resolved by honest interpretation into mere poetical imagery. (See especially Revelations 8 and 9.) It is evident that angelic agency, like that of man, does not exclude the action of secondary, or (what are called) "natural" causes, or interfere with the directness and universality of the providence of God. The personifications of poetry and legends of mythology are obscure witnesses of its truth, which, however, can rest only on the revelations of Scripture itself. 2. More particularly, however, angels are spoken of as ministers of what is commonly called the "supernatural," or, perhaps, more correctly, the "spiritual" providence of God; as agents in the great scheme of the spiritual redemption and sanctification of man, of which the Bible is the record. The representations of them are different in different books of Scripture, in the Old Testament and in the New; but the reasons of the differences are to be found in the differences of scope attributable to the books themselves. As different parts of God's providence are brought out, so also arise different views of His angelic ministers.

    (1.) In the Book of Job, which deals with "Natural Religion," they are spoken of but vaguely, as surrounding God's throne above, and rejoicing in the completion of His creative work ( Job 1:6;  Job 2:1;  Job 38:7). No direct and visible appearance to man is even hinted at. (See Rawson, Holy Angels, N.Y. 1858.)

    (2.) In the Book of Genesis there is no notice of angelic appearances till after the call of Abraham. Then, as the book is the history of the Chosen Family, so the angels mingle with and watch over its family life, entertained by Abraham and by Lot ( Genesis 18:1-33;  Genesis 19:1-38), guiding Abraham's servant to Padan-Aram ( Genesis 24:7;  Genesis 24:40), seen by the fugitive Jacob at Bethel ( Genesis 28:12), and welcoming his return at Mahanaim ( Genesis 32:1). Their ministry hallows domestic life, in its trials and its blessings alike, and is closer, more familiar, and less awful than in after times. (Contrast  Genesis 18:1-33 with  Judges 6:21-22;  Judges 13:16;  Judges 13:22.)

    (3.) In the subsequent history, that of a Chosen Nation, the angels are represented more as ministers of wrath and mercy, messengers of a King, than as common children of the One Father. It is, moreover, to be observed that the records of their appearance belong especially to two periods, that of the judges and that of the captivity, which were transition periods in Israelitish history, the former destitute of direct revelation or prophetic guidance, the latter one of special trial and unusual contact with heathenism. During the lives of Moses and Joshua there is no record of the appearance of created angels, and only obscure references to angels at all. In the Book of Judges angels appear to rebuke idolatry ( Judges 2:1-4), to call Gideon ( Judges 6:11, etc.), and consecrate Samson ( Judges 13:3, etc.) to the work of deliverance.

    (4.) The prophetic office begins with Samuel, and immediately angelic guidance is withheld, except when needed by the prophets themselves ( 1 Kings 19:5;  2 Kings 6:17). During the prophetic and kingly period angels are spoken of only (as noticed above) as ministers of God in the operations of nature. But in the captivity, when the Jews were in the presence of foreign nations, each claiming its tutelary deity, then to the prophets Daniel and Zechariah angels are revealed in a fresh light, as watching, not only over Jerusalem, but also over, heathen kingdoms, under the providence, and to work out the designs, of the Lord. (See Zechariah Passim, and  Daniel 4:13;  Daniel 4:23;  Daniel 10:10;  Daniel 10:13;  Daniel 10:20-21, etc.) In the whole period they, as truly as the prophets and kings, are God's ministers, watching over the national life of the subjects of the Great King. (See Heigel, De angelofoederis, Jen. 1660.)

    (5.) The Incarnation marks a new epoch of angelic ministration. "The Angel of Jehovah," the Lord of all created angels, having now descended from heaven to earth, it was natural that His servants should continue to do Him service here. Whether to predict and glorify His birth itself ( Matthew 1:20;  Luke 1:2), to minister to Him after His temptation and agony ( Matthew 4:11;  Luke 22:43), or to declare His resurrection and triumphant ascension ( Matthew 28:2;  John 20:12;  Acts 1:10-11), they seem now to be indeed "ascending and descending on the Son of Man," almost as though transferring to earth the ministrations of heaven. It is clearly seen that whatever was done by them for men in earlier days was but typical of and flowing from their service to Him. (See  Psalms 91:11; comp.  Matthew 4:6.)

