A Brief Study of Angels
What are angels like?
Now that we know that angels were created by God, we turn our attention to their nature or characteristics. The Bible reveals much about them though we must be careful not to assume we have all the facts in hand.
First we will point out that angels are personal beings. They have characteristics which would seem to indicate that they are individual beings with unique personalities much like humans. They possess intelligence which makes inquiries according to I Peter 1:10-12. Because they are created beings we know that they are not omniscient as God is (Matt. 24:36), however, it is probably safe to say that they currently have a great deal more knowledge about many things than humans do.
Another factor which points to their personality is that they apparently have emotions according to Luke 15:7,10. We also see in various passages that when an angel delivers a message it is usually with zeal and exuberance (Luke 2:12-13). They are emotionally involved in what they are doing for God.
We see in Jude 6 that angels also have the ability to make choices (more on this verse later). This means they have a will or self-determination.
Finally, with respect to personality, they have a sense of self. This is reflected in the fact that they have personal names. Of course, we only know three for sure from the Bible--Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer--but it seems reasonable to assume that these three are not unique in that regard. They also use terms of self- consciousness like personal pronouns (Revelation 19:10). All these things work together to let us know that angels are not merely “its” or automatons or forces of some sort. They are personal and individual just as you and I are.
Second we should note that a chief difference between angels and men is that they are spirits. This is made clear by Hebrews 1:14. This essentially means that they are made of different “stuff” than humans. The “stuff” they are made of is superior in its nature and thus one day God will remake us using this better substance (I Cor. 15:42-44, 50-53). Being spirit, the angels are intrinsically superior in many ways and are a higher order of creation for the time being (Heb. 2:5-9).
One of the advantages of being spirit, as we saw in I Corinthians 15, is that there is no bodily deterioration or death (Luke 20:36). They also have greater power and abilities (II Peter 2:11) with regard to the creation than men such as their mode of travel, access to unreachable places and manipulation of the material world (Acts 12:5-10). They can be glorious to behold (Luke 24:4) or appear as normal men (Heb. 13:2) though their regular appearance may be quite different (Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1:5-10). They apparently can eat (Gen. 18:8) but do not need such nourishment nor sleep since they are spirit. They are quite wonderful! However we must note that just as with their intelligence, angels are limited in their power and in the fact that they can only be in one place at a time (Daniel 10:12-13). Only God is omnipotent and omnipresent.
They are limited in other ways as well. They do not reproduce among their own kind according to Matthew 22:29-30. Since they do not die, they have no need to replenish their numbers. Another reason for this may be that in every instance in the Bible where they speak angels are referred to as masculine (Zech. 5:9 is a possible exception). This should not give us a false impression, however, as it may be that angels are completely sexless with male and female designations having no real meaning for them at all.
So while we share the characteristic of personality with angels we are yet very different in how we were made--angels are spirit while people are flesh. One more difference which bears mentioning is that we as humans are made in the “image of God” (Gen 1:27). Some contend that angels are as well because the “image of God” consists mainly of personality and holiness and angels have these qualities. However, Lightner argues against this by submitting that: 1) Nowhere are we told in the Bible that angels were created in the image of God; 2) Among other things, the “image of God” also includes the fact of having a dominion. God has dominion over all things and gave humans dominion over the earth. Angels do not have such a dominion as far as we know (Lightner, Angels, Satan and Demons, p. 164).
In conclusion we should mention that after we are changed to spirit ourselves it may be that we will be given a position superior to that of the angels in heaven. This is based on I Corinthians 6:3 which states that believers will “judge angels.” Time and eternity will tell.