Angelogy, the Study of Angels
"Bless the LORD, you His angels, mighty in strength, who perform His word, obeying the voice of HIs word!" Psalm 103:20
What Do Angels Do?
by James T. Bartsch, WordExplain
A. Tasks of Angels in Relation to God.
1. Angels worship God.
a. It is the task of angels, who are mighty in strength, to bless Yahweh and obey His commands (Psalm 103:20).
b. It is the task of all God’s angels and angelic armies to praise Him (Psalm 148:2).
c. All the angels stood around the throne in heaven and worshiped God (Rev. 7:11).
2. It is the task, from time to time, of an angel of Yahweh to remind Him to keep His promises of compassion upon Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, God’s chosen people (Zech. 1:12-13).
3. It is the task of angels to appear before God and give an accounting of their activities (Job 1:6-7; 2:1-2). Even Satan, the most powerful fallen angel, is nonetheless required to appear in heaven from time to time to give an accounting of his whereabouts and his activities!
4. It is the task of angels to appreciate and marvel at the many-faceted wisdom of God through Christ and the Church (Eph. 3:8-10).
5. The angels are commanded to worship God and His Son (Heb. 1:6).
6. It is the task of angels to serve God, sometimes even as wind and fire (Heb. 1:7).
7. It is the task of God’s angels, on multitudinous occasions, to deliver His messages to human beings. Here is a small sample of angels delivering messages to humans (Gen. 19:15; 1 Kings 19:5, 7; Zech. 1:9; Matt. 1:18-21; Luke 1:11-19, 26-38; Acts 8:26-27; 10:1-8).
B. Tasks of Angels in Relation to Jesus Christ.
1. In Relation to the Birth of Jesus.
a. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, announcing to him that his barren, aged wife Elizabeth would give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist (Luke 1:11-17). Because Zacharias did not believe, he would be stricken with muteness until the prophesied birth would take place (Luke 1:18-20; 57-66).
b. The angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary, announcing that she would be the mother of the Messiah, who would sit eternally on David’s throne, reigning eternally over Israel. Her child would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be called Son of the Most High (Luke 1:26-38).
c. An angel reassured Joseph that he was to take Mary as his wife, for her child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).
d. An angel announced to petrified shepherds that a Savior, Messiah the Master, had been born in Bethlehem. This angel was joined by a multitude of the (angelic) army of heaven announcing glory to God and peace to men (Luke 2:8-14)!
2. In Relation to the Early Life of Jesus.
a. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him to take the child Jesus and His mother and flee to Egypt to escape King Herod (Matt. 2:13-15).
b. After Herod had died, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, informing him that he and his family could safely return to the land of Israel (Matt. 2:19-23).
3. In Relation to the Ministry of Jesus. After Jesus, having fasted forty days and nights, was tempted by the devil, angels came to Him to strengthen Him (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:13).
4. In Relation to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
a. When Jesus agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel appeared to him from heaven and strengthened him (Luke 22:41-44).
b. Jesus said at His arrest that twelve legions of angels could be immediately placed at His disposal by His Father (Matt. 26:47-53).
c. A single angel rolled away the stone at Jesus’ empty tomb and sat on it (Matt. 28:2). The guards witnessed this, but the women who came apparently did not. The angel the guards witnessed looked like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. After shocking the guards, this angel moved into the tomb.
d. When the women (minus Mary Magdalene, who immediately ran to tell Peter and John – John 20:2) first entered the tomb, they saw a single young man in white sitting on the right (Mark 16:5). When they first observed him, they could tell he was wearing a white robe, otherwise unremarkable.
e. As the perplexed women stood there, two men suddenly stood near them, invading their space. But this time instead of merely having white robes, their clothing was dazzling (Luke 24:4). The combined effect was that the women were terrified (Luke 24:5).
f. Those women departed, and Peter and John ran to the tomb in response to Mary Magdalene’s distraught report (John 20:3-10). The men examined the evidence and departed, but saw no angels, who had disappeared. By the time the sorrowing Mary Magdalene returned and peered inside the tomb, she saw two angels in white, sitting one at the head and the other at the foot of the shelf on which Jesus’ body had been lying. She is not startled because their garments were merely white, but not dazzling in appearance. Apparently these angels appeared and disappeared at will, according to their Divine instructions.
g. Cleopas and a fellow disciple reported that the women had seen a vision of angels at the empty tomb (Luke 24:18, 22-23).
