A Study of Angels
A Bible study by Fred Kenison, edited and revised by Merrill Douglass
First published as Appendix C in The Apocalypse of Revelation
This study concerns the conception that many biblical people had about angels and how that conception came about. Over the years, many scriptures have been noted which refer to the mind, or mental attitude, of different people in the Bible.
This study will begin with scriptures which refer to the mind. Then, the study will proceed to the scriptures which refer to angels and how their perception was affected by the mind of the people who saw them.
Our journey begins in chapter 24 of Numbers. In verse 13, when Balak tried to coerce Balaam into cursing Israel, he received this response:
"If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord says, that will I speak."
Balaam had accepted the assignment to curse Israel for Balak. Why did he change his mind? Verse 24:2 explains it:
"And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of the Lord came upon him."
After the spirit of the Lord came upon him, Balaam said he could only speak what the Lord said to him.
Then in verse 24:15, Balaam referred to himself as the
"man whose eyes are open."
In verse 24:16, he said he had
"heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, (and) saw the vision of the Almighty."
"falling into a trance, but having his eyes open"
His mind was altered through no effort of his own. To use New Testament terminology, God's spirit had fallen upon him. It had taken control of Balaam, and being a prophet, Balaam knew it. Therefore, he told Balak he had no control over what he said. In verses 24:17-19 he gave one of the most beautiful prophecies of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, to be found in the Old Testament. [For further comments on the term "fall upon," see Monograph 20 in our book, What Scripture Says About Salvation.]
In I Samuel 2:35, God told a disobedient Eli that
"I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do what is in my heart and mind...and he shall walk before mine anointed forever."
This referred to the child Samuel.
I Samuel 3:1 says that
"The word of the Lord was precious in those days."
"There was no open vision."
God did not give a vision to Eli because his sons were not in control and were disobedient to God. God said he would raise up Samuel who would do what was in the mind and heart of God.
In I Chronicles 28:9, David advised his son, Solomon, about how to behave in order to have God's blessings upon his life.
"And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever."
God requires a willing mind from those who will be used by him and also blessed by him.
There is also a warning for those who know him and refuse his guidance. Although David warned Solomon about the consequences of forsaking God, Solomon later forsook God, and God also forsook him. The greater a person's knowledge of God, the more strictly God requires that person to follow him and his commands.
Could this also be a warning for those today who are urged by holy spirit into a greater depth in their spiritual walk but refuse, preferring things of the world and its materialism? To avoid this, some say they just will not learn any more. That will be a poor excuse at the judgment seat of Christ: trying to explain their refusal to learn more about the things of God because they preferred worldly pleasures.
There are many reasons one should yield implicit obedience to the Lord. One is given in Isaiah 26:3:
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."
This infers that if anyone really trusts in God, that person's mind is stayed, or anchored, upon him. In the time of great trial, when men everywhere are crying for peace and there is no peace, only those whose minds are anchored upon God will experience peace.
In Mark 12:30, when one of the scribes asked what was the greatest commandment of all, Jesus answered:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
Not only are we to love God with our heart, our innermost part, but also with all our soul, our psyche, or the needs of the flesh. Even the needs of the flesh are to be turned into love of God instead of being allowed to rule our lives.
Furthermore, we are to love God with all our mind. The Greek word for mind is dianoias. Thayer says this is
"the mind as the faculty of understanding, feeling, and desiring."
The first commandment requires our mind to be totally under control of the love of God. Only one person, Jesus, ever managed to be completely obedient to this commandment. He commented that he only said and did what his Father told him to do or say.
We are also to use our strength for the love of God. How difficult this is when faced with the need to provide for ourselves, or our family. We can do this if we find the balance between acquiring material things and providing for our real needs. Many followers have lost their way in this matter! And, when once lost, it is very difficult to change direction from worldliness to godliness! No wonder God's word is so demanding when it comes to our minds.
Paul must have found the answer. In Acts 20:19 he said he was
"Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews."
How did he acquire the knowledge of the proper manner to serve God? Later scriptures will provide the answer.
In Romans 7:22-25, Paul came to another extraordinary conclusion.
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Paul drew a definite line between the law of the mind and the law of sin in his members. He realized that the law of sin in his members could enslave his mind.
This was important enough for Paul to cry out in agony as he was pulled between the two,
"Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
The word translated as from is the preposition ek, which means literally "out of." Paul's question was, "Who will deliver me out of this body of death?" He knew the body was to die, and he also knew that a fleshly mind was spiritual death.
The pull was constant in Paul's life, just as it is in ours when we attempt to follow after God and his precepts. Therefore, Paul looked forward to the time he would depart the body which constantly created a tension drawing him from the total service of God. Until then, his conclusion was this: with the mind he would serve the law of God and with the flesh the law of sin.
Paul knew something that many believers do not: the body cannot be perfected. Forget the body and concentrate upon focusing the mind on the things of God. Then, the spirit will fight against the things of the flesh even as the flesh fought against the spirit. The spirit is the stronger of the two, making the matter of the flesh, or old man, inconsequential.
The old man can never be brought into conformity with the things of God. Paul states the reason for this in Romans 8:5-7:
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."
The scriptures have shown that those in the service of God had a mind for the things of God. They were humble of mind because they knew serving God was possible only by the will and enablement of God.
An example was Solomon, who earlier served God with a perfect heart and a willing mind; later, he lost the necessary humility of mind. This loss occurred when he attempted to please his pagan wives by building temples for their orgiastic worship. By his compromise, he entangled himself in the worship of false gods and fell away into idolatry.
The scriptures remind us of the first commandment: to love God with all our mind. This section will examine what happens when one fails to follow the admonitions of scripture concerning the mind.
The first warning is Proverbs 16:25:
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
Too many believers fail to examine the Bible for guidance in their spiritual life. Too many think it is good enough do to the best they can. The Bible calls that an attempt at salvation by the works of the flesh, and says that no one will ever be justified by works of the flesh.
No matter how right something may seem, it should be measured against the word of God, especially to determine if the mind is in alignment with the will of God. Why is as important as what. Anything done "in the flesh," or on the basis of the Adamic mind, will not be accepted by God as righteous. One reason for this may be found in the next scripture.
