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Theology Bites: Angelology (Part II)

We’re talking ST, and we’re right now discussing the spiritual realm in particular.

This includes topics like Angelology, Satanology, and Demonology.

We started with angels last time, showing the Scriptural witness to angels --- and that, not only do they exist, they’re a major part of God’s creation.

So the physical realm is just one aspect of God’s creation. In fact, we tend to think that it’s all there is, but the truth is that there’s a whole spiritual dimension that we can’t see, touch, or feel.

But having said that, just because it’s not physical, that doesn’t mean that it’s not created, nor that it wasn’t somehow included in the 6 days of Creation (Gen.1).

So we talked about Scriptures occurrences, key terms that are used, and then the creation of angels. So now we’re going to continue the discussion on some further points. And it’s amazing how much the Bible actually speaks to these things.

The Characteristics of Angels:

They are personal beings. They demonstrate intelligence.

We see them worship and praising (Psalm 148:2).

This shows intelligence because the presumption is that they’re praising him for something. 

They need to know something, in order to praise Him for it.

We see them having perception (Matt. 18:10).

We see them evidencing speech (John 20:13).

We see them express curiosity (1Peter 1:12).

They are emotive beings.

They express joy (Luke 15:10).

The also express anger (Revelation 12:17).

They exercise a will (2Pet. 2:4, Jude 9).

They are seen to contain a moral responsibility (Matt. 25:41).

They appear to be deathless in some kind of physical sense.

Luke 20:36“For they [resurrected people] cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

They do not procreate.

Mark 12:25 - “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

The contain special powers.

They are said to excel in wisdom (2 Sam. 14:17, 20).

(note: in this passage, they’re angels are spoken well of. They have a very respectable reputation by the ancients).

They are said to excel in strength (Gen. 19:11; Psa. 103:20).

They are said to excel in speed (Dan. 9:21).

“while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”

The appearance of angels:

Typically angels are invisible to the human eye. They inhabit the spiritual realm. Now how that intersects with the physical realm is not known to us. So in some capacity they are among us, inhabiting our spaces in a non-physical way. But the point is they’re invisible to the human eye. 

When they are made visible, they typically appear in human form.

They appear to be similar in size to men (Rev. 22:8).

Additionally, they’re perceived as “men” or male. (Gen. 18:1; Acts 1:10).

Sometimes, their clothing (or attire) is described as bright and shining (Matt. 28:3; Lk. 24:4).

Other times they’ll be described as having wings (and able to fly).

Now, when talking about angels, it’s helpful to make a distinction between visions of angels and appearances of angels.

---- When a person is caught up into a vision, they’re often said to see angels (and the various classes of angels) in their non-human form. [And this is where angelic creatures are seen to have wings].

---- However, when an angel appears to person (in time, space, and history on earth), they’re then seen in human form. [They don’t appear with wings].

The point is that when you see an angelic creature in non-human form, likely the seer is being caught up in some type of heavenly/spiritual vision. When they’re in human form, they’re seen in human form… and sometimes a person will not even know it’s an angel (e.g., Heb. 13:2 - showing hospitality/entertaining angels and not knowing it).

Various Classifications of angels:

Moral category:

---- Holy (or elect) angels.

This seems to be an apparent reference to those who are considered “unfallen.”

Mk. 8:38 - “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

1Tim. 5:21 - “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.”

Their abode:

“Heaven” (Matt. 28:2, Mk. 12:25, et. al.).

Primarily, “the third heaven.”

This is where Christ resides.

Biblically, the first heaven is the sky where the birds fly.

The second is outer space (where the sun, moon, and stars reside).

Then the third heaven is where Christ is said to reside. This is where Paul was taken when he saw “paradise” in the presence of God (2 Cor. 12).

However, they have access to all three heavens, plus the earth (Rev. 19:1).

---- Fallen Angels.

Two groups of fallen angels:

There are those which are said to be “bound” (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Rev. 19:11, 14).

2 Pet. 2:4 - “For God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment…”

There are those which are said to be “free.”

Eph. 6:10-12Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

So can an angel fall today?

Quite simply, the Scriptures are rather silent on this point.

In Rev. 12:4, there’s an obscure reference to the dragon swiping his tail, causing a third of the stars to fall from heaven.

The interpretational challenge with this passage is that it’s not dated, and in large measure, is a function of how you approach the book of Revelation.

Some view it as future.

Some view it as a reference to what happened long ago.

It’s a debated passage in eschatology, so it’s difficult to be certain.

If you take one of the non-futuristic approaches to revelation, likely this happened in past. However, if you’re a historicist, it may be evidence they can still fall today.

If you take a futuristic approach, then it appears that there will be a time yet future when a third of the angels will fall.