5. In Relation to the Return of Jesus to Earth’s Atmosphere to Retrieve His Bride, the Church (the Rapture). “Because the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a summons, with the voice of an archangel, and with a trumpet of God, and the dead ones in Christ shall arise first. Then we the living ones, the ones being left behind, at the same time will be seized up with them in clouds to a meeting with the Lord in the air. And so always with the Lord we will be!” (author’s literal translation of 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
6. In Relation to the Second Coming of Jesus to Earth in Power (Christ’s Second Coming). Angels will assist Jesus, when He returns in power to rule the earth, in gathering His chosen ones and in separating out unbelievers for eternal judgment.
a. Jesus will return to earth with all his holy ones (1 Thess. 3:13). The term saints (set-apart ones or holy ones) may include humans, but it probably primarily designates angels, who will return with Him (Ryrie Study Bible note).
b. Jesus will come to earth with the glory of Himself, His Father, and the holy angels (Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).
c. When Jesus returns to the earth in power and great glory, He will send forth His angels with a trumpet blast to gather His chosen ones from one end of the globe to the other (Matt. 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27).
d. At the end of the age Jesus “will send forth His angels” to “gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:40-42).
e. “...The angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:49-50).
f. The Lord Jesus will be unveiled “from heaven with His powerful angels in blazing fire, taking revenge on the ones not knowing God and the ones not obeying the good news of the Lord of us – Jesus” (author’s literal translation of 2 Thess. 1:7b–8).
g. When Jesus, “the son of the man,” “will come in His glory and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon a throne of His glory” (author’s literal translation of Matt. 25:31).
7. In relation to the worship of Jesus.
a. God commands all angels to worship Jesus, God’s firstborn (Heb. 1:6, an adaptation of Psalm 97:7). (God has many sons through the new birth (John 1:12-13; 3:1-8). The term firstborn refers to the fact that Jesus is God’s unique, most privileged, and most important son. Jesus is God’s son not by any physical or even spiritual birth, for He is the eternal Logos (Word), with God in the beginning (John 1:1-3). The terms son and father with reference to Jesus in relation to God is God’s way and Jesus’ way of defining and illustrating the relationship the two of them have. Sonship connotes identity of essence, distinctness of persons, and the willing compliance of Jesus to God’s authority.)
b. John saw millions upon millions of angels worship the Lamb (Rev. 5:11-12).
C. Tasks of Angels in Relation to Men.
1. Cherubim were stationed at the east end of the Garden of Eden, along with a flaming sword in order to prevent fallen man from partaking of the tree of life and existing forever in a decaying body (Gen. 3:22-24).
2. There is a category of angel called the “angel of Yahweh” (angel of the LORD). This angel takes to himself the prerogatives of God, calls Himself Yahweh, and acts as Yahweh. We say that this was a theophany, an appearance of God, or more precisely, a christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah. Here are tasks of the Angel of Yahweh in the Old Testament. In this first category of passages referring to the Angel of Yahweh, the angel is explicitly stated as being Yahweh (or Elohim as the case may be). For a more exhaustive discussion of the Angel of Yahweh, click here.
a. The Angel of Yahweh gave instructions and predictions to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14).
b. The Angel of God (Elohim) comforted Hagar and rescued Ishmael in the wilderness of Beersheba (Gen. 21:15-19).
c. The Angel of Yahweh prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, provided an alternative sacrifice, and renewed His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 22:11-18).
d. The Angel of Elohim appeared to Jacob in a dream, identified Himself as the Elohim of Bethel, and ordered him to return to the land of his birth (Gen. 31:11-13).
e. The Angel of Yahweh appeared to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Horeb, instructing him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:1-10).
f. The Angel of Yahweh commissioned Gideon to deliver Israel from enslavement to Midian (Judges 6:11-27).
g. The angel of the LORD appeared to the barren wife of Manoah, predicting to her that she would bear a son (Judges 13:1-25).
h. The Angel of Yahweh rebuked Satan, removed Joshua’s sin, and promised Joshua a governing role (Zechariah 3:1-7).
