Images of angels and the beliefs they represent are passed from one generation to the next until they are baked into cultures. A popular image is of the archangel Michael standing over Satan, the archfiend who led the whole world astray. Michael’s booted foot is firmly planted on the devil’s neck, who rages and writhes on the ground. Michael’s blond hair frames his handsome face, his breastplate glistens, and his muscular right arm is raised to drive his spear into the devil’s back. Michael, the magnificent warrior Prince, has defeated the evil angel and will throw him out of heaven (Rev 12:7-8).
Another enduring picture is of a cuddly cherub with a pint-sized bow. The plumb angel has the impish look of one who is about to do mischief in someone’s life. His arrow is pointed at a young man’s heart. The tiny angel means no harm—love is his delight.
Finally, there is one of a guarding angel carrying a child to heaven. She gazes tenderly, as if reassuring us all that we are never alone, and that death does not have the final say. A soft bluish glow surrounds angel and child as they float skyward. She will not let him go.
These angels conquer evil, inspire love, and guard us in this life and the next. They are trusted friends. When someone is kind, we might say, “Thank you, you’re an angel.”
Yes, images of angels capture our imagination, but the overarching message they convey is only partially true. The truth of Scripture is that Jesus, not angels, defeated Satan at the cross. Jesus himself is the author of love. God the Holy Spirit lives in us; we are never alone. Jesus never lets us go in this life and the next!
Pictures of angels generally embellish the role and function of angels. Inevitably, when this happens, God’s sovereignty and involvement in his creation are diminished in people’s minds.
In the Old Testament, God’s angelic messengers told his people the role they would play in God’s plan to redeem his creation. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ was the message and messenger. All believers are to be messengers of the Good News (Acts 1:8).
Are there angels? Yes! Sometimes they appear, but mostly they work behind the scenes as God’s invisible helpers.
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Heb 1:14).
Angels console, strengthen, and protect believers as they proclaim the gospel, preach the Word, and serve Christ in his world. Even if believers sense angels are near, they praise God for sending his heavenly creatures—and for sending the Son, Jesus Christ.
Christians are God’s messengers! We pray that God send his ministering angels as we speak the Word boldly (Acts 4:31).
Excepted from Sharon’s forthcoming book: Angels, Demons, and the Dead: Casting the Light of Scripture on Spirit Beings.