Everyone loves angels. It is normal to hear that someone who has died is now “an angel in heaven.” There are angel cards. People talk about their guardian angels. Movies feature angels who come to earth with various missions. But a hard look is needed to see through all these popular notions. Topics covered in this article: What is an angel? Roma Downey’s angels series; roles of angels; guardian angels; contacting angels; Jesus superior to angels; deception with angels; and resources.
First, what is an angel?
Though other words are used for these spiritual beings, the primary word used in the Bible is angel. Three other terms undoubtedly referring to angels are seraphim (Isa. 6:2), cherubim (Ezek. 10:1-3), and ministering spirits, which is perhaps more of a description than a name (Heb. 1:13). More will be said on this later when dealing with the classification of angels. The Hebrew word for angel is mal’ach, and the Greek word is angelos. Both words mean “messenger” and describe one who executes the purpose and will of the one whom they serve. The context must determine if a human messenger is in view, or one of the celestial beings called “angels,” or if it is being used of the second Person of the Trinity as will be discussed below. The holy angels are messengers of God, serving Him and doing His bidding. The fallen angels serve Satan, the god of this world (aiwn, “age”) (2 Cor. 4:4). From “Angelology, The Doctrine of Angels” at Bible.org
We know from the Bible that
- Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14)
- That they are “mighty in strength” (Psalm 103:20)
- Angels are intelligent and can communicate in words humans understand (1 Kings 13:18; Matthew 1:20, 2:13, 19; Acts 10:3)
- The holy angels serve God
- The angels who rebelled with Satan are the fallen angels, also known as evil or unclean spirits, or demons (Revelation 12: 4, 7-9)
- Fallen angels may perform supernatural actions or seem to, sometimes through men (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 16:14, 19:20).
The Little Angels Series
An example of the promotion of a popular view of angels is found in a series produced by Roma Downey. Downey, former “Touched by An Angel” star, and producer with her husband of a film series on the Bible, has produced a video and book series called Little Angels. This centers around twins (boy and girl) who have the company of eight little angels who hang out on the bedroom ceiling, and with whom they interact (Uriel, Ariel, Hammy, Michael, Gabriel, and more, each with a special area of expertise).
Here is the Little Angels brief promo video. The video introduces the eight angels in the series who have names and descriptions like Michael (the leader), Kelly, Ariel, Tina (tells us right from wrong), Gabriel, Charmaine (helps us to get along), Uriel (inspires us with color), and Hammy (helps us discover).
Please note only two of these are in the Bible, Micheal and Gabriel. Michael is usually referenced in the context of conflict or battle, appearing three times in Daniel, once in Jude (the only place where he is called an archangel), and once in Revelation. Gabriel also appears three times in the book of Daniel, and in the Luke passage where he appears to Mary.
The video makes serious erros. The angels look like children instead of like men (how they appear in Scripture) and there are girl angels, when in the Bible, all angels are spoken of in male terms. Michael and Gabriel are mighty angels who serve God; Gabriel stands in the presence of God. They are not glorified playmates or companions. Angels named Ariel and Uriel are found in Jewish myths such the book of Enoch, in Gnostic writings, in the occult-based Kabbalah, and in other occult literature.
These stories put the spotlight on angels above Jesus Christ, implying the angels are intermediaries between us and God. Rather than pointing the children to Jesus, the Little Angels tales focus off Jesus to getting help from angels.
One of the books is Angels Watching Over Us by Karen Moore and Lisa Reed (Roma Downey is not the author of these books but produces, promotes, and markets them):
In Angels Watching Over Us, the Little Angels are introduced. They explain that their job is to protect and guide Alex and Zoe and to show them God’s great love and care. As the Little Angels witness Alex and Zoe squabbling over whether to swing or play ball, Michael appears to explain the concept of cooperation. Soon the twins learn that they can each have more fun if they learn to work and play together. Ages 3-6.
About the series: Little Angels is a faith-based series created just for preschoolers. The stories focus on eight Little Angels who are guardians, teachers, and companions to twins Alex and Zoe. Throughout each book, children will learn practical lessons, values, and Biblical truths in an engaging and appealing manner. From Amazon page for book
The Roles of Angels
God gives us the names of only two angels: Michael and Gabriel (Satan is not a proper name, but rather a title meaning “the adversary”). No role to teach, advise, or be a “companion” is ever given to angels. Angels in the Bible usually bring messages from God (to Daniel, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, the women at the empty tomb of Jesus, and others).
