Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #764 MP3 Audio File Video File

What is an Angel?

Jude 6a

Delivered 07/05/15

We are studying the little Epistle of Y'hudah. Having said in verse 4 that the Tanakh teaches that apostates will be judged, Jude now illustrates the truth that divine judgment will come upon apostates using another triad. He cites three historic instances that establish the certainty of the fate that awaits those who fall away from the truth. Verse 5 talks about the judgment on apostate Israel, verse 6 on apostate angels, and verse 7 on apostate Gentiles. We looked last week at judgment on apostate Israel, and this morning we want to begin to look at verse 6, which deals with Yahweh's judgment on apostate angels:

And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, Jude 1:6 NASB

Before we can get into this verse, we must come to an understanding on what Jude means by angels. There are lots of ideas out there on what an angel is.

Back in the early 90's angels were very popular in America. Best seller lists had popular titles about angels; book stores had whole sections devoted to angels. NBC had a special called Angels: The Mysterious Messengers. Michael Landon starred for five years as an angel sent to earth to assist mortals in Highway to Heaven, and CBS had a show called Touched by an Angel. From 2007-2010 there was a tv show called Saving Grace" about an angel and a police officer. In 1993 the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, made angels the theme of the White House Christmas tree and often wore a gold angel pin on days when she needed encouragement.

Among the major contributing factors to the angel craze among Christians in the early 1990s were Frank Peretti's mega-best-selling fiction books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, which graphically depict behind-the-scenes angelic intervention in the lives of believers.

If there is such a thing as a universal idea, one that cuts across cultures and religions, common through the centuries, it is this belief in angels. Not only do Christians, and Jews (the Jews regarded angels as the most exalted of all God's creatures) have angels, but Muslims and Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism have them too; winged figures appear in primitive Sumerian carvings, Egyptian tombs, and Assyrian beliefs. Angels litter the metaphysical landscape from ancient times to the present.

The New Age Movement calls fallen angels, "Avatars," or "Spirit-guides." Their human devotees practice channeling or mediumistic activities, offering to awaken hidden powers within men and women which will help them fulfill their greatest possibilities.

Today, many Christians, whether rationalist Protestants, ex-Catholics, or some of the emerging-churches, see angels as being merely symbolic, just a story-teller's way of telling the story. With all the confusion in our day about angels, let's go to the Word of God and see what we can learn about angels.


What does the Bible say about angels? First of all, the term "angel" is derived from the Hebrew word malak, which means: "messenger." Strong says, "Malak, from an unused root meaning to despatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically of God." In general, in texts where an "angel" appears, the task is to convey the message or do something on behalf of Yahweh.

Malak is the same name given to the last prophetic book Malach,i which means: "my messenger." "Malachi" may possibly be viewed as a descriptive title of the author rather than as a personal name. Some believe that Malachi is an angel, but the book's content and its presence among the prophets make it certain that Malachi is a human messenger, a prophet.

There are 213 uses of the Hebrew word malak in the Tanakh and its Aramaic equivalent appears twice. The NASB translates 105 of them as "angel" and the rest as "messenger." So in the NASB malak is more often translated as "messenger" than "angel." They translate it as "angel" when they see it as a divine messenger, and as "messenger" when they see it as a human messenger. Since the focus of the text is on the message, the messenger is rarely described in detail. Thus, the divine emissary may or may not be some sort of supernatural being, which must be determined by the context. Let's look at some of its uses in the Tanakh. The first use of "angel" in the Bible is:

Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. Genesis 16:7 NASB

The first uses of malak is to the malak of Yahweh. The precise identity of the "angel of Yahweh" is not given in the Bible. However, there are many important clues to his identity. It seems when the definite article "the" is used, it is specifying a unique being, separate from the other angels. The angel of Yahweh claims Yahweh's actions as his own:

Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you, Judges 2:1 NASB

Who delivered Israel from Egypt, who had a covenant with them?:

'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. Leviticus 25:38 NASB

The angel of Yahweh is equated with Yahweh:

The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. Exodus 3:2 NASB
When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Exodus 3:4 NASB

So the angel of Yahweh and Yahweh are interchanged in many different accounts. In the story of Gideon we see this:

The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, "The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior." Judges 6:12 NASB
The LORD looked at him and said, "Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" Judges 6:14 NASB