Isaiah 55:7-9 adds to the scripture from Proverbs.
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Even in the Old Testament, God did not accept man and his mind as it was in the natural state. They were to listen to the word of God for their guidance, and not depend upon their own wisdom, or mind. Otherwise, they would stray from God and forsake the way which seemed right to them. These were the ones God called wicked. They were also to forsake their thoughts. Both of these were prerequisites for returning to the God and his mercy for an abundant pardon. The natural mind just does not agree with God.
The New Testament also contains several scriptures about those who attempt to go their own way without the guidance of holy spirit. Romans l:28 says that those who
"did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."
The word for reprobate is adokimon, which means
"not standing the test, not approved" (Thayer, p. 12).
The natural mind and its results will not meet with God's approval. The things done by those who do not like to retain God in their minds will not be accepted by God. They will not pass the test at the judgment seat of Christ. Such people will not only waste their lives now, but will also miss the future rewards which could have been theirs in the next age.
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul gave a description of our condition before we became followers of God.
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
It is quite clear from Paul's statement that he did not consider himself different from anyone else who was walking according to "the age of this world, and according to a disobedient spirit." But, remember, Paul was a very religious person who was trying his best to keep the law of God. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews a highly educated man given over completely to a religious life. What, then, was wrong?
The problem was that Paul was walking according to the flesh and carnal thoughts, even though they were religious ones. In fact, religion can be one of the most insidious ways that man tries to maintain his own will and his own thoughts, or mind. All of us have been there!
The question is, are we still there even though we believe in Jesus as our savior? Even professing believers can still walk as Paul said he once walked with a religious mind. Those who walk with a religious mind are still children of God's wrath even though they think they are trying to please God. What caused Paul to change? The answer will be provided as we examine further scripture.
Paul spoke further on the matter of the mind in Colossians l:21.
"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled."
Paul told the Colossians they were once alienated from God and were enemies in their minds by wicked works.
There are three basic words in the Greek for wicked: kakos, ponerois, and thaulos. The one used above is ponerois, which means one who puts others to trouble. Such a person loves to trouble his neighbor, and is not content to do mischief by himself. He loves to convince others to join him. A person like this will naturally try to convince others to join him and walk as he walks, disobedient to God. Misery does indeed love company. But Paul expected better from the believers in Colossi.
Paul gave further warning about those who taught the worship of angels. Colossians 2:18-19 says,
"Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."
Paul stated definitely that angels were not to be worshiped. He said those who teach this are "puffed up by the mind of his flesh," even if they are "believers." The carnal mind opposes the truth of God's word.
Paul warned Titus about those in the church which were really unbelievers. In Titus 1:10-15, he called them Cretins.
"For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
There is very little that modern churches consider sinful. Divorce is rampant; abortions abound; homosexuality is accepted; psychology is considered as important as the scriptures; and New Age and other Eastern religions are considered equal to or better than the Judeo-Christian Bible. These are just signs of the times, and it will get worse!
Has some of this come about because people demanded it? Are some pastors like the Jews Paul warned Titus about? Have pastors capitulated to the demands of people instead of the instructions of God? God may be the only one who knows.
Clearly, though, something is wrong in organized religion today. Those who preach to please men are the ones who have carnal wisdom, or mind. They have forsaken the altered mind which is the gift of God for this latter age.
I Corinthians 2:14 says this:
"Natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
It is dangerous to preach, or teach, from only a carnal knowledge of the scriptures. Those who do may sway people with well-crafted messages, but will those messages have any lasting effects insofar as the spiritual life of the people and the congregation are concerned? That should be the question.
The gift of God to every person of this age was the fullness of salvation represented by the gift of the holy spirit. He has also given each person a measure of faith sufficient to believe in the truth of the Bible. Everything anyone needs for salvation into the next age has been provided to them. This includes an innate ability to live with an altered mind.
Romans 12:1-2 illustrates this truth:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (by trial) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Note carefully that the first thing Paul said to do was offer your body a living sacrifice to God. What did he mean by this? The most important thing to people who live without an altered, or renewed, mind is the body, and the things done to keep it comfortable. Before anyone can come to a renewal of the mind, they must decide between creature comforts or spiritual well-being.
Herein lies the tension which so often leads to an unease and confusion about our relationship to God and the world. Jesus obviously understood this when he asked the Father to guard his disciples so they could be in the world, but not of the world. He knew that they must live in the midst of a carnal, material-seeking world system of self-aggrandizement. He prayed that they not succumb to this world, that they not let this become the aim and purpose of their lives. He knew that if they did, their spiritual life would suffer.
We are to seek first the kingdom of God. Paul expands the thought of the altered mind in Philippians 2:5-9.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"
This is a picture of perfection, and only Jesus attained it. For us, it serves as an example. This is a far cry from the "easy-believism" preached in so many places today!
For anyone to retain their entrance into the kingdom, granted by the grace of the God, there must be an altering of the mind. Paul further explains this in Ephesians 4:17-24.
"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
Paul was making a clear distinction between the two kinds of mind, the carnal and the spiritual. First, he characterized those who walk in the vanity of their minds: poor understanding, alienated from God, ignorant, hardness of heart leading them to cast off all feeling and pursue all uncleanness, craving all kinds of licentiousness. This was not a pretty picture of people who probably thought they were very religious.
In contrast to the carnal, or natural, mind which always opposes God, there is the spiritual mind. The spiritual mind does not come naturally as the carnal mind does. The spiritual mind is a gift from God. Seeing man's natural condition, God opted for grace: He gave all people a portion of holy spirit by which they could "put off the former conduct of the old man which is corrupt because of the desires of vanity." God, through his spirit, has given each the ability to be renewed in the spirit of their mind. They are instructed to put on this new man.
God wants us to serve him, but he seldom over-rules our will. Man's natural tendency is to go against the things of God. However, God enables anyone who wishes to serve him to do so by yielding themselves, once and for all, to him. This is offering their bodies as a living sacrifice, or, in essence, putting on the new man.
