Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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1.4 The Angels

All that we have considered so far in this study is brought together by a consideration of the angels:

§          real, personal beings

§          carrying God’s name

§          beings in whom God’s Spirit works to execute His will

§          in accordance with His character and purpose

§          and thereby manifesting Him.

We mentioned in Study 1.3 that one of the most common of the Hebrew words translated ‘God’ is ‘Elohim’, which strictly means ‘mighty ones’. The word can frequently be shown to refer to the angels who, as God’s ‘mighty ones’, carry this name and can effectively be called ‘God’ because they represent God.

The record of the creation of the world in Gen. 1 tells us that God spoke certain commands concerning creation, “and it was done”. It was the angels who carried out these commands.

“Angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word” (Ps. 103:20).

It is therefore reasonable to assume that when we read of ‘God’ creating the world, this work was actually performed by the angels. Job 38:4-7 hints this way too. Now is a good time to summarise the events of the creation as recorded in Gen.1.

Day 1 “God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (v.3)

Day 2 “God said, Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters (on the earth) from the waters (in the clouds)...and it was so” (v.6,7)

Day 3 “God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together (forming seas and oceans)...and let the dry land appear; and it was so” (v.9)

Day 4 “God said, Let there be heaven...and it was so” (v.14,15)

Day 5 “God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures...and birds that may fly...and God created every living creature” (v.20,21) - i.e. “it was so”

Day 6 “God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature...cattle, and creeping things ...and it was so” (v.24).

Man was created on that same sixth day. “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). We commented on this verse in Study 1.2. For the present, we want to note that “God” here is not just referring to God Himself in person - “Let us make man” shows that ‘God’ is referring to more than one person. The Hebrew word translated ‘God’ here is ‘Elohim’, meaning ‘Mighty Ones’, with reference to the angels. They are very real beings, sharing the same nature as God.

In the Bible there are two ‘natures’; by the very meaning of the word it is not possible to have both these natures simultaneously.

God’s nature (‘divine nature’)

§          He cannot sin (perfect) (Rom. 9:14; 6:23 cf. Ps. 90:2; Mt. 5:48; James 1:13)

§          He cannot die, i.e. immortal (1 Tim. 6:16)

§          He is full of power and energy (Is. 40:28)

This is the nature of God and the angels, and which was given to Jesus after his resurrection (Acts 13:34; Rev. 1:18; Heb. 1:3). This is the nature which we are promised (Lk. 20:35,36; 2 Pet. 1:4; Is. 40:28 cf. v 31).

Human nature

§          We are tempted to sin (James 1:13-15) by a corrupt natural mind (Jer. 17:9; Mk. 7:21-23)

§          We are doomed to death, i.e. mortal (Rom. 5:12,17; 1 Cor. 15:22)

§          We are of very limited strength, both physically (Is. 40:30) and mentally (Jer.10:23)

This is the nature which all men, good and bad, now possess. The end of that nature is death (Rom. 6:23). It was the nature which Jesus had during his mortal life (Heb. 2:14-18; Rom. 8:3; Jn. 2:25; Mk. 10:18).

It is unfortunate that the English word ‘nature’ is rather vague: we can use it in a sentence like ‘John is of a generous nature - it just isn’t in his nature to be mean; but he can be rather proud of his car, which is just human nature, I suppose’. This is not how we will be using the word ‘nature’ in these studies.

Angelic Appearances

The angels who are of God’s nature must therefore be sinless and unable to die - seeing that sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). Often when angels appeared on earth they looked like ordinary men.

§          Angels came to Abraham to speak God’s words to him; they are described as “three men”, whom Abraham initially treated as human beings, since that was their appearance: “Let a little water, I beg you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen. 18:4).

§          Two of those angels then went to Lot in the city of Sodom. Again, they were recognised only as men by both Lot and the people of Sodom. “There came two angels to Sodom”, whom Lot invited to spend the night with him. But the men of Sodom came to his house, asking in a threatening way: “Where are the men which came in to you this night?”. Lot pleaded: “Unto these men do nothing”. The inspired record also calls them ‘men’. “The men (angels) put forth their hand” and rescued Lot; “And the men said unto Lot...The Lord has sent us to destroy” Sodom (Gen. 19:1,5,8,10,12,13).

§          The New Testament comment on these incidents confirms that angels appear in the form of men: “Remember to entertain strangers; for some (e.g. Abraham and Lot) have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2).

§          Jacob wrestled all night with a strange man (Gen. 32:24), which we are later told was an angel (Hos. 12:4).

§          Two men in shining white clothes were present at the resurrection (Lk. 24:4) and ascension (Acts 1:10) of Jesus. These were clearly angels.

§          Consider the implications of “the measure of a man, that is, of the angel” (Rev. 21:17).

Angels Do Not Sin

As angels share God’s nature they cannot die. Seeing that sin brings death, it follows therefore that they cannot sin. The original Greek and Hebrew words translated ‘angel’ mean ‘messenger’; the angels are the messengers or servants of God, obedient to Him, therefore it is impossible to think of them as being sinful. Thus the Greek word ‘aggelos’ which is translated ‘angels’ is also translated ‘messengers’ when speaking of human beings - e.g. John the Baptist (Mt. 11:10) and his messengers (Lk. 7:24); the messengers of Jesus (Lk. 9:52) and the men who spied out Jericho (James 2:25). It is, of course, possible that ‘angels’ in the sense of human messengers can sin.

