Angels In Action In Acts

It is written:

Hebrews 13:2-Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Perhaps the man of God here had the account of the angels in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in mind (Genesis 22). Or perhaps he was thinking about the apocryphal story from the book of Tobit, in which a young man named Tobias was accompanied by an an angel named Raphael on a journey to defeat a demon named Asmodeus who had been harassing and tormenting a young woman named Sara. For some time, Raphael traveled in the form of a human being, and Tobias had no idea!

Whatever the case, one thing is sure: there are a lot of questions that we have about angels. In this article, we will carefully examine some of these questions.

The Basics About Angels

The Bible teaches that some “time” before the foundation and creation of our universe, God made another race of beings known in Scripture as “angels” (Job 38:4-7). We are told that there is an “innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22), and that these “spirits” (Hebrews 1:7) are ministering to those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1;14). Scripture makes it clear that these beings have freewill (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Job 4:18), just like humans (Isaiah 1:18-19; John 5:40), and that some of the angels have rebelled against God because they were seduced by the lies of the devil (Revelation 12:1-12; Isaiah 9:14-15).

In this article, we are going to investigate some of the things that the Book of Acts teaches us angels are doing in the Christian Age.

The word “angel” is found twenty times in the Book of Acts. When we consider that the Book of Conversions is primarily about the creation of the church of God, and that the angels are mentioned so prominently within its’ pages, it becomes apparent that angels have a very important role and work in the Christian Dispensation.

Angels Bring The Inspired Word Of God To Humanity

The first example we have of angels in the Book of Acts shows us that angels are involved in the important work of bringing God’s Word to mankind. When the Apostles were gathered together and watching the Ascension of Christ, two angels appear to the band and tell them:

Acts 1:9-11-Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Quite often in the Bible, we see that angels are involved in bringing God’s Word to mankind.

This passage reminds us about the important work that angels have in testifying of God’s Word to His people. This important aspect of their work is even implied in the word “angel,” which carries with it the idea of “messenger.”

“What are angels? The word for ‘angel’ in the Hebrew is מלאך -mal’ak. Its simple meaning is “one who is dispatched with a message.” We find the Hebrew word מלאך used 214 times in the Scripture, but it has some ambiguities. More than 100 times it refers to angels as supernatural messengers, as holy beings sent by God to protect His people and pass on information. On 98 occasions, however, the King James simply translates the word as “messenger,” and in the context, these messengers are human agents. Four times mal’ak is even used for an “ambassador.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the Greek word translated “angel” is ἄγγελος -aggelos. It indicates somebody who is sent implicitly from God.” (Chuck Missler, Angels: Volume One-Cosmic Warfare, 198-203 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House Inc.)

The Bible makes it clear in several places that angels were involved in bringing the Word to the people. For example:

Deuteronomy 33:2-And he said: “The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came with ten thousands of saints; From His right hand Came a fiery law for them.

Galatians 3:19-What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.

Hebrews 2:2-For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,

In Acts, we see the same thing being taught throughout. Sometimes, they were involved in directing preachers to those who were ready to hear the Word, and sometimes they directed those who were seeking the Word to contact preachers:

Acts 8:26-Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.

Acts 10:3-About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

Acts 10:7 -And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually.

Acts 10:22-And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.”

Acts 11:13-And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter,

In all of these passages, we see that angels are involved in providentially directing people to where they can hear the Word of God.

It is important to also recognize that angels from God will not add to the Word of God. Paul reminds us:

Galatians 1:6-9-I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

In the Book of Revelation, John makes it clear that godly angels will testify to the everlasting Gospel:

Revelation 14:6-Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—

As such, the Word of God is the measuring standard by which any religious teaching (from mankind or angelkind) is to be judged. Years ago, a lady that I had been working with on the Internet acknowledged her need to get baptized into Christ. A friend and I found a church of Christ near her and contacted them, and they in turn got in touch with her. The next day, I messaged her and asked how the baptism went. She told me that as soon as she had gotten off the phone with the minister from the church of Christ that was to baptize her, an angel had appeared to her in her bedroom and explained that she did not need to get baptized. She had read the words of Jesus (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:5), and of Peter (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20-21), and of Ananias (Acts 22:16), and of Paul (Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12), yet sadly chose the words of “the angel from heaven” instead (Galatians 1:6-9).

