Angels: What Are Angels Really?


Angels are among the most mysterious of God’s creation. While angels are not the central characters of the Bible, that would be humans and God, the Bible does give us hints and clues as to who and what these incredible beings are. At ORBC, we believe in studying and exploring even the toughest subject of the Bible. So, what are angels really?

To explore holy angels (and unholy) and God’s intent for them, we will go through the characteristics of angels, the appearance of angels, the purpose of angels, famous angels, and fallen angels according to the Bible.

Characteristics of Angels 

There is evidence that, as part of creations, Angels are personal spiritual beings  (Hebrews 1:14) with intelligence, emotions, and will. However, to say that angels are spirits is debatable. We understand this is true of both the good and evil angels (demons). Evidence for the intelligence of angels comes from verses like Matthew 8:29; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 1:12). They show emotion in verses like Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Revelation 12:17, and exercise will (Luke 8:28-31; 2 Timothy 2:26; Jude 6). Because they are created beings, angels have limited knowledge and do not possess the omniscience of God  (Matthew 24:36).  

However, they appear to have greater knowledge than humans, which may be attributed to three factors. First, angels were created as a higher order of beings compared to humans, giving them an inherent advantage in knowledge. Second, they are well-versed in God’s Word (James 2:19; Revelation 12:12).  Third, angels acquire knowledge through extensive observation of human behavior. Unlike humans, who must study history, angels have directly witnessed it, allowing them to understand past actions and reactions and accurately anticipate human behavior in similar situations.

The Appearance of Angels

If you see a drawing of the physical form of an angel in the modern day, you may see a baby with wings, a woman with flowing hair, long robes, and great wings, to name a few. But in the Bible, it seems quite likely that angels are nothing like that at all. In nearly every case when an angel appears to a person, they become terrified. Often, angels say, “Do not be afraid.” A few examples of angels frightening those they appear to include Luke 2:8-14, and Daniel 10:7

There are a few places that describe angels, or cherubim, in the Bible including Ezekiel 28:14, Isiah 6, and Revelation 4. Looking at what the Bible says about angels shows that they are probably not cuddly creatures, but rather terrifying and awesome beings with the Lord’s power. We would encourage opening up your own Bible and exploring what the Bible says about angels and those who interact with them.

The Purpose of Angels

Though they have wills, like all creatures, angels are subject to the will of God. Those Angels who have chosen to do the will of God are sent by Him to help believers (Hebrews 1:14). Here are some activities the Bible ascribes to angels as their purpose and actions:

Angels, like humans and all creation, primary or ultimate purpose is to glorify God. Yet in most cases we see angels in the Bible doing the Lord’s will by acting as messengers and servants. However, when it comes to angels we only can know what the Bible tells us. It is possible that they have many other tasks and positions that we may not fully understand.

Famous Angels in the Bible

The Bible calls a select few of the angels by name. Among the most famous is Gabriel, whose name means, “God is Great.” Gabriel has a primary role in the Bible as a messenger who was entrusted to deliver several important messages on God’s behalf. Gabriel appears to at least three people in the Bible. First is to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:16). 

Next, Gabriel appeared to the priest Zechariah, announcing the miraculous birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19). 

Last, he came to the virgin Mary to tell her that she would conceive and bear a son (Luke 1:26–38). As the angel of the proclamation, he is the one who revealed that the Savior was to be called “Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

Michael the archangel is depicted in the Bible, particularly in the books of Daniel, Jude, and Revelation, as a warrior angel engaged in spiritual combat. The term “archangel” means “angel of the highest rank.” While most angels in the Bible are shown as messengers, Michael is consistently portrayed as contending with, fighting against, or standing against evil spirits and principalities  (Daniel 10:13; 21; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7). 

Although we do not have a comprehensive understanding of any angel and only two are named in the Bible, the scriptures provide glimpses of their roles in human events. From these hints, it is evident that Michael the Archangel is a powerful and significant being.

Other than Michael and Gabriel, there are also a few unnamed angels in the Bible, like in Acts 10:1-6, Acts 12:6-10, Acts 8:26-27, Genesis 19:1, Luke 24:1-8, and John 20:11-13. Of course, there is another famous, named angel, Lucifer, which leads us to our section on fallen angels.

Fallen Angels

The exact timing of when angels were created by God is uncertain, but it is certain that God created everything good, as His holiness prevents Him from creating anything sinful. When Satan, originally the angel Lucifer, rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28), a third of the angelic host joined his rebellion (Revelation 12:3-4,9). These fallen angels are now known as demons.

Matthew 25:41 confirms that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels: “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” The use of “his” clearly indicates that these angels belong to Satan. Revelation 12:7-9 describes an end-times battle between Michael and “his angels” and the devil and “his angels.” From these and similar scriptures, it is evident that demons and fallen angels are synonymous.

It is important to note that there are many different interpretations of angels, fallen angels, demons, and the spiritual world in general, even among any one denomination. We encourage everyone to do their own research in the Bible, in commentary, in community, and in prayer. 

Interested in Learning More?

Angels and the spiritual world are complex, controversial, and confusing. We believe that there is so much that we still don’t know or understand about angels and about why God made them. The best way to go about these challenging topics is through study and prayer. We would love to come alongside you in understanding all aspects of God’s Word to the fullest that we can. 

Reach out to us to discuss this or other topics further! You can also connect with us to get involved in one of our groups or Bible Studies!


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