There are two different words used in the above scripture which deserve comment. The first word is renewed, which comes from ananeouthai, and means a mind which has been renewed, with the emphasis upon the element of time. The other word new man, which comes from kainos, and means that which one is to put on, with the emphasis upon quality.
In other words, there was a time when the mind was renewed from that of natural man to that of spiritual man. This renewed mind will change the character, or quality, of a person if they will put on the new man. This is not forced upon anyone, but refusal to do this constitutes rebellion toward God and his leadership.
God enabled everyone to please him through the gift of holy spirit. Within this spirit is the empowerment of the renewed mind and the ability to put on the new man, which is a different quality than the old natural man. Each of us must choose between the two minds available to us. No one can make the choice for us, not even God. The spiritual mind was his gift to people, but he does not force anyone to choose the renewed mind. However, the results of not choosing the renewed mind and putting on the new man will be disastrous, to say the least!
To those who have put on the new man and are operating according to the renewed mind, I Peter 1:13 says,
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Those living and operating with the carnality of the old man, or Adamic nature, will not have this hope of blessing at the coming of the Lord. For them there is only the fearful expectation of judgment. The best advice is to put on the new man and be renewed in the spirit of mind.
In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-8 and 13:18-23), Jesus discussed the perils associated with hearing the word of the kingdom. He pointed out to his disciples that they could lose the privileges granted if they failed to walk, or think, in the appropriate way. Of the several warnings Jesus listed in this parable, three are pertinent to this study.
The first warning concerned the seed that fell on rocky places, illustrating a person who has no roots, no determination to follow God. This person may think that following God is a great thing, but changes his mind when persecutions or troubles arise. He may have believed that being a "christian" meant having no more troubles, so in the face of troubles, he abandons the truth.
The second warning concerned the seed that fell among thorns, representing those who receive the word, only to have it displaced by the cares of this world. The word is choked out of his life by the deceit of materialism, and it becomes unfruitful.
The word of the kingdom of God is to be cherished above the pursuit of money and things. If a question arises as to which is the most valuable, choose the kingdom of God. Through holy spirit, God has implanted the proper response in our hearts. Do not override it! Do not exchange the basic drive of the mind for the love of this world. Difficult? Very!
Then, at times, the word falls on the good ground. What is good ground?
"But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matthew 13:23).
He hears with holy spirit and understands the magnificence of God's gift. He attempts, through yielding himself to the leadership of holy spirit, to retain the blessing of entering into the kingdom of God. Such an attitude will bear fruit, not only for himself, but in blessings to others. Will it be an easy life? Not likely! Will it be a blessed life? Absolutely! And, it will also assure the obedient one blessings in the next age, the kingdom of God.
James l:5-8 says,
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
If you lack wisdom, and ask God for it, be sure you are asking for the purpose of entering the kingdom of God; otherwise, forget it! God will not give you wisdom to spend it on your own lusts. To successfully pursue entrance into the kingdom of God, you must make up your mind about whether your goals will be of this world or of the kingdom of God. There is no middle ground.
Double-minded people are those who want to serve both God and mammon, and scriptures tell us it cannot be done. To try is to be tossed about without a rudder to steer your way through life, torn between carnality and spirituality.
In II Corinthians 4:1-4, Paul said,
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
Paul said he did not "sneak up on people" by being crafty, or watering down the word of God so that it would be pleasing to unbelievers. People's minds were blinded, he said, by the god of this world. Believers are to be guided by holy spirit, and must guard against using the world's method for establishing their priorities.
Paul continued his warning to the Corinthian church in II Corinthians 11:3.
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
Paul was warning them not to chase false gods of their day, or not to allow the evil of the world to deceive you into following some high sounding philosophy!
The good news is simplicity. God loved us enough to give his son as a sacrifice to bring us unto himself. He forgave the sins of the whole world, and reconciled the world to himself. When Jesus ascended to the Father, he was given the holy spirit to share some of it with every person as they come into the world. If allowed, this spirit will guide anyone in such a way that they will retain their inheritance in the coming kingdom of God when Jesus returns. Only unbelief, or rebellion, can cause anyone to waste this inheritance.
In Hebrews 12:3-7, Paul warned about trials in this life, as well as chastening from the Lord.
"For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"
The word minds comes from psyches, meaning souls. This refers to the rigor required to subdue the fleshly desires, or soulish things, in order to follow after Christ. It is not easy, and it never ceases to be a battle. The flesh is always at war with the spirit, and the spirit with the flesh, or soul.
In Hebrews 3:l, believers are called
"partakers of the heavenly calling"
This means they are sharing in the mind and salvation procured for them by Jesus. Previous verses indicated many of the things Jesus endured to bring such a blessing to them. Paul said that when we face temptations, we should think about this. If Jesus suffered from temptations, why should we believe we will escape?
The last warning to be considered is found in Hebrews 6:4-6.
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance."
In other words, if anyone comes this far, and then denies what they know, nothing will ever change their mind to again follow after the things of God.
This study has examined several scriptures which drew a distinction between the natural, or carnal, mind and the spiritual mind. When God instructed the Old Testament authors, the holy spirit often spoke to them in a dream, or a vision, while they were asleep, or in a suspended consciousness.
Peter referred to this in II Peter 1:21:
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
The prophets did not discern God's word with their carnal minds. Their minds were altered when the holy spirit brought revelation. The carnal mind may assemble all the facts of the scriptures, but only the holy spirit can enlighten, or reveal, the knowledge of God.
Abraham surrendered himself to the service of God, and God gave him a covenant which resulted in the blessing of all nations through Jesus. The blessing was the holy spirit which Jesus received at his ascension, and then poured some of it out on everyone.
How totally Abraham gave his mind over to God can be seen in the words of Jesus in John 8:56, when he said,
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad."
No carnal mind could have looked that far into the future and seen spiritual truths which were revealed through Jesus to our age. Yet, Abraham saw it before he died! Abraham gave himself, and his carnal mind, to the moving of holy spirit and was thereby granted a wondrous revelation of God and his purpose for men. This is why the scriptures refer to Abraham as, "the friend of God."
