5 Things You Are Probably Getting Wrong about Angels

5 Things You Are Probably Getting Wrong about Angels

Angels are fascinating, and it’s no surprise that people research them, create stories about them, and have wide ranges of ideas about who angels are and what they do. In Scripture, there are many references to angels or heavenly beings. We find angels present in narratives about Jacob (Genesis 28:10-12), Daniel (Daniel 6:16-22), and even the birth of Jesus Luke 1:28-36).

Angels are mentioned early on in Scripture. We read of angels, or cherubim, being set in place to guard the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were made to leave following their sin.

“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23-24).

No doubt, angels are real and exist, as evidenced throughout Scripture. However, they are mysterious and the descriptions we find in Scripture about angels seem to indicate that they are strange, or even frightening, in appearance. Like anything that we cannot fully understand, a lot has been made up or fabricated about angels over the course of history. In some parts of the world, angels have become associated with spirituality and religions apart from Christianity, as well.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Ana Bórquez

Old books in a library

What Does the Word “Angel” Mean?

The word most often found in the New Testament that we translate as angel, in the original Greek, is ἄγγελος (pronounced ang'-el-os). It is used over 150 times in the New Testament to describe heavenly beings, and the word simply means angel or messenger. More specifically, we know angels are ones sent by God to deliver a message. This is the same word we find in the passage regarding the announcement of Jesus’ birth to Joseph.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21, emphasis added).

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word that corresponds to the Greek word for angel is malakh, which means messenger or angel. Other words in the Old Testament to describe angels are kerub (which translates to cherubim, “angelic beings”) and seraph (which translates to seraphim, “majestic or angelic beings”).

These definitions captured in the original biblical languages help us better understand who angels are and what they do. These definitions give real meaning to the word angel, and help us weed out false information about angels.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/aeduard

blue sky with cloud in the form of an angel

5 Things We Get Wrong about Angels

1. They Are Not to Be Worshipped or Idolized

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Colossians 2:18).

We learn that the early church, too, struggled with the wrong idea of worshipping angels. The apostle Paul made it clear in his letter to the church in Colossae that they should not worship angels. In Revelation 22:9, the angel told the Apostle John not to worship him.

There are no verses or passages found in the Bible that instruct people to worship or idolize angels. We should not become unhealthily obsessed or distracted by angels. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that God alone is worthy of all praise (Psalm 148:13). Angels were created by God, therefore, they are not His equal and are not deserving of praise.

2. They Are Not All-Knowing

“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).

In this letter, the Apostle Peter wrote to numerous churches about how the prophets long ago predicted the Gospel news of a Messiah who would come to save God’s people and the world. Peter goes on to state that the angels were limited in knowledge and longed to know about these matters, as well.

What this tells us is that angels do not know everything as God knows everything. Angels are created by God; they are not equal to Him in any way and they are not all-knowing as God is all-knowing. A verse like this is helpful to us so that we can have a right understanding of angels.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/cranach

Illustration of an angel with six wings

3. They Share a Common Mission, but Aren’t All the Same

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

The author of Hebrews wrote a general statement that defines the work of all angels — which is to serve those who will inherit salvation! This is probably not how most people would describe the work of angels if they were asked. God’s word reveals great truths and insight to those who have eyes to see. When you look at the scope of Scripture, it is evident that although angels do share this common mission, they are not all the same.

There are differences in how angels look, other specific roles they have, and some have even fallen away from God in choosing to follow the devil. We find the mention of cherubim (Genesis 3:23-24), and based on the Hebrew word for cherubim, they are understood to have the role of being a sort of guardian or protector.

In Isaiah 6, we read of seraphim angels who were worshipping and declaring the glory of God. There are archangels, as well, one of which is mentioned and named in Jude 1:9. Based on the meaning of the Greek word used for archangel, it means chief angel or one being higher in rank than other angels.

Finally, in Matthew 25:41, Jesus makes mention of the fallen angels, or angels who chose to follow the devil instead of God. These fallen angels are not necessarily a different type of angel, but they are separate from the heavenly beings that have remained in the will of God and obedient to Him.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/rudall30

praying cherub statue riding a cloud

4. They Don’t Look Like Babies

“Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels. I heard the wheels being called ‘the whirling wheels.’ Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle” (Ezekiel 10:12-14).

You may have seen works of art and pictorial depictions of angels that look like cute babies with wings and halos. From just this one description of angels found in Scripture, it is immediately and boldly clear that angels do not look like babies! Often, when angels come to human beings with news, they begin by telling the person to “not be afraid.” This may be another indication that angels look intimidating or strange.

5. People Don’t Die and Become Angels

“You have made them [human beings] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5).

It is a very popular and inaccurate belief about angels that when people die, the deceased becomes an angel. Some take comfort in believing their deceased loved one “gained their wings,” or is now their “guardian angel watching over them.”

However, these ideas are not true.

God does not want comfort withheld from us, rather, He is the God who comforts (Psalm 23:4). What we find in Scripture is clear evidence that angels and human beings are different from one another. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that human beings turn into angels. All we find consistently is that angels and humans are distinct from one another. This verse in Psalm 8 teaches that human beings were made lower in rank than angels.

What we can be sure of is even though people do not become angels when they die, those who have a saving faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will spend eternity in heaven with God.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/izzzy71

open Bible on table

Go to the Ultimate Source of Information

It is fun and exciting to wonder about who angels are and what they do. It is so important, though, to do so in line with what Scripture teaches. Truths about angels are found only in God’s word and what we find in the Bible regarding angels is the supreme source about what we can know for sure.

It is crucial to beware of becoming obsessed with angels or to worship and idolize them. They are heavenly beings, on mission for God’s kingdom, but they are not gods themselves. There is only one true living God who is worthy of all praise.

Related articles
14 Verses about Angels and What They Teach Us
Should We Be on the Lookout for Angels – Especially Guardian Angels?
Are Fallen Angels Truth from the Bible or Fiction?

Photo credit: Unsplash/Aaron Burden

Pamela Palmer 1200x1200Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.