    (6.) The New Testament is the history of the Church Of Christ, every member of which is united to Him. Accordingly, the angels are revealed now as "ministering spirits" to each Individual member of Christ for his spiritual guidance and aid ( Hebrews 1:14). The records of their visible appearance are but unfrequent ( Acts 5:19;  Acts 8:26;  Acts 10:3;  Acts 12:7;  Acts 27:23); yet their presence and their aid are referred to familiarly, almost as things of course, ever after the Incarnation. They are spoken of as watching over Christ's little ones ( Matthew 18:10), as rejoicing over a penitent sinner ( Luke 15:10), as present in the worship of Christians ( 1 Corinthians 11:10), and (perhaps) bringing their prayers before God (Revelations 8:3, 4), and as bearing the souls of the redeemed into paradise ( Luke 16:22). In one word, they are Christ's ministers of grace now, as they shall be of judgment hereafter ( Matthew 13:39;  Matthew 13:41;  Matthew 13:49;  Matthew 16:27;  Matthew 24:31, etc.). By what method they act we cannot know of ourselves, nor are we told, perhaps lest we should worship them instead of Him, whose servants they are (see  Colossians 2:18; Revelations 22:9); but, of course, their agency, like that of human ministers, depends for its efficacy on the aid of the Holy Spirit.

    The ministry of angels, therefore, a doctrine implied in their very name, is evident, from certain actions which are ascribed wholly to them ( Matthew 13:41;  Matthew 13:49;  Matthew 24:31;  Luke 16:22), and from the scriptural narratives of other events, in the accomplishment of which they acted a visible part ( Luke 1:11;  Luke 1:26;  Luke 2:9 sq.;  Acts 5:19-20;  Acts 10:3;  Acts 10:19;  Acts 12:7;  Acts 27:23), principally in the guidance of the destinies of man. In those cases also in which the agency is concealed from our view we may admit the probability of its existence, because we are told that God sends them forth "to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation" ( Hebrews 1:14; also  Psalms 34:8;  Psalms 91:1-16;  Matthew 18:10). But the angels, when employed for our welfare, do not act independently, but as the instruments of God, and by His command ( Psalms 103:20;  Psalms 104:4;  Hebrews 1:13-14): not unto them, therefore, are our confidence and adoration due, but only to him ( Revelation 19:10;  Revelation 22:9) whom the angels themselves reverently worship. (See Mostyn, Ministry Of Angels, Lond. 1841.)

