We were busy in our preceding article with a discussion of the Cherubims. We called attention to the fact that the Lord had placed them at the entrance to the garden of Eden, and also that they gaze upon the mercy seat, between whom the Lord established His dwelling.
To continue new with the Scriptural references to these heavenly beings, when God descends to the earth, He is described as descending, riding upon the cherubims according to, , , , . We quote , , and : “And He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and He was seen upon the wings of the wind . . . For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.” In and and in they are represented as living creatures in various forms. That the spirits of Ezekiel 1 are cherubims is evident from chapter 10 of this prophecy, where we read, e.g., in the verses 1 and 3: “Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.” In Ezek. 1 and 10 they are represented as four living creatures, having the likeness of man, each with four wings and with four faces, namely, of a man, a lion, an ox; and an eagle. And in Revelation 4 we read of them as the four beasts, each with a face and each with six wings, and they surround the throne of God and sing: Holy, Holy, Holy, day and night.
From these passages we would briefly conclude the following. That they appear in different forms implies these forms do not constitute an essential part of their existence—otherwise they would always appear in the same form. Hence, these forms or appearances are symbolical representations which are mentioned to emphasize their extraordinary power and majesty. Also, they are pictured as “living creatures” to emphasize the truth that in them the might and the power of the living God is better revealed than in weak man. They are living creatures, creatures full of life and vitality. Moreover, they are represented as possessing the power of the ox, the majesty of the lion, the swiftness of the eagle, and the rationality of a man—these same attributes are implied in the wings which they carry and the sword wherewith they guard the entrance of paradise. The cherubims, therefore, refer us to a high class of angels who, more than any other creature, reveal the power, the majesty, the glory of the living God, and who therefore, have also been appointed by the Lord to guard the garden of Eden, and to guard His holiness in the tabernacle and the temple—hence, the Lord dwelleth between the cherubims. That the Lord dwelleth between the cherubims emphasizes therefore the power and glory and majesty of the living God, the Lord God of hosts.
This particular class of angels is mentioned only in: “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. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar.”
In distinction from the cherubims the seraphims are continually round about the throne of God, sing His praises, wait upon the word and (or) commands of the Lord. While the cherubims are the mighty angels of God, according to Bavinck, the Seraphims may be called the nobles among these spiritual beings. They, too, are represented in human form. This is evident from Isaiah 6. We read of them that each had six wings and that each had a face, and feet. And in verse 6 we are told that one of the seraphims had a live coal in his hand. For this reason some would identify the cherubims and the seraphims.
The word, “seraphim,” means literally: burning, bright, dazzling. We read in: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged.” This can suggest that the seraphims are angels appointed by God to be peculiarly busy in the work of reconciliation. How and to what extent these spiritual beings are busy in this work of reconciliation we are unable at this time to say.
Gabriel and Michael.
We read of these angels in Holy Writ. Gabriel is mentioned in the following passages. We read in, and : “And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision . . . Yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I have seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.” And in we read: “And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto the city of Galilee, named Nazareth.” Michael, too, is mentioned several times in Holy Writ. We read in : “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia . . . But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that hold- eth with me in these things, but Michael your prince. And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” In we read: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” And in and we read: “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee … And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.”
Some have declared in the past that Gabriel and Michael are uncreated beings, the former to be identified with the Holy Spirit, while the latter is the Son of God. This, however, is surely impossible, as an honest reading of these various passages from the Holy Scriptures will indicate.
Gabriel appears in Holy Writ to be the angel endowed with the special task to interpret and proclaim divine revelation and glad tidings. He is the angel who is sent to Mary, Zacharias, the empty tomb, etc. From the fact that he is called the “archangel” in Jude 9, and also from the expression used in, it would appear that Michael occupies an important place among the angels. He is probably the valiant angel who fights the battles of the Lord against the enemies of Israel and also against the evil powers in the spirit-world. Hence, whereas Gabriel, in the prophecy of Daniel, is the divinely designated angel to interpret and explain the vision to that dauntless prophet Michael, on the other hand, in the same prophecy, is the angel appointed to come to the defense of Daniel and help him. And he also appears as the great defender in the Scripture passages which speak of him in the New Testament. Michael contends with the devil about the body of Moses, although he could not silence the father of the lie, and in Rev. 12:7 we see him and his angels fighting against the dragon and his angels.
Principalities, powers, thrones, and dominions.
In addition to the Scriptural passages already named, Holy Writ also speaks of certain classes of angels, which occupy places of authority in the angelic world. “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.”—; “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”— ; “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.”— ; “And ye are complete in Him, Which is the head of all principality and power.”— ; “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.”— .
