I’ve always been fascinated by angels. The Bible frequently speaks of them… over 270 times to be exact. And as we approach the holiday season, we will once again be speaking of angels. An angel appeared to Mary to give her the news of her pregnancy. The shepherds encountered a heavenly host of angels praising God. Yes, angels are embedded in the Christmas narrative, but the truth is that they are still at work today.
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Angels are seen throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, they are so numerously mentioned that even in my own personal studies, I often fail to recognize how significant their roles are in so many of my favorite Bible stories. They led Lot and his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah before it was destroyed. An angel was responsible for closing the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. And angels are seen throughout the book of Acts helping the early apostles, even breaking them free from jail! (Acts 12:6-19)
Our culture has many unique ideas about angels, who they are and what they do. Movies, books, and television have all given us their perspectives. Some depict angels as nothing more than good people who have died. Other stories tell of angels who are trying to earn their wings. At specialty stores, we find ceramic figurines of babies or small children with wings. But the truth is that angels are very real, and the Bible has a lot to say about them and their purpose.
- Angels were created by God. Everything in heaven and on earth, both seen and unseen, was created by God for His purposes. (Colossians 1:16)
- They rejoice when we make the choice to follow Jesus. Angels are on our side, and they LOVE seeing us turn our hearts towards God.
“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:10
- They observe us as we go about our lives. And beyond that, they intervene when called of God to do so. They may be “unseen,” but that doesn’t mean they aren’t present and working.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:2
- Angels (at least some of them) DO fly. This may seem silly to include on this list, but I wanted to include it because it’s something I think many of us picture when we think of angels. Now, the Bible never says that all angels look alike. In fact, it often depicts them as looking entirely different from one another. But wings are often included in their imagery and they are seen “flying” several times throughout Scripture. (Revelation 14:6)
- They are not to be worshipped, rather we get to join them in their worship of God. And one day we will join their chorus in eternity! (Revelation 19:10)
- They are subject to Jesus. Jesus is King, and even the angels bow down to Him.
Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority. – 1 Peter 3:22 (NLT)
- Angels have free will. This is clearly seen in the fact that some angels willingly “left their domain.” We know them now as demons, and they will face the consequences of that decision on judgment day. (Jude 1:6)
- They express emotions similar to the way we do. They experience both joy and longing. (Job 38:7, 1 Peter 1:12)
- They probably don’t look like us. They were not created in the image of God the same way we were. Every time we see angels in the movies, they are always human-like. And while some of them may have human characteristics, others are described to be more like a beautiful creature than a human.
Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. – Isaiah 6:2
- There are thousands and thousands of angels. We know a few of them by name from our Bible stories, but truth be told, there are far more angels than we can probably comprehend. (Psalm 68:17, Hebrews 12:22, Matthew 26:53)
- Regardless of their mission, they all report to God. Many of the angels we know by name were messengers. They appeared to men and women of God in order to share a specific message from Him. But not all angels are messengers. Some fight wars, others protect and some bring about God’s judgment. But no matter what purpose an angel is assigned, they are given that assignment by God, and they all carry out His plans and purposes.
- They ministered to Jesus and minister to us as well. This is such a foreign concept to many of us. We aren’t often taught that angels “serve” us. This, of course, is not in the sense that they are somehow beneath us. But rather they are serving the purposes of God when they intervene on our behalf. They are hard at work making certain that we are able to carry out all that God has planned for our lives. (Matthew 4:11, Luke 22:43)
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)
- Angels are sent for our protection. This is a concept I have been trying to teach my young daughters. At night when they are afraid we talk about Psalm 91 and about the angels God sends to protect them and watch over them while they sleep.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. – Psalm 91:11-12 (NIV)
- There is such a thing as “guardian angels.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to “despise one of these little ones” because “their angels” continually see the face of God in heaven. Now, this may not be exactly as we picture guardian angels to be, but God certainly sends specific angels to watch over us during different seasons of our lives.
- Angels are on our side. They rejoice when someone gives their life over to Jesus, and they guard us as we accomplish God’s will for our lives. The Bible is clear. Angels work for God. And because we are God’s children, they are looking out for us, protecting us, leading us, and intervening when necessary in order for us to carry out our God-given purposes. We may not see them, but they are certainly at work.
Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. – Exodus 23:20
Angels are embedded in the Christmas narrative, but the truth is that they are still at work today carrying out the will of God on this earth.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.