Dr. Andy Woods
Angelology Lesson 2
Colossians 1:16, 6-23-2019
Let’s open in a word of prayer. Father, we’re thankful for this morning, thankful for this opportunity to come before You, worship You, lean of Your truth. I specifically pray You’d be with us during Sunday School as we look at a pretty big issue that Your Word has revealed; we couldn’t understand it any other way; that’s the realm of the invisible or the realm of the angels. And so, I just pray that Your Spirit will guide us as we study this morning. I pray that You’ll be with the main service that follows. I pray You’ll be with our youth because many of them, even as I’m speaking, are on their way to the ark trip and I just pray for traveling mercies for them and everybody that’s involved with that. I ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said…. Amen.
Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 1 and verse 7. You’ll recall that last week we started looking at another major area of systematic theology, so this would be Part 2 in a series on angels, which is basically the study of what the Bible reveals about the doctrine of angels.
We began looking at part one and we’re going to continue with part one of four parts today, starting with the good angels. And when we look at the good angels as compared to the demons or the fallen angels here’s the different categories that we look at. The last time we were together we looked at the existence of angels. You all believe in angels? I believe in them because the Bible tells me they’re there. There’s a number of references, Old Testament and New Testament, to angels.
And then from there we began to look at the origin of the angels. We saw that angels by nature are not eternal beings. They should not be confused with God in any sense because they are created by God. And I took you into a little bit of the debate concerning when the angels were created but the important thing to remember is that they were indeed created. And then we took a look at the fact that the angels are created as angels, they’re not people. I remember the movie by Nicolas Cage called City of Angels. Did anybody see that… don’t put your hand up because that’ll reveal our carnality if we all say yeah, those were great movies (and I did watch it, [laughter] only for purposes of opposition research. [louder laughter]
But it was basically the story of an angel, Nicolas Cage, fell in love with a human woman, Meg Ryan, and he to be with her had to become a man and sort of vacate his status as an angel. And then the tragedy of the story is he didn’t count on his own mortality and he died as a human being and the relationship that he wanted with her couldn’t prosper. But it’s this idea that an angel can become a person and that, of course, is Hollywood and it sells a lot of movie tickets but there isn’t any biblical basis for it. Angels don’t become people; people don’t become angels. When we die we don’t become angels, etc.
Angels are created as angels. Angels are clearly not deity, they’re not meant to be worshiped as deity, and in fact if you ever worship an ordinary angel the angel will tell you stop doing that, unless of course we’re dealing with the Angel of the LORD which is different; that’s a Christophany or a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. If you’re not dealing with that then you should not confuse angelhood versus deity.
And then we talked about how angels are created constant, they don’t die, Luke 20:35-36. [Luke 20:35-36, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;  for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”] They don’t reproduce with one another so we don’t have really an idea of baby angels.
So, if they don’t die and if they don’t reproduce and if God is finished doing what He’s done in creation then whatever number of angels there are is a fixed number, which leads into how many angels are there? Well, the Bible analogizes them to stars. Just as it’s impossible to number the stars from a human point of view it’s impossible to number the angels. Daniel 7:10, Revelation 5:11.
[Daniel 7:10, “A river of fire was flowing, And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.” Revelation 5:11, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.”]
So this takes us to the next major area or bullet point that we have underlined here, angels are created as servants and that’s why I had you open up to Hebrews 1:7. You want to keep your Bible open because when you do systematic theology you’ve got to look up several passages to get the mind of God on a subject. And it says in Hebrews 1:7, “And of the angels He says, ‘WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.’” Notice that they’re called “ministers.” What is a minister? A minister is a servant.
And if you drop down to verse 14, the very end of Hebrews 1, it says of angels, “ Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service” that’s what ministers do, “render service” now this makes me feel good at the end of the day, “for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” So apparently angels exist, one of their primary roles is to help us as those who are inheritors of salvation.
