QUESTION: "What do angels look
hear a lot today about angels. People have them as
they have calendars with pictures of them; and they watch
television programs about them. Some of people pray
others give names to them, and still others depend on their
guardian angel to keep them out of trouble. I have
question at this time: are the popular depictions of angels
The only way we may know whether pictorial
portrayals of angels are accurate or not is to consult
Word of God. Isaiah wrote, "To the law and to the testimony!
If they do not speak according to this word, it is because
they have no dawn" (Isaiah 8:20). Paul also knew the
importance of knowing the Word of God, for he asked, "What
does the Scripture say?" (Romans 4:3a). The Lord Jesus
Himself asked, "What is written in the Law?" (Luke
10:26a). What we believe about angels (and every other subject)
must come from Gods written revelation!
Scripture says a great deal about the angels
of God but we shall confine our remarks to the question
above. "Angel" comes from the Greek term, angelos, and
means a "messenger." These messengers are spirits
(Heb. 1:14), thus they are immaterial. However, when they
have appeared to human beings, they
come in the form of men. For
example, after the resurrection, angels appeared to the women
at the empty tomb. Matthew refers to "an angel of the
Lord" at the tomb (28:2-5) whereas John refers to "two
angels in white" (20:12). However, Mark identifies the
angel as "a young man"
(16:5) and Luke refers to "two men" (Luke
24:4). The angels appeared as menas males. When
Jesus ascended into heaven, evidently two angels present were
referred to as "two men in white
clothing" (Acts 1:10-11). Cornelius had "a vision"
of "an angel of God" but this angel was called "a man" (Acts
Even during the time before Christ, angels
appeared as men. For instance, when Abraham was sitting
the oaks of Mamre, "he lifted up his eyes and looked,
behold, three men were standing opposite
him" (Genesis 18:1-2). Two of these "men" were
later called "angels" (19:1) and one was Yahweh
Himself in human form (18:13, 17, 20, 33). We might also recall
how Jacob wrestled with "a man"
near the Jabbock River (Genesis 22-24). In Hosea 12:4, this
"man" is identified as an "angel." Later
yet, under the Old Covenant period, angels continued to appear
as men. Joshua encountered the "captain of the host of
the LORD" who was simply called "a man"
(Joshua 5:13-15). Never is an angel called a "woman."
Vine remarks, "Angels are always spoken of in the masculine
gender, the feminine form of the word does not occur" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Therefore,
the common conception that angels are feminine
or women with long hair (or short
hair!) is inaccurate.
Second, these angels or spirit messengers
apparently normally appeared in white clothing (Mark 16:5;
John 20:12; Acts 1:10). These materialized spirits may
have appeared in splendor. Matthew says that the angels
"appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white
as snow" (28:3). Luke informs us that the two angels
were in "dazzling clothing" (24:4). When an angel
of the Lord appeared to Peter in prison, Luke informs us that
"a light shone in the cell" (Acts 12:7). The angel
of God who appeared to Cornelius wore "shining garments"
(Acts 10:3, 30). Although angels may have sometimes appeared
without great splendor (cf. Luke 1:26-29; Acts 1:10), apparently
they often were attended by the Lords radiant glory.
There was no mistaking that they were angels of God.
Third, there is no indication that when angels
appeared they looked any different from human beings. They
merely looked like men and not strange creatures. We know
of no Biblical passage that says angels had wings!
Yet popular religion nearly always depicts angels with
wings, complete with feathers! I suppose that this is the
only way that people think that angels can fly! Scripture
does say that seraphim (Isaiah 6:2,6), cherubim (Ezekiel
heavenly "living beings" (Ezekiel 1:5-14), or heavenly
"living creatures" (Rev. 4:6-8) do have wings and
strange appearances. (In fact, they may have four or six
and have four faces!) However, the normal angels of God looked
like men when they did appear.
Fourth, the normal response to the angels
appearance was one of fear. When
the angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias in the temple,
read of his response: "Zacharias was troubled
when he saw him, and fear gripped
him" (Luke 1:12). The angel replied, "Do not be afraid" (v. 13). When Gabriel
appeared to Mary, he reassured her, "Do not be afraid,
Mary" (1:30). When Cornelius saw a vision of an angel,
the text says that he was "much alarmed" (Acts
10:4). When the angel at the tomb appeared to the women,
he said, "Do not be afraid"
(Matt. 28:5). Mark says that the women "were amazed,"
and the angel said, "Do not be amazed"
(16:5-6). Luke is even more descriptive in saying that the
women "were terrified and bowed
their faces to the ground" (24:5). In contrast, apparently
Mary Magdalene was not at all troubled by the angels
appearance (John 20:11-13). John the apostle was so impressed
with the things he heard and saw that he "fell down to
worship" before the angel (Rev. 22:8). Normally, angels
were so impressive and filled with splendor that fear
was the immediate response.
Finally, Scripture says that angels appeared
as adults. There are no "baby"
or "infant" angels! Either people must think that
angels marry and have baby angelsor, more likely, they
are under the mistaken impression that little children who
die become little angels! How often have we seen little "cherubs"
or winged babies in paintingsbut this is a false
conception. A cherub (the plural is cherubim) is a
creature with four faces and four wings (Ezekiel 10:20-21)not
an infant angel! Moreover, angels do not marry and bear children
(Matthew 22:30). A child who dies may go to be with God (2
Samuel 12:23) but he will not become an angel!
This is sufficient for us to see that the
popular conception of angels is generally mistaken. Instead
of angels appearing as women, they appear as men. Instead
of angels appearing with wings, they apparently looked like
normal human beings. Instead of angels causing no great effect,
people normally were filled with fear and awe. And angels
normally appear as adult human beings and never as baby winged
Let our understanding of reality be formed
by the truth of Gods holy Word. Paul wrote to Timothy
that some will "turn away their ears from the
truth and will turn aside to myths"
(2 Timothy 4:3-4). Let us refuse to follow the popular angel
"myths" of our age. Instead, let us think of angels
and every other subject in terms of the reality of Gods