Angels - Jon Fryer

"They for us fight, they watch and duely ward,
And their bright squadrons round us plant,
And all for love and nothing for reward;
O why should Heavenly God to men have such regard?"

(Spencer, 'The Faerie Queen')

Note: Although the Bible frequently mentions angels, the information we are given is often lacking in detail and is sometimes even (apparently) contradictory - the subject of angels is one on which Christians may therefore legitimately disagree. In this study I aim to put forward the facts about angels given in the Bible, but the interpretation of those facts is purely my own opinion drawn from my own personal theological background and is open to debate; also, any information drawn from other sources (e.g. the Roman Catholic or Hebrew traditions) is clearly marked as such and should not be taken as certain Biblical truth. The word angel is used to refer to all of the Heavenly Beings.



Angels have not always existed; they are part of the universe that God has created. Angels are not gods or natural forces or anything like that - they are beings created by God, just as the animals and humanity itself were created by God - See Psa 148;1-5 and Col 1;16.

So why did God create the heavenly beings? The Bible doesn't tell us exactly, but we can make an educated guess from the kind of jobs that angels actually do. Firstly the angels exist simply to give worship and glory to God - Read Psa 89;5-8, Psa 103;20-22, Psa 148;2 and Rev 5;11-14. Secondly, although God could do everything Himself because He's God, God is also a king, and a king without servants to do all the little jobs lacks a certain majesty. The angels are the servants and messengers and soldiers of God's throne room, just as an earthly king has servants to do his bidding.

Since God is the King of all. Kings it makes sense that He should have lots of such servants. Although the Bible does not put a figure on the number of angels it makes clear that there are a vast number of them to carry out God's will: Read Deut 33;2 (Myriad is a Greek word that means 'uncountable' or 'innumerable'), Psa 68;17, Heb12;22 and Rev 5;11. Even if we take that last number literally that is still 100 million angels!

We are not told when the angels were created. It is probable that the angels were amongst the first of God's works. Read Gen 1;1-2. In verse two it says that 'the earth was formless and void' but it doesn't mention the heavens - since Hebrew poetry is usually deliberately balanced it implies that the heavens had already been ordered by God by this point. Since we know that God is an artist as well as a king, and earth is His masterpiece, it is possible that God wanted an audience around to watch - we know that the angels were certainly around for the earth’s creation from Job 38;4-7. angel


So what are angels? Angels are like us in many ways. They are created beings, just as we are. They are intelligent, as we are. Since one third of them chose to turn away from God (Rev 12;3-4) we know that they have free will just as we do. Like us, they can only be in one place at one time - they are limited in power, knowledge and time, just as we are. The main difference between angels and ourselves is one of essence. Human beings are creatures of two worlds. We walk in the physical world and the spiritual world at the same time. On the other hand the animals are purely physical - they are part of this world, and when they die they return to the dust from which they were made, and nothing lives on. Like them we too are physical, and our bodies will die, but unlike them we are spiritual as well and something will live on because it is not tied to this earth.

The Bible tells us that even after death we will still have a body - a perfect body, but a body nonetheless. Read 1 Cor 15;35-58 – we will not be just spirit, but spiritual bodies, e.g. bodies in keeping with the character and action of the Holy Spirit. Being physical is part of who we are, part of the nature God created us with. The angels are unlike us in a way opposite to the animals. Angels are spirit and spirit alone - they have no connection with this earth at all. This means they are different to us in several practical ways - firstly, they are immortal; they are not slaves to death because they have nothing physical to die - Read Luke 20;35-36. Secondly, since they have no bodies, they are usually invisible to our physical eyes (although the enhanced senses of the animals can occasionally detect them) - Read Num 22;21-35. However on occasion God can make them visible to our eyes, as he does here. However, even when an angel makes itself solid and visible it is still not a part of this world - it is just a solid spirit, it is still not 'physical' (If you can understand the very subtle difference there). When angels do become visible they usually appear as normal human beings (Most people who have met an angel do not realise that fact until afterwards, if at all), although they are usually slightly taller and better looking and stronger - See Matt 28;2-4 for example - but lets face it, if you could choose your own body would you be an ugly wimp?! On the other hand, since they have no bodies as such then there is no reason why an angel shouldn't appear with wings if it wants them - it is not impossible, just unusual; since God wants to leave man to his own decisions He doesn't force us to believe by having dozens of angels flying overhead every ten minutes - the angels tend to be a bit more subtle than that when they visit us (except on special occasions, such as the very first Christmas!). Again, since angels have no bodies then things like gender become a little vague for them - Read Matt 22;23-30. Some people claim from this passage that angels are sexless from this passage, which is a reasonable assumption seeing as they have no bodies, but it only actually says that there is no marriage after death; like all physical and legal establishments it ceases at death. This should not trouble us however - like everything else in this life marriage is just a pale copy of the true spiritual relationships that we shall enjoy in the next life, and we should look forward to this with joy (See Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Book VIII;615-629 for the best ever description of this!).

