What are angels?
An angel is a pure spirit created by God. The Old Testament theology included the belief in angels: the name applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence, employed by God as the ministers of His will.
The English word "angel" comes from the Greek angelos, which means 'messenger'. In the Old Testament, with two exceptions, the Hebrew word for "angel" is malak, also meaning 'messenger'. The prophet Malachi took his name from this word. He was himself a messenger, and he prophesied about the coming of "the messenger of the covenant", Jesus Christ (Malachi 3:1).
Although the word "angel" in the Bible, meaning a messenger, nearly always applies to heavenly beings, it can occasionally apply to human messengers. Malachi himself said a priest was a messenger (malak) of the LORD of hosts (Malachi 2:7), and in the Book of Revelation the elders of the seven churches of Asia were called angels (1:20; 2:1 etc.). But when we meet messengers doing supernatural things, there is no doubt they are heavenly beings - God's messengers, working for Him and for the ultimate benefit of mankind.
How do we know angels exist?
The Scriptures give us no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; their existence is assumed at the earliest times. Our Lord often spoke of angels; in the New Testament they are numerous and seven orders are mentioned: Angels, Powers, Principalities, Dominions (ations), Thrones and Archangels the Old Testament specifically mentions two others Seraph (im) and Cherub(im).
God bestowed upon angels great wisdom, freedom, and power, and their many appearances in the New Testament are indication of the lead role assigned to them. Both the New Testament and Old Testament refer also to the fallen angels. The Temptation of Adam and Eve presupposes the existence of bad spirits or demons who were cast into hell from which they have no hope of redemption. Angels are purely spiritual or bodiless persons (Mt 11:30), some of whom behold the face of God and thus are in bliss (Mt 18:10).
These spiritual beings comprise the celestial court and are called angels (from the Greek for "messenger") because, according to the Bible, they carry out missions at God's command. In order to complete these missions, they can at times assume bodily form. According to the Bible, their missions are sometimes of great importance - eg, the Annunciation (Lk 1:26; 2:9-14).
Like us , the angels are the objects of God's grace and love. But because, unlike us they are non-bodily creatures, their response to God's love did not require time and reflection to grow and mature. As soon as they were created and received grace, they had the opportunity to respond to God's love and thus be welcomed into bliss. While many did so, some did not. Perhaps the most significant continuing activity of the good angels is to be the agents of God's particular providence for mankind. Thus, the Church teaches that everyone has a guardian angel, based on references to them throughout the Bible.
Why did God Create Angels?
The Creator Himself is so powerful and glorious that He cannot be approached in person by human beings. He alone "hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto: whom no man hath seen, nor can see (1 Timothy 6:16). Angels do not have man's shortcomings, and can therefore act for God and represent Him when communicating with men and women. They bridge the huge gap between the holiness and perfection of God in heaven and the shortcomings of dying people on this planet. Angels were made immortal (that is, never to die). Their eternal quality was spoken of by Jesus when he said:
"They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 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." (Luke 20:35.36)
Jesus was saying that, in the same way as the angels (the children or "sons" of God) live for ever and are of one gender, so those who will be called the "sons" and "daughters" of God when Jesus returns will also live for ever and will not marry.
Angels with Names
Only occasionally are the angels given names. "Michael", for instance, was "the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people (Israel)" (Daniel 12:1). Undoubtedly, among the most significant of angelic appearances were those by the angel whose name was "Gabriel". He was sent twice to the prophet Daniel. On the second occasion Daniel was at prayer, and Gabriel, "being caused to fly swiftly, touched me ... and talked with me" and proceeded to prophesy the date of the first coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Daniel 9:21-27).
There was therefore great expectation among the Jews at the time when Jesus Christ was about to be born, and this was heightened by the personal appearance of Gabriel again, firstly to Zacharias the priest while on duty in the temple, and then to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. To Zacharias, the angel announced. "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God: and am sent to speak unto thee" (Luke 1:19). We notice that angels can stand in the glorious presence of the LORD. whereas men cannot. and angels are sent to do whatever God wishes. His mission here was to announce the miraculous birth of John the Baptist.
