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Bible Study on Angels

Used in Preparation for the Sermon for St. Michael & All Angels

The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

A. MEANING: Angel = Hb. messenger, envoy, representative

          1. Gabriel to Zech: "I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news." Lk.1.19

 

          2. "Angels [are] spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation." - Hb.1.14

 

          3. Sent by God - Gn.19.13, Lk.1.26

          4. Sent by Christ - Rv.1.1; 22.16

 

          5. Over 600 references to angels in Bible

 

 

B. PRINCIPAL FUNCTIONS

          1. Convey the mandates of God to humanity

                   a. Ordered Abraham to refrain from sacrificing Isaac - Gn.22.11

                   b. Blessed Abraham for his faithfulness - Gn.22.15-18

                   c. Assisted God in giving the law at Sinai - Dt.33.2; Ac.7.53; Gal.3.19

                   d. God promises an angel to lead Israel to promised land:

                             "Be attentive to him and listen to his voice;  do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him." - Ex.23.20-21; 32.34

                   e. God promises angel for battle in promised land - Ex.23.23; 33.2

 

 

          2. Announce the coming of special events

                   a. Announces birth of Isaac to Abr. Gn.18.1-2,9-10)

                   b. Gabriel announces birth of John Bap to Zech. - Lk.1.11-20

                   c. Gabriel announces birth of Jesus to Mary - Lk.1.26-38

                   d. Angel(s) tell of Jesus' birth to shepherds - Lk.2.8-14

                   e. Brings vision to John of Patmos - Rv.1.1

                   f. Brings vision/prophecy to Daniel - Dan.9.20f; 10-12

 

          3. Interpret events in which God's hand is involved

                   a. Answered questions of Samson's father-to-be - Jg.13.8-18

                   b. Interpreting angel w/ Zechariah - Zch.1-6

                   c. Gabriel explains both births of John Bap & Jesus - Lk.1

                   d. Angel explains Jesus' birth to Joseph in dream - Mt.1.20-23

                   e. Announced resurrection of Jesus - Mt.28.5

                   f. Interpret end time visions to Daniel - Dn.7.15-18, 8.13f

                   g. Interpret end time visions to John of Patmos - Rv.17.6b-18

 

 

          4. Protect and assist the faithful, individually or collectively

                   a. "God will command his angels to guard you in all yr ways" - Ps.91.11

                   b. "Encamps around those who fear God, and delivers them" - Ps.34.7

                   c. 2 angels warn/protect Lot & his family from Sodom's destr. - Gn.19

                   d. Comforted Hagar crying about Ishmael's future - Gn.15-19

                   e. Angel promised to assist in finding wife for Isaac - Gn.24.7,40

                   f. Reassured Jacob when Laban tried to cheat him of wages - Gn.31.11

                   g. Fed Elijah in the desert - 1 Kg.19.5

                   h. Protects 3 men in fiery furnace - Dn.3.25,28

                   i. Shut lions' mouths to protect Daniel - Dn.6.22

                   j. Tells Joseph to take Mary/Babe and flee to Egypt - Mt.2.13

                   k. When danger passes, tells Joseph to return to Israel - Mt.2.19-20

                   l. Wait on Jesus after temptation - Mt.4.11

                   m. Gives Jesus strength during prayer at Gethsemane - Lk.22.43

                   n. Rolls stone away from Jesus' tomb - Mt.28:2

                   o. Releases Peter from prison twice - Ac.5.19; 12.7-10

                   p. Tells Paul that he & crew will shipwreck but be safe - Ac.27.21-27

                   q. Churches have guardian angels - Rv.1.20; 2.1-3.14

 

          5. Execute punishment deserved by their adversaries

                   a. 2 angels strike mob blind in Sodom, then destroy - Gn.19.11,13

                   b. Angels destroy firstborn of Egypt - Ps.78.49

                   c.       Curses Meroz, neighbor village, didn't help Isr. in their fight against King Jabin of Canaan - Jg.5.23

                   d. Struck down Israel's foes, the Assyrians - 2 Kg.19.35, Is.37.36

                   e. Four angels to damage earth at end of time - Rv.6.1-8; 7.2-3

 