When the angels were created they were created in a state of holiness. God did not create fallen angels. We know that when God finished His work in which He brought the heavens (plural) and earth into existence in the six days of creation He looked back on the six days, Genesis 1:31, and he said what? Anybody remember? He didn’t just say it’s good, He said it’s what? It’s very good. [Genesis 1: 31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”]
Now if the angels came into existence during this creation week, I tried to make the case last week that I think they did, then when it says everything is “very good” that would include the angels. So you don’t have Satan at the beginning, you don’t have demons, you don’t have fallen angels, you don’t have the entities that we wrestle with. God did not create things that way, as we’re going to be talking about when we get to Satanology and demonology; those things only came into existence when the creation in the angelic realm, part of it, a third of it, exerted their will against God.
So that’s why we find these designations in Scripture, like “holy angels,” Acts 10:22. Jude verse 14, holy ones. [Acts 10:22, “They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well-spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.” Jude 1:14, “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones.”]
And when the Lord brought the angelic realm into existence they were brought into existence in a highly organized fashion. You know, it’s interesting that when you go through the Bible God is a God of order. Have you noticed that? You look at the tabernacle constructed under Moses and you see how highly organized everything was. You look at how God wants the church to function, as we studied ecclesiology and you see how organized the layout is of what a church is and what it’s supposed to do and what its leaders are like. And so, if that’s God’s nature and since God is not a God of confusion it would stand to reason that the angelic realm also came into existence by the hand of God in a very orderly manner.
And you see that in a passage we looked at last time, Colossians 1:16. Notice what it says again, you remember we used that verse to demonstrate that angels are created. And then take a look at Colossians 1:16, it says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens” plural, “and on earth, visible and invisible,” so it’s talking about how Jesus brought the angels into existence, and then it talks about their ranks or their battalions for their organization, “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
You’ll notice this expression “thrones,” “dominions,” “rulers,” “authorities,” and as you go through the Scripture what you’ll discover is this is a normal way of how the angelic hierarchy is described. You might want to jot down Ephesians 1:21, it says basically the same thing. 1 Peter 3:22 says basically the same thing. [Ephesians 1:21, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
1 Peter 3:22, “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”]
And you remember that Jesus made this very interesting statement; I believe that this statement was made in the Garden of Gethsemane, related to Peter, sort of trying to protect Jesus from His crucifixion. Remember Peter got out his sword and took a swing and zipped off the ear of a Roman soldier named Malchus. [John 18:10, “Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.”]
And in the context of all of those events over in Matthew 26:53 Jesus is explaining that Him going to the cross is the preordained plan of God and if He wanted to He could have stopped it and so could have the Father as a rebuke to humans that were trying to stop this. [Matthew 26:53, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”]
And then in the whole context of this Jesus says this: “Or do you not think that I can appeal to My Father and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels.” Now what is a legion? Well, if he’s using “legion” the way the Romans used legions, I have a little note here in my Ryrie Study Bible and it says Christ meant simply a very large but not exact number; a Roman legion varied in numbers somewhere between 3,000 to 6,000. So, Jesus says I can stop this whole thing if I wanted to or if My Father wanted to with twelve groups of 3,000 to 6000 angels. So it demonstrates again this point that angels seem to be ranked according to military organization. So that’s what we mean when we say they were created orderly.
And because angels are creatures they have creaturely limitations. And this is kind of the foolishness of trying to talk to an angel, worship an angel. I mean, why would you do that? Why would you talk to the lady behind the counter when you can talk to the CEO. You want to go to Jesus because He’s the creator of the angels because He’s not bound by these creaturely limitations. So the moment the Bible says God created them you know right off the bat that they have creaturely limitations, meaning they lack the three omnis: omnipresence (everywhere at once); omnipotence (all powerful); and omniscient (all knowing). Angels don’t have any of those three characteristics just by virtue of the fact that they’re creatures or creations of God.
And I don’t think it’s too difficult for the Bible to prove this. You remember Gabriel came to Daniel to deliver to him the prophecy of the seventy weeks and in Daniel 9:22-23 it says this: “He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel,” look at this, “I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; [so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.]” So obviously what happened here is Gabriel had to do some traveling. I mean, he just couldn’t speak from heaven to Babylon and it was done, because Gabriel is a creature and he’s not omnipresent so Gabriel, as an angel, had to travel.
And you see this also in the New Testament. You go over to Luke 2:15, and I told you guys we were going to use our Bibles a lot, some of your fingers might start bleeding after while turning so many pages. Luke 2:15, it says, “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, etc. [‘…Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’”] So, when the angels came to deliver to the shepherds the information about the birth of Christ it says very specifically “When the angels had gone away,” it certainly gives you the impression that they are traveling.
