Who, or what are they?
A man stands defiantly on the towers of a city castle. All around his city are the armies of a sadistic conqueror who has captured all the surrounding cities in the area and has tortured or executed their inhabitants. Now this ruler has issued a decree to the man and his city, surrender and be taken into slavery, or refuse and be starved out and then executed. During the pronouncement the ruler ridicules the man's God and claims that their God cannot save them from this ruler's wrath. The man in the city, a king, runs to the temple and alter and pours his heart out before God and begs God to intervene and save the city. In response, that very evening, God sends an angel down and this creature annihilates an entire army of 185,000 soldiers.
It sounds like a fairy tale, one of the Arabian knights tales of old. Obviously most historians and critics ridicule this account in the Bible and dismiss it as mythology. But from what you have read about the Bible so far, is it not worth investigating this account more closely?
Are there really angels, as told in such accounts in the Bible? If so, what are they, where did they come from, and do they exist only in heaven? For thousands of years people have believed in angels. The term “guardian angel” is a very popular romantic notion that every person has a personal angel to look over them. But just how much of what we believe about angels is actually in the Bible and, are these beings actually what we think of them as? Furthermore, do angels have such power as described in the episode mentioned above?
The word “Angel” comes from the Hebrew term “mal·ʼakh” and Greek equivalent “ag′ge·los” and basically means “messenger”. They are mentioned nearly 400 times in the Bible, which gives some idea of the important role they play in God's work. But that does not mean that they are messengers or servants of humans. They are also called “Sons of the true God,” “Morning stars,” and “Holy myriads” (or “holy ones”).
According to the Bible, Angels are spirit, not flesh and blood, and they exist in another dimension to physical flesh. They were created before humankind, in fact, long before. The Bible reveals that at the moment of the physical creation of the universe, angels were present and applauded in awe (Job 38.4-7). The Bible tells us that there are “Myriads upon myriads” of angels, which means literally ten thousand times ten thousand, so there must be hundreds of millions of these creatures in existence. There are listed four types, or ranks, of angel in the Bible. The most important is the “Archangel”. More about him further on in this article. Then there are “Seraphs”, who serve in the presence of God himself. “Cherubs” are usually connected to worship and the temple. Then there are the army of messengers, angels who relay God's will between Heaven and earth. They have also acted as executioners, carrying out God's acts of divine justice.
Angels have a far superior mental capacity to human beings. The Bible also describes them as “Mighty in power” (Psalm 103.20). They can travel vast distances at incredible speeds. One angel arrived to speak to Daniel “While he was yet praying.”
Angels are sexless, although when they appeared in human form it was in the form of men because of the patriarchal societies with which they dealt. Like humans, angels are free moral agents and they can be loyal or disloyal to God. When an angel defies God and becomes corrupt, it becomes a “Demon”. The first of these, and by far the most powerful and prominent is the one called “Satan.” In the book of Ezekiel, there are prophetic verses which describe this angel.
It reads “In E′den, the garden of God, you proved to be. Every precious stone was your covering, ruby, topaz and jasper; chrys′o·lite, onyx and jade; sapphire, turquoise and emerald; and of gold was the workmanship of your settings and your sockets in you. In the day of your being created they were made ready. You are the anointed cherub that is covering, and I have set you. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be. In the midst of fiery stones you walked about. You were faultless in your ways from the day of your being created” (Ezekiel 28.13).
This angel was beautiful, wise and glorious, and had a special assignment in God’s scheme of things. Like all other things God made this spirit was “Very good” or, perfect. But something happened to him as he observed God's creation and the worship God received from his subjects. This beautiful angel began to envy God. He slowly gave in to a desire to question God's right as sovereign of the universe. He began to yearn for worship and he even dreamed of being equal to God.
The prophecy in Ezekiel continues ”Your heart became haughty because of your beauty. You brought your wisdom to ruin on account of your beaming splendour.” Jesus later confirms this angel's selfish fall from grace when he says “He did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition” (John 8.44).
Since then, this selfish spirit has been called “Slanderer”, because he has accused God falsely, and “Resistor” because he resists God's power, authority and love. Unfortunately, according to the Bible, this resistor has been allowed freedom to test his claims on the earth. Among his claims is that human beings will only worship God if God blesses them and protects them, a claim totally disproven by, among others, Job, and Jesus himself. Still this malevolent character is intent on the domination of the human race and the rejection of God's sovereignty. So blinded is he by his own ambition and fury that, he does not see the futility of his actions, the misery his domination causes, and the eventual outcome of all these issues. The Bible tells us that he has “Great anger”, in fact, the Bible warns humans, “Woe for the earth because the Devil has come down to you” (Revelation 12.12). Jesus calls him a “Manslayer” or murderer (John 8.44). Satan killed all of Job’s family, servants and cattle. Luke 22.3 tells us that “Satan entered into Judas and he went of and spoke to the Chief Priests about how to betray him”, so Satan was directly responsible for Jesus’ arrest, torture and execution.
