When I was a kid, I assumed most angels looked like the ethereal, art museum depictions I’d seen on Christmas cards. Their faces were serene and fair-skinned, always feminine, and usually accompanied by long, flowing hair. They moved silently with nary a swish of their feathered wings, and everything they did was gentle and peaceful.
Then I read the Bible.
And found out what angels are really like.
Myth: Angels are peaceful, serene beings that float around on clouds and strum harps all day.
Truth: Angels are armed to the teeth and aching for a fight.
And yes, they are strong. Very strong. Second Peter 2:11 describes them as “stronger and more powerful” than men.
Angels are also faster than men, in large part because they can fly. Daniel’s heavenly messenger flew, and we often see angels fly in John’s descriptions of apocalyptic events ((Rev. 14:6). Flying’s not the only way angels get around, however.
Because they are spirit beings, they usually move from place to place invisibly. When they do manifest themselves on earth, like George Bailey’s angel, Clarence, they walk. Abraham’s angelic visitors sauntered up to his tent one day and then trotted on over to drop in on his nephew Lot and pronounce judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18, 19).
Because angels are created beings, they are inferior in all ways to God. They can only be in one place at one time (Dan. 10:12), are not all-powerful (Daniel’s angel experienced satanic pressure which hindered him for three weeks), nor are they all-knowing (Mat. 24:36).
Finally, angels are asexual and incapable of reproducing (Mat. 22:30). They are spirit beings, remember? When they appear in human form, however, they always appear masculine. Sorry Della Reese, but there’s no biblical basis for a female angel boss.
I’ve used this picture in this series before, but I chose to post it here again, because I think it’s an accurate representation of what an angel might look like in full battle regalia. I don’t know about you, but knowing there are “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11) on my side and at the Father’s disposal makes me feel very safe. Psalm Ps 34:7 makes me brave when I’m tempted to fear:
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”
Next time we'll conclude our study of angels by answer the question, Do people become angels when they die?
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