Sunday, October 9, 2016


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There is a misunderstanding when it comes to the subject of abortion. Many think when Christians proclaim their pro-life stance, especially during election, they are pushing their “religion” on others. Not the case. Albeit they are Christians, what they are pushing is “morality," something today’s society has thumbed its nose at as black and white has faded into varying shades of gray, and women’s “coming of age” and attempting to assert their “rights” has somehow extended from a legitimate need for equal pay in the work place to a distorted escalation of having a right to kill their unborn children.

Therefore, I found the below article by guest blogger, retired attorney David W. T. Brattston, to be quite informative. Since the Bible, other than Ex. 21:22-25 in the Old Testament, does not mention the subject, he offers a fresh perspective on attitudes outside of the Bible by first century Christians. Some would call this surprising, thinking abortion is only a phenomenon of this century and the previous one. These men wrote because this ancient practice was still being performed in their day, and the prohibition of it was a commonly understood acceptance of God’s code of morality, not subject to change by societal whims.

But first, make yourself acquainted with these facts: From 1973 to 2015 there have been over 58 MILLION abortions in the U.S. and still counting. Baby parts are now being sold for $50-$60 per specimen, and there is now a new plan to yield fetal heads in late-term unborn babies for brain harvesting. 

Read on!


David W. T. Brattston

This article presents the Christian attitude toward abortion before the first ecumenical council, that is, until A.D. 325. Because the New Testament does not comment on the morality of abortion, this article considers the writings of the first generations of Christians after the apostles in order to find teachings that were handed on outside the Bible.

With the exception of one author who wrote at length on the subject, early Christian writings do not discuss abortion in depth but merely state in a few words or phrases that it was forbidden to Christians. Most of the authors of the period do not touch on the subject but those who did considered it among the worst of sins.

The earliest source
[This document] is an anonymous church manual of the late first century called The Didache. It commands "thou shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten." (at 2.2)

The Didache means: "The Teachings of the 12 Apostles”. Intended as a handbook for Christian congregation and leaders. Contains ethical teachings of Jesus, reaching back to the very earliest stages of the Church's order and practices.
The Epistle of Barnabas 
[This document] contains a similar guide to Christian morality. It was composed sometime between A.D. 70 and 132 and was included in some early versions of the New Testament. In the midst of several chapters of instructions on ethics, it states: "Thou shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born." (19.5) The latter phrase refers to the ancient Greek and Roman practice of abandoning newborns to die in unpopulated areas if the baby was the "wrong" sex or suspected of health problems. To the author of Barnabas, this practice and abortion were equal in sinfulness.

Preserved complete in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus (Christian Bible in Greek) where it appears at the end of the New Testament. The early-second-century epistle of Barnabus is one of the earliest expressions of gentile Christianity and describes Jesus as quasi-divine.

The Revelation of Peter

Ethiopian text. Sometimes called “The Apocalypse of Peter.”

Dating from just before A.D. 150, the Revelation of Peter was still read in church services in fifth-century Palestine. It describes in detail the various punishments in hell according to different types of sin. The punishment for women who induced miscarriage was to sit up to their necks in blood and dirt while the aborted children shot sparks of fire into their eyes (Chapter 25).

Clement of Alexandria, the principal of Christendom's foremost Christian educational institution at the end of the second century, accepted these statements as an accurate exposition of the Faith (Extracts from the Prophets 41; 48; 49).

In Paedagogus 2.10.96, Clement spoke negatively of women who "apply lethal drugs which directly lead to death, destroying all humane feeling simultaneously with the fetus".

Clement and other early Christian writers often quoted from the Sibylline Oracles as the work of a pagan prophet who had predicted the coming Christ like the Jewish ones. Later, the Sibyllines were rewritten to increase the proportion of Christian ethical teaching. Oracle 2 describes abortion as contrary to God's law, while Oracle 3 commands people to raise their children instead of angering God by killing them.

A Plea for the Christians
[W]ritten around A.D. 177 by "Athenagoras the Athenian, Philosopher and Christian", partly to convince the Roman Emperor that there was no truth in the rumor that Christians ritually murdered and ate babies. 

A Plea for the Christians by Athenagoras
In declaring that such a practice was contrary to Christian ethics, Athenagoras emphasized the sacredness of unborn life:
And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very foetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder. (Chapter 35) 
To Athenagoras, abortion was the same as abandoning a newborn and other murder.

The Octavius of Minucius Felix was composed sometime between A.D. 166 and 210, in part to prove that Christians had a higher morality than pagans.

Possibly the earliest piece of extant Christian Latin literature. Written in the form of a dialogue between the pagan Caecilius Natalis and the Christian Octavius Januarius, a provincial lawyer, the friend and fellow-student of the author.
In condemning pagan practices, Chapter 30 deplores the fact that "There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit [murder] before they bring forth."

Our next author is Tertullian, a lawyer who became a Christian and a theological writer. He wrote a large number of books on Christianity, three of which mention abortion: Apologeticum (A.D. 197), An Exhortation to Chastity (around A.D. 204) and On the Soul (between A.D. 210 and 213).

The Apologeticum was an introduction to Christianity for inquirers who wished to learn about it. Chapter 9 acquaints readers with the Christian position on abortion:
...murder being once for all forbidden, we [Christians] may not destroy even the foetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.
On the Soul was the longest work related to abortion in the first three centuries of Christianity. According to Chapter 37, "The embryo therefore becomes a human being in the womb from the moment that its form is completed. The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion, inasmuch as there exists already the rudiment of a human being."

In An Exhortation to Chastity 12, Tertullian mentioned that there were many difficulties in raising children but he asked: "Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of drugs?" and answers his own question with "I think to us [Christians] it is no more lawful to hurt a child in the process of birth, than one already born." He recommended that life-long celibacy makes life freer because it relieves a Christian from the burdens of raising children; there is no alternative because, after a child is conceived, it is forbidden to kill it.

Refutation of All Heresies by Hippolytus 
In the early decades of the third century, Hippolytus was a bishop in central Italy. Later, his followers purported to elect him bishop of Rome in opposition to another candidate, thus becoming the first "antipope". For a few years Hippolytus and his rival operated competing church organizations. In his Refutation of All Heresies he made many accusations of lax morality against the opposing side in an attempt to maintain that it had departed from the standard of behavior commanded by the gospel.

Refutation of All Heresies; aka the Philosophumena. Formerly attributed to Origen, but now to Hippolytus
Among other practices, he charged that in the opposite camp, “…women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth.” (9.7)

Whatever the truth in these allegations against Hippolytus' opponents, this passage indicates common disapproval of abortion, sexual promiscuity and placing material considerations above the life of unborn children.

A generation after Tertullian, Cyprian, the bishop of his city, listed abortion among the sins of a Christian who was causing a deep rift in the universal Church (Letter 52.2). By including the reference, he indicated that it was impermissible among Christians.

The Apostolic Church Order or Ecclesiastical Canons of the Apostles 
[These] were composed around A.D. 300 as a short law-book for Christians, ostensibly by eleven apostles. Its wide popularity is evidenced by the fact that it was translated into several languages. Included in Chapter 6 is a prohibition that Christians shall not kill a child, at birth or afterward.