          6. Serve as instruments of divine displeasure against sinners among the faithful

                   a. Brings pestilence on Isr, 70,000 die, but spares Jerus. - 2.Sm.24.15f

                   b. Calls Elijah to prophecy against King Ahaziah of Isr. - 2 Kg.1.3-4

                   c. Killed Jewish King Herod Agrippa who failed to glorify God - Ac.12.23

 

 

C. APPEARANCE

          1. Human form, like a man:

                   a. Abraham entertained three "men" w/o knowing - Gn.18.1-22

                   b. Men of Sodom thought 2 angels looked like men - Gn.19.5

                   c. Man wrestles w/Jacob all night, names him Israel - Gn.32.24-30

                   d. w/drawn sword before Balaam and donkey - Nm.22.22f

                   e. Man w/drawn sword to Jsh: "Commander of Lord's army" - Jsh.5.13-14

                   f. Samson's mother-to-be: "most awe inspiring" - Jg.13.6-21

                   g. Gabriel as a man - Dn.8.15-16

                                      Gabriel "as a man" comes "in swift flight" - Dn.9.21

                   h. Dazzling man appears to Daniel beside Tigris - Dn.10.5

                   i. At empty tomb, 2 men in dazzling clothes - Lk.24.4

 

          2. "Like lightning, clothing white as snow" - Mt.28.3

                   a. Clothed in linen w/ gold belt - Dn.10.5

                   b.       Body like beryl, face like lightning, eyes like flames, arms/legs like shining bronze, voice like roar of multitude - Dn.10.6

                   c. "Robed in pure bright linen w/golden sashes" - Rv.15.6

                   d. Armies of heaven wear fine, white, pure linen - Rv.19.14

 

          3. Radiant, bright, splendorous

                   a. "Appears like a god" w/3 men in fiery furnace - Dn.3.25,28

                   b. Glory of the Lord shines from angel - Lk.2.9

                   c. "Face like sun, legs like pillars of fire" - Rv.10.1

                   d. "Earth made bright with his splendor" - Rv.18.1

 

          4. Carries a staff - Jg.6.21

          5. Carries sword and sheath - 1 Ch.21.16,27

          6. Stands between earth and heaven (in sky?) - 1 Ch.21.16

          7. Armies ride white horses - Rv.19.14

 

 

D. GOD HIMSELF SOMETIMES APPEARS AS AN ANGEL

          1. Announced the birth of Ishmael - Gn.16.7-13

          2. Jacob's 3-fold blessing of grandsons: "God-God-Angel" - Gn.48.15-16

          3. Appears in dream to Jacob telling him to return home - Gn.31.11-13

          4. Appears in burning bush to Moses - Ex.3.2-4, Ac.7.30,35

          5. Pillar of Cloud/Fire going before Israel - Ex.14.19-20 - cf.13.21

          6. Standing before Balaam & his donkey - Nm.22

          7. To Israelites at Bochim - Jg.2.1-5

          8. To Gideon - Jg.6.11f

          9. Announced the birth of Samson - Jg.13:3-22

 

 

E. CHARACTERISTICS OF ANGELS:

          1. "Blameless" - 1 Sm.29.9

          2. "discerning good and evil" - 2 Sm.14.17

          3. "Know all things that are on the earth" - 2 Sm.14.20

          4. Have great authority - Rv.18.1

          5. Have great power and strength - Rv.18.21

          6. Rejoice for repentance of each sinner - Lk.15.10

 

          7. God does not always trust - Jb.15.15

                   a. Therefore "holy ones" fear the Lord - Ps.89.6-7

 

          8. Will not give name (most of the time):

                   a. Jacob asks angel/man: "why do you ask my name," won't give - Gn.33.29

                   b. To Manoah (Samson's father to be): "It is too wonderful." - Jg.13.18

                   c. Gabriel DOES give name: to Zechariah (Lk.1.19) & to Daniel (8.16-17)