    3. Guardian Angels. It was a favorite opinion of the Christian fathers that every individual is under the care of a particular angel, who is assigned to him as a guardian. (See Guardian Angel). They spoke also of two angels, the one good, the other evil, whom they conceived to be attendant on each individual: the good angel prompting to all good, and averting ill, and the evil angel prompting to all ill, and averting good ( Hermas, 2, 6). (See Abaddon). The Jews (excepting the Sadducees) entertained this belief, as do the Moslems. The heathen held it in a modified form the Greeks having their tutelary Damon (q.v.), and the Romans their Genius. There is, however, nothing to support this notion in the Bible. The passages ( Psalms 34:7;  Matthew 18:10) usually referred to in support of it have assuredly no such meaning. The former, divested of its poetical shape, simply denotes that God employs the ministry of angels to deliver his people from affliction and danger; and the celebrated passage in Matthew cannot well mean any thing more than that the infant children of believers, or, if preferable, the least among the disciples of Christ, whom the ministers of the Church might be disposed to neglect from their apparent insignificance, are in such estimation elsewhere that the angels do not think it below their dignity to minister to them. (See Satan). IV. Literature. For the Jewish speculations on Angelology, see Eisenmeriger, Entdecktes Judenthum, 2, 370 sq.; the Christian views on the subject may be found in Storr and Flatt's Lehrbuch Der Chr. Dogmatik, § 48; Scriptural views respecting them are given in the American Biblical Repository, 12, 356-368; in the Bibliotheca Sacra, 1, 766 sq.; 2, 108 sq.; on the ministry of angels, see Journal Sac. Lit. January, 1852, p. 283 sq.; on their existence and character, ib. October, 1853, p. 122 sq. Special treatises are the following, among others: Loers, De angelorunm corporib. et natura (Tuisc. 1719, F. a. Rh. 1731); Goede, Demonstrationes de existentia corporum angelicor. (Hal. 1744); Hoffmann, Num angeli boni corpora hominum interdum obsideant (Viteb. 1760); Schulthess, Engelwelt, Engelgesetz u. Engeldienst (Zur. 1833); Cotta, Doctrince de Angelis historia (Tub. 1765); Damitz, De lapsu angelorum (Viteb. 1693); Wernsdorf, De commercio angelor. c. filiabus hominum (Viteb. 1742); Schmid, Enarratio de lapsu demonum (Viteb. 1775); Maior, De natura et cultu angelor. (Jen. 1653); Merheim, Hist. angelor. spec. (Viteb. 1792); Seiler, Erroner doctrinae de angelis (Erlang. 1797); Driessen, Angelor. corpa (Gron. 1740); Beyer, De Angelis (Hal. 1698); Carhov's ed. of Abarbanel, De creatione angelorum (in Lat. Lpz. 1740); Mather, Angelography (Bost. 1696); Ambrose, Ministration of and Communion with Angels (in Works, p. 873); Camfield, Discourse of Angels (Lond. 1678); Lawrence, Communion and Warre with Angels (s. 1. 1646); Casman, Angelographia (Freft. 1597); Herrenschmidt, Theatrum angelorum (Jen. 1629); Clotz, Angelographia (Rost. 1636); Dorsche, Singularium angelicorum septenarius (Argent. 1645); Museus, Angelogia apostolica (Jen. 1664); Schmid, Senarius angelicus (Helmst. 1695); Meier, De archangelis (Hamb. 1695); Oporin, Lehre von den Engeln (ib.; 1735); Strodimann, Gute Engel (Guelph. 1744); Reuter, Reich des Teufels (Lemg. 1715); Nicolai, De gradibus nequitice diabolice (Magd. 1750); Herrera, De angelis (Salam. 1595); Grasse, Biblioth. magica (Lpz. 1843). (See Spirit).

    On the worship of angels, as practiced in the Roman Church, treatises exist in Latin by the following authors: AEpinus (Rost. 1757); Bechmann (Jen. 1661); Clotz (Rost. 1636); Osiander (Tubing. 1670); Pfeffinger (Argent. 1708, Helmst. 1731); Reusch (Helmnst. 1739); Schultze (Lips. 1703); Quistorp (Gryph. 1770); Thomasius, in his Dissert. p. 89-103; Wildvogel (Jen. 1692); Willisch (Lips. 1723). (See Invocation).

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [16]

    ān´jel ( מלאך , mal'ākh  ; Septuagint and New Testament, ἄγγελος , ággelos ):

