Angels are created spirit beings (Nehemiah 9:6 and Hebrews 1:14). Yet, the Bible clearly teaches that they can take on human form and appear to people. In the Old Testament there are recorded appearances of angels to Abraham, Hagar, Lot, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Daniel, and many others. The New Testament opens with a whole series of angelic appearances related to the birth of the Messiah. After the death of Jesus, angels appeared at His tomb and at His ascension. Peter, John, Phillip, and Paul all had angelic encounters in their ministries.
In their biblical appearances angels always manifest themselves as men. There is no mention of them having wings. The idea that angels have wings is rooted in the Bible’s description of some special angelic beings called Seraphim and Cherubim who reside in the throne room of God in Heaven. Seraphim are described as having six wings (Isaiah 6:2). Cherubim are depicted with four wings (Ezekiel 1:5-6).
When angels take on human form, they appear like any normal person (Genesis 18:2 and Genesis 19:1-17). When they manifest themselves in their spirit form, they tend to appear as dazzling light (Matthew 28:1-4).
Angels have emotions. They rejoiced over the creation of the universe (Job 38:7), and we are told that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
Angels do not marry or procreate (Matthew 22:30). They do not age nor are they subject to death (Luke 20:36). Therefore, their numbers remain constant. The exact number is not revealed, but it is very large. Ten thousand angels appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2). David saw 20,000 at one time (Psalm 68:17). When John was raptured to the throne room of God, he saw ten times ten thousand (KJV) or, as the New American Standard Version puts it: “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11). The book of Hebrews says there are “innumerable myriads” (Hebrews 12:22).
Angels have great knowledge, but they are not omniscient. Jesus said, for example, that angels do not know when His Second Coming will take place (Mark 13:32). Angels are very powerful (2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 2 Peter 2:11), but they are not omnipotent. They are obedient servants of their Creator (Psalm 103:20). They can move about rapidly, but they are not omnipresent. In short, angels are not gods, and therefore, they are not to be worshiped (Colossians 2:18 and Revelation 22:8-9).
There is no biblical passage that says angels have to eat to stay alive, but the Bible portrays them as eating when they take on human form (Genesis 18:1-8 and 19:1-3). Also, Psalm 78:25 refers to the manna God provided to feed the children of Israel in the wilderness as “the bread of angels.”
In like manner, the Bible never specifically says that angels sing, but their singing is implied in two ways. First, their words are often expressed in poetic form (Luke 2:14, Revelation 4:8, 11, and Revelation 5:9-10,12-13). Second, music is a universal form of worship, and angels are pictured worshiping the Lord unceasingly (Psalm 148:1-2 and Revelation 4 and 5).
When angels speak to a person, they always use that person’s native language. But the Bible indicates that angels have a language of their own that they use among themselves (1 Corinthians 13:1).
What are the different types of angels, and what about the special angels that serve in God’s throneroom? Find out in the next segment of this series on the ministry of angels!