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Cupid, Clarence, and Christopher Lloyd

Have we let our culture shape our view of angels instead of Scripture?

By: Steven Nauman Jr.

From Cupid, the unofficial mascot of Valentine's Day, to Clarence, from one of my all-time favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life, to Christopher Lloyd as the answer to a little boy's prayer for his sports team in Angels in the Outfield--we have unknowingly let culture do a number on our practical understanding of angels. Now, there is nothing wrong with the entertainment that comes along with these ideas, but we need to be careful that we do not let the ideas seep into our belief system as followers of Christ.

I would like to give an overview of the Biblical view of angels by addressing four common myths often associated with them.

1. Angels are not eternal beings.

Throughout Scripture, angels are referred to by various terms like heavenly hosts, rulers and authorities, ministering spirits, cherubim, seraphim, living creatures, and more. But no matter what they are called, multiple passages speak of them all as God's creation (Psalm 148:2-5, Colossians 1:16).

When Jesus spoke about angels in Matthew 22:28-30, He described them as beings without gender, that do not marry, and do not procreate. We are unsure when God created them, but it was definitely before the events of Genesis 3, and likely before the events of Genesis 1 (see Job 38:4-7).

2. Angels are not all-powerful.

Since angels are created by God, they are not equal to Him in power. God has granted them power over many things, but they (angels and fallen angels) are all in submission to Him and His power (Psalm 103:20, 2 Peter 2:11).

Angels have the power to execute God's actions in the world; this includes the protection of God's people (Psalm 91:11-13) and the execution of His judgment (2 Kings 19:35, Matthew 13:49-50).

Fallen angels, or demons as the New Testament called them, also possess great power as well. They are seen as overpowering and even harming to mankind because they are opposed to the Lord and those who follow Him (Acts 19:16, Luke 9:39). But keep in mind, that as created beings, angels and fallen angels still act in submission to the Lord and His power. Note how many times in the New Testament we see Jesus, the Son of God, overpower demons as they submit to His authority.

3. Angels are not sitting on clouds playing harps.

Angels are described as spiritual beings in that they do not have flesh and bones. They are referred to as "ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14) that can move between Heaven and Earth as needed (John 1:51). They are typically invisible beings that can appear as humans when necessary (Hebrews 13:2, Genesis 19).

This is not to say that there are no angels playing harps or other musical instruments, but their goal is to worship the Lord, not to idly pass the time as they float on a cloud. Two of the greatest worship scenes in Scripture portray angels as beings that are deeply focused on the worship of the Lord.

Revelation 5:11-12 - Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Isaiah 6:2-3 - Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Note the sheer number of the angels described worshipping the Lord and how their worship does not end.

4. Humans are not each assigned a guardian angel.

As I said in my message last week, I believe that the guardian angel myth misses the full truth of how God uses His angels to protect His people. Psalm 91:11-13 is clear that God uses His angels to guard His people against evil, so much so that the Psalmist gives the humorous illustration of how angels protect us from stubbing our toes (Psalm 91:12). This is not literal, but a demonstration of how angels do guard God's people from harm as God directs them (Psalm 34:7, Psalm 78:23-25).

Matthew 18:10 is often used to describe the guardian angel idea as it seems to say that children have their own angel protecting them. But as we ponder this verse in the context of Matthew, we see that "little ones" is a phrase used multiple times by Christ to refer to "believers"--meaning that God uses His angels to protect His people--not all people. And even though this verse says, "their angels," there is no other support in Scripture for personally possessing an angel for protection. Actually the point of this verse is to draw attention to how special believers are because angels (who see the face of God each day) are sent to serve them.

Hebrews 1:14 might be the most encouraging of all the verses on angels as it shows that God uses His angels to serve believers.

Hebrews 1:14 - Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

They may serve by way of protectors, guides, messengers, or encouragers, but they serve at the Lord's command for His people. And so where having a "guardian angel" might be too narrow of an idea, having many "guardian angels" serving the whole body of Christ dispatched by God as needed, seems more biblically accurate.

In summary, angels are not humans who have died and are trying to gain a set of wings. Angels are not concerned about which sports team wins or not. And angels are not sent to make people fall in love.

Angels are spiritual beings that God uses to execute His will for the sake of His Kingdom. They are not to be worshipped, prayed to, or connected with--they are simply servants of the One that we worship, pray to, and connect with.

Believers should not get focused on angelic activity, they should remain more focused on the work of God in their lives and around the world. In the end, praise God for His protection and pray that He will help us be more aware of (but not fixated on) the spiritual realm and all that is going on around us.

For further study:

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