The Angels of God
by Dr. Arno C. Gaebelein
What is the nature of these wonderful creatures of God? The Word of God answers us that they are spirits. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1: 14).
This fact needs no further elucidation.
Do Angels Have Bodies?
The question is often asked by thoughtful believers, have angels bodies? If they have bodies, what kind of bodies do they possess? The question as to the corporeality of the angels of God demands a closer attention. Not a few expositors of Scripture maintain that a spirit must be immaterial, that spirituality excludes corporeality, and therefore, the angels as spirits are bodiless beings. We know from Scripture that they appeared in visible form, generally in likeness of a human body. It seems these unseen spirits taking on visibility could not always be distinguished from ordinary creatures. In an exhortation to hospitality we read in Hebrews 13:1, “Be not forget ful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels un awares.” We learn from this pious Hebrews in Old Testa times received strangers into their homes, entertained them, only to discover later that they were the messengers of God. We conclude therefore, that they not appear as pictured in with wings and a halo about head. They looked like as if were common mortals. From other Scriptures we learn that their bodies sometimes possessed a marvelous glory. Their garments are described as shining, their faces like the lightning and their whole appearance in whiteness like the snow. How can this be reconciled with the assertion that they are only spirits? It is answered that they possess the faculty of appearing in corporeal form at will; that they can pierce the universe at a speed even greater than the speed of light; that they can come and go unperceived by mortal sense or appear visibly. There can be taken no exception to these statements. We also believe that these holy beings possess such a faculty of taking on bodily form and appear and disappear as they desire.
Are Their Bodies Permanent?
Have they as spirit-beings permanent bodies? It is not the question of their power to clothe themselves with such a garment that will make them visible to human eyes, but have they always bodies? This question we can answer from the Scriptures in the affirmative. They possess personality and, though spirits, they have their own distinctive bodies. That the bodies they possess are not like our own bodies mau be learned from the words of the risen Lord. When suddenly He appeared in the midst of the disciples, they cried out for fear. “They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself for a spirit hath not bones and flesh as ye see me have ” (Luke 24:37-39). Our Lord, therefore, taught definitely that a spirit has not a body of bones and flesh.
What Kinds of Bodies Are There?
In the great resurrection chapter, the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, different kinds of bodies are mentioned. The Spirit of God speaks of terrestrial bodies and of celestial bodies. He tells us that there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. Man received his terrestrial, his natural body, from mother earth. But angels never were clothed with such a body, for that is indicated in the statement of Scripture that man is made a little lower than the angels. The angels, therefore, have spiritual bodies, that is, celestial bodies corresponding to their exalted, glorious, spiritual nature. Apart from this general fact, we have more positive information from the lips of our Lord.
The Sadducees, those infidels of the past, who denied the existence of angels and also the resurrection, came and asked the Lord a question: “Master, Moses wrote unto us, if any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother There were, therefore, seven brethren, and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she, for seven had her to wife?” (Luke 20:27-36). In all probability the story was of their own invention to ensnare the Lord Jesus Christ. He answered them saying that those resurrected neither marry nor die any more, just like the angels. The logical conclusion is that the angels have bodies, but that these bodies are different from human bodies in that the angels do not marry, nor are given in marriage and that they do not die. Our resurrection bodies are deathless bodies and the earthly conjugal relationship will no longer exist. The highest revelation concerning the resurrection body of the redeemed is given after the Lord Jesus Christ rose from among the dead. The Spirit of God tells us that our bodies shall be like unto His glorious body. As pointed out, our Lord speaks of only two things in which our resurrec-tion bodies are equal to that of angels. We learn from these words of
our Lord that angels have real bodies.
What Kind Do the Angels Have?
What kind of body is theirs? This question is unanswerable. Councils in early churchhistory held that their bodies were ethereal and fire-like, while the scholastics and the Lateran Council decided that their bodies were material bodies. The synagogal literature of the Jews is
rich in all kinds of suggestions as to the bodies of angels and strange traditional beliefs. But these are vain speculations. We have to own that we look into a glass darkly in connection with these unseen things. These things are for us in our present state unexplainable and incom-prehensible. Beyond what is written we dare not go. The time will surely come when we shall not look into a glass darkly, when faith is changed into sight. Then the unseen things, including angels and their glorious bodies, will be fully known by us.
Where Do They Live?
In the next place we have to ascertain their dwelling places. As we have pointed out before, their number is so great that they cannot be reckoned. The unseen world of angels is a mighty kingdom in which are thrones, principalities, powers and dominions. Inasmuch as they are spirits clothed with bodies they must have fixed dwelling places. Where the angels are is another interesting question which Scripture, at least in part, also answers. A child who has been taught something about the Bible will answer readily the question about the place where the angels are. The child will answer, “In heaven?” But heaven is a term of vast meaning. In the Hebrew, heaven is the plural, “the heavens?” The speaks of heavens: the third heaven is the heaven of heavens, the dwelling place of God, where His throne has always been. The tabernacle possessed by His earthly people,Israel, was a pattern of the heavens. Moses upon the mountain had looked into the vast heavens and saw the three heavens. He had no telescope. But God Himself showed to him the mysteries of the heavens. Then God admonished him when he was about to make the Tabernacle and said to His servant, “See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mountain” (Heb. 8:5). The Tabernacle had three compartments, the outer court, the holy part and the holiest. Once a year the high priest entered this earthly place of worship to pass through the outer court, into the holy part, and, finally, carrying the sacrificial blood, he entered into the holiest to sprinkle the blood in Jehovah’s holy presence. But Aaron was only a type of Him who is greater than Aaron, the true High Priest. Of Him, the true Priest, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it is written that He passed into the heavens (Heb. 4:14). “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). He passed through the heavens, the outer court, the heaven surrounding the earth; the holy part, the immense universes, with their immeasurable distances, and finally He entered the third heaven, that heaven astronomy knows exists, but which no telescope can ever reach.
Angels Dwell in the Heavenlies
In the heavenlies, according to the Epistle to the Ephesians, are the principalities and the powers, the innumerable company of angels. Their dwelling places are in these heavens. God who created them, who made them spirits and clothed them with bodies suited to their spirit nature, must have also assigned to them habitations. But what and where are these habitations? That these dwellings are in the heavens is not only taught in Ephesians. In the prayer our Lord taught His disciples is a petition which tells us of this: “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” that is, there are beings in heaven and they do His will. It is also significant and not without meaning that the phrase “the host of heavens” means both the stars and the angelic hosts; the “Lord of Hosts” has also the same double meaning, for He is the Lord of the stars and the Lord of the angels.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE APRIL-MAY 1995 ISSUE OF ROUND-UP MAGAZINE, AND WAS WRITTEN BY DR. ARNO C. GAEBELEIN. THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR RESEARCH AND STUDY PURPOSES ONLY.