“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’” -Luke 2:13-14
Can you picture the fictionalized “angels” of Director Aronofsky’s movie Noah appearing to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem on the first Christmas night, or to Zechariah in the Temple, or to Mary in Nazareth? Are Gabriel or Michael even imagined by any Bible-believers as such sci-fi monstrosities created for this movie? There have been many other artists through the centuries drawing or picturing supposed “angels,” mostly for commercial purposes. They have a definite human visage with a fairly common addition of wings to distinguish them from humans. These cuddly, cherubic-cheeked, Hallmark-card depictions are certainly not the angels you find in God’s Word though, and neither are the fancifully dressed, adult humans with seraphic wings which we encounter in art.
A careful review of Scripture concerning angels reveals that they appear in the image of human men, with the exception of the seraphim of Isaiah 6, human in face with six wings attached, though still referred to as “he” rather than “it.” Why He designed and created a whole “race” of spiritual beings distinct from human beings remains in the mind and purposes of God, but He did.
These angels were clearly given free will, for some fell from their dwelling place of heaven with their leading fallen angel, Satan, while others remained faithful to the God who gave them being. While their total number is unknown, these faithful angels have been referred to in the Bible as a “great host.”
The Bible records angel interaction with human beings, but many of us also speak of the assistance of “guardian angels.” This is certainly in line with Psalm 91:11 which says, “For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways,” and Matthew 18:10 which says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones [apparently, true followers of Jesus]. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven.” Guardian angels, indeed! Sometimes they are visible, and sometimes they are not.
God uses His angels as messengers, among other things, not because He has to to communicate with His creation, but because He chooses to. They came to announce Jesus’ birth to shepherds who hurried to His first cradle to worship Him. Later they sat in His empty tomb to declare “He is not here. He is risen!” The obedient angels always faithfully and joyfully obey His will, while fallen angels still remain under His ultimate power, for they are still creatures, though destined for destruction.
Angels operate in another dimension, a spiritual reality. They remain invisible to human eye, except in rare occurrences when they appear to such as Mary, or Jesus’ first visitors, or in a dream as to Joseph or the Magi. In the Bible what is titled as the “Angel of the Lord” has been shown in its context to be either God or more likely the second person of the Triune God, the Lord, the Son of God, in visible form. This is called a “theophany,” the pre-existent Christ. But we can be absolutely certain of this: Angels exist, and they serve a necessary purpose, for they do God’s bidding. Those which assist Satan are known as “evil spirits,” the enemies of God’s people.
When God created the world, He called it “good,” but after creating the marvel of His creation, both man and woman, He then called what He had made “very good.” When did God create this “race” of angels? Most likely close to the creation of man, but we do not really know. Psalm 8 says that man was made a little lower than the “heavenly beings” who are angels.
They are a part of the spiritual dimension of reality, invisible to us, but with the ability under God’s command to enter the visible world of ours temporarily. In doing this, why would they not appear in the created image of God as a man? Though, these humans to whom they appeared immediately became aware that this “man” was an angel. Possibly his visage was striking, but something made them aware, though their appearance is not described in detail, which would really be the case if they appeared in the form of something other than a man.
Their appearance other places is eluded to by the writer of Hebrews when he speaks about “entertaining angels unaware,” even as Abraham entertained the three visitors, not knowing at first who they were other than traveling guests. You would certainly not be “unaware,” as Hebrews says, if they did not appear as any other man.
They have vibrant and also inquisitive minds, for as Peter writes, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” Apparently, angels did not fully comprehend the Gospel, but they longed for such comprehension, for it thoroughly involved their Master.
Indeed it has well been written: These are created beings from the Realms of Glory, heavenly beings who do God’s will, involving themselves in aiding you at God’s behest. We often pray that God would surround the Paul Anderson Youth Home with His angels, just as He surrounded Elisha with an army of angels on fiery chariots in protecting him from an army doing the murderous will of an evil king (2 Kings 6). We have a cunning and terrible enemy seeking to destroy us with his evil spirits arrayed against us. The angels of our mighty God can and do surround us to protect us from the machinations of those seeking our destruction. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood!”
These angels of God made a magnificent choir in the night sky to an audience of poor shepherds who marveled at the announcement of the birth of a King. They also bid you come and adore Him!
“Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth; ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King.”
(First verse of James Montgomery’s Christmas carol, “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” 1816)
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