    I. Definition and Scripture Terms

    II. Angels in Old Testament

    1. Nature, Appearances and Functions

    2. The Angelic Host

    3. The Angel of the Theophany

    III. Angels in New Testament

    1. Appearances

    2. The Teaching of Jesus about Angels

    3. Other New Testament References

    IV. Development of the Doctrine

    V. The Reality of Angels


    I. Definition and Scripture Terms

    The word angel is applied in Scripture to an order of supernatural or heavenly beings whose business it is to act as God's messengers to men, and as agents who carry out His will. Both in Hebrew and Greek the word is applied to human messengers ( 1 Kings 19:2;  Luke 7:24 ); in Hebrew it is used in the singular to denote a Divine messenger, and in the plural for human messengers, although there are exceptions to both usages. It is applied to the prophet Haggai ( Haggai 1:13 ), to the priest ( Malachi 2:7 ), and to the messenger who is to prepare the way of the Lord ( Malachi 3:1 ). Other Hebrew words and phrases applied to angels are benē hā - 'ĕlōhı̄m ( Genesis 6:2 ,  Genesis 6:4;  Job 1:6;  Job 2:1 ) and benē 'ēlı̄m ( Psalm 29:1;  Psalm 89:6 ), i.e. sons of the 'ĕlōhı̄m or 'ēlı̄m  ; this means, according to a common Hebrew usage, members of the class called 'ĕlōhı̄m or 'ēlı̄m , the heavenly powers. It seems doubtful whether the word 'ĕlōhı̄m , standing by itself, is ever used to describe angels, although Septuagint so translates it in a few passages. The most notable instance is  Psalm 8:5; where the Revised Version (British and American) gives, "Thou hast made him but little lower than God," with the English Revised Version, margin reading of "the angels" for "God" (compare  Hebrews 2:7 ,  Hebrews 2:9 ); ḳedhōshı̄m "holy ones" ( Psalm 89:5 ,  Psalm 89:7 ), a name suggesting the fact that they belong to God; ‛ı̄r , ‛ı̄rı̄m , "watcher," "watchers" ( Daniel 4:13 ,  Daniel 4:17 ,  Daniel 4:23 ). Other expressions are used to designate angels collectively: ṣōdh , "council" ( Psalm 89:7 ), where the reference may be to an inner group of exalted angels; ‛ēdhāh and ḳāhāl , "congregation" ( Psalm 82:1;  Psalm 89:5 ); and finally cābhā' , cebhā'ōth , "host," "hosts," as in the familiar phrase "the God of hosts."

    In New Testament the word ággelos , when it refers to a Divine messenger, is frequently accompanied by some phrase which makes this meaning clear, e.g. "the angels of heaven" ( Matthew 24:36 ). Angels belong to the "heavenly host" ( Luke 2:13 ). In reference to their nature they are called "spirits" ( Hebrews 1:14 ). Paul evidently referred to the ordered ranks of supra-mundane beings in a group of words that are found in various combinations, namely, archaı́ , "principalities," exousı́ai , "powers," thrónoi , "thrones," kuriótētes , "dominions," and dunámeis , also translated "powers." The first four are apparently used in a good sense in  Colossians 1:16 , where it is said that all these beings were created through Christ and unto Him; in most of the other passages in which words from this group occur, they seem to represent evil powers. We are told that our wrestling is against them (  Ephesians 6:12 ), and that Christ triumphs over the principalities and powers ( Colossians 2:15; compare  Romans 8:38;  1 Corinthians 15:24 ). In two passages the word archággelos , "archangel" or chief angel, occurs: "the voice of the archangel" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ), and "Michael the archangel" ( Judges 1:9 ).

    II. Angels in Old Testament

    1. Nature, Appearances and Functions

    Everywhere in the Old Testament the existence of angels is assumed. The creation of angels is referred to in  Psalm 148:2 ,  Psalm 148:5 (compare   Colossians 1:16 ). They were present at the creation of the world, and were so filled with wonder and gladness that they "shouted for joy" ( Job 38:7 ). Of their nature we are told nothing. In general they are simply regarded as embodiments of their mission. Though presumably the holiest of created beings, they are charged by God with folly ( Job 4:18 ), and we are told that "he putteth no trust in his holy ones" ( Job 15:15 ). References to the fall of the angels are only found in the obscure and probably corrupt passage  Genesis 6:1-4 , and in the interdependent passages  2 Peter 2:4 and   Judges 1:6 , which draw their inspiration from the Apocryphal book of Enoch . Demons are mentioned (see Demons ); and although Satan appears among the sons of God ( Job 1:6;  Job 2:1 ), there is a growing tendency in later writers to attribute to him a malignity that is all his own (see Satan ).

    As to their outward appearance, it is evident that they bore the human form, and could at times be mistaken for men ( Ezekiel 9:2;  Genesis 18:2 ,  Genesis 18:16 ). There is no hint that they ever appeared in female form. The conception of angels as winged beings, so familiar in Christian art, finds no support in Scripture (except, perhaps  Daniel 9:21;  Revelation 14:6 , where angels are represented as "flying"). The cherubim and seraphim (see Cherub; Seraphim ) are represented as winged ( Exodus 25:20;  Isaiah 6:2 ); winged also are the symbolic living creatures of Ezek ( Ezekiel 1:6; compare  Revelation 4:8 ).

