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Angels in the Bible: Big heroes for faith, truth & love

Angels in the Bible: Big heroes for faith, truth & love
Angels are God’s messengers and powerful agents. They are all around us, to protect us from evil. They rejoice when a sinner is saved!

The Bible is our source of all knowledge about angels, a Greek word for "messenger" or "herald."

Table of Contents:

Angels in the Bible: Big heroes for faith, truth & love

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. – Psalm 91.11

What are angels?

The word “angel” is used 203 times in the King James* Bible, “angels” 94. The Greek word άγγελος (angelos) simply means “messenger,” and is used for both human and heavenly messengers. The heavenly ones are also known as

  • Cherubim

  • Seraphim

  • Living creatures *following a name means that person is in my book Spiritual Lives

The first of these heavenly beings appear after Adam*(4004 – 3034 BC) and Eve*(4004 -?) sin, and the LORD drives them from the Garden of Eden:

So he drove out the man, and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis 3:24

The cherubim and indeed all angels are powerful and often terrifying creatures, as Wayne Grudem observes:

Angels are called “mighty ones who do his word” (Psalm 103:20), “powers” (see Ephesians 1:21), and “dominions” and “authorities” (Colossians 1:16). They are certainly “greater in might and power” than humans (2 Peter 2:11, see also Matthew 28:2). Angels use their power to battle against Satan’s demonic forces (Daniel 10:13, Revelation 12:7–8, 20:1–3). – Wayne Grudem

When did God create angels?

Sometime before the Garden of Eden. Job*(1650-1440 BC) records these questions from God:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).

Another insight comes from Revelation:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found anymore in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12:7-9

No time is given, but since the serpent appears in the Garden of Eden, he was active before the Fall.

Angels in the Bible are depicted as male:

Every reference to angels in Scripture is in the masculine gender. The Greek word for “angel” in the New Testament, angelos, is in the masculine form. In fact, a feminine form of angelos does not exist.

There are three genders in grammar—masculine (he, him, his), feminine (she, her, hers), and neuter (it, its).

Angels are never referred to in any gender other than masculine. In the many appearances of angels in the Bible, never is an angel referred to as “she” or “it.”

Furthermore, when angels appeared, they were always dressed as human males. No angel ever appears in Scripture dressed as a female.

All the angels we have seen so far have been in warrior mode and are clearly spiritual beings, but the next we see appear in human form. 3 strangers visit Abraham*(1996-1821 BC) and Sarah*(1986-1859 BC) and promise them a son and then proceed to Sodom to judge its wickedness.

And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. Genesis 19:15

They were on a mission of mercy and salvation for the righteous and fiery judgment for the wicked.

The next 2 scenes show them in a more gentle mode:

Hagar had been expelled from Abraham’s house with her 13-year-old son and was wandering in the desert, about to die:

And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.

And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.

Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.Genesis 21:16-19

Here we see the angel as an agent of mercy and grace, acting on behalf of God.

A similar scene occurs shortly after when Abraham is about to offer Isaac a burnt offering:

And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. Genesis 22:11-13

The next angel acts to find Isaac*(1896-1716 BC) a wife:

The LORD, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father’s house: --Genesis 24:40

God did prosper this angelically guided mission and gave Isaac and Rebecca two sons, Esau*(1836-1689 BC) and Jacob* his twin who also died in 1689 BC. Esau was a profane man who despised his birthright, but Jacob loved the LORD who gave him this wonderful dream:

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. – Genesis 28:12

Here angels are the link between heaven and earth, God and man.

Moses and angels

When he was 80 years old, Moses*(1571-1452 BC) had been in exile for 40 years. He thought he had missed his opportunity in life. He had killed an Egyptian when he was 40 and left Egypt to save his life. Here he gives his testimony:

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. – Exodus 3:1-2

God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Verses 4 and 5

Here the angel of the LORD represents Him and speaks for Him. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) writes:

It was an angel of the Lord that appeared to him; some think, a created angel, who speaks in the language of him that sent him; others, the second person, the angel of the covenant, who is himself Jehovah.

