The Truth About Angels

April 16, 2008

I think there are some basic misunderstandings about the nature of angels and especially those angels that are mentioned as our enemies. I see this misunderstanding in many places – when people are praying, when they instruct children, when they ask questions about spiritual warfare etc. Not knowing the facts can hurt our lives deeply and also cause us to fight battles that should not be fought. Hold onto your seats for a very quick guided tour to those spiritual beings known as Angels.

They seem to already be in existence when we were created and there are many who believe they are the first of the created beings in this Universe. Who knows? It never says so in the Bible, but when Adam and Eve were the entire population of the first Garden on this planet, there was already an angel there. So what do we know about angels for sure? Hebrews chapter one gives us many clues about angels…but one of the clues is a startling revelation to say the least. In v. 14 we read “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”. The question, of course, is rhetorical. In the original Greek language, the answer “yes” is anticipated to the question. That means we can confidently assert that ALL angels are ministering spirits. That word “all” is not just hyperbole. It really means all. And if it means “all”, then it also includes Lucifer, an angel we sometimes refer to as satan.

Think about that: satan is a ministering spirit. Not only that, but his job is to serve those who will inherit salvation. He is sent to serve mankind. But how is that possible since he is also called our Adversary, Enemy and Father of Lies? This is where the misunderstandings begin. Because he is called our Adversary, we naturally assume it is not possible for him also to be our servant. Servants don’t usually oppose their masters, do they? Well, it never says that we are his masters. God is his master and he must serve God whether he likes to or not.

In Job 1 we read:

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”

The words “present themselves before the Lord” literally mean “made an accounting before the Lord”. God makes all angels account for their actions and their whereabouts. That includes satan apparently. Satan can also come into the presence of the Lord and speak with God. And he has to obey God. In this account in Job, satan asks to attack Job, but God puts restrictions on that attack. God shows Himself clearly to be the master and satan the servant. But some would say that this is simply a passive service. Is it? Well, let’s look at a few other examples of other fallen angels to see if this trend continues.

In 1 Kings 22 we read “

Therefore hear the word of the LORD : I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’

22 ” ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
” ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
” ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’

23 “So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”

The Lord allowed a spirit to be a lying spirit. Another time, he allowed another unclean spirit to be a “deceiving spirit” in the kingdom. King Saul had to deal with an “oppressive spirit” from the Lord. It seems that there are numerous examples of unclean, fallen spirits still being used by God to accomplish God’s purposes. But why would God use such evil and fallen creatures to do His work?

In the wilderness experience of Jesus, we see a hint as to satan’s continuing existence. He comes to Jesus in Matthew 4 to “tempt him”. The word in Greek for tempt is “peiradzo” which means “to test”. The testing that our enemy, our adversary brings is a test to see if we will be obedient to God. Jesus passed the test with flying colors. Many times we do not. In essence then, satan is the Proctor of the test that God wants to bring to us in order to see if we will be obedient in all things. We are told in Scripture that “to obey is better than sacrifice”. There is no way to obey unless there is an opportunity to disobey. Since all humans are free agents, we must therefore be tested to see if our free choice will line up with God’s will for our lives. And the best thing is that we can learn from these tests and clearly grow through them. Testing can be one of the best learning environments there is.

This is why Paul can say on two separate occasions in the New Testament that he was handing certain people over to satan. He did not do this because he hated them and wished for satan to torture them. Satan cannot do anything that God will not allow. Paul hands people over to satan to be tested and taught…in one case, to be taught not to blaspheme. Our adversary is a very good teacher for sure. We have nothing to fear from him for God has put him on a short leash.


  1. In the preface section of my copy of “The Screwtape Letters” C.S. Lewis makes the comment that, unlike our general assumptions about Satan, he is not the opposite of God. “God has no opposite. No being could attain a ‘perfect badness’ opposite to the perfect goodness of God …”

    If we were going to make a comparison, Lewis writes, Satan is the opposite of Michael. I think this is an important distinction especially in light of the inaccuracies presented in the media throughout history. Too often Satan is typified as God’s rival, with an undertone of equality, “Lord of Heaven” vs. “Lord of Hell” in a title fight for humanity.

    Too often Christians rely on artistic renderings of angels and devils for their understanding of the Spirit realm and how we are to interact with them.

  2. Aaron, these are awesome observations bro. Michael and satan are more on a level in terms of power and authority than is God. God has no equal and no foil.

  3. Quite correct observations, because if god is almighty he could easily destroy Satan, and while he does not does so, at least this means that Satan is acting with god’s permission.

  4. Giorgi…good point. I am always amazed that people can’t see that what God allows is therefore under his domain.

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