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 Good Angels, Bad Angels

If Satan can assume the form of a good angel, how do I really know when an angel is good or bad?

To explore the topic of distinguishing good angels from bad angels. 
The answers are found in the Bible.

How can one tell if an angel is a good or evil?
"The Creator willed that there should be communication between angels and men, and as the angels are of two kinds, good and bad, the latter try to win us over to their rebellion and the former endeavor to make us their companions in obedience."
If you become aware that there may have been an angel in your life, how can you tell if it is of God or the Evil One?
We are warned in 2 Corinthians 11:14, "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." In the New Testament telling the difference between the good and bad angels is called the gift of discernment. (I Corinthians 12:10) Here are some practical guidelines that will help us determine if the message we are receiving is from God. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).
Here are five ways to help you distinguish between good and bad angels:

1. God and His holy angels will never tell you anything that that contradicts what is found in the Bible (Galatians 1:8).
A favorite way Satan and his angels tempt us is to persuade us to disregard God’s instructions. This pattern began in Genesis 3 when the serpent tempted Eve not to listen to God but to eat the forbidden fruit. The basic way to discern between good and evil angels is this: If it is from God, the message will always agree with the clear teachings of the Bible. 

To illustrate my point, here is a story: Harold had been deeply hurt by his friend Mark. One night Harold had a very vivid dream of an angel who spoke to him, "Don’t get mad. Get even." In the dream a clever plan unfolded showing Harold a way to hurt Mark far more that Harold had been hurt—and no one would know that Harold had been behind it.

When Harold awoke, the angel in the dream was unforgettable and the message was so clear. But Harold was a Christian, so he asked himself, "Was this a message from God? What does the Bible teach?" That morning he read from 2 Corinthians 2: "You ought to order that Satan might not outwit us for we are not unaware of his schemes." Harold realized that it could not have been one of God’s holy angels speaking to him in a dream because the message contradicted the teachings of Scripture.

2. A message from God’s angels will always be in the spirit of Christ.
Harold tested the message, “Don’t get mad, get even” by asking, “what would Jesus do?” When Harold remembered how Jesus often taught the importance of forgiveness, he realized the message “get even” was not from God.

This rule is especially important because today we face many temptations not mentioned in the Bible. For example, it's tempting to misuse the Internet. The evil angel may whisper, “What’s the harm? Everyone is doing it. No one will ever know.” It’s easy to spend a few minutes browsing eBay and end up spending hours surfing for useless objects. And a plan to spend just a few minutes playing an Internet game may hook you in all night long or become an addiction. It’s also possible to gossip or spread lies that will hurt someone, chat with potentially dangerous people, or sneak a peek (or more) at a porn site.

What should we do when we cannot find a clear teaching in the Bible about certain temptations? If an idea creeps into your mind and suggests a temptation is OK simply because the Bible doesn’t say it is wrong, the thought may be whispered by a bad angel.

The Bible teaches us to test every decision by this rule: “Let this mind (or attitude) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...” (Philippians 2:5). In other words, it's important that we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do? How much time would Jesus waste on the Internet? What excuse would Jesus give for visiting a porn site?”

3. A genuine encounter with a good angel will always glorify God, not the angel, and draw attention to God, not the angel.
Angels typically do their work and then disappear. They don’t hang around waiting to be thanked. In fact, the faithful service of the angels is not based solely on their love for you and me. What guides their actions more is their love for God. The angel’s goal is to encourage us to love God more completely, to focus more on God, and to be more centered on God. Angels may awaken our spiritual longing, but they cannot satisfy it. Rather, angels make us hungry for God because only He can nourish and fill us.

4. God’s angels do not grant one person’s selfish wishes to the detriment of others.
Angels are not celestial versions of a Fairy Godmother. They come into our lives to do God’s will. God’s purpose is not to make life easy; it is to make us more like Christ.

5. Prayer should be used to confirm the authenticity of an encounter with an angel.
As we pray to God, the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth. We should ask God to help us test the spirits and remember the promise of James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Do Angels Rebel Against God?

And, is Archangel Gabriel a guide through the Gates of Heaven?

Do angels have free will, and can they rebel against God?

God created all the angels. God pronounced that all of his creation was good and holy, and this included the angels. But some of them fell from grace, becoming fallen angels, such as Satan and his followers. In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council of the Catholic Church, “Satan and the other devils are by nature spirits (angels).They were created by God, and so were originally good, but fell into sin of their own free will.” These fallen angels continue to sin, especially by tempting humans to sin.