 

          9. Many times mute, just function - ex Destroyer Ex.12.23,29; 2 Sm.24.15-17

 

          10. Eating habits:

                   a. Will eat w/Lot - Gn.19.3

                   b. Will not eat with Manoah and wife - Jg.13.15-16

                   c. Angels eat manna in heaven - Ps.78.24-25

 

          11. Means of transport:

                   a. Vanishes - Jg.6.21

                   b. Ascends in a flame of sacrificial offering - Jg.13.20

                   c. Flies - Rv.14.6, Dn.9.21

 

 

F. WHEN DO ANGELS COME

          1. In dreams:

                   a. Tells Jacob in dream to leave Laban's & return home - Gn.31.11-13

                   b. Explains Jesus' birth to Joseph in dream - Mt.1.20-23

                   c. Tells Joseph to take Mary/Babe and flee to Egypt - Mt.2.13

                   d. When danger passes, tells Joseph to return to israel - Mt.2.19-20

 

          2. During prayer:

                   a. To Isaiah in the temple, his call - Is.6.1

                   b. To Daniel, praying/confessing for sake of Jerusalem - Dn.9.20-21

                   c. To priest Zech. in sanctuary, John Bap. annunciation - Lk.1.8-10

                   d. To John on isle of Patmos during private worship - Rv.1.10-11

 

          3. As a result of prayer:  Manoah (Jg.13.8-9), Elisha (2 Kgs.6.17)

 

          4. At death to carry us forth:

                   a. Lazarus carried to Abraham's bosom by - Lk.16.22

                   b. Michael contends with Satan over Moses' body - Jude 9

 

          5. At unexpected times

                   a. Abraham & Sarah during everyday chores - Gn.18.1-8

                   b. "Don't neglect hospitality, may be angels" - Hb.13.2

 

 

G. HUMAN REACTIONS TO ANGEL VISITS

          1. Bowing down:

                   a. Lot bows face to ground when 2 angels visit Sodom - Gn.19.1

                             Invites them to stay overnight, wash feet, feast -19.2-3

                   b. Joshua bows face to ground and worships - Jsh.5.14

 

          2. Terrified:

                   a. "Zechariah was terrified and fear overwhelmed him" - Lk.1.12

                   c. Soldiers afraid/shook/"like dead men" when rock rolled - Mt.28.4

                   b. Women at empty tomb terrified, bow to ground - Lk.24.5

 

          3. Mary was simply "perplexed" by Gabriel's greeting - Lk.1.28

 

          4. Jacob wrestles w/ & subdues, asks name of (doesn't get) - Gn.32.24-30

 

          5. Manoah doesn't believe his wife's angel visit, & requests one himself

                             -- and gets it! - Jg.13.8-11

 

          6. Daniel's many reactions:

                   a. Falls into trance, face to ground - Dn.8.18

                   b. Strength leaves, grows "deathly pale", again trance - Dn.10.8-9

                   c. Looks down, speechless - 10.15

                   d. "I am shaking, no strength, no breath" - 10.17

 

 

 

H. ANGELS APPEAR IN LARGE GROUPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUALLY

          1. Jacob sees "God's camp" at Mahanaim on trip home - Gn.32.1-2

          2. "Holy ones" accompany God at Mt. Sinai - Dt.33.2

          3. Elisha surrounded by myriads of horses/chariots of fire - 2 Kg.6.17

          4. "Holy ones" accomp. God when he comes in the eschaton - Zch.14.5

 

 

 

I. DIFFERENT CLASSES/KINDS OF ANGELS

          1. 24 elders around God's throne (co-rulers/co-judges?) - Rv.4.4

 

          2. Archangels (highest class of angel?) - Rv.1.4, 4.5, 8.2:

                   a. Michael contends w/Devil for Moses' body - Jude 9

                   b. Will sound the call for 2nd coming & gen. resurrection - 1 Th.4.16

 

 