The following passages clearly show that all the angels (not just some of them!) are by nature obedient to God, and therefore cannot sin:

“The Lord has prepared His throne in the heavens; and his kingdom rules over all (i.e. there can be no rebellion against God in heaven). Praise the Lord, you His angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word. Praise the Lord, all you His hosts; you ministers of His, that do his pleasure” (Ps. 103:19-21).

“Praise him, all his angels...his hosts” (Ps. 148:2)

“The angels...are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them (the believers) who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:13,14).

The repetition of the word “all” shows that the angels are not divided into two groups, one good and the other sinful. The importance of clearly understanding the nature of the angels is that the reward of the faithful is to share their nature: “They which shall be accounted worthy...neither marry...neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels” (Lk. 20:35,36). This is a vital point to grasp. Angels cannot die: “Death...does not lay hold of angels” (Heb. 2:16 Diaglott margin). If angels could sin, then those who are found worthy of reward at Christ’s return will also still be able to sin. And seeing that sin brings death (Rom. 6:23), they will therefore not have eternal life; if we have a possibility of sinning, we have the capability of dying. Thus to say angels can sin makes God’s promise of eternal life meaningless, seeing that our reward is to share the nature of the angels. The reference to “the angels” (Lk. 20:35,36) shows that there is no categorisation of angels as good or sinful; there is only one category of angels. Dan. 12:3 says that the faithful will shine as the stars; and stars are associated with the Angels (Job 38:7). We will be made like Angels; and yet we will be given immortal, sinless nature. Therefore, Angels can’t sin. Our hope is to enter into the wonderful freedom of nature which the “Sons of God”, i.e. the Angels, now share (Rom. 8:19).

If angels could sin, then God is left impotent to act in our lives and the affairs of the world, seeing that He has declared that He works through His angels (Ps. 103:19-21). God achieves all things by His spirit power acting through the angels (Ps. 104:4). That they should be disobedient to Him is an impossibility. Christians should daily pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth, that His will should be done here as it is now done in heaven (Mt. 6:10). If God’s obedient angels had to compete with sinful angels in heaven, then His will could not be fully executed there, and therefore the same situation would obtain in God’s future kingdom. To spend eternity in a world which would be a perpetual battlefield between sin and obedience is hardly an encouraging prospect, but that, of course, is not the case.

Angels And Believers

There is good reason to believe that each true believer has angels - perhaps one special one - helping them in their lives.

§          “The Angel of the Lord camps round about those that fear him, and delivers them” (Ps. 34:7).

§          “...these little ones which believe in me (i.e. weak disciples - Zech. 13:7 cf. Mt. 26:31) heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father” (Mt. 18:6,10).

§          The early Christians clearly believed that Peter had a guardian angel (Acts 12:14,15).

§          The people of Israel went through the Red Sea, and were led by an angel through the wilderness towards the promised land. Going through the Red Sea represents our baptism in water (1 Cor. 10:1), and so it isn’t unreasonable to assume that afterwards we, too, are led and helped by an angel as we journey through the wilderness of life towards the promised land of God’s Kingdom.

If the angels could be evil in the sense of being sinful, then such promises of angelic control and influence in our lives would become a curse instead of a blessing.

We have seen, then, that angels are beings...

§          with God’s eternal nature

§          who cannot sin

§          who always do God’s commands

§          and who are the beings through whom God’s spirit-power speaks and works (Ps. 104:4).


Many churches have the idea that angels can sin, and that sinful angels now exist who are responsible for sin and problems on the earth. We will discuss this misconception more fully in Study 6. For the present we will make the following points.

§          It has been suggested that there was a creation previous to our own, i.e. to that recorded in Gen. 1. It is also conceivable that the present angels came to have an awareness of “good and evil” (Gen. 3:5) through having been in a similar situation to what we are in this life. That some of the beings who lived in that age did sin is not to be ruled out; but all this is the kind of speculation which men love to indulge in. The Bible does not tell us of these things but tells us clearly what we need to know about the present situation, which is that there are no sinful angels; all angels are totally obedient to God.

§          There can be no sinful beings in heaven, seeing that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab. 1:13). In similar vein, Ps. 5:4,5 explains: “Neither shall evil dwell with you. The foolish shall not stand” in God’s heavenly dwelling place. The idea of there being rebellion against God in heaven by sinful angels quite contradicts the impression given by these passages.

§          The Greek word translated “angel” means “messenger” and can refer to human beings, as we have shown. Such human “messengers” can, of course, sin.

§          That there are evil, sinful beings upon whom all the negative aspects of life can be blamed is one of the most commonly held beliefs in paganism. In the same way that pagan ideas concerning Christmas have entered what passes for ‘Christianity’, so, too, have those pagan notions.

§          There is only a handful of Biblical passages which can be misunderstood to support this idea of sinful angels now being in existence. These are considered in The Real Devil and Debating Bible Basics, available from the publishers. Such passages cannot be allowed to contradict the wealth of Bible teaching to the contrary which has been presented.

Jesus Was Not An Angel

Hebrews 1 clarifies that God spoke in Old Testament times through Angels and prophets- but not through His Son. This He began to do in the ministry of the human Jesus. That path of thought alone should remove all possibility that any Old Testament Angel was in fact the Lord Jesus.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||