Angels and spirits
If we hold to the idea that angels and spirits are identical, then we have a multitude of passages that beg for an explanation. Yet if we are willing to cut ourselves loose from this traditional teaching, then many of these apparent contradictions just fall to the side. For those willing to devote a little time to this study, I think the rewards are well worth the effort.
A few verses in the first chapter of HEBREWS is really the only place in the Bible that might lead us to believe that angels are indeed spirits. Howbeit, when we examine even these verses a little closer, I think we will agree that maybe they don't say what we have assumed that they did.
- HEBREWS 1:7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
As written, this verse reads that GOD made HIS angels spirits. It is a quotation from PSALMS 104:4, "Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire". Yet another popular version of this same passage in PSALMS reads, "who makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers", Revised Standard Version. These two versions are saying two entirely different things. The King James Version says that GOD makes HIS angels spirits, yet the Revised Standard Version reads that GOD makes the winds HIS messengers.
Considering the preceding verses in this PSALM might help to explain for us just what was meant in verse 4.
- PSALM 104:1-4 NRSV Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honour and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.
The whole context here speaks of GOD using some of this world's characteristics as HIS tools or adornments; light for a garment, heavens for a shelter, clouds for a chariot riding upon the wings of the winds, and fire and flames as HIS ministers. There are a host of other passages which give testimony to this very same thing, that GOD uses the wind as HIS agent so as to accomplish HIS purposes. We here give a few.
- GENESIS 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;
- EXODUS 10:13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
- EXODUS 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
- NUMBERS 11:31 And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp. . . .
- PSALM 48:7 Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.
- PSALM 107:25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
- PSALM 148:8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
- JEREMIAH 10:13 When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
- JONAH 1:4 But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
- JONAH 4:8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind . . . .
Thus it is abundantly clear that the idea of GOD using the winds as HIS agent was commonly recognized and accepted.
Then there are a couple other verses in this first chapter of HEBREWS that also need to be examined in light of angels being spirits.
- HEBREWS 1:13-14 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
In these three passages of the first chapter of HEBREWS lie the whole foundation for this idea that angels are spirits. Nowhere else in scripture can we find anything written which lends support to the idea that angels and spirits are the same. This in itself should arouse our suspicion that something is amiss. If angels are indeed spirits, than why isn't it substantiated in the scriptures outside of this single chapter in HEBREWS? As such, we will study all three verses in depth in the following pages. First let us get a brief overview of other scriptures relating to this subject.
Simply put, angels are messengers. They could be messengers of GOD or not, but they are messengers of some sort. The question that lies before us is, are GOD's messengers spirits? That is the question we will now consider. In this consideration, we will first need to define angels, spirits, archangels, diabolos and diamonion.
- I. Angels
The word angel is translated in the Jewish Bible from the Hebrew word mal'ak and then in the Christian scriptures from the Greek word aggelos. There is probably no simpler definition for these words than agent. The Greek aggelos refers to "one who is sent to announce, teach, or perform anything", Bullinger's Lexicon and Concordance. Thayer's Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes the Hebrew word mal'ak as such;
- "Messenger" is an inadequate term for the range of tasks carried out by the OT mal'ak. These were 1) to carry a message, 2) to perform some other specific commission, and 3) to represent more or less officially the one sending him.
Angels may have been more than messengers, but they were still messengers, or agents, or perhaps representatives. At any rate, we will not find them to be spirits of any sort. They were, and still are, simply individuals sent by GOD or man, with some particular message or mission.
For passages where angels are mere men, see NUMBERS 20:14, JOSHUA 6:17, 1 SAMUEL 6:21, 2 SAMUEL 2:52, 2 KINGS 7:15, 1 CHRONICLES 14:1, NEHEMIAH 6:3, JOB 1:14, MALACHI 3:1, MATTHEW 11:10, MARK 1:2, LUKE 7:24, 27, LUKE 9:52 and JAMES 2:25.
