"If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." (heb 2:2)
Angels are prominent in both the Old and New Testaments. They are the messengers of God, as the name implies (Hebrew: malak; Greek: angellos - both words also being translated "messenger", and applied to ordinary men). We must bear in mind that the basic purpose of God is "God manifestation": the manifestation of God in a glorified multitude of perfected, purified and immortal beings. Man was made in the beginning in the physical image, or form, of God; and it is God's purpose to perfect that image or likeness in every respect - mental, moral, spiritual, corporeal, in character and in substance - in the host of the Redeemed, so that each will be a perfect manifestation of God, and will bear God's Name. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." (rev 3:12)
The angels are perfect, holy, immortal beings. They are the medium of God's manifestation throughout the Old Testament (and also in the New Testament, although there the supreme manifestation of God among men is Jesus Christ). The angels often speak as God, and bear the Name of God. John said, "No man hath seen God at any time" (joh 1:18).
Yet Jacob says, "I have seen God (Heb: Elohim) face to face" (gen 32:30).
The explanation of this apparent contradiction introduces the subject of the angels, those glorious beings through whom God has from the beginning manifested Himself and given His messages and commands to man. There are other places where God is said to have been seen. The explanation lies partly in the subject of God manifestation, and partly in being aware of the loose and inaccurate translations of the names of God in the AV.
God expresses His name in the Old Testament through the use of three basic Hebrew terms:
1) El, Eloah and Elohim;
2) Shaddai; and
4) There is also the title Adon or Adonai which appears in the KJV as "Lord."
It is important that we understand the meaning of these terms and how they are used in scripture:
1) El (or Ail), Eloah and Elohim mean power or Powerful One(s). El and Eloah are singular, Elohim is plural in form. They are always used with singular adjectives and verbs, except where speaking of false "elohim" or gods or the rulers of Israel. These words are used occasionally of false "gods", but overwhelmingly of the One True God and His manifestations. "El" is a few times translated "power" (Neh 5:5). Elohim is by far the most common of the 3, appearing about 2500 times; El about 200; Eloah about 50. In the O.T., where the word "God" (not "GOD") occurs in the AV, the original Hebrew term is almost invariably a form of El, Eloah, or Elohim. "Elohim" is used in application both of angels, and of mortal men who represent God and stand in relation to Him. Hebrews quotes a statement from Psalms in which this Hebrew term "Elohim" occurs: "Worship him, all ye gods (elohim)." (psa 97:7) Hebrews states "Let all the angels of God worship him." (heb 1:6)
Elohim in this passage represented angels. Here is an excellent example of scripture interpreting itself, and providing us with God-inspired illustrations of some of the ways by which this term may be correctly applied.
Elohim is also used in scripture in application to mankind: "God judgeth among the gods (Heb: Elohim)... I have said, Ye are gods." (psa 82:1), (psa 82:6)
In the gospel of John, Jesus quotes this passage, and calls the Jews' attention to the fact that the term "gods" (elohim) applies to the people of Israel (those "to whom the Word of God came"): "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken." (joh 10:34-35).
Jesus used this passage in justification of his own claim to be the Son of God, and in disproof of their charges of blasphemy: "Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (joh 10:34-35)
2) Shaddai occurs about 50 times (mostly in Job, but also in 8 other books) and is always translated "Almighty". It is applied only to God. It carries the idea "with power", also of overawing, totally controlling, productive of reverence and fear.
3) YHWH is the personal Name of God, meaning "He Who Will Be". It is the "Memorial Name". It is the Name of Purpose. That means the Purpose of manifestation in a glorious multitude. It occurs about 7000 times. It is translated "LORD" (all capitals) except in translating the expression Adonai YHWH, which is rendered "Lord GOD". The "GOD" in capitals stands for for the Hebrew word YHWH. Thus "LORD" or "GOD" in capitals indicates YHWH in the original.
YHWH Elohim is a very frequent combination rendered "LORD God". It means "He Who Will Be Mighty Ones."
Exodus 3 records that the "angel of YHWH" appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and said, "I am the God (Elohim) of Abraham", etc., and throughout the conversation we frequently find "YHWH said" and "Elohim said" - the angel speaking just as if he were God Himself. This is God manifestation, which finds its supreme fulfillment in Christ, who said the words he spoke were God's words, and the works were God's works, and that God was "in him" (joh 14:10). And so we read "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." (2co 5:19) "God was manifest in the flesh." (1ti 3:16) Jesus said: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (joh 14:9) So we see how men can "see" God, and yet "No man hath seen God at any time."
Not always do angels appear in brightness and glory. Sometimes they appear outwardly as mere human beings. Thus men have sometimes "seen" God without realizing it at the time.
For example, three angels came to Abraham, which you can read in Genesis 18, and he at first mistook them for ordinary men. They are called "men" and "angels" interchangeably in the narrative. Two of them went on to Sodom. The 3rd stayed with Abraham for a while, and throughout their conversation he is uniformly called "YHWH" and at the end it says "YHWH went his way." Here again is an angel representing and manifesting God, and speaking directly as God in God's Name.