There is an even more fundamental difference between ourselves and the angels however. Read Gen 1;27. Man was made in the image of God and angels were not. Angels are just spirit. Man is physical, as is Jesus, and spiritual, as is the Holy Spirit, but man also has a soul - three parts, one man, just as there are three parts but one God. This is part of what being made in the image of God means. The soul is the part of us that is like God. It is the deep down part of us that is who we really are, that says 'I AM' This is what Jesus restores to us - he makes us robe pure and holy, to be like God again so that we can have a relationship with God the Father, and the angels can never have this. Read Luke 15;10 and Eph 3;10-12; the angels watch us and praise God for us and stand amazed at God's work in us, but they don't understand us, and they never will, because we are so special that God made us to be like Him. In 1 Pet 1;12 it tells us that the angels long to look into the mysteries of Jesus' love for us, but they will never have the kind of relationship that we have with God - they are His servants, but we are His friends.


You may have noticed by now that the Bible refers to different kinds of Heavenly Being. In fact the Bible mentions nine different types of heavenly being, nine different ranks of angel ranging from the most powerful to the least, since Heaven is an ordered kind of place. These nine ranks, starting from the most powerful, are:

I.) SERAPHIM The Seraphim are the highest of God's angels and are found described in Isai 6;1-8. The Living Creatures in Rev 4;6-11 are probably also Seraphim since they perform the same service (although in Hebrew theology the Kerioth form a separate tenth rank of angels). Of all the angels the Seraphim are the closest to God and they continually proclaim His holiness. Even the faces of the four living creatures proclaim God's essential nature - the face of the man proclaims the humanity of Christ, the lion proclaims His kingship, the ox represents both His sacrifice and His priesthood, and the eagle speaks of the glory of the soaring Spirit. Sometimes the seraphim are called 'the Burning Ones' since 'our God is a burning fire' (Heb 12;29) and they are closest to Him - see Psa 104;4. On occasion you will also hear the Seraphim called 'the Ministers of Grace' (Hamlet I;iv - 'Angels and Ministers of Grace defend us!'), because in medieval theology the Seraphim were in charge of proclaiming God's love as well as His holiness. Also according to medieval theology the Seraphim were so holy that none of them fell when Satan rebelled against God.

2.) CHERUBIM If God were an earthly king then the Cherubim would be His own personal body servants. The Cherubim carry out jobs that involve service to God in person. For example, one of the Hebrew names for God is YHWH yoseb hakkerubim, 'God enthroned on the Cherubim'. The Cherubim make up God's throne, and this is symbolised in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, which is God's throne on earth - See Ex 24;17-22. Read Psa 18;10 - the Cherubim also make up the Merkaba, the Chariot of God, which is described in detail in Ezek 1;4-28 and Ezek i0;1-22. The Cherubim also get the really important jobs that can not be left to anyone of lesser authority, such as guarding the Tree of Life in Gen 3;22-24. We know that at least one of the Cherubim fell, because Satan himself was a cherub - See Ezek 28;12-19 and Isai 14;12-15. The NIV translation of Ezek 28;12 as 'Guardian Cherub' is a little shaky. The KJV gets it right as 'the Cherub that covers' – Satan covered the throne of God with his wings as the wings of the Cherubim cover the Ark. Supposedly Satan also led the worship of the throne room - the gems in verse 13 are those found on the breastplate of the High Priest (although only nine for the ranks of angels rather than twelve for the tribes of Israel), and the phrase the NIV translates as 'settings and mountings' is usually translated as 'drums and pipes' Satan was the most beautiful of the angels - he is called 'the morning star, Lucifer, the Light-bearer, the Shining One' - and this led to his pride and subsequent downfall. The fact that Satan is only an angel, (and a second-rate one at that!), is very comforting - he may be powerful, but his power does have limits, which means that he can never prevail against God.