That angels are sometimes messengers from GOD no one disputes, but are these messengers spirits? That is the question before us. One of the first things that strike us about GOD's angels is that they are often able to function just as if they were ordinary men. We are given a record early on in the Bible demonstrating this for us.
- GENESIS 19:1-3 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
It is remotely possible that these two angels were simply human messengers sent by GOD. Howbeit, it seems most unnatural for us to assume that these two angels are not the same two beings who accompanied Yahweh in the verses of the previous chapter leading up to this story. That being the case, they most assuredly would have been heavenly angels. To Lot's eyes though, these angels were simply men, every bit as much as he was. So much so that he was concerned for their welfare, fearing for them if they did not find shelter for the night. So they went home with him, and enjoyed an evening together with wine and supper.
And yet according to Luke's Gospel, when Yeshua's disciples struggled with the reality that He had arisen out from among the dead, thinking they were seeing a spirit, He intimated to them that He could not be a spirit, simply because a spirit could not be doing the things which they were seeing Him do.
- LUKE 24:36-43 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.
For Yeshua's disciples, what finally convinced them that He was not a spirit, was that He "did eat before them". Yet those angels in Sodom not only ate with Lot, but later that night when a crowd assaulted the house, they "put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut the door" (vs. 10). How can a spirit which does not have flesh and bones do such a thing? The difficulty of reconciling this incident in GENESIS with the one in LUKE is I think evident, if we believe that angels are spirits. We have to invent some pretty imaginary arguments to support that supposition.
I see only three possibilities. Either GENESIS is wrong, or LUKE is wrong, or angels are not spirits. Unless one can put forth some passage that conclusively declares that they are spirits, I think that we are going to have to conclude that they are not. Another verse to consider along this line is HEBREWS 13:2, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares". It is possible, perhaps even likely that some had entertained angels thinking all along that they were merely men. This would certainly not be possible with spirits.
When we come to consider the first occurrences of angels in the Christian Scriptures, we see that these verses most likely are not describing spirits.
- MATTHEW 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.... 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
- MATTHEW 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.... 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.
The Holy Spirit has been careful to place the first usages of angels in the Christian Scriptures clearly outside the range of where we would expect a spirit to be. Spirits are invisible but angels are not, thus it had to be angels which appeared to Joseph in his dream. Even though these passages do not specifically say that angels are not spirits, it is interesting that as we begin our search in both the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament) and the Christian Scriptures (the New Testament), scripture seems to be pointing us in that direction. Rather then suggesting to us that angels might be spirits, scripture indicates that they are not, or at the very least gives us no indication that they are.
The Sadducees and the Pharisees both agreed that there was a definite difference between spirits and angels.
- ACTS 23:8-9 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
Though what the Sadducees or the Pharisees believed means little to us, what Luke believed means a great deal. He writes that these two powerful religious bodies believed in angels and spirits as two distinct classes of beings. His primary point in this passage is that the Sadducees and Pharisees believed differently about the Resurrection and only mentions angels and spirits as a side note. Yet if there was anything peculiar to him about the belief that angels and spirits are not the same beings, we would have expected him to make comment about it. To Luke's mind then, angels and spirits must have been distinct beings. Too many of us today blur these truths and fail to read as accurately and minutely as we perhaps should.
In another passage from ACTS, we read that Saul (Paul) and the rest of the Sanhedrin, while looking at Stephen, "saw his face as it had been the face of an angel" (ACTS 6:15). Does a spirit have a face? I don't see how it could, if it doesn't have flesh and bones.
Here is another problem for us if we are going to believe that angels are spirits. Several times in the Christian Scriptures we can read that some of GOD's angels are holy.
- MARK 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
- ACTS 10:22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
- REVELATION 14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
Our question is, if angels are the same as spirits, then these holy angels must also be holy spirits, yet scripture refers only to GOD as the Holy Spirit and only HIS gift as holy spirit. Never are other spirits ever referred to as holy. GOD is the only Spirit that is holy.