An "angel of Elohim" spoke to Jacob, and said, "I am the God (Elohim) of Bethel." (gen 31:13)
A "man" wrestled with Jacob (gen 32:24), called elsewhere an "angel" (hos 12:4). Of him, Jacob said "I have seen God (Hebrew: Elohim) face to face." (gen 32:30)
The angel who appeared to Gideon is spoken of as "YHWH" (jdg 6:14) (jdg 6:16) (jdg 6:23)
An angel appeared to Manoah, father of Samson, and he too, like Abraham and Lot, at first mistook him for a man. Later, when he realized it was an angel, he said, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God (Hebrew: Elohim)." (jdg 13:21)
He knew it was not God Himself, for we are told in the previous verse, "Manoah knew he was an angel of the LORD (Hebrew: YHWH)."
But he knew that God was manifested in the angel, so he said he had seen God. The Law of Moses is described as "the word spoken by angels" (heb 2:2) though in the record Moses gives, it appears that God is giving it directly. Paul is making a comparison between the means of manifestation used: the angelic to Israel, and the higher and more intimate manifestation through Christ in New Testament times.
The angels are not only messengers, but they are the guiders and protectors of God's people; they control the courses of nations, and generally direct and supervise the events of the world, in the development of God's purpose.
"The angel of the Lord encampeth around them that fear Him." (psa 34:7)
"He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: they shall bear thee up." (psa 91:11-12)
"They are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation." (heb 1:14)
Abraham naturally and clearly recognized and depended upon angelic care and supervision of his affairs, and the record proves him to be correct - "The Lord (YHWH) shall send His angel before thee" (gen 24:7).
Likewise Jacob, at his life's end: "The angel which redeemed me from all evil." (gen 48:16)
Angels cared for Elijah; destroyed the army of Assyria; ministered unto Christ; released Peter from prison; smote Herod with a fatal disease; appeared at times to Paul; invisibly led the armies of Israel (1ki 19:5), 2 Kings 19, Luke 22), and Joshua 5. Angels excel in strength. They are holy, pure, perfectly doing the will of God, in perfect, eternal harmony with the mind of God. The theory of traditional Christianity, in connection with the "personal devil" theory, that the holy angels of God could sin and fall from grace and become evil demons is a travesty inherited from the dark mythologies of paganism. It fits the pagan gods of Greece and Rome perfectly, from which it is derived, but not the immortal angels of God.
Immortality and sin are utterly incompatible. The orthodox theory gives us no assurance of eternal safety and joy. If holy, immortal angels can sin and fall, there is no assurance of God's eternal promise which states, "But 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." (luk 20:35)
What a debased conception of God's dwelling place, that it could be at any time the scene of rebellion and civil war! No, the angels are totally, eternally, immutably in perfect harmony with God. They are presented in scripture as being deeply interested spectators of God's works. They shouted and sang with joy at the creation (job 38:7), and they "desire to look into" the glories that God has in store for the future of mankind (1pe 1:12). Angels rejoice over every repentant sinner (luk 15:10).
The angelic population is spoken of as "ten thousand times ten thousand" (dan 7:10), which would be 100 million, and the actual number could hardly with appropriateness be less than the typical figure used for them. There is distinction of rank, for we read of the "archangel" We are given the names of 2 angels: Michael (dan 10:13), (dan 10:21) and Judges 9. And Gabriel (dan 8:16) (luk 1:19-21). It was Gabriel who appeared to Daniel, Zacharias and Mary.
The traditional orthodox picture of angels as baby cherubs with wings is another dark relic of benighted paganism, utterly devoid of scriptural support. As we have seen, the angels uniformly appear as strong, mature, intelligent creatures, in form exactly like men, as naturally they would be, for all in God's family are created in His likeness. The promise is that the Redeemed will be equal to them (luk 20:36).
The traditional representation of angels with wings is due to confusing angels with the cherubim and seraphim. These are purely symbolic figures, representative of the glorious host of the Redeemed - those taken from among men who in the Age to Come will manifest and glorify God in the perfection of immortal splendor. This identity is clear when the whole representation of them throughout Scripture is studied, and from the fact that the Four Living Creatures (elsewhere called Cherubim) sing to the Lamb (Christ) - "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred." (rev 5:9)
1. In what way did God speak to people in Old Testament times?
2. Did God speak directly to men?
3. How can we understand John saying "No man hath seen God", yet others said they had "seen God face to face"?
4. What are the 3 Hebrew names given for God, and what do they mean?
5. What is the meaning of "YHWH Elohim" and what does it signify?
6. What is "angel" in Hebrew and Greek, and what is the meaning?
7. Give an example of the term "elohim" being applied to men.
8. What description does the Bible provide of angels?
9. Is there any scriptural justification for showing them as babies, and with wings?
10. Is it possible to mistake angels for men? Give 3 instances.
11. Have angels always appeared as glorious and bright in appearance?
12. What similarity will the righteous in the Age to Come have to the angels?
13. Is it possible for God's immortal angels of heaven to sin?
14. What would this mean as to the security and assurance of the permanence of our salvation?
15. From where do the orthodox churches get these debased ideas?
16. Which 2 angels are named?
17. What was the name of the angel that appeared to Daniel and Mary?
18. On what principle can angels speak just as if they were God Himself?
19. Who was the supreme manifestation of God, through whom God spoke?