The Lutheran tradition has sought to base its theological doctrines on the teachings of Scripture for over 500 years. Angels are found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, yet some believe they are figments of the imagination or a literary device and nothing more. What do Lutherans believe?
Lutheranism has historically believed that angels exist and are servants of God, just as the Bible teaches. Lutherans believe Michael is the archangel and that God has given organization, rank, and roles to other angels as well. Angels communicate God’s will, carry out judgment, protect people, and much more.
What are angels like? What do they do? What do Lutherans believe about fallen angels? What do Lutherans believe about fallen angels? Keep reading to learn more.
Angels in the Lutheran tradition
Bible readers encounter angels in the first chapters of Genesis, the last chapters of Revelation, and everywhere in between. Angels provide for God’s children and punish His enemies. They reveal God’s will to people like Abraham and Mary. Angels also ministered to Jesus Christ after he successfully resisted the devil’s temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
What are angels exactly?
Classical Lutheran orthodoxy bases it’s doctrine of angels on Scripture. Like other Protestant theologies, Lutheranism has historically sought to articulate what the Bible teaches about angels and refrain from guessing at what it doesn’t say. Angels can be a subject that leads to wild speculations in some cases, which Lutheranism holds is unwise.
- The nature of angels: Angels are spiritual beings. God created angels, though the Bible doesn’t say when He did it. Some theologians believe that God created them on the 6th Day. Certain passages of Scripture reveal that angels can take on human form (e.g. Gen. 19:1-22), but that isn’t their usual mode of existence. Angels are immortal (Luke 20:36).
- The names of angels: The word translated “angel” in English Bibles means “messenger,” which signifies that they communicate God’s will to people. Angels are called messengers in the Old and New Testament (e.g. Gen. 32:3, Luke 7:24). Two angels are mentioned by name in Scripture: Michael (Dan. 10:!3) and Gabriel (Luke 1:19). Angels are also called different names, for example, “sons of God” (e.g. Job 1:6).
- The number of angels: The Bible doesn’t say exactly how many angels God made. Most theologians believe they are a countless number of angels, but that they aren’t an infinite.
- The order of angels: The Bible mentions different classifications of angels. Cherubim and Seraphim are two examples. Scripture doesn’t describe the order of angels exhaustively. Angels also have rank. Michael is the archangel. Terms like principalities, powers, authorities, dominions, and thrones probably describe rank among angels in certain contexts (e.g. Rom. 8:38, Eph. 1:21, Col. 1:16), especially in the writings of Paul.
What are angels like?
Angels have personhood. They aren’t emotion-less, will-less, spiritual automatons. Angels are holy, intelligent, and willful creatures who are passionate about worshiping God (e.g. Rev. 4-5) and serving Christ.
- Angels are holy: Angels that didn’t succumb to sin (more below) are holy. This aspect of their character is seen in their name “holy ones” (e.g. Psa. 89:5, Luke 9:26). They have the ability to discern good and evil (2 Sam. 14:17).
- Angels are knowledgeable: Angels are highly intelligent creatures. They are not omniscient or all-knowing, like God, but in many cases they demonstrate having more knowledge than people. There are many examples in Scripture of angels telling people something that was going to happen in the future.
- Angels magnify Christ: Christ is the head of all angels (Eph. 1:20-22) and serve His purposes. Angels announce Christ’s birth (Luke 1:26-35), guide his earthly parents (Matt. 2:13), minister to him (Matt. 4:11), and proclaim his resurrection from the dead (Matt. 28:2-7).
“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!”Psalm 89:5 (ESV)
Do angels have wings?
Artists have depicted angels with wings in art, such as statues, paintings, and figurines for thousands of years. The images of angels were even embroidered into the curtains of the tabernacle (Exod. 26:1). Physical representations of angels also adorned Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:23-28). Even when an artist does their best to depict angels biblically, at least some of the representation is due to the imagination.
- Seraphim have wings: Seraphim are described with six wings (Isa. 6:2-6). They fly above God’s throne and worship Him.
- The “living creatures” have wings: The “living creatures” described in Revelation 4-5 have wings. Some scholars believe they may be the same creatures mentioned in Isaiah 6.
“Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”Isaiah 6:2 (ESV, emphasis added)
Do Lutherans believe in fallen angels and demons?
Classic Lutheran orthodoxy teaches that fallen angels, also called demons, are real. As the Bible teaches, Lutheranism has historically taught that fallen angels were once pure and holy, yet some sinned.
- Satan is a fallen angel: Satan was originally good, but sinned against God. Unlike sinful people, Satan won’t be redeemed. His destiny is eternal punishment (Matt. 25:41). “Satan” means accuser and he tempts believers to sin and destruction (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Christ calls him the “evil one” and the “enemy” (Matt. 13:19, 28).
- Some angels followed Satan in his rebellion: Demons are once-holy angels that followed Satan in his rebellion against God. They are also referred to as “evil spirits” (e.g. Luke 7:21). Demons will not be redeemed. They will be eternal punished at the end of time (Matt. 25:41).
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.”Matthew 13:19 (ESV, emphasis added)
Do angels interact with people today?
Lutherans believe that angels engage with people today. They may minister to people in unseen and unknown ways. Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (ESV) Some believe angels participate in the Church’s worship of God as well. One Lutheran writer says,
“Angels even join us in worship every Sunday. They are the topic of some of our finest hymns (LSB 521, 522, 523, etc.). And during the singing of the Sanctus, we join our voices with the saints who’ve gone before us and with the entire heavenly host (Is. 6:3). Like us, the angels of the Lord also love to hear the proclamation of the Gospel, which was spoken by the prophets and is now preached by faithful pastors (1 Peter 1:12; Eph. 3:10).”
The first two stanza in the Lutheran hymn Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken reads:
Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken
By the devil’s seething rage,
Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions;
Wins the strife from age to age;
Conquers sin and death forever;
Slams them in their steely cage.
Michael fought the heav’nly battle,
Godly angels by his side;
Warred against the ancient serpent,
Foiled the beast, so full of pride,
Cast him earthbound with his angels;
Now he prowls, unsatisfied
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