God created angels to serve and worship Him in Heaven. He also created angels to deliver messages to people on earth. Some of those messages contained mercy and forgiveness, some contained judgment and destruction.
In this part of our study, we will look at how angels deliver God’s messages from Heaven to earth. As we understand what angels did in the biblical past, we will better understand how angels deliver God’s messages from Heaven to earth today and in the recent past.
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
“He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, Wrath, indignation, and trouble, By sending angels of destruction among them. Psalm 78:49
The majority of the drawings and statues of angels we see in museums and online show them as kind and protecting. They are sometimes shown as infants or small children with wings. Some are playing violins or blowing trumpets as they fly through the clouds.
Is that an accurate description of angels in the Bible? Angels are supernatural ‘messengers.’ Good angels deliver messages from God. Bad angels deliver messages from Satan (e.g. “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” – 1 Timothy 4:1).
Angels of Destruction
One of the most powerful images of angels we find in the Bible is when they deliver God’s message of destruction. Destruction follows God’s judgment.
The first example we see in Scripture is in the Garden of Eden –
“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24
God judged Adam and Eve and sent angels (called ‘cherubim’) along with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life. The cherubim and flaming sword took their place between humans and the way to the tree of life after God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. God’s message was clear. He would not allow any human being to eat from the tree of life and if anyone tried to do that the angels would destroy them.
As far as we know the angels were successful in keeping humans from getting to the tree of life. If any people tried and were destroyed by the angels and flaming sword, we are not told in Scripture. My guess is that no one tried. What we are told in Scripture is that the tree of life is now in Heaven and will be used one day “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).
We meet two destroying angels in Genesis 18 and 19. The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre. Abraham saw three men standing near him and ran to greet them. The Lord told Abraham that his wife Sarah would have a son soon. That caused Sarah to laugh and said to herself, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being so old.” The Lord knew what Sarah had said and said to Abraham – “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Sarah denied that she laughed because she was afraid, but the Lord said, “No, but you did laugh!”
The three men rose and looked toward Sodom and Abraham went with them. The Lord decided to tell Abraham that He was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because the outcry against the cities was great “and because their sin is very grave.” Abraham tried to convince God not to destroy the cities based on the idea of destroying the righteous with the wicked. However, the number of righteous in the cities was not enough to win that argument.
“So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.” Genesis 18:33
We learn in the next verse that the two ‘men’ who accompanied the Lord were angels: “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom” (Genesis 19:1). Lot invited the angels into his home though the angels said they planned to spend the night in the open square. Lot insisted the ‘men’ come to his home and they did. They ate with Lot and his family and just before time to go to bed the men of the city of Sodom, both old and young, surrounded Lot’s house.
“And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” Genesis 19:5
The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the visiting men who were in Lot’s house. That informs us about the very grave sin in Sodom and Gomorrah the Lord had mentioned to Abraham. Lot offered his two virgin daughters to the men of Sodom so they would “not do so wickedly” (Genesis 19:7). That infuriated the men of Sodom and they tried to force their way into Lot’s house. However, the angels pulled Lot back into the house, shut the door and struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness.
It’s important we remember that God’s angels were delivering a message of destruction to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nothing or no one could stop them from delivering that message. The angels told Lot to get his wife and daughters to “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” Lot, his wife and two daughters did leave Sodom just ahead of the angels delivering their message of destruction.
“Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” Genesis 19:24-25
The angels had warned Lot and his family to escape to the mountains and not to look back lest they be destroyed, but Lot’s wife did look back and she became a pillar of salt.
Abraham returned early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord and looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah. What Abraham saw was smoke like the smoke of a furnace. God had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, “the cities of the plain.”
Another example of God sending angels with messages of destruction is found in the Book of Exodus. God demonstrated His superiority over the gods of Egypt through a series of plagues. The last plague was the death of the firstborn son. The event also initiated the beginning of the Passover Supper that foreshadowed the coming of God’s Son to earth to be the “passover lamb” who would die on the Cross.
“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” Exodus 12:21-30
The psalmist writing about God’s many kindnesses to rebellious Israel, wrote this about the destructive plagues he commanded in Egypt –
“When He worked His signs in Egypt, And His wonders in the field of Zoan; Turned their rivers into blood, And their streams, that they could not drink. He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them, And frogs, which destroyed them. He also gave their crops to the caterpillar, And their labor to the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, And their sycamore trees with frost. He also gave up their cattle to the hail, And their flocks to fiery lightning. He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, Wrath, indignation, and trouble, By sending angels of destruction among them. He made a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, But gave their life over to the plague, And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt, The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.” Psalm 78:43-51
God sent “angels of destruction” among the people of Egypt. Why did the angels deliver messages of destruction to the Egyptians? Because God was very angry with them.
Other examples of destroying angels are found in:
- 2 Samuel 24:15-17
- 2 Kings 19:32-35
- Acts 12:20-23
Angels On Assignment
What do angels do for God’s people today? Can we ‘assign’ our angels to perform miracles for us and others? Do angels perform physical surgery on Christians while they sleep? Are angels unable to serve us because of the words we speak? Can we physically ‘feel’ angels when they walk by us? We invite you to watch this video, compare with what we know about angels from Scripture, and decide for yourself.
We will look at angels of future destruction in the next part of our study, When Angels Speak.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.