The Bible says that devil incites nations to violence in the name of patriotism and racism, the acquisition of power and glory, and even false, alternative gods. The Bible book of Revelation reveals that “The dragon” (Satan) is behind the powers of the nations today (Revelation 12.9; 13.4-6; 16.13). Furthermore, the Bible reveals that Satan is “Misleading the entire inhabited earth” and that he is “The god of this system” (2 Corinthians 4.4), in other words, he is the one directing events on earth today. Jesus called Satan “The ruler of this world” (John 14.30). Jesus also described Satan as “The Father of the lie.“ Satan, put the idea of rebellion inside people's heads (John 8.44). He deliberately lied to the first woman when he said, “You positively will not die” if she ate the fruit. (Genesis 3.4). She did die, so Satan murdered her with his lies. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God’s command and not eaten the fruit, they would not have died and neither would anyone else. But Satan desired the worship that belonged to God. Notice what he wanted from Jesus, “All these kingdoms I will give you if you will fall down and do an act of worship to me” (Matthew 4.8), do those sound like the words of a worshipper of God and a loyal subject?
For those who doubt the existence of this creature called “Devil” and “Satan”, consider these things;
Jesus, and all other Biblical characters, never doubted the Devil's existence and the effect he has on the world. Consider the state of the world; who's personality does it reflect? Those of a loving, compassionate God, or those of a selfish, angry, chaotic spirit? In fact, one of the greatest achievements of the devil is to convince the world, by propaganda, that he doesn't even exist. He has been relegated to myth and caricature, even by the churches themselves. The Bible explains this when it says that “He (Satan) is blinding the minds” of people (2 Corinthians 4.4).
As far as the claim that the devil is simply the evil inside of us goes, then that would mean that Jesus and God are also evil because they had direct conversations with the devil (Job 1.6,7; Matthew 4.1-4). Were they speaking to the evil part of themselves? This is impossible, for the Bible states that “When under trial let no-one say “I am being tried by God” for with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire” (James 1.13). Regarding Jesus, the Bible tells us that “He committed no sin, nor was any deception found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2.22).
Despite how some modern thinkers portray Satan, he is no liberating hero. He is a mass murderer and a liar and he cares nothing for the plight of humanity. The Bible tells us that, under the devil's command, demons have been wreaking havoc and manipulating events on earth for thousands of years. At times they clashed with angels. Some of these demons have titles and are directly responsible for certain kingdoms and places (Daniel 10.13,20).
Remember the man at the outset of this chapter?, his name was King Hezekiah, and the ruler who was besieging Jerusalem was Sennacherib. So what really happened? Hezekiah had rebelled against the Assyrian rule imposed on Israel. Assyrian King Sennacherib reacted by sweeping through Judah, reportedly conquering 46 cities (Isaiah 36:1,2). Sennacherib sent his spokesmen to demand unconditional surrender of Jerusalem. But Sennacherib was forced to withdraw and return to Nineveh. (2Ki 19:35,36) There he was later assassinated by two of his sons and replaced on the throne by another son, Esar-haddon. (2Ki 19:37; 2Ch 32:21,22; Isaiah 37:36-38).
These events, with the exception of the destruction of the Assyrian troops, are also recorded on a prism of Sennacherib and one of Esar-haddon. Historians can offer no explanation for Sennacherib's failure to capture Jerusalem or his sudden withdrawal from Israel. The fact that he faced rebellion in his own land and was later murdered by his own family shows that he must have somehow disgraced himself. All other historical references in the Bible have been verified. Is it possible that this pagan king had an encounter with a supernatural being, a creature powerful enough to destroy his army? The Jewish historian of the first century C.E., Josephus, claims to quote the Babylonian Berossus (considered to be of the third century B.C.E.) as recording the event thus: “When Senacheirimos returned to Jerusalem from his war with Egypt, he found there the force under Rapsakes in danger from a plague, for God had visited a pestilential sickness upon his army, and on the first night of the siege one hundred and eighty-five thousand men had perished with their commanders and officers.” (Jewish Antiquities, X). Some commentators attempt to explain the disaster by referring to an account written by Herodotus (II, 141) in the fifth century B.C.E. in which he claims that “One night a multitude of fieldmice swarmed over the Assyrian camp and devoured their quivers and their bows and the handles of their shields,” thus leaving them unable to carry out an invasion of Egypt. This account obviously does not coincide with the Biblical record, nor does Herodotus’ description of the Assyrian campaign harmonize with the Assyrian inscriptions. Nevertheless, the accounts by Berossus and Herodotus do reflect the fact that Sennacherib’s forces met up with sudden and calamitous difficulty in this campaign. It is of interest to note that the final plague on Egypt, the death of the firtsborn, was described as God “Visiting“ Egypt” and “passing over” the Israelite dwellings. This carries the thought of a presence representing God, an angelic presence.
