As the Christian story reveals in Luke 1, an angel appears to Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth, who is Mary’s cousin. The angel Gabriel informed him that his wife would give birth to John the Baptist, who would proclaim to many that the Messiah was coming.
“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:11-15).
A few months later, Gabriel made another visit. This time it was to a young teenage girl named Mary, a virgin and pledged to be married to Joseph.
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth. your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she, who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her” (Luke 1:28-38).
For many of us, we have images of what angels look like in our minds from movies and books that made angels come alive. The problem is that such portrayals not in sync with the Bible. The scriptures clearly state that God creates angels as souls, who are more intelligent than humans, and have a will to obey or disobey God.
“In speaking of the angels, he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire” (Hebrews 1:7).
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14).
Because of the limitation of our human minds, our understanding of the supernatural realm, in all its splendor, is incomplete. We know that angels are a different order of beings than humans. Contrary to many beliefs about angels, humans do not become angels when they die. Angels can and do, to a degree, take on the form of humans when ordained by God. We also know that the good angels are always obedient to God and give him all the glory for all that is good. Fallen angels, however, are disobedient to God, with their prime desire being to kill and to destroy. The Bible calls these angels “demons”.
Scripture gives us only glimpses into the supernatural realm, but it is enough to learn that angels perform a variety of tasks for several different purposes including:
- To serve the people God saves. One goal of angels is to minister to the elect of God: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)
- To deliver messages. The word angel means “messenger.” In the Bible, angels usually appeared as men when they delivered messages from God to people. (Genesis 18:1-3)
- To wage spiritual battle. Another purpose of angels is to fight the forces of spiritual darkness who try to kill God’s plans. (Ephesians 6:12)
- To worship God. Angels constantly surround the throne of God, worshiping and shouting His praises. (Isaiah 6:3,5)
- When the righteous die, it seems that angels carry them straight to the place of God’s rest. (Luke 16:22)
- To execute judgment. Angels are not all radiance and joy. They also carry out God’s orders for destruction. (Revelation 7:1)
We can thank the Lord for angels of which we are unaware and their influence on the lives of those that God sends to protect and inform those of God’s choosing. As Christians, who are indwelled with the Holy Spirit, are complete and should not dependent on angels to live out our lives of glorifying our Lord. We should never worship them.
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).