Divine Institutes by Lactantius
The Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in A.D. 314. This was the year Lactantius completed his decade of labor on the Divine Institutes. In it, he stated that when God forbids homicide, He prohibits not only illegal violence but even causing death in a manner allowed by secular laws. It is a very grave sin to kill newborns "for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death." It is a crime to "deprive souls as yet innocent and simple of the light" which God has given (6.2). Lactantius' Epitome 64 similarly states that exposing or killing an infant is included in the Lord's prohibition of murder.

After Christianity was legalized, congregations in various regions held conferences to regulate the affairs of the Church. One objective was to standardize the practices of excommunication and penances.

The Council of Elvira in Spain
About the time of Constantine's conversion, or perhaps a few years before, the Council of Elvira in Spain decreed that anyone who committed abortion was to be given the Eucharist only when in danger of death (Canon 63). This was the same penalty as for repeated adultery and child-molesting (Canons 47 and 71). The more lenient Council of Ancyra in Turkey (A.D. 314) enacted a ten-year suspension for women who caused abortion and for makers of drugs that induced miscarriage (Canon 21). The first ecumenical council, held at Nicaea in A.D. 325, did not itself condemn abortion but the third ecumenical council (Chalcedon, A.D. 451) adopted the decrees of Ancyra, including those against abortion. 

The Bible
The scriptures contain only one passage on abortion: Exodus 21.22-25. The only early Christian commentary on it was by a preacher and Bible scholar named Origen. He had succeeded Clement as president of the famous seminary at Alexandria and later established his own in Palestine. Around A.D. 240 he preached a series of sermons on Exodus, including Exodus 21. As was his custom, he did not comment on the obvious meaning of the passage but treated its contents as a series of symbols about higher spiritual truths and about other aspects of the Christian life (Homilies on Exodus 10.2).

In short, in the first three centuries after Jesus all Christian authors who mentioned abortion considered it a grave sin. Although Origen mentioned it without discussing its sinfulness, no Christian author in the three hundred years after Christ condoned it. This opposition was not merely local: Christian sources in Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Greece, Egypt, Turkey and Syria recognized abortion as forbidden by God and in the same category as any other murder. The condemnation was universal and unanimous.

About the author
David W. T. Brattston is a retired lawyer residing in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.  He holds degrees from three Canadian universities.  His mission is to make early Christian literature known and used by all Christians, especially as Christian moral teaching from before A.D. 250 relates to today.  In the last quarter-century, over three hundred of his articles on early and contemporary Christianity have been published by a wide variety of denominations in every major English-speaking country.

Copyright © 2001 David W. T. Brattston. All rights reserved. To reproduce in whole or in part, please contact David. W. T. Brattson at
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Thursday, June 30, 2016


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How do you get Christians to grow spiritually? It's a captivating question. But, more importantly is the concern: "How can you make them want to?"  It's a tough question, but this article contains a principle that should solve the situation

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(Or, the parable of the dumb donkey)

How to spiritually grow into a mature Christian is a fascinating subject, but also a puzzling one. For pastors, perhaps a better word is, frustration. 

"How can I get my congregation to read the Bible?"
"How can I motivate them to want to grow spiritually?"

Some say, “It’s simple. Just tell them to read the Bible so they can learn more about Jesus.” Well, if spiritual growth is as simple as telling them that, why don’t the many lethargic Christians who attend church every Sunday do it? Why are so many content to relax in their pews satisfied with their status quo, tell the pastor afterwards how good his sermon was, and for the rest of the week that’s the end of any spiritual endeavors? Why are they not taking steps on their own to progress spiritually?

There may be more than one reason; nevertheless, here’s what it boils down to. . . 
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink!

I continued to ponder the problem as I pulled a package of carrots from the fridge and plopped them on the counter next to my Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. Now, understand, I “hate” to juice because I have to take the machine apart afterwards and wash all the parts. Nevertheless, despite that I push ahead. Why? Because I have an incentive to do so ―the reward of the nutritional benefits, especially Vitamin A for my computer-weary eyes. The labor of washing up afterwards is worth it.

I grabbed up the first few carrots, dropped them into the chute, and listened as the machine whirled out all the pulp. The cup below filled with the orange elixir. Too bad spiritual maturity can’t be produced as easily, I thought.  Plop a Christian into the church chute like a carrot, and out comes a spiritually mature person. But getting the Christian to jump into the chute in the first place is the problem. I stared into space, thinking. Then . . .behold . . . I had a vision! Well, maybe not an honest-to-goodness vision. But for some crazy reason the following picture flashed across my mind:

Dumb donkey. I shook my head. He would never move forward or do anything if there were no carrot dangling in front of him. No reward, no incentive.

Hmmm. I wrinkled my brow and dropped more carrots in. Maybe I’m like that stupid donkey. I’d have no incentive to juice if I couldn’t visualize the benefits dangling in front of me on the end of the proverbial stick. Then, a question popped into my head―one I never thought of before.
Is all behavior―I mean all!― activated only when we can visualize a reward?

I fought against the idea, then suddenly stopped what I was doing. I raced to my computer and googled the question.

Sure enough. Psychologists confirmed it. All behavior―everything we do is motivated by an incentive toward a reward. So, I guess I had to admit I probably wouldn’t exercise if I weren’t assured of being rewarded with physical energy…lower blood pressure...and more mental alertness at the computer. Nor would I vacuum the dust in my house. Who knows how long I might not vacuum unless I visualized that donkey-stick dangling the reward of circumventing allergic sneezing. What a crazy world this would be if there were no incentives. Everyone would sit around unmotivated and do absolutely nothing.

Yep, I was now convinced. Humans, like that dumb donkey, will always need a carrot on the stick to motivate them to action. There must be an obvious reward to act as incentive.

I returned to the kitchen and finished juicing the rest of the carrots and guzzled down my luscious juice, picturing Vitamin A and antioxidants coursing through my blood stream. Then, with a sigh, I began taking the juicer apart. But, facing my chore, I felt elated. I had the answer to the dilemma of how to motivate spiritual growth.

How do carrots and donkeys apply to growing spiritually?
Plenty. If no one is going to do anything (physically, mentally, or spiritually), unless they have a reward dangling in front of them on that stick, they're not going to move. The solution to a pastor’s dilemma of how to motivate lethargic Christians is this: Use the donkey principal―provide an incentive. 
However . . . the incentive must be in the form of an immediate reward―not a pie-in-the-sky-after-life heavenly reward. That’s simply too far away to act as a motivator. It has to apply to the here and now, or else, like the donkey, the Christian simply won’t move forward. 

What are some specific incentives?
I compiled a list of 8 incentives one can dangle on a stick before a congregation that should motivate them to “want” to take steps toward spiritual growth. However, before I present them, I decided there was a necessary first step― something that should first be explained to members to open their eyes to the fact that there is actually more spiritual knowledge to be gained besides what they presently understand. A depth never dreamed possible. Some don't really realize this. When I discovered this back in Bible College, it shook me to the core. I became aware of it through a shocking confession of Paul’s.
Paul’s confession
In his writings, I discovered that approximately 27 years after his conversion, he made a shocking admission about his relationship with Christ. In the following, notice his use of the word “moreand the concept of moving forward, which I have capitalized:
 “I count everything as loss compared to the possession of growing progressively and more deeply & thoroughly acquainted with him―that I may know him even more (experientiallynot intellectually), and understand the remarkable wonders of his person more completely and of perceiving and recognizing and understanding him more fully and clearly. (Philippians 3:8-12)
Paul shockingly admits that after all those years of serving Christ and receiving revelation he has not spiritually plumbed the full depths of Christ yet. What? Yeah. He has come to realize he still needs to know and understand Christ betterwants to become more intimately acquainted with him…and acquire and gain a closer relationship and deeper knowledge of Him!