It is also important to realize that angels are not bringing newly inspired Word of God to mankind any longer, since the Scriptures are complete (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and because God has spoken to us today primarily through His Son:

Hebrews 1:1-2-God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Angels Bring Words Of Encouragement And Guidance

Just because angels are not bringing the inspired Word of God to mankind any longer does not mean that they do not bring encouraging and helpful words to us. We see this especially in the Book of Acts.

Acts 5:19-20-But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

The angel released the Apostles from jail with the encouragement to speak God’s Word to the lost.

Later in Acts, the Apostle Paul was on his way to Rome to testify of Jesus. The ship he was on, however, went through a terrible storm and was going to sink. Paul told the crew:

Acts 27:23-24-For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’

The angel was not bringing some new doctrinal truth that needed to be put into the inspired Scripture; instead, he was encouraging the Apostle with words of comfort in a difficult and terrifying situation.

Angels Are Sent To Help And Deliverer God’s People From Dangerous Situations

In the Book of Acts, we read about the Apostle Peter being arrested. The Bible tells us:

Acts 12:5-11-Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”

There are several things from this passage which I would like to consider.

FIRST, please notice that this passage clearly shows that there is a connection between the prayers of God’s people and the work of angels. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that God’s people often invoked angels in their prayers to God. For example:

Psalm 35:5-6-Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of the LORD chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery, And let the angel of the LORD pursue them.

Psalm 103:20-Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word.

Psalm 148:2-Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!

The Apostle John makes it clear that there is a powerful connection between the prayers of the saints and the work of the angels. He wrote:

Revelation 8:1-6-When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

Could it be that we as Christians have greatly underestimated the powers that we have access to in our prayers?

Are we aware that through the intercessions of the saints, God is ready to unleash His angelic forces to minister and fight in the world?

SECOND, another thing which really stands out from this passage is the fact that God’s angels can take the form of flesh when they need to. Notice that the angel “struck” Peter. I imagine an angelic hand reaching out and ringing the jaws of the Apostle. This clearly shows us that angels have the ability to take the form of flesh when necessary. Do we not see this same truth expounded upon throughout the Word of God?

Genesis 19:1-3-Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

Please observe that these angels clearly had physical bodies. The same thing is illustrated by the words of Genesis chapter six:

Genesis 6:1-4-Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Speaking of the objections that some have raised to this passage, Michael Heiser has written:

“Jewish thinkers in the Second Temple Period understood that original Mesopotamian context, which is why they overwhelmingly viewed the Nephilim of divine sons of God as giants. This perspective includes the translation of the Hebrew term with gigas (“giant”) in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament….In reality, it doesn’t matter whether “fallen ones” is the translation. The Nephilim and the Anakim/Rephaim who descend from them (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:20–21; 3:1–11) are still described as unusually tall. Consequently, insisting that the name means “fallen” produces no escape from a supernaturalist interpretation….The primary objection to this approach is the sexual component. The modern enlightened mind simply can’t tolerate it. Appeal is usually made to Matthew 22:23–33 in this regard, under the assumption that verse 30 teaches that angels cannot engage in sexual intercourse:…The text does not say angels cannot have sexual intercourse; it says they don’t . The reason ought to be obvious. The context for the statement is the resurrection, which refers either broadly to the afterlife or, more precisely, to the final, renewed global Eden. The point is clear in either option. In the spiritual world, the realm of divine beings, there is no need for procreation. Procreation is a necessity for perpetuating the human population. Life in the perfected Edenic world also does not require maintaining the human species by having children—everyone has an immortal resurrection body. Consequently, there is no need for sex in the resurrection, just as there is no need for it in the nonhuman spiritual realm. Genesis 6 doesn’t have the spiritual realm or the final Edenic world as its context. The analogy breaks down completely. The passage in Matthew is therefore useless as a commentary on Genesis 6:1–4….That angels—and even God—can have true corporeality is evident in the Bible. For example, Genesis 18–19 is quite clear that Yahweh Himself and two other divine beings met with Abraham in physical flesh. They ate a meal together (Genesis 18:1–8). Genesis 19:10 informs us that the two angels had to physically grab Lot and pull him back into his house to avoid harm in Sodom, something that would be hard to do if the two beings were not truly physical. Another example is Genesis 32:22–31, where we read that Jacob wrestled with a “man” (32:24), whom the text also describes as elohim twice (32:30–31). Hosea 12:3–4 refers to this incident and describes the being who wrestled with Jacob as elohim and mal’ak (“angel”). This was a physical struggle, and one that left Jacob injured (32:31–32). While visual appearances in human form are more common, the New Testament also describes episodes in which angels are best understood as corporeal. In Matthew 4:11, angels came to Jesus after He was tempted by the devil and “ministered” to Him (cf. Mark 1:13). Surely this means more than floating around before Jesus’ face. Angels appear and speak (Matthew 28:5; Luke 1:11–21, 30–38), instances that presume actual sound waves being created. If a merely auditory experience was meant, one would expect the communication to be described as a dream-vision (Acts 10:3). Angels open doors (Acts 5:19) and hit disciples to wake them up (Acts 12:7). This particular episode is especially interesting, because the text has Peter mistakenly thinking the angel was only a vision.” (Michael Heiser, Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, And The Forgotten Mission Of Jesus Christ, 302-379 (Kindle Edition))

