Angels: God's Messengers
The word for "angel" means "messenger" or a being doing ministering. To be a messenger presupposes a message, and it also presupposes a sender of that message. These beings are trusted with responsibility and authority on behalf of the one sending. We should not make the mistake of thinking that angels are merely creatures of the imagination. The Scriptures and Jesus are very specific about the nature and commission of angels, as well as the characteristics and deeds of evil angels -- those that have eternally broken their relationship with God and fallen from their pristine state.
Angels are messengers or beings doing ministering. Hebrews 1:13-14: "But to which of the angels has he ever said, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?" Let's see what we can learn about these beings that have been commissioned to minister to us humans.
Creation of Angels
Scripture does not indicate when angels were created, but it does indicate that they were created and are not eternal. They may have been created at the time of God's initial creation of the heavens (matter and space-time). Creation by God was done through the person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity.
Speaking of Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:15-17 says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all thing 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. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him."
Scientists these days are speculating on multi-verses and alien life forms. This passage indicates facts about things theoretical physicists can only speculate. God created an order of beings in this universe that usually cannot be seen by humans, that have powers exceeding those of humans, that exhibit characteristics that defy the natural laws of physics, and that live in a realm that could be parallel to, integrated with, or separate from our own realm of matter-space-time. Mathematics for a theoretical physicist indicates that such a situation could exist; Scripture indicates that such a situation does exist.
As we delve deeper into the characteristics of angels from the revelation about them that God has given to us in Scripture, we will learn more also about this marvelous universe that came into being through the power of Jesus Christ and is "held together" by the power of Jesus Christ. The power of the strong nuclear force and the fluctuation of the Higgs field are at His command!
Number and Rank of Angels
Any reference to a "count" or "number" of angelic beings is only given in superlatives. It seems their number defies counting. Revelation 5:11 says, "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand -- thousands times thousands."
Deuteronomy 33:2 says, "He said: The Lord came from Sinai and revealed himself to Israel from Seir. He appeared in splendor from Mount Paran, and came forth with ten thousand holy ones. With his right hand he gave a fiery law to them." Hebrews 12:22 also says, "But you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels."
There are numerous words and terms used to describe angelic beings. Perhaps none of these terms are exactly alike, and in most cases any comparative rank is nebulous. Angelic beings are called: thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, and heavenly hosts.
Angels are a "company" or a "host"; they are not a "race." The Greek noun gender for "angel" is masculine, so translations commonly refer to angels with masculine pronouns.
Angels Now Superior to Man
Psalm 8:4-5 indicates that the angels are superior to mankind: "Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them, and make them a little less than the heavenly beings?"
Angels are invisible, immortal, and not limited in space. They usually have no bodies. God gave them heaven for a home, but to mankind he gave the Earth as home. More on this relationship will develop as we look at the characteristics and commission of angels.
Angels Subordinate to God
In Hebrews 1:4 Jesus Christ's exaltation by God the Father is described: "Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs." The theme of Hebrews 1 is the superiority of God's Son to the angels.
The topic prior to this one is combined with this one in Hebrews 2:9: "We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God's grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone." So we see the contrast between Hebrews 1:4 and 2:9 displayed in Jesus Christ, who willfully laid aside His glory and power so that He could take on the form of a man, and then see that glory restored through God's exaltation of Him. Through those two situations we see the angels as superior or subordinate.
Another verse indicates angels are subordinate to God when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him in heaven at His right hand -- Ephesians 1:21: "Far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."
Angels never permit men to worship them because they know that worship belongs only to God. Revelation 19:10: "So I threw myself down at his feet to worship him, but he said, 'Do not do this! I am only a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony about Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'"
Paul wrote to the Colossian church to correct an error about angel worship -- see Colossians 2:18.
The terms found in Scripture as "the angel of God" or "the angel of the Lord" are indications of God Himself in human form. That form will have veiled glory as necessary for the occasion. God's display of Himself to Moses on the mountain was much grander where Moses was allowed to see only a portion of God's robe. In Genesis 17 the Lord appeared to Abram and there is no indication of discussion about great glory too brilliant to view. God also walked with Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall into their sinful state. These appearances are called "Theophanies."