I gasped. You mean Paul hadn’t by that time? This is a man who saw the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road…was taught directly by him…preached a fervent gospel…and for Christ’s sake, suffered beatings, stonings, shipwreck, imprisonment and death. A man who probably received more inspiration than I would ever receive in my whole lifetime―and he was still seeking to know Christ more!

Now, up to that point at Bible College, the passion of my life and constant prayer was to know Christ and have an intimate relationship with him. I’d had wonderful experiences as result of prayer, so felt I already had a close relationship―actually thought it couldn’t get any better. But after reading Paul’s statement, I thought, Wow! With the passion Paul had and, after 27 years of already knowing Christ he still hadn’t attained all there was to know about Jesusnor did he feel he had the closest intimacy with him possible―the shocking realization for me was this. . .  “Well, if he hadn’t, neither had I!  

That was devastating; but it was also exciting because it opened up the possibility of a deeper spirituality, a depth in Christ I could progress further into.

Paul’s attempt to describe that depth
Paul remained convinced there was indeed more to ascertain and grow in―a depth he hadn’t fully plumbed yet. He called them "Christ's riches and treasures". But, how do you describe them when you haven’t fully experienced them yet? He did, with these 6 interesting adjectives:

Unsearchable     Incalculable

Boundless             Exhaustless
Endless                 Unfathomable (I'll focus on this one)

One might ask, “Why is he using such inexplicit words?” Perhaps we can discover why, by figuring out what unfathomable means? It is defined as “something deeper than what we think, and its great depth can never be comprehended.” I decided to focus on "unfathomable," and further discern what that word meant in his usage. I came up with some interpretive ideas.

"Blue Lake" (Wendover, Utah
Years ago I lived on the salt flats of Wendover, Utah. Out on the flats was a small lake we swam in. We assumed the part of the lake that was over our head might be about 10-15 feet deep. That is, until two men decided to take a boat out to the middle and measure its depth with a plumb line. They were shocked―their plumb line wasn’t long enough! They went out a second time with a longer line, and this time they measured 60 feet! No one, myself included, had any idea there was that kind of depth. There was more to our experience of the lake we were swimming in than we imagined. (Read this last sentence twice and see the Christian connection.)

Similarly, one can also picture the shock it must have been for sailors when the depth of the Mariana Trench was measured by oceanographers and discovered to be over 36,000 feet! Sailors up on the water’s surface never imagined that kind of depth was beneath them!

Mariana Trench
Similarly, Paul’s 6 descriptive words suggest there is more to our spiritual growth if we will lower our plumb line and dive into the unfathomable riches of Christ. He makes it plain that in spiritual growth we can discover more than we imagined!

Paul’s passion, for which he was willing to give his all, was to go spiritually deeper―deeper than my small Blue Lake’s 60 feet, or the Mariana Trench’s 33 thousand. We need to do the same―lower our spiritual plumb line into the “unfathomable” depths of Christ through a deeper study of the Word and consistent prayer. By so doing, one can move closer and closer to Christ and his “treasures.” Once a Christian understands there is a greater depth to be gained, they should be eager to dive in and discover everything they can.

But what, specifically, are those "treasures?" Well, they are “gifts” to us―but gifts that definitely invite further inquiry. 

Below is a list of 8 (although far more could be listed). By acknowledging these gifts, the believer can more easily move on to the later list that follows--the 8 rewards . . .the carrot(s) on the stick―the prize, as Paul said in Philip. 3:14: “I press toward the mark for the prize (or the carrot) of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Of course, he was looking forward to his heavenly reward―and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. The below list of Christ's "treasures" (although there are plenty more that could be listed) should definitely make one want to reach out and move forward to grab the prize. Certainly, every lethargic Christian should sit up and take notice.
Christ’s treasures
  1. Every one of you were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, and given salvation grace through Christ Jesus. You don’t have to earn salvation (although one shows their faith by their works. Eph. 2:8-9).
  2. You were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, and given an additional “grace” through Christ Jesusunconditional love and acceptance. (Eph 1-2; 2 Tim. 1:9) Think how we respond to and love our pets because they give us unconditional love. Now we have God giving us far more of the same and we should love him as much as our pets, if not more.
  3. You are loved by God with an inseparable love, to the point that Rom. 8:38-39 says:
    "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
  4. In accepting Christ, you now have “Christ’s Holy Spirit in you―actually, inside you!
  5. You are guaranteed resurrection as a “free gift,” and will be “transformed” with new bodies. (Phil 3:21)
  6. You are redeemed and forgiven for all your sins. (Eph 1:7; Rom. 6:23) Do you really comprehend that? Or, do you still stress over past mistakes? Lower your plumb line into that!
  7. All the promises of God are “yes” for you. (2 Cor. 1:20) Do you actually know what those promises are that you can rely on? have you gone through the Bible and made a list of them? Or, do you still think you are unworthy of claiming them? Lower your plumb line deeper.!
  8. In Christ Jesus all your needs will be supplied! (Phil 4:19). Do you really have faith in that? If not – dive in deeper.

The above should make Christians aware there’s more than what they have previously grasped, and be spurred on to explore more of the unfathomable depths of Christ and take the steps to grow spiritually. 

However, there may be some who take these gifts for granted, or who may still think that just knowing about the treasures is enough. But Paul tells us that we are to all come into theknowledge of the son of God…and the stature of the fullness of Christ”(Eph. 4:13). The word “knowledge means – to have full discernmenta knowledge which perfectly unites the subject with the object. 

Ask yourself: Has the knowledge and discernment of Christ you presently haveperfectly united you with him?

There still needs to be a carrot on the end of the stick―an incentive, a reward―something a Christian will benefit from in the here and now. Therefore . . . we mustn't forget the donkey principle

Below are the 8 benefits Christians will receive from plumbing the depths of Christ and moving forward to grow spiritually. They are the carrots on the end of the stick:
  1. A closer relationship and bonding with Christ. Remember those iron-on patches? When there was a tear in our sheets we bonded the patch onto the sheet with a hot iron. It was bonded SO tightly to the sheet, there was no way to pull it apart. Well, you can have that same kind of bonding and closeness with Christ.
    Through a closer relationship, you will experience more of the unfathomable riches and depths of Christ, and acquire more understanding of what it actually means to have Christ in you. It means, as you “worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness” (Ps. 96: 9-11), your relationship with Christ will be enhanced and enriched with a more immediate “connectedness with him.
  2. You will receive profound insights and deeper thinking as you study and reflect on biblical passages. You’ll find yourself with a deep thought, saying, “Wow” I never could have thought of that on my own―that had to be the Holy Spirit!”
  3. On occasion, you’ll receive special confirmations of Jesus’ love that will literally flood through your spirit. Often, you can feel it physically.
  4. As you lengthen your plumb line into the depths of Christ and grow spiritually, it also means he can communicate with you and use you more effectively in the work of the church and in blessing others.
  5. In your new-found relationship, you may or may not receive special visions, and you may or may not receive the ministration of angels. But in that respect, it’s important to remember that one should not seek Christ with the aim of receiving visions or angels. If you should receive them, they are just by-products of the relationship, and given according to God’s good pleasure.
  6. You will start hearing the still small voice of the Holy Spirit more noticeably.
  7. You'll find yourself guided by promptings of the Holy Spirit in your daily activities. Sometimes it may save your life . . .literally.
  8. You will become more like Christ in your thoughts, your Christian walk, your behavior, your attitudes, and you will respond more quickly to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
With the above rewards accruing in spiritual growth (and I could have listed more), all in all you will progressively experience the deep and unfathomable relationship with Christ that Paul so passionately sought, yet realized he still had a long way to go.

