“Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire…. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:7,14).
That God has His legions of faithful ministering spirits is no matter of imagination for the student of the Bible. Portrayed in 34 of its 66 books, angels play a major role in both the Old Testament and the New. The list of those who have interacted with them and spoken of them reads like a “who’s who” of the Bible: Adam & Eve, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Mary, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and so on.
Endued with great strength and wisdom, superior to that of humans (2 Peter 2:11; 2 Samuel 14:17,20), angels have the ability to race from the very presence of God to perform their missions on earth (Daniel 9:21). These missions have been described by James Currie as falling into three categories: to “communicate the mind of God, execute the will of God, and administer the judgment of God.” Sometimes humans are able to witness these interventions, and sometimes they are only visible to the eye of faith (2 Kings 6:13-17).
While their activities in the affairs of men are an important (and interesting) function of angels, perhaps their primary job is to bring praise and glory to God. In the visions of heaven given to Isaiah and John, angels are seen giving resounding adulations to the One upon the throne (Isaiah 6:1-4; Revelation 4,5). Note that this duty extends to all of God’s creation: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11).
A study of angels would be incomplete without mentioning possibly the greatest of all angels. Described as “the anointed cherub that covereth,” this angel seems to have been given the highest position of all of God’s created beings. However, being overtaken with pride and desiring to be an object of worship instead of a worshipper of God, he rebelled and was cast down from that position (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:13-19). He now bears the name “Satan” (meaning adversary) and “devil” (deceiver and accuser). He did not fall alone, for many other angels followed him and are seen throughout the Bible as “demons” and “evil spirits.” The goal of Satan and his angels is the same today as it ever was—to draw hearts away from God. However, powerful as they are, their actions are limited by God (Job 1:12; 2:6) and their doom is sure (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
In this issue it is not our desire to provide an exhaustive study of angels, but rather to emphasize the relationship of angels to Jesus Christ, and to see how God uses them to promote His glory and the well-being of His people—even today. We trust that this focus will cause all who read these pages to praise the Creator of angels and Redeemer of mankind. —T. Don Johnson