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Ministering Spirits

  • May 2018 Issue
Theology Matters

Angels play an important role in the events that unfold in the book of Revelation, and their very name—angel—reveals something about their function. The term was used in ancient Greek to refer to a messenger or ambassador. Mentioned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments, angels serve as God’s agents, appearing at critical moments in the unfolding story of redemption.

Angels are created by God differently than us. Humanity was created “a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5). Yet at the Incarnation Jesus took on a human nature (Heb. 2:9). This dignifies humankind, which was created in the image of God and charged with the task of exercising dominion over creation (Gen. 1:26, 28). The redeemed will eventually judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3). For these reasons, Hebrews 1:14 calls angels “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.” Angels sometimes appeared in human form (Acts 1:1), but the description of them as spirits implies that they do not have corporeal bodies like ours.

Angels were created holy, but Satan (who is also an angel) led some of them into a sinful rebellion against God, an event prior to the creation of Adam and Eve (Rev. 12:4). Fallen angels are called demons and evil spirits. They can enter into and control the behavior of people and animals (Luke 8:33). Fallen angels are a spiritual source of many false doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1) and the objects of idolatrous worship (1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 9:20).

Though Scripture mentions angels frequently, there is much we do not know. We know angels belong to different orders and that they exist in some kind of hierarchy, but we don’t know how it is arranged (Gen. 3:24; Isa. 6:1–6; Luke 1:19). Daniel and Revelation indicate that they influence human affairs, but we don’t know precisely how.

What is clear from Scripture is that Jesus is superior to all angels and more powerful than any demon (Heb. 1:4–14). Jesus gave His disciples power to cast out demons (Mark 3:14–15). Angels are not to be worshiped. They are our fellow messengers and servants (Rev. 19:10; 22:9). They serve us as we serve God.

For Further Study

To learn more, read Angels: Elect and Evil by C. Fred Dickason (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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