Advent: Who Are Angels and What Are They up To?
If you are familiar with the story of the days leading up to the birth of Christ, you may be surprised by the way angels seems to be everywhere in the story.
What kind of world has angels this present within it?
In short: your world.
It’s not uncommon for us to talk about “bible times” and “our times” to try and make sense of the interesting things we find in scripture that may seem outside of the realm of our experience, but this distinction doesn’t hold.
You live in bible times. All time is “bible time.”
As you are reading, you may find yourself (or may have your kiddo asking): “Who/what is an angel and what are they up to?”
Let me attempt to give you some brief answers to these questions and then point you to some helpful resources.
Where do we find angels in scripture?
Angels show up throughout scripture, but it does appear that there are some parts of scripture and the history of redemption where they show up in greater clusters. For example, we find mention of angelic appearances throughout Genesis, Exodus, and Joshua, but less visibility in the historical books (1 and 2 King, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and 1 and 2 Samuel).
In the gospels, angelic appearances factor heavily into the early chapters of Matthew and Luke.
In Matthew, an angel appears to foretell the birth of Christ (Matt. 1:18-25), an angel appears to tell Joseph to flee to Egypt with his family (Matt. 1:13-15), an angel appears to Joseph to tell him to bring his family back to Nazareth (Matt. 1:19-23).
In Luke, an angel (Gabriel) appears to foretell the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah (Luke 1:5-23), an angel (Gabriel) appears to foretell the birth of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), an angel appears to the shepherds to tell them about the birth of Christ, and then a bunch (or heavenly host) of angels show up in the same place praising God (Luke 2:8-21).
Who or what is an angel?
A few things here:
Angels are not humans. Angels are not former humans who have died and gone to be with the Lord. They are a different kind of created being.
Angels are created, they are not eternal. The only eternal being is God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
The Greek word used for Angel is also the word for messenger. So, it is best to say that angels are messengers or “ministering spirits” sent by God (Heb. 1:14).
In scripture, sometimes angels are given titles (“angel of the Lord”), sometimes the angel is named (“Gabriel”), and sometimes the angel or angels are unnamed or unspecified.
It has been suggested, and this is not without biblical support, that there are different kinds of angels: Seraphim, Angels, Archangels. (Caution is suggested in making too much of these distinctions.)
What are angels up to?
They do what God commands them to do. Scripture calls them “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14) and it appears that they are often sent or deployed for a few reasons in particular: to relay messages from God, to comfort and bring confidence to God’s people, and to minister to the people of God.
Are angels still at work today?
The simple answer to this question is “yes.”
But, the specific ways in which angels are at work today is a much more complicated question.
We certainly know that they do not currently do things that have never been their assigned task, meaning, angels don’t act like mini-gods. They aren’t mini-gods.
It appears that there are two primary tasks we can say have been entrusted to angels, in what ways these play out, we may not know.
Angels are at work in the world for the good of God’s people (Heb. 1:14)
Angels are part of the heavenly chorus celebrating God’s holiness and glory (Rev. 5:11-14)
There are many things we don’t know about angels and their role, but hopefully these few thoughts will help you navigate the questions that come up for many us during the Advent season.
Some additional resources you may find helpful:
*These articles should not be construed as representing any official positions or teachings from Mosaic Church. They are offered merely as sources representing biblically faithful positions that you may find helpful.