Supernatural (Week 2)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story] Bree King reads Luke 1:26-38, then Kevin King reads Matthew 1:18-25, prays for the message and congregation.

Message #2: “Angels: Ministering Spirits to God’s People!”

Luke 1:26-38 & Matthew 1:18-25

Do you notice how the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? Last week, we saw how the angel Gabriel was involved in the birth of John the Baptist and today we see how directly he was involved in the birth of Jesus the Christ. Truly, without God sending the angel to Joseph, Mary would have ended up a single teenage mother, outcasted and labeled by her community, trying to raise the Savior of the World by herself. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed.
 
There are approximately 180 references to angels in the Bible and in ¾ of them they are focused on angels serving God’s human family (Michael Heiser, 2018, 132). They are simply doing their job as the guardians of God’s presence and messengers (ministers) to God’s people! They are the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46).

 

As an immediate application for us, never underestimate the ripple effect of one small act of obedience. I believe that “just doing your job” with all of your heart is the greatest way you can serve in full-time Christian ministry. Please hear this: you don’t have to work in a position within the church or as a missionary to be on mission! It’s not about your job title or what you do, it’s about doing it all for God’s glory. As Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
Just think about this for a second: What if the angels did not do their jobs wholeheartedly? What if the angels who are commanded to minister to you in a time of great need or danger were only going through the motions, trying to do the minimum of what was needed to avoid Hell in hopes of going to Heaven? Scary thought…maybe that should wake us up to the importance of how we live our lives. Thank you Jesus for forgiveness and grace!  But let us not use God’s grace as license to sin or to be half-hearted in our Christian life.
 
Angels are created beings who have existed in the presence of God for thousands of years so while they have free will and can fall, they have every reason to obey with their whole heart. John records an angel’s response to him in Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.’”
 
Perspective matters! This verse DOES NOT mean angels are our servants; they are fellow servants of God! Angels are ministering spirits to God’s earthly family. Listen to Hebrews 1:14,Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
 
And this leads us into our big question of the day: Are there guardian angels? ——— The short answer is yes! Here is what the Bible has to say about the topic of guardian angels:
 
  1. Hebrews 1:14 calls angels “ministering spirits” and they are “sent out” which means there is a Sender [GOD; hence, we don’t command angels, they act according to God’s orders and within the boundaries of His revealed will to them] and they minister to a specific people, “those who will inherit salvation” [who the Bible calls the elect].
  2. Psalm 34:7 reinforces the group to which the angels minister: The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.”
  3. Psalm 91:11 discusses that you could have a multitude of angels helping you: “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
  4. Matthew 18:10 emphasizes God’s special provision for children, but speaks of angels in heaven continually in God’s presence and we know angels cannot be in two places at once: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
  5. Acts 12:15 is part of an amazing story of how angels serve God’s earthly family. This Scripture teaches that angels are real and active in the age of the Church. After angels physically manifest to rescue Peter from jail (please read the story), Peter goes back to the other followers of Jesus, but since they think he is in jail, when Rhoda goes to announce that Peter is at the door knocking, she gets this response: “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.’”

 

God’s people do have angels ministering to them according to God’s command and permission. Because God sees all and knows all, at times of great need you will have help, with the possibility that some of that help comes in the form of an angel or a host of angels. As J. I. Packer states, “Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives” (J. I. Packer, 1993, 66).
 
Allow me to make 2 quick illustrations: Sports: I’ve played basketball and you’ve either played it or watched it. Do we need to always play man-to-man defense, even when there are enough players to do so? No, of course not, you do what is effective and that which the coach tells you!
 
Just like you trust the coach, trust God! The angels do, so should we! In fact, the angels that don’t trust God are no longer part of the loyal host of Heaven. Truly, if we don’t trust God and do what He says, should we go around saying we are Christians? Thank God for Jesus Christ who by grace redeems us and secure us in His love, but let us not abuse such a love.
 
Parenting: First kid, it’s 2:1. Second kid, it’s 1:1. Third kid, you’re outnumbered! J But, here’s the deal, even when Kimberly and I are outnumbered (for her it’s 3:1 for 10 hours a day most days) every one of our children knows that they have a parent who is there for them and will answer their call for help. Even though the child may not always get what s/he thinks is best or good in his/her own eyes, the child knows s/he always has a parent who is there! How much more will we receive the help we need when we call upon the Lord. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Don’t call out to angels because angels come only at the command of the Lord. Don’t try to command them, don’t pray to them, and never worship them!
 