Moses tells us later that it was the angel of the LORD who led the Exodus:

And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face and stood behind them.

And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. Exodus 14:19-20

This was a theophany, an Old Testament appearance of the Son of God. John Gill (1697-1771) writes:

The Jews say this was Michael, the great prince, who became a wall of fire between Israel and the Egyptians;

and if they understood by him the uncreated angel, the eternal Word, the Son of God, who is always in Scripture meant by Michael, they are right:

for certainly this Angel of the Lord is the same with Jehovah, who is said to go before them in a pillar of cloud and fire, Exo_13:21,

Moses tells us of the LORD’s promise to send an angel with His people through the wilderness and to help them conquer the Promised Land:

Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.

For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. – Exodus 23:20 & 23.

It is unclear whether this angel is the same as the One who led them out of Egypt, but neither appeared to Moses.

An individual angel did appear to prophet-for-hire Balaam*(1592-1452 BC) with a sword to kill him, but only after his donkey saw him first!

And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee because thy way is perverse before me: – Numbers 22:27, 31-32

Angels are all around us, but we cannot see them until the LORD opens our eyes. But here Balaam’s eyes were opened, and he saw the angel with a drawn sword. The angel spoke to him, and he obeyed.

Moses died shortly after this, but his leadership and relationship with angels were passed on to Joshua*(1553? -1443 BC).

The Commander of the Lord’s Army

The word “angel” does not appear in the book of Joshua, but Joshua does have a unique heavenly visitor:

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so. – Joshua 5:13-15

Joshua sees a man with a sword in his hand but soon learns the is the “Captain of the host of the LORD.” Joshua falls on his face and worships Him.

The Captain accepts this worship leading us to the conclusion that He is divine. All doubt is removed when He speaks the exact same words the LORD spoke to Moses, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.

Several different angels appear in the book of Judges, where the word is used 23 times. At first,

And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?

Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you, but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. – Judges 2:1-3

After encouraging the people and promising to never break His covenant with them this divine figure chastises them for disobedience. He allows the heathen Canaanites and their gods to coexist with them and contend with them which they did for the next 400 years.

But the LORD sent angels to help them in times of need:

First to encourage Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:23 ff,

Then to call Gideon to deliver them from the Midianites.

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. – Judges 6:12

Later still, to announce the birth of Samson:

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.Judges 13:3

We shall see angels announcing other births later, but the next one we see is an angel of destruction:

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. –2 Samuel 24:16

This destruction was punishment for David’s*(1085-1015 BC) sin in numbering the people. The place where the angel stayed his hand was on Mt. Moriah, the very spot the Temple would be built.

The next angelic appearance comes in the life of Elijah*(938? -896 BC), to whom an angel ministered when he was hiding from the wrath of Queen Jezebel*(938? – 884 BC):

and as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.

And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink and laid him down again.

And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

And he arose and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:5-8

The last angelic act in Kings/Chronicles is one in which the angel is not seen. On His people’s behalf, after Hezekiah’s*(752-698 BC) pleading, and Isaiah’s prophecy, the LORD delivered Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrians under Sennacherib:

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 2 Kings 19:35

This act is celebrated in Lord Byron’s poem:

The Destruction of Sennacherib


The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,

When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,

That host with their banners at sunset were seen:

Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,

That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;

And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,

And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,

But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;

And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,

And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,

With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:

And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,

The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,

And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;

And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,

Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord

Now we come to the Psalms where angels are commanded to praise the LORD and worship Him.

Although they are mentioned only 13 times, two of them are promises to God’s people, first for all believers, and second for each one of us personally:

The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. Psalm 34:7

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalm 91:11

Angels are mentioned only 4 times in the major prophets but 3 of their appearances occur in Daniel.

