We’re all thinking about this but rarely talking about it: Are angels real?

By February 12, 2018Theology

We’re all thinking about this but rarely talking about it: Are angels real?

Pour yourself a hot cup of tea or coffee…because this is the longest blog post you’ll see on my site! My friends have been asking me to share this research paper, which I completed in 2015 as part of my assignment for a theology course at Liberty University. I’ve waited three years to share my research papers. Before reading any theology paper, consider the intended audience and the intent of the paper. It was never meant be shared as a blog post but since so many are asking to see this, its the only way to make it accessible. Some parts might not align with your own doctrines. Always consult your pastor, preacher, priest, or church leaders to discuss the doctrines of your chosen faith. Please do NOT plagiarize this material for your own research papers. -Christine Abraham

Introduction to Angelology

The focus of this paper is Angelology, a systematic study of angels.[1] Are angels real? As far as I know, I’ve never had the experience of meeting an angel in person. Yet I have experienced the protection and the message of angels in my lifetime. Because of this I am researching the doctrine of angels. “From the beginning to the end of sacred Scripture we have abundant testimony to the existence of angels,”[2] yet we rarely speak of angels in modern Christian conversation. It’s important to become aware of and have an understanding of angels. We do this through the Biblical study of angels, rather than our own awareness or reliance upon the testimonies of others. An examination of my personal experiences through the lens of Scripture will validate or invalidate my experiences.

My first awareness of angels happened when a message was delivered through my brother. On this occasion he looked into my eyes and said something so convicting, I paid close attention. He said “Be careful driving home.” He normally says something like this, however the look inside his eyes made me realize that something was different and this was a warning. As I drove home with my newborn baby in the back of my car, I was observing the highway traffic at 70 miles per hour. Suddenly in my view I saw a big-rig truck lose one of his six wheels, and the wheel was coming towards my car at a high rate of speed! I slowed down and started praying. I turned on my hazard lights as the vehicles behind me were about to hit the dangerous wheel. This wheel bounced across five lanes, changed direction, moved into oncoming traffic and would kill someone. As I continued my forward path, the high-speed wheel continued inches in front of my car. Miraculously I passed through the danger with my baby in the car and prayed through the message delivered by an angel: “Be careful driving home.” Angels deliver messages. Was this an angel delivering a message, an angel protecting me, or the Holy Spirit? My brother was NOT the angel, he was communicating something in his heart.

My second awareness of angels happened again when I was in the car, this time with two small children. As I carpooled home from their Christian school I was driving in the center lane with cars on either side of my minivan. Suddenly and without notice, two cars on either side of me were coming SIDEWAYS into my lane. I screamed “Jesus help me!” and both cars missed hitting my car. To this day I cannot explain how those cars did not collide into mine and I am very grateful. Angels protect God’s children. Did Jesus send angels to protect me or was this the Holy Spirit?

My third awareness of angels happened when I started noticing dimes in strange places. When I walked out of my office and returned again, I noticed a dime on the white carpet under my chair. As I moved into my private office in a real estate company, I opened the drawer to the empty desk and found a single dime. I continued seeing dimes, not nickels or pennies, in strange places. I prayed for understanding and collected the dimes, without turning them or the angels into false idols.  I’ve collected more than 60 dimes which I’ve found in unusual places. Are these angel experiences, coincidences, supernatural or an overactive imagination? Testing the angels to see if they are good or bad, I prayed as my family was driving to a funeral:  “Lord, if these angels are protecting us today please put dimes in the locked car. I know it’s impossible to put dimes inside a locked car.” When we were ready to leave and my husband opened the car door, two dimes were sitting on the floor near the passenger seat where I usually sit. The reality made me tremble in fear of the Lord. He was delivering a message to me, although I was not receiving the specific message and still seeking conviction for the meaning of the dimes. I continue to collect them and to pray. Are angels real? (Update: when we moved, my husband accidently tossed the collection of dimes away).

My childhood religion impressed upon me that we become angels in Heaven when we die, angels are only visible to sinless saints, and guardian angels watch over me. Today I realize some of that theology is incorrect and I will explain why in this paper. I selected this topic because for many years I did not believe in angels although I was a faithful Christian. My lack of Biblical wisdom blinded me to the existence of good and bad angels. This completed paper will examine various Scriptural references of angelic experiences from the New and Old Testament and answer the question “Are angels real?”

Why Study Angels Today?