In Romans 12:l-2, Paul admonished people to,
"present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing (altering) of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
In Ephesians 4:23, Paul cautioned people to
"be renewed in the spirit of your mind."
God has enabled us to do this by bestowing upon every man some of the same holy spirit which moved the prophets of old.
In the Old Testament, only those chosen by God for a specific work were granted a portion of holy spirit enabling them to do what God commanded. Now, however, all people have been granted enough of holy spirit to accomplish whatever gift, or calling, God has given them.
Furthermore, God has given every person some calling of service to him. This service will only come about as people yield themselves to the leadership of holy spirit. This is what it means to put on the new man, which enables people to see God's revelation for them.
Balaam is the perfect example of people today who will not yield themselves to the leadership of the holy spirit. He was the prophet who wanted to curse Israel for money, but could not because God's spirit overruled him. He sold out his inheritance and the blessings he might have had if obedient. Instead, he became an example of those who should serve God, but instead serve greed (see Jude 1:11).
Some of the scriptures dealing with dreams, visions, and sleep will be listed so that anyone who is interested may make a further study of the subject. Most of the following scriptures were obtained from Roget's Thesaurus of the Bible.
First, we will consider the scriptures about those who had dreams when shown truths of God.
God spoke to Israel in visions of the night (Genesis 46:2)
God speaks to prophets in dreams (Numbers 12:6)
Solomon's vision was a dream (I Kings 3:15)
God did not answer Saul by dreams (I Samuel 28:6, 28:15)
God speaks in a dream (Job 33:15)
Eliphaz received a message in a dream (Job 4:12-21)
Your old men will dream dreams (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17)
Those to whom God spoke in a dream included:
Abimelech (Genesis 20:3)
Jacob (Genesis 28:12)
Laban (Genesis 31:24)
Joseph (Genesis 37:5-11)
The butler and the baker (Genesis 40:5-19)
Pharaoh (Genesis 4l:l-32)
Amalekite (Judges 7:13-14)
Solomon (l Kings 3:5)
Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:31-35, Daniel 4:10-18)
Daniel (Daniel 7:1-8)
Joseph (Matthew l:20, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22)
The wise men (Matthew 2:12)
Pilate's wife (Matthew 27:19)
The mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, Daniel 2:19. Daniel understood visions and dreams, Daniel l:l7. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, Genesis 46:2. God revealed himself to prophets in visions, Numbers 12:6. Paul said he would go on to visions and revelation of the Lord, II Corinthians 12:1.
Abraham (Genesis 15:1)
Zecharias (II Chronicles 26:5)
Isaiah (II Chronicles 32:32 and Isaiah l:l)
Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1)
Daniel (Daniel 8:1-8)
Zacharias (Luke 1:22)
Ananias (Acts 9:10)
Paul (Acts 9:12, 22:17-18)
Peter (Acts 10:10-13, 11:5)
Cornelius (Acts 10:3)
Jacob fell asleep at Bethel, Genesis 28:11; Daniel fell into a deep sleep, Daniel 8:18, 10:9; Jonah fell into a deep sleep, Jonah l:5-6.
The scriptures amply demonstrate that when God wished to speak to the prophets he moved upon them in such a manner that their minds were altered into another dimension, something beyond their carnal nature. This altered state of mind was described by the prophets as a dream, a sleep, a trance, or a vision. These terms all meant essentially the same thing.
According to Tregelles (p. 475), the Hebrew word for angel means
"a messenger of God, i.e., (a) an angel, (b) a prophet, Haggai 1:13, Malachi 3:1, (c) a priest, Ecclesiastes 5:5, Malachi 2:7, (d) of Israel in Isaiah 42:19."
The word angel may denote meanings other than that commonly associated with the word. For example, Israel was meant to be the messenger, or angel, of God to the Gentiles, to show the goodness of God toward all people. Unfortunately, they did not do so.
However, do not lose sight that the original, basic meaning of angel was messenger. When God communicated with mankind, his usual method was to alter the mind of the person, thereby enabling that person to understand the spiritual truths God wished to communicate.
Remember, too, the carnal mind can not receive spiritual truths because they must be spiritually discerned. God can take any person he chooses and enable them, by his spirit, to understand spiritual truths.
Amar, in the Hebrew, means say, or speak. When preceded by the preposition le, it becomes "to say" or "to speak." The TDOT (Vol. 1, p. 331) says amar is,
"a communication term. Amar is used to denote communication between two personal entities (or entities regarded as personal). The goal of amar is that another person (or persons) might hear, and understand, and might reply, in the broadest sense of the word (reaction)."
God gave us his word not only for guidance, but that there might be a conversation, intercourse, with him. He wants men to react in prayer and thanksgiving, and sharing our desires and needs with him. This sharing is usually done by what we call prayer.
True prayer entails a mind that is stayed upon God by the enablement of holy spirit. The carnal mind may speak words of prayer, but those prayers do not reach God. The mind must be altered to some degree for prayer to be real. Prayer must be in reaction to the person's revelation of God. It is a response to what God has spoken to the prophets and recorded for our instruction.
The TDOT (Vol. 1, p. 336) continues by saying,
"The execution of the amar deed of God in the statement in which God identifies himself is not merely an announcement, but also an actualization of God, who is present in his acts. ...God is able to speak in his nature and acts, and this means that he can be heard."
In other words, this means that when God spoke, amar, and commanded that the universe come into existence, it did. God communicates with mankind by speaking, and this speaking, as far as the scriptures show, was through those he chose to use. It was God speaking through various men which lead to the Bible, the word of God.
It is dangerous to ignore God and his word, yet multitudes today pay little attention to the Bible and its revelation of God. And many of those who do read it, seek to understand it only with their carnal minds. They have set aside the leadership of holy spirit which God has given them so they might have a renewed, or altered, mind which can understand spiritual truths. Ignoring what God says indicates that God is despised, or of little worth.
Now that we have distinguished between the carnal mind and the altered mind, a gift of God, let us consider how this would affect a person's concept of angels. We will begin the study of this in the Old Testament and compare it with some concepts of the New Testament.
Abraham was one of the first people in the Bible who spoke with the Lord. It did not state how this occurred, but later references add clarification. Genesis 12:1 says,
"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee."