When King Nebuchadnezzar*(643 – 563 BC) set up his idol, 3 young men refused to bow, and he had them thrown into the “fiery furnace.” Not only were they not killed, but they were also greeted by a heavenly figure the king said looked like a son of God. Here is his testimony:

Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. – Daniel 3:28

Many years later, another king put Daniel*(623 – 570 BC) into the lions’ den expecting him to be torn apart. Instead, he survived and reported to the inquiring King Darius,

My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. ---Daniel 6:22

In the last 3 chapters of Daniel, he saw amazing, terrifying, and mysterious visions of the future which he could not understand. As he stood dumbfounded:

And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. – Daniel 8:16

Later, as he was praying for his people and for understanding he was visited again:

Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. Daniel 9:21

This is a role we have not seen before for an angel, that of an interpreter of divine mysteries. We will see much more of this in the visions of Zechariah, where angels are mentioned 20 times, and in those visions of John in Revelation where it occurs 75 times.

The angelic link between the Old Testament and the New

The very same angel who appeared to Daniel appears at the beginning of the Gospel story, first to Zacharias*(5O BC -?):

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee and to shew thee these glad tidings. – Luke 1: 19

The “glad tidings” were the birth of a son. We have seen an angel in this role before, announcing the birth of Samson*(1136 -? BC).

Seven verses later, Gabriel again appears, but this time to Mary*(18 BC -43 AD):

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Luke 1:27-28

Shortly after this, another angel got involved:

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. – Matthew 1:20

And this angel appeared to Joseph*(50 BC -?) again twice, once warning him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt (2:13) and then again to return to their home in Galilee (2:19)

Of course, the most glorious and wonderful display of angels’ worship comes just after Jesus’ birth:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. – Luke 2:13-14

Angels and Jesus

No more angelic appearances are recorded in the Gospels until we arrive at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry: first in the Garden of Gethsemane:

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. – Luke 22:43

Then after Peter tried defending Him with the sword:

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? – Matthew 23:53

Jesus knew all the angels and their power but used them only to accomplish His mission of dying for our sins. Here He took comfort and strength to go on but rejected the use of the overwhelming power of force at His disposal. What a wonderful Savior!

We see this contrast of angelic comfort and power at the Resurrection again:

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. – Matthew 28:2-5

Jesus knew that the angels were champions of the Gospel and enemies of sin:

I say unto you, that likewise, joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. – Luke 15:10

The power of angels is used differently for Believers and the enemies of God.

We see in Acts 12 how an angel delivered Peter from prison:

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. Acts 12:7

King Herod who had put Peter there had a dissimilar experience:

And upon a set day Herod arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. – Acts 12:21-23

Angels and St. Paul

Facing a shipwreck after a terrible storm, eyewitness Luke records Paul’s words:

For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. – Acts 27:23-2525

Paul understood the power of angels, especially their role in the second coming:

when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: – 2 Thessalonians 1:8

They are awaiting this now under the authority of Jesus

Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. – 1 Peter 3:22

We see this operating in Revelation, where we see them 75 times. There they oversee the 7 churches and the events of the last days. One day we shall join them:

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Revelation 3:5

Until then, we are assured they are watching over us, protecting us

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Psalm 91:10-12

How blessed we are to have these ministering spirits at work on our behalf, helping us walk with Jesus and glorify God. Most of the time, we cannot see them in their spiritual form, but more often they minister to us as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Celebrate the angels and join them in their song. You can listen to Josh Groban sing it HERE.

1 Angels we have heard on high,

sweetly singing o’er the plains,

and the mountains in reply

echoing their joyous strains.


Gloria in excelsis Deo,

gloria in excelsis Deo.

2 Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be

which inspire your heav’nly song? [Refrain]

3 Come to Bethlehem and see

him whose birth the angels sing;

come, adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord, the newborn King. [Refrain]

Anonymous French Carol

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