One pastor said:
“When I come to a subject as vast as the unfathomable riches of Christ, I am almost paralyzedIt makes me realize how little of these immeasurable riches of Christ that I experience personally, and it overwhelms me.”

  • Many pastors are at a loss how to motivate their congregation to grow spiritually.
  • All behavior can only be motivated by providing an incentive toward a reward
  • Like the donkey that won’t move unless he sees a carrot in front of him, lethargic Christians also need an incentive―a reward for doing so; but the reward(s) must be realized in the here and now, not when they get to heaven.
  • There is more spiritual knowledge to be gained besides what one presently knows.
  • Paul admitted this and confessed he had not yet plumbed the full depths of Christ’s treasures, and described the latter as unsearchable, boundless, endless, incalculable, exhaustless and unfathomable.
  • 8 treasure, or gifts, of Christ were listed
  • rewards were presented that should act as an incentive toward spiritual growth.
Do we consider everything as loss, as Paul said in Philippians 3:8-12, to experience the unfathomable depth of Christ and his treasures? Or is our plumb line too short because we don’t think there’s more depth to Christ than what we presently understand? When I was swimming around in that lake I had no idea there was that much depth to it. Same, for Christ’s gospel.

Whats an additional secret to spiritual growth

You must want it above all else!  

Since you now know about Christ's riches and treasures and the rewards dangling at the end of the stick, they should provide enough incentive to promote action toward the goal of spiritual growth. The blessings will be immeasurable!

Until next time,


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Friday, May 27, 2016


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Have you seen one? Seventy-seven percent of American adults believe in angels, and countless have either seen an angel or felt their presence—but what do you really know about them?

Whether you have seen an angel or not, this article will reveal more than you ever knew about them and engender a deeper appreciation for God in realizing how he has set up an entire program in heaven to take care of you. 

Note what Billy Graham has to say:

"I have never heard anyone preach a sermon on angels. As I have recently tried to correct this in my own ministry, I've asked myself, why this oversight? Why have we ignored the great biblical teachings about angels?"(1)

Now, to the article . . .


In this article you’ll learn about:

NOTE: There will be a “FREE OFFER” at the end of this article. Don't miss it!

Individuals’ fascination with angels
Individuals in their desperate search for spiritual meaning are hungry to know more about heaven. This is evidenced by the popular Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Clarence his guardian angel who hasn’t earned his wings yet, and the “Touched by an Angel” and “Highway to Heaven” series, plus numerous articles in TV documentaries, Newsweek and other magazines.(2)

First, let’s define what an angel is:

Angels are found in at least 34 books from Genesis to Revelation, including their appearance to individuals. They are spiritual beings created to serve God, the church, and believers. Angelic beings are described in the Book of Hebrews as, “ministering spirits,” sent out to render service toward those who will inherit salvation. (Ps 91:11 and Matt 4:11.). Using angels is God’s established method of communication and caring for his creation, and they are in close touch with us. Many people today have encountered them, including yours truly.(3)

The reality of angels
Angels were so real in the Old Testament period that people began worshipping them (2 Kings 23:5), and the appearance of these Godly messengers continued into the New Testament period. They are still ministering today, and it makes sense. Heb. 13:8 says, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” which is another way of saying, “God doesn’t change horses in the middle of the stream.”

A caution about angels

Billy Graham said:

 “The problem for people today is not simply believing angels exist, but in their ability to distinguish between angels and demons.(4)

When dealing with the supernatural, especially angels, one has to be cautious. Why? Because “Satan himself can transform himself into an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Matt 25:41; Eph. 6:12.)

You mean, there are bad angels?
Yes. They are fallen angels headed by Satan who fell from their holy position and now stand in active opposition to the work and plan of God. (2 Cor. 4:4) Their major purpose is to thwart God’s work by deceiving mankind, and will use every avenue at their disposal. Satan is God of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and he counterfeits God’s heavenly kingdom, including appearing as an angel. They are especially intent on deceiving Christians. Billy Graham said, “As soon as you know Christ you’ll know the reality of demons.(5) (Demonic angels often materialize to cult leaders.)

The apostles, aware of this, knew the demonic angels could pass off false doctrine. This is why Paul warned:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)

Demonic angels can appear in many forms: 
  • as an angel of light
  • as a recently deceased loved one
  • can also give prophetic dreams (often predicting your own death)
  • can attack you during the night and try to take over your body. (Those who describe this say it feels like they are going to be killed)
  • as temptation, by enticing one to do things contrary to God’s teachings.
 They are the forces that fight against us. They prowl “around like a roaring lion seeking whom they may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).  Paul confirms this:

The only way to avoid being deceived is to know God’s truth. Study of the Bible enables one to recognize false doctrine any angel may pass off.

When were angels created?
First, angels are not “eternal.” They were “created” as immaterial spirits (Heb. 1:14) If they had always eternally existed, that would make them coequal with God and they would not be required to bow down to Him. But they do. (Neh. 9:6; Ps. 148:2,5; Col. 1:16-17). No time period is given for their creation, but it was some time before the creation of the earth. 

God said, in speaking to Job:
Where were you when I created the earth?Tell me, since you know so much!Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?How was its foundation poured,and who set the cornerstone,While the morning stars sang in chorusand all the angels (KJV=sons of God) shouted praise? (Job 38:2-11 Msg Bible)

How many angels are there?
Thousands! The books of Daniel and Revelation say, "thousand thousands ministered unto Him and the thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" (Dan 7:10 and Rev. 5:11). Ten thousand were present on Mt. Sinai when God gave the Law to Moses (Deut. 33:2). Luke records "a multitude of the heavenly host" praised our Lord (Luke 2:13).  Jesus also said: “Do you think I cannot ask My Father, and He will send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (about 80,000) (Matt. 26:53) When Jesus comes in his glory, the scriptures tell us he will bring “all the holy angels with Him.” (Matt 25:31). What a sight that will be!

Are angels humans minus a physical body?
No. Angels are entirely unrelated to man. They are non-human spiritual entities. Nor are they the spirits of deceased men, as Joseph Smith falsely taught. He declared all angels were humans at one time.

Joseph Smith’s false teaching:
  • There are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. 
  • Adam…is Michael the Archangel.
  • Noah…is Gabriel.”(6)
Biblical truths
  • Angels are unique spirit beings (Heb. 1:14)
  • Although not human, they may appear to individuals as such (Gen. 18:2; 19:1)
  • They do not descend from a common ancestor, do not marry, and do not procreate (Matt. 22:30).
  • Are not subject to death
  • They possess:
  • Intelligence (Matt 8:29; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Pet. 1:12
  • Emotion (Luke 2:14; James 2:19, Rev. 12:17
  • Exercise will (Luke 8:28-31; 2 Tim. 2:26; Jude 6)
  • Have personality
  • Can appear visibly or remain invisible (2 Kings 6:17)
Do humans become angels after they die?
No. Men and women who die never become angels in heaven. We are told in Heb. 12:22-23 that when we get to haven we will be met by two groups: "myriads of angelsAND "the spirits of righteous men made perfect." (deceased humans) Angels and human spirits are two separate and distinct species. Humans can't change from one to the other.