But what of the most powerful of these spirit creatures, the Archangel?
The word “Archangel” is first used in the New Testament. The actual Greek word used is “Archangelos“ and it basically means “Chief“ or “Principle“ angel. This is reflected in the historical use of the term in conjunction with ecclesiastical positions within the catholic and protestant churches. Among the grandiose titles awarded to senior clergy is “Arch Bishop” meaning “chief bishop.”
The Archangel is a spirit creature of significant power and authority. He exercises authority over the other angels in God’s service. The Bible does not use the word “Archangel” in the plural, signifying that there is only the one “Chief angel”. This is confirmed in the Bible’s book of Jude in verse 9 where it reads “Michael the archangel had a difference with the devil”. Here the archangel is identified by name. Among the responsibilities of the archangel are upholding God’s sovereignty in the face of challenges, direct conflict with other spirit creatures who are in defiance of God, and directing events on earth at pivotal moments in history. This is borne out by the scriptures at Revelation 12.7- 12 where we are informed that “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon (the devil)” and Daniel chapter 10 verse 13 which tells us “Michael, one of the foremost princes came to help me.“
Since the closure of the canon of the Bible in the first century, other writers have claimed additional information about the archangel. The books of the Apocrypha, recognized by the Catholic church but, rejected by the majority of Biblical scholars today, make further claims about the identity and nature of the archangel, implying that there are several archangels and that this is a general rank among angels. Christendom and Islam have nominated other characters, Biblical and non-Biblical, as archangels, including Gabriel and Raphael. However, these claims would conflict with the information in the Bible because, as the Bible states at Galatians 1 verse 8 “However, even if we, or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.” Furthermore, the book of Revelation warns readers “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22.28).
The internal evidence of the Bible points to the fact that the Archangel is none other than the glorified Jesus Christ in heaven. This is indicated by the words of Philippians 2.9 where it states “God exalted him (Jesus) to a superior position and kindly gave him a name which is above every other name.” Furthermore the Apostle Paul informs us that “The Lord himself (Jesus) shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel” (1 Thessalonians 4.16). Michael is called the “Great Prince”, Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace”.
During the battles for the promised land, Joshua had an interesting encounter with a supernatural being. The account reads as follows;
“And it came about when Joshua happened to be by Jer′i·cho that he proceeded to raise his eyes and look, and there was a man standing in front of him with his drawn sword in his hand. So Joshua walked up to him and said to him: “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” To this he said: “No, but I, as prince of the army of The LORD I have now come.” With that Joshua fell on his face to the earth and prostrated himself and said to him: “What is my lord saying to his servant?” In turn the prince of the army of The LORD said to Joshua: “Draw your sandals from off your feet, because the place on which you are standing is holy.” At once Joshua did so” (Joshua 5.13-15). This was an encounter with the Archangel, the “Great Prince”, The “Prince of Peace.”
Revelation reveals that “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled” and that as a result, “Down the great dragon (Satan) was hurled.”
Later in the book of Revelation we learn of the imprisonment of the Devil. It says “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven with the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he hurled him into the abyss and shut [it] and sealed [it] over him, that he might not mislead the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.”
Who has the power and authority to stand against the king of the Demons, Satan? Directly after these events we read “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” The book of Daniel reveals “And against the Prince of princes he (The Devil) will stand up, but it will be without hand that he will be broken.” (Daniel 8.25). Only the Lord Jesus Christ, the one described in the prophecy of Daniel as approaching God's throne to receive power and authority could accomplish such a feat (Matthew 28.18).
Angels are an integral part of the Biblical narrative. They are the real ”Extra terrestrials” that scientists scan the skies for, and they have an urgent message for mankind “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgement by him has arrived” (Revelation 14.6).