In Daniel 7 the heavenly Son of Man is distinguished from Yahweh:

"I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. Daniel 7:13 NASB

So we see them distinguished, but the Son of Man riding the clouds is an action only Yahweh does:

Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; Psalms 104:1-3 NASB

So the Son of Man riding a cloud is saying that He is Yahweh. When you put all these texts together, they build a compelling cumulative case of PLURALITY WITHIN YAHWEH HIMSELF. I believe that the angel of Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Christ, Yahweh the Son. Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Tertullian suggested that the angel of Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Christ. The appearances of the angel of Yahweh cease after the incarnation of Christ. Angels are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament, but "the angel of Yahweh" is never mentioned in the New Testament after the birth of Christ.

The phrase "malak Yahweh" (where malak is singular) can refer to a human messenger sent by Yahweh, we see that in:

"For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. Malachi 2:7 NASB

After the four uses of "malak Yahweh" in Genesis we see malak used by itself:

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. Genesis 19:1 NASB

These don't appear to be human messengers:

They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway. Genesis 19:11 NASB

Do you know any humans who can do this? So angels have great power over humans:

He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:12 NASB

That divine beings used the ladder shows that this marked an entryway to the divine realm:

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Genesis 28:16-17 NASB

"House of God"-this Hebrew phrase, "beyt elohim," which is typically used of a temple—both within and outside the Tanakh. Temples were not only divine abodes; they were also the place of divine activity as it pertained to humanity. "Gate of heaven"-the stairway led to God's abode, the heavens. These are divine beings.

The first human use of malak is found in:

Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. Genesis 32:3 NASB

Here the NASB has translated malak as "messengers" to distinguish it from the supernatural messengers, or angels.

There are some within Preterism that believe and teach that there are no demons or supernatural beings called angels. They see all references to angels as speaking of men who are human messengers of God. So they are in a sense like the Sadducees:

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Acts 23:8 NASB

Now this verse is not saying or implying that the Sadducess don't believe in human messengers, but that they don't believe in supernatural beings called, "angels."

Let's look at a few references in the Tanakh that I think you are hard pressed to make human messengers:

"I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Exodus 33:2 NASB
And the LORD sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in shame to his own land. And when he had entered the temple of his god, some of his own children killed him there with the sword. 2 Chronicles 32:21 NASB

Angel here is singular. He sent one angel. In 2 Kings it tells us just how many this one angel killed:

Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. 2 Kings 19:35 NASB

In Chronicles it says, "Yahweh sent an angel" and in Kings it is the "angel of Yahweh." It's hard for me to see a human messenger in this text. Now let's look at a couple of texts in Daniel:

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Daniel 3:28 NASB

Here we have an angel in the midst of the fiery furnace who delivers the three Hebrews. Not sure how this could be a human. So here we see that angels are used to help humans.

"My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime." Daniel 6:22 NASB

This angel gets into a sealed lion's den without breaking the seal and shuts the mouth of the hungry lions. Seems kind of supernatural to me. Just in case you think that the lions weren't hungry, look at what follows:

The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions' den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Daniel 6:24 NASB

That gives us an idea of what is in the Tanakh. In the Apocrypha, a distinction is found between good and bad angels:

"For a good angel will accompany him; his journey will be successful, and he will come back in good health." Tobit 5:22 NRSV

Now let's look at angels in the New Testament. The Greek word translated "angel is angelos, which means: "messenger." Angelos is the Greek equivalent of malak. There are 176 uses of angelos in the New Testament. The NASB translates only four of them as "messenger" and the rest of them as "angel." So in the NASB "angel" is by far the predominate translation of angelos. Speaking of John the Baptizer the Scripture says:

"This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' Matthew 11:10 NASB

"Messenger" here is angelos and clearly refers to a human messenger. Again, it is only translated "messenger" four times out of its 176 uses.

Let's look at some texts that use angelos as a non human divine messenger. One that we all should be familiar with is:

"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. Matthew 16:27 NASB

These heavenly messengers are coming with Christ at His Second Coming.

"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; Matthew 25:41 NASB

Here we see that the devil has angels. The devil and his angels have been cast into eternal fire.

"Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? Matthew 26:53 NASB

This is not talking about human messengers. A Roman legion consisted of about 5,000 soldiers. Twelve legions equal about 60,000 angels. Since one angel killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, 12 legions was more than enough to deal with the mob that gathered to arrest Yeshua.

