On September 21, 1994, Touched by an Angel premiered on CBS. It went on to run for 211 episodes over nine seasons. The series featured two “angels” named Monica and Tess. Throughout the series, Monica is tasked with conveying guidance and messages from “God” to various people who are at a crossroads in their lives. Eventually, Monica and Tess are joined by another angel named Andrew, the angel of death, who makes appearances in sickness, tragic events, or the moment he seemingly ushers individuals into heaven. The series became one of CBS’s highest-rated series, with more than 121 million viewers, and it was nominated for eleven Primetime Emmy awards and three Golden Globe awards. This series revealed that the human fascination with angels in our present day has not waned since the early history of the church. In fact, angels have been depicted throughout the history of art, music, and culture.
A Google search for “angels” produces a myriad of websites revealing this fascination. The famous encyclopedic site Wikipedia comments that angels are supernatural beings found in various religions and mythologies. The article continues by revealing that each religious tradition has its own method of defining and explaining these celestial beings. For instance, in Zoroastrianism, each person has one guardian angel and they manifest God’s energy. In Islam, angels are often mentioned throughout the Qur’an and the Hadith (codified oral traditions about Muhammad), and they are often entrusted with specific tasks by God to perform, such as testing human beings by granting them abundant wealth and curing their illnesses. According to the teachings of the Theosophical Society, angels are regarded as living either in the atmosphere of the planets or inside the sun, and they assist in the operation and processes of nature. Angels are depicted throughout the history of art, music, and culture.
Surrounded by mysticism and mystery, the popular Christian view of angels desperately needs reformation. We need a well-thought-out and carefully structured biblical and theological understanding of these celestial creatures and their function within the redemptive story of God. Therefore, we must ask, what does the Bible say?
ANGELS ARE CREATED
The Bible asserts that angels have not always existed. Numerous biblical passages affirm that God, in the beginning, created all the angels. Job alludes to angelic choirs filling the heavens with praise to God during the event of creation, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Scripture is quick to posit that though they are spiritual beings, angels are distinct from the triune God and have not existed eternally. A clear distinction is made in Nehemiah 9:6 between the God of heaven and His creation: “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host . . . and the host of heaven worships you.” In the New Testament, Paul affirms the Old Testament regarding the creation of angels: “For by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities––all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). Notice that Paul describes the angels as “created,” past tense. In other words, God is not continually creating angels, but their existence and number were firmly fixed in the beginning. Scripture never indicates the exact number of the angels that were created, but it often alludes to an innumerable host. On Mount Sinai, God “came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deut. 33:2). In Psalm 68:17, the psalmist identifies “the chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands.” When believers enter the presence of God in holy worship, we enter the presence of “innumerable angels” (Heb. 12:22). In Revelation, John recounts, “I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11). Regardless of the size of their population, we can be certain that God created the necessary number of angels to fulfill His sovereign will and to render appropriate praise and glory to their Creator.