According to the Bible, angels are very real! In fact, there are over 250 references to them throughout scripture. From the Genesis story of creation, to thedescription of the end times in Revelation, angels actively participatein the affairs of this world and heaven. Angels are not myth at all – butthey are widely misunderstood. Through the ages, people have found greatcomfort in believing in angels that hear our prayers and guide our steps.We have even managed to conjure up images of angels that look strikinglylike people, from the most beautiful of golden haired maidens to chubbywinged cherubs with harps. While these images make up some of the mosttreasured of renaissance artwork and adorn present day greeting cards andfigurines, they are not based on the Bible’ s description of how angelsappear, nor on the purpose and duties for which God created them.
The facts about angels are actually much more interesting than the fantasies we’ve managed to conjure up about them. Dispelling themost commonly held misconceptions about angels allows us to see them asthe fascinating and awe-inspiring creatures that they are. Lets compare the most popular of these myths to the biblical facts:
Myth Number 1 – Angels Look Like People With Wings
Angels do not look like winged maidens or babies. Angels are spirits, and like God himself, do not possess bodies. (Hb 1:14)In Hebrews they are described as “winds and flames of fire” (1:7)They seem to have the ability, however, to appear as people when it servestheir purpose. In fact the Bible says that it is possible to entertainthem without even being aware of it. “Do no forget to entertain strangers,for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”(Heb 13:2) When they appear in the Bible, they are most often masculine figures, or indescribably awesome creatures, but seldomas women and never as babies or children.
A marvelous description of an angel in full glory is given in Daniel — “. . . there before me was a man dressed in linen, witha belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite,his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legslike the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”(Dan 10:5,6) This angel was suspended above the waters of the Tigris river (Dan 12:7),yet no mention is made of his possessing wings.
The prophet Isaiah had the privilege of seeing angelswith wings called “seraphs” above the throne of God. However,these winged angels were nothing like the images we are accustomed to.He describes them this way, “. . . each with six wings: With two wingsthey covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with twothey were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holyis the Lord Almighty’ ” (Is 6:2,3)
The angel that appeared outside the tomb of Jesus moreclosely fits the description in Hebrews of “winds and flames of fire.”Matthew states that, “His appearance was like lightening and his clotheswere white as snow.” (Matt 28:3)
Myth Number 2 – Angels are Passive
Angels are mighty and very powerful. Daniel was so overcome by the angel’s apparition that his strength was drained, his breathing difficult, and he was unableto speak. Upon seeing the angel Daniel wrote, “I was terrified andfell prostrate.” (Dan 8:17) The angel that appeared like lightening at Jesus’ tomb was so awesome that the guardswere terrified and, “shook and became as dead men.” (Mat28:4) The responses of these men to the angels they encountereddemonstrates the tremendous and powerful presence that angels have theability to generate.
There are many instances of angels serving as warriorsof God, not only to protect, but also to destroy when necessary. In 2 Kings,the story is told of the Assyrian army threatening to overtake Jerusalem.An angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. (19:35)Imagine the power possessed by that lone angel! In the end times, fourangels will be assigned the responsibility of destroying one-third of allmankind. (Rev 9:15) These angels are a farcry from the passive cloud-lounging angels we have become familiar with.