When we think of “angels,” we often think of a church Christmas pageant with little kids dressed in white gowns with feathery wings and a gold halo made of sparkly pipe cleaners. But what is the role of angels in Scripture and how do they relate to us?
Angels and Scripture
The most common role of an angel is to bring a message. This makes sense because the Greek word angelos means messenger. We see this in Numbers 22:31-32 when “the angel of the Lord said to him [Balaam], “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me?” We also see it in the well-known Christmas story, “And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news” (Luke 1:19, ESV).
The psalmist poetically portrays angels as those who protect. Psalm 91 says,
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot” (Psalm 91:11).
The Hebrew writer points out that angels also interact with us:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
Jesus asserts that angels will reap the harvest at the end of the age:
“The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:39).
These passages indicate that an angel is not just some distant heavenly character or earthly Christmas cutie; God’s angels are involved with us in very important ways.
Misconceptions of Angels
Here are a couple of popular ideas about angels that are questionable.
Misconception 1: Humans become angels in heaven
Perhaps you have seen Facebook posts of loved ones grieving their loved one saying, “Heaven gained another angel.” It may be comforting to think of a loved one in such a way, but we have no biblical basis for thinking humans become angels after they die. Even so, trying to correct someone’s theology in such moments of grief would be unwise.
Misconception 2: Each of us has a guardian Angel
As for the concept of a personal guardian angel, one of the main scriptures used to reinforce this idea is the following statement by Jesus.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
When we look at this passage, we may get caught up in the illustration but miss the point. Jesus is telling his disciples that their angels are in close proximity to the Father, thus the little ones are important and held in high esteem in the courts of heaven. Jesus isn’t teaching us angelology; he is primarily teaching us to care for those who might otherwise be overlooked.
We see angels are watching us, but what that looks like is not explicitly explained to us.
I hope these thoughts have shed some light on the role of angels in Scripture and in your life.