3. In a second category of passages dealing with the Angel of Yahweh, He is not explicitly stated to be Yahweh. Nothing is inconsistent with the Angel being the second person of the Trinity, but the evidence is inconclusive.
a. The Angel of Yahweh opposed Balaam, and almost killed him. When He succeeded in gaining Balaam’s attention, He warned Balaam to speak only the words He authorized (Num. 22:21-35).
b. The Angel of Yahweh punished the sons of Israel for disobeying Him (Judges 2:1-5).
c. The Angel of Yahweh uttered a curse upon the inhabitants of Meroz because they did not come to the aid of Yahweh in battle against the Canaanites (Judges 5:23).
d. The Angel of Yahweh put to death 70,000 males from Dan to Beersheba by means of a pestilence because the anger of Yahweh burned against Israel (2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chron. 21:16; cf. 2 Sam. 24; 1 Chron. 21).
e. The Angel of Yahweh is seen in Zech. 1 as a man who provided information for Zechariah about those who patrol the earth on behalf of Yahweh. He also queried Yahweh about compassion upon Judah and Jerusalem. Through an angel Yahweh revealed to Zechariah that He was about to resume His compassion and blessing upon Judah, Jerusalem, and Zion.
4. Angels protect and rescue God’s people.
a. Two angels also called men rescued Lot and his family from the fiery judgment upon the city of Sodom (Gen. 19).
b. God sent His angel before Moses and the people of Israel to guard them along the way and to bring them into the place which God had prepared for them, the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Ex. 23:20, 23; 32:34; 33:2).
c. A man standing with drawn sword identified himself to Joshua as captain of the army of Yahweh. This angel led the unseen angelic armies of Yahweh, enabling the Israeli army to defeat foe after foe in the land of promise (Josh. 5:13-15).
d. An angel provided a bread cake and a jar of water, and again a second meal for Elijah to eat as he ran for his life from Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-8).
e. Angels protected Elisha and his servant from the Arameans who were encamped around Dothan to seize him (2 Kings 6:17-18). In this fascinating account, God opened the servant’s eyes to see the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire encircling Elisha. No angels are mentioned in the text. My belief is that these either these angels appeared as unmanned horses and chariots, or else that the reader is to understand that angels were in the chariots driving the horses. In either event, it is fascinating to note that (1) these angels existed in another dimension without people on earth being able to observe them apart from Divine assistance and (2) these angels existed in and were impervious to fire! This account very much reminds one of the statement in Heb. 1:7, “And of the angels He says, ‘Who makes his angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.’”
f. It is the task of the angel of Yahweh to encamp around those who fear Him and to rescue them (Psalm 34:7).
g. God’s angels protect His people (Psalm 91:11).
h. An angel of the Lord released the apostles from prison and exhorted them to keep speaking “the whole message of this life” in the temple (Acts 5:19-20).
i. An angel rescued Peter from King Herod and the soldiers guarding him in prison (Acts 12:1-11). Though Peter saw the angel, the guards did not see either the angel or Peter escaping.
j. The Apostle John saw and heard an angel call to four angels who had power to harm the earth, the trees, and sea, telling them not to do so until he and other unstated angels had sealed the 144,000 Jewish slaves of God on their foreheads (Rev. 7:1-3 cf. 7:4-8).
5. Angels influenced Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in a dream (Dan. 4:13, 17, 23).
6. Angels in heaven continually act on behalf of children (Matt. 18:10).
7. It is not the task of angels in heaven either to marry or to be given in marriage or to die (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:34-36).
8. Angels observe whether or not wives are submissive to the authority of their husbands (1 Cor. 11:10).
9. Angels are ministering spirits, sent forth “to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:13-14).
10. The angel Michael preserved the body of Moses from Satan (Jude 1:9).
11. Angels ask questions. A strong angel asked who was worthy to open a seven-sealed book of judgment (Rev. 5:2).
12. Angels assist in the prayers of God’s people. An angel stood at the altar in heaven with a golden censer. He was given much incense to add to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before God’s throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel’s hand. This angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it down to the earth, causing thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. There followed judgment upon the earth (Rev. 8:2-5).
