Monday, September 27, 2010

The Ministry of Angels: Types

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

There is quite a variety of angels in addition to the regular ones and the fallen ones.

The Bible indicates that Satan may have originally been the supreme angel. Before his fall, he is referred to as "the anointed cherub" (Ezekiel 28:14). He is further described as "the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty" (Ezekiel 28:12- 13). After Satan's fall, an angel named Michael became the chief of God's heavenly host. He is the only angel referred to in the Bible as an "archangel" (Jude 9).

The Hebrew Scriptures portray Michael as "the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people [the Jews]" (Daniel 12:1). The book of Revelation pictures Michael as the commander-in-chief of the armies of God, and in this capacity, he wages war against Satan in the middle of the Tribulation when Satan tries one last time to take the throne of God (Revelation 12:7-9). So important and powerful is Michael that some cultic groups, like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists, have incorrectly identified him with Jesus.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we are told that when Jesus appears for the Rapture of the Church, the event will be heralded by the shout of an archangel. Since Michael is the only angel identified in the Scriptures with this title, he is most likely the one who will utter the shout.

Another angel VIP is Gabriel. He emerges in the Scriptures as God's premier messenger. He appeared to Daniel twice, first to interpret a vision concerning the Antichrist (Daniel 8:15-26), and second, to present the prophecy of the 70 Weeks of Years (Daniel 9:20-27).

In the New Testament, Gabriel serves as an angel of annunciation. He was the one who proclaimed to Zacharias that his wife would give birth to a prophet named John (Luke 1:8-20). And he is the angel who told Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:26-33).

There are two mysterious groups of angels that occupy the throne room of God. They are called Seraphim and Cherubim. The Seraphim are pictured only once in the Scriptures, in Isaiah 6:1-3. In this passage Isaiah is given a glimpse of God's throne room in Heaven. He sees angelic creatures called Seraphim hovering above God's throne. They are described as having six wings each. They appear to be worship leaders as they cry out, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole world is full of His glory."

The Cherubim are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24. After the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, God posted Cherubim with flaming swords "to guard the way to the tree of life." They are next mentioned in Exodus 25 when God told Moses to place images of two Cherubim on the mercy seat (the lid) of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-20).

When King Solomon built his magnificent temple, he placed two gigantic images of Cherubim in the Holy of Holies. Their outstretched wings hovered over the entire chamber, including the Ark of the Covenant with its smaller Cherubim (2 Chronicles 3:8-14). These symbolic usages of Cherub symbols indicate that Cherubim are special guardians of God's things.

The most detailed description of these enigmatic celestial creatures can be found in chapter one of Ezekiel's prophecy. Ezekiel was a prisoner in Chaldea by the Chebar River when he had a vision of a storm coming from the north with glowing figures in the clouds (Ezekiel 1:1-4). He described them as "four living beings" that had "human form," but each of them had four faces and four wings (Ezekiel 1:4-6). They gleamed like burnished bronze (Ezekiel 1:7). Each of these creatures had the face of a man, the face of a lion, the face of a bull, and the face of an eagle — seemingly representing all of God's creation (Ezekiel 1:10).

Ezekiel later identifies these creatures as Cherubim (Ezekiel 10:15) when he encounters them for a second time. The second encounter is a sad one. It occurred when God decided to withdraw His glory from the Holy of Holies in preparation for the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. As the glory of the Lord (what the Jews called "the Shekinah") departed, Ezekiel witnessed Cherubim accompanying it to Heaven (Ezekiel 10:1-22).

When the Apostle John was raptured to Heaven from the Isle of Patmos, he saw similar creatures in front of God's throne. Like Ezekiel, he referred to them as "four living creatures" (Revelation 4:6). What he saw was very similar, but not exactly the same. He does not mention each having four faces, and he says they had six wings each instead of four. But he does state that each one had a different face, and the faces mentioned are the same as what Ezekiel saw — lion, bull, man, and eagle.

The only other special angel mentioned in the Scriptures is a very special one indeed. He is the one who is referred to throughout the Old Testament as "The Angel of the Lord." I believe He is none other than Jesus making preincarnate appearances.


What are the different roles that angels play in human history — past and present? Find out in the next segment of this series on the ministry of angels!

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