Are angels male or female?
Despite centuries of art work that depict angels as beautiful females, there are no female angels mentioned in the Bible, with the exception of two in Zechariah 5:9-11 (although it is debatable whether these are good or bad angels). 

The Bible, in general, always refers to angels as “males,” and the word “angel” in Hebrew (Old Testament) and the Greek (New Testament) is always rendered in the masculine form. This is because whenever they chose to take on human form to Old Testament men called to be prophets and leaders, they appeared as men. (See Gen. 18:2; 19:1; Joshua 5; Rev. 12). The male perception of angels was also based on the only two (good) angels named in the Bible, Gabriel and Michael. God also used male terms in the below passage when he spoke to Job:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons (angels) of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4,7)

However, God was simply calling his angels “sons of God” to distinguish them from being “sons of men.” Angels were created genderless. They weren’t “born.” Further, “sons” does not suggest God and a wife (as Mormons believe) procreated and gave birth to angels who are awaiting their chance to be born on earth.

Why did angels always decide to appear as men when they took on human form? Since men dominated as leaders in Old Testament society and religion, whatever human form angels took on (referred to as “angels in disguise” or “angels unaware”) was designed to accommodate the needed relationship with the person they were appearing to. If an angel had appeared as a female to men in Old Testament times, it would have flown in their faces because of the status of women at that time. Women were considered “property and had no status (with the exception of Debra and Huldah). As women became to be acknowledged as equals through Jesus’ gospel and Paul’s teachings, there was gradual acceptance of females as prophetesses, such as Anna and the daughters of Phillip.

All in all, angels, when they appear as human, simply chose a gender that will be most effective for the person they communicate with. I know of examples today where an angel in disguise appeared as a female and provided crucial information to the individuals. However, while there are no angels in their “true, immaterial state” who are female (they’re genderless), when an angel takes on a human form, he/it can either appear as male or female.

Are angels male and female in their true state? 
Angels, in their true state as they exist in heaven (when they are not taking on a human form), are neither male nor female. God did not design them with gender because gender is a biological function and angels are not biological, needing to marry or reproduce. Jesus confirmed this in (Matt. 22:30) when he said, that in the hereafter we will be like the angels who do not marry.

The essence of angels is pure, spiritual intellect. They do not have physical forms because they are immaterial. They belong to an entirely different order of beings from humans. However, should God intend a human recipient to see an angel in its true ethereal state, such as in a vision or dream, they will be perceived according to how God wants them to see them based on the message He wants to relay. Since God and his angels’ reality cannot be fully comprehended by humans, He often has them appear as images that will relay symbolic messages in an attempt to help the perceiver grasp a view of that reality, albeit limited. Billy Graham said, "The cherubim in the Bible were often symbolic of heavenly things." (29) An example is Ezekiel’s vision of the cherubim (discussed later).

If angels “appear unawares” (Heb 13:2) when appearing in disguise as humans, they do so as not to cause alarm. This means they usually assume the same ethnic features as the person they plan to encounter. Proof of this is recipients are never disturbed by their looks. As one author put it:

then angels are appearing as Chinese to Chinese and Africans to Africans, as well as Americans to Americans [and] that would mean there are angels appearing as blacks as well as whites—probably as every nationality of the world.(13) 

Another author said:

A missionary to the Andes saw an angel that looked like a national from Ecuador; a Mexican family saw two angels who looked like Mexicans; in Haiti the angels were very black; white Americans saw angels who resembled their neighbors; black persons saw black angels. This is to be expected. Being inconspicuous is often a part of the angel's ministry.”(14)

Another example is when an angel appeared as a man to Samson’s mother (Judges 13:6). If he had not looked like an Israelite, she wouldn’t have, so calmly, called him “a man of God.”

If angels are not male or female, what else are they “not?
  • They are not kings, saviors, or priests
  • all-knowing
  • forgivers of sins
  • living in us
  • Christ substitutes
  • to be worshiped
  • members of the Godhead
  • servants for us to order around
  • or give day-to-day guidance and scriptural insight to Christians. (This is the role of the Holy Spirit.)
Do angels have personal names?
The only two Godly angels named in the Bible are Michael the Archangel and Gabriel (Luke 1:26, Joshua 5 and Rev. 12). All other angels have remained nameless. Therefore, generally speaking, Godly angels who appear to humans (whether in a vision or in person) never introduce themselves with a name. Their names are “secret” (KJV), or, as other versions say in Judges 13:17-18, “too wonderful to understand.”

And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?
 Another reason for this is the of angels, who are Christ-centered, is to always glorify God—not to lift themselves up by identifying themselves.

Angels with names definitely occur in cults; therefore, be cautious. When visitations are claimed by cult leaders, the angel always has a name. Joseph Smith’s angel introduced himself as Moroni; other cults claim personal spirit guides with names. Demonic angels can also appear in visions and dreams. Female angels were typical during the New Age and occult movements. One in the 1980s, was called “Emma.”(6) (See  endnote No. 6.  Also, one test is whatever they may say can always be verified in the Bible. They are not going to contradict it.

What is the purpose of angels?
They are God’s ministering spirits sent to serve the Lord’s purposes, the Christian church and its believers; also, the lost, whom God knows will eventually become heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). They are also our protectors. They are commanded to “encamp all around us” and keep us from harm. They strengthen and minister to us (Luke 22:43, Psalm 34:7, 91:10-13, 103:21), and one helped strengthen Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). Their purpose is to also: 
  • Praise God (Ps. 148:1-2; Isa. 6:1-3; Rev 4-5)
  • Worship God (Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:8-13)
  • Serve God (Ps. 103:20; Rev. 22:9)
  • Rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7)
  • Communicate God’s will to men.
  • Minister to humankind in times of need (Heb. 1:14; Gen 21:17-20; 1 Kings 19:5-7; Matt 4:11)
  • Bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10)
  • Give direction (Matt. 1:20-21; Acts 8:26)
  • Appear in dreams or open visions and give messages
  • Deliver us from danger (Acts 5 and 12)
  • Protect us (Daniel 6:20-23; 2 Kings 6:13-17)
  • Reveal information about the divine world (Acts 7:52-53; Luke 1:11-20)
  • Aid in conversion by performing acts in behalf of unbelievers whom God knows will eventually become heirs of salvation. (Heb. 1:14; Acts 8:26; 10:3)
  • Are instruments of God’s judgments (Rev 7:1; 8:2)
  • Care for the righteous at the time of death and carry their spirit to heaven. (Luke 16:22)(8)
What do angels look like in their true state?
What angels look like depends upon what “kind” they are—cherubim, seraphim, archangel, or angel. 

