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On September 21, 1994, Touched by an Angel premiered on CBS. It went on to run for 211 episodes over nine seasons. The series featured two “angels” named Monica and Tess. Throughout the series, Monica is tasked with conveying guidance and messages from “God” to various people who are at a crossroads in their lives. Eventually, Monica and Tess are joined by another angel named Andrew, the angel of death, who makes appearances in sickness, tragic events, or the moment he seemingly ushers individuals into heaven. The series became one of CBS’s highest-rated series, with more than 121 million viewers, and it was nominated for eleven Primetime Emmy awards and three Golden Globe awards. This series revealed that the human fascination with angels in our present day has not waned since the early history of the church. In fact, angels have been depicted throughout the history of art, music, and culture.

A Google search for “angels” produces a myriad of websites revealing this fascination. The famous encyclopedic site Wikipedia comments that angels are supernatural beings found in various religions and mythologies. The article continues by revealing that each religious tradition has its own method of defining and explaining these celestial beings. For instance, in Zoroastrianism, each person has one guardian angel and they manifest God’s energy. In Islam, angels are often mentioned throughout the Qur’an and the Hadith (codified oral traditions about Muhammad), and they are often entrusted with specific tasks by God to perform, such as testing human beings by granting them abundant wealth and curing their illnesses. According to the teachings of the Theosophical Society, angels are regarded as living either in the atmosphere of the planets or inside the sun, and they assist in the operation and processes of nature. Angels are depicted throughout the history of art, music, and culture.

Surrounded by mysticism and mystery, the popular Christian view of angels desperately needs reformation. We need a well-thought-out and carefully structured biblical and theological understanding of these celestial creatures and their function within the redemptive story of God. Therefore, we must ask, what does the Bible say?

Angels Are Created

The Bible asserts that angels have not always existed. Numerous biblical passages affirm that God, in the beginning, created all the angels. Job alludes to angelic choirs filling the heavens with praise to God during the event of creation, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Scripture is quick to posit that though they are spiritual beings, angels are distinct from the triune God and have not existed eternally. A clear distinction is made in Nehemiah 9:6 between the God of heaven and His creation: “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host . . . and the host of heaven worships you.” In the New Testament, Paul affirms the Old Testament regarding the creation of angels: “For by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities––all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). Notice that Paul describes the angels as “created,” past tense. In other words, God is not continually creating angels, but their existence and number were firmly fixed in the beginning. Scripture never indicates the exact number of the angels that were created, but it often alludes to an innumerable host. On Mount Sinai, God “came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deut. 33:2). In Psalm 68:17, the psalmist identifies “the chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands.” When believers enter the presence of God in holy worship, we enter the presence of “innumerable angels” (Heb. 12:22). In Revelation, John recounts, “I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11). Regardless of the size of their population, we can be certain that God created the necessary number of angels to fulfill His sovereign will and to render appropriate praise and glory to their Creator.

Though fellow creatures, angels are distinct from humans within the creation of God.

The early church father Augustine (354–430) is quick to emphasize that the creation account revealed in Genesis does not directly mention the creation of angels and is in fact surprisingly silent on the matter, giving more consideration to the creation of God’s other creatures. For Augustine, the creation of the angels is a matter of textual and theological speculation. However, he alludes to the angelic creation when examining the opening chapters of the book of Genesis and speculates that the creation of “heaven” in Genesis 1:1 inaugurates the ex nihilo creation of spiritual beings, while the creation of “light” in Genesis 1:3 serves as the time in which those celestial creatures come to the light, launching them forth as servants of God. In his discussion, Augustine was careful to point out that though the creation account in Genesis does not directly mention the creation of angels, it was conceivable that God created the angels just before His creation of the cosmos––or that the angels were created in tandem with the establishment of the universe. For Augustine, in accordance with Nehemiah 9:6, the most vital element is that angels must be comprehended in a manner that fully and completely sets them apart from being coeternal with the triune God.

Angels Are Not Humans

While the Bible stresses the creation of the angels by the triune God, it also contends that they do not exist in the same way in which human beings do. For instance, unlike humans, God created the angels to neither marry nor procreate (Matt. 22:30). The author of Hebrews proposes that all angels are “spirits”––“are they not all ministering spirits . . . ?” (Heb. 1:14). When Jesus appeared to His disciples between His resurrection and ascension, He acknowledges that a “spirit” does not possess “flesh and bones” as He does (Luke 24:39). In Scripture, angels are invisible beings and are not usually visible to humans unless God reveals them (Num. 22:31; 2 Kings 6:17; Luke 2:13). However, from time to time, angels took on physical form and appeared to various individuals in Scripture such as Abraham, Lot, Moses, Daniel, Mary, and John. The angel said to the woman at the empty tomb of Jesus: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen” (Matt. 28:5–6). Though fellow creatures, angels are distinct from humans within the creation of God.

Angels Are Not to Be Worshiped

In Revelation, when John falls at the feet of an angel, the angel quickly warns John of the danger of worshiping a fellow creature: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10). This warning obviously necessitates that we should also never pray to angels. Paul warns us against thinking that any other “mediator” can come between us and God, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). There are no examples offered in Scripture of anyone praying to an angel or asking an angel for assistance. Moreover, Scripture gives no encouragement for anyone to seek the appearance of an angel, for they manifest themselves unsought. Though we may have a fascination with these celestial beings, believers should never harbor an unhealthy curiosity or a desire for some type of supernatural experience above our love for God and devotion to Him and His work. Our role is rather to talk to the Lord, who is Himself the creator, sustainer, and commander of all angelic forces.

To dismiss the theology of angels as too mysterious, too speculative, or too mystical is to discount the clear evidence of their existence throughout Scripture and the intellectual exercise and spiritual reflection of countless Christian thinkers throughout church history. It should therefore be our aim as Christians, for the sake of our gospel sanctification, to develop a robust angelology in the sincere hope that attention and theological reflection would be directed not on the angels themselves, but on Christ, whom we worship and serve together.

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