Because my name is Clarence when I meet people for the first time, they often remind me of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. In that movie there was an angel named Clarence and one of the classic lines from the movie was “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” This is one of those movies that warms the heart, especially during the holiday season. However, I want to turn your attention from Hollywood to the Scriptures so we can discover what does the Bible really tells us about angels.
What is an angel?
An angel is a celestial or heavenly being who is commissioned to execute the will and plan of God. The word for angel in the Hebrew and Greek can actually be translated 'messenger.' When we most often think about angels we think of those messengers of God. The Bible also talks about fallen angels. These are the angels that fell with Satan in his rebellion against God. Jesus makes mention of these fallen angels in Matthew when talking about hell.
"Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." – Matthew 25:41
In Scripture, fallen angels are also referred to as demons. Just like there is good and evil, and sin and righteousness, there are angels who serve God’s purpose on one side and angels who serve Satan’s purpose on the other side. It is the fallen angels that set the stage for the spiritual warfare that we as Christians have to engage in.
How do angels interact with humans?
When I talk about angels interacting with humans just to be clear I am referencing the angels who serve God’s purpose. Yes, there are interactions with humans and fallen angels or demons but that is not the focus here. Many times in the Bible when angels engaged humans, they were delivering messages sent from heaven but that’s not all they did. Here are some examples you find in Scripture.
The angel of the LORD comforted Hagar –
"The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, 'Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?' 'I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,' she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.' The angel added, 'I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.' – Genesis 16:7-10
The angel of the LORD kept Abraham from sacrificing Isaac –
"But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. 'Do not lay a hand on the boy,' he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.'” – Genesis 22:11-12
Angels announced many births including Ishmael, Isaac, Samson, and Jesus among others –
"The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. – Judges 13:3 (this was referring to Samson)
Angels communicated God’s word to the prophets -
"But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’" - 2 Kings 1:3
An angel led Peter out of prison –
"The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, 'Put on your clothes and sandals.' And Peter did so. 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,' the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision." – Acts 12:6-9
Angels provide protection –
"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared." – Exodus 23:20
"If you say, 'The Lord is my refuge,'
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;" - Psalm 91:9-11
Angels worship God around the throne –
"All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God." – Revelation 4:11
As you can see they have varied roles and duties but ultimately they do what God wants them to do.
What are the types of angels mentioned?
"But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" – Jude 1:9
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." – 1 Thessalonians 4:16
"So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." – Genesis 3:23-24
"Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth." – Isaiah 37:16
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:"
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” – Isaiah 6:1-3
Do angels have names?
For the most part, angels remain anonymous in the Bible. They are like those behind the scene workers who operate without the need or desire for glory or fanfare yet they are necessary and effective in what they do. Most of the time angels are referred to as either angel or an angel of the Lord. Only four angels were ever named in the Bible. Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer, and Abaddon or Apollyon (Rev. 9:11). If you are new to your Bible, Lucifer, which means star of the morning or morning star was Satan’s name before he fell.
Do angels have free will?
There was a time when angels had free will. Let me take you back to the Lucifer story for a moment. When Lucifer attempted to ascend to God’s throne and was thrown out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19) he brought with him one-third of all of heaven’s angels (Rev.12). Prior to the point of rebellion, angels had free will. It was up to them to choose. Either continue to follow the true and living God or align with Lucifer in his attempted coup. At that point, two-thirds of heaven's angels made the right choice and the rest foolishly followed Lucifer. That moment of decision sealed the allegiance of each angel and sealed their eventual eternal destination. Whether they realized it or not at that moment, they were making an eternal decision. Those who followed God made a choice that led to eternal life. Those who followed Lucifer made a choice that will eventually lead to their eternal punishment. This was the last moment of free will angels had. They got to choose whose side they would be on but from that point forward the decision of each angel was set thus locking in the consequence of their choice.
When you study what the Bible really tells us about angels you will see that angels have been engaged in the affairs of man from the beginning. At the appropriate times and moments, they have moved in and out of the lives of men to accomplish the will of God. The Bible even tells us that you may have encountered an angel without knowing it.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/mstroz
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
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