CTI-Bible Doctrine: Angels
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Bible Doctrine: Angelology
Biblical faith asserts that we are not alone in the universe.
Our world is populated by other life forms, of course. In addition to the physical creatures, the biblical authors indicate that spiritual realities also participate in God’s created realm. Like humans, these realities are moral agents, responsible to God to fulfill a divinely given mandate.
Christian theologians speak of these realities under the broader name of Angelology. Some will distinguish between good – Angels – and the bad – demons – and add the separate category of demonology. We are going to keep them together under the heading of Angelology.
The Nature of Spiritual Realities
The Scriptures simply assume the existence of spiritual beings.
During the time in which the Scriptures were being written such beings were an accepted part of the world view of the Near East.
Therefore, angels and demons play an integral role in the biblical drama.
Since it was such a big part of the Scriptures, angelology became a topic of Christian theology.
It is worth taking a moment and discussing how angelology was treated through history.
Angelology in Christian Theology
The Middle Ages – 5th-15th centuries (aka Medieval times)
Theological reflection on angels and demons would reach its high point during the middle ages. In addition to the supernatural, spiritual beings in the Scriptures, the interest of medieval theologians was sparked by popular religious convictions in which the spirit world played an important role.
Medieval Christians firmly believed in the reality of spiritual beings, especially demons.
These Christians feared demons whom they saw as powerful agents present everywhere in the world. They were concerned with incantations and other rituals that were believed to render them ineffective.
- Can an angel be in two places at the same time?
As created beings, are they limited with respect to space and time, like humans are, or are as spiritual beings do they share the omnipresence of God?
-How many angels can stand on the point of a needle?
This may seem nonsensical, but it shows their concern with the relationship of pure spiritual creatures to space – are they, indeed, bound to space as we are, or, like God, do they not have special dimensions?
-how much time elapsed between the creation of the angels and the fall of some of them into sin?
This asks about the goodness of these beings as created by God.
-Do their thinking and willing take place in time, like ours? Or are they more like God, and they think and will apart from the passing of time?
The Reformation – 1st half of 16th century
Angelology was a part of systematic theology, however the philosophical debates that took place during the middle ages gave way to the systematizing of the biblical material concerning angels and demons.
John Calvin offered a simple, biblically oriented definition of angels as “ministering spirits (), whose service God uses for the protection of His own, and through whom He both dispenses his benefits among men and also carries out his remaining works.”
He also places Satan and demons under God’s control, saying that they exist for our benefit, and God uses them in the process of sanctification, helping us to become stronger and mature.
The Enlightenment – 1620’s – 1780’s
Both the philosophical speculation of the Middle Ages and the systematizing of the Bible done by the Reformers begins to collapse.
During the Enlightenment, angels become an embarrassment to Christian theologians who sought to articulate the faith in an age of science and rationalism.
In a world defined by scientific reason and method, the idea that the universe could be populated by spiritual entities was out of place.
Demons were also displaced as superstitious relics of little importance to the Christian message.
Contemporary Theology – Mid-late 20th century
An unexpected resurgence of interest.
With a rebirth of interest in spiritual things, coupled with an increased contact with Non-Western societies that never discarded the spirit world, theologians are now forced to re-examine the issue of angels and demons.
-the speculation of other intelligent life in the universe
-rapid increase of occult like practices – horoscopes, séances, fortune telling, witchcraft, etc – brought discussions of the demonic to the forefront
-existentialism – concept of demonic is important because it helps to interpret the existential situation of the human person
Biblical Theology of Angels
Like other inhabitants of the universe, spiritual beings are God’s creatures. Therefore, they are not equal to God.
Although they differ from human beings in that they are not material beings, they still have the powers of will and reason. They are moral beings who engage in actions which are either right or wrong.
The Basic purpose of the spiritual beings is to serve God, whether praising Him or ministering on his behalf.
Some fulfill their God-given role: these are the angels of God.
The Scriptures suggest that their numbers are great (, )
They are grouped into classes:
Others have chosen not to act in accordance with their divine purpose: these are the demons, whose chief is Satan.
“Angel” is a transliteration from the greek word angelos which simply means “messenger.”
OT word is mal’ak which also means ‘messenger.”
Angels in OT
The original model for the idea of angelic hosts may have been the ranks of an imperial army or more likely the attendants belonging to a great royal court. In Hebrew understanding, the courts of earthly monarchs pointed toward the heavenly court of the divine and sovereign, God. Therefore, just as an entourage of servants surrounded earthly rulers, so also the divine Ruler must have his group of heavenly beings.
As the entourage of God the heavenly beings fulfilled various functions.
- praise and rendering service to their King ()
-Doing his bidding in governing the world ()
-Stood ready to be dispatched to protect God’s earthly people ()
- Carry out His judgments (, )
-Mediate divine communications to God’s servants (, ;) who in turn write down the messages
-Personal names are given: Gabriel () and Michael ()
They are divided into opposing heavenly forces – good angels, evil demons – who engage in cosmic battle ()
Angels in NT
The Synoptic Gospels account for 51 of the 175 NT occurrences of the term angelos.