According to Genesis 11:31, Abram was still under the command of his father, and God's commands were secondary to him. This was the reason God had commanded him to leave his kindred. They only went as far as Haran, and stayed until the death of Terah, Abram's father. Abram then departed for Canaan as commanded, but he still took Lot with him. Abram, like so many new followers, only partially obeyed God. He was still learning to be fully obedient.
Genesis 15:1 says,
"After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision."
This was the time God gave Abram the covenant. It does not say in what manner the Lord appeared to Abram, but later, in similar circumstances, it was the angel of the Lord. This was the first time Abram had tasted the possibilities of apprehending spiritual truths by having his mind altered by God. He had a vision, and the Lord spoke with him. Carnal minds would never have heard a word!
At Sarah's insistence, Abram sent his concubine, Hagar into the desert; certainly not one of the high spiritual points in his life. Genesis 16:7-11 relates what the angel of the Lord said to Hagar when he found her in the desert. Who is the angel of the Lord? It is not clear whether this angel is the Lord, Jehovah, himself, or a messenger who speaks for him.
But, one thing is clear, the angel of the Lord was there to speak the desires, commands, and will of God. The angel of the Lord told Hagar to return and submit herself to Sarah, and bear Ishmael. Later Sarah bore Isaac, and Hagar was again driven into the desert. According to Genesis 21:17,
"the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven."
Later, we find that the expression "out of heaven" refers to the presence in the shekinah cloud of glory.
After many years of fighting the flesh and often doing his own will, Abraham gradually became more obedient to God. His effort to hurry God's promise of having a son by going into Hagar spawned the whole group of nations who became the mortal enemies of the Hebrew people. Although he was 86 years old when Ishmael was born, it was not until even later in life that faith had brought him to the point of total surrender to the spirit.
Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, but it was when Isaac was a youth, that Abraham faced the real test of complete obedience. Genesis 22 tells how God tested Abraham's faith and obedience to him. Remember, Abraham was probably 112 to 115 years old at this time. It had taken many years of training by God before he could meet the greatest trial of his life.
God told him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. Abraham took Isaac, and wood for the fire, to the place he was told to go. There he built an altar, laid the wood in order, and laid Isaac, who was bound, on the wood. Abraham raised his knife to slay Isaac, when Genesis 22:11 says,
"the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven."
Genesis 22:15 says,
"And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time."
Hebrews 11:17-18 says that Abraham's faith was so great by this time that,
"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."
God did not want Isaac as a sacrifice; but he did want all of Abraham!
This was written for an example to us who seek to follow the Lord. As new believers, we may think we are following God with all our heart. But, like Abraham, we may be following solely in the weakness of our flesh. We gradually learn what it is to completely follow God only by yielding our minds to the leadership of holy spirit in our lives.
Hopefully, none of us will ever feel required to sacrifice one of our children. But there will probably come a time when our commitment to God will be severely tested in some way. It may be one big trial, or it may be smaller trials as God leads us into a deeper walk with him. What will be our reaction when God says, "Will you totally give yourself over to me? Or, will you continue to walk being pulled one way by the world and the other by the spirit?"
Genesis 31:11 says,
"And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I."
Here, the God of Bethel identified himself as the source of the instructions coming through his angel, or messenger.
Keep in mind, please, that bearing a message from Jehovah, or from God, was the primary role of angels. Sometimes the message was conveyed by some kind of action either on behalf of someone, or as a punishment. There will be more about Jacob in another part of this study.
Next, the angel of the Lord spoke to Moses; this time from the burning bush that was not consumed. Some 40 years before this time, Moses knew God had called him to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. But, he misjudged the proper time. Moses killed two Egyptians he saw beating his fellow Israelites, and had to flee to far off country of his future father-in-law.
During this time, God molded Moses and taught him obedience, at least to some degree, and how to discern and follow the guidance of holy spirit by allowing it to alter his mind so he could understand spiritual matters. Now, in Exodus 3:2, 3:7-8 and 3:10:
"And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed...And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and I am come down to deliver them...Come now, therefore, and I will send thee to pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt."
When Moses finally was able, by God's help, to deliver the people from the Egyptian bondage, God guided them through the wilderness and up to the promised land. How? Exodus 13:21 says:
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them in the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night."
The cloud, or shekinah glory, which accompanied the Israelites was the dwelling place (the meaning of shekinah) of the angel of the Lord. Thus, when they were accompanied by the pillar of cloud, they knew that Jehovah's angel was present therein to deliver the message and guidance of Jehovah to them.
But, this presence of the Lord's angel in the shekinah glory cloud could also serve as a warning to Israel when they sinned. When Moses went upon the mount to receive the ten commandments and returned to find them worshiping the golden calf Aaron had built for them, Jehovah removed the cloud from being among them to the outskirts of the camp.
Exodus 33:3 says,
"for I will not go up in the midst of thee...lest I consume thee in the way."
In these scriptures it can easily be seen that the cloud and the angel of the Lord were nearly synonymous in meaning. The important point in all these examples is that the angel of the Lord was a messenger delivering God's message to the Israelites.
The angels of the Lord usually did not deliver their message in person, but by a voice from the heavens, or from the midst of the cloud. However, as angels evolved in the scriptures, they often appeared personally in ordinary bodies.
Genesis 18:2 says Abraham was sitting in the door of his tent,
"And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground."
This was the usual way nomad shepherds greeted each other. They would be greeted, have their feet washed, and be fed; which is exactly what Abraham did. Why did Abraham perceive these angels as ordinary men? He was not in an altered state of mind as in a dream, sleep, vision, or trance. Therefore, he saw these angels as men like himself.
Even the Lord, himself, appeared to be a man to Abraham. Genesis 18;16 says,
"And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom."
Two of the men, or angels, left; but the Lord stayed and talked with Abraham who had by this time discerned that one of the men was actually the Lord.
Genesis 18:22 says:
"And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord."
Genesis 19 says that two angels came to Sodom, and Lot welcomed them to his home. When the men of Sodom demanded that Lot turn the angels (men) over to them for sexual molestation, Genesis 19:10 says,
"But the men (angels) put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door."
