The word angel means messenger. The term primarily refers to heavenly beings, although the term can mean a human messenger such as a prophet (Haggai 1:13) or a priest (Malachi 2:7). Other terms in the Bible refer to these angelic beings as “sons of God” (Genesis 6:2-4; Job 1:6), “heavenly beings” (Psalm 29:1), “Holy ones” (Psalm 89:5), “Heavenly hosts” (Luke 2:13), and “hosts” as in the phrase “Lord of hosts” (1 Samuel 1:11). The seraphim in Isaiah 6 belong to the order of angels.
Angels are spiritual and majestic in nature. They existed before the creation of Adam and Eve and their purpose is to execute God’s will (Psalm 148:2-5). They can pass from the spiritual realm to the physical realm at will, unimpeded by natural boundaries (Acts 12:7). Angels are stronger and more powerful than humans are (2 Peter 2:11). But they are not omnipotent and they are subservient to God (Psalm 103:20). Angels also have superior intellect and wisdom (2 Samuel 14:17,20). But they are not omniscient (Matthew 24:36). According to Jesus, they do not marry and they will live forever (Luke 20:36).
Good angels consistently appeared in human form on earth. They never appear as animals, reptiles, birds or material objects. There is no biblical record showing that a good angel ever appeared to wicked people or warned them of any danger. They are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Good angels always appeared to good people in human form as men. They never appeared as women or children and they were always clothed. Just as Christ appeared in human form, so angels identified with man in form, speech and deed. Sometimes angels were so disguised as men that they were not at first identified as angels.
Abraham entertained “three men” as dinner guests. One remained to talk while the other two left to spend the night with Lot, who thought they were men (Genesis 18:2; 19:1). Joshua did not know that the man standing before him was God’s angel (Joshua 5:13). Neither did Gideon realize that his guest was an angel until the angel made an offering of his meal (Judges 6:21,21).
Occasionally angels displayed themselves with a heavenly countenance and clothing that revealed the glory of God. While the two women were wondering at the empty tomb of Jesus, “Suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them” (Luke 24:4). Daniel gave a very colorful description of an angel (Daniel 10:5,6). On numerous occasions, angels were described as “a man” or with “the appearance of a man” (Ezekiel 40:3; Daniel 10:18; Zechariah 2:1).
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