But what about the good angels? Can good angels sin and fall from grace today? Hollywood loves this idea. In movies an angel is tempted to sin by falling in love with a mortal and choosing not to follow God’s holy will.

However, most Christian theologians agree that holy angels cannot sin. In 1 Timothy 5:21, the holy angels are called “elect.” This suggests that once they choose to remain loyal to God, instead of Satan, their decision is permanent. As they continue to serve God they are“confirmed in holiness.” Theologian Louis Berkhof explains it this way: "The angels evidentially received a special grace of perseverance, by which they were confirmed in their position.” Because of this grace, the good angels are incapable of sinning, and their delight is to love God wholeheartedly and to always serve him willingly.

Some angels, then, have rebelled against God and continue to sin, but other angels (the good ones) have never sinned and never will.


Which angel brings you through the gate of heaven? I thought it was Gabriel.  I have asked this question of everyone I know, but no one has the answer.

Jesus taught us that at the time of death the angels carry a person to heaven (Luke 16:22). What a wonderful, comforting thought! The Book of Luke is the only place in the Bible we find this reference, and the names of the angels are not given. It is probable that there are many teams of angels who carry people to heaven as God assigns them to his holy transportation service.

Gabriel most likely never draws this assignment because an angel can only be in one place at one time. Since Gabriel is one of the chief angels, he is no doubt too busy with other important activities. In Jewish texts such as the Talmud, the Kabbalah, and others, many job descriptions have been assigned to Gabriel, but none state that he is the angel who brings people through the gates of heaven. However, in Milton’s "Paradise Lost," Gabriel is the chief of the angelic guards placed over Paradise, but this is a role that was mostly likely created out of the poet’s own imagination.

Can Angels Abandon Us?

 Does God assign us guardian angels? And do we get more than one?

Is there any mention in the Bible of us actually being assigned or given a guardian angel by God or heaven?

Yes, the Bible teaches that God not only assigns but actually commands angels to care for us. Psalm 91:11 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways,” while Hebrews 1:14 explains, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” The Bible is filled with specific examples of angels guiding, helping, and protecting people.

So God does assign angels to watch over us. The Bible is definite about that. But your question asks if there is any place in the Bible that tells us that God assigns a specific angel to each person. The answer is no. God arranges to have his angels care for us, but the Bible does not tell us how he does it.

Although the Bible is silent on the topic, theologians, Bible scholars, preachers, and ordinary people have speculated about this. Here are a few of their ideas:

  • Many of the church fathers, believed that God assigned each person a guardian angel at birth.
  • Martin Luther asserted that the angels God assigned to men differed in rank and ability, as did the men themselves. Luther wrote, “Just as among men, one is large and another small, and one is strong and another weak, so one angel is larger, stronger, and wiser than another. Therefore, a prince has a much larger and stronger angel, one who is also shrewder and wiser, than that of a count, and the angel of a count is larger and stronger than that of a common man. The higher the rank and the more important vocation of a man, the larger and stronger is the angel who guards him and holds the Devil aloof.”
  • The Catholic Church has taught that every angel in heaven has one chance to become a guardian angel, from seraphim down. The angel has to “lower himself” to serve his protégé on earth, but in so doing he learns more about the incarnation. The angels even puzzle about why God provides humans with so great a salvation according to 1 Peter 1:12.
  • Billy Graham writes, “Every believer should be encouraged and strengthened! Angels are watching; they mark your path. They superintend the events of your life and protect the interest of the Lord God, always working to promote his plans and to bring about his highest will for you.”  
    Do each of us have more than one guardian angel to guide us? Also, when we sin against God, do the angels leave us? Or do they forgive us and keep guiding and helping us?

    Christians have assumed through the ages that God most likely assigns one angel to one person, usually at birth. Matthew 18:10 says, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.” This verse implies that each child has one angel assigned to him or her. But while these lines establish that angels watch over children, they do not tell us that each child, or any of us, has one and only one angel.

    Catholic doctrine (the Catechism of the Catholic Church) states, ”Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”

    In Jewish tradition and in the Hebrew Bible (Malachi 3:16) each person is said to have two angels, one who records our every good thought or deed and one who records our every evil thought or deed. A variant of this idea is that we have a good angel who influences us to do good and a bad angel who is always trying to lead us into temptation.