          3. Cherub, Cherubim - 2-wings, hand under wings, head of man, body of lion

                   a. Were guardian angels of Adam-Eve (until Fall?) - Ez.28.14

                   b. Guardian angel drove humans out of Eden - Ez.28.16

                   c. Guard the way to tree of life in Eden - Gn.3.24

                   d. God is "enthroned above the cherubim" - Is.37.16, Ps.80.1

                   e. God sits "enthroned upon the cherubim" (cher. form throne?) - Ps.99.1

                   f. Images of 2 cherubim cover ark of cov. (= throne) - Ex.25.18-20

                   g. God "rides" on a cherub in flight - 2 Sm.22.11, Ps.18.10

 

 

          4. 4 Living Creatures:

                   a. A kind of Cherub - Ez.10.9, 14.20

                   b.       4 heads, 4 wings, 4 faces, human form, feet like calf's, hands under wings, faces of man/lion/ox/eagle - Ez.1.4-14

                   c. One head ea., 6-wings, eyes all over - Rv.4.6-8

 

          5. Seraph, Seraphim - 6-winged angels

                   a. Attend above throne of God

                   b. Bring forgiveness to Isaiah before his call to ministry - Is.6.2-7

 

          6. "Holy Ones" (little said about them) - Dt.33.2

 

          7. Spirits

                   a. A "lying spirit" goes to Ahab's prophets - 1 Kg.22.19-23

                   b. Seven spirits before God's throne, flames - Rv.1.4, 4.5

                   c. Ezekiel led into visions by "spirit like human being" - Ez.8.2-3

 

          8. Armies of angels - Rv.19.14, 2 Kg.6.17

 

          9. "Sons of God" - Gn.6.2,4 = "heavenly beings" (NRSV) Jb.38.7

                   a. Sinned by having offspring by mortals - Gn.6.6-8; Jude 6

                   b. God punished by throwing into "hell" in chains - 2 Pt.2.4

 

          10. Evil angels, allies of Satan - Mt.25.41, Rev.12.7,9

                   a. Satan himself an angel (fallen?), agent of heaven - Jb.1.6, Zch.3.1f

                   b. A war broke out in heaven, fall of satan & angels - Rv.12.7-12

                   c. Satan often disguises self "as an angel of light" - 2 Cor.11.14

                   d. "Spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" - Eph.6.12

 

 

J. GENERAL INFORMATION

          1. Jesus: Son of Man will come in glory with angels - Mt.16.27;24.31;25.31

                   a. Archangels will sound call for 2nd coming/Judgmt - 1 - Th.4.16

                   b. Sound will be a trumpet call from the angels - Mt.24.31

                   c. Angels are the reapers of harvest, gathering elect - Mt.13.39; 24.31

                   b. Jesus: "Judgment will occur before the angels of God" - Lk.12.8-9

                   d. Angels separate good from evil - Mt.13.49

                   e. Angels/authorities/powers all subject to Jesus - 1 Pt.3.22

 

          2. Angels assist in bringing new people to faith:

                   a. Angel told deacon Philip to go to Gaza - converted eunuch - Ac.8.26f

                   b. Tells Cornelius to bring Peter to preach at Caesarea - Ac.10

 

          3. Sadducees did't/Pharisees did  believe in angels & spirits - Ac.23.8

 

          4. Humans are made "a little lower than the angels"  Ps.8.4-6, Hb.2.7

                   a. That means Jesus was "for a little while" lower also - Hb.2.9

                   b. Jesus now superior to angels - Hb.1.3-4

 

          5. "A thousand thousands/10,000 x 10,000 serve/attend God" - Dn.7.10

                             "myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands" - Rv.5.11

 

          6. Hebrews warns of being hospitable in case of angels unawares - Hb.13.2

 

 

K. MICHAEL

          1. Archangel - Jude 9

          2. Good angels assist in defeat of Satan - Rv.12.7-9

          3. "Prince" (guardian/patron) of Israel - Dan.10.21, 12.1

          4. Disputed w/devil over Moses' body - Jude 9 (see note in Oxford NRSV)

 