Besides man and GOD having angels or messengers, Satan also had his angels.
- 2 CORINTHIANS 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger [angel] of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
- REVELATION 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. [Of course the dragon is Satan, which is the Devil, according to REVELATION 20:22]
Peter writes in his second epistle of some angels that are reserved unto "chains of darkness" awaiting judgment, because of some sin which they had committed.
- 2 PETER 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartaroo), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment....
We are forever hearing or reading of some connection made between these angels in 2 PETER with the spirits in prison of whom Peter writes in his first epistle.
- 1 PETER 3:19-20 By which also he [Yeshua] went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
If spirits are indeed angels, then this connection might have merit, but if they are not the same, then the angels in chains of darkness cannot be the spirits who are in prison. Jude in his epistle also writes of some angels "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (JUDE 6). We can have confidence that these angels are probably the same angels Peter wrote of in his second epistle cited above, but not likely the same as the spirits of 1 PETER, also cited above.
- II. Spirits
Spirit can either mean air in motion or it might be an unseen power. It is either an invisible force or an invisible being. The Hebrew word from which we get the English word "spirit" is ruwach, which meaning is closely related to wind, or breath. Likewise, the Greek word pneuma is translated spirit or ghost but has the same meaning as is found with ruwach, as a movement of air. Unless wind picks up something like dirt or snow to make it visible, it remains an unseen power. One who smokes cigarettes is a perfect illustration. His breath is visible if he is smoking, otherwise it is usually invisible.
We can sometimes see, or smell, even taste and hear the effects or manifestation of a spirit, but we can't actually see or touch the spirit itself. Trying to grasp the wind is an apt example. In whatever way it is manifested, the spirit has no form. Whether it is breath or wind or GOD or devil spirits or GOD's gift of holy spirit, it has no body that we can see or touch (LUKE 24:39). As an invisible power, spirit can represent GOD or other spiritual beings, or it may even denote the wind. Yeshua uses pneuma to describe all three.
- JOHN 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
- LUKE 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils [diamonion] are subject unto us through thy name. 20 [The Lord said] Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
- ESV JOHN 3:8 The wind [pneuma] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit [pneuma].
Regardless what specifically spirit is referring to when used in a verse, the one constant is that it is always invisible. It is a power that can sometimes be sensed, but that power is nonetheless invisible. There are around seven hundred occurrences of spirit in the Bible, and not once, not a single time does anyone ever see a spirit. Not once does anyone ever touch a spirit, or eat with a spirit. Spirit is always invisible, unlike angels.
This rule even applies when John the Baptist saw the spirit descending upon Yeshua in the form of a dove or perhaps when three unclean spirits looked like frogs in REVELATION. What was seen was a dove or a frog, not a spirit. Not a single time in scripture can we find an incident where somebody actually saw a spirit. They may have thought that they were seeing a spirit, as with Yeshua's disciples after His resurrection, but it never turned out to be a spirit. Nobody ever shook hands with a spirit, or sat down and ate with a spirit. These things are just not possible with spirits.
- III. Archangels
An archangel is simply an individual which is over other angels. Only one is named in Scripture, Michael. Satan was at one time over his own group of angels but evidently no longer (REVELATION 12:9; 20:10). Gabriel is often said to be an archangel, but there is no evidence in Scripture to substantiate that assertion. Rather, Gabriel is an angel that stands in the presence of GOD (LUKE 1:19). Never are archangels called spirits or vice versa. Below we have listed the only occurrences where archangels are either mentioned or implied in the Bible.
- 1 THESSALONIANS 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
- JUDE 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
We have been taught that Satan was once the Archangel called Lucifer. The story goes that he rebelled against GOD and was kicked out of heaven, along with the angels and/or spirits assigned to him. These spirits became the evil spirits that then plagued the world. There are a few scriptures that seem to support some of this concept, but we must leave that for another study.