5.) VIRTUES (also called AUTHORITIES)
6.) POWERS (also called RULERS)

We know very little about the middle ranked angels other than the fact that they exist - they are mentioned in Rom 8;38-39(KJV), Eph 1;20-21, Eph 6;10-12 and Col 1;16. It appears that heaven has a strict chain of command and that each heavenly spirit answers to the one above it, but the extent of this hierarchy is unknown. It appears that the Princes have responsibility for the spirits in a certain earthly nation from Dan 10;20-21. From these verses and those in Eph 6 it is also apparent that many of these angels were corrupted by Satan’s pride and fell with him, but still retain most if not all of their power.

8.) THE ARCHANGEL(S) This is the most complicated rank to deal with. Hebrew theology says that there are seven archangels who stand in the presence of God - compare Rev 1;4. Catholic theology claims that there are four archangels, each with different areas of responsibility. Strict protestant theology claims that there is simply one archangel in charge of all the angels. Whichever version you accept, the archangels are God's stewards - they stand in His presence and place God's seal of authority on whatever is being done by the heavenly beings. The archangels are:

a.) MICHAEL There is only one person described as an archangel in the Bible, and that is Michael in Jude 9. In Dan 10;13+21 Michael is also called the Prince, or guardian angel, of Israel, which seems to indicate that there is some overlap between the ranks of the angelic hierarchy. Michael means 'There is none like God', which according to Hebrew myth was his answer to Satan when Satan asked him to serve him and lead his forces. Michael is in charge of God's armies, and when he fights with God's authority then nothing can stand against him, not even Satan - See Rev 12;7-12.

b.) GABRIEL Gabriel is the only other angel named in the Bible, and in both Hebrew and Catholic theology he is called an archangel. Gabriel means 'Man sent by God' and he is God's chief messenger - See Dan 8;16-17, Dan 9;21-23, Luke 1;5-22 (Note verse 19 - perhaps a small justification for calling him an archangel), and Luke 1;26-38. See also 1 Thes 4;16 - in medieval theology Gabriel sounds the last trumpet that signals Christ's return.

c.) URIEL On two occasions in the Bible an angel attends Jesus - Read Matt 4;10-11, and Luke 22;39-44. In Catholic theology this angel is the archangel Uriel (sometimes called Dariel), who is supposedly Jesus' own personal attendant or guardian angel. Sometimes he is called the 'Angel of the Agony' since he attended Jesus during his agonising decision in the Garden.

d.) RAPHAEL The final archangel in Catholic theology is Raphael, which means 'the healing of God' He is mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Tobit, but he is not mentioned in the Bible unless you count John 5;1-4. (Note that verse 4 is missing in the NIV - check the footnotes).

e-g.) The Hebrew lists of archangels are all different so it is almost impossible to say anything about the other (hypothetical) archangels - although two others that crop up fairly frequently are Ariel, 'the lion of God', who is supposedly the guardian of Jerusalem (See Isai 29;5-7?), and Azrael, who is the Hebrew angel of death.

9.) ANGELS Finally, the lowest of the heavenly beings are the uncountable angels themselves, who perform various services for God. We have already read of how they continually glorify God. The angels also serve God as messengers to human beings. In fact, that is what the Greek word angelos actually means - 'messenger' - see Dan 4;17, Matt 1;18-25, Matt 2;13, Matt 28;5-7, Luke 2;8-20, Acts 8;26, Acts 10;1-8, and Acts 27;23-25. guardian

Guardian AngelAngels also serve as guardians and rescuers for human beings - See 2 Kings 6;15-17, Psa 34;7, Psa 91;9-12, Dan 3;13-29, Dan 6;19-22, Acts 5;19-20 and Acts 12;6-16. So, we have seen God sends his angels as guardians for those who trust in Him, but do people have specific guardian angels? The only biblical evidence for this idea comes from two verses - Acts 12;15 and Matt 18;10. These verses only indicate that the people in question have a guardian at a certain time (e.g. to get Peter out of prison) or for a certain period (e.g. whilst they are children). It is more probable that angels play zone defence rather than man on man, to use a sporting analogy - they go where they are needed, when they are needed. This would fit in better with the idea of higher ranked angels having responsibility over a certain area - in Rev 1;20 each church has its own angel for example. On the other hand there is nothing to say that certain angels are not sent to permanently protect certain people, or that certain people do not come up on a certain angel’s regular beat as it were.

