In my study of what the Bible has to teach us about angels I’ve come to realize they certainly aren’t a bunch of wispy, cartoonish beings flittering about willy nilly hither and yon. They have an organization, a hierarchy if you will, consisting of different levels of authority and function. In reading Romans 8:38 and Colossians 1:16 I get the impression that there are all sorts of angels, seraphim, cherubim, principalities, authorities, powers, thrones, territories and dominions in the spiritual realm that surrounds us. In Colossians 1:16 Paul says that, “…all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him.” I take that to mean there are several orders of angels that differ in their powers with some having roles and/or capabilities that others don’t. In other words, just as human beings naturally fit into certain distinctions, rankings and talents associated with their God-given abilities, so do the angels.
Let’s talk about the good ones, starting at the top with the archangel. In Jude chapter 9 the scriptures designate only Michael as an archangel although we’re led to believe that before his fall Lucifer may have been one, too. Since the prefix “arch” is used for something superior we can assume that Michael is now the sole 5-star general of the angel army. He’s the chief of staff who oversees the Heavenly Father’s administration of the vast universe. He’s also the attorney general who makes sure justice is served without error. He’s the angel with no equal because the Bible never even hints that there’s another archangel. In fact, his name means “he who is like unto the Lord.” His principal concern is for God’s chosen people (those who’ve accepted His Son as their Savior) and their welfare. In the Old Testament he kept an eye on the nation of Israel. Daniel 12:1 refers to him specifically as “the great prince who watches over your [God’s] people.” That’s still his core job although the number of souls he protects has grown exponentially since then. He’s also God’s enforcer of law and judgment so he’s quite the multitasker. In Revelation 12 we’re told he’ll personally lead battalions of angel warriors against Satan and his troops of demons in the final showdown of this age. It’s a ferocious war that Michael and the angels are a lock to win. God’s Holy Word says that the archangel will shout as he accompanies Jesus when He returns to earth as promised. Not only will he loudly herald the Second Coming of Christ, but he’ll speak the word of life to all sleeping believers in the Son of God who await their resurrection from the dead. As 1 Thessalonians 4:16 states, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” That’s going to be a big day for Michael and all of mankind most assuredly.
Then there’s Gabriel. A well-known personage because he’s one of the most prominent angels in the Scriptures. In Hebrew his name means “God’s hero,” “the mighty one” or “God is great.” Other passages refer to him as “the messenger of Jehovah” or “the Lord’s messenger.” Yet he’s never identified as an archangel so he’s not on a par with Michael. His central task is to convey God’s mercy and promises. He shows up four times in the Bible, always announcing great things. We first hear of him in Daniel 8:15-16; “While I, Daniel, was watching the vision, I sought to understand it. Now one who appeared to be a man was standing before me. Then I heard a human voice coming from between the banks of the Ulai. It called out, ‘Gabriel, enable this person to understand the vision.’ So he approached the place where I was standing.” Gabriel, on God’s behalf, then proceeded to tell Daniel about the end times ahead. He actually touched Daniel in 9:21 and told him even more about future events that would culminate in the “prince of princes” arriving from above and conquering Satan, the “king of fiery countenance.” Gabriel’s in the New Testament, as well. He’s the angel honored by the great I AM to be the one who informs the priest Zechariah in Luke 1that he and his wife Elizabeth, despite their advanced age, would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the anticipated Messiah. Yet that was small potatoes compared to the privilege God gave Gabriel to be the one who’d deliver the miraculous message to the Virgin Mary about what was in store for her and Joseph. In Luke 1:30-33 Gabriel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” No greater pronouncement has ever been made nor ever will be again.