FINALLY in this connection, please notice that angels are able to intervene in order to help rescue God’s people as well as to execute His judgments.

Acts 12:23-Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

This is a theme found throughout the Word of God. For example:

Numbers 20:16-When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border.

Daniel 6:22-My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.”

2 Chronicles 32:21-Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there.

Isaiah 63:9-In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.

Acts 12:23-Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

All of these passages remind us that angels have various works which God entrusts to them for His people.

Angels Do Not Always Appear In The Form That We Think

The last thing that stands out to me about angels in action in the Book of Acts comes from Acts 12.

After Peter realizes that he has not had a vision, he goes to the home of Mary (where the church has been meeting and praying for him). Rhoda answers the door, and is so excited that it is Peter’ voice that she goes and tells everyone that it is Peter. Then we read these interesting words:

Acts 12:15-But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”

Notice that statement, “It is his angel.” This comment had reference to the beliefs of the early Jewish people that each of God’s people had at least one angel “assigned” to him or her.

“Some interpreters think that the disciples refer to Peter’s guardian angel. [1007] Commentators often view the disciples’ belief here in terms of later rabbinic views of “guardian angels . . . as the double” (one sharing the same appearance) of the person they protected. [1008] Angels could otherwise appear as humans (cf., e.g., Judg 13:6, 8; Tob 5:4–5; Mark 16:5; John 20:12–13; Heb 13:2). [1009] Although corporate guardian angels of nations are better attested, [1010] guardian angels of individuals also do appear in our sources. [1011] The individual’s protective spirit, or genius , in Roman thought might provide another ancient Mediterranean analogy. [1012]” (Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary-Volume Two: 3:1-14:28, 23465-23471 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

Some may object that this cannot be a benefit to women, since there are no women angels. Yet the Bible makes one POSSIBLE reference to female angels in the Book of Zechariah:

Zechariah 5:9-Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.

Certainly, we need to remember the exhortation of the Apostle that angels can appear to us in ways that we may not expect:

Hebrews 13:2-Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.


Angels are indeed mighty warriors and our companions in the fight against Satan and his host. Scripture testifies to the fact that what we are seeing happening gin this world today is a result of a terrible war between God and the devil. The godly angels have sided with God; the wicked angels have sided with the devil (another fallen angel). Which side will we choose?

It was through the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary-His death, burial, and resurrection on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)-that Satan and his forces have been defeated (Colossians 2:15). When we turn to the Lord, He breaks the power of Satan over us and adds us to His church. So we are told:

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Erring Christians are told:

1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We are reminded:

Revelation 19:10-And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Angels worship and serve Jesus, just as we do. What an amazing adventure it will be, to meet with and talk with the angels of old! What will it be like to hear about the adventures of these magnificent creatures throughout time? Will they tell us about encounters they had with us in which they fought for us? Perhaps saved us from some terrible calamity? Comforted us in some time of great sorrow or heartache? Shut the mouths of the lions that would have gladly destroyed us?

One day, we will know.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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