"Mama, Do Angels Have Wings?"
(A Child's First Lesson in Scriptural Authority)
Angels seem to be everywhere now; in television shows, toy stores, craft malls, and in porcelain figurines. These pretty winged creatures, male and female, are the latest craze. This makes it even harder to teach our children what angels really are, but does it really matter if we tell them that angels do not have wings? Do we need to be that particular?
I believe we do because by teaching our children exactly what the Bible reveals about angels, we are laying a pattern for scriptural accuracy and authority in their minds. We are teaching an attitude toward the scripture; an attitude that we must speak accurately of holy things, as the oracles of God, and that we must respect what God has said in scripture.
Little people can learn very early that if the Bible says something it is the rule. By teaching scriptural authority from the beginning it will be easier for children to grasp the vital concepts of Christ's law for salvation, the worship of the church, and the work of the church when they are a bit older. Teaching the proper attitude toward scripture is essential to keeping the next generation faithful to the Lord.
There does seem to be some confusion, even among adults, on the appearance of angels. The source of confusion may be two winged creatures in scripture called seraphim and cherubim. This article will document the physical appearance of seraphim, cherubim, and angels with a view toward that troublesome question of wings.
Seraphim are mentioned only once in scripture at Isaiah 6:1-7. Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne with Seraphim standing above the Lord, each having six wings. They were male, had faces and feet, and could fly. The Hebrew word seraphim literally means "burning ones" and in this passage a seraphim touched Isaiah's mouth with a burning coal from the altar. We know no more about seraphim.
The word cherubim means those grasped, held fast or seized. We are first introduced to cherubim in Genesis 3:24 when God stationed one at the east of Eden. The next mention of cherubim is in Exodus 25 where God gave instructions to Moses for the ark of the covenant. Two cherubim of gold faced one another over the mercy seat of the ark with their wings covering it. Cherubim were also embroidered on the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 36). In II Samuel 22:11 the Lord is seen riding on a cherub. The most complete picture of these creatures is given in Ezekiel 10. They have wings, hands under their wings, bodies full of eyes, and four faces of a cherub, a man, a lion, and an eagle. They are called living beings and they fly. Cherubim are mentioned once in the new testament at Hebrews 9:5: the cherubim are overshadowing the mercy seat, "but of these things we cannot now speak in detail."
The person called angel in scriptures is a separate being from the seraphim and cherubim, always male and usually in human form. The Hebrew word malak and the Greek word angelos means a messenger or agent. Specifically, the angel is an agent from the Lord sent to convey a message to humankind. There are hundreds of passages with angels, therefore; I will dwell only on those of their physical appearance.
The two angels who went to Sodom seemed to be men to the unholy inhabitants of that city (Genesis 19). The special angel of the Lord appeared to Samson's mother and she called him a "man of God" (Judges 13). When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fiery furnace he saw a fourth man (later called an angel, Daniel 3). Their appearance can be alarming as it was to David (I Chronicles 21:30) and Zacharias in the temple (Luke 1:12). The two angels at Jesus' tomb were clothed in garments as white as snow and appeared as lightning in their dazzling apparel. They were also called men (Luke 24; John 21). When the holy angels came to the shepherds in the field to announce Christ's birth, the glory of the Lord shone around them (Luke 2).
Only once is an angel said to be flying (Revelation 14:6), and this passage does not mention wings or the means of his flight, just as the angel standing between earth and heaven of I Chronicles 21:16. The most un-humanlike angel is seen in Revelation 10:1, clothed with a cloud, with a rainbow on his head, a face like the sun, and feet like pillars of fire. Therefore it would seem that these spiritual beings called angels have taken the form of a man, even a stranger (Hebrews 13:2), when performing their duty on earth, or have appeared in a glorified form as to Mary and at the empty tomb. Never do they appear as the winged creatures of the Old Testament; the seraphim and the cherubim.
"Mama, do angels have wings?" No dear, they usually looked just like men though sometimes they had special bright clothes. Guess what, we know the name of two angels, Gabriel and Michael. Can you say Gabriel?
May God bless all mama's and their children.
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