13. Angels make pronouncements and deliver messages.
a. A strong angel came down out of heaven clothed with a cloud. There was a rainbow on his head. His face was like the sun and his feet were like pillars of fire. He held open a small book in his hand, and he planted his right foot on the sea and his left upon the land, and he cried aloud, like a lion roaring. He announced by the authority of the God who had created the heavens, the earth and the sea, and everything in them, that there would no longer be a delay, but that the mystery of God would be finished when the seventh angel had blown his trumpet (Rev. 10:1-7). John was told to eat the little book. It evidently symbolized further prophecies he was to make concerning peoples, nations, tongues, and kings (Rev. 10:8-11).
b. John saw an angel flew in midheaven having an eternal gospel to proclaim to earth-dwellers, and to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. He commanded people on earth to fear God and give Him glory, for it was time for judgment. He commanded them to worship God who had made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and springs of waters (Rev. 14:6-7). This will one day happen during the time of great Tribulation upon earth.
14. Angels give instructions and issue commands.
a. Angels give instructions. John the Apostle saw someone like a son of man sitting on a white cloud having a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Another angel came out of the temple in heaven and cried loudly to the one sitting on the cloud to swing his sickle over the earth and reap it. The one sitting on the cloud did so, and the earth was harvested (Rev. 14:14-16).
b. John saw an angel standing in the sun, loudly instructing all birds which fly in midheaven to gorge themselves on the dead flesh of all the horses and men who had joined forces to fight against the returning Jesus and His army (Rev. 21:17-19).
15. Angels provide information and explanation.
b. One of the angels who had poured out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth offered to show John the judgment of the Great Prostitute who sits upon the waters, with whom the kings of the earth prostituted themselves and those dwelling on the earth became intoxicated with the wine of her prostitution (Rev. 17:1-2). The angel showed John the Prostitute, named “Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth,” riding astride a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17:3-6). The angel then proceeded to explain to John the significance of the prostitute and the beast (Rev. 17:7-18).
c. One of the angels who had poured out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth offered to show John “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He then proceeded to show John the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven in all its splendor and glory (Rev. 21:9-11).
d. Angels measure things. They have units of measurement consistent with human measurements (Rev. 21:17).
e. God sent an angel to show the Apostle John and God’s other slaves things that would happen in the future (Rev. 22:6).
f. Jesus sent His angel to John to give him messages for the churches (Rev. 22:16).
16. Mere angels resist worship from humans (Rev. 22:8-9).
17. The Church will one day judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3)!
18. Angels will have tasks throughout eternity. Twelve angels stand at the twelve gates of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12).
D. Tasks of Angels in Relation to Fallen Angels and Satan.
1. The angel Michael preserved the body of Moses from Satan (Jude 1:9).
2. God’s angels battle the angels of Satan in the heavens as they (God’s angels) seek to do God’s will and protect God’s people. An unnamed angel came to answer Daniel’s prayer, but it took him three weeks to arrive because he was battling “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” (Dan. 10:12-13). The angel said he had been battling “the kings of Persia,” and would have been detained longer, had not Michael, one of God’s “chief princes,” come to assist him. After this angel had finished speaking with Daniel, he said he would return to fight against the prince of Persia and also against the prince of Greece (Dan. 10:20). This good angel’s only assistance would come from Michael, the prince of the people of Israel (Dan. 10:21). This fascinating passage teaches us that there are demons who attach themselves to certain nations of the world in order to promote the will of Satan. They are opposed by God’s angels. It is God and His forces who will inevitably triumph over Satan and his forces.
3. There will come a time when Satan and his angels will invade heaven to overthrow God and His eternal rule. Michael and his angels will battle them and, because their power is greater, they will conquer the Satanic forces. Satan and his forces will evidently be banned permanently from heaven and relegated to the earth. He will redouble his efforts upon earth knowing that his days are numbered (Rev. 12:7-12).
4. An angel will one day come with the key to the abyss and a great chain, and he will bind Satan for a thousand years. He will cast him into the abyss and shut it and seal it over him so that he will be unable to deceive the nations of the earth during Christ’s Millennial Reign (Rev. 20:1-3).
E. Tasks of Angels in Regard to Judgment of People on Earth.
1. Two angels were instrumental in judging the perverted cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-29).
2. The angel of Yahweh killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who were preparing to attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chron. 32:21; Isa. 37:36).