    The Protestant John Calvin wrote: “Whether individual angels have been assigned to individual believers for their protection, I dare not affirm with confidence. We ought to hold as a fact that the care of each one is not the task of one angel only but of all angels, with one consent watch over our salvation. And if the fact that all the heavenly host are keeping watch for his safety will not satisfy a man, I do not see what benefit he could derive from knowing that one angel has been given to him as his special guardian.”

    As to your other question: What happens when we sin against God; do the angels leave us or keep helping us?

    Angels are not like humans. Friends and family may get angry or even desert us. But angels do not carry grudges. They don’t get angry. Their only desire is to serve God. The angel’s role throughout the Scripture is to call us to obedience and worship. When we sin, just as God does not turn his back on us and forsake us, angels don’t either. It is God’s will that we turn to him and ask for forgiveness. To that end, God may use his angels to prick our conscience, bring thoughts and memories to our minds, or create other circumstances to make us aware of God’s love.

    What do angels look like?

    Angels--are they pure white light or beautiful women in long robes with graceful wings?

    I often receive emails asking, "Please tell me what my angel looks like." Often the questioner has been listening to someone on radio or TV describe their "vision" of angels surrounding members of the audience. Can people really see angels around a person? The Bible and the mainstream Christian faith know nothing of such second sight. It would be interesting to have three people, who claim to have the power to see a person’s angels, write down their descriptions and then compare them. I have no doubt they would describe three different entities!

    Why? Because in their natural form angels are spirit beings, and our physical eyes cannot see the spirit. It also does not make sense that one’s angel (or three angels, as some claim we all have) would always be standing right behind their charge. In the Bible we learn that angels can move with tremendous speed, so guardian angels could keep their watch even if they were 50 or 100 feet above their charge.

    Angels do have the ability to assume temporarily a shape that humans can see when there is a reason for them to do so. Most often in the Bible and in life today, when angels are seen they appear as people, looking no different than other persons. Remember Abraham’s visitors in Genesis 18? Hebrews 13:2 also states, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." The passage suggests that at any time it is possible that we may have encountered angels without our being conscious of their supernatural nature. Being inconspicuous is often a part of the angel’s ministry.

    Most often, as angels do their work, they remain unseen. I am certain that when we get to heaven we will be amazed at how often angels were present and active in our lives though we were not aware of their activity.

    Of course, there are exceptions. In biblical times and in life today, sometimes the angels appear in awesome splendor. They may appear as warrior angels, tremendously tall and powerful, or as beautiful beings with or without wings. In Psalm 104:4 angels are described as a flaming fire. Many have told us that they have seen an angel appear as light. At times the light appears as a faint glow that grows until the room is filled with brilliance. At other times it is an unseen figure bathed in light. Some have been only able to describe what an angel was wearing because the face was bathed in a such a bright light that it could not be seen. For some observers, the light is pure and white, brighter than any whiteness they have ever seen; others describe a light of different colors.

    Just How Strong Are Angels?
    I remember a minister saying once that angels can be up to nine feet tall, and he described their incredible power. He said that their height, strength, and power were revealed in the scriptures. Can you tell me where these scriptural references come from?

    Peter puts the case mildly when he says angels are "stronger and more powerful" than humans (2 Peter 2:11). In the Bible they are better known for their power than their beauty or anything else. An angel rolled back the stone that covered Jesus' tomb—a real exhibition of strength (Matthew 28:2). An angel opened locked prison doors (Acts 5:17-20). Only one angel was sent to destroy the entire city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:15) and only two angels were needed to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:13, 24, 25). Angels were also responsible for the plagues in Egypt (Exodus 12:13-30; Psalm 78:43, 49; Hebrews 11:28). As you can see, angels "excel in strength" (Psalm 103:20).

    Since angels are spirit beings, they take on a physical form only when carrying out God's will. This can be of any shape and size. See my article "What Do Angels Look Like" So how tall are angels? Even though angels are described in the Bible, we do not know how tall they were. Still, we do find measurements of the angel figures in Solomon's temple—two cherubim figures that were each 15 feet tall with a wingspan of 15 feet (1 Kings 6:23-28). Both figures were carved from olive wood and covered with gold. Solomon's cherubim were certainly different from the cute pictures of cherubs we see on greeting cards today.
    Last week in my Bible study class, we were trying to find verses that say when God created angels, but we were unsuccessful. We know that angels were created before the seven-day creation of Earth and that angels were not created in God's image. Please enlighten me and send me in the right direction.

