Do angels have wings? If we can generalize then we might say that most modern Christians would say “yes” to this question. If we were to ask what evidence there was for such an answer then we might struggle to receive a response. Some might turn to the renaissance painters, some to church history or story books. However these are not sources of Divine revelation. The real question is “What does the Bible say about this subject. We hope to open up its pages and examine it’s teaching in the forgoing article.
Who are the angels?
So – lets have a brief introduction to who the angels are before we consider if they have wings. The Bible teaches that angels are “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14) which are sent forth by God to help those called to a knowledge of Gods truth and to bring about Gods purpose with the earth. They currently work under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, since his resurrection and ascension to glory has been given by God, authority over them (1 Peter 3:22).
If the question were asked – where exactly did these “ministering spirits” come from, we would have to answer honestly; that the Bible is mainly silent on this account. It must therefore not be necessary for our salvation to know the answer to this question at this present time (2 Timothy 3:15).
In the Bible angels are often used by God as his representatives and as such are often given the name of God. For example we read in Exodus:
“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.” Exodus 23:20-21
They are then important “messengers” from God which is what the hebrew for “angel” (which is “mal’ak”) literally translates as meaning.
The Bible teaches that these angels are always obedient to God and do His will.
“Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.” Psalm 103:20-21
An interesting thing to consider is that if angels have wings then so should you and I. Consider this verse in Genesis:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” Genesis 1:27
The word “God” in the hebrew is “Elohim” and means “mighty ones”. Elsewhere in the Bible the word has been translated “angels” (see for example Psalm 8:5 and then the apostles Paul’s endorsement of that translation in Hebrews 2:7). So this tells us that man was created in the same shape as the angels. Men do not have wings. Therefore angels do not have wings.
We can see that angels were in the form of men because often they are described and mistaken for “men”. Consider these verses:
“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son… And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman?” Judges 13:3+11
“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house… But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them…” Genesis 19:1-5
If these angels then had huge wings how were they mistaken for mere men? They couldn’t of had wings!
The idea of wings probably entered “Christianity” through the ideas of Paganism. Many of the pagan “Gods” had wing. These inventions of man would have been given wings because in ancient times this was the only known way of flying and traveling swiftly. Of course immortal powerful beings do not need wings to get around! The power of God the Almighty creator is not contained by rules of nature which He has created! We see then in the Bible many instances of people that God teleports using his spirit or “power”. This should not surprise us – as we have said God created everything we see around us. Science is a study of this creation and for the most part it has set rules which men can define and examine. However these rules do not constrain God if He needs to break them.
Jesus, after his resurrection ascended up into heaven in front of his disciples. This is what we read:
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” Acts 1:9
Did Jesus have wings? Nobody would suggest that! So if he could fly by the power of God without wings why would angels need wings?
Consider the example of Philip, an early beleiver. We have a record in Acts 8 that he was preaching to an Ethiopian Eunuch. After he had given the gospel to this man and baptized him we read:
“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” Acts 8:39-40
Azotus was around 25 miles away so Philip was in effect ‘teleported’ there. No need for wings! How much more useless would wings be to an immortal being like an angel!
These experience of being teleported by Gods power was also shared by Elijah. We have this said to him by Obediah:
“And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not…” 1 Kings 18:12
The only thing closely resembling the idea that angels have wings in the Bible are “Cherubim”. A fusion of Pagan ideas into Christianity saw the adaptation of the Greek God “Cupid” into the so called Christian “Cherub”. The cute “god of love” is depicted a little child with wings, who flies around firing little arrows into peoples hearts so that they fall in love. Such a god is clearly the makings of mans imagination.
What does the Bible teach about Cherubim then? We read of Cherubim in a number of places and they are described as having wings. However they are also described as having four faces; a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle (Ezekiel 1). They are also described as having wheels as well as wings. They also have feet which are like the colour of “burnished brass” and their general appearance is like “burning coals of fire” (Ezekiel 1:7&13).
In most places these beings are often used in a symbolic way. For example in the visions of Ezekiel which we have refereed to, or in the Most Holy place in the Tabernacle – in which all the features were symbolic, pointing to the work of Christ in some way (Galatians 3:24). Their ‘features’ are all symbols whose meaning can be deciphered by looking up the characteristics in other parts of the Bible. They represent Gods character which is manifested.
We read of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6. This is clearly a vision and has a deeper, symbolic meaning than at first glance. In Isaiah 6 we read for example that the Seraphim take coals from the alter of the temple and place them in Isaiah’s mouth – this is obviously a vision and not literal because Isaiah speaks soon afterwards (v8). Just as the coals are not literal, the Seraphim are not either.
Can we take these symbolic creatures and apply their symbolic characteristics as literal elements of an angel? It seems like quite a jump to assume that because a symbolic Cherubim has symbolic wings that they should be made literal on a literal angel!
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is soon to return to the earth. There is to be a resurrection and judgment and those accepted will be granted eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:23+50-51). These new immortals will assist Christ in establishing Gods Kingdom on the earth (Luke 1:32-33, Matthew 6:10, Acts 1:6, Psalm 149:9)- with Jerusalem as it’s capital (Micah 4:8). The wicked will be destroyed and Christ will rule in peace and righteousness. The newly appointed immortals, previously lowly in the eyes of men (1 Corinthians 1:27 & 3:18-20), will be mercifully given an undeserved place of high authority to rule with Christ in that day – as Kings and Priests (Revelation 5:20). They will rule over those who have accepted Christ as the King and will help teach them the ways of God. The Bible indicates that this state will continue for 1000 years (Revelation 20:6) and then there will be another resurrection and judgment – where finally the wicked will be eradicated and all the righteous given immortality. Death will be eradicated from the earth and we are told “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:26-28).
But where are the angels in this future age to come you may ask? All we know is that they do not seem to have an active role. We read this for example in Hebrews:
“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” Hebrews 2:5
It seems therefore that the role of the angels will be superseded by the immortal faithful at the time of Christ return and at the birth of the age to come. We read that like the angels, those prepared to follow Christ now are a people being prepared “for Gods name” (Acts 15:14). A glorious destiny is set before them. Consider the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” Luke 20:36
So what a journey we have been on in this consideration. By asking a simple question about angels we have seen from the word of God that this subject opens up many important topics which deal with the message of the Bible itself. The great hope of a future Kingdom. The merciful offer of God of eternal life and a place in that future Kingdom on this earth. An offer to be made “equal unto the angels”. The question is – what do we do about this offer?
Posted by Matt Davies on Saturday, July 24th, 2010
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