Angels are not God’s only means by which to minister to you, to care for you, to guard you and His earthly family. God has more at His disposal for your well-being in this life than angels. God has called you to come to the aid of others like the angels are called to come to your aid. Which is why Hebrews 13:1-2 commands His Church, Let love of the brethren [men and women] continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [men and women], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” You never know how God will use you to minister to others. You never know that someone may mistake you as an angel just like you may be ministering to an angel one day without knowing it. This should stop us in our tracks of any racism, sexism, bigotry, vileness, cursing, gossip or slander. God is with us and His angels are possibly the person you are speaking to or about.
 
Who can you invest in today? What service can you render? How can you be there for someone who needs to experience the love of God?
 
In conclusion, may the Christmas story remind you that you are never alone! The miracle of Christmas is Immanuel – God is with us! The little baby Jesus of the first Christmas morning grew up to be a man who lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death for your sin, defeated death through His resurrection, ascended to Heaven in His resurrected body, and is coming again to make all things right. He promised to you, “I am with you always, even to the end of this age” (Matthew 28:20).
 
God keeps His promises! You are secure in His love for all of eternity and you are protected by His presence and power in this life. God will send His angels to minister to you, but more than that, God is with you, today and every day, forever! Immanuel – this is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.
 
 
This ends the notes from the actual teaching, but for those who have had their appetites whetted…
 

For Additional Study (Quotes from Resources with references)

 
Key Verses Heb 1:14; Heb 13:2; Is 6:2–3; Da 10:10–14; Lk 1:26–38; 2 Ki 19:35; Job 1:6; 2 Pe 2:11; Col 1:16; Mt 22:28–30; Lk 15:10; Zec 1:9–10; Ps 103:20–21; Eze 10:1–22 Additional Verses Ge 18:1–22; Ge 19:1–22; Jos 5:13–15; 2 Sa 14:17; 2 Sa 14:20; 1 Ki 22:19; Job 38:7; Ps 34:7; Ps 78:49; Ps 91:11; Ps 148:2–6; Da 9:20–27; Col 1:16; Mt 2:19; Mt 4:6–11; Mt 22:30; Mt 24:31; Mt 25:31; Mt 26:53; Mk 1:13; Mk 8:38; Lk 2:13; Lk 4:10; Lk 20:36; Jn 20:10–14; Ac 1:10–11; Ac 5:19; Ac 10:22; Ac 12:5–11; 1 Co 11:10; Col 1:16; Col 2:18; Heb 1:7; Heb 2:6–9; 2 Pe 2:11; Re 4:6–10; Re 5:11–12; Re 14:6[1]  
 
  • David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (2015)
 
As far as I can determine, there are just two verses in the Bible that indicate there might be guardian angels in the world today. The first is Matthew 18:10: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Apparently, some of God’s angels are assigned to stand ready before the Father to respond instantly to His command for protection and care over these children. Jesus calls these particular angels “their angels.” And that’s why some people have used this passage as proof that everyone has an angel.

 

The second passage that seems to support guardian angels is in Acts 12. After Peter was released from jail, he went to the home of Mary, where a group of Christians was praying for his release. A servant named Rhoda answered Peter’s knock at the door. She was so excited to hear his voice, she left him outside and ran to tell the believers Peter was at the door. They didn’t believe her and reasoned the person at the door must be Peter’s angel.
 
Now, those are the only two passages that I’m aware of that allude to the idea of guardian angels. Having said all of that, let me also present to you the other side of the story, because while many believers throughout church history have believed in guardian angels, others have rejected the idea, feeling these two texts are not proof enough to construct such a doctrine. As you read the Scripture, there were many times when more than one angel was called into action on behalf of one of God’s chosen. Several angels carried Lazarus’s soul to Abraham’s bosom. And Elisha and his servant were surrounded by many angels. The psalmist writes that all the angels rally for the protection of one saint.
 