Let me give you some more references that don't appear to be human messengers. Here again we see angels helping the Lord's people:

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, Acts 5:19 NASB

The apostles are delivered from prison by an angel:

And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands. Acts 12:7 NASB

If this was a human messenger did he have keys to the chains?:

When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. Acts 12:10 NASB

Again, this sounds pretty supernatural to me.

And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. Acts 12:23 NASB

Here an angel is used to bring the judgment of God.

There are a few times when I think the NASB translators got the wrong translation of angelos, and several of them are found in Revelation:

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: Revelation 2:1 NASB

Who is the "angel of the church"? It is a messenger, either human or heavenly. Back when John Eleazar penned the Revelation, this phrase would not have been misunderstood as a heavenly messenger. It was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew, "sheliach tzibbur", or messenger of the assembly, who was a leader in the synagogue.

One of the officers of the synagogue was the sheliach tzibbur, the Delegate of the Assembly. The Hebrew word sheliach means: "legate" or "delegate," and comes from the Hebrew root shalach: "to send." Thus it is easy to see how sheliach came over into Greek as aggelos: "a messenger," often translated: "angel." The Hebrew word tzibbur means: "assembly." The sheliach tzibbur was a man of good character who the ruler of the synagogue would ask to read the Scriptures, and he was also expected to read the prayers. He was the mouthpiece of the congregation.

Yeshua wrote to the "angel," who would then read the letter to the congregation. When John wrote this, the church was still meeting in the synagogue.

John also uses angelos of heavenly messengers:

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, Revelation 12:7 NASB
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, Revelation 17:1 NASB

Here again we see angels issuing judgment.

There are several categories of angels, another category of these heavenly beings is that of winged angels. No, not all angels have wings. But Cherubim and seraphim do have wings:

In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. Isaiah 6:1-2 NASB

Seraphim appear only in Isaiah's vision and there attend God's throne and offer praises.

The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man's hand under their wings. Ezekiel 10:8 NASB

Cherubim function primarily as guards or attendants to the divine throne. They were placed as armed guards at the entrance to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were banished.

Another set of terms used to describe angels focuses not on angels as Yahweh's messengers, but as Yahweh's heavenly council. Terms such as "sons of God," "holy ones," and "heavenly host" seem to focus on angels as Yahweh's divine council. As such, these variously worship Yahweh, attend Yahweh's throne, or comprise Yahweh's army. These terms are used typically in contexts emphasizing the grandeur, power, and/or mighty acts of Yahweh. All three categories present us with heavenly beings in service to Yahweh. The text may focus on the service done or on the God served, but rarely on the servants themselves. As a result, we are left with a multitude of questions about the angelic host.

Where did the angels come from? Yahweh created them:

"You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You. Nehemiah 9:6 NASB
Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. Psalms 148:2-5 NASB

It seems that they were all created at once. Which means there are no little angels! The number of angels has not increased since they were originally created. Since they are created, this means no one should worship them. We do not worship created things, we only worship the Creator Yeshua the Christ.

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, Colossians 2:18 NASB

William Hendriksen says that there is evidence that angel worship was rather prevalent in the region of Colosse at that time. We know that the Essene community leaned toward angel worship. One of the writings of the Essenes says to carefully guard the names of the angels. Hendriksen notes that in A.D. 363 a church synod was held in Colossae's sister city of Laodicea. It declared, "It is not right for Christians to abandon the church of God and go away to invoke angels" (Canon 25) (cited in Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], p. 126).

When John tried to worship an angel, he was rebuked for doing so:

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Yeshua; worship God. For the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy." Revelation 19:10 NASB

Angels are not ghosts nor are they spirits of the dead. They do not spend time trying to "earn their wings" like Clarence in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. This idea was not invented by Frank Capra; its roots go back at least as far as The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 1:39, early 2nd century AD, and probably even further back. No place in Christian theology do we find any reference to humans becoming angels.

What do angels look like? In the Bible, the appearance of angels varies. Only cherubim and seraphim are represented with wings. Often in the Tanakh angels appear as ordinary men. Sometimes, however, their uniqueness is evident as they do things or appear in a fashion clearly non-human. The brilliant white appearance common to the New Testament angel is not a feature of the Tanakh image. Angels are spirit beings that are capable of appearing in human form. We already saw this in Genesis 19.

