What are the roles of angels?
What are the roles of angels? What are fallen angels? Only giving messages to prophets, or also guardian angels for the rest of us?
The Bible contains more than a series of alleged “angelic sightings.” It offers an evaluative look into a world beyond the reach of scientific examination. When we study what it says about angels, we will learn that:
(1) We are not alone:
The Bible repeatedly maintains that human beings are not the only intelligent, moral creatures in the universe. The words angel and angels occur about 300 times. The Bible speaks often of Satan and demons, and refers to them as real, though not flesh-and-blood, earth-bound creatures like we are (Eph. 6:12). It names two angels – Michael (Dan. 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7) and Gabriel (Dan. 8:16; Lk. 1:19). It gives us graphic portrayals of heavenly beings called “seraphim” (Isa. 6:2-3), “cherubim” (Ezek. 10:1-20), and “living creatures” (Ezek. 1:5-22; Rev. 4:6-11).
The Bible is filled with references to spirit beings who possess intelligence and moral qualities. This shows us that we are not alone. The Bible tells us that God created both the visible and the invisible worlds and everything and everyone in them (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 40:26; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11).
So, according to the Bible, we are not alone! We are not orphans in a hostile universe. We were created by the living God of the Bible. He is spirit (Jn. 4:24) and is present with us at all times (Ps. 139). And in the spirit world with Him are myriads of living creatures who can make an impact on us for either good or bad.
(2) We are helped by unseen friends/guardians:
The Bible says that there are angels who help those who are His. These angels are our unseen friends. The writer of Hebrews, referring to angels, asked the rhetorical question, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (1:14). The answer is yes. And they are normally invisible because they are spirits. They do not have physical bodies. Therefore, they can move quickly from the spirit world to our physical world to help us.
In the Bible, angels sometimes appear in the form of men as they did to Abraham (Gen. 18) and to the followers of Jesus at the tomb from which He had risen (Mk. 16:5; Jn. 20:12). The writer of Hebrews encouraged us to be hospitable to strangers because “some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Heb. 13:2).
Do angels still appear in human form to help us? On the basis of our own experience, most of us would not be able to give a conclusive answer. But many of us have heard Christians tell of experiences in which they saw an angel in human form.
We cannot prove or disprove the accounts of angels appearing to our contemporaries in human form. But if they are accurate, we must recognize that such appearances have always been the exception, not the rule. And these appearances leave many unanswered questions. An angel fed Elijah (1 Ki. 19:5-7), protected Daniel from hungry lions (Dan. 6:22), and freed Peter from prison (Acts 12:7-10). But we don’t know what form they took. All we know is that the angel who freed Peter was accompanied by a great light and that he disappeared when the apostle was outside the prison.
It is entirely possible that angels usually remain completely invisible when they carry out their work for us. They cannot be seen when they carry the soul of a dying believer to heaven as they did Lazarus (Lk. 16:22), or when they protect God’s children from harm (Ps. 91:11), or when they watch us in our worship (1 Cor. 11:1-10), or when they observe us living out our salvation (1 Tim. 5:21).
The fact that Psalm 91:11 depicts angels keeping us from harm, coupled with our Lord’s warning “Do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father” (Mt. 18:10), has led some to teach that each Christian has a guardian angel. But to make this claim is to go beyond what Jesus said. His statement certainly assures us that we have angels who work in our behalf, but it does not necessarily declare that there is one assigned angel for every person. It may be, but not necessarily. However, this should not bother us. God can and will look after each one of us individually. He certainly has enough angels available if He chooses to use them to protect or help us. Myriads of these heavenly beings are our friends and stand ready to be our helpers and protectors.
Perhaps it is safe to say that they usually help and protect us without becoming visible. Consider the story of Elisha and his servant recorded in 2 Kings 6. The servant was frightened when he saw a large enemy army surrounding the city of Dothan where they were staying. He didn’t know that God had placed an army of angels between these human soldiers and the inhabitants of the city. But when Elisha offered the petition, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see” (2 Ki. 6:17), the servant saw the angelic host.