    The reason you could not easily find such text is because verses stating the creation of angels often do not use the word angel. Although the word angel is used almost 300 times in the Bible, many synonyms such as "the heavenly hosts" are used. In Colossians 1:16 Jesus Christ is called the creator of angels, and the angels referred to as "things invisible, thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities." Psalm 148 also states, "Praise him, all his angels, praise him all his heavenly hosts. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created." (Psalm 148:2, 5). This is the basis for the statement of faith found in the Nicene Creed which is affirmed every Sunday in many churches: "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen."

    Most theologians hold that all of the angels were created at the same time. There are no hints in scripture of angels being continually created. Angels do not reproduce. There are no baby angels. In Matthew 22:28-30 Jesus taught that angels do not procreate, so we can conclude that each angel is a direct creation of God. We know that "the morning stars" (another term for angels in the Bible) sang together, and all the angels shouted with joy at the creation of Earth (Job 38:7). So it follows that angels were created before the planet.

    Augustine, writing in the fifth century, made an interesting argument that angels were formed on the first day of creation. He reasoned that since "all things were created and ordered and the work of creation was completed in six days," the angels must have been created during the six days as well. He also said that because God made light on the first day and angels are "participators of [God's] eternal light," they must have been created in that time span.

    But many, including myself, are not convinced by Augustine's reasoning. The Bible never tells us when angels were created, but it does teach that God created the angels before the world. What point is there in speculating any further?
    My friend recently passed away. She was a very devout Catholic, but she embraced all religions and was very spiritual. Her belief in angels and how they take care of her was a great comfort to all of us who loved her. Toward the end she would tell us that we didn't have to be with her every minute because angels would come for her at 3:00 (a.m. or p.m.) She did pass away at 3:00 p.m. I have been looking for references about the "time the angels come" and have been unable to find any. Is there a basis in fact for this?

    Nowhere in the Bible are there any verses about the "time the angels come." Death records indicate that people die at all hours and minutes of the day and night. Your friend was right in believing that the angels would take her to Heaven, and it was thoughtful of her to say that you didn't have to be with her every minute. Perhaps an angel, during your friend's final hours, revealed her death would be at 3:00. If so, this is the exception rather than the rule

    Meeting the Angel at

    Is a special angel assigned to take people to
    heaven or hell?

    Does an
    "Angel of Death" come to meet us? Does the angel of death take people to both
    heaven or hell?

    The idea of an "angel of death" is not found in the Bible, but it does appear in many other ancient writings. The Babylonian angel of death was called Mot. In Islamic theology the angel of death is Azrael. You may remember him from "The Arabian Nights," where he is also called Iblis. In Zoroastrianism there is a demon of death named Mairya. In rabbinic writings there are at least a dozen angels of death. The classic Broadway play "Death Takes a Holiday," in which Death disguises himself as a human being, was adapted from a pssage about the angel of death in the Targum Yerushalmi, or Jerusalem Targum.

    Nowadays the angel of death appears frequently in books, movies, and television shows. Sometimes the angel is scary and evil, coming to snatch away people's lives.  Other times, as in the television series "Touched by an Angel," the angel of death does not decide when someone will die, but is simply present at the time of death to take the soul from this earth. But all these stories are just fiction.

    All we Christians know for certain about the angels who are present at the time of death is what Jesus teachers in Luke 16:22, "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side." "Abraham's side" is another term for heaven. In this verse Jesus is clearly saying that when we die, angels are not only there with us but they carry us to heaven. What a comforting thought!

    You also ask what happens to people who may not deserve to go to heaven. Do angels come for them? The Bible does not tell us. Throughout the centuries many people in different religious traditions have speculated about whether the angel of death takes souls to hell, but none of these theories are based on biblical teachings. We simply do not know the answer.

    It is important to note that the angels who come for us when we die are not to be confused with the angels who carry out God's judgments. According to Genesis 19, two angels of judgment destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. According to Isaiah 37:36, a single angel of judgment destroyed the entire Assyrian army. Confusing these two different missions of angels—taking souls to heaven and punishing the wicked--might have led to some popular misconceptions of the angel of death as a sinister figure

    Mysteries & Miracles
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