Lot saw only men, and the men of Sodom saw only men. Here again, there was no altering of the mind necessary for perceiving them as angels.
In Genesis 32:24:
"And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day."
Neither the man nor Jacob could subdue the other, and Jacob would not release him until he blessed him, which the man did. Jacob asked his name but the man would not tell him. Although Jacob later realized he had been wrestling more than just a man, he still did not perceive him as an angel.
Genesis 32:30 says,
"And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
It was not God, himself, but one of his messengers. Hosea 12:4 says,
"Yea, he (Jacob) had power over the angel, and prevailed."
Angels are not God, but they do execute his commands and reveal his power. They are God's messengers. They do not speak for themselves, but bear only the message God gives them. Therefore, their names are not important. They should never be worshiped, as is shown a number of times in Revelation when John was definitely forbidden to worship the angel showing him the events of his vision.
Abraham entertained men. Lot saw men. The men of Sodom saw men. Jacob wrestled a man. This shows that at times in the scriptures the terms "men" and "angels" are used interchangeably. If angels are portrayed as men, might it follow that men could be angels?
Abraham did not think it strange that Jehovah came to visit him as a man. The invisible creator God exhibited himself to the men he had created as Jehovah, who relayed the word of God to the men he had created. [For further details on this point, see Monographs 29-31 in our book, What Scripture Says About Salvation.]
God is pure spirit, without form; but this does not hold true when God manifested himself as Jehovah. Later, the word, Jehovah, emptied himself and took on both the form and nature of man; the word became sarx, or flesh, with all its evil tendencies. The word of the Old Testament became mortal instead of immortal, corporeal instead of incorporeal (something which has no material existence, only spirit).
There is a conflict of meaning between modern man and the people who wrote the Bible. According to Fallows,
"Neither the Hebrew mach nor the Greek pneuma correspond exactly to the English spirit, which is opposed to matter, and designates that which is immaterial; whereas the other terms are not opposed to matter. When, therefore, the ancient Jews called angels spirits, they did not mean to deny that they were endowed with bodies. When they affirmed that angels were incorporeal, they used it in the sense in which it was understood by the ancients...that is, as free from the impurities of gross matter. The distinction between 'a natural body,' and 'a spiritual body,' is indicated by St. Paul (l Corinthians 15:44), and we may, with sufficient safety, assume that angels are spiritual bodies, rather than pure spirits in the modern acceptance of the word."
This quote throws a great deal of light on the idea that Abraham saw Jehovah as having a body. Some teachers, trying to explain this by logic instead of the word, say this was a theophany, or God only assumed a body, or only appeared to have a body. There is no place in the scriptures where either angels, or Jehovah, simply took a body upon themselves which was not their own.
Again, quoting from Fallows:
"In the scriptures angels appear with bodies, and in the human form, and no intimation is anywhere given that these bodies are not real, or that they are only assumed for the time and then laid aside. It was manifest indeed to the ancients that the matter of these bodies was not like that of their own inasmuch as angels could make themselves visible and vanish again from sight. But this experience would suggest no doubt of the reality of their bodies; it would only intimate that they were not composed of gross matter."
After his resurrection, Jesus often appeared to his disciples and vanished before them; yet they never doubted that they saw the same body which had been crucified, although they must have perceived that it had undergone an important change. Could this change only have been a re-assumption of the body he had before he "emptied himself" (Philippians 2:7)? Was this why Abraham saw a man whom he recognized as Jehovah? Was this why Jacob wrestled with a man, and then said he had seen God? Keep in mind that Jehovah was the God of Israel.
The scriptures also tell us that both the resurrected Jesus and the angels ate food. Also, that they have a heavenly body, such as the one described by John in Revelation. When men are in an altered state of mind such as dreams, visions, sleep, or trances they see heavenly bodies. But when they observe angels with the unaltered, or natural mind, they see men. In the scriptures, how anyone perceives angels, or Jehovah, seems to be controlled by their state of mind.
When God so chose, he altered the minds of those he picked for any special purposes. This was especially true of the prophets. They described such alterations of the mind as dreams, visions, deep sleep, or trances. They recognized that such events occurred because God's holy spirit had used them to discern the angels which communicated God's word.
In Revelation, John said he was "in spirit." Peter said the prophets "spoke as they were moved by the holy spirit." Peter, also, had seen the holy spirit come upon all flesh. The natural mind cannot discern the spiritual truths of God, even when reading them in the scriptures. Why? Because these truths are spiritually discerned.
"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so."
The man, who instructed Joshua how to take the city of Jericho, turned out to be a messenger of God, who identified himself as captain of the Lord's host, or an angel.
"And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."
Then the angel of the Lord told Gideon how to deliver Israel from the hands of the Midianites.
Gideon still was not certain that the angel had spoken to him and asked for a sign. Gideon prepared a meal for the angel who instructed him to put it upon a rock. The angel, or man, touched the rock with the end of his staff and fire came up out of the rock and devoured the meal. Judges 6:22 says,
"And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die."
The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon as a man, and Gideon did not perceive him as an angel until he called fire up out of the rock.
Another classic example of how angels are perceived by the unaltered mind is found in Judges 13:3, concerning Manoah's wife who was to be the mother of Samson.
"And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son."
In verse 13:6 she said,
"A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God." In verse 6:10 she said, "Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day."
In verse 6:11,
"And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am."
In verse 6:13,
"And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah."
In comparison to this, consider the last words of David in 2 Samuel 23:1-5, where he explained how his many psalms came into existence.
"David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, the spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow."
This is a perfect example of the altered mind. David so yielded himself to the guidance of holy spirit that he was able to perceive the spiritual truths which he wrote in the psalms.
Daniel 2 relates the story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. His wise men could not decipher it, so he ordered all the wise men killed, which included Daniel and his friends. Daniel requested time in order for God to reveal the mystery to him.
Daniel 2:19 says,
"Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision."
The mind of Daniel was altered by God and the mystery of the king's dream was revealed to him.
