Can we classify an angel as a person, or is it some other unusual form of supernatural existence? The Bible makes it very clear that an angel is a person because an angel possesses a personality.
Person Trait #1 – An angel has an intellect.
- An angel’s intellect is limited (1 Peter 1:12).
- An angel’s intellect is theological (Matt. 8:28-29; Luke 4:34; Acts 5:19-20; James 2:19).
All angels, fallen and unfallen, continually use their intellects in regard to God. No angel denies the existence of God; even unfallen angels acknowledge and believe in God.
Person Trait #2 – An angel has emotions (Psalm 148:2; Luke. 2:13; 15:10; Rev. 8:5).
All personalities are emotional, which is part of what makes one a person. Emotions in line with God’s Word are pure and true; however, those not in line are dangerous and evil.
Person Trait #3 – An angel has a will (Jude 6).
It appears from Scripture that a one-time use of the angel’s will determined the status of that will forever. It is now impossible for an unfallen, holy angel to choose to do evil and it is also now impossible for an evil, fallen angel to choose to do good. Presently, from a physical standpoint, demons are far superior to men. However, from a soteriological standpoint, demons are far inferior to men, for a demon cannot ever be saved. It is clear that angels may be viewed as real persons with real personalities.
What does the Bible reveal that an angel is like?
When we search the Scriptures, we may observe that there are at least fifteen facts that enable us to grasp a great deal about angels:
Fact #1 – Angels were created by God (Col. 1:16).
Fact #2 – Angels were created for God (Col. 1:16; Psalm 78:49 – even destructive angels).
Fact #3 – Angels are all subject to God’s sovereignty (Psalm 78:49; Romans 11:36).
Fact #4 – Angels are all subject to Christ’s sovereignty (1 Peter 3:22).
Fact #5 – Angels are inferior to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:4).
Fact #6 – Angels are superior to men ( Hebrews 2:6-7; Psalm 8:4-6). This superiority is only temporary; ultimately men will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:2).
Fact #7 – Angels are spirit beings ( Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 1:14). The fact that they are a spirit being does not mean they do not have the ability to appear in some material form or that they do not have some angelic form. When angels appear to men and men are permitted to see them, there is no question that they do have a visible form. It is proper to assume that angels do have a form or body, which would be very different and distinct from our form or body (i.e. Luke 24:37-39).
There are eight observations we make about spirit beings:
Observation #1 – Spirit beings do not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).
Observation #2 – Spirit beings do not marry (Matthew 22:30).
One text that has been somewhat problematic is Genesis 6:2. The text says “the sons of God…took wives for themselves.” The words “sons of God” have been interpreted three ways:
1) A reference to fallen angels;
2) A reference to sons of Seth;
3) A reference to demon possessed men. If the reference is to fallen angels, then demons took on human form, married women and produced a bizarre offspring (6:4).
If this is the correct interpretation, this was a onetime evil episode which meant confinement for evil angels (Judges 6-7) and in brought a judgment against the entire world, except for Noah and his family. If the reference is to the sons of Seth, then Seth’s sons, the believing godly line, intermarried with Cain’s daughters, the unbelieving, ungodly line (Gen. 4:16-25). The result was a godless offspring (Gen. 6:4).
If demons possessed men, they possessed almost all of them and intermarried with many women and produced a godless line. Regardless of the interpretation the fact is, as Dr. Scofield said:
“…Satan attempted to corrupt the race that the Messiah could not come to redeem man. But God salvaged a remnant (Gen. 6:8f.), and a godly line was preserved” (The Scofield Study Bible NASV, p. 13).
Observation #3 – Spirit beings do not reproduce (Mark 12:19-25).
Observation #4 – Spirit beings do not die (Luke 20:36).
Observation #5 – Spirit beings, for the most part, are invisible (Col. 1:16). When speaking of visibility versus invisibility, we are speaking in terms of human visibility; specifically humans on earth. Once a believer leaves this earth, he would be able to see the angelic world.