- IV. Diabolos
Diabolos is the Greek word for Devil, or false accuser, also known as Satan or the Dragon. Diabolos nearly always refers to Satan and never, not once does it ever refer to a spirit.
- MATTHEW 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
- JOHN 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
- EPHESIANS 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
The only time spirit and diabolos are even used together in the same verse is when the verse is distinguishing Yeshua in some way from the Devil (MATTHEW 4:1 ACTS 10:38). Curiously the only time spirits are connected to the Devil is a single passage in REVELATION.
- REVELATION 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Rather than intimate that the Devil is a spirit, this verse indicates just the opposite, that the Devil, here called the Dragon, was not a spirit but that a spirit came forth from him. It just stands to reason that the Devil and spirits must have been separate beings. Though the Diabolos is not a spirit, we shall see that diamonion are; howbeit, it should be noted that the common phrase devil spirit or devil spirits is never used in the Bible.
There is one verse in EPHESIANS where a poor translation has suggested to some readers that the Devil was indeed a spirit.
- EPHESIANS 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
The way this verse is translated, it seems to say that the prince of the power of the air is the spirit, but that is an awkward rendering as prince is in the accusative case and spirit is in the genitive case. A well written summation of the jest of this verse is given in Holman's New Testament Commentary which we quote below.
- Paul describes the way we lived while we were in this spiritually alienated condition. We followed the ways of this world. That is, we lived according to the non-Christian value system. This value system is created and energized by Satan (the ruler of the kingdom of the air). This does not mean that non-Christians realize that their values are created and energized by Satan. In fact, most would probably deny it. Nevertheless, Satan, in his craftiness, places the things in front of us that we, in our sinful condition, find attractive, and, therefore, pursue as though they were our ideas. The spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient is probably not the ruler of the kingdom of the air as the NIV translation suggests but rather an impersonal atmosphere created and energized by the ruler. Satan’s kingdom encourages us to have ungodly values, attitudes, and actions, much the same way a spirit of enthusiasm at a ball game might encourage us to embrace the attitudes and actions of a sports fan. We cheer, yell, jump up and down, and otherwise act in ways that we would not if we were not under the influence of the spirit of enthusiasm. Under the spirit of Satan’s kingdom we act in disobedient ways we would not normally follow.
Thus we find no verse of scripture where the Devil is said to be a spirit. He was a being over a certain number of angels, but a spirit he was not. The reason so many believe that the Bible teaches that the Devil was a spirit is because they mix up the diabolos with the diamonion, which are spirits. No doubt though, he was a cherub, according to EZEKIEL 28.
- V. Diamonion
Diamonion is the Greek word for devils. Diamonion occurs 52 times in the Christian Scriptures and each and every occurrence is in some way connected with Yeshua, except possibly once (1 TIMOTHY 4:1). Diamonion were indeed spirits, as we learn from the Lord Himself.
- LUKE 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils [diamonion] are subject unto us through thy name.... 20 [The Lord replied] Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Thus by Yeshua's own testimony, diamonion were indeed spirits. The Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word diamonion is found in the Jewish Bible only twice.
- DEUTERONOMY 32:17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
- PSALM 106:37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils.
Many of the passages containing mention of these diamonion are in the context of worshipping idols. Here are a few others in the Christian Scriptures.
- ACTS 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods [diamonion]: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
- 1 CORINTHIANS 10:20-21 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
- REVELATION 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.
Interestingly, the devils (which were spirits) cannot see, nor hear, nor walk like men do. Being spirits, these diamonion were quite possibly the imprisoned spirits of which Peter wrote about in his first epistle, which we referred to above while considering the meaning of angels.