While Michael and Gabriel are the only angels mentioned by name (unless you want to include the disgraced Lucifer), there are an innumerable host of others under their authority. The first category is that of the seraphim. They’re most likely the angels that 1 Peter 3:22 refers to being “subject to him [Christ]” who “went into heaven and is at the right hand of God.” The word seraphim may come from the Hebrew root meaning “love” although it may also be interpreted as meaning “the burning ones” or “nobles.” They’re only mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-6 wherein the prophet saw many six-winged “Seraphs” as they hovered over the throne of the Lord, calling out to each other as they praised God. Therefore it follows that their function is to broadcast the magnificent character of the great I AM. Isaiah was also awe-struck by their indescribable beauty. While Ezekiel didn’t positively identify them as such, many scholars opine that the angels he saw were none other than a group of seraphim because what they did most in his presence was to proclaim the glory of God.
Last but certainly not least are the Cherubim. Despite their docile reputation the Bible tells us they’re powerful creatures and we get the most detailed description of what they look like of all the spiritual beings because God directed their images be incorporated in the Ark of the Covenant’s decoration. Therefore we know they have wings, feet and hands. But Ezekiel added some astounding features. In chapter 10 he related that they’re “full of eyes” and encompassed by “wheels within wheels.” But their power is revealed in not-so-subtle terms. As Ezekiel prophesized the coming destruction of Jerusalem he said he witnessed them accompanying God as He descended from His throne to judge the city. They fluttered their wings and caused a ferocious stir as God withdrew His glory from Jerusalem. It’s a hard chapter to grasp but what’s clear is that the cherubim are somehow connected with magnificent displays of God’s power. Much about them is kept from us but the one thing we do know is that they have one central purpose: To constantly magnify the Creator’s majestic countenance and sovereignty. Psalms 80:1 says that God sits “enthroned above the winged cherubim” and Psalm reads, “The Lord reigns! The nations tremble. He sits enthroned above the winged cherubim; the earth shakes.” They act as guardians, too. In Genesis 3:24 we’re told that God placed cherubim at the entrance of the Garden of Eden as sentries to keep Adam and Eve out, using the “flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.” As I alluded to earlier, their golden images on the Ark of the Covenant symbolized their presence as protectors of the holy of holies. It doesn’t take a stretch to imagine they possessed the ability to enforce their mandate if they had to. They’re not to be trifled with.
I dare say that most people of the 21st century are completely unaware of how important the angels are. It’s they who hold Lucifer and his forces of evil in check. Without them mankind wouldn’t stand a chance. In Daniel 10 an angel (possibly Gabriel) informed Daniel that there’s an ongoing battle being waged between the holy angels faithful to God and the disgraced angels of darkness allied with Satan. When Lucifer rebelled he and a third of the angels in existence were cast down from heaven, whereupon he declared all-out war against God. Satan is very powerful and at times it looks like he’s winning the conflict but his victories are illusions. God cannot be defeated. Lucifer is destined to be vanquished and stripped of all his powers forevermore. In eternity to come he won’t even deserve a footnote.
One of the most common questions of all time is “Why would God Almighty allow Satan or evil to exist at all?” It’s not a new query. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, refers to it as “the mystery of lawlessness.” Yet just because we want to know more about it doesn’t mean that we need to. But what we can gather from God’s Holy Word is that the angels who fell with Lucifer did so because they’d sinned against God. 2 Peter 2:4 states, “…God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them into hell and locked them up in chains in utter darkness, to be kept until the judgment.” Notice the blame is on them alone. Jude 1:6 says, “You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence, he has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment of the great Day.” Billy Graham wrote that “the greatest catastrophe in the history of the universal creation was Lucifer’s defiance of God and the consequent fall of perhaps one third of the angels who joined him in his wickedness.”