From Genesis to Revelation, angels are written into the Scriptures. The word “angel” is mentioned in the Bible 282 times; the words archangel and Seraphim are mentioned twice; cherubim is mentioned 57 times.[3] Satan a fallen angel is not included in this study of angels, although I will mention him as a reference only. With over 300 Scripture references to angels, the topic is important for theological discussions and teaching. Erickson defines angels as “..those spiritual beings that God created higher than humankind, some of whom have remained obedient to God and carry out his will, and others whom disobeyed, lost their holy condition, and now oppose and hinder his work.”[4] Billy Graham sold over three million copies of his book, “Angels: Ringing Assurance That We Are Not Alone,” and in the beginning he writes: “During my ministry I have heard or read literally thousands of stories. Could it be that they were all hallucinations or accidents or fate or luck? Or were real angels sent from God to perform certain tasks?”[5] Clearly angels exist based on eyewitness accounts in the Scriptures. “When they are mentioned, it is always in order to inform us further about God, what he does, and how he does it.”[6] Today books and movies about angel experiences are sitting upon bestseller lists, an indication the fascination with angels has not dissipated over time.

Many scholars believe angels did not exist prior to creation and they are in fact created beings. Erickson explains, “It is not explicitly stated in Scripture that angels were created, nor are they mentioned in the creation account (Gen. 1-2). That they were created is clearly implied in Psalm 148:2,5…”[7] The Bible says “Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. (Psalm 148:5).  The first ministering angel is revealed in Genesis 16 and the first fallen angel is identified in Genesis 3 (the serpent). “The Bible describes the host of angels as being innumerable. There are so many they cannot be counted.”[8] God determines the number and names the stars in Psalm 147:4.  He knows the hairs on the head (Matt. 10:30). We assume he knows the number of angels and their names.

It’s important for Christians to study the angels and to understand their purpose in God’s Kingdom. Another importance is being able to differentiate between good angels and bad angels (called demons).  The history of angels through Biblical time is also important for understanding their past, present and future purposes.

Studying angelology should not result in angel worship. Dr. David Jeremiah warns us angels must never replace God in our lives or receive our worship.[9] He elaborates, “Angel worship is no more acceptable to God than the worship of money or power or self-indulgence.”[10] Billy Graham gives similar warnings is his book on angels. One danger of angel worship is dependence on angels, calling upon angels, and elevating angels above their level of authority. Another danger is their ability to deceive as the devil, evidenced in the Garden of Eden. The danger of false identity through angel dependence can weaken Christians. “Such majestic beings as angels can help lift our eyes from this troubled and temporal earth. But they are meant to draw our gaze to the Lord, not to themselves.”[11]  While Romans 8:29 advises they cannot separate us from God, they certainly can deceive us.

What Are the Activities of Angels?

Affirming their existence, what exactly are angels created to do? A modern Christian might typically answer: “They deliver messages and protect me.” Others will profess to a guardian angel from birth. In “A Study of Angels” by Edward Myers we learn angels have defined activities based on Scripture testimony:

22 Activities of the Angels

  1. Drive Spirit horses (2 Kings 2:9-12)
  2. Guard gates (Rev. 21:12)
  3. Wage war (Rev. 12:7-9)
  4. Rule nations (Daniel 10:13-21)
  5. Help individuals (Matt 18:10)
  6. Execute judgments (2 Sam. 24:15-17)
  7. Minister to saints (Hebrew. 1:14)
  8. Praise God (Rev. 5:11-14)
  9. Strengthen in trial (Matt 4:11)
  10. Lead sinners to gospel workers (Acts 8:26-38)
  11. Appear in dreams (Matt 1:20-21)
  12. Minister before God (Rev. 8:2)
  13. Bind and guard Satan (Rev. 20:1-3)
  14. Gather together God’s elect (Matt 24:31)
  15. Harvest God’s crop (Matt13:36-43)
  16. Protectors of saints (Psalm 34:4-7)
  17. Accompany Christ at His return (Matt 16:27)
  18. Receive departed saints (Luke 16:22)
  19. Gave laws and revelations (Dan. 8:19)
  20. Impart God’s will (Acts 5)
  21. Brought answers to prayer (Dan. 9:20-23)
  22. Present in the church (1Tim. 5:21)

Source: “A Study of Angels” Edward Myers[12]

This list of angelic activities does not include the activities of demons, as my paper refers only to angels in good standing with the Lord. Information about demonic activities can be found in the book by Myers or other books listed in my bibliography.

