Why Every Christian Should Care about Angels

Archangel Michael, by Guido Reni (1575–1642), c 1636. Source: Commons.wikimedia.org

This is a post by guest author Lindsay Kennedy.

The Bible has a lot to say about angels. The problem is, few Christians seem interested in hearing about it.

For whatever reason, many Christians have a dismissive attitude when it comes to angels. But here are three reasons—drawn from Michael Heiser’s new book, Angels—on why every Christian should care about angels.

Angels are in Scripture

There are many strange and sensational opinions about angels out there. This is unsurprising since angels are prominent in other religions, a myriad of superstitions, and even in popular media. Sadly, even Christians have odd views about angels. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the vast majority of Christian ideas about angels are either built upon idiosyncratic interpretations of Scripture or untethered from Scripture entirely.

In light of all of this, it may be tempting to disregard the topic of angels altogether. We in the West live in a culture that pits the scientific against the spiritual, often disregarding the latter in favor of the former. We “know better” than to believe in supernatural beings. Many Christians embrace this attitude, especially because of the odd fascinations and superstitions they have seen regarding angels.

However, dismissal of the spiritual realm should not be an option for believers. The simple fact that angels are found in Scripture should be enough reason to consider the topic worthy of our attention. As Heiser states, “If God moved the biblical writers to take care when talking about the unseen realm, then it matters” (p. xiv). If it’s in Scripture, we should take it seriously.

A biblical perspective is an antidote to innumerable speculations.

Three reasons why angelology makes a difference

However, one may ask what difference it makes practically. Is there any payoff for studying angels?

Heiser says that angelology (the study of angels) “helps us think more clearly about familiar points of biblical theology” (p. xv). He goes on to elucidate three immediate theological benefits for understanding the heavenly host.

1. Angelology helps us understand how God looks at us.

Studying angels helps us understand our own role as image-bearers created in the image of God.

Genesis 1:26 (“let us make humankind in our image”), popularly thought of as a discussion within the Trinity, is better understood as God addressing his angelic host. What does this mean?

Just as mankind is to be God’s image-bearers on earth, the heavenly host “images God in the spiritual, non-terrestrial world” (p. xv). The theological importance of the image of God cannot be underestimated. However, its connection with the heavenly host is often overlooked. What implications may this have for our theology and practice?

2. Angelology helps us understand where God wants us.

Believers and the heavenly host are both called children of God (e.g. Job 1:6; John 1:12). God is our father and he wants his children to dwell with him. However, ever since the fall, creation has become corrupt. A new creation has been needed, but it is one that “flesh and blood cannot inherit” (1 Cor 15:50).

In Jesus, God launched a plan to redeem his people and bring them home. But this plan does not include the redemption of heavenly beings (Heb 2:16–18). How much must he care for us that he would go to such lengths?

3. Angelology helps us understand what God has planned for us.

Many hold a “boring” view of eternal life, one where we just float about in the clouds and exist. This is probably because popular depictions of angels suggest heaven is like this.

Grasping what the Bible says about angels helps correct this misconception. We don’t frolic in the clouds; we have a destiny that includes rulership.

Scripture teaches that the hostile spiritual beings that held power over the nations will be judged (Ps 82; Matt 25:41) and God’s new children, adopted by grace, will replace them in ruling over the new creation (Dan 7:27; 1 Cor 6:3; Heb 2:5–10; Rev 2:26–27; 3:21). Rather than being eternally bored, redeemed mankind will be eternally engaged in ruling and reigning; just as God always intended (Gen 1:27–28).

Angels matter

Far from being a peripheral topic only of interest to the superstitious and speculative, the heavenly host is important for biblical theology.

As Heiser concludes, “Knowledge of God’s heavenly host helps us think more clearly about our status, our purpose, and our destiny” (p. xix).

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In what other ways could a better understanding of the heavenly host impact our theology? Comment below with your thoughts.

Lindsay John Kennedy, an Aussie/Brit living in the USA, is a card-carrying Bible nerd who serves at Imprint Church and blogs at My Digital Seminary.

Comments

  1. Gen.1.1 the bible diclear that God the Father,The Son,and holy Spirit with heavenly host was there, these were the heavenly host that God communicate with when God said let us make man in our image,the word us tell me a lot about who God was talking to, obviously God did not speak to him self as most Christian believers belief, I believe that in the trinity each one had there body just like the angles had there own body

    • PCA Pastor Greg Bowen says:

      It is absolute heresy to say that God is not ‘spirit’, but has 3 physical bodies for each person; trapping him inside the created order, and making him 3 separate gods. What religion are you involved with? After years of seminary I’ve never come across any thought in Christian and Old Testament history that remotely suggested this kind of error; though Mormons wrongly claim God the father has a physical body. If this is the core of the book listed above it must be removed from the logos site immediately as a poison well, since it is not remotely Christian in doctrine.

    • Roger Feenstra says:

      “I believe that in the trinity each one had there body just like the angles had there own body.”

      It is irrelevant what one believes, what matters is the truth of God’s Word. That each Person of the Trinity had a body is never found and Scripture and is heresy. Heiser does not teach that in his book either.

    • There is no trinity except in Babylonian devilworship.
      In heaven there is only GOD, Jesus and the various angels – but no holy spook flitting around wrapped in a white sheet.

  2. PCA Pastor Greg Bowen says:

    In point # 1, Genesis “Let us create man in our image”, can in no way be read or interpreted as “God addressing an angelic host”, for manifold reasons, the least of which includes that angels did not assist in the creation of mankind in any part, angles are not the image in which man was created, likewise angles (excluding theophany and christophany) are not the image bearers of God as manifested through mankind in that creation, the nature of human marriage being a principal physical manifestation of the invisible triune nature to which the creation of mankind’s image attests (as one God represented by one Adam as the plurality of God’s personhood is represented in the act of generating Eve out of Adam’s substance to be rejoined in marriage to produce a child. To misappropriate this from the beginning would cripple a cascading host of theology.

    • Hi Pastor Greg Bowen, thanks for the comment!

      It’s certainly possible that the reference is to an inner-dialogue within the persons of the Trinity, and much of church history has interpreted it such, but there are worthy arguments for an alternative reading that is not unprecedented.

      It may seem odd, but many OT scholars believe that the “let us” in this passage refers not to the Trinity, but the LORD addressing the angelic council. However, as the text shows, the council does not create humanity; rather the LORD does it alone. So the idea here would be that He is announcing what He will do, much like I could say to a gathering of friends, “hey, let’s go get pizza” and then go get it myself.

      I’d encourage you to go check out Michael Heiser’s books Angels or The Unseen Realm because he explains this in more depth.

    • And yes, I’d agree with you that angels certainly did not assist in the creation of mankind and that saying as such could lead to faulty theological conclusions. Nuance is certainly needed here.

  3. We know from the account of Abraham wandering and being fed fresh bread by an angel that angels wander Earth and can create material things – like fire and fresh bread – but it’s hard to believe GOD needed their help in creating the Universe during the Six Days.