And going over one book to the right, the Gospel of John, chapter 1 and verse 51, you remember Jacob’s ladder and how Jesus sort of used that in John 1, Jacob’s ladder related to how he was bridging heaven and earth; he was sort of analogizing himself to that ladder and it says something very interesting in John 1:51. “And He said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened” and then it says, “and the angels of God ascending” that’s going up the ladder, “and descending on the Son of Man.’” So Jesus says I am the ladder, I’m bridging heaven and earth and in the process of using that analogy he talks about angels going up the ladder and going down the ladder, ascending and descending.
So obviously angels are going up and going down but they lack what? They lack omnipresence because they are bound by creaturely limitations. Because angels have creaturely limitations they’re not omnipotent either; they’re not all powerful. And over in Daniel 10:13 is sort of that story of the angel that was dispatched from heaven to give Daniel final insight about the end time, the final vision. [Daniel 10:13, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”]
We studied all this, you might recall, in the Book of Daniel. And yet Daniel did not receive that information for a period of twenty-one days, or three weeks. And so what’s the holdup God, I prayed for insight and it took you twenty-one days to get me the information. Well what you learn in Daniel 10:13 and verse 21 is there’s a fight. [Daniel 10:21, “However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.”] There was a fight between the good angels, who I think was Gabriel who was dispatched from heaven to answer Daniel’s prayer request but Gabriel was resisted by the prince over Persia, a fallen angel, and the two of them duked it out for three weeks. It’s amazing insight, isn’t it, into spiritual warfare. You wonder why your prayer requests aren’t answered immediately, maybe it has something to do with this.
And so, they’re fighting with each other for actually three weeks, twenty-one days, and then God finally has to dispatch Michael to assist Gabriel and the two of them kind of tag team, the fallen angel over Persia, Persia being the government in power when Daniel was having this vision and praying this prayer. And so the two of them, Gabriel and Michael, had to fight their way through and they beat back over a course of time, three weeks, the fallen angel over Persia and so Gabriel finally got through to answer Daniel’s prayer request and give him the insight that we have in Daniel 11 and 12.
And so it’s an amazing portrait, if you will, of spiritual warfare.
But if you look at verse 13 it says, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me,” this is (I think) Gabriel speaking, “twenty-one days, when behold Michael, one of the chief princes,” now you might want to underline that, “one of the chief princes,” because there’s a controversy brewing today where people are starting to say Jesus is Michael, the archangel. And that is NOT true just based on that verse; it says it right there, “Michael is one of the chief princes.” Jesus could not be Michael the archangel for the simple reason that Jesus is the monogenḗs, the only begotten, one of a kind; mono means only, you recognize that word “only” as in monopoly, and genḗs you recognize the word species or kind; monogenḗs is what’s translated “only begotten” in John 3:16. Jesus is one of a kind. [John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”]
So obviously Jesus could not be Michael the archangel even as the angel of the LORD in the Old Testament because Michael, it’s very clear here, is one of the princes. Jesus is not one of anything, He is unique by Himself. But we’ll say more about that later. “When He had spoken this to me according to these words I turned my face towards the ground,” whoops, wrong verse there, verse 13, but we can try to tie that one in too, that’s a good one also, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” [Daniel 10:13]
And then when you go down to Daniel 10:20, “Then He said to me, ‘Do you understand why I came to you? But now I shall return to fight against the Prince of Persia; so, I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come.’  However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.” In other words, Michael, Gabriel says, had to help me fight my way in to get you this message. And now that the message has been delivered I’ve got to what? I’ve got to fight my way back out just like I had to fight my way to get in here.
So that whole disclosure reveals that an angel obviously is not all powerful, or there wouldn’t be a fight, right? I mean, omnipotent beings don’t have to fight someone for twenty-one days. And so this is another example of their creaturely limitations.
Something else to understand about angels in terms of their creaturely limitations is they are not omniscient. They don’t know everything. In fact, over in Matthew 24:36 Jesus made a statement concerning His own return and He’s basically saying there in My humanity I don’t even know when I’m coming back. Now Harold Camping thought he knew but I guess Harold Camping is smarter than Jesus, right? I mean, not even Jesus understood the exact date of His own return in His humanity, and then He says the angels don’t know either.