Problems with Angelology

Theology problems in angelology create much confusion and aversion to understanding. Different faiths profess angelic experiences not documented in the Bible.  A common misunderstanding is the ability to “summon angels.” Dr. David Jeremiah explains, “…their service can never be summoned by your or me, and their presence can never be predicted. They’re as near as they’ve ever been, but they’re also just as far away.”[13] Culturally we are instructed as Christians to call upon angels for help. A Google search results in articles about calling upon your angels. This is dangerous information as a new Christian or someone weak in faith will be drawn towards quick solutions in times of persecution or trial. When the called angel does not appear or the end result is not favorable, faith is weakened and the door to unbelief widened. Angels are sent by Christ through heaven and earth. “Solely in obedience to his will are they sent to serve us.”[14] They are sent, not called. In my example of two cars colliding before me, I called upon Jesus and not the angels. Perhaps He sent them. When heaven opens angels ascend and descend (see John 1:51).

Another problem with misunderstanding in angelology results in misguided religion. “Angels made Muhammad and Joseph Smith famous.”[15] Two men claimed their angel experiences were the cornerstone of their religion. “While meditating in a cave, Muhammad began to have violent seizures and frightening visions, allegedly from the angel Gabriel…An angel of light (or angels of the light) appeared to Joseph Smith in a similar fashion as with Muhammad.”[16] Two religions were founded in angelology: Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Do Guardian Angels Exist?

Guardian angels are frequent topics of conversation within the Christian community, but do they really exist?  Psalm 37:4 says an angel encamps around the man who fears God. This angel is not identified as a guardian. Terry Law disagrees, saying “Personally I believe everyone has a guardian angel assigned at birth…however, this is not specifically spelled out in the Bible.”[17] While his book is subtitled “Angelic Encounters From a Biblical Perspective,” he offers no validation from Scripture on his guardian angel theology. The assumption is based on his personal testimony, similar to my testimony of avoiding two dangerous auto accidents.  A clue to his insertion of this claim is found in his research statement: “One poll showed that 63 percent of Americans believe they have guardian angels.”[18] If the author disproves “guardian angelship” then 63 percent of his audience would be displeased. In contrast Myers argues, “The term ‘guardian angel’ is not found in Scripture, but the concept probably comes from this verse (Matthew 18:10).”[19]  I’m in agreement with Erickson: “In the absence of definite didactic material, we must conclude that there is insufficient evidence for the concept of guardian angels.”[20]

A thorough examination of angel classification can be found in Myers book “A Study of Angels.” He sorts these created beings into five categories: Angels (ordinary), Cherubim, Seraphim, Archangels (Michael and Gabriel, possibly Satan); demons. Notice the absence of guardian angels as a category. Angels are usually unseen and invisible to the human eye. We see their activities and receive their messages as evidenced throughout Scriptures.

How Does the Bible Deal With Angelology?

As mentioned in my introduction, angels are mentioned more than 300 times in the Bible. We are given information about their form, duties, and relationships with others. In the Bible, angels never appear as female, or as animals or birds…humans don’t “evolve or transform into angels” either.[21] It’s common to hear when someone dies the comforting words “Heaven gained an angel,” yet these words are not validated in Scripture. Nothing in the Bible says angels indwell inside human beings, [22] according to Dr. Jeremiah. Yet the Bible does say angels are observed by humans, often presenting as brilliant light. We should not assume their power is limitless based on their shape and form. “Since angels never die, the ones we see in heaven will be the same angels we read about in the Bible.”[23]

Why has so little attention been given to angels over the years?

As evidenced by the three million Billy Graham books sold in 1995, angelology was given much attention ten years ago with its publication. Culturally, discussions on UFO’s, extraterrestrial begins and angel sightings were interesting to that generation. Today the focus has shifted towards life after death experiences and interest in heaven as a geographic location. The modern generation is more scientific and apologetic in nature. Proof is credited with more value than something that cannot be seen. Many angel sightings have been viewed with skepticism. Are angels real? It’s become an internal question as fewer Christians have the knowledge to defend the theology of angels.