Many theologians suggest there is an “angelic order” with each having specific roles, and also appear differently because scripture suggests there is a hierarchal ranking of angels:

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels (Col. 1:16 Msg)

Billy Graham also said:

"We cannot study the subject of angels in the Bible without becoming aware of ranks among angelic beings. The evidence shows that they are organized in terms of authority and glory."
(Billy Graham)(27)

Let’s take these ranks in order based on how the Bible presents and describes them:

THE CHERUBIM (plural for Cherub)

The cherubim are mentioned numerous times in the Old and New Testament and are never called angels (Angels are indicated in a lower rank.) Cherubim are living creatures who are involved in defending God’s holiness from any defilement of sin (Gen 3:24; Ex. 25:18,20; Ezek. 1:1-18)—which is the reason they were the ones to guard the Tree of Life at the entrance to Eden so Adam and Eve could not reenter in their sinful and fallen state.

Prepare yourself—here is their biblical description. They are not the darling, winged cherub babies depicted in paintings and on greeting cards. The following description is based on what Ezekiel saw in a vision (Ezek 1):

Cherubim with four faces(21)

Ezek 1:1-20
“…the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.  Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance;
They had the likeness of a man.  And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.  And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. 
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings (rims), they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings (rims) were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
(For the sake of space, I omitted some passages, but the content is included in the below summary)

Here is a summary:
  • The glory of the Lord hovered above the cherubim. (Ezek 1:25-28)
There was a crystal platform above them that held a throne from which the voice of God spoke. (Ezek 1:22-27)
Note: Cherubim are sometimes referred to as “throne angels;” also “carriers” “thrones” and “chariots” for God’s throne. In religious iconography (pagan included), they are always depicted as supporting the throne of the deity or a king. An example is in Ps 18, where David describes the sudden descent of Jehovah to rescue him: "He bowed the heavens and came down, and darkness was under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew upon the wings of the wind." The same idea of cherubim as the chariot of God is indicated in Ezekiel 1:26, saying the “glory of the Lord rode above the cherubim. Here is an artist’s rendition:

Cherubim and wheels as transporters of the throne of God

  • They were in the likeness of a man and had hands. (Ezek 10:8)
  • They had four faces each portrayed as a human, ox, lion, and eagle. The four faces on the four side of their heads were arranged in a square so it could travel in any direction without having to turn. 
    Note: In Moses’ Tabernacle and the Temple, the man-made figures of the gold cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, and also on the embroidered veils, have only one face. But this is understandable, since it would be difficult to hand-carve a four-faced image, let alone embroider this on veils. Further, in Ezekiel’s vision of the latter-day Jewish temple (not yet built), he saw the walls covered with images of cherubim with only two faces (human and lion) instead of four. (Ezek 41:18-19) Again, understandable.
  • They had four wings (Ezek 1:11,23)
  • They had straight legs like calve legs, and their feet were like burnished calf hooves. (Ezek: 1:7)
  • They were covered with eyes all over their bodies.
Next to their bodies was a large sparkling “wheel within a wheel” turning crosswise to each other and also covered with eyes. The spirit of the living being was in the wheels and provided the direction the wheels should go. Some have interpreted the “wheels” to be a group of celestial angels called “Ophanim,” which means wheels.(9) (See endnote) 
Wheels within wheels, with eyes
THE SERAPHIM (plural for Seraph)

Isaiah, Chapter 6, is the only place in the Bible that specifically mentions the seraphim.
Seraphim (22)
(Isa. 6:1-3)
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.  Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.  And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Here is a summary:
  • Their face. The number of faces is not mentioned, probably because the seraphim covered their face with two of their wings so Isaiah couldn’t see it. Other Bible versions say “faces,” taking the liberty of assuming that if the Cherubim had more than one face, surely the seraphim did, too.
  • They have six wings. Two cover their face(s), two cover their feet, and the other two are used for flying. They are “covered with eyes all around, even under the wings” (Rev. 4:8).
  • Their typical verbal expressions are Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” This suggests their purpose for existing is to declare praise to God.
  • They are awesome creatures of “fire.” “Seraphim” in Hebrew means “the one that burns.” Their ministry is to praise the name and character of God. 
  • The similarities to the cherubim: Both are focused on worshiping God and to guard His Holy domain and presence from any sin and corruption, which is perhaps why one flew to Isaiah, put a burning coal on his mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isa 6:7)

 For an explanation of why the cherubim and seraphim are so strange looking, and also “why” God chose to portray their images as such, see my “FREE OFFER” at the end of article.

Aside from the cherubim, what do other angels look like in their true form?
  • Those who have been seen today, report as follows:
  • Can appear as bright as fire (Heb. 1:7, Ps 104:4), or they can subdue their glory
  • Can appear in dreams to bring messages (e.g., Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream about Herod’s plan to kill Jesus)
  • May reveal something about the divine world and some facts about you.
  • They can appear to humans either as themselves, or disguised a human.
  • If seen in a vision, they do not have wings.**
    **Angels, sometimes seen in church worship services, are described as very tall with wings. They do not deliver messages, but appear to be focusing their attention on the worship and music. They are more in line with angels involved in the worship of God. What they are “called” is unknown.
 Michael the Archangel

The Hebrew word Archangel means “chief angel,” which suggests he is head over all other angels. In the Bible, Michael is the patron angel and defender of Israel who fights against the angels of other nations. He is called the “Prince of angels;” also “The Prince of the army of Yahweh” (Joshua 5:13-15; cf Exod 23:23). He is mentioned by name in Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Jer. 30:5; also in Rev. 12:7 where he wars with the dragon during the Great Tribulation. In 2 Thess 4:16 he is mentioned heralding the coming of Christ.

Apocryphal literature and Christian tradition suggest there are actually seven archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael(10) The Orthodox Church accepts tradition and apocryphal literature. Below is their icon of the Seven Archangels:

The Eastern Orthodox Church’s icon of the "Seven Archangels.”
Left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Below the circled image of Christ are representations of the Cheubim (in blue) and seraphim (in red).


Gabriel is a special messenger angel who identified himself by saying: “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God.” (Luke 1:17-26) He appeared to Daniel (8:15,16; 9:21); to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17-20); and to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26). In Hebrew, his name means God is great; the messenger of Jehovah or The Lord's messenger. The scriptures never call him an archangel.
Guardian angels
Guardian Angel (25)
Seventy-eight percent of Americans believe in guardian angels. The belief in a guardian angel was originally carried forward by the Jews based on two passages from the Old Testament in the Psalms:

For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. (34:7).
He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways" (91:11)

In the New Testament, however, there is only one scripture suggesting this. Jesus said, speaking of children:

Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. (Matt 18:10)

The inference is: Since God is omniscient (knows everything), He is aware when one of his children needs help. Their guardian angels, which are continually in God’s presence, can then immediately be sent. The passage, however, has caused debate whether “little ones” only refer to small children because there is no other New Testament scripture indicating angels are also assigned to adults; only in the Old Testament.

Did my Guardian Angel help me? If you were miraculously saved from an accident—maybe even saw someone who disappears afterwards—you may have interpreted that angel to be your guardian angel. Yet, it may be any angel since that is part of all angels’ job description.

The perplexing problem raised about having personal guardian angels is why one person is killed in an accident, but another is not; or why one dies from cancer and another one doesn’t. Many ask, “Where were their angels?” The only answer available is, God is sovereign and all-knowing, so He knows about it. We simply don’t have all the answers on this one. (However, in my forthcoming book, The Joshua List, I offer an experience I had with my now deceased husband that sheds some comforting light on this.)

