Before we talk about the role of an angel in Christianity, it would be helpful to know if other religions also talk about angels.
Angels as described in different religions
An angel is a spirit being, mostly found in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, whose mission is to serve God. Most often they appear in the three holy scriptures of the three religions as messengers between men and God. But they are also described as guardians, counselors, judges and warriors. The doctrine of angels is called angelology.
The opposite of an angel in the Christian tradition is a demon who, instead of serving God, has joined the devil. In Islam, there is a kind of spirit being called jinn. They are neither the opposite of the angels nor by definition evil.
The origin of Angels
The angels are God’s messengers, but their primary task is to be his council. Some people think we have a guardian angel watching over us day and night.
It is also a common belief that after death, one is picked up and accompanied to heaven by angels. Many scholars are of the opinion that the idea of angels and demons originated in Zoroastrianism. It came to the Jews during the Babylonian captivity of the Iranian prophet Zarathustra via the Persian Empire. However, some texts in Judaism suggest that the idea of angels may have existed earlier than that.
Angels in Christianity – what is the role of an angel
The Bible describes the angels as God’s messengers and servants. In the New Testament, angels often appear as God’s messengers or bearers of revelations. There is not much interest in the hierarchy of angels in the New Testament. However, there is a difference between good angels, such as Gabriel, and evil angels, such as Satan.
The very word “angel” comes from the Greek word ‘angelos’ which means “messenger” – an equivalent to the Old Testament ma’lak . All the books of the Bible (with the exception of the book of Esther and Ruth, and the letters of John and James) speak of angels. The description of the angels becomes more precise in connection with the Babylonian captivity, and it is clearest in the New Testament.
Name and qualities of Angels in Christianity
They are mentioned under different names. They have been given names like angels of God, sons of God, saints, heroes and servants. Sometimes, they have been also referred to as gods. The latter is probably due to the fact that in relation to us, through their closeness to the Creator and by following God’s will, they become a form of god-beings. Their number is innumerable. They possess superhuman power, knowledge, and wisdom. But at the same time, Bible doesn’t call them omniscient
What is the role of an angel?
The answer to the question – what is the role of an angel – is that they have many roles to play. They were already present when the earth was created. It was these cosmic messengers who showed the children of Israel the way out of Egypt and gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Acts 7:53, Gal. 3 : 19 and Hebrews 2: 2). In general, they follow developments on our planet with the greatest interest.
What is the role of an angel of the Lord?
A special role is played by the “angel of the Lord”, whose character, authority and deeds far exceed those of the “ordinary” heavenly messengers. The “angel of the Lord” simply speaks of himself as “God”. Abraham hears the angel of the Lord and Moses, Jacob, Hosea, Gideon, etc. all have contact with this angel who represents God.
However, some Bible interpreters believe differently. They often refer to the Old Testament scriptures. There the name “angel of the Lord” appears, you get a definite impression that the Bible here often refers to (the coming) Messiah/Christ.
Something that is characteristic of most beliefs is that the angels are divided into a hierarchical organization with different classes. It is believed that they have three, four or seven archangels at the helm. Some angels are thought to act as guardian angels of particular nations or individuals. (By the way, the devil and his followers are fallen, angels.)
What is the role of an angel? – Angels when Jesus was present
In the life of Jesus on earth, the angels played a prominent role. The archangel Gabriel is traditionally the angel who reveals himself to the Virgin Mary and tells her that she will give birth to the Messiah. Several other angels will have revealed themselves around the birth of Jesus. When Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord preached the good news to the shepherds. Two angels dressed in shining white robes also appear around Jesus’ death to tell Mary and Mary Magdalene that Jesus has been resurrected.
In early Christianity – that is in the New Testament times, in the first church – there was basically the same view of the angels and their functions as in late Judaism. This, in turn, has great similarities with Persian Zoroastrianism. It is only natural because Jesus himself, like his disciples and the entire early Christian congregation, were actually Jews. Jews who realized that Jesus was the Messiah spoken of in the prophecies and had been awaited for hundreds of years.
Angels abound in the Book of Revelation where they are the beings who carry out God’s judgment on the world at the last day. For example, seven angels blow their trumpets after the seven seals have been broken, and thus the doom of the earth begins.
In the New Testament, angels are described as human-like, although many theologians argue that they have no physical body, but they can be incarnated as human. Seraphim are described, as in the Old Testament, with six wings. Winged angels did not begin to appear until the 300s AD, then probably to explain the angels’ ability to travel between heaven and earth. Belief in guardian angels is widespread in the various Christian communities, but there is no unified view of them.
Angels and Returning of Jesus
In the preaching of Jesus that is preserved in the Bible, most is said about the angels in connection with the end times and the return of Jesus. They will accompany him as he returns from space to our planet to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. Even when Jesus showed the apostle John what was to take place in the end times, the angels were in the picture at the presentation of the various events. Furthermore, Jesus spoke of the (guardian) angels of children always seeing the face of Heavenly Father.
In the first part of Acts, the angels are mentioned quite often in the stories about Peter and Philip’s first activities. Angels rescued and freed the imprisoned apostles, led Philip’s missionary journeys, and proclaimed God’s will in important decisions. The angels thus played an important role in the early stages of Christian history.
In Christianity, there has occasionally been the worship of angels (Roman Catholic angelic cult). But within the Protestant Church, they are not worshiped (although in fact, the angel of the Lord in Judges 13:16 calls for worship). However, there have always been many who have experienced security in the thought of having a guardian angel watching over them.
The Hierarchy of Angels
In the 5th century, the idea of a hierarchy among the angels began to emerge. Traditionally, there are three different hierarchies with three kinds of angels in each hierarchy, with this there will be nine different kinds of angels. The different hierarchies are often called spheres or choirs. The designations are derived from ancient Greek cosmology. This is done with expressions such as ” the harmony of the spheres ” and the very important role assigned to angels in the medieval conception of the structure of the universe. The angels had to keep order in the dynamics of the cosmos that God had created. Each of Aristotle55 crystal spheres had an angel who puffed on and passed the time. This division is thus not about what value the different angels have, but what task they have. The archangels are seven in number, and the rest of the spheres are:
First hierarchy – the highest:
What do angels look like in today’s Christianity?
Today, the angels (unfortunately) probably have a great deal of a “fairy tale character” over them. This is perhaps due to the fact that they are so often portrayed as a kind of “girlish” fairy tale creature or almost river-like creatures. For some reason, we almost always imagine the angels either as children, like bookmark angels, or young girls, like winged “Christmas angels”. This is despite the fact that in the Bible they are always of the male sex (or not really any sex at all …).
In addition, nowadays one always thinks of the angels dressed in long white robes, or an attire that brings to mind the Holy Land in Old Testament times. This may be due to the fact that the New Testament in several cases speaks of angels dressed in white, footwear, see eg Mark 16: 5 and Acts 1:10). However, the book of Hebrews says that we can have these extraterrestrial visitors as guests without even knowing it. So perhaps today they wear an attire that is more in line with what we see around us today. As they were at that time during their visits on earth wore clothes according to the custom of that time and that continent (that is, long robes).