When Daniel's friends refused to bow down to the image the king had made, they were thrown into the fiery furnace. In verse 3:25, the king said,
"Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
Here, again, a man with an unaltered mind saw four men, but also discerned that one of them was like the son of God.
In verse 3:28, Nebuchadnezzar said,
"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him."
This is interesting! The king saw a man whom he recognized as being like the son of God, and whom he then called an angel.
Why did the people of that age apparently have no difficulty seeing the son of God in the form of a man? Have we lost something in the church today? Have we failed to realize that orthodoxy can promote and preserve error as well as truth?
Daniel was caught disobeying an edict of the king by openly praying to God, and was cast into the lions' den. In verse 6:22, when he emerged unhurt, Daniel told the king that,
"My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me."
Whether this was the same man sent to deliver Daniel's friends was not stated.
In verses 8:15-18, Daniel reported another vision.
"And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision....Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright."
Who was this Gabriel? Daniel 9:21 says,
"Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation."
Quite interesting, is it not? Gabriel, definitely noted as an angel in the scriptures, was described by Daniel as a man. Not only was he a man, but he could fly swiftly! Only one kind of man can do this: a glorified man with a glorified body. Gabriel had a body similar to the resurrected body of the Lord Jesus, the Christ. To the natural mind this would cause loud laughter. Or, the natural mind will try to explain it away with some reasonable explanation, perhaps coining a word such as "theophany."
According to Daniel, angels are men with a different form than they had while living in the natural body. But, this raises another question. What kind of body is this? Paul addressed this issue in II Corinthians 5:1-6:
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."
Daniel followed a precedent set by the prophets who preceded him when he used the terms man and angel interchangeably. Daniel called Gabriel an angel, then called him a man. Jacob said he wrestled with a man, but Hosea said it was an angel. If this common interchange of terms occurred were any other subject, they would be accepted as nearly synonymous in meaning.
Ezekiel gave a description of the time when God removed the shekinah glory, signifying his presence, from the temple. Ezekiel 8:1-3 says,
"And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell there upon me. Then I beheld, and lo a likeness as the appearance of fire: from the appearance of his loins even downward, fire; and from his loins even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem."
In this vision Ezekiel was describing a glorified body. Verse 9:2 says,
"And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar."
The context shows that these six men were angels doing the commands of God; it would be very difficult for six ordinary men to take over an entire city and slay many of the inhabitants.
Zechariah 1:10-11 makes little distinction between the terms angel and man.
"And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest."
As the scriptures used in this study have shown, the carnal (unaltered) mind sees angels as men. The spiritual (altered) mind, when acted upon by the spirit of God, sees angels as glorified beings, but may refer to them both as men and angels, with little or no distinction in meaning.
As we go about our daily routine, we are using our natural minds, not the mind altered by the holy spirit which perceives in visions, dreams, deep sleep, or trances. Perhaps this is why Hebrews 13:2 says,
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
With the unaltered mind, if angels came to us, we would only see them as ordinary people.
To transfer focus from the Old Testament to the New Testament, let us return to Jacob's vision of the ladder in Genesis 28:12.
"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it."
Note carefully the order in which Jacob observed the angels and their use of the ladder.
The angels ascended before they descended. If angels were heavenly beings created by God before the earth and man, it seems like this order should have been reversed. In fact, the origin of angels separate from mankind is very difficult to find in the Bible.
Could the first angels have been the spirits of the first men to die, clothed in the interim body Paul described in II Corinthians 5:1-5?
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit."
This cannot be the resurrection body, because Paul plainly teaches in many other scriptures that the resurrection occurs at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The spirits of those who die return to God who gave them life. They are not disembodied spirits while they await the resurrection, but are clothed with a heavenly body.
When sent as messengers to those in the unaltered mind, or natural mind, they appear as normal men. But, when sent to those with altered minds, while in a vision, dream, trance, or deep sleep, they appear as glorified beings. Their true nature is revealed to those who are fully under control of holy spirit.
In John l:51, Jesus referred to Jacob's ladder.
"And he saith unto him (Nathanael), Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
Ascending and descending are in the same order as Jacob described in his dream. But, here, Jesus identified himself as the ladder. Who ascends to heaven through the work, or upon, Jesus Christ, but the spirits of mankind? Once there, if sent back to earth as angels, they must also descend upon him. He is indeed the way, the truth, and the life.
In Matthew 22:30, Jesus further explained the condition of men after they die. The Sadducees asked him whose wife the woman would be who had been the wife of seven husbands. Jesus told them that even their question was in error, that they knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God.
"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
Jesus plainly explained the transition that takes place when a person dies. The word "the" does not appear in the Greek text, and it should be translated, "they are as angels."
The word for as is the comparative particle os, which could be compared to the equal sign in arithmetic. In fact, Luke 20:35 translates the form of os used there as equal. One side is equal to the other. In context, Jesus was speaking about the quality of people after they die, and the condition of the angels. Since sex is of no consequence in the life after death, why are angels always referred to as male?
For the answer we again turn to Fallows (p. 107).
"The passage already referred to, Mt.22:30, teaches by implication that there is not distinction of sex among the angels. The scriptures never make mention of female angels. The Gentiles had their male and female divinities who were the parents of other gods. But in the scriptures all the angels are males, and they appear to be so represented not to mark any distinction of sex, but because the masculine is the more honorable gender. Angels are never described with marks of age, but sometimes of youth (Mark 16:5). The constant absence of the features of age indicates the continual freshness and vigor of immortality. The angels never die (Luke 20:36). But no being besides God himself has essential immortality (l Tim. 6:16). Every other being therefore is mortal in itself and can be immortal only by the will of God. Angels consequently, are not eternal, but had a beginning."
There are no scriptures which indicate that God created angels. The only reference to any creature similar to angels was when God created man, whose final destiny, after death, was to be his heavenly entourage giving him praise and glory, and carrying his words to men on earth. Angels do not visit earth upon their own compulsion; they come only when sent by God.
In the Old Testament, angels often went about doing the commands of God. In the New Testament, after the death of Jesus Christ, there were very few appearances of angels. One was when Cornelius saw an angel, and again, when Gabriel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Another was the angel who guided John through the book of Revelation.
