Angels. By the word “angels” (i.e., “messengers” of God) we ordinarily understand a race of spiritual beings of a nature exalted far above that of man, although infinitely removed from that of God—whose office is “to do him service in heaven, and by his appointment to succor and defend men on earth.” I. Scriptural use of the word.—There are many passages in which the expression “angel of God” is certainly used for a manifestation of God himself. Gen. 22:11, 12, and Ex. 3:2, 6, 14. It is to be observed, also, that side by side with these expressions we read of God’s being manifested in the form of man—as to Abraham at Mamre, Gen. 18:2, 22, comp. 19:1; to Jacob at Pennel, Gen. 32:24, 30; to Joshua at Gilgal, Josh. 5:13, 15, etc. Besides this, which is the highest application of the word angel, we find the phrase used of any messengers of God, such as the prophets, Isa. 42:19; Hag. 1:13; Mal. 3:1, the priests, Mal. 2:7, and the rulers of the Christian churches. Rev. 1:20.
II. Nature of angels.—Angels are termed “spirits,” as in Heb. 1:14; but it is not asserted that the angelic nature is incorporeal. The contrary seems expressly implied in Luke 20:36; Phil. 3:21. The angels are revealed to us as beings such as man might be, and will be when the power of sin and death is removed, because always beholding his face, Matt. 18:10, and therefore being “made like him.” 1 John 3:2. Their number must be very large, 1 Kings 22:19; Matt. 26:53; Heb. 12:22; their strength is great, Ps. 103:20; Rev. 5:2; 18:21; their activity marvellous, Isa. 6:2-6; Matt. 26:53; Rev. 8:13; their appearance varied according to circumstances, but was often brilliant and dazzling. Matt. 28:2-7; Rev. 10:1, 2. Of the nature of “fallen angels,” the circumstances and nature of the temptation by which they fell, we know absolutely nothing. All that is certain is that they “left their first estate,” and that they are now “angels of the devil.” Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:7,9. On the other hand, the title specially assigned to the angels of God—that of the “holy ones,” see Dan. 4:13, 23; 8:13; Matt. 25:31—is precisely the one which is given to those men who are renewed in Christ’s image. Comp. Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 12:23.
III. Office of the angels.—Of their office in heaven we have only vague prophetic glimpses, as in 1 Kings 22:19; Isa. 6:1-3; Dan. 7:9, 10; Rev. 6:11, etc., which show us nothing but a never-ceasing adoration. They are represented as being, in the widest sense, agents of God’s providence, natural and supernatural, to the body and to the soul. In one word, they are Christ’s ministers of grace now, as they shall be of judgment hereafter. Matt. 13:39, 41, 49; 16:27; 24:31, etc. That there are degrees of the angelic nature, both fallen and unfallen, and special titles and agencies belonging to each, is clearly declared by St. Paul, Eph. 1:21; Rom. 8:38; but what their general nature is it is useless to speculate.