Other activities in the Bible show angels:
- Providing protection (guiding Lot and his family from Sodom in Genesis 19)
- Releasing from prison (Peter in Acts 12)
- Strengthening (Elijah in 1 Kings 19; Jesus in the wilderness after the temptations in Mark 1:13, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:43)
- Bringing death as judgment (2 Samuel 24:17; Acts 12:23; Revelation 9:15)
- Fighting spiritual battles (Daniel 12; Revelation 12)
- Serving as witnesses (Luke 12: 8, 9; 1 Timothy 3:16, 5:21; Revelation 3:5, 14:10)
- Playing a role in the end times (Matthew 13; 39, 49, 24:31; Mark 8:38, 13:27; Luke 9:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; and numerous passages in Revelation)
These duties assigned to angels are linked to noteworthy events and for specific purposes to fulfill God’s plans for Israel, the Messiah, the spread of the Gospel, and judgment. Angels are never tutors or caretakers. Additionally, the idea of “little angels” is also unbiblical. There is no such thing as child angels as seen in the books.
The idea of children having angels watching over them is likely mistakenly taken out of Matthew 18:10:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
Although Jesus has referred to children in earlier verses, many do not believe that “little ones” refers to children since this phrase is used elsewhere for believers in Christ. As Barnes writes:
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. … – That is, one who has become like a little child, or a Christian. From Bible Hub Commentary
That is, one of those little ones that believed in Christ; for he is not speaking of infants in age, but of those who might be compared to such, for their humility and modesty; who were little in their own eyes, and mean and despicable in the eyes of the world, as well as appeared but little in the eyes of their fellow disciples and brethren; for our Lord returns and addresses himself to his disciples, who had been contending among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and so were striving to lessen one another, each looking upon himself as the greater, and every other as little. Wherefore Christ cautions them against such a spirit, and bids them beware of despising their fellow disciples, as little, and below them; especially since so much notice and care were taken of them, both in heaven, and in earth. – Same as previous link
Verse 6 also uses “little ones” but it is clear that those who believe in Christ are being referred to. One must trust God the Father as a little child trusts, but Jesus is not marking children as a special group, or saying that we should be like children or childlike in behavior. One who humbles himself and trusts God with childlike faith is a “little one.”
People tend to romanticize children. But God’s word teaches that all are born with a sin nature and from early on, children desire to exert their own will above all. Naturally, children are not aware of many things such as sin, but they are not pure and unsullied from sin, either. It would be at odds with Scripture for Jesus to say that all children have an angel watching over them (after all, thousands of babies and children die every day) or make a statement that implies children as a class are somehow superior to others.
The point of the passage is that Jesus was demonstrating that He loves children as much as anyone (children did not have a high status in that culture), and he was pointing to them as examples of childlike trust and humility.
(See Matthew 10:42 and 18:14 where believers are referred to as “little ones;” John also often addresses Christians in his letters as “little children”).
Regarding the phrase about “their angels,” Gill states:
…the place where the angels behold the face of God, and who are styled “their angels”; the angels of the little ones, that believe in Christ, who are ministering spirits unto them, the guardians of them, who encamp about them, and do many good offices for them. Some have thought from hence, that every good man has his peculiar angel that waits upon him, and cares for him; but this does not necessarily follow from, these words, only that they all have an interest in angels, and in their good services.
Conclusions on Guardian Angels and Matthew 18:10
So if these “little ones” refer to believers in Christ and not to children in general, then we cannot conclude that all children have guardian angels, that is, if one sees the angels here as guardian angels (a dubious concept anyway). Although some believe this confirms the doctrine of guardian angels, many disagree. Benson writes on the phrase “continually see the face of the Father:”
And as all the angels are ministering spirits, sent forth occasionally, at least, to minister to the heirs of salvation, they may in general be properly called their angels. The expression, They behold the face of my Father, alludes to the custom of earthly courts, where the great men, those who are highest in office and favour, are most frequently in the prince’s palace and presence, and perhaps daily converse with him. The meaning, therefore, of the passage is, that the chief angels are employed in taking care of the saints. – From Bible Hub Commentary
Angels ministering to those who have trusted in Christ is supported biblically in passages such as Hebrews 1:14 and in accounts such as an angel releasing Peter from prison. However, we cannot draw too many conclusions from this, and the idea that there are guardian angels is not explicit in Scripture or even strongly implicit.