- 1 PETER 3:19-20 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
It should be noted that this word sometime would be better translated formerly, which it often is. Peter writes that these spirits were formerly disobedient, not necessarily that they still were. We are not told exactly what these spirits did, but only that they were formerly disobedient in the days preceding Noah's flood. What is even more significant though, is that Yeshua went and preached to them after His resurrection. The Greek word from which we get preached is kerusso. Each usage of kerusso in the Christian Scriptures (61 times) is in the real hope that the one preached to will repent. It stands to reason that the only logical reason for Yeshua to go and preach to these spirits was in hopes of attaining their repentance. This is quite astounding. The idea that even evil spirits might repent is something that has been foreign to our thinking.
On a side note, we have heard over the years many attempt a guess and try to explain who those sheep were that Yeshua said were of another fold.
- JOHN 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
The only ones in the Bible of whom scripture says Yeshua ever went and preached to after His resurrection, are these imprisoned spirits of 1 PETER. We must allow for the possibility that these imprisoned spirits were the "sheep of another fold". Up to now we have all naturally rejected this idea, knowing that the fires of hell were reserved for the Devil and his angels, but if spirits are not angels, this is indeed no longer beyond reason.
We never read of Satan's angels being preached to, or acknowledging Christ, or fearing GOD but all these characteristics might be said of diamonion or unclean spirits.
- MARK 3:11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
- LUKE 4:33-34 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us [the diamonion] alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.
- LUKE 4:41 And devils [diamonion] also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
- JAMES 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils [diamonion] also believe, and tremble.
When it is said that they saw unclean spirits fall down and worship Yeshua, no doubt it was spirit possessed people which they actually saw, as an actual spirit is invisible. For a spirit to be seen or heard it must possess a body.
When Yeshua commenced His ministry, the opening words of His first recorded sermon was from the book of Isaiah.
- LUKE 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
Throughout the Gospels we have record after record of Him preaching the gospel, healing all that came unto Him. But we wonder who these captives were He preached deliverance to? Not even His cousin John the Baptist, who died in prison, did Yeshua set free. Did He only preach deliverance to those held captive to sin, or is there some further reference here. Again in his second epistle, Peter touches upon this subject.
- 2 PETER 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
If the Lord is not willing that any should perish, can we be blind to the possibility that those formerly disobedient spirits have no chance at forgiveness?
Now that we have defined our terms, let us return to our verses in question. We begin with HEBREWS 1:7, which again, was a quotation of PSALM 104:4. Below we give an excerpt from A Commentary on the Old Testament by Keil and Delitzsch.
- In v. 4 the LXX (Heb. 1:7) makes the first substantive into an accusative of the object, and the second into an accusative of the predicate....It is usually translated the reverse way: making the winds into His angels, etc. This rendering is possible so far as the language is concerned (cf. 100:3 Chethîb, and on the position of the worlds, Amos 4:13 with 5:8), and the plural מְשָׁרֲתָיו is explicable in connection with this rendering from the force of the parallelism, and the singular אֵשׁ from the fact that this word has no plural. Since, however, עָשָׂה with two accusatives usually signifies to produce something out of something, so that the second accusative (viz., the accusative of the predicate, which is logically the second, but according to the position of the words may just as well be the first, Ex. 25:39; 30:25, as the second, Ex. 37:23; 38:3, Gen. 2:7, 2 Chron. 4:18–22) denotes the materia ex qua, it may with equal right at least be interpreted:
- Who makes His messengers out of the winds, His servants out of the flaming or consuming (vid., on 57:5) fire (אֵשׁ, as in Jer. 48:45, masc.).
- And this may affirm either that God makes use of wind and fire for special missions (cf. 148:8), or (cf. Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 325f.) that He gives wind and fire to His angels for the purpose of His operations in the world which are effected through their agency, as the materials of their outward manifestation, and as it were of their self-embodiment, as then in 18:11 wind and cherub are both to be associated together in thought as the vehicle of the divine activity in the world, and in 35:5 the angel of Jahve represents the energy of the wind.
Though there is a lot of technical jargon here, the bottom line is that our verse could read, "Who makes His messengers out of the winds, His servants out of the flaming or consuming fire".
