The Bible describes angels as powerful spiritual beings whom God created to perform specific jobs both in heaven and on earth. And although the Bible often mentions a “host” of angels, it only names a few.
Gabriel is the most well-known named angel to appear in Scripture. Each time he is mentioned, we see him act as a messenger to impart wisdom or a special announcement from God. In the book of Daniel, Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel in order to explain some visions God gave Daniel about the end times (Daniel 8:15–27; 9:20–27). While Daniel still had trouble understanding the visions, Gabriel’s explanations, along with other biblical information about the end times, have allowed us to come to some conclusions about how the end times will play out.
Gabriel also appears in the New Testament. He appears to Zacharias in the temple to herald the news that Zacharias’s wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to John the Baptist. Gabriel also approaches Mary with the announcement of the birth of Christ. Later, Joseph receives guidance in a couple visits from Gabriel. Because of the monumental importance of these history-shaping announcements, Gabriel is one of God’s chief messengers.
The second angel the Bible calls by name is Michael, who functions very differently from the angel Gabriel. Michael is an archangel, which means “chief angel”; he is the Captain of the host of the Lord, this title indicates that Michael holds a high rank in heaven. Michael is the only archangel mentioned in the biblical text, where he is also described as one of the “chief princes” but one of seven archangels mentioned in the Apocrypha.
“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” Jude 9
“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.” Daniel 10:13
When Michael appears in the Bible, it is usually in a battle of some type. He wars with the fallen angels (those who sinned against God and became demons) and Satan on behalf of God and His people. Michael appears several times in the book of Daniel as a warrior (Daniel 10:21 and 12:1).
Michael is also seen in the book of Revelation, when he battles the dragon—Satan—during the end times (Revelation 12:7–9). The fact that Michael is leading an army of angels against Satan himself testifies to Michael’s high rank and power.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:7–9
If fallen angels are included in the list of angels who are named in the Bible, two more names should be mentioned: Lucifer/Satan and Apollyon/Abaddon. Lucifer rebelled against God and was thrown down from heaven along with the angels who followed him. Before his rebellion, Lucifer was a beautiful and powerful being; but he coveted equality with the Most High God and therefore became unholy and cursed (Isaiah 14:12–18; Luke 10:18). He is now known as Satan and is God’s chief enemy who seeks to deceive and destroy all of mankind (John 10:10). Apollyon/Abaddon is another fallen angel, mentioned in Revelation 9:11, and he leads an end-times demonic army.
Angels are personal spiritual beings who have intelligence, emotions, and will. This is true of both the good and evil angels (demons). Angels possess intelligence (Matthew 8:29; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 1:12), show emotion (Luke 2:13; James 2:19; Revelation 12:17), and exercise will (Luke 8:28-31; 2 Timothy 2:26; Jude 6). Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14) without true physical bodies. Although they do not have physical bodies, they are still personalities.
Because they are created beings, their knowledge is limited. This means they do not know all things as God does.
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Matthew 24:36
They have greater knowledge than humans, however, which may be due to three things. First, angels were created as an order of creatures higher than humans. Therefore, they innately possess greater knowledge. Second, angels hear Gods word directly, they do not suffer from memory loss as humans do.
Third, angels gain knowledge through long observation of human activities. Unlike humans, angels do not have to study the past; they have experienced it. Therefore, they know how others have acted and reacted in situations and can predict with a greater degree of accuracy how we may act in similar circumstances.
Though they have wills, angels, like all creatures, are subject to the will of God. Good angels are sent by God to help believers (Hebrews 1:14). Here are some activities the Biblical accounts ascribe to angels:
They praise God (Psalm 148:1-2; Isaiah 6:3). They worship God (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:8-13). They rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7). They serve God (Psalm 103:20; Revelation 22:9). They appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1). They are instruments of God's judgments (Revelation 7:1; 8:2). They bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10). They aid in winning people to Christ (Acts 8:26; 10:3). They observe Christian order, work, and suffering (1 Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12). They encourage in times of danger (Acts 27:23-24). They care for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16:22).
Angels are an entirely different order of being than humans. Human beings do not become angels after they die. Angels will never become, and never were, human beings. God created the angels, just as He created humanity. The Bible nowhere states that angels are created in the image and likeness of God, as humans are (Genesis 1:26). This likeness refers to certain communicable attributes of God that He has given man. Love, anger, jealously, compassion, forgiveness, patience, long-suffering, temperance etc.
Angels are spiritual beings that can, to a certain degree, take on physical form. Humans are primarily physical beings, but with a spiritual aspect. The greatest thing we can learn from the angels is their instant, unquestioning obedience to God’s commands.
Angels fall into two categories: the "unfallen" angels and the “fallen” angels. Unfallen angels are those who have remained holy throughout their existence and accordingly are called "holy angels." In Scripture, generally when angels are mentioned, it is the class of holy angels in view. By contrast, the fallen angels are those who have not maintained their holiness.
Holy angels fall into special classes, and certain individuals are named and mentioned. Michael the archangel is the Captain or head of all the holy angels, and his name means "who is like unto God?" (Daniel 10:21; 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7-10). Gabriel is one of the principal messengers of God, his name meaning "hero of God," and was entrusted with important messages such as those delivered to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21), to Zechariah (Luke 1:18-19), and to Mary (Luke 1:26-38).
Most holy angels are not named in the Bible but are described only as "elect angels" (1 Timothy 5:21). The expressions "principalities" and "powers" are used to describe all angels whether fallen or holy (Luke 21:26; Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 2:10, 15; 1 Peter 3:22). Some angels are designated as "Cherubim," which are living creatures who defend God's throne, the entrance of the Garden of Eden, they are depicted in the ark of the covenant. (Genesis 3:24; Exodus 25:18, 20)
"Seraphim" are another class of angels, mentioned only once in Scripture in Isaiah 6:2-7, and are described as having three pairs of wings. They have the function of praising God, being God's messengers to earth, and are especially concerned with the holiness of God. Most of the references to holy angels in Scripture refer to their ministries, which are broad. Holy angels were present at creation, the giving of the Law, the birth of Christ and His resurrection, the Ascension, and they will be present at the rapture of the Church and the second coming of Christ.
In stark contrast to the company of holy angels, the fallen angels are also innumerable, though considerably less than the holy angels, and are described as fallen from their first estate. Led by Satan, who was originally a cherub, the fallen angels defected, rebelled against God, and became sinful in their nature and work. Fallen angels have been divided into two classes: those who are free and those who are bound.
Of the fallen angels, Satan alone is given particular mention in the Bible. When Satan fell (John 8:44; Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:7–8), he drew after him one third of the angels (Revelation 12:4). Of those, some are reserved in chains awaiting judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6), and the remainder are free and are the demons, or devils, to whom reference is made throughout the New Testament (Mark 5:9, 15; Luke 8:30; 1 Timothy 4:1). They are Satan's servants in all his undertakings and share his fate. (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).