Six months later, Gabriel appeared to Mary, who was in the royal line of King David. Her prayer, said the angel, had found favour with God, and she would be the mother of the expected Messiah. Gabriel told her that she would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit and her son would be Jesus, the Saviour, and he would be the Son of God and would occupy the royal throne of David (Luke 1:26-33). It was an extraordinary meeting because Mary was not yet married. Nothing is impossible with God! Joseph, her husband-to-be, also received angelic messages advising him what steps to take in this unique situation.
When Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, the birth was the signal for a glorious witness of divine approval, seen by shepherds:
"An angel of the Lord (could this have been Gabriel?) appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear ... And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'" (Luke 2:9-14, RSV)
Who are our Guardian Angels?
No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, for to His Angels God has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Psalm 91: 10-12 A heavenly spirit assigned by God to watch over each of us during our lives. The doctrine of angels is part of the Church's tradition. The role of the guardian angel is both to guide us to good thoughts, works and words, and to preserve us from evil. Since the 17th century the Church has celebrated a feast honoring them in October throughout the Universal Church. Since the last calendar revision this feast is Oct 2.
He has charged His angels with the ministry of watching and safeguarding every one of His creatures that behold not His face. Kingdoms have their angels assigned to them, and men have their angels; these latter it is to whom religion designates the Holy Guardian Angels. Our Lord says in the Gospel, "Beware lest ye scandalize any of these little ones, for their angels in heaven see the face of My Father." The existence of Guardian Angels, is, hence a dogma of the Christian faith: this being so, what ought not our respect be for that sure and holy intelligence that is ever present at our side; and how great our solicitude be, lest, by any act of ours, we offend those eyes which are ever bent upon us in all our ways!
Angels of the early Church
Revelations the Lord addresses each of the seven Churches by means of instructing angels to record His dictation. These 'secretary' angels are the angels of the Churches:
- Church of Ephesus (Rv 2:1)
- of Smyrna (Rv 2:8)
- of Pergamum (Rv 2:12)
- of Thyatira (Rv 2:18)
- of Sardis (Rv 3:1)
- of Philadelphia (Rv 3:7)
- of Laodices (Rv 3:14)
Man Made Lower than the Angels
When the first man was being created:
"Let us make man in our image. after our likeness ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:26-27)
This does not mean that the first of the human race had exactly the same physical nature as the angels, for the angels were made to live for ever. Adam and Eve were not made never-dying: they did sin, and they suffered death as the punishment for it. That is why the whole human race has been dying ever since.
Psalm 8 is a Psalm in which the creation of the earth is extolled. Here we are told that man's position is lower than the angels:
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? ... For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour." (Psalm 8:4,5)
The New Testament quotes this passage, and tells us that mankind - including the Lord Jesus himself - was made a little lower than the angels, "for the suffering of death" (Hebrews 2:9). Angels do not die, but men and women do. Even Jesus, the Son of God, was a mortal man, but has now received the glory and honour which was his due when, as he said after his resurrection, "all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).
The Fallen Angels (Demons)
These beings, because of pride, did not return God's love. God did not destroy them, but permits them a limited scope of activity. Their condition is permanent for no creature can turn away from the perfect good of the beatific vision once he has come to enjoy it, and no additional reflection could change the mind of a purely spiritual being who has turned away.
Demons are fallen angels under the command of Satan, those who are still free after the Gen. 6 affair. Satan is called the Prince, or Ruler, of all demons in Matthew 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15. Demons are also called the ministers, or ambassadors of Satan, Luke 4:35; 9:1,42; John 10:21. Satan is brilliant, an administrative genius. He has an excellent organization, mentioned in Eph. 6:10-12 (READ) The Bible also makes a distinction between demon possession and demon influence.