Look at what it says there, Matthew 24:36, it says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” So Jesus, in His humanity, I think Christ has two natures, His humanity and His deity, sometimes He speaks out of His deity but other times He speaks out of His humanity and what He’s saying is in His humanity He didn’t know when He was coming back; in His deity He did but not in His humanity. And even beyond that the angels didn’t know when He was coming back either. So that’s a very profound statement that the angels are limited in terms of their knowledge.
And you see the same kind of thing over in 1 Peter, chapter 1 and verse 12 concerning the lack of complete knowledge that we have in the angels. 1 Peter 1:12, notice what it says there, towards the end of the verse. It talks about the grace that’s been given to us and then it says, “things into which angels long to look.” [1 Peter 1:12, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven– things into which angels long to look.”]
In other words, the angels themselves, some versions put it this way, they stoop down intently to study. So as God is pouring out His grace in unprecedented fashion upon an unworthy group of people (i.e. the church… us!) the angels themselves can’t even get enough of this and they’re sitting there watching and studying and observing what God is doing. So obviously an angel wouldn’t have to sit and stoop and study and observe if they knew everything because they have to study to pass their exam just like you have to study and pass your exam in school or whatnot because angels are not omniscient.
And it is a very interesting thing to watch, the Bible describing how the angels keep looking at the church. You find that in many, many places, here, 1 Peter 1:12, you find it in Ephesians 3:10, and we kind of have this idea of secret sins, don’t we? [Ephesians 3:10, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”] Well, if all the angels, two thirds of them anyway, and there’s a lot of them, are watching us all the time there’s no such thing as a secret sin; every secret sin in heaven is an open scandal. That’s maybe a good deterrent for us to maybe avoid sin.
But it’s interesting to me that the angels are always watching. Now the Bible never really tells you why they’re watching so I have to kind of theorize why I think the angels are watching. Why do they keep studying us so intently? Well I think they’re watching us because they understand creation, God’s power in creation because Job 37:4-7 talks about how they were praising the Lord when creation came into existence. [Job 37:4-7, “”After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice, And He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.  God thunders with His voice wondrously, Doing great things which we cannot comprehend.  For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ And to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’  He seals the hand of every man, That all men may know His work.”]
They clearly understand the holiness of God because what do the seraphim say twenty-four seven in the presence of the Lord, Love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty…. NO, they don’t say that! They say God is love but they draw attention to His dominant attribute of holiness, Isaiah 6, “Holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty.” My father-in-law is a retired dentist and that’s his favorite verse, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God Almighty.” That ought to keep you guys awake somehow, jokes.
And so the angels clearly understand holiness, they clearly understand God’s creative power, they clearly understand judgment because they lost one of their own in the Luciferian rebellion. And they watch Lucifer, Revelation 12:3-8, deceive a third of the angels into rebelling with him against God.
[Revelation 12:3-8, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.  And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.  Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.  And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,  and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.”]
So they understand judgment for sin, they understand holiness, they understand God’s creative power. What is one of the things I don’t think they fully understand? It’s grace, unmerited favor. This is a part of God that they’re just sort of learning about. And what better way to watch God’s grace, which is also part of His character, come to the surface and seeing God in the present church age pour out His grace upon unworthy sinners in an unprecedented fashion. You know, today in the age of the church we don’t just have grace but we have what John’s Gospel calls “grace upon grace.” [John 1:16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”] Grace lavished.
So the angels are observing and that may be why, I’ll give you a picture of it a little bit down the road but the cherubim are inscribed over the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies observing or watching the sacrifice that was made one day a year on the day of atonement which postponed the note of indebtedness for the nation of Israel, for their sins, for one year. When God told Moses to put together the Tabernacle and the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, and the very place where this sacrifice was to be administered he was specifically told to put two cherubs, we would say in English cherubs, Hebrew cherubim as inscribed over watching what was happening because those are subjects that I think the angels are very interested in because they’re learning about grace and how God used grace. They know about holiness, they know about His creative power, they know about any number of subjects but they’re learning about grace.
