Read an Excerpt
Do not forget to entertain strangers,
for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
The above verse hints at a profound mystery. Sometimes what we see is not what it appears to be. And there are some realities of which we are unaware—unless something from beyond clues us in. Recently the subject of angels has shot to the top of book lists and discussion topics. They are but one interest among many in the area of supernatural phenomena— extraterrestrial visitations, contact with the dead, psychic guides, near-death experiences, astrology, and fortunetelling. Angels fit into our agenda to discover the unusual, the supernatural, even the forbidden.
But angels have always been part of Christian tradition. Biblical references to them are numerous. They have appeared throughout civilization’s history in art and literature. To ignore their existence and importance would be shortsighted on our part; such ignorance leaves a large gap in our understanding of spiritual life.
This study examines Bible passages that give us information on the nature and origin of angels and themany functions they perform.We see them as “ministering spirits” assigned to give us assistance. We learn that there are two basic categories of angels—those who serve God and those who have rebelled against God. Most importantly, we see angels in the fuller context of God’s presence, glory, and eternal purposes. In a daywhen everyone has a fantastic angel story to tell and tabloids and talk shows are doing a booming “angel” business, we need more than ever the clarity found in God’s ultimate description of life—seen and unseen.
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals:
mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth.
—The Book of Common Prayer
Angels—Who or What Are They?
Those who take the Bible at full value cannot discount the subject of angels.…
The Scriptures mention their existence almost three hundred times.
—BILLY GRAHAM, ANGELS
When Joan Wester Anderson put an ad in magazines asking for information from readers who had encountered angels, she received an overwhelming response, which resulted in her NewYorkTimes bestseller,Where AngelsWalk.Once they are willing to share their stories, we discover that many people have had “angelic” experiences.
But what do we really know about angels? How can we know anything beyond the subjective experiences of ourselves and others? The Bible contains numerous references to angels;most are mere glimpses into the spiritual realm. We can learn important truths about these heavenly beings, however, as we piece together these strands of evidence.
1. State a belief you have about angels, and how you came to that belief.
Read these groupings of Bible pas sages and answer the accompanying questions .
When [Jacob] reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.…He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the
LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the
God of Isaac.” (Genesis 28:11-13)
[The LORD] came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes. (Deuteronomy
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.
The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
…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, 6-7)
Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.…Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. (Psalm 148:2, 5-6)
[Jesus speaking] “Do you think I cannot call on my
Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions* of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)
[Jesus] then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)
2. Where do angels come from, and how long have they existed?
3. How many angels are there, and where do they reside?
4. In whose presence are angels generally seen, and why do you think this is significant?