And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. Matthew 28:2-3 NASB

This text describes an angel who appeared at the scene of Christ's resurrection. Notice that it says, "his" in referring to the angel. Angels always appear as men! The masculine pronoun is always used to speak of them. Angels are most often represented in our culture as women, but in the Bible they are always men.

Can angels die? One commentator writes, "Angels are not subject to death or any form of extinction; therefore, they do not decrease in number." He lists no Scripture; he just makes the statement:

I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. "Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes." Psalms 82:6-7 NASB

This is speaking of Yahweh's divine counse,l which are a form of angel. Brenton uses "angels" in his, 1851 translation of the Septuagint into English in:

Remember the days of old, consider the years for past ages: ask thy father, and he shall relate to thee, thine elders, and they shall tell thee. 8 When the Most High divided the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. DEUTERONOMY 32:7-8

In the Septuagint the Greek phrase "aggelon theou" is translated: "angels of God." This interpretive phrase is found in nearly all the extant Septuagint manuscripts. However, several earlier manuscripts have instead "huion theou," or "sons of God." This is a literal rendering of the Hebrew phrase beney elohim found among the Dead Sea Scroll copies of Deuteronomy 32:8.

The Septuagint translators plainly understood that the "sons of God" (beney elohim) spoken of in Deuteronomy 32:8 and elsewhere were spirit beings ("angels"), and rendered it that way several times (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) in order to clarify the meaning. Thus the textual change from "huion theou" to "aggelon theou." And since some of these "sons of God" would die like men, it seems to me that angels can be destroyed.

Some angels have names. Michael is the head of the armies in heaven. Gabriel is the messenger angel.

One of the biggest questions people have regards Guardian Angels. Do we have them?:

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. Psalms 91:11 NASB

This Psalm is sometimes called "The Soldier's Psalm" because it emphasizes God's protection of people in times of crisis. Three voices speak in succession. The Psalm opens with an individual proclaiming his trust in God (vv. 1-8). An audience then speaks to that individual and describes God's protection and care (vv. 9-13). The Psalm concludes with God speaking about the faithful person; He promises to protect him (vv. 14-16). (Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 91:1-16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

Verse 11 envisions personally appointed angelic bodyguards for the faithful person. Yahweh's angels will oversee everything and protect the faithful.

Then there is Yeshua's comment in:

"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. Matthew 18:10 NASB

The concept of guardian angels for nations as well as individuals pervades Second Temple Literature. The writer of Hebrews speaking of angels said:

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 NASB

Angels serve the saints.

"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30 NASB

Notice that Yeshua did not say that resurrected believers become angels, as some have mistakenly believed. He said, "When they (those who died under the Old Covenant age—this age) rise from the dead (which happened in A.D. 70), they don't marry, but are like angels in heaven." The word "like" is a comparative adverb, which draws a similar, but not exact comparison. So in what way are believers in the heaven like the angels? (1) We don't marry. In heaven men become spiritual beings like the angels and there is no marriage in heaven. Marriage is for now, but not for heaven.

(2) Luke's account also tells us that we cannot die:

for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Luke 20:36 NASB

Remember, in the context he is speaking of physically dead people that are spiritually alive. So the death that he speaks of is referring to any death—we cannot die physically or spiritually. Resurrection brings one to a state where he or she can never again experience death, which is to say that we can never be separated from Yahweh. The angels in heaven don't die; just the ones who left heaven and were judged by Yahweh died.

What else do we know about angels that will apply to us after physical death? They are incorporeal—they don't have bodies, they are ministering spirits. Angels are spirits, and spirits don't have bodies:

"See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:39 NASB

Since angels are spirits rather than physical beings, they don't have to be visible at all:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16 NASB

"Invisible" here refers to the angelic principalities and powers. Do you remember back in 2 Kings where Elisha prayed that his servant would see the armies of angels surrounding the city?

So angels are spirit beings that can take on physical form. They are very powerful and are often seen in Scripture judging the enemies of Yahweh's people and ministering to the saints. Maybe they still watch over the saints today. The writer of Hebrews says:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 NASB

Did the translators get it right here? Are there spiritual beings in our midst that we don't recognize? Possibly. This could be referring to Abraham, who received "three men" (Gen 18:2) who were angels and treated them with hospitality.

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