Now, we can’t know with absolute certainty whether or not each believer has a guardian angel; but we do know that God’s angels care about us and that they can intervene in our lives as they are called by God—and that’s a wonderful thought![2]

 

Our English word angel translates the Hebrew word mal’ak in the Old Testament and the Greek word angelos in the New Testament. The core meaning of both of those words is “messenger.” That’s the essence of who and what angels are: God’s messengers. God’s will and work for angels is to communicate His messages, both by what they say and what they do (Psalm 103:20–21). And solely in obedience to His will are they sent to serve us. God’s own ministry to us, His plans for us, and His protection of us are the busy stairway angels use in their daily diligence of attending to our needs. When they give us strength or enlightenment, it is God’s strength or enlightenment that they impart (Luke 22:43; Daniel 9:21–22). Their encouragement is God’s encouragement (Genesis 16:10–11). Their guidance is God’s guidance (Acts 11:13). Their protection is God’s protection (Psalm 34:7). When they bring comfort and assistance, it is God’s comfort and assistance they offer (Matthew 4:10–11). And when they bring wrath, it is God’s wrath they inflict (2 Chronicles 32:21). Through what angels say and do, God personally expresses to us His friendship, His fatherhood, and much more.[3]  
 
The Bible gives no indication that angels will respond if we pray directly to them for help. We are never told to pray to angels. In fact, in Scripture we don’t find any instances of people even asking God to send them an angel’s protection. And the only person in Scripture who tried persuading someone else to seek help from an angel was Satan, who quoted an Old Testament verse about angelic protection while tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Angels are God’s messengers to us and never our messengers to God—they are not go-betweens or mediators between us and heaven. No one in Scripture ever prayed to an angel, and neither should we. We pray to God, and He sends the help we need.[4]  
 
Yes, some angels appear in human form. In Genesis 18 and 19, angels appear as men to Abraham and Lot. If you read the story carefully, you see that these angels ate, washed, walked, grabbed hands—they took a physical form. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” If you really believe in angels and would enjoy entertaining or honoring them (as a thank-you gesture perhaps for everything they do for you), consider improving your hospitality to strangers. Not until eternity will you know if any of the strangers you encountered were angels, but the possibility is exciting![5]
 
  • Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (2004)  
 
Scripture clearly tells us that God sends angels for our protection: “He will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12). But some people have gone beyond this idea of general protection and wondered if God gives a specific “guardian angel” for each individual in the world, or at least for each Christian. Support for this idea has been found in Jesus’ words about little children, “in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). However, our Lord may simply be saying that angels who are assigned the task of protecting little children have ready access to God’s presence. (To use an athletic analogy, the angels may be playing “zone” rather than “man-on-man” defense.) When the disciples in Acts 12:15 say that Peter’s “angel” must be knocking at the door, this does not necessarily imply belief in an individual guardian angel. It could be that an angel was guarding or caring for Peter just at that time. There seems to be, therefore, no convincing support for the idea of individual “guardian angels” in the text of Scripture.[6]  
 
As if to make the reality of angelic observation of our service to God more vivid, the author of Hebrews suggests that angels can sometimes take human form, apparently to make “inspection visits,” something like the newspaper’s restaurant critic who disguises himself and visits a new restaurant. We read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2; cf. Gen. 18:2–5; 19:1–3). This should make us eager to minister to the needs of others whom we do not know, all the while wondering if someday we will reach heaven and meet the angel whom we helped when he appeared temporarily as a human being in distress here on earth.
 
When we are suddenly delivered from a danger or distress, we might suspect that angels have been sent by God to help us, and we should be thankful. An angel shut the mouths of the lions so they would not hurt Daniel (Dan. 6:22), delivered the apostles from prison (Acts 5:19–20), later delivered Peter from prison (Acts 12:7–11), and ministered to Jesus in the wilderness at a time of great weakness, immediately after his temptations had ended (Matt. 4:11).

  When a car suddenly swerves from hitting us, when we suddenly find footing to keep from being swept along in a raging river, when we walk unscathed in a dangerous neighborhood, should we not suspect that God has sent his angels to protect us? Does not Scripture promise, “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12)? Should we not therefore thank God for sending angels to protect us at such times? It seems right that we should do so.[7]   “Worship of angels” (Col. 2:18) was one of the false doctrines being taught at Colossae. Moreover, an angel speaking to John in the book of Revelation warns John not to worship him: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10).