While I’m at it, I might as well address the whole messy phenomenon known as the Lucifer rebellion. Logic tells us that it occurred after Adam and Eve were put together in the Garden of Eden because God rested on the seventh day and said everything He’d created was good. That would include all the angels so things were hunky dory until Satan let his bloated ego get the best of him. Evidently Lucifer was something to behold, though. In Ezekiel 28 God relates, “You were the sealer of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. …I placed you there [in the Garden] with an anointed guardian cherub; you were on the holy mountain of God. …You were blameless in your behavior from the day you were created, until sin was discovered in you. …You were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I defiled you and banished you from the mountain of God – the guardian cherub expelled you from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom on account of your splendor. I threw you down to the ground. …By the multitude of your iniquities, through the sinfulness of your trade, you desecrated your sanctuaries. So I drew fire out from within you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth before the eyes of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are shocked at you; you have become terrified and will be no more.” In Isaiah 14 we read that it was Lucifer’s unchecked ambition and humongous pride that made him believe he could run the whole cosmic shootin’ match a lot better than God and instigate a coup that would usurp the Creator’s seat on the ultimate throne. Since a third of all the angels in the universe bought into his grandiose plan there’s been a war going on ever since that makes WWII look like a game of Chutes & Ladders. Since Satan doesn’t trust a word the Lord has said he doesn’t believe he and his evil army will not prevail at Armageddon. He’s in for a shock.
Problem is, when we put our free will ahead of the perfect will of God we’re acting more like Lucifer than Jesus. In the mind of the prince of darkness it’s all about the “I.” Peruse Isaiah 14 again and notice how many times Satan refers to himself. “I will ascend into heaven.” “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” “I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation.” “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.” “I will make myself like the most high.” It’s I… I… I… ad nauseum. At the root of Lucifer’s runaway pride was the deadly sin of covetousness. He wanted what didn’t belong to him. He lusted for what rightly belongs to God exclusively. If the devil was alone in his malicious quest for power it’d be one thing but he’s not. He’s got a multitude of demons who, since they’re beyond redemption, have nothing to lose. Therefore they do their level best to tempt humans into believing their putrid king’s lies and joining his doomed cause. Since their leader hates God and the men and women He so loves, Satan’s goal is focused upon destroying all of mankind, one soul at a time. I’m in his crosshairs. So are you, as well as all of our family members and friends. This is no minor skirmish. This is war on an immense scale. Revelation 12 indicates that it actually reaches to heaven’s gate!
How can an intelligent person not look around at the world we live in and be blind to the obvious evidences of Satan’s power? The Bible tells us what the devil’s objectives are. He desires to bring about the downfall of nations, to eradicate moral standards and to lay waste the earth’s natural resources provided for us by God. He advocates anarchy by corrupting elected officials and weakening society’s faith in law and order. He has the ability to create havoc through fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, plagues and a long list of crippling diseases. He’s relentless in doing everything possible to hold people captive in their cages of sin and to drag them into his hellish pit. If he was visible to us, strolling around in a red jumpsuit with horns and pointed tail, he’d be easy to avoid. He knows that. So he became skilled at being sneaky and cunning. His best weapon is to discredit the truthfulness of the Bible and he urges folks to deny its authority. He makes sin look like fun. But he’s the king of falsehood. Jesus said of him in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Satan’s most successful fibs are usually predicated upon an “if.” It worked like a charm on Eve. He said, in essence, “If you partake of the fruit of this tree you surely won’t die! Don’t be absurd, woman!” He caused her to lean on her own understanding instead of obeying God’s commandments and the result was that death entered our world. Lucifer’s still at it today. He says “if” you’re a good person, “if” you go to church on Easter Sunday, “if” you don’t commit any crimes you’ll go to heaven. But Christ made it plain that courteous and generous behavior alone is not enough. One must be “born again” in order to clothe oneself in Jesus’ purity and be able to stand in righteousness before the Heavenly Father (John 3:7). Satan’s minions will try to convince you that you can save yourself but that’s futile. Only Christ can save us and He will. On one condition. We must surrender our will to His, wherein we commit our lives to being his servant and trusting that his tortured death on the cross was sufficient to guarantee our salvation. When you do that Satan knows you’ve become a child of God Almighty and no one, not even the most powerful angel ever created, can snatch you out of His hand. Lucifer and his demons will continue to pester and tempt you until the day you die but it’s only out of spite. They know they’re licked. You belong to God.