Mark 16:5 describes what Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome found when they went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.
"And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted."
It was shown earlier that white garments and linen garments were symbolic of the righteousness of the saints. Is this angel a saint?
Luke 24:4 also refers to the women going to anoint Jesus.
"And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments."
Acts 1:10, describing the ascension, said,
"And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel."
In Acts, the garments were white, while in Luke they were shining. Both verses indicate that these men, or angels, were clothed in the righteousness given them by Jesus Christ.
When the scriptures speak of the return of Jesus, it is best to read all the different passages which indicate who will accompany him. Matthew 25:31 says,
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." Mark 8:38 says, "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
II Thessalonians 1:7 says,
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels."
The angels in these two passages are designated as mighty instead of holy, as in Matthew and Mark.
In l Thessalonians 3:13, Paul indicated why a person should live a righteous life:
"To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."
II Thessalonians l:10 says,
"When he shall come to be glorified in his saints."
Jude 14 says,
"Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints."
When Jesus comes he will either bring his angels or he will bring his saints. About as many scriptures indicate the one as the other. Some say the scriptures are ambiguous, not clearly indicating whether it is angels or saints that come with Jesus when he returns. Actually, they are the same; the angels are the saints.
Was Jesus also portrayed as an angel as well as a glorified man, as some scriptures seem to indicate? That is something for you to study on your own. After his resurrection he was described as an ordinary man, eating and talking with his disciples. But he also had a body which could come through closed doors, and could fly swiftly, or leave. In other words, he had a body fitted for the spirit.
Now for some scriptures which raise questions. Psalm 8:4-8 says,
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas."
Many assume that this scripture refers to mankind. In fact, this scripture refers to the son of man, which is made abundantly clear in I Corinthians 15:27-28:
"For he hath put all things under his (Christ's) feet. But when he (God) saith all things are put under him (Christ), it is manifest that he (God) is excepted, which did put all things under him (Christ). And when all things shall be subdued unto him (Christ), then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him (God) that put all things under him (Christ), that God may be all in all."
This was Paul's reference to what David said in Psalm 8.
Another troublesome scripture for some is I Corinthians 6:2-3.
"Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?"
First, there is no definite article preceding angels. This makes the number of angels to be judged by the saints indeterminate. If the saints were to judge all the angels there would have been a definite article before angels. What angels might be judged by the saints of this age? Could it be the saints who died prior to the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus? Will the saints judge those and how they react to the good news, whether in faith or unbelief?
I Peter l:12 says,
"Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."
Peter was talking about the prophets, and how God revealed truth to them as they searched the word diligently to find out about the grace of God.
Evidently there are angels who do not know about the gospel. If angels are the spirits of men returned unto God, clothed in an interim body, then perhaps these are the ones to be judged by the saints.
Or, perhaps it is the angels of Jude 1:6.
"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
Or, perhaps these are the same ones indicated in II Peter 2:4.
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment."
Whoever it is, the saints will judge some of the angels. Everyone who dies receives an interim body (becomes an angel) because of the death of Jesus. The angels who sinned were not overcomers and they will be judged.
Hebrews 2:5 is another troublesome scripture.
"For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak."
Taken out of context, this seems to indicate that angels could not be the spirits of people who have died. However, the following verses make it clear that the writer of Hebrews was talking about how Jesus Christ was much greater than angels or anybody else.
The world to come is put in subjection to Jesus Christ, not the angels, or the saints. But the saints, angels, will rule and reign with him when he comes. Does this mean that the world is subjected to the saints? No!
I Peter 3:22 says that Jesus ,
"Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."
Why did not Peter also list men?
Hebrews l:4-14 also indicates the pre-eminence of Jesus over the angels or other saints, saying the angels of God are to worship him. What about people? Why are they not named? Could it be that the writer of Hebrews made no distinction between angels and men?
Finally, Hebrews 12:22-23 says,
"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."
Are angels mystical super-beings, or are they simply men? The position of this study is that angels are people who have died, clothed in interim bodies. As such, the angels were messengers for God. Throughout the Bible, if people were in the natural mind, they saw angels as natural people. If people were in an altered mind, they saw angels as beings with glorified (interim) bodies.
In conclusion, consider this excerpt from an article by Steve Paul in the Kansas City Star (Sunday 2-21-93), which contained an interview with a noted Hebrew scholar, Rabbi Morris Margolies.
When Morris Margolies thinks of angels, it's not the rosy-cheek putti and cherubim of baroque art and greeting cards that float to mind. It's the dueling forces of the human spirit, the impulses within each person that lead us to the right thing and the wrong.
And Margolies' take on the subject angels as a moral metaphor has the ring of authority, coming as it does from a man who has spent his life as a scholar and spiritual leader. He mines two millenniums of secular and religious writings, from the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls to Shakespeare to Bernard Malamud and Singer, the late Yiddish writer. "I don't believe in angels," Margolies assures an interviewer. "Judaism does not accept angels in the literal sense. But, in the metaphorical sense, absolutely, yes." In Shakespeare's magical last play, the protagonist Prospero is served by the witch's son Caliban as well as the invisible sprite Ariel. What he says in the Tempest, Maroglies says, is that Prospero is everyman. There are two forces working within us, the Ariel force and the Caliban force. The worst thing we can do is credit Ariel or blame Caliban. That's escapism; it avoids responsibility. At the end Prospero releases them both. Go your way, he says, I'll be my own master from now on. So, accept responsibility and go forward that's the message of my book, he says. "We are our own angels. We are our own people. We are our own responsibility. Don't go blaming satan when things go wrong or credit the angel Michael when things go right.""
So what are angels? You will have to decide for yourself. For many, angels are the good counter-part of demons. Demons cause the evil in life, and angels counter by causing the good in life. Just as some blame the devil rather than taking responsibility for their own actions, so some credit angels when they probably should not.
[TDOT] Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1974).
A. Colin Day, Ed. Roget's Thesaurus of the Bible (Harpers, 1992).
Fallows, Samuel. The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia and Scriptural Dictionary (Howard-Severance Company, 1904).
Thayer, Joseph Henry. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1962).
Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Eerdmans)
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