 
Nor should we pray to angels. We are to pray only to God, who alone is omnipotent and thus able to answer prayer and who alone is omniscient and therefore able to hear the prayers of all his people at once. By virtue of omnipotence and omniscience, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also worthy of being prayed to, but this is not true of any other being. Paul warns us against thinking that any other “mediator” can come between us and God, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). If we were to pray to angels, it would be implicitly attributing to them a status equal to God, which we must not do. There is no example in Scripture of anyone praying to any specific angel or asking angels for help.
 
Moreover, Scripture gives us no warrant to seek for appearances of angels to us. They manifest themselves unsought. To seek such appearances would seem to indicate an unhealthy curiosity or a desire for some kind of spectacular event rather than a love for God and devotion to him and his work. Though angels did appear to people at various times in Scripture, the people apparently never sought those appearances. Our role is rather to talk to the Lord, who is himself the commander of all angelic forces. However, it would not seem wrong to ask God to fulfill his promise in Psalm 91:11 to send angels to protect us in times of need.[8]
 
  • A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1984)

It is true that angels are sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). But nowhere in Scripture or Jewish tradition of the NT period is there any suggestion that there is one angel for one person. Daniel and Zechariah imply one angel for each nation. Appeal to Acts 12:15 does not help. Why should Peter’s supposed guardian angel sound like Peter? And if ministering angels are sent to help believers, what are the angels in Matthew 18:10 doing around the divine throne, instead of guarding those people to whom they are assigned?[9]

  • I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993)

 

Heaven is their headquarters (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; Rev. 5:11), where they constantly worship God (Pss. 103:20–21; 148:2) and whence they move out to render service to Christians at God’s bidding (Heb. 1:14). These are the “holy” and “elect” angels (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22; 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 14:10), to whom God’s work of grace through Christ is currently demonstrating more of the divine wisdom and glory than they knew before (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12). Holy angels guard believers (Pss. 34:7; 91:11), little ones in particular (Matt. 18:10), and constantly observe what goes on in the church (1 Cor. 11:10). It is implied that they are more knowledgeable about divine things than humans are (Mark 13:32), and that they have a special ministry to believers at the time of their death (Luke 16:22), but we know no details about any of this. Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives.[10]
 
  • Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (2018)

 

An earthly focus occupies roughly three-quarters of the approximately 180 references to angels in the New Testament. This frequency should not be surprising, as it is God’s will that his heavenly agents serve his human family.
 
Instead of being objects of worship or adoration, angels are cast in the New Testament as “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14). Angels are portrayed rendering their service in a variety of ways. They delivered apostles from prison (Acts 5:18–21; 12:7–11). One comforted Paul when his life was threatened (Acts 27:23). Angels brought messages to people in dreams (Joseph: Matt 1:20–24; 2:13, 19) and visions (Mary, the mother of Jesus: Luke 1:26–38; Zechariah: Luke 1:8–23; Cornelius: Acts 10:3–7, 22 [cf. Acts 11:13]; Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” at the empty tomb: Matt 28:1–7 [cf. Luke 24:23]; John 20:12–13; cf. 1 Tim 3:16). Angels appeared in the heavens to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9, 10).
 
Angels could also encounter humans physically. An angel struck Peter on the side to awaken him in prison and supernaturally freed him from his shackles (Acts 12:7). The apostle nevertheless presumed he was experiencing a vision until he found himself outside the jail alone on the street (Acts 12:7–11). The circumstance of an angel of the Lord appearing to Philip (Acts 8:26) is not qualified as a vision, and so a physical appearance is a possible reading of that encounter. Angels ministered to Jesus after he resisted the devil in the wilderness (Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13). An angel rolled back the stone covering the tomb of Jesus and subsequently used it for a seat (Matt 28:2).
 