3. An angel with a drawn sword was destroying Israelis with a plague because of David’s prideful census of the people of Israel. Yahweh prevented the angel from destroying Jerusalem (2 Sam. 24:1-17; 1 Chron. 21:1-17).
4. Angels will be instrumental in unleashing terrible plagues of judgment upon the earth during the Tribulation period.
a. In the revelation to the Apostle John of what will happen in the future, he saw seven angels with seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2, 6).
1) When the first angel trumpeted, a third of all vegetation was burned (Rev. 8:7).
2) When the second angel trumpeted, a third of the sea became blood, a third of marine life died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (Rev. 8:8-9).
3) When the third angel trumpeted, a third of rivers and springs were poisoned and many men died (Rev. 8:10-11).
4) When the fourth angel trumpeted, a third of the sun, the moon, and the stars were darkened by day and night (Rev. 8:12).
5) When the fifth angel trumpeted, the pit of the abyss was unlocked, and demonic scorpions and locusts were unleashed upon the earth for five months, inflicting excruciating pain upon mankind (Rev. 9:1-12).
6) When the sixth angel trumpeted, four (presumably fallen) angels, who were bound at the Euphrates River, were freed to kill a third of men upon earth. Two hundred million horsemen proceeded to destroy a third of mankind by means of fire, smoke, and sulphur that was emitted from the mouths and tails of their horses (Rev. 9:13-21).
7) When the seventh angel trumpeted, there was praise in heaven for God’s judgment of rebellious mankind (Rev. 11:15-19).
b. In the revelation to the Apostle John of what will happen in the future, he saw seven angels pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth (Rev. 15:6 - 16:1).
1) When the first angel poured out his bowl on the earth, it became a malignant sore upon all men possessing the mark of the beast (the evil world ruler) and worshiping him (Rev. 16:2).
2) When the second angel poured out his bowl upon the sea, it became like blood, and all marine life died (Rev. 16:3).
3) When the third angel poured out his bowl upon the rivers and springs, fresh water became blood. God gave blood-shedding humans blood to drink (Rev. 16:4-7)!
4) When the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, men were scorched with heat, and they blasphemed God unrepentantly (Rev. 16:8-9).
5) When the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast (the evil world ruler), his kingdom was plunged into darkness, and his subjects unrepentantly blasphemed God because of their pain (Rev. 16:10-11).
6) When the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the Euphrates River, it dried up, preparing the way for the kings of the east. The armies of the entire world were drawn to Armageddon (Rev. 16:12-16).
7) When the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, there was an electrical storm and a record-setting earthquake. Hailstones weighing one talent (about 100 pounds) decimated islands, mountains, cities, and Babylon. Men blasphemed God (Rev. 16:17-21).
c. Another angel emerged from the temple in heaven carrying a sharp sickle. Yet another angel who had power over fire came out from the altar in heaven and loudly urged the angel with the sickle to reap the harvest of grapes from the earth. The angel with the sickle did so and threw clusters of grapes into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The wine press was tramped on outside the city, and blood flowed as high as a horse’s bridle to a distance of 1600 stadia (200 miles) (Rev. 14:17-20).
b. A third angel followed the first two, warning that anyone who worshiped the beast or his image and received a mark on his forehead or his hand would be forced to drink of the wine of the wrath of God. He would be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. Those who worship the beast and his image and receive the mark of his name would be tormented forever without any rest (Rev. 14:9-11).
c. John saw another angel coming down from heaven with great authority and glory. He cried out with a powerful voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great, and she has become the home of demons and a prison for every impure spirit and a prison for every impure and hated bird” (Rev. 18:1-2, author’s translation). The angel proceeded to give the reason for Babylon’s demise: “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (Rev. 18:3).
d. A mighty angel picked up a huge stone and threw it into the sea. He announced that Babylon would thus be violently destroyed because of her deceptive sorcery of all the nations of and her murder of prophets and saints and “all who have been slain on the earth” (Rev. 18:21-24).
6. Holy angels will view the torment in fire and sulphur of all humans who worship the beast or his image and receive his mark on their forehead or hand (Rev. 14:9-10).
Prepared by James T. Bartsch
Published Online by WordExplain.com
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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.)
Completed November 8, 2010
Updated May 19, 2015
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