Is there a hierarchy that ranks angels with specific roles?

The Bible lists ten ranks of angels:
  • Seraphim (Isa. 6)
  • Cherubim Ezek. 1:1-20
  • Thrones (Col. 1:16)
  • Dominions (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16)
  • Principalities (Eph. 1:21; 6:12; Rom. 8:38; Col. 1:16)
  • Authorities (1 Pet. 3:22)
  • Powers (Eph. 1:21; Rom. 8:38; Col. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:22)
  • Archangels  (I Thess. 4:16; Jude 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
  • Angels (Rom. 8:38; 1 Pet. 3:22)
  • (also, wicked spirits: angels who rebelled)
 The concept of a hierarchy has come down through three sources: Christian tradition, early church fathers, and apocryphal literature.

The Bible gives no details but certainly alludes to it in the passages listed above, a couple which are spelled out below:

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” (Eph 1:21)
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. (Col. 1:16 KJV)

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels.” (Col 1:16 Message Bible)

The Bible stories also suggest different roles. For example, cherubim and seraphim, who are the closest to the throne of God, have different roles from Michael, who has a fighting-protection role as “Prince of the army of Yahweh.” Whether one angel in the vast hierarchy is considered “higher” than the other in the heavenly chain of command is biblically unknown, but apocryphal literature and early Christian traditions do suggest it.

The cherubim and seraphim’s roles mostly just appear without saying much except to praise God while someone else delivers the message, and they usually appear more specifically to God’s chosen prophets. Nevertheless, interestingly, St. Francis of Assisi in 1224, after praying and fasting for a month to understand more about the depth of God’s love for humanity, said he saw a Seraph. He said, “I saw a seraph with six fiery and shining wings descend from the height of heaven…Two of the wings were lifted above his head, two were extended for flight and two covered his whole body.”(11) 

Since there are cherubim, seraphim, archangels and other angelic beings with different roles, it is interesting to take a look to see what “tradition” (outside of the Protestant Bible), has to say about an angelic hierarchy. The most popular is Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. 

Pseudo in this context means another Christian wrote it under the name of the “real” Dionysius who lived in the first century AD and was a convert of Paul’s. (Doing this was a common and acceptable practice at the time.) Below is the artist’s conception of Pseudo-Dionysius that appears on the cover of his book:

Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite
(485-528 AD)

But first, who was the “real” Dionysius the Areopagite?
The real one was a convert of Paul’s, converted during Paul’s speech at Mars Hill. (Acts 17:34) Tradition says Dionysius received information on the hierarchy from the apostle Paul after he (Paul) was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2); however, there is no biblical scripture that states this. According to tradition, he traveled with Paul three years preaching the gospel, and later was chosen as the first Bishop of Athens. After Paul’s death, Dionysius traveled and preached in Rome, Germany, Spain, and was later beheaded in 96 AD at Athens, although some sources say in Lutetia (old name for Paris, France).

Who was P-Dionysius? (hereinafter P-Dionysius) Living centuries after the real Dionysius, he claimed he was a “communicator of tradition.” Because of his claim, his angelic hierarchy is accepted in the Orthodox Church, although not in Protestant churches. His hierarchy portrays how God manifests His will to the higher order first, who in turn gives it to the lower orders of angels via a chain of command. (This idea of a heavenly hierarchy is not unique to Christianity. Called the Great Chain of Being, it can be seen in other world religions.)(12) (See endnote.) 

Although the Bible is relatively silent on the subject, the idea of an angelic hierarchy seems plausible, for in Zech 2:3, Dan 8:15-17 and Ezek 10:1-5, we find one angel telling another angel what to do. In Daniel, one angel attempted to answer Daniel's prayer but was waylaid by a demon spirit who delayed him. At that point, Michael came to help the subordinate angel, freeing him to fulfill his mission to Daniel.

Now to P-Dionysius’ hierarchy. . . but first this is what Billy Graham has to say:

"Medieval theologians divided angelic beings into nine grades. ...Perhaps any list that ranks angelic beings will err, but we can be sure they differ in power, some having authority others do not possess. While I do not wish to be dogmatic, I think there are different ranks of them and that the list given in Colossians does refer to these celestial personalities."(28)

Psuedo-Dionysius, the Areopagite’s Nine-Rank Hierarchy of Angels
(See endnote No. 16 for the source of this material.)

Any quote marks in the description below are St. Demetrius of Rostov’s who compiled P-Dionysius’ writings. The rest are my paraphrases. Also, since the Bible gives no elaborate detail such as P-Dionysius presents, I only post his hierarchy for the sake of interesting information.

The nine ranks above are grouped in three hierarchies consisting of: the highest, the middle, and the lowest. Although each angelic level has different names assigned to them, e.g., cherubim, seraphim, thrones, principalities, etc., and one is specifically called “angels” in the lowest rung, collectively they are all called  “angels.” Each level of angelic beings has its own roles. They differ in roles because, as P-Dionysius explained, the wise Creator does not reveal the mysteries of His divine will to each rank equally.

The Highest Hierarchy

They are closest to the throne. Isaiah said, “Seraphs stood round about God” (Isa 6:2). Since the seraphim stand before such fiery glory, the seraphim are themselves fiery (“seraphim” means, burning or fiery). Heb. 1:7,14 and Ps 104:4 say: “He maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.” Heb. 12:29 also says:  “Our God is a consuming fire.” His throne is like a fiery flame; and on Mt. Sinai, “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire” (Ex. 24:17).

They are slightly below the throne. They stand in God’s transcendent light, before the One who is all-knowing, wise, knowledgeable and righteous. Because they dwell in God’s transcendent light, they are also radiant. According to P-Dionysius, their role is to illumine humans through the “highest faculty of the person’s heart--that part of one’s being which perceives God and His presence through His grace.”

These are angelic beings who stand before God’s throne just below the cherubim. They represent judgment and are called “God-bearing” by St. Maximus the Confessor. St. Basil explains they are called God-bearing, not according to their essence (for example, Jesus was God-bearing because of his undivided union and essence with God) but because of the “kind” of service entrusted to the thrones, which is ministering judgment.

Seated upon these thrones “in a way that cannot be described, God ordains His judgments, as David said (Ps. 9:4): ‘Thou hast sat upon a throne, O Thou that judgest righteousness.’ Therefore, it is through the thrones that God brings to pass His righteous judgments, for they are the ministers of His justice.” The thrones also impart  “to the tribunals of magistrates below, and to kings and lords [on earth], the ability to pass righteous judgment.”

The Middle Hierarchy

Dominions and authorities     
Angels called “Dominions” act like heavenly governors and preside over nations. They rule over and regulate the duties of the lower angels subject to them. They also pour down upon earthly authorities ordained by God, to rule wisely and to exercise dominion judiciously. They also teach mankind to rule over their senses, lusts and passions.

Powers and authorities
“The powers and authorities serve the mighty and powerful will of the all-powerful and omnipotent Lord without hesitation.” They work the marvels, and the grace to impart them, to God’s elect “who have been deemed worthy to work wonders, to heal every illness, and to foretell the future.” They also “strengthen men in their labor, bearing the yoke, strengthening them to fulfill the obligations of their station in life and helping the feeble in their weakness. They assist men to be patient and not to weaken in trials, but to endure everything that comes to pass with nobility of soul and resolute courage, humbly giving thanks to God who orders all things for our benefit.”