Also, the angels make up Gods army and fight against both demons and against evil men - see Josh 5;13-15, 2 Chron 32;19-21, Isai 37;35-36, Dan 10;12-14, Matt 26;47-54 and Rev 19;11-20;3. History from a more recent time still has examples of such occurrences - some people attribute the freak windstorm that destroyed the Spanish Armada to angels sent in response to prayer, and those familiar with World War I history will know of the miraculous German defeat at Mons at the hands of the mysterious White Cavalry...

Finally, the angels carry out God's judgement upon the earth. Occasionally you may hear references to the Angel of death or angels of destruction - the Bible rarely uses these phrases, but they are sometimes applied to the angels God uses to punish the earth for wickedness - despite the fact that they kill and destroy they are not demons or fallen angels, they are simply carrying out God's will - See 1Chron 21;1-30 and Ezek 9;1-11 - and this is not just an Old Testament thing - See Acts 12;21-24.  


You may have noticed that in some of the verses reference is made to not just an ‘angel of God’ or an ‘angel of the Lord’, but to 'the Angel of the LORD'. For example, see Gen 16;6-14, Gen 22;9-18 and Ex 3;2-6. Notice that on every occasion this angel either speaks as if He is God Himself, or is even recognised as such as he is by Moses and Hagar. In Hebrew the title of this angel is the Malach YHWH, the 'Messenger of YHWH'. YHWH is the divine name of God - it is so holy that it is not even allowed to be spoken, and so no mere angel would be allowed to have this name - this has to be God Himself in a body, e.g. Jesus! The theologians call this theophania - since Jesus is God he is therefore outside of time and can therefore appear to men even before his own birth!

The fact that the Angel of the LORD is actually Jesus is made clear in Judges 13;1-24. Note verse 18. He doesn't say 'My name is beyond understanding', in Hebrew what he literally says is 'My name is wonderful' Compare Isai 9;6 - 'For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and he will be called Wonderful and Counsellor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace'. Jesus is the Messenger of YHWH sent to proclaim the Year of the Lords Favour and the Day of Vengeance of Our God, even during the Old Testament thousands of years before his birth.



Firstly, angels remind us of God's great love for us. Read 2 Pet 2;4 and Jude 6. Many angels sinned, but none were saved. Like the angels we too are intelligent and moral creatures and God could quite justly have let us go on our own way to Hell, as he did with them - See Job 4;18-19 and Job 15;14-16 - but He did not. Instead He Himself died to save as many of us as will accept this undeserved mercy and love. The contrast between this and the fall of the angels brings the truth home - God loves us! The unfallen angels may be able to praise God but we have reasons to praise Him and songs to sing that they will never have!


The existence of angels teaches us to have faith in God and to obey His commands. If we believe in angels then we know that when we worship God our prayers and praise is not just a tiny voice bouncing off the ceiling, because we are not alone - See Heb 12;22-25. The existence of angels teaches us not to fear or doubt God's protection for even if God seems far off, His angels certainly are not - Read Gen 28;10-12. Note the order there, 'ascending and descending' - that implies that the angels are already here with us! And lets face it, with an angel by your side there’s not much that can cross you. Read Matt 28;1-5 - To our enemies the angels are terrifying, but when they appear to us the first thing they always say is 'Do not be afraid' because that is why God created them, to take away our fear and doubt.

The existence of angels should also teach us not to sin. Angels watch us all the time - see 1 Cor 4;9 for example. Most sin you wouldn't do if someone was watching you, so if the thought of God watching isn't enough of a deterrent, try to remember that whatever you do there are half a dozen angels going 'D'oh!' every time you screw up! For this reason in 1 Tim 5;21 Paul says to Timothy 'I charge you in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and all the elect angels to keep these commandments' The existence of angels should also positively encourage us to obey God and to do good as well as avoid evil - Read Heb 13;2 - we should be eager to do good to others not only for their own sake, but also just in case we run into an angel in Heaven whom we once met sitting in a box under Southend Pier - is he going to say 'Cheers for that fiver!' or is he going to be a tad upset with us?! Think about it.


Read Col 2;18. Worship of angels was a false doctrine that cropped up throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament churches, but it is forbidden by God to worship anyone but Himself - See Rev 19;9-20. Angels are created beings and fellow servants - to worship them is not only idolatrous but it is also fairly pointless! Neither should we ever pray to angels. God alone has all power and authority to answer prayer. An angel can't be everywhere at once, so how would it even hear you?! Neither can angels intercede for us with God 1 Tim 2;5 tells us that 'there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus' (Job 33;23-28 is talking about the Angel of the LORD, e.g. Jesus). He alone is able to save and he alone is worthy to be worshipped - See Eph 1;18-23 and Heb 1;1-13. Jesus' name is lifted high above all the angels.