-They are portrayed as active participants in the gospel story.
-heralding Jesus’ birth (, )
-ministering to Jesus at crucial points in his ministry ()
-announcing his triumph over death at this resurrection ()
Angelic involvement in eschatological (end times) events is also a dominant theme of NT angelology.
-Synoptic gospels develop apocalyptic theme that angels will accompany the Son of Man at His coming (, ; , ; ; ).
-Revelation describes angels in the final days, especially in the judgment of God (, , )
Angels are not to be worshipped
proclaims that Christ is not an angel but above the angels, for they worship Him.
In Christ, believers are likewise above the angels() for we will one day judge the heavenly beings (). Until then, the angels minister to the people of God in ways that are largely unknowable to us.
Biblical Theology of Demons
-The biblical writers speak of a specific group of evil entities called “demons.”
-Like the good angels, they are generally seen as spiritual beings.
-Sometimes, they are referred to as “fallen angels.”
For this reason, they are often discussed under the broader topic of angelology.
The Greek language of first century Christians had two words for darker spiritual beings
- daimon classical Greek used this word in reference to the lesser gods
classical Greek used this word in reference to the lesser gods
Popular belief was that of a being, often a spirit of the dead, endowed with supernatural powers, at work in terrifying events in nature and human life
-daimonion due to daimon being popular in Greek culture, the Jews who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (the Septuagint) and NT authors avoided using the term, and introduced daimonion
The NT is consciously aware of demons as an organized opposition to God and His good intention for His creation.
Demons in the OT
The OT gives little place to the concept of the demonic.
This suggests that the ancient Hebrews were largely unaware of such beings.
The ancient Hebrews focused on the uniqueness of YHWH as the one true God.
Jewish demonology did not really develop until the exile and during the intertestamental period.
-demons came to be seen as envious spirits which attack, harm and even seek to destroy human beings. Chief among them was God’s enemy, Satan.
Demons in the NT
At the heart of the apocalyptic world view of the NT is the concept of two kingdoms or two ages – the conflict between God and His spiritual opponents. In the struggle of the ages, demons are significant agents.
Demons form a unified kingdom of evil under the leadership their chief, Satan. They are the agents of Satan’s will and are locked in mortal conflict with God’s kingdom.
and suggest that NT writers view demons as “fallen angels.”
They are not fulfilling God’s intent for them. In this failing, they are participating in sin. Under the leadership of Satan, they are seeking to advance sin in the world by means of their interaction with humans, working to blind unbelievers to the truth of the gospel, tempt believers to sin, and to incite persecution of Christians.
Demons always exercise a detrimental influence, seeking to harm the well-being of God’s creation and destroy community.
If given the opportunity, they can take possession of a human person and thereby impair or distort the personality.
The good news of the NT, however, is that Jesus has been victorious over the powers of evil. In this age, He shares this victory with all who are a part of His community. On the great end day, he will completely destroy all demonic forces.
A Biblical theology of Satan
The chief of the demons, generally known throughout the Scriptures and Christian theology is Satan.
Names Related to Satan
Leviathan – seldom used in OT
-Originally referred to mythical sea monster who was a creation of God (, )
-Carries an evil overtones (), ultimately serving as personification of Chaos against whom God does battle in bringing about creation ().
- transfers Yahweh’s battle against this mythical archenemy to the eschatological future, to the day God delivers Israel.
Lucifer – only found in
-Latin Vulgate (early translation of Bible into Latin) translated a Hebrew word, helel (“to wail” or “shining one”) into “Lucifer” which means “light bearer” in Latin.
-Many Christians throughout history (Tertullian, Origen, most Medieval thinkers, and John Milton in Paradise Lost) have equated “light bearer” to Satan. However, Isaiah did not have the chief of demons in view when he wrote this, rather he was referring to the king of Babylon.
Devil – comes from Greek, found mostly in New Testament
Satan in the OT
-The most significant biblical figure representing God’s chief opponent is “Satan” or the devil.
-The English word “devil” comes from a Greek background, whereas “Satan” has Hebrew origins.
-Comes from the verb “saten” – to accuse
-basically means “accuser” or “adversary”
-Judicial term – think prosecuting attorney
- Function of Satan is set forth in Job. Acting on God’s behalf to test the righteousness of Job, he switches and becomes hostile to all humans, in so doing, becomes hostile to God’s intentions as well
Satan in the NT
- in his continued attempt to thwart God’s plan, Satan steers his activities in two directions
-toward the church
-Satan prowls like a roaring lion, even though he is already defeated and his end is sure.
-The one who began as God’s servant, the accuser in the high court of God, in the end is completely banished from God’s realm