    As above stated, angels are messengers and instruments of the Divine will. As a rule they exercise no influence in the physical sphere. In several instances, however, they are represented as destroying angels: two angels are commissioned to destroy Sodom ( Genesis 19:13 ); when David numbers the people, an angel destroys them by pestilence ( 2 Samuel 24:16 ); it is by an angel that the Assyrian army is destroyed ( 2 Kings 19:35 ); and Ezekiel hears six angels receiving the command to destroy those who were sinful in Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 9:1 ,  Ezekiel 9:5 ,  Ezekiel 9:7 ). In this connection should be noted the expression "angels of evil," i.e. angels that bring evil upon men from God and execute His judgments ( Psalm 78:49; compare  1 Samuel 16:14 ). Angels appear to Jacob in dreams ( Genesis 28:12;  Genesis 31:11 ). The angel who meets Balaam is visible first to the ass, and not to the rider (Nu 22ff). Angels interpret God's will, showing man what is right for him ( Job 33:23 ). The idea of angels as caring for men also appears ( Psalm 91:11 f), although the modern conception of the possession by each man of a special guardian angel is not found in Old Testament.

    2. The Angelic Host

    The phrase "the host of heaven" is applied to the stars, which were sometimes worshipped by idolatrous Jews ( Jeremiah 33:22;  2 Kings 21:3;  Zephaniah 1:5 ); the name is applied to the company of angels because of their countless numbers (compare  Daniel 7:10 ) and their glory. They are represented as standing on the right and left hand of Yahweh ( 1 Kings 22:19 ). Hence God, who is over them all, is continually called throughout Old Testament "the God of hosts," "Yahweh of hosts," "Yahweh God of hosts"; and once "the prince of the host" ( Daniel 8:11 ). One of the principal functions of the heavenly host is to be ever praising the name of the Lord ( Psalm 103:21;  Psalm 148:1 f). In this host there are certain figures that stand out prominently, and some of them are named. The angel who appears to Joshua calls himself "prince of the host of Yahweh" (  Joshua 5:14 f). The glorious angel who interprets to Daniel the vision which he saw in the third year of Cyrus (  Daniel 10:5 ), like the angel who interprets the vision in the first year of Belshazzar ( Daniel 7:16 ), is not named; but other visions of the same prophet were explained to him by the angel Gabriel, who is called "the man Gabriel," and is described as speaking with "a man's voice" ( Daniel 9:21;  Daniel 8:15 f). In Daniel we find occasional reference made to "princes": "the prince of Persia," "the prince of Greece" (  Daniel 10:20 ). These are angels to whom is entrusted the charge of, and possibly the rule over, certain peoples. Most notable among them is Michael, described as "one of the chief princes," "the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people," and, more briefly, "your prince" ( Daniel 10:13;  Daniel 12:1;  Daniel 10:21 ); Michael is therefore regarded as the patron-angel of the Jews. In Apocrypha Raphael, Uriel and Jeremiel are also named. Of Raphael it is said (Tobit 12:15) that he is "one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints" to God (compare  Revelation 8:2 , "the seven angels that stand before God"). It is possible that this group of seven is referred to in the above-quoted phrase, "one of the chief princes". Some (notably Kosters) have maintained that the expressions "the sons of the 'ĕlōhı̄m ," God's "council" and "congregation," refer to the ancient gods of the heathen, now degraded and wholly subordinated to Yahweh. This rather daring speculation has little support in Scripture; but we find traces of a belief that the patron-angels of the nations have failed in establishing righteousness within their allotted sphere on earth, and that they will accordingly be punished by Yahweh their over-Lord ( Isaiah 24:21 f;   Psalm 82:1-8; compare  Psalm 58:1 f the Revised Version, margin; compare   Judges 1:6 ).

