The Bible has a lot to say about angels. The problem is, few Christians seem interested in hearing about it.
For whatever reason, many Christians have a dismissive attitude when it comes to angels. But here are three reasons—drawn from Michael Heiser’s new book, Angels—on why every Christian should care about angels.
Angels are in Scripture
There are many strange and sensational opinions about angels out there. This is unsurprising since angels are prominent in other religions, a myriad of superstitions, and even in popular media. Sadly, even Christians have odd views about angels. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the vast majority of Christian ideas about angels are either built upon idiosyncratic interpretations of Scripture or untethered from Scripture entirely.
In light of all of this, it may be tempting to disregard the topic of angels altogether. We in the West live in a culture that pits the scientific against the spiritual, often disregarding the latter in favor of the former. We “know better” than to believe in supernatural beings. Many Christians embrace this attitude, especially because of the odd fascinations and superstitions they have seen regarding angels.
However, dismissal of the spiritual realm should not be an option for believers. The simple fact that angels are found in Scripture should be enough reason to consider the topic worthy of our attention. As Heiser states, “If God moved the biblical writers to take care when talking about the unseen realm, then it matters” (p. xiv). If it’s in Scripture, we should take it seriously.
A biblical perspective is an antidote to innumerable speculations.
Three reasons why angelology makes a difference
However, one may ask what difference it makes practically. Is there any payoff for studying angels?
Heiser says that angelology (the study of angels) “helps us think more clearly about familiar points of biblical theology” (p. xv). He goes on to elucidate three immediate theological benefits for understanding the heavenly host.
1. Angelology helps us understand how God looks at us.
Studying angels helps us understand our own role as image-bearers created in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26 (“let us make humankind in our image”), popularly thought of as a discussion within the Trinity, is better understood as God addressing his angelic host. What does this mean?
Just as mankind is to be God’s image-bearers on earth, the heavenly host “images God in the spiritual, non-terrestrial world” (p. xv). The theological importance of the image of God cannot be underestimated. However, its connection with the heavenly host is often overlooked. What implications may this have for our theology and practice?
2. Angelology helps us understand where God wants us.
Believers and the heavenly host are both called children of God (e.g. Job 1:6; John 1:12). God is our father and he wants his children to dwell with him. However, ever since the fall, creation has become corrupt. A new creation has been needed, but it is one that “flesh and blood cannot inherit” (1 Cor 15:50).
In Jesus, God launched a plan to redeem his people and bring them home. But this plan does not include the redemption of heavenly beings (Heb 2:16–18). How much must he care for us that he would go to such lengths?
3. Angelology helps us understand what God has planned for us.
Many hold a “boring” view of eternal life, one where we just float about in the clouds and exist. This is probably because popular depictions of angels suggest heaven is like this.
Grasping what the Bible says about angels helps correct this misconception. We don’t frolic in the clouds; we have a destiny that includes rulership.
Scripture teaches that the hostile spiritual beings that held power over the nations will be judged (Ps 82; Matt 25:41) and God’s new children, adopted by grace, will replace them in ruling over the new creation (Dan 7:27; 1 Cor 6:3; Heb 2:5–10; Rev 2:26–27; 3:21). Rather than being eternally bored, redeemed mankind will be eternally engaged in ruling and reigning; just as God always intended (Gen 1:27-28).
Far from being a peripheral topic only of interest to the superstitious and speculative, the heavenly host is important for biblical theology.
As Heiser concludes, “Knowledge of God’s heavenly host helps us think more clearly about our status, our purpose, and our destiny” (p. xix).
In what other ways could a better understanding of the heavenly host impact our theology? Comment below with your thoughts.
Lindsay John Kennedy, an Aussie/Brit living in the USA, is a card-carrying Bible nerd who serves at Imprint Church and blogs at My Digital Seminary.