Thus there are two possible things that this verse says GOD has done. Either,
- HE makes HIS messengers spirits
- HE makes HIS messengers out of the winds,
And then the verse finishes by saying,
- Who makes HIS servants out of the flaming fire.
The first phrase is our problem child, so to speak. But the closing phrase is the one that can explain for us the correct translation of the first phrase. If the first phrase means only that GOD made HIS angels spirits, then how does this second phrase relate? There has to be some connection the writer is making between the first and second phrase. But I don't see any connection in the way the King James Version translates it. Angels being spirits has little to do with servants being fire. But if the first phrase actually says, "Who makes His messengers out of the wind" then the second phrase flows smoothly and naturally from it, "and He makes His servants out of a flaming fire". The wind is HIS messenger and the flaming fire is HIS servant.
It is evident that many Bible Translators agree at least in part with the rendering of Keil and Delitzsch given above, in that they follow this interpretation in their own versions of HEBREWS 1:7. Below are three popular ones.
- ASV HEBREWS 1:7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels winds [not spirits], And his ministers a flame a fire:
- ESV HEBREWS 1:7 Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds [not spirits], and his ministers a flame of fire."
- RSV HEBREWS 1:7 Of the angels he says, "Who makes his angels winds [not spirits], and his servants flames of fire."
Each of these three versions translate the Greek word pneuma here as wind instead of spirit, carrying forth the same meaning of the word as we just deduced from PSALM 104:4. Yet it is curious that when we come to the very next usage of pneuma, still in the first chapter of HEBREWS, these same Translators go back to translating pneuma as spirit, not wind. Were they right in changing the translation in the two passages or were they wrong?
We should consider what theme the original writer of HEBREWS had; what was it he was trying to convey in this chapter? In essence it was that the messengers of GOD are not greater than GOD's Son. Let us read it for ourselves.
- HEBREWS 1:2-7 [GOD] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
- Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
- Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
- And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.
- And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire....13-14 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
The entire chapter is saturated by this theme that angels are on a lower plane than GOD's Son. The writer is setting forth to these Hebrew believers the stark contrast of Yeshua with the angels. He is proclaiming the difference between GOD's only begotten Son on the one hand and HIS messenger boys on the other. The Son is the brightness of HIS glory, the express image of HIS person, while the angels are mere breaths of HIS nostrils. He approaches the thrust of his argument by writing, "But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" Which angels is he referring to? The angels of verses four and five and six and seven!
We must keep in mind that these angels are not mystical beings flying around the clouds with wings and halos. They are simply GOD's messengers, messengers for GOD in whatever way HE deemed necessary so as to carry forth HIS message or mission. On occasion they were individuals, but just as often they were evidenced as storms or some other wonder of nature. The writer concludes with verse fourteen.
- HEBREWS 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits [breaths], sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
The purpose of the passage is not to reveal to us some new and strange doctrine about guardian angels, but rather it is simply continuing the idea that angels are not greater in glory and power than our Lord. The problem our writer was confronting was one of angel-worship. Some of these Hebrew believers were into what was common in that age, and really still is; they were worshipping angels (see COLOSSIANS 2:18).
The writer of HEBREWS was trying to communicate to his readers that GOD's messengers are no greater than mere breaths from HIS nostrils. These messengers were ministering breaths, if you will, from GOD. All scripture is GOD breathed, so how difficult is it to see HIS ministers of that word as also GOD breathed? For us to assume that this verse says something more, we should search elsewhere in scripture for further substantiation, but when we do we find nothing. Nowhere in the Bible is there any doctrine set forth that tells us that angels are spirit beings. As other living beings, they may have spirit, but they are not spirits.
So much of the word of GOD opens up to us when we realize the possibility that angels are not spirits. So many passages that before begged to be answered now have quite simple solutions. Once again we see that it is only when we read into the scriptures what is not there that we cloud the water, and create for ourselves problems which otherwise would not exist.