How can we say that books and videos such as those in the Roma Downey series will not encourage children to think it is okay to summon or communicate with an angel? Angels are not to be prayed to or sought for guidance: Christ is the only Mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5).
Angels are spirits and contacting them is spirit contact. Spiritism is forbidden in Leviticus 19:31, 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; Isaiah 8.19, and elsewhere.
There is no example in the Bible of anyone summoning or initiating contact with angels though there is condemnation of those who worship angels (Colossians 2:18, probably a practice by those following a mixture of early Gnosticism and Jewish based mysticism). The holy angels are sent by God to various people, but they are not summoned by men.
Worship of false gods or idols is equated with worship of fallen angels (demons): Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37, 38; 1 Corinthians 10:20; and Rev. 9:20.
Fallen angels disguise themselves as good angels, the dead, aliens, ascended masters, and others. Satan can disguise himself as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Jesus, the Sole Mediator, Superior to Angels
Jews had a high regard for angels, and a danger came about in the early church from a focus on angels, which is warned about in Colossians 2:18:
“Let no one who delights in false humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind”
The writer of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to angels in chapters one and two. Angels are depicted as serving God and sent out to minister to those who inherit salvation. Angels had a role in providing the law to Moses (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2), but Jesus himself became the mediator between man and God, with no angels needed. Nor will angels rule the world to come, for all things are under Christ.
And finally, Jesus did not come to die for the angels, but for men. In order to be the perfect sacrifice for sins, Jesus had to become fully man; he added humanity to his deity. Jesus never set aside his deity, nor could he do so. As the Son of God, he has the same nature as God the Father. Jesus willingly died
…In order to destroy the devil’s power through sin:
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:14
…and to become the High Priest for man by atoning for the sins of man:
“For it is clear that He does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:16, 17
Jesus lowered himself in becoming man but this was done out of love.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
Differences in Men and Angels
Therefore, those who know this love of God through faith in Christ are commanded to exemplify this love. This is something the angels cannot do because they do know not know redemption as man does (1 Peter 1:12). Angels have a special role in serving God but are distinct from humanity, possessing different traits.
Men, not angels, are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Man was made to rule the earth, not angels (Genesis 1:26, 28; Psalm 8:4-8). Those who believe in Christ are made to rule with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10, 20:4, 6); this is not a role for angels. Men who believe in Jesus are made sons of God and adopted as children (Ephesians 1:5). Although angels are sometimes called “sons of God,” this is because they have no parents; they were created directly by God. However, angels are not called into a special father-child relationship with God as men are (through faith in Christ).
Humans do not become angels when they die. Angels and humans are two different orders of beings, as we can see from the information given above. To say that a dead person has become an angel is to actually downgrade the humanity of that person. It also disparages the purposes for which God created humanity, as well as demeans God’s wonderful grace offered for salvation to people, not to angels.
Therefore, human beings and angels are always distinct in nature. And Jesus is superior to angels in every way, but fallen humanity is loved by this superior Jesus who offers man a special relationship not even the angels can have.
Cozy Innocence and Diabolical Deception
It is worth keeping in mind that many false religions started from contact with fallen angels, including Swedenborg’s church (Swedenborg was the grandfather of New Thought); Islam; the Church of Latter Day Saints; and William Branham, a “Christian” evangelist and purported healer who denied the Trinity and claimed an angel named Emma guided him.
Moreover, the numerous channeled books (including bestsellers such as the Seth books, A Course in Miracles, and Conversations with God, and New Age standards like The Aquarian Gospel) and teachers in the New Age who channeled messages (such as Edgar Cayce, J Z Knight, Jane Roberts, Ruth Montgomery, and countless others) have as their source fallen angels; and the New Age spirit guides are fallen angels.
No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14
The cozy innocence of the Little Angels as seen in the stories is diabolically deceptive. No one would think there could be any danger in such a story. But evil and deception are not confined to that which is ugly, repugnant, or openly irreverent. Evil is much more successful when disguised not only as good and religious, but as innocent and warmhearted. As someone who was long in the New Age, and as someone who has been in full time ministry dealing with the New Age and the occult since 1998, I can wholeheartedly attest to this.
Thorough article on the biblical teaching on angels
Book: Angels Among Us: Separating Fact from Fiction, by Ron Rhodes
Sharon Fish Mooney, “Healing Touch: Trouble with Angels” in the Christian Research Journal, Volume 28, No. 2, 2005