The doctrine of Angelology is an important biblical topic that is often neglected by Christians or obsessed over by “spiritualists”. For this reason it is an important doctrine that should be more often studied by Christians. C.S. Lewis once stated,
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. (Lewis, 1942)
Although he was talking more specifically about demons I think this applies equally to God’s obedient angels as well. In this essay we will attempt to follow Lewis’ advice and to take an honest look into the biblical doctrines of both angels and demons, (as well as the practical application of these considerations) while at the same time avoiding any unhealthy or excessive interest in them.
Explanation of Angelology
The word angel is a general category that includes both fallen and obedient angels, but for the purpose of this essay we will use the typical vernacular, meaning those spiritual beings above that continued in obedience to God. Angels are “a race of spiritual beings of a nature exalted far above that of man, although infinitely removed from that of God—whose office is to do him service in heaven, and by his appointment to succor and defend men on earth.’” (Smith, 1986). Angels are created immortal beings composed of immaterial spirit (although they can assume physical form). They are persons, have great intelligence and knowledge, free will, great power, unchanging nature, and beauty. They were created to glorify and serve God. There are a vast number of them and different ranks of their order. They abide in heaven but can interact on earth as well. They are above humans, but below God, and do not change in nature (Geisler, 2003).
The Biblical Basis for Angelology
The biblical basis is found all throughout the Bible (although our understanding of them comes progressively throughout specific revelation). Psalm 148:2, 5 states “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts… for he commanded and they were created” (NKJV). There we see that angels were made both to praise God and that they were in fact created (had a beginning). In Luke 20:30-35 we see that they are immortal. Their free will is implied in that they “abandoned” their posts (Jude 6). We know from a number of scriptures that angels are immaterial spirits in nature, such as shown in Luke 24:37-39 and Heb. 1:14. Their power and intelligence is shown in scriptures such as Gen. 19:10-11, Ps. 103:20, 2 Thess. 1:7 and 2 Samuel 14:20, Mark 13:32, Rev. 10:5-6 (respectively).
Practical Applications of Good Angelic Beings
If we know that God has an innumerable (to us) host of angelic beings whose only purpose is to serve and glorify Him it should bring us some comfort. Not only is God omnipotent and able to comfort and protect us but He also has an army of immensely powerful beings to aid and minister to us. We can also ask God in prayer to send His angels to protect us or our loved ones. All these things should help us to rest assured in the hands of an all loving and all powerful God.
Explanation of Demonology
Demons are simply angels who fell from the grace of God. They share all the same natures and abilities of the angels who did not rebel against God, except that they have transgressed and are therefore irredeemable and destined for hell. In fact, hell itself was created for them. They are not God’s equal, but they embody the opposite of God’s three great moral attributes of love, truth, and holiness—hate, lies, and wickedness (Smith, 1986). Even Satan himself, known as the prince or god of this world, is still only a created being. Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines them as “akin to the angelic in knowledge and powers, but with the emphatic addiction of the idea of positive and active wickedness.” (Smith, 1986).
Biblical Basis for Demons
The Bible teaches that demons are angels who have become enemies of God through their rebellion (James 2:19, Rev. 16:14). James 2:19 states, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Here we see that demons believe and acknowledge that there is only one Supreme Being worthy of the title God (and even tremble at the thought); yet, their belief is not the type of belief that surrenders to His will. The Bible teaches that demons are also organized and that Satan (the adversary) is their “prince” or leader (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). The Bible teaches that demons (or devils) are slanderers who either tempt (Luke 4:6, James 1:2-4) or possess humans (I.E., Matthew 8:28).
Practical Applications of Demonology
Christians who are aware of the reality (but not obsessed with) of the spiritual war raging around them can pray more accordingly and specifically against their incorporeal foes. Also, since the Bible teaches that the good angels outnumber demons two to three we should realize that we are on the winning side (besides the obvious fact that God is already infinitely more powerful than demons). Because we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with spiritual forces in the heavens we can take the advice of Ephesians 6:11 and “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” We cannot stand on our own against such powerful creatures, but we can ask for the aid of God and follow the advice of the Bible.
One of the things to remember about theology is the importance of practicality. Even when studying something such as Angelology and Demonology there are valuable truths that we can apply in our lives (the aforementioned applications being only brief examples). It wasn’t long ago that I had a bad taste in my mouth for the word theology (even though I already had an A.A. in Theology) due to the typically prideful and often meaningless debates so often found in it. I still do sometimes, but at least when we consider theology in a pragmatic fashion it can taste a little sweeter.
Geisler, N. 2003. Systematic Theology: Volume Two: God, Creation. Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.
Lewis, C.S. 1996. The Screwtape Letters. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Smith, W. 1986. Smith’s Bible Dictionary. U.S.A.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Retrieved from www.blueletterbible.org/