Observation #6 – Spirit beings have unique spatial potential (Luke 8:30). Many can occupy a small space at the same time.
Observation #7 – Spirit beings have limited spatial presence (Luke 8:30).
Observation #8 – Spirit beings are not confined by matter (Acts 5:19 ).
Fact #8 – Angels have supernatural power (Psalm 103:20; Acts 5:19; 2 Peter 2:11).
Fact #9 – Angels are innumerable (Psalm 68:17; Rev. 5:11).
Fact #10 – Angels can communicate (Luke 2:10-14; Acts 5:19-20; 1 Cor. 13:1; Rev. 21:17).
Fact #11 – Angels are masculine (Gen. 18:1-2, 19:1; Rev. 10:1-2). Floyd Barackman writes: “Throughout the Scriptures masculine gender is ascribed to them” (Practical Christian Theology, p. 36). There is one exception to this that is found in Zechariah 5:9. What is interesting and important about this is if these indeed are angels, which it certainly appears they are—they are demonic forces who are seeking to promote idolatrous, wicked worship in Babylon (Zech. 5:6-8).
It is very clear that demons are behind false systems of religious worship, and by virtue of the fact that these demons take on a unique female appearance indicates that females can be used to lure people away from the true worship of the God of the Bible. The noun “angel” (αγγελος) is a masculine noun. Although we cannot build a complete gender bias on the basis of whether a noun is masculine, feminine or neuter (i.e. “house” in Greek is masculine), we may determine the gender of a noun by observation of how the noun is used and the pronouns that are used with it.
Dana and Mantey, two highly esteemed Greek grammarians, write “…the gender of a noun must be learned by observation. The distinctions of gender are strictly adhered to in the Greek New Testament” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 34)
Simply stated, we must observe the biblical use and context of angels to determine whether or not angels tend to take on masculine traits or characteristics. If, for example, a masculine pronoun is used with the noun angel (“he” rather than “she”), we may assume the angel is masculine. Several passages afford us the opportunity to see this: Acts 5:19; 12:7-8; Rev. 10:1-3; 21:9-10; 22:8-9.
Fact #12 – Angels are indestructible (Matt. 25:41, 46). Angels are not destroyed even when in eternal fire.
Fact #13 – Angels are organized (Rev. 12:7; Ephesians 3:10; 6:12). In both the fallen and unfallen angelic realm there is a highly efficient and effective systematic organization. As we shall see in this study, there are different ranks and responsibilities within the angelic host. Dr. Charles Ryrie brings out a very critical point:
A very important practical point emerges from this. Angels are organized; demons are organized; yet Christians, individually and in groups, often feel that it is unnecessary that they be organized. This is especially true when it comes to fighting evil. Believers sometimes feel that they can “go it alone” or expect victory without any prior organized preparation and discipline. It is also true when it comes to promoting good. Believers sometimes miss the best because they do not plan and organize their good works. (Basic Theology, p. 128)
Fact #14 – Angels are teachable (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12).
Even God’s holy angels continue to observe and learn. Dr. Chafer said:
The Scriptures disclose the truth that the angels are learning much from their observations of men on earth – especially in the outworking of redemption. Incidentally, this indicates that the angels are not omniscient. However, it should not be concluded that angels know less than men. What, indeed, would be the field of discovery and interest to men was it given to them to see all that transpires in angelic spheres. Peter’s declaration “which things angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12), divulges the truth relative to their interest in the affairs of men” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 25).
Fact #15 – Angels are spectators (Luke 15:10; 1 Tim. 3:16). There is no question that angels are important beings in the program of God. They are unique beings who comprise a vast host, both good and bad. They are rational, personal beings who are very real and very active.
Pastor David E. Thompson is pastor/teacher at Texas Corners Bible Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a nationally syndicated radio show reaching all across the United States. Pastor Thompson may be classified as a true systematic Bible expositor and communicator of God’s Word. He carefully expounds books of the Bible in a way that is contextually, exegetically, grammatically, historically, and theologically accurate to the text and relevant to the time. He is also an very skilled in New Testament Greek.