What are Angels?
(Part 1 of 4)
What are angels, these mysterious beings? Are they around us, watching us? Have you ever wondered about them or whether you have your own guardian angel? Fortunately, the Bible makes it clear. This page helps to answer these questions as a basis for addressing another question. Read the
introduction to "Who is Michael the Archangel?"
of which this is page 1 in a series of 4 pages.
Angels are supernatural beings, created by God, superior to man and acting as representatives or messengers for God.
In the Old Testament, the word angel is translated from the Hebrew word "malak" which can have the meaning of a messenger or ambassador. Malak is translated as:
- ambassador 4 times
- angel 111 times
- messenger 98 times
In the New Testament, the word angel is translated from the Greek word "aggelos" which often also means simply a messenger. The definition given in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament for the Greek word aggelos is: "a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God." Although not using the word aggelos, John refers to Jesus as one sent:
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)
Aggelos is translated as:
- angel 181 times
- messenger 7 times
The term angel does not always refer to a supernatural being. The original words are sometimes translated as messenger in instances when, quite clearly, humans are being referred to:
- "And David sent messengers" (2Sam 3:14)
- "Behold I send my messenger" (John the Baptist) (Matt 11:10)
- "And when the messengers (disciples) of John were departed" (Luke 7:24)
- "And sent messengers (Jesus' disciples) before his face" (Luke 9:52)
- "Rahab...had received the messengers (Joshua's spies), and had sent them out another way." (Jam 2:25)
The term "angel" is also used to refer to Christ, as will be shown later. A point to remember here is that the original terms for angels are sometimes used for beings other than those commonly thought of as angels.
It seems that the concept of guardian angels has a Biblical basis:
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt 18:10)
"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." (Psa 91:11)
The term "angel" can also refer to fallen or evil angels. Satan is a fallen angel who didn't start out that way:
"Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." (Eze 28:15)
Read more about the
origin of sin
to understand how that came about.
So, in answering the question "What are angels?" we need to recognize that there are both good and bad angels:
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels," (Rev 12:7)
There is that term - "Michael" - we will soon get to the meaning of that. The next step is to consider the question in
part 2 - What are Archangels?