Our angel friends may be unseen, but according to the Bible they are all around us. God uses them as His servants to protect and help “those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14).
(3) We are opposed by invisible foes
We also discover that we have enemies in the spirit world. A large number of evil spirits hate God. This hatred motivates these demons to do all they can to frustrate His loving purposes for mankind. The Bible refers to the devil as our adversary (1 Pet. 5:8) and our enemy (Mt. 13:39), and pictures his followers as an organized and powerful army (Eph. 6:12).
What They Do:
<![if !supportLists]> 1 <![endif]>They oppose God and His people. Under their leader Satan (this proper name means “adversary”), they do all they can to keep God from carrying out His plans and purposes. The devil is our “adversary” (1 Pet. 5:8), the “enemy” (Mt. 13:39), the head of a vast host of evil beings against whom we must “wrestle” (Eph. 6:12).
<![if !supportLists]> 2 <![endif]>They slander God and His people. Under their leader the devil (“slanderer”), they do all they can to cast doubt on God’s character (Gen. 3:1-5) and that of His people (Job 1:9-11; Rev. 12:10).
<![if !supportLists]> 3 <![endif]>They deceive the unsaved and try to deceive Christians. Satan “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), blinds the eyes of those who do not believe (2 Cor. 4:4), uses “lying spirits” (2 Chr. 18:21-22), and sends “deceiving spirits” who promote “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).
<![if !supportLists]> 4 <![endif]>They plant evil thoughts into the minds of people. Satan put it into David’s mind to take a census of his people, undoubtedly motivated by pride (1 Chr. 21:1). He was behind Peter’s rebuke of Christ for announcing His approaching suffering and crucifixion (Mt. 16:22-23). He filled the mind of Judas with thoughts that led him to betray Christ (Lk. 22:3; Jn. 13:2). He was involved in the lying done by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3). Demons played a large role in the mental processes of the false teachers described in 2 Peter 2:1-2,10,13-14,18.
<![if !supportLists]> 5 <![endif]>They take over the personality of some people. Demons made two men in Gergesa so fierce that people avoided the region (Mt. 8:28). They caused such severe convulsions in a boy that he often hurt himself as he fell (Mt. 17:14-21). Their sinister purpose in taking control is indicated by the terms used to describe them: “unclean spirits” (Mt. 10:1) and “evil spirits” (Lk. 7:21).
<![if !supportLists]> 6 <![endif]> They influence national leaders. The devil, who is the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), used “a lying spirit” to lead King Ahab to his death (1 Ki. 22:20-23,37-38), assigned a spirit being to control the leader of Persia (Dan. 10:10-21), and will through demons lead armies of humans to fight against God and be slaughtered in the war of Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16).
<![if !supportLists]> 7 <![endif]>They play a role in human illnesses. Demons caused some to be mute (Mt. 9:32-33; 12:22), blind (Mt. 12:22), deformed (Lk. 13:11-17), convulsive (Mt. 17:15-19), and insane (Lk. 8:27-29). Satan brought on Job’s physical affliction (Job 2:6-8). Even if he doesn’t bring on the affliction, as in the case of Paul’s thorn, he may use the illness as his “messenger” of discouragement (2 Cor. 12:7).
<![if !supportLists]> 8 <![endif]>They try to pervert the doctrine of grace. Paul referred to rules that forbid marriage and the eating of certain foods as coming from “seducing spirits” and called these regulations “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-5). In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul expressed his concern that the devil through his craftiness may corrupt the minds of believers from the “simplicity that is in Christ.” This was a reference to the teachings of those who insisted on circumcision and dietary restrictions as essential to salvation. It is in this context that he said Satan “transforms himself into an angel of light” (v.14). The devil and his followers hate the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith plus nothing.
<![if !supportLists]> 9 <![endif]>They try to distort the biblical view of Jesus Christ. This fact lies behind the apostle John’s warning to “test the spirits, whether they are of God . . . . Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (1 Jn. 4:1-3).