    3. The Angel of the Theophany

    This angel is spoken of as "the angel of Yahweh," and "the angel of the presence (or face) of Yahweh." The following passages contain references to this angel:  Genesis 16:7 - the angel and Hagar; Gen 18 - A braham intercedes with the angel for Sodom;  Genesis 22:11 - the angel interposes to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac;   Genesis 24:7 ,  Genesis 24:40 - A braham sends Eliezer and promises the angel's protection;  Genesis 31:11 - the angel who appears to Jacob says "I am the God of Beth-el";   Genesis 32:24 - J acob wrestles with the angel and says, "I have seen God face to face";  Genesis 48:15 f - J acob speaks of God and the angel as identical; Ex 3 (compare  Acts 7:30 ) - the angel appears to Moses in the burning bush;  Exodus 13:21;  Exodus 14:19 (compare   Numbers 20:16 ) - G od or the angel leads Israel out of Egypt;  Exodus 23:20 - the people are commanded to obey the angel; Ex 32:34 through 33:17 (compare   Isaiah 63:9 ) - M oses pleads for the presence of God with His people; Josh 5:13 through 6:2 - the angel appears to Joshua;  Judges 2:1-5 - the angel speaks to the people;   Judges 6:11 - the angel appears to Gideon.

    A study of these passages shows that while the angel and Yahweh are at times distinguished from each other, they are with equal frequency, and in the same passages, merged into each other. How is this to be explained? It is obvious that these apparitions cannot be the Almighty Himself, whom no man hath seen, or can see. In seeking the explanation, special attention should be paid to two of the passages above cited. In  Exodus 23:20 God promises to send an angel before His people to lead them to the promised land; they are commanded to obey him and not to provoke him "for he will not pardon your transgression: for my name is in him." Thus the angel can forgive sin, which only God can do, because God's name, i.e. His character and thus His authority, are in the angel. Further, in the passage Ex 32:34 through 33:17 Moses intercedes for the people after their first breach of the covenant; God responds by promising, "Behold mine angel shall go before thee"; and immediately after God says, "I will not go up in the midst of thee." In answer to further pleading, God says, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." Here a clear distinction is made between an ordinary angel, and the angel who carries with him God's presence. The conclusion may be summed up in the words of Davidson in his Old Testament Theology  : "In particular providences one may trace the presence of Yahweh in influence and operation; in ordinary angelic appearances one may discover Yahweh present on some side of His being, in some attribute of His character; in the angel of the Lord He is fully present as the covenant God of His people, to redeem them." The question still remains, Who is theophanic angel? To this many answers have been given, of which the following may be mentioned: (1) This angel is simply an angel with a special commission; (2) He may be a momentary descent of God into visibility; (3) He may be the Logos, a kind of temporary preincarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Each has its difficulties, but the last is certainly the most tempting to the mind. Yet it must be remembered that at best these are only conjectures that touch on a great mystery. It is certain that from the beginning God used angels in human form, with human voices, in order to communicate with man; and the appearances of the angel of the Lord, with his special redemptive relation to God's people, show the working of that Divine mode of self-revelation which culminated in the coming of the Saviour, and are thus a fore-shadowing of, and a preparation for, the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Further than this, it is not safe to go.

    III. Angels in New Testament

    1. Appearances

    Nothing is related of angels in New Testament which is inconsistent with the teaching of Old Testament on the subject. Just as they are specially active in the beginning of Old Testament history, when God's people is being born, so they appear frequently in connection with the birth of Jesus, and again when a new order of things begins with the resurrection. An angel appears three times in dreams to Joseph ( Matthew 1:20;  Matthew 2:13 ,  Matthew 2:19 ). The angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, and then to Mary in the annunciation (Lk 1). An angel announces to the shepherds the birth of Jesus, and is joined by a "multitude of the heavenly host," praising God in celestial song ( Luke 2:8 ). When Jesus is tempted, and again during the agony at Gethsemane, angels appear to Him to strengthen His soul ( Matthew 4:11;  Luke 22:43 ). The verse which tells how an angel came down to trouble the pool ( John 5:4 ) is now omitted from the text as not being genuine. An angel descends to roll away the stone from the tomb of Jesus ( Matthew 28:2 ); angels are seen there by certain women ( Luke 24:23 ) and (two) by Mary Magdalene ( John 20:12 ). An angel releases the apostles from prison, directs Philip, appears to Peter in a dream, frees him from prison, smites Herod with sickness, appears to Paul in a dream ( Acts 5:19;  Acts 8:26;  Acts 10:3;  Acts 12:7;  Acts 12:23;  Acts 27:23 ). Once they appear clothed in white; they are so dazzling in appearance as to terrify beholders; hence they begin their message with the words "Fear not" ( Matthew 28:2-5 ).

