Tempted to sin (James 1:13-15) by a corrupt natural mind (Jer.17:9; Mk.7:21-23) Doomed to death, i.e. mortal (Rom.5:12,17; 1 Cor.15:22)
Of very limited strength, both physically (Is.40:30) and mentally (Jer.10:23).
This is the nature which all men, good and bad, now possess. The end of that nature is death (Rom.6:23). It was the nature which Jesus had during his mortal life (Heb.2:14-18; Rom.8:3; Jn.2:25; Mk.10:18).
It is unfortunate that the English word 'nature' is rather vague: we can use it in a sentence like 'John is of a generous nature - it just isn't in his nature to be mean; but he can be rather proud of his car, which is just human nature, I suppose'. This is not how we will be using the word 'nature' in these studies.
The Angels being of God's nature, they must be sinless and therefore unable to die - seeing that sin brings death (Rom.6:23). They must have a literal, physical form of existence. It is for this reason that when Angels have appeared on earth they have looked like ordinary men:
- Angels came to Abraham to speak God's words to him; they are described as "three men", whom Abraham initially treated as human beings, since that was their appearance: "Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree" (Gen.18:4)
- Two of those Angels then went to Lot in the city of Sodom. Again, they were recognized only as men by both Lot and the people of Sodom. "There came two Angels to Sodom", whom Lot invited to spend the night with him. But the men of Sodom came to his house, asking in a threatening way
"Where are the men which came in to thee this night?". Lot pleaded, "Unto these men do nothing". The inspired record also calls them "men": "The men (Angels) put forth their hand" and rescued Lot; "And the men said unto Lot...The Lord hath sent us to destroy" Sodom (Gen.19:1,5,8, 10,12, 13).
- The New Testament comment on these incidents confirms that Angels are in the form of men: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for some (e.g. Abraham and Lot) have entertained Angels unawares" (Heb.13:2).
- Jacob wrestled all night with a strange man (Gen.32:24), which we are later told was an Angel (Hos.12:4).
- Two men in shining white clothes were present at the resurrection (Lk.24:4) and ascension (Acts 1:10) of Jesus. These were clearly Angels.
- Consider the implications of "the measure of a man, that is, of the Angel" (Rev.21:17).
The Angels being of God's nature, they cannot die. Seeing that sin brings death, it follows therefore that they cannot sin. The original Greek and Hebrew words translated 'Angel' mean 'messenger'; the Angels are the messengers or servants of God, obedient to Him, therefore it is impossible to think of them as being sinful. Thus the Greek word 'aggelos' which is translated 'Angels' is also translated 'messengers' when speaking of human beings - e.g. John the baptist (Mt.11:10) and his messengers (Lk.7:24); the messengers of Jesus (Lk.9:52) and the men who spied out Jericho (James 2:25). It is, of course, possible that 'angels' in the sense of human messengers can sin.
The following passages clearly show that all the Angels (not just some of them!) are by nature obedient to God, and therefore cannot sin:
"The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all ( i.e. there can be no rebellion against God in Heaven). 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" (Ps.103:19-21).
"Praise him, all his Angels...his hosts" (Ps.148:2)
"The angels...are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them (the believers) who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb.1:13,14).
The repetition of the word "all" shows that the Angels are not divided into two groups, one good and the other sinful. The importance of clearly understanding the nature of the Angels is that the reward of the faithful is to share their nature: "They which shall be accounted worthy...neither marry...neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the Angels" (Lk.20:35,36). This is a vital point to grasp. Angels cannot die: "Death...does not lay hold of Angels" (Heb 2:16 Diaglott margin) If Angels could sin, then those who are found worthy of reward at Christ's return will also still be able to sin. And seeing that sin brings death (Rom.6:23), they will therefore not have eternal life; if we have a possibility of sinning, we have the capability of dying. Thus to say Angels can sin makes God's promise of eternal life meaningless, seeing that our reward is to share the nature of the Angels. The reference to "the Angels" (Luke 20:35,36) shows that there is no categorization of Angels as good or sinful; there is only one category of Angels.
If Angels could sin, then God is left impotent to righteously act in our lives and the affairs of the world, seeing that He has declared that He works through His Angels (Ps.103:19-21). They are 'made Spirit' by God in the sense that He achieves all things by His spirit/power, acting through the Angels (Ps. 104:4). That they should be disobedient to Him is therefore an impossibility. The Christian should daily pray for God's Kingdom to come on earth, that His will should be done here as it is now done in heaven Mt. 6:10). If God's Angels had to compete with sinful Angels inheaven, then His will could not be fully executed there, and therefore the same situation would obtain in God's future Kingdom. To spend eternity in a world which would be a perpetual battlefield between sin and obedience is hardly an encouraging prospect, but that, of course, is not the case.
There is good reason to believe that each true believer has Angels - perhaps one special one - helping them in their lives:- "The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Ps. 34:7).
- "...these little ones which believe in me (i.e. weak disciples -Zech. 13:7 cp. Mt. 26:31)...in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father" (Mt. 18:6,10).
- The early Christians clearly believed that Peter had a guardian Angel (Acts 12:14,15).
- The people of Israel went through the Red Sea, and were led by an Angel through the wilderness towards the promised land. Going through the Red Sea represents our baptism in water (1 Cor. 10:1), and so it isn't unreasonable to assume that afterwards we, too, are led and helped by an Angel as we journey through the wilderness of life towards the promised land of God's Kingdom.
If the Angels can be evil in the sense of being sinful, then such promises of Angelic control and influence in our lives become a curse instead of a blessing.
We have seen, then, that Angels are beings...
- with God's eternal nature and bodily appearance
- who cannot sin
- who always do God's commands
- and who are the channels through which God's spirit-power speaks and works (Ps. 104:4).
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