Pastors and preachers have rarely delivered sermons on angels and demons. “Holy angels (in contrast to demons) are always pointing us in the right direction: toward God.”[24] In spite of this, modern religion tends to ignore the supernatural and anchor to proven testimony. Persecution is strong and the modern Christian defends their faith through observed obedience rather than doctrine and theology. Gabriel is mentioned once a year during Christmas.  In Scripture, “This mighty angel shows up to answer prayer, interpret dreams and release the word of God. If Michael is secretary of war, then Gabriel is vice president of communication.”[25] Yet we are not speaking of him inside our churches.

How Does the Reality of Angels Deepen Our Faith and Understanding?

It would deepen the faith of Christians if pastors and preachers would sermonize angelology. “Angels are of a higher order than man, but they are of a lower order than God.”[26] Through the study of angels we learn angels are real in Biblical and modern times. This helps us understand how God delivers messages and protects us. Our faith is deepened when we realize that angels are present and active. The Book of Revelation gives us many directions on the future role of angels during the Second Coming of Christ.

Dr. David Jeremiah explains, “I don’t have a fixation on angels, but I’m more convinced than ever that they are far more involved in our world than most of us realize. I believe they certainly do intervene here, both visibly and invisibly.”[27] As we study angelology we deepen our understanding of God’s magnificent kingdom. We are not alone and both angels and demons engage in spiritual warfare. We learn through Bible examination that “The angels’ praise and service of God give us an example of how we are to conduct ourselves now, and what our activity will be in the life beyond God’s presence.”[28]

Educating Christians on the doctrine of angels would benefit the church. “Many times the church, collectively and as individuals, does not stand on our position in Christ. As a result, we fail to engage the legions of angels standing ready to assist.”[29] There is a hesitancy of acceptance and approval when pastors preach what is deemed acceptable and avoid more difficult subjects such as Holy Spirit or angel theology. As more churches are non-denominational the debated discussions are avoided. The truth is, according to Billy Graham, “If you are a believer, expect powerful angels to accompany you in your life experiences.”[30] Imagine what the body of Christ could do with this expectation: less fear, more Jesus.

Conclusion

The Bible tells us many things about angels. In relation to Christ’s ministry on earth, angels predicted his birth (Luke 1:26-28), announced his birth (Luke 2:8-15), protected him (Matt. 2:13-15), strengthened him (Luke 24:43) and stood ready to defend him (Matt 26:53.) Later angels announced his resurrection (Matt. 28:1-2).[31] Our local churches commonly refer to these angels once a year on Christmas and Easter services. Regarding the Second Coming of Christ, angels predict his return (Acts 1:11), accompany his return (Matt. 23:31), worship him (Hebrews 1:6), gather groups of men (Matt. 24:31) and gather the wicked for judgment (Matt. 13:39-43; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).[32] It’s less common to discuss angelic roles in the future tense. Billy Graham warns Christians: “The devil is alive and more at work than any other time. The Bible says that since he realizes his time is short, his activity will increase.”[33] While there is a tendency of modern Christians to study demons and discuss spiritual warfare, there is a tendency towards ignorance on the existence of modern angelic beings in this century. Death is a common human experience, and angels accompany Christians to heaven. “Death means separation…our temporary home here and our permanent home there may be separated by an immense stretch of enemy territory. It’s a trip angels must take often, so it will be a great comfort to have them at our side as we traverse it ourselves.”[34] It would be comforting for pastors to speak of these angels prior to the funeral service or celebration of life ceremony. For those assisting grieving Christians it’s wise to remember “The Bible says we shall be like angels (Luke 20:36) but never that we will become angels.”[35] Deceased children are not angels in heaven.

“Angels speak. They appear and reappear. They are emotional creatures. While angels may become visible by choice, our eyes are not constructed to see them ordinarily any more than we can see the dimensions of a nuclear field, the structure of atoms, or the electricity that flows through copper wiring. Our ability to sense reality is limited…”[36] Telling a friend you experienced an angel is bound to be met with resistance and modern skepticism. Similarly you would not tell someone you saw something outside of the perception of reality. We are people of little faith, demanding proof and intelligent documentation, before we accept the invisibility of angels and demons. Billy Graham, a man with a history of great faith says this:

“I do not believe in angels because someone has told me about a dramatic visitation from an angel, impressive as such rare testimonies may be. I do not believe in angels because UFOs are astonishingly angel-like in some of their reported appearances. I do not believe in angels because ESP experts are making the realm of the spirit world seem more and more plausible. I do not believe in angels because of the sudden worldwide emphasis on the reality of Satan and demons. I do not believe in angels because I have seen one- because I haven’t. I believe in angels because the Bible says there are angels; and I believe the Bible to be the true Word of God.”[37]

