The Nature of Angels

In the original creation, all angels were good. However, when Satan led a rebellion against God, he took a third of the angels with him (see Revelation 12:7-9). Now God commands His good angels and Satan commands a hoard of bad angels, who are identified as evil spirits or demons. Contrary to the good angels, demons never appear in human form. People do see demonic apparitions, or ghost like appearances, but it is not “flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). They are spirits who serve the evil desires of Satan. Satan functions as the ruler of this world through a demonic hierarchy. He is not omnipresent, so he reigns over his kingdom of darkness through rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

In contrast to the evil nature of demons, good angels are called “the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). Of these good angels, only two in the Bible are mentioned by name. The first is Michael, whom Jude calls the archangel (see Jude 1:9). Michael disputed with Satan concerning the body of Moses and invoked the name of the Lord to rebuke him. In Daniel, Michael is called “one of the chief princes” (10:13). In Revelation, Michael is portrayed as the commander of the army of good angels who defeated and expelled the bad angels from heaven (12:7-8).

Gabriel is the other angel named in the Bible. He is the chief messenger angel who announced the births of John the Baptist and Jesus (see Luke 1:13, 26-38). He interpreted Daniel’s dream and delivered God’s decree during the same mission (see Daniel 8:15-27).

“The angel of the Lord” seems to be a unique angel in the Old Testament. This angel announced the birth of Samson (see Judges 13:3-5) much like Gabriel did to Mary. When Manoah asked the angel of the Lord what his name was, he replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding’” (verse 18). The use of the definite article “the” in “the angel of the Lord” has led some to speculate that this may be a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. The same speculation has been made about the “man” who wrestled with Jacob and told him that he had struggled with God (see Genesis 32:22-31).

Several conclusions can be drawn from the angelic visitation to Manoah. First, angels have a specific assignment from God, which they strictly follow. Manoah prayed that God would send the angel again to teach them how to raise the child, and the Lord granted a second visit, but the angel simply repeated his earlier message. Second, they communicate audibly in the same language and through the same medium that humans do. Third, they take on a physical form that can be seen by any person present. Fourth, they may not always be recognized as angelic beings, but they are recognized as men of God (see Judges 13:6,16). Fifth, they can change their form as they depart from our presence (see verse 20). All this stands in stark contrast to demons.

Dr. Neil

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