In this final view, if it is possible for angels to fall, then that implies that there will also be a time (yet future) when the angels who remained faithful (along with all believers), will be confirmed in their holiness. They stood firm in their faithfulness.

But in the end, we don’t know for certain.

The hierarchy of angels:


Traditional beliefs ----

Some early father (e.g., Origen) argued that there were three archangels.

Roman Catholic theology has postulated that there are seven.

They get 7 from the 7 churches in Revelation (1:4), the 7 lampstands (4:5), the lamb with 7 horns, eyes, and spirits of God. They also use the apocryphal literature (e.g., Tobit 12:15).

Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, among others.

However, there’s no official list containing 7 names.

Regarding the Protestant view, there’s no official position. However, many conclude that there’s only 1 archangel -- Michael.

Some will say that there were originally two (Michael and Lucifer), but that Lucifer fell.

This is supported with 1 Thess. 4:16 and Jude 1:9. Both passages speak of Michael, the archangel (using the definite article). The implication, they say, is that there is only one archangel.

The biblical data:

Michael is obviously an archangel. He’s explicitly referred to as such (1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 1:9).

Michael means: “Who is like God?”

Gabriel is never technically called an “archangel.” However, his associations and descriptions suggest that he is one.

Gabriel means: “Strong man of God.”

So it’s hard to be dogmatic on this stuff, but it seems that there’s likely at least two archangels (Michael for sure, and then perhaps Gabriel).

Special Attendants (these are other classes):

Biblical references:

Cherubim (little?)

Not necessarily a reference to stature, but their ranking in the order.


Comes from the Hebrew root (seraph), meaning “to burn.” (So seraphim means, “burning ones”).

“Living creatures.”

In the OT (Ezek. 1:5, 13ff)

In the NT (Rev. 4:6ff)

An important reminder on this, is that all three of these classes are the result of “visions.”

So the nature of symbolic and apocalyptic language should be taken into consideration.

Ex. Isa. 6.

The 6 wings, which function to articulate something about the angels’ responsibility before God.

So it may be a physical description, but it’s certain communicating their role.

With two wings they cover their face -- not even these burning ones can look upon the holiness of God, lest they be burned up. It’s communicating the purity of God’s “otherness” to even sinless creatures.

With two they cover their feet -- signifying the don’t express autonomous will, but only serve at God’s pleasure alone.

With two they fly -- only God is sitting on his throne in the very center of the vision. The fact they’re not sitting shows they yield at all times in service to God.

The point is it’s highly symbolic. Having said that, we also don’t have to conclude it’s not a literal description.

So when dealing with symbolic literature, two extremes must be avoided.

We have to avoid the idea that the language has no reality connected to it (e.g., Mary Baker Eddy: “Angels are simply beautiful thoughts”).

On the other hand, we shouldn't feel the need to dogmatically conclude that everything must be taken concretely, exactly as pictured.

Significant associations when talking about these classes of angels:

The cherubim are associated with the “living creatures.”

The prominence of the their “eyes” are described with both classes.

Their faces are quite similar. The exception is the way the 4 faces are described between Ezekiel’s vision and John’s vision. But it’s minor.

The Cherubim are associated with the seraphim.

The Seraphim are associated with the “living creatures.”

Both are said to have 6 wings (Isa. 6:2, Rev. 4:8).

Both are said to cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy…” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).

So there’s a lot of overlap, or at the very least, associations between these various kinds of angels.

Some theological conclusions on these classes:

There’s no reason to assume that any of these beings should be placed in a special class of creatures apart from angels. (They’re spiritual beings who functions to serve God.)

There seems to be some common functional features:

They seem to be attendants or guardians in the very presence of the Holy god.

There seems to be co-responsibility in leading all of creation in worshiping God.

So there’s a lot of overlap between the in their functions... (esp. Cherubim and Seraphim), but the bible does label them differently, so they should be understood as different categories of angels.

Other designated terms the bible uses to speak of angelic creatures:

Thronoi (Col. 1:16): a term emphasizing their possible influence over thrones, dominions, and sovereignties.”

Kuriotes (Col. 1:16): speaking of their “ruling power, lordships, and dominions.

Archai (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10): a reference to their “ruling powers, and  official powers.”

Dunamis: an explicit reference to their “powers” (used of angels in 1Pet. 3:22).

So there's multiple terms used to speak of angels, but the point to understand is that they’re described by their power, influence, and work among the various rulers, powers, and forces within God’s creation. 

So this seems to be one of their unique functions in God’s purposes.

They’re given unique power and responsibility over the ruling dimensions of God’s creation.


That’s probably enough-- there’s plenty there to chew on.

So next time will talk about their various functions, ministries, and roles.

We’ll talk about the idea of territorial angels, as well as things like guardian angels.


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