 

L. THE HEAVENLY COURT

          1. Jacob's dream, ascendg/descendg on an earth-heaven "ladder" -Gn.28.12

 

          2. Heavenly court assembles in a temple - Rv.16.17

                   a. Ark of covenant there - Rv.11.19

                   b. Altar is central before the throne - Rv.8.3

                   c. Souls of martyrs rest underneath altar in white robes - Rv.6.9-11

                   d. Angel attends altar w/prayers of saints in golden censer - Rv.8.3-4

 

 

          3. God at center, sitting on throne

                   a. God enthroned above/upon the cherubim - Is.37.16, Ps.80.1, 99.1

                   b. Seraphim attend to God above his throne - Is.6

                   c. 4 Living Creatures on each side of throne - Rv.4.6b

                                      Praise Day and Night w/o ceasing

 

                   d. 24 elders crowned, in white robes, on thrones of their own - Rv.4.4

                                      Worship God by falling on knees, casting off crowns, singing

                                      Hold harps and golden bowls of incense (prayers) - Rv.5.8

 

                   e. Seven spirits/angels (archangels?) stand before throne - Rv.1.4; 8.2

                                      Have seven trumpets

 

                   f. Other angels surround whole scene - myriads, thousands - Rv.5.11

                   g. Four angels stand at four corners of earth, have wind - Rv.7.1

                   h. Numberless multitude of the redeemed before throne - Rv.7.9

                                      Wear white robes, washed in blood of Lamb, worship day/nt. - Rv.7

 

 

          3. Lamb is in the midst of them - Rv.5.6

          4. "Holy ones" form assembly/council in heaven - Ps.89.5,7

 

          5. Heavenly functionaries:

                   a. Announcer/proclaimer - Rv.5.2

                   b. Angel w/ golden censer at altar - Rv.8.3f

                   c. Angels who proclaim eternal gospel - Rv.14.6,8,9

                   d. Certain angels are priests, wear white robes, gold sashes - Rv.15.7

                   e. Angels at 4 corners of earth, in charge of winds - Rv.7.1

                   f. Angel standing on sun - Rv.10.5, 19.17

                   g. Angel in charge of sea and land - Rv.7.2; 10.1-5

                   h. Angel in charge of keys to bottomless pit - Rv.20.1

 

 

M. LUTHER ON ANGELS  [from What Luther Says]:

          1. More than one guarding/protecting us

                             "We Christians should have the sure knowledge that the princes of heaven are with us, not only one or two, but a large number of them, as Luke records (2.13) that a multitude of heavenly host was with the shepherds.  And if we were without this custody, and God did not in this way check the fury of Satan, we could not live for one moment." [64]

 

          2. Guardians of little children:

                             "The dear angels are not so proud as we human beings are.  They walk in obedience to God, serve mankind, and take care of little children.  How could they perform a more insignificant work than taking care of children day and night?  What does a child do?  It eats, cries, sleeps, etc.  A marvelous thing it is that the holy servants of God take care of eating, drinking, sleeping, and waking children!  It certainly seems an insignificant work.  But the angels do it with joy;  for it is well pleasing to God, who has commanded them to do it." [65]

 

          3. Angels or good luck?

                             "Watch that you do not live as the heathen do.  They see and experience misfortune too, but hold that it happens accidentally....  For instance, it should not be called luck but the special work of good angels when a man is saved from drowning or when a stone falls upon someone without inflicting any particular harm." [66]

 

          4.       "One good angel is far wiser than all the devils put together." "Because they have a mirror into which they look, ... called facies Patris, the face of our Lord God." [68]

 

          5. At our side even in death

                             "You should be certain that angels are protecting you when you go to sleep, yea, that they are protecting you also in all your business, whether you enter your home or leave your home....  Therefore even when you come to die, you should say that Christ will be with you and will have an unnumbered multitude of holy angels with him.  You should know that angels are at your side not only in this life but also in death." [70]

 

                             "At death I know not where I am to go;  but my guides, the holy angels, know it well." [71]