    2. The Teaching of Jesus About Angels

    It is quite certain that our Lord accepted the main teachings of Old Testament about angels, as well as the later Jewish belief in good and bad angels. He speaks of the "angels in heaven" ( Matthew 22:30 ), and of "the devil and his angels" ( Matthew 25:41 ). According to our Lord the angels of God are holy ( Mark 8:38 ); they have no sex or sensuous desires ( Matthew 22:30 ); they have high intelligence, but they know not the time of the Second Coming ( Matthew 24:36 ); they carry (in a parable) the soul of Lazarus to Abraham's bosom ( Luke 16:22 ); they could have been summoned to the aid of our Lord, had He so desired ( Matthew 26:53 ); they will accompany Him at the Second Coming ( Matthew 25:31 ) and separate the righteous from the wicked ( Matthew 13:41 ,  Matthew 13:49 ). They watch with sympathetic eyes the fortunes of men, rejoicing in the repentance of a sinner ( Luke 15:10; compare  1 Peter 1:12;  Ephesians 3:10;  1 Corinthians 4:9 ); and they will hear the Son of Man confessing or denying those who have confessed or denied Him before men ( Luke 12:8 f). The angels of the presence of God, who do not appear to correspond to our conception of guardian angels, are specially interested in God's little ones (  Matthew 18:10 ). Finally, the existence of angels is implied in the Lord's Prayer in the petition, "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" ( Matthew 6:10 ).

    3. Other New Testament References

    Paul refers to the ranks of angels ("principalities, powers" etc.) only in order to emphasize the complete supremacy of Jesus Christ. He teaches that angels will be judged by the saints ( 1 Corinthians 6:3 ). He attacks the incipient Gnosticism of Asia Minor by forbidding the, worship of angels ( Colossians 2:18 ). He speaks of God's angels as "elect," because they are included in the counsels of Divine love ( 1 Timothy 5:21 ). When Paul commands the women to keep their heads covered in church because of the angels ( 1 Corinthians 11:10 ) he probably means that the angels, who watch all human affairs with deep interest, would be pained to see any infraction of the laws of modesty. In  Hebrews 1:14 angels are (described as ministering spirits engaged in the service of the saints. Peter also emphasizes the supremacy of our Lord over all angelic beings (  1 Peter 3:22 ). The references to angels in 2 Peter and Jude are colored by contact with Apocrypha literature. In Revelation, where the references are obviously symbolic, there is very frequent mention of angels. The angels of the seven churches ( Revelation 1:20 ) are the guardian angels or the personifications of these churches. The worship of angels is also forbidden ( Revelation 22:8 f). Specially interesting is the mention of elemental angels - "the angel of the waters" (  Revelation 16:5 ), and the angel "that hath power over fire" ( Revelation 14:18; compare  Revelation 7:1;  Revelation 19:17 ). Reference is also made to the "angel of the bottomless pit," who is called Abaddon or Apollyon (which see), evidently an evil angel ( Revelation 9:11 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "abyss"). In   Revelation 12:7 we are told that there was war between Michael with his angels and the dragon with his angels.