Unlike humans, angels in the Bible are not offered salvation or repentance. We read about angels who are fallen, bound or eternity or faced with a future in the fiery pit! “Notice that there is no mention of angels being given the opportunity to repent. So far as we know from Scripture, there is no chance of redemption for angels that sin.”[38] Their access to God and Jesus elevates them above human existence and with privilege comes consequences. “The good angels praise God continually, communicate his message to us, minister to us, execute judgment on his enemies, and will participate in the second coming.”[39]

How does my personal study of the angels support or disprove my initial three encounters mentioned in the introduction? I’ve learned “We must not create or reshape angels according to our own fancy.”[40] In the encounter with my brother, it was probably an angel who delivered a message and angels were protecting me. “Angels get different instructions for different people in different circumstances.”[41] I needed protection in this dangerous situation. Likewise, when my life was spared as two cars almost collided before me, it was the work of invisible angels. Regarding the dime delivery, that is still questionable in my mind and unanswered. Nothing in Scripture supports this method of communication, though it’s supernatural from my perspective. I will continue praying and seeking wisdom from the Holy Spirit regarding the meaning of some many dimes and their unusual locations when I discover them!

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dickason, C. Fred.  Angels: Elect and Evil: Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL. Moody Publishers, 1995.

Erickson, Millard J.  Introducing Christian Doctrine: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Books, 2001.

Graham, Billy. Angels: Ringing Assurance That We Are Not Alone. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson, 1995.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. http://biblegateway.com (referenced 6/19/15).

Jeremiah, Dr. David, Angels: Who They Are and How They Help…What the Bible Reveals.  Colorado Springs, CO.  Multnomah Books, 2006.

Law, Terry. The Truth About Angels: Angelic Encounters From a Biblical Perspective. Lake Mary, FL. Charisma House Book Group, 2006.

Myers, Edward P.  Ph.D.  A Study of Angels: Revised Edition. New York, NY. Howard Books, 1994.

Phillips, Ron DMin. Angels and Demons: The Complete Guide to Understanding How They Operate. Lake Mary, FL. Charisma House Book Group, 2015.

REFERENCE NOTES

            [1] Edward P. Myers, Ph. D, A Study of Angels: Revised Edition, (New York, NY: Howard Books, 1994), 1.

            [2] Ibid., 37.

            [3] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. http://biblegateway.com (referenced 6/19/15).

            [4] Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine: Second Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 155.

            [5] Billy Graham, Angels: Ringing Assurance That We Are Not Alone, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 9.

            [6] Erickson, 155.

            [7] Ibid., 156.

            [8] Myers, 23.

            [9] Dr. David Jeremiah, Angels: Who They Are and How They Help…What the Bible Reveals, (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2006), 52, 54.

            [10] Ibid., 55.

            [11] Ibid., 56.

            [12] Myers, 37-50.

            [13] Jeremiah, 69.

            [14] Jeremiah, 65.

            [15] Terry Law, The Truth About Angels: Angelic Encounters From a Biblical Perspective, (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House Book Group, 2006), 34.

            [16] Ibid., 32-33.

            [17] Ibid., 63.

            [18]Law, 63.

            [19] Myers, 41.

            [20] Erickson, 157-8.

            [21] Jeremiah, 51.

            [22] Ibid., 51.

            [23] Ibid., 116.

            [24] Ibid.,17.

            [25] Ron Phillips, DMin, Angels and Demons: The Complete Guide to Understanding How They Operate, (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House Book Group, 2015), 27.

            [26] Myers, 16.

            [27] Jeremiah, 24.

            [28] Erickson, 160.

            [29] Phillips, 77.

            [30] Graham, 37.

            [31] C. Fred Dickason, Angels: Elect and Evil: Revised and Expanded, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1995), 98-99.

            [32] Dickason, 100.

            [33] Ibid., 18.

            [34] Jeremiah, 198, 201.

            [35] Myers, 3.

            [36] Graham, 37.

            [37] Graham, 19-20.

            [38] Myers, 33.

            [39] Erickson, 156.

            [40] Jeremiah, 50.

            [41] Ibid., 182.

 

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Disclosures: This is a research paper and contains many quotes from published works. If you’re the author or publisher of one of these publications and would like your quote removed, please contact me.

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