Monday, September 18, 2017

What are angels really like? (A brief sketch)

An open Bible being read

If all we had to go on was pop culture, we’d think angels were gentle beings who can’t wait to give you a hug, a pat on the head, and possibly offer you a bagel with cream cheese. We’d have guardian angels watching over us, or deceased loved ones becoming angels. We’d have Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven, or Della Reese in Touched by an Angel.

Nothing like the Bible describes.

The Scriptures depict these created beings as something other than human—entities created distinctly from us. They are called “sons of God,” “holy ones,” “spirits,” “principalities,” and “powers.” They appear as messengers of God (which the meaning behind the word “angel” in Hebrew), acting as His agents throughout history by:

  • Guarding the gates of the garden (Gen. 3:24);
  • Giving visions to prophets like Ezekiel and Daniel;
  • Telling Zechariah that his son will be the forerunner to the Messiah, the rescuer and redeemer of God’s people (Luke 1:5-25);
  • Announcing to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38);
  • Declaring Jesus’ resurrection on the third day (Luke 24:1-8); and
  • Showing John a vision of the final days and the glorious return of Christ (Rev. 22:8-9).

Angelic beings exist to bring God glory, and to carry out His plans and purposes. Though they often remain hidden, their existence reminds us that we live in a supernatural world. But what would you do if one actually revealed itself to you right now? Two things:

  1. You’d probably fall down in sheer terror; and
  2. You’d probably be tempted to worship at its feet.

How do I know this? Because this is what the Bible says people do (Rev. 22:8). If an angel came up to you right now and reveals its glory, you wouldn’t give it a hug: you would most likely wet yourself in terror. They are not cute and cuddly. They are not our loved ones in a new form. They are something other. And they are far more terrifying than we think.


Note: this post is part of an informal, periodic series exploring different theological concepts for another project I’m working on. As such, application is going to be limited. Hopefully the knowledge will be helpful. 

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