These instances are all consistent with portrayals of angels in the Old Testament. It is not surprising, in view of this earlier revelation, that the New Testament has Jewish characters expressing the belief that angels could appear and speak to people (John 12:29; Acts 23:9). As the writer of Hebrews notes, an angel’s true identity in such an encounter could be completely imperceptible: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). The implication is that angels could not be distinguished from ordinary men. The writer is apparently thinking of Old Testament episodes such as Genesis 18–19. However, explicit references to angels as men are rare in the New Testament (Luke 24:4 [cf. John 20:12]); Acts 1:10; 10:30), and when they do occur, the “men” wear dazzling, luminous robes, suggesting they were extraordinary.
 
One of the more pronounced ministries to people in which angels engage is that of interpreting visions or divine decrees. We saw earlier that this thematic portrayal (the “interpreting angel” motif) occurred in Old Testament apocalyptic literature. The same is true of apocalyptic literature in the New Testament, particularly the book of Revelation, where angels regularly interpret the visions seen by John (1:1; 4:1; 10:7–10; 17:1, 17; 21:9, 10; 22:1, 6, 8). As one specialist of this motif notes:
 
The book of Revelation is the archetype of the apocalyptic genre, and as such it largely conforms to the norms of the type. It presents itself as a revelation (αποκαλυψη, apokalypsē) given through the mediation of heavenly beings.
 
Angels are also described in an advocacy role, popularly referred to as “guardian angels.” Earlier we saw that the Old Testament referred to holy ones as “mediators,” a role that involved explaining divine decisions and functioning as witness on behalf of the innocent in their suffering. The New Testament contains hints of this same idea, though it is clear that believers no longer need an advocate mediator, because Jesus himself now intercedes for us before God (1 Tim 2:5).
 
Matthew 18:10 reads, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” This statement of course precedes the high priestly work of Christ and draws on Old Testament concepts of angelic mediation. Barrett notes, “Judaism believed in protecting and guiding angels.” Pseudo-Philo (Liber antiquitatum biblicarum 59.4) and the Testament of Jacob (1:10) draw on Psalm 91:11–12 (cf. Luke 4:10) to express the guardianship of angels. In the book of Tobit, when Tobit and his wife send their son on a journey, he tells her:
 
Do not worry; our child will leave in good health and return to us in good health. Your eyes will see him on the day when he returns to you in good health. Say no more! Do not fear for them, my sister. For a good angel will accompany him; his journey will be successful, and he will come back in good health. (Tobit 5:21–22 nrsv)
 
Acts 12 apparently has some aspect of angelic oversight in view. After an angel freed Peter from prison, Peter went “to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). A servant girl named
Rhoda responded to his knock recognized his voice but, in her excitement at hearing Peter, ran to tell those gathered instead of letting him inside. Despite their prayers, they didn’t believe her report, replying, “It is his angel!” Peter kept knocking and was finally welcome (12:15–16). The believers gathered that night believed that Peter had a personal angel.

 

The idea of guardian angels apparently includes protection, as angels did rescue people, but angelic “oversight” in the human sphere also includes keeping track of evil perpetrated on the innocent for later judgment or a record of those who will inherit eternal life. Recall that the “books in heaven” concept was associated with the divine council in the ancient Near East. Jesus says specifically of believers in Revelation 3:5 that “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” The reference to angels speaks of both “council validation” of those who belong to Christ (see below), but also of angelic witness to such a verdict. Elsewhere in the book of Revelation, this “confession” (or rejection) has to do with the “book of life” (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). In Luke 10:20 Jesus told the seventy disciples, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Other believers are recorded in the “book of life” (Phil 4:3). This may be the context for a verse like Luke 16:22, where, upon death, the poor man was carried by angels to the afterlife comfort of “Abraham’s side.” Given that some of these passages in Revelation are naturally associated with the apocalyptic eschaton, it is relevant to note that angels are also tasked with gathering the elect—those found in the book of life—at such time (Matt 13:39; 24:31; Mark 13:27).[11]  
 
As we saw in our first chapter, the terms malʾākı̂m (“angel”), keruḇı̂m (“cherubim”), and śerāp̱ı̂m (“seraphim”) are not interchangeable. They are, in effect, job descriptions performed by different spirit beings. In biblical literature, cherubim and seraphim are never sent to people to deliver messages. That task belongs to angels. Cherubim and seraphim are heavenly throne guardians, a role that at times brings them into contact with humans, but they are not sent to earth to instruct people. Conversely, angels are found in the divine presence as well. Old and New Testament writers place them there. Rather, the terminology distinguishes roles.
 
