Angels: What are they?

Since angels and Christmas go hand-in-hand I thought it might be a good time to discuss who and what they are. There are a lot of misunderstandings, misconceptions and fallacies when it comes to angels.

Here is what the late, great respected bible teacher, Billy Graham, explains about angels, and why they exist.

“God created the angels before the world began—but unlike us, they will never grow old or die. They are sinless spiritual beings, and throughout eternity they will continue to serve God and praise Him. God created angels to be His agents, working for the good of His people. We aren’t to worship them, but we
should thank God for them.” — Billy Graham

Because they are spiritual beings (instead of physical creatures), they usually are invisible to us, and they carry on most of their work without us ever being aware of them.

At times, however, God’s angels do become visible. Sometimes they appear as ordinary men, sometimes the appearance is glorious and filled with light.

The latter occurred with Mary, Christ’s mother. She was shaking in her…uh…sandals when Gabriel shows up with baby news.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus.” Luke:1-30-31, HCSB

As a side thought: Wouldn’t you think God would send a female angel for such a personal message? I’m thinking something along the lines of, “Hey, Sista girlfriend, have I got news for YOU!” kind of thing? 

It’s quite possible that this is why God does not appoint me to such important decisions and tasks.

I digress.

We must understand that in Mary’s culture getting pregnant while unmarried was a massive predicament. Besides the shame associated, it was perfectly legal for her to be stoned to death for such immorality. This provides a deeper
understanding as to why she was so afraid.

But Mary chooses faith over fear. She quickly surrenders and says to
Gabe, “I am the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word.” 

Later when Jesus was born, angels show up again to announce His birth to a group of humble shepherds.

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 9-12, NIV

Afterward, the shepherds saw the angels ascend into heaven. The angels who appeared that first Christmas were sent to deliver the greatest message the world has ever known: God’s only Son had come into the world. And this is often the task of angels, to deliver a message, offer a warning, or present God’s wisdom.

Let me clear up a common misconception about angels. People do not become angels when they die. We become something much greater.

For those who believe that Jesus is who He said he is, The Savior, people become like Christ. We will get a new body in heaven (thank goodness, this one is wearing out FAST. I’m putting in my order early for tall and thin).

“We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).

I don’t think we will fully understand the mystery of angels until we get to heaven. What we do know is that we often portray angels as soft, sweet female images, and the Bible clearly shows them as warriors, strong and often in a battle, protecting us. God created them for a purpose, and He uses them for His glory.

We shouldn’t be obsessed with angels, but revere them. Be grateful that God created these beings because He knew we would need them.

“For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’ Isaiah 41:13, NLT

Copyright © 2018 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Laura is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. She has spoken at the Billy Graham Training Center and has been featured on Focus on the Family. Laura and her pastor husband of 32 years live in Cumming, Ga. She can be found at