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Angels in Scripture

There are numerous references to angels in scripture but it is important to recognise that not all refer to Heavenly (i.e. supernatural) Angels. The usual Hebrew and Greek words (malak and angelos respectively) mean simply 'messenger' and can, and do, refer to human messengers. This is true even for the messenger (angel) of the LORD spoken of in Mal. 2:7, For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger (malak) of the LORD of hosts. In this instance it is clear that a human messenger is referred to and it has been so translated. However it is not always possible from the context alone to decide whether human or heavenly messengers are meant and so the anglicised Greek 'angel' may be inappropriately used. An examination of the attributes of heavenly angels however will disqualify many 'angels' who otherwise might be considered possessed of supernatural power.

The work of Heavenly angels is defined in Heb.1:14,
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

That the Heavenlt Angels are immortal is proved in Luke 20, where Jesus teaches concerning the children of the resurrection:
Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection (v.36).

It is a Scriptural principle that, ... the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezek.18:4) and so we are justified in attributing sinlessness to heavenly angels because they are immortal.

If these angelic attributes of sinless immortality and heavenly service are kept in mind, then many references to angels can be discounted from having any supernatural application and must therefore refer to mortal beings who, of course, do sin and die. Hence references to the devil and his angels must refer to mortals - see for example Matt.25: 41, which refers to the rejected ones on Jesus' left (v.32-33). The same Greek word 'angelos' is translated 'messenger' in Luke 7:24 where it refers to John's disciples. It has another use in 2 Cor.12: 7, And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger (angel) of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. Here 'the messenger' (angel) 'of Satan' clearly refers to a physical infirmity laid upon Paul by God - a reminder that the infirmity of our nature is an adversary (Satan) to us.

The Heavenly angelic attributes therefore rule out the possibility that the 'Devil' is a fallen angel. This is a pagan superstition which some have attempted to support by appealing to the passage about Lucifer falling from heaven in Isa. 14., whereas the subject of this chapter is a prophecy concerning the fall of Babylon and its King. For similar reasons, when Jesus says ... I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. (Lu. 10:18), we are not entitled to attribute a literal meaning to this as applying to the Heaven where God dwells. (It can be shown from the context and elsewhere that this concerns the overthrow of the rule of evil in the earth by divine action.)

There is no evidence in Scripture that Heavenly angels have wings, in fact the evidence points to them being physically indistinguishable from mortal man apart from their messages and actions. Scripture does speak of winged figures (Cherubim and Seraphim) but comparison of Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 with Revelation 4 identifies the Cherubim as descriptive of the redeemed in symbolic language.

There are a few other words translated 'angels' that can have either Heavenly or earthly application that we need not consider here, but the interpretive rules given above are equally valid.

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