And I think that’s why the angels are always watching the church, because God is actually using the present age of the church to complete gaps in the systematic theology of the angels. Isn’t that an amazing thing? And God wouldn’t have to do that and they wouldn’t have to observe, they wouldn’t have to watch if they knew everything. So the fact that they’re studying all these things and learning about God’s character is demonstrative of the fact that the angels lack omniscience. So, they are created and as they are created they are created with creaturely limitations, lacking the “omni’s” omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.
Moving on in our outline, talking just for a little bit here about the nature of angels. And one of the things to talk about related to the nature of angels is the personhood of angels. These are actual personages, personalities. You shouldn’t look at angels as some kind of, you know, like The Force, some kind of impersonal source of energy. You’re talking about an actual person with an actual personality. And generally, when people define personhood they look at three things: intellect, emotions, and will. And what we discover is angels have all three. They clearly have an intellect because they’re studying, 1 Peter 1:12. [1 Peter 1:12, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven– things into which angels long to look.”] It’s hard to do that if you don’t have a mind or a brain, or an intellect.
Interestingly enough, the angels have emotions, just like you have an emotional reaction to this or that, angels have an exactly the same response. They have built within them a capacity for emotions. You say well how do you know that? Well, if you go to Luke 15:10 you’ll see it very clearly. Luke 15:10, concerning the salvation of people. When someone gets saved what exactly do the angels do? Well, Luke 15:10 says, “’In the same way, I tell you, there is joy” in other words rejoicing, in other words euphoria, “In the same way there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” So obviously for an angel to rejoice, for an angel to experience joy they obviously have some kind of an emotional composition, emotional makeup just like you have that as well.
I remember when I first got saved in 1983 I went to this home Bible study and the fellow could obviously tell I wasn’t saved, he took me kind of in the back there in his living room and shared the gospel with me, I got saved. And I remember him coming back to the rest of the group and saying we’ve got a new brother here. And it was sort of a happy time. And I can’t remember if it was him or one of the people in the Bible study saying “the angels are rejoicing.” So that’s kind of always stuck with me concerning the happiness, the rejoicing of angels over the salvation of a lost sinner.
So, if you want to make the angels happy spread the gospel and see people get saved.
So, they clearly have intellect, they clearly have emotions, and I think they were created with a will as well. If you go over to Psalm 103:20 you kind of get a hint of this, It says, “Bless the Lord, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word,” and look at this, “Obeying the voice of His word!” When it says “obey” that means they must have some sort of choice to obey, if you have a choice to obey you have to have a choice to do what? To disobey or else why would you highlight the fact that they’re obeying. So that’s sort of a verse that I think can be used to demonstrate that the angels, like human beings, are not robots. And so when a third of the angels fell they made a decision to fall with Lucifer.
So clearly angels have the attributes of personhood, intellect, emotions and will. And they actually carry on many of the activities that people with personalities carry on. For example, they have desires, just like you have desires in your heart angels have the same thing because in the 1 Peter 1:12 verse that we read just a moment ago concerning angels stooping down to observe, it mentions the word “desire” related to the angels. 1 Peter 1:12 “…things into which angels long” see the word “long” there, that’s desire, “things which in which angels long to look into.” So obviously there is a desire in their heart, a desire to learn, a desire to complete their knowledge of God that forces them, or maybe I’d better say causes them to observe God’s grace pouring out upon humanity. So angels have desires.
Now angels talk to each other, they communicate back and forth. In fact, they can talk to people and people in the Bible, although we’re not exhorted to go do this, do talk to angels and angels talk to people. Notice Luke 1:13, “But the angel said to him,” now who’s “him”? I think in context, if I’m not mistaken, Zacharias, “But the angel said to him,” and then the angel gives a statement, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.” So how did Zacharias know to do this? Because an angel told him. So obviously an angel has the capacity to talk. An angel has the capacity to communicate.
And so you sort of look at all these things and they’ve got the attributes of personality, intellect, emotions and will, and they carry on the activities which you would think in a person. They have desires, they’re able to talk or they’re able to communicate. And one other fascinating thing concerning their nature, whatever decision related to the Luciferian rebellion that the angels made, we know that a third of them fell with Lucifer and two-thirds did not. Whatever decision that they made that decision is now in cement, it can’t be undone.
The plan of salvation is not open to the angels. If the plan of salvation was opened to angels Jesus would have had to become a what? An angel, which He did not. And this is why at the presence of Jesus Christ in the Gospels the angels are always fearful. Here I’m not speaking of the good angels, I’m speaking of the fallen angels and they’re basically saying things to Christ like “have you come to Son of God, Son of Man, have you come to torture us or to torment us before the appointed time.” It’s very interesting how good the theology is in the demons. Their theology is probably better than most theologians. They know exactly who Jesus is, as the eternally existent member of the Trinity. They know all about hell and judgment, their eschatology is very good. And they say “have You come to torture us before the appointed time.”
So it’s sort of a statement that whatever decision was made has been finalized, the good angels are always good, the evil angels will always be wicked. And in fact, very late in human history, Revelation 14, a passage we’re going to start looking at this morning in the main service, you see the good angels being described that late in the game as the “holy angels.” So the fancy name for this is confirmed; the good angels we’re speaking of here primarily are confirmed in their state of holiness. The evil angels are confirmed in their state of unholiness. That’s why you’ve got to be really careful with James 2, you know the passage, James 2, what good does it do to believe, “even the demons believe and tremble.” [James 1:19, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”]
And people try to develop a lot of soteriological teaching around that James passage, never telling their audience this, that you’re making an apples and oranges comparison there, because the plan of salvation is not even open to the angels. So, you’ve got to be very careful how you handle James chapter 2. But they, in terms of their nature, not only come out as personhood but they are what we would call confirmed in their state of holiness.
Let’s talk a little bit about their power. What kind of power do these angels have? Well, there’s two areas to think about; how much power do they have relative to man. I mean how much stronger are they compared to you. The fact of the matter is it’s no match at all, they’ve got way more power than you do! According to Isaiah 37:36 one angel of the LORD killed one evening after dinner 185,000 Assyrians. [Isaiah 37:36, “Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.”] That’s one versus 185,000 and the angel had no problems dealing with that number.
2 Thessalonians 1:7 makes a reference to the good angels. 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and what does it say there concerning the good angels returning with Christ in His Second Advent. It says, “and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His” what kind of angels, “mighty angels in flaming fire.” So they’re very, very powerful, these angelic beings are.
Over in 2 Peter chapter 2 and verse 11, you get some more information about the strength and the power of these angels. 2 Peter 2:11, it’s talking about how foolish these false teachers are to slander demons, to slander angels. It says, “whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.” Why are you doing this, Peter says, because even the angels themselves don’t do that practice, you false teachers, and those angels are far more powerful and far mightier than you are; they’re far more powerful than human beings are. So, this sort of demonstrates the power of these angels, how strong they are relative to us.
And in fact, over the tomb of Christ wasn’t there a large stone placed there, and the stone was intentionally so big that obviously you couldn’t argue, somebody came in and stole the body in the middle of the night, maybe Jesus wasn’t dead and He kind of broke His way out in the middle of the night. The Biblical record makes it very clear that it was a massive stone placed over the tomb of Christ. And yet on Sunday morning, resurrection Sunday, what does it say there in Matthew 28:2? “And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the LORD descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” Was he tired? I don’ t know, but apparently it wasn’t much of a problem for him, this one angel to take this massive stone and just roll it away.
So these are all Scriptures that can be used to demonstrate the strength of angels. They are far stronger than human beings. But obviously they’re created by God so they’re not as strong as God Himself. Over in Psalm 8:5 notice what it says. Psalm 8:5 says “Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” Actually, that may not be the greatest verse in the world to defend what I’m trying to say. Let’s scrap that one.
Let’s go to 1 Peter 3:22, I think that’s a better one. 1 Peter 3:22, talking about the strength of angels relative to God. It says, of Jesus Christ, “who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been” what? “subjected to Him.” So, when you look at the strength of an angel what you have to understand is an angel is far stronger than a person but obviously since angels are created by God they’re no match for God Himself. So they are weak in comparison to God.
What about their material, their essence? What is their composition? What are they made up of? Well, I would say this, their composition is highly what we would call spiritual. A spiritual composition that’s of such it’s not easily recognizable; in fact, it’s outside of the purview of human observation. That’s why we call angels invisible. Numbers 22, notice, if you will, verse 31. This is the Balak and Balaam story. And what does it say there? “Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.” So, notice that God here is revealing to Balaam that an angel is there assisting in the things of God. And you’ll notice that Balaam had no ability to see this unless the Lord opened his eyes.
You have this very interesting story of Elisha over in 2 King 6:17 Remember the army was surrounding Elisha and the servant comes to Elisha in a state of panic, we’re being surrounded, we’re going to lose this battle, etc. etc. etc. and Elisha says to the servant, don’t worry, those that are with us are more than those that are with them.” Remember that story? And of course, the servant had no idea what Elisha was talking about and this is when the Lord prayed that Elisha’s eyes could be opened for an instant and he could see the invisible spiritual realm and how the mountains were filled with angelic beings.
Notice again 2 Kings 6:17 describes this and notice what it says, “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” So just like in Numbers 22:31 the angel or the angels weren’t discernable unless God did some kind of prevenient work and opened people’s eyes to see it. That’s basically what you have happening in 2 Kings 6:17. It’s interesting that in Psalm 104:4, Hebrews 1:7 and verse 14, that they’re called mistering spirits.
[Numbers 22:31, “Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed [a]all the way to the ground.”
Psalm 104:4, “He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers.” Hebrews 1:7, “And of the angels He says, “Who makes His angels winds, And His ministers a flame of fire.”
Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”]
So their primary composition seems to be spiritual in the sense that it’s not easily observable to the human eye unless God does a work and allows us to see that realm. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood….” So, if angelic conflict was “flesh and blood” you could see it, right? Just like you can see human conflict. But because angels are what we would call a spiritual composition they’re not easily… I might even say it’s impossible to recognize them through the human eye unless God does a miracle.
Now that’s NOT to say that an angel can’t appear in human form, at least they look an awful lot like a person. Hebrews 13:12 says, “Some of you have entertained” what? “angels unaware.” Now how in the world could that happen unless an angel can take on at least what looks like the appearance of humanity. But normally their composition is that of a spiritual quality but the Bible is very clear that they can take on what looks like human form. In fact, you remember what Jesus said; He said, “Abraham saw my day and was glad.” I think that’s in John 8. [John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”] And I think he’s referring to three visitors that Abraham had; one of those visitors, I think, in Genesis 18, you might slip back there just for a minute, was what we call a Christophany or a Theophany or a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. The other two visitors, now we’re not told that right off the bat, but the other two visitors just look like human beings.
And notice what it says there in Genesis 18:1-8. And I think this may be what Jesus was referring to in John 8 when He said, “Abraham saw my day and was glad.” In other words, Jesus was one of the three; he was the angel of the LORD, the other two were just ordinary angels.
It says, “Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.  When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth,  and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by.  “Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree;  and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.”  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.”  Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it.  He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.”
So, here’s Abraham having a conversation with three people; one of them is perhaps a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. The other two just look like people or human beings, they take on human form. They’re actually having a meal together. The three are eating and doesn’t eating imply digesting and metabolizing? That seems to be going on.
And then you go to Genesis 18, same chapter, and you slip down to verse 22 and it says this: “Then the men turned away from there and went to Sodom while Abraham was standing before the LORD.” So, two of the three head off to Sodom and Gomorrah. And then you get to chapter 19 verse 1 and your eyes almost fall out of their sockets when you realize who Abraham was actually talking to. It says, “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.” So here you have two angels, two human beings departing, going to Sodom. And then you get to chapter 19 and you actually learn that these human beings are not human beings at all but they’re angelic beings.
And then drop down to Genesis 19:5 and the Sodomite crowd surrounds Lot’s house and they demand that the two guests be released for sexual purposes, in other words, the crowd was physically attracted to these two men and you can’t really be physically attracted or you can’t really rape or molest a spirit, can you. So, these two angels must have taken on human form. And it says, this radical crowd, they called to Lot and said to him, “where are the men.” Now we just learned they were angels, verse 1. “Where are the men who came to you tonight, bring them out to us so that we may have relations” that’s sexual relations, “with them.”
So, it’s an interesting thing that’s happened here, you’ve got two human beings talking with Abraham, having a meal with Abraham, then they kind of go to Sodom and Gomorrah and suddenly we learn that these two men are angels, but they still appear as men because the crowd surrounds the house for purposes of sexual molesting these two men.