Nor are we even supposed to go looking for angels – the Col 2;18 verse says that this a product of unhealthy curiosity which looks for signs and proof rather than the love of God. God sends angels where He sees fit, and we're supposed to want to talk to Him and not just to some minor flunky! (There is nothing wrong with asking God to fulfil His promise in Psa 91 by sending his invisible angels to protect you however.)


The souls of the dead do not become angels as some people say. The angels were created by God at the beginning of time - there are no new angels. Besides, why would you want to be an angel? Through Christ Jesus we are and will be more glorified than even the angels. 1 Cor 6;3 says that we will even judge and have authority over angels, because Jesus has made us sons like himself. Angels are our servants - Heb 1;14. Everything is given to us in Christ Jesus even power over the angels - Read Heb 2;5-3;1. 'For a little while we are made a little lower than the angels', but then we shall be sons, high above them all through Christ Jesus.


One final warning: Just 'cos it looks like an angel doesn't mean that it is an angel! 2 Cor 11;14 warns us that 'Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light'. The Bible warns us that should an angel appear to us, or should someone claim to have received a message or a prophecy from an angel then we are to be very careful about believing it - see 1 John 4;3. A true angel will very rarely appear 'cos God prefers them to be invisible (Billy Graham calls them 'God's secret agents'!), but if one does then there is one certain test to see whether it is from God or not - No true angel will deny that Christ Jesus is God or contradict any part of scripture – Gal 1;8 tells us that any 'angel of Heaven' that preaches any other gospel than the one in the Bible is 'eternally condemned' e.g. is a demon who should be ignored. This might be more common than you would think - for example, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, insists that an angel spoke to him and dictated the Book of Mormon to him. The Book of Mormon denies the Trinity, the humanity of Jesus, and salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone, as well as many other things; it is obviously one of the devil's works.


Some people say that angels are no longer sent to us today; the same people usually tell us that miracles and the Holy Spirit no longer exist either.The Bible tells us otherwise. Angels are all around us, just as are the demons of Satan. There is a spiritual war going on invisibly all around us until every last soul has decided either for or against Jesus Christ. The theology of angels reminds us that we should be expecting to see God move in our lives today, we should expect to see miracles as God's power is poured out to save the lost.

We should expect God to save us from every danger and trap of the enemy as we do His will. Above all we should pray harder to see God's Kingdom come and to see His will done here on earth, just as the angels do it in heaven. We should expect to see answers to prayer because prayer is a stronger power than even the angels. An angel can not change God's mind nor even persuade Him to do anything. We can, because God loves us.

Delara's AngelShould you hear them singing among stars
Or whispering secrets of a wiser world,
Do not imagine ardent fledgling children.

They are intelligences as old as sunrise
That never learnt right from left, before from after,
Knowing but one direction, into God,
And one duration, now.

Their melody strides not from bar to bar,
But like a painting hangs there entire,
One chord of limitless communication.

You have heard it in the rhythms of the hills,
The spiralling turn of a dance, the fall of words,
Or touch of fingers at the rare, right moment,
...And these were holy, holy. (JV Taylor) 

Jesus the Man
What was Jesus like?

The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?

The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?

The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?

What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?

Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?

Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?

When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?

Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?

Why should we look after the world God has given us?

How do we know who we are in God?

Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...

Close Encounters
How do get to have intimacy with God?

Can we feel the breath of God?

Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?

The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?

What does Passover mean to us as Christians?

What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?

What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Teaching for Christmas Eve...

What does it mean to have authority?

What can we do when it all seems like too much?

I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?

What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?

A contemplative service for Pentecost

A creative/contemplative baptism service

How do we know what we should do?

A creative prayer/worship service

The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?

The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!

Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?

Warrior's Confession
A liturgy for masculine prayer

Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?

What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?

The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?

How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?

Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?

To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?

Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?

Will you let Jesus be in charge?

Recognising Jesus
Would you know him if he met you on the road?

The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?

How can we really 'count it all joy'?

More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?

The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?

The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...

Following Jesus
Do you really want to follow him?

Preaching Skills
How should I prepare to give a sermon?

The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?

The People of God

The Bible
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?

Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?

Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?

How do we resist?

What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?

The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?

Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?

Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer

It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?

Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?

Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed