Clarence tries to earn his wings in the 1947 movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Michael Landon, as Jonathan Smith, is an angel on probation trying to work his way back into God’s good graces in Highway to Heaven. And then there’s Della Reese, everyone’s favorite angel supervisor, Tess, trying to keep her angel charges under control in the 90s TV drama, Touched by an Angel. Evil angels have populated such recent films as Ghost Rider, Legion, and Fallen.
Film and TV have no corner on angel exploration. Literature is replete with angelic characters and stories. Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno, and C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters span the centuries with eloquent word pictures of these marvelous beings.
Even cartoons have taken a turn at angelology. Everyone from Homer Simpson to Pluto to Popeye have wrestled with “shoulder angels,” pitchforked and haloed creatures bent on wielding their influence over their human hosts.
No doubt about it, angels have been fascinating humans since Satan’s slithering subterfuge in the Garden.
But what is the truth about angels?
The Bible is replete with mentions of these heavenly beings, so we have a reliable source of information. In the next few posts I hope to debunk some of the common myths and examine the Scripture verses that tell us the truth about angels.
Myth: Angels are fat baby cherubs with pinchable fat cheeks.
Truth: Angels are impressive, mighty frightening beings causing everyone they encounter to fall to the ground in fear.
The picture above is an accurate representation of one of the archangels described in the Bible.
Here are some of their characteristics:
They are spirit beings, but often take human form.
Gabriel the archangel appeared to predict John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1:19), Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:26), free Peter from prison (Acts 12:7), and instruct Cornelius to send for Peter (Acts 10:3).
Their appearance is usually imposing enough to be frightening. Almost without exception, the first words an angel speaks to a human is “Fear not.” (Dan. 10:12, Mat. 28:5, Luke 2: 10).
Listen to Daniel’s description of his encounter with an angel: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a 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 legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless” (Dan. 10:5-8).
Although cherubim are smaller types of angels, they bear little resemblance to the chubby-cheeked versions featured on Valentine cards.
Here are some of the characteristics described in Gen. 3:24, Ex. 25:18-20, and Ezek. 1:4-28; 10:1-22:
They have four faces, one each like a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.
They have two pairs of wings.
They have the legs of men and cloven calves’ feet that shine like brass.
They have four human hands, located under each wing.
Almost without exception, angels shine with a glowing light.
The angel who appeared to the women at Jesus’ tomb is one example of this: “. . . an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow” (Mat. 28:5).
It’s apparent from these Scriptures that angels are very different than the way Hollywood, literature, and myths have portrayed them. I look forward to sharing more about what the Bible has to say about angels in the posts to follow. I hope to tackle questions like Where did angels come from? What is their job description? Are all angels good? Do angels have supernatural powers? Do people become angels when they die?
If you haven’t subscribed to Hungry for God yet, this would be a great time. You don’t want to miss a single installment of "Angels—Debunking the Myths. "
What about you? What myths have you believed about angels that have changed as you’ve studied Scripture? What questions still remain? Leave a comment below. Perhaps I’ll answer one of your questions in an upcoming post.
And stay tuned for Part II: "Angels—They’re Not All Good" next time on Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women.
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