They have authority over the devil, subduing their power, warding off temptations, and protecting those who struggle for virtue’s sake to see they are not deprived of the spiritual kingdom. They also forbid the demons to harm men as they desire.

“They rule over the angels below them and direct them to fulfill God’s commands. They watch over the world, protecting and guarding every kingdom and principality, every province and people, tribe and nation, for each of these has its own angel of this rank as guardian and governor. It is the duty of this order to teach men to render to all in authority the honor due their station…usher worthy men into such positions as they merit and instruct them not to use their offices for their own gain or profit.” They carry out the orders of the Dominions and serve as guardian angels for large groups such as nations and leaders of the world.

God appointed Michael as commander of the entire nine angelic orders. Archangels are the messengers of good tidings. They learn what God’s will is from the higher ranks and pass it on down to angels below them who, in turn, declare them to men. They are the ones who deliver special announcements and prophecies to men, and enlighten them to understand the will of God. They are: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael. (My comment: This is probably why Gabriel is always shown blowing a trumpet/horn).

This is the lowest position in the hierarchy of heaven, and closest in rank to men. “They reveal the lesser mysteries of God and His intentions to men whom they guide to live virtuously and righteously. Each of the faithful is entrusted to one of them.” (suggests a Guardian angel)  “They support those of us who stand firm, and they raise up the fallen. Even if we sin, they do not forsake us but are always ready to help us, if only we desire it.”

(End of P-Dionysius' Hierarchy)

* * *
Do angels appear today?
Angels can appear in an everyday human form to individuals, and have the ability to withhold the brilliance of their glory (as in the case of Abraham and Lot). Billy Graham said that in order to fulfill their function of bringing messages: 

"...angels have not infrequently assumed visible, human form. ...Intrinsically, they [the angels] do not possess physical bodies, although they may take on physical bodies when God appoints them to special tasks.”(15) 

Their disguise as humans is so complete that Hebrews 13:2 cautions us to be hospitable because we may entertain angels unaware.

On the other hand, an angel can decide to appear as a glorious man, as in Daniel 10:5-6. The brilliance was so shocking and his voice so powerful that Daniel said his strength left and he fainted.

I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.

Often, to avoid startling the recipient, they preface what they have to say with, “Do not be afraid,” or “Fear not.” This occurred in Luke 1:11-13, when an angel appeared to Mary, and in Luke 2, when the shepherds saw a host of them. Also, the Roman soldiers who guarded Jesus’ tomb became “like dead men” at the lightning-like appearance of the angel who rolled the stone away. (Mt 28:4)

There are a variety of accounts seeing angels—stories of a stranger preventing injury or death then mysteriously disappearing … a glimpse of a white-clothed being … a feeling as though arms or wings were wrapped around one… an angel coming to them in a dream or open vision, or being caught up to heaven and having an angel show them facets of the divine world or their mission in life—too many testimonies to dismiss. These messengers (which is what “angel” means) are probably those angels on the lowest rung who are closest in rank to men. Perhaps that is why they usually appear as a man. Their unseen presence can sometimes be detected by their fragrance, a very, very delicate smell similar to a mix of roses and carnations—an event experienced by many, and one of which I have had more than once.

The angels are not to be worshipped. One angel corrected John in the Book of Revelation:

And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. 19:10 ASV)

Can we pray and ask for an angel to appear to us?
No one in the Old or New Testament who received an appearance ever prayed for one. They happened when least expected. Recipients of angelic appearances today say the same thing. “They just happen with no beforehand warning.”

One reason we should not insist that God send us an angel is because God is not subject to our demands. Neither are the angels, for they are also subject to God. Therefore, any appearance is by God’s will and according to His timing. However, a most passionate prayer for help that does not necessarily include asking for an angel, may result in an angel coming.

What are we to conclude from all this?
The Bible indicates that angels are awesome, glorious, and beautiful beyond description.
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Cor. 2:9).

And there are too many testimonies about their reality to dismiss; second, the study of them is important. Recognizing their reality gives us a strong awareness of God’s love for us in seeing how he has established an organized system of all kinds of angels to handle every situation in our lives. He is mindful of us, blesses, protects, guides, and guards us, and sees that we are brought to salvation through Christ. 

Lastly, no matter what problems we face in life, even the unexpected tragedies, we can know from the scriptures that God and his angels are aware. 
Billy Graham said:

“Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think…God has given ‘his angels charge of you, to guard you in your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”(17)

Now, to the free offer . . .

 Why is it that Ezekiel’s description of the biblical cherubim and their symbolic features strangely resemble ancient statues of angel-sphinxes?

Assyrian/Mesopotamian winged sphinx with wheels
8th-9th century BC(26)


(copy & paste if link fails)

Until next time, Janis

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1.  Billy Graham, Angels: God's Secret Agents by Billy Graham (Garden City, NY, Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1995), p.45.
2.  Angels: the Mysterious Messengers (1994 on ABC).
4.  Billy Graham, op cit. p. xiii.
5.  Billy Graham (source unknown)
6.  See and; also, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 157.
8.  Excerpts from 
Angels, Demons, & Satan by Jane Brown, p. viii.
9.  The Ophanim
 are described in the Dead Sea Scrolls and apocryphal books, and are referred to as the many-eyed ones who never sleep, but guard the throne of God. From the apocryphal Book of Enoch we read:
"And He summoneth all the Hosts of Heaven, and all the Holy Ones above the Seraphim, the Cherubim, the Ophanim, all the Spirits of Power, the Blessed Ones, and all the Spirits of Principalities, the Angels, and the Powers on earth and over the water: with one voice shall they bless and glorify and exalt the Lord…”
10.   See
12.  The idea of a heavenly hierarchy is not unique to Christianity. Called the Great Chain of Being, it starts from God, progressing downward through angels, then to demons, the planetary system, animal, plant, and mineral world. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also developed an angelic hierarchy from Colossians and Ephesians. The universal belief in this hierarchy can also be seen in Confucianism, Japan
s Shinto religion, Plato, Aristotle, Miltons Paradise Lost, as well as Moses priestly system. Secular life followed suit, reflecting the divine pecking order: Kings at the top, then Lords, princes, nobles, down to peasants. In the home, the father at the top, then wife, children, etc. The LDS Church also has a hierarchal ladder with their leadership, and a heavenly hierarchy portrayed in their doctrine.
13.  Terry Law, in Everyone's Guide to Angels, by Charisma House (p. 7).
15.  Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., pp. 28, 30, 31.
The material on Pseudo-Dioysius
hierarchy is taken from a homily given by Father Theophylact of Ochrid (1050-1126) entitled, Synaxis of the Holy Chief Commander Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers. Fr. Theophylact took his information from, The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 3: November, compiled by St. Demetrius of Rostov (1651-1709). Rostov probably obtained his information from Pseudo-Dionysius book, On the Celestial Hierachies. Cited at
17.  Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 39.
18.  Time Magazine article
Angels Among Us by Nancy Gibbs; Sam Allis; Nancy Harbert & Lisa H. Towle; Dec. 27, 1993)
21. (permission received)
24.  purposely left blank
25.  German postcard, 1900 (from wikipedia)
26. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
27. Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 49.
28. Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 49, 50.
29. Billy Graham, Angels, op. cit., p. 56)