Friday, September 20, 2019

Angels and Spirits

When describing beings that exist in the spiritual world, the Bible uses words that we use to describe the physical world in which we live. It has to do this, because human language does not have words to describe the spiritual.

The word most often translated as “spirit” means breath or wind. (ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek). The wind is unseen, but has a powerful effect. Breathe is associated with life. These words tell us that spirit being have powerful effects on life, but it does not tell us anything about the substance from which they are made.

The same applies to the word for angel (malak in Hebrew and angelos in Greek). These words are often translated as angel, but the basic meaning is “messenger”. Malak describes a representative or ambassador who carries a message or represents another person. Some malak are spirit and others are physical (human). Many of the malak in the Old Testament are human. See Jos 6:25, Jud 11:14, 1 Sam 11:3.

The word malak or angelos tells us what these beings do: they carry messages and represent another person. The name does not tell us about the substance from which they are made. Spiritual messengers represent God, who is spirit, so they are spirit too.

Because we have seen movies and read illustrated Bible stories, we have a picture in our minds of what angels are like. We tend to think of an angel as a man (sometimes a woman) with wings and face that glows brightly. Those pictures go way beyond what the word malak and angelos mean.

The angels in the Old Testament could make themselves appear like humans when they came to talk to people. That explains how they appeared, but it does not tell us what they look like in the spiritual world where they operate. It tells us that they can operate between heaven and earth.

The word angel tells us nothing about the moral character of a being. Paul was attacked by a messenger (angelos) of Satan (2 Cor 12:7). Angels can be good and evil.

The word “seraph” is interesting. It is a Hebrew word (saraph) with no English equivalent, so Bible translators transliterate it as seraph. In Hebrew, seraph means burning or bright. So, the word tells us that these beings are hugely different from physical beings on earth, because they appear to be brighter than any physical being.

Cherub is another transliteration of a Hebrew word – kruwb. This Hebrew word is rare and no one really knows what it means. Artists and illustrators have tended to portray cherubim as childlike creatures with wings, so that is how we imagine them, but that goes way beyond the meaning of the word.

The Holy Spirit has allowed many people to see events in the spiritual realms, but he has to reveal them in a way that can be understood by people whose minds are locked in a three-dimensional world. Humans we live in a three-dimensional world, so that is the only way we can think. So, people who see into the spiritual world see it as if was three dimensional. They see it that way, because the Spirit has to reveal it to humans that way. If we saw it as it really is, we would just see it a blur, because our imaginations cannot see in multiple dimensions.

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