While growing up, I used to have a magnificent notion of who the angels are. My knowledge of these creatures was largely informed by instances where the men of that era trembled and worshipped them.
But for growth in revelation knowledge, I may never have come to see them for who they really are. Like Paul said, as a child (a spiritual babe), I understood as a child. Now that there is a precise understanding of things as revealed in the epistles, the veil that shrouds the personality of the angels has been removed. The New Covenant believer knows exactly who the angels are and what their duties in relation to men are.
The initial mystery that surrounded the essence of these beings originates from the Old Testament and its account of the activities of angels. This should however not be a shocking realisation as the Old Testament is a book of mysteries itself. By mysteries, I mean ‘hidden wisdom’. These mysteries are what Paul, in 1Cor1:9, describes as what eyes had not seen and ears had not heard. The men of old saw in types and shadows and had partial revelation of the things of God. God spoke to them in separate revelations (each of which set forth a portion of the truth) – Heb1:1. We can therefore not rely entirely on the Old Testament to do justice on the subject of angels and of course all other biblical subjects. In the epistles, we have epignosis (precise knowledge) of all the subjects in the scriptures.
Who are the angels? They are spirits/spirit beings in their essence and operate in the spiritual realm (Psalm104:4). The implications of this is that they do not die hence immortal (Luke20:36); although highly mobile, they have their dwelling in heaven (Mark13:32, Matt24:26…); their likeness/appearances are as a flame of fire (Exo3:2, Act7:30, Heb1:7…); by virtue of their creation, compared to humans, they are greater in power and might (2Pet2:11). Their extraordinary features nonetheless, they are meant to be subservient. God has empowered them these much just to be of service to men. There has been an endless debate among Bible scholars as to if angels are referred to as “sons of God” or not. As usual, those who support the claim of their ‘sonship’ do so based on their supposed understanding of some Old Testament passages (Gen6:2,4, Job1:6,2;1,38;7). Gen6:2 tells us that the “sons of God” married the “daughters of men”. We have however been informed that angels do not get married (Matt22:30). The ‘sons’ being referenced here can therefore not be angels. In Job, they were so-called ‘sons’ because of the manner of their creation by God – for their resemblance of God by virtue of their essence as spirit beings. They were supposed to be first, though not most important in the order of creation. Peradventure there are doubts as to the illegitimacy of the ‘sonship’ claim, Heb1:5 clears that doubt: At no instance and time did God refer to any of His angels as sons – men did.
The spirit of God clearly proclaims Jesus as the Son of God (Luke 3:22) – the firstborn son as it were (Rom8:29). He is the only begotten son (John1:18) – the express image of the Father (Heb1:3). No angel can lay claim to this heritage. Nevertheless, herein lies the sovereign nature of God –His unparalleled bias for mankind: God didn’t just want a single son (Jesus) to revel in His glory. He wanted other sons with whom His firstborn would share His dominion. He didn’t dim the angels fit for this privilege. Instead, He counted men worthy of His heritage. For this reason, whosoever receives Jesus has been given the power to become the Son of God (John1:12). By the reason of God’s love, we are called the Sons of God. The beloved (believers) are the Sons of God, not the angels.
When the psalmist David said we (men) are made a little lower than the angels, he was referring to our nature/ physical makeup. While the angels are spirit beings, we are formed out of the dust of the earth (Gen2:7). We however know that what counts is not the container but the content (1Sam16:7). Even the Lord Jesus, at some point, was made a little lower than the angels when He came in the form of a man to redeem mankind. His condescending act of love however could not rob him off His glory and honour for He remains the Lord of all – even the angels (Heb2:7-9). Though we may appear to be inferior to the angels in terms of our outlook, we actually have more value and essence than they do. The psalmist proceeds to tell us why, regardless of our inferior outlook, we are greater than the angels are:
- God has crowned us with glory and honour (Psa8:5)
- He has given us dominion over the works of His hands (Psa8:6, Gen1:26)
- All things have been put under our feet (Psa8:6, 1cor15:27,Heb2:8)
Note, these abilities are not given to all men – only the sons, i.e. those who believe on the Son (Jesus – Mark16:17)
We have pointed out that the Old Testament folks had a limited knowledge of the things/ways of God. Men of old revered and worshipped angels because they had not come to the knowledge of the role God designed for angels to play in human affairs. They never had a clear picture of who God is. For them, the angels were next to God in authority and sovereignty. As such, whenever they encounter them (angels), they tend to treat them as they would God. This mind-set informed the reaction/attitude of men like Jacob (Gen32:30), Balaam (Num22:31), Joshua (Jos5:14), Gideon (Judg6:22), Manoah (Judg13:22), David (1Ch21:30), Zacharias (Luk1:5-12).
While the angels are essentially spirit beings, they also have the ability to appear in human forms. When they appear in this manner, they have the ability to engage actively in human activities. This ability is however not permanent but temporal. In Kenneth E. Hagin’s words, “angels also have the ability, as God permits, to take upon themselves a visible form which can be seen with the natural eye, just as you can see a physical person”. For instance, we read that Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen32:24-30). Also, Abraham entertained angels (Gen1-16) and so did Lot (Gen19:1-3).
It is interesting to note that the angels, just like humans, are creatures with freewill. They can desire and make choices on their own. They are not like robots that merely operate based on how they are configured by their designers. For instance, Lucifer was once an archangel in Heaven who displayed an unrestrained exercise of his freewill. Here is how he exercised his desires and freewill: He became envious of God’s sovereignty and pre-eminence. He was puffed up and considered himself equal to God. He conceived in his heart to depose God. He eventually embarked on a rebellion – a war against God and lost. Interestingly, a large company of angels were faithful to him and helped him wage the war. As a consequence of his action, he lost his place with God and was cast out of Heaven along with his ‘angels’ (Isaiah14:12-15, Jude1:6). This singular scenario gives us an understanding that even angels have the capacity to sin (2Pet2:4).
When God created the angels, He had man in mind. The believer in Christ should understand that he is not subservient to the angels. Regardless of their seemingly splendid makeup, we have and can claim authority over them. Matter of fact, God gave them their unique strength and supernatural outlook for a purpose: to be of effective service to us. Just think of a wealthy but fragile looking man who hired a hefty looking bodyguard. No matter how physically inferior the man is beside his guard, he will always be in charge. In Christ Jesus, the less is more! (Chris Onayinka)
People who think angels are object of hyper admiration would be shocked to know that believers are made spectacles for angels to look upon (1Cor4:9). In fact, we are to judge them (1Cor6:3). More interestingly, a believer is superior in knowledge than any angel – we know (by revelation knowledge) what they do not and what they desire to know (1Pet1:12). Our superior insight of who God is makes us more fit to worship Him. It is then debasing when we sing songs like “we sing with the angels” or “we desire to worship like the angels do”. They don’t even understand the nature of God like the believer does hence cannot worship Him better. Hence, whoever preaches or relays a message invoking the personality of an angel should be regarded as a charlatan.
Who are the angels? They are spirits sent to serve those who are and are going to be heirs of salvation – the present day believers (Heb1:14). They are commissioned to carry out God’s instruction (Psalms103:20) chief of which is to keep watch over us (Psalms 91:11) and minister to us (1King19:5, Matt4:11). How then do you worship a personality who is commissioned to serve you? Angels are not meant to be worshipped (Col2:18). Instead, they worship God and do His commandment (Psalm103:20) – to minister to us.
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