So, you put all of this data together and then what do you say? Well, angels are primarily spiritual entities; their composition is spiritual, you can’t really see them unless God does some kind of work and opens one’s eyes. But that’s not to say that angels can’t at least take on the form of human beings. And if that were not true, or at least appear to have the form of human beings, if that were not true you can’t make any sense of Genesis 18 and 19, and you certainly can’t make any sense of Hebrews 13:2 which says some of you, just like Abraham, “have entertained angels” what “unaware.” [Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained strangers unaware.”]
Very fast, what about the gender of angels? Are they men or are they women? Well, a lot of people think that they’re men because even in the passage we just looked at they were two men, weren’t they, when they appeared to take on human form. And the masculine pronouns “him” or “he” are typically used to describe angels. So there’s a strong thought or perspective that angels are probably masculine. But I’m sort of the perspective that they’re really not masculine, they’re probably neuter. Why is that? Because we learned last week in Luke 20:35-36 that they don’t what? “Marry nor are given in marriage with each other.” [Luke 20:35-36, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;  for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”]
To my knowledge the Bible doesn’t give us any corresponding female angels, does it. There’re not male angels over here and female angels over there. So, if there’s no corresponding opposite gender I guess I’m of the perspective that angels are primarily of the neuter gender. And you say well why are they described with the pronoun “he” then, if they’re genderless? Well, it’s kind of a lot like thinking about the Holy Spirit. The Greek noun for spirit is pneuma, which is a neuter noun, and yet didn’t Jesus describe the Holy Spirit as “He” frequently in John 14:16, in the Upper Room, and many places. [John 14:16, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;  that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”]
So just because you describe something as “he” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s of a masculine gender. Jesus described pneuma, a neuter noun, as “he,” the Spirit, in John 14:16. So I’m just wrestling with the same limited information that you have in your Bible, and I guess I would have to say given their gender and given the limited information that we have I think angels, in terms of their gender, would be what we call neuter, genderless in other words.
How about their appearance? What do they appear as? Well, when they’re on earth and making earthly appearances many times they look like ordinary human beings or men. Remember the two angels that were observing Christ’s ascension in Acts 1? I think it says they’re in white, doesn’t it? [Acts 1:10, “And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.”] It describes them as two men. However, when the angels are described in heaven many times they’re described as creatures that seem strange to us because we don’t have a parallel as a similar creature on earth.
For example, we have the Seraphim, Isaiah 6:2, that have “six wings.” [Isaiah 6:2, “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.”] Has anybody seen a six-winged creature lately? If you have let me know what you’re smoking. It’s a creature that mystifies what we understand here on the earth. They are also called cherubim, and we’ll be defining seraphim and cherubim a little latter, but cherubim, Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel 10, are strange looking creatures, four wings, four faces, now we say a lot of people have two faces, right, these have four faces. Four faces, four wings, four lives, Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. A wheel below them that’s sort of intersectional so that it can move from place to place without ever having to turn. So that’s a strange creature in heaven that really has no parallel to what we observed on the earth.
Sometimes they’re called “living creatures” as we saw in the Book of Revelation, many eyes, Revelation 4:6-8; “six wings, faces on each side.” [Revelation 4:6, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.  Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;  and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.  The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.  And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,  “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”]
And sometimes we run into an angel that is described this way in Revelation 10:1-3, clothed with white cloud and a rainbow for a crown. [Revelation 10:1-3, “I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire;  and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land;  and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.”]
So, put yourself in my position in trying to summarize this to people. How would you summarize this? The best I can come up with in terms of their appearance is when you see them on earth in the Bible they look like men, ordinary human beings, but when you see them in heaven they look like, many times, creatures that you don’t really have a parallel with down at the Houston zoo. They’re creatures that defy description based on what we know all around us. So really that’s the best I can do with their appearance. And I think it’s time for me to stop talking, so let’s do that.
Father, we are thankful for angelology, the doctrine of angels, we pray that we’ll be good stewards of this invisible spiritual realm. I pray that some of the problems we’re having with the sound system would not be a problem in the service that follows so we can give our undistracted attention to Your Word. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.