    IV. Development of the Doctrine

    In the childhood of the race it was easy to believe in God, and He was very near to the soul. In Paradise there is no thought of angels; it is God Himself who walks in the garden. A little later the thought of angels appears, but, God has not gone away, and as "the angel of Yahweh" He appears to His people and redeems them. In these early times the Jews believed that there were multitudes of angels, not yet divided in thought into good and bad; these had no names or personal characteristics, but were simply embodied messages. Till the time of the captivity the Jewish angelology shows little development. During that dark period they came into close contact with a polytheistic people, only to be more deeply confirmed in their monotheism thereby. They also became acquainted with the purer faith of the Persians, and in all probability viewed the tenets of Zoroastrianism with a more favorable eye, because of the great kindness of Cyrus to their nation. There are few direct traces of Zoroastrianism in the later angelology of the Old Testament. It is not even certain that the number seven as applied to the highest group of angels is Persian in its origin; the number seven was not wholly disregarded by the Jews. One result of the contact was that the idea of a hierarchy of the angels was more fully developed. The conception in Dan of angels as "watchers," and the idea of patron-princes or angel-guardians of nations may be set down to Persian influence. It is probable that contact with the Persians helped the Jews to develop ideas already latent in their minds. According to Jewish tradition, the names of the angels came from Babylon. By this time the consciousness of sin had grown more intense in the Jewish mind, and God had receded to an immeasurable distance; the angels helped to fill the gap between God and man.

    The more elaborate conceptions of Daniel and Zechariah are further developed in Apocrypha, especially in 2 Esdras, Tobit and 2 Macc.

    In the New Testament we find that there is little further development; and by the Spirit of God its writers were saved from the absurdly puerile teachings of contemporary Rabbinism. We find that the Sadducees, as contrasted with the Pharisees, did not believe in angels or spirits ( Acts 23:8 ). We may conclude that the Sadducees, with their materialistic standpoint, and denial of the resurrection, regarded angels merely as symbolical expressions of God's actions. It is noteworthy in this connection that the great priestly document (Priestly Code, P) makes no mention of angels. The Book of Revelation naturally shows a close kinship to the books of Ezekiel and Daniel.

    Regarding the rabbinical developments of angelology, some beautiful, some extravagant, some grotesque, but all fanciful, it is not necessary here to speak. The Essenes held an esoteric doctrine of angels, in which most scholars find the germ of the Gnostic eons.

    V. The Reality of Angels

    A belief in angels, if not indispensable to the faith of a Christian, has its place there. In such a belief there is nothing unnatural or contrary to reason. Indeed, the warm welcome which human nature has always given to this thought, is an argument in its favor. Why should there not be such an order of beings, if God so willed it? For the Christian the whole question turns on the weight to be attached to the words of our Lord. All are agreed that He teaches the existence, reality, and activity of angelic beings. Was He in error because of His human limitations? That is a conclusion which it is very hard for the Christian to draw, and we may set it aside. Did He then adjust His teaching to popular belief, knowing that what He said was not true? This explanation would seem to impute deliberate untruth to our Lord, and must equally be set aside. So we find ourselves restricted to the conclusion that we have the guaranty of Christ's word for the existence of angels; for most Christians that will settle the question.

    The visible activity of angels has come to an end, because their mediating work is done; Christ has founded the kingdom of the Spirit, and God's Spirit speaks directly to the spirit of man. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ, upon whom faith can yet behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Still they watch the lot of man, and rejoice in his salvation; still they join in the praise and adoration of God, the Lord of hosts, still can they be regarded as "ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation."


    All Old Testament and New Testament theologies contain discussions. Among the older books Oehler's Old Testament Theology and Hengstenberg's Christology of Old Testament (for "angel of Yahweh") and among modern ones Davidson's Old Testament Theology are specially valuable. The ablest supporter of theory that the "sons of the Elohim" are degraded gods is Kosters. "Het onstaan der Angelologie onder Israel," Tt 1876. See also articles on "Angel" in HDB (by Davidson), EB , DCG , Jewish Encyclopedia , RE (by Cremer). Cremer's Biblico-Theological New Testament Lexicon should be consulted under the word "aggelos." For Jewish beliefs see also Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus , II, Appendix xiii. On the Pauline angelology see Everling, Die paulinische Angelologie . On the general subject see Godet, Biblical Studies  ; Mozley, The Word , chapter lix, and Latham, A Service of Angels .

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [17]

    An old English coin, with the archangel Michael piercing the dragon on the obverse of it.