We have also seen that whenever angels encounter humans in their messaging role, they appear in human form. In the Old Testament their appearance makes them indistinguishable from men. It is only when they do something unearthly that their transcendent nature becomes apparent. The only visible exceptions in to this pattern are found in the New Testament, where members of the heavenly host appear to people along with luminous glory (Luke 2:9, 13) or dazzlingly white clothing (Matt 28:3). Angels are never described as having inhuman features (wings, multiple faces) like cherubim and seraphim are. The reverse is actually the case. Cherubim and seraphim may share human traits, but angels do not have creaturely attributes. The conclusion can be drawn, then, that angels—those divine beings sent to earth to interact with people—look like people and do not have wings.
 
Zechariah 5:9 is often offered as an exception to both the human (and male) portrayal of angels:
 
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.
 
Despite the fact that even some scholars speak about these women with wings as angels, there is no textual basis for identifying the women as angels. The “women” (Hebrew, našı̂m) are never described as angels. In the very next verse the prophet speaks to an angel (malʾāk), a figure distinct from the women (Zech 5:10). When the angel speaks (Zech 5:11), the writer used the masculine form of the verb (yōʾmer), not the feminine form (tōʾmer). The text is clear.
 
Zechariah 5:8–11 therefore provides no biblical evidence for the notion that angels have wings or come to humans in female appearance. While it is clear that wings mark the women as being from heaven (as opposed to earth), the point is not “these are angels.” Rather, the point is to highlight their contrast with the wicked woman in the basket a few verses earlier (Zech 5:5–8). Akin to the removal of the filthy garments of Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3, the women represent God’s removal of wickedness from his land and people to Shinar (Babylon), where evil belongs.
 
One could actually make a more reasoned case for the women being cherubim. In addition to their creaturely attribute of wings, Zechariah 5:9 notes, “The wind [rûaḥ] was in their wings.” The term rûaḥ is frequently translated “Spirit”/“spirit.” This is the same “locomotion” of the winged cherubim in Ezekiel 1:12, 20; 10:17. Like Ezekiel 1, the context is oriented to Babylon, the source of cherubim iconography.
 
Since Zechariah 5:8–11 cannot validate that angels are winged creatures, the passage also fails as evidence that angels can appear as women (biblically speaking, at least). If the women are not angels, then Zechariah 5:9 cannot teach us that angels can appear as women.
 
The assumption presupposes the idea that angels have gender. They do not—indeed they cannot be gendered, since they are spirit beings and gender is a biological attribute. When angels assume visible form or flesh to interact with human beings, Scripture always has them male. The flesh they assume is gendered because it is flesh, not because that corporality is an intrinsic part of angelic nature.
 
With respect to the New Testament, the primary appeal to angels having wings comes from Revelation 10:1:
 
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

 

The argument goes: the passage never mentions wings, but because the angel “comes down from heaven,” he must have wings. The same argument (and omission of any reference to wings) is characteristic of Revelation 14:6, 17, where angels emerge from the heavenly temple and altar, respectively (cf. Matt 28:2).
 
The flaw in this argument is its dependence on descent language. It is not difficult to demonstrate its terminal weakness. Are we to conclude that Jesus has wings? After all, he descends from heaven (1 Thess 4:16). Does the Holy Spirit have wings? He descends on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). The point with both examples is that for supernatural beings, descent from heaven does not require wings. The point may be a floating descent, or an urgent one, depending on the context. It may also be figurative language designed purely to denote point of origin—God’s abode. For example, the same language is used of Jesus’ first coming, which we know was by virtue of being born of Mary, having nothing to do with wings: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). It is quite evident that descent language for divine figures does not require wings and so provides no support for angels having wings.[12]

 

FOOTNOTES:

 [1] Sam Emadi, “Angels,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
 [2] David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015), 62–63.
[3] Ibid., 64.
[4] Ibid., 65.
[5] Ibid., 68.
[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 399–400.
[7] Ibid., 406.
[8] Ibid., 407.
[9] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 401.
[10] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 64–66.
[11] Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 132–136.
[12] Ibid., 164–167.
 

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