That Scripture should speak of certain classes of angels which occupy places of authority in the angelic world need not surprise us. God Himself is characterized by beauty and order. He is the God of order. Also His creature is characterized by order and beauty. The angelic world is therefore characterized by order and rank. The very fact that the Word of God speaks of principalities and powers and mights and dominions among these heavenly spirits surely points us to this conclusion. This also explains why the devil is called in Scripture the prince of the powers of the air. Even as an earthly army is characterized by privates and officers of every rank, so also the angels are divided into various ranks, the one group of heavenly spirits being subject to another.
First, the angels are created beings.
This is taught by our Confessions, as in Article 12 of our Confession of Faith, and we quote: “We believe that the Father, by the Word, that is, by His Son, hath created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, as it seemed good unto Him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator. That He doth also still uphold and govern them by His eternal providence and infinite power, for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God. He also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect: some of whom are fallen from that excellency in which God created them, into everlasting perdition; and the others have, by the grace of God, remained steadfast and continued in their primitive state. The devils and evil spirits are so depraved, that they are enemies of God and every good thing, to the utmost of their power as murderers, watching to ruin the Church and every member thereof, and by their wicked strategems to destroy all; and are, therefore, by their own wickedness, adjudged to eternal damnation daily expecting their horrible torments. Therefore we reject and abhor the error of the Sadducees, who deny the existence of spirits and angels: and also that of the Manichees, who assert that the devils have their origin of themselves, and that they are wicked of their own nature, without having been corrupted/’
This, we know, is also the teaching of the Scripture, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”—; “Who maketh His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire— ; “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”— ; “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:”— ; “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.”— .
Concerning the time of their creation we cannot be certain. Some have thought that because ofthey must have existed before the creation of the world. We read in this passage: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” In connection with this text I wish to quote an answer of the Rev. Hoeksema which he gave to the Men’s Society of one of our churches at that time. This society asked him whether proves the contention that the angels were created on the first day of creation with the heavens or on the sixth day with the first man, Adam. And now I quote this answer of Rev. Hoeksema:
“The passage of Scripture mentioned in the question here follows in full:
‘Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’
From this passage many have drawn the conclusion that the angels were created on the first day of creation. Others have inferred from it the more general theory that they were created before the creation of man. Still others maintain that the passage warrants the conclusion that the angels were created even before the first day, long before “the beginning” of.
Let us look a little more closely at the passage itself.
Verses 4-6 speak in highly poetic and figurative language, comparing the created world to a building, with its foundations, corner stone, measures, line, of the work of creation. Although it is true that the language leaves the impression that the reference is especially to the beginning of God’s creative work, yet there is no reason at all in the text to draw the conclusion that only the first day of creation-week is meant. In fact, in my opinion this is excluded by what follows. The interpretation is not impossible that the reference is to the entire work of the creation of the earth, and it is presented as a laying of foundations, the corner stone, etc., with a view to the relation between the work of creation and the subsequent work of God in the history and development of the world.
Verse 7 speaks of the morning stars and of the sons of God. There is no doubt that by “sons of God” reference is had to the angels. This is evident from: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” And again: “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.” That in these verses the expression “sons of God” refers to the angels may be regarded as without doubt. But then it may be accepted as the only possible interpretation of the same expression in 38:7. However, there is no reason at all to interpret that the “morning stars” is but another and figurative expression for the same “sons of God”. In fact, in the book of Job the stars are the heavenly luminaries, I take it, therefore, that in the literal sense of the word the stars are meant in the first of verse 7.
The stars, however, are created on the fourth day. This excludes the interpretation that verses 4-6 refer only to the first day or to the very first beginning of creation-week. For this reason I rather understand the verses 4-6 as referring to creation in general as a laying of foundations for all the rest of the work of God in the earth.
But if this is the correct interpretation, there is
no proof in these verses for the theory that the angels were created on the first day of creation-week. In fact, there is no indication at all as to the time when the angels were created in this passage. Nor is there anywhere in Scripture.
The conjecture (for it is no more) that they were created on the sixth day is deduced from the fact that in the week of creation the creatures are formed in the way of an ascending scale. The lower creatures are formed first, then the higher, finally man. If we consider that the angels belong to the higher creatures, it is not impossible that they were created on the sixth day. However, more than a conjecture this is not. The fact is, that we cannot determine with certainty when the angels were created.”—thus far the quotation of Rev. Hoeksema.
One thing is certain: the angels were not created before the first day of creation-week and they were not called into existence after the sixth day. That they were not created before the first day lies in the nature of the case. They certainly belong to the world of created things, and everything was created within the space of six days. For the same reason they were not formed after the sixth day. Fact is, everything was finished within this space of six days. This is also evident from the fourth commandment which reads: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt do no manner of work; thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” The fourth commandment, therefore, declares explicitly that all things were created in six days, and this also included the world of angels.
If we, therefore, proceed from the idea that the heavens and the earth were created in six days, it is surely possible that the rational creatures in heaven (the angels) as well as the rational creatures upon the earth (man) were formed the same day, namely the sixth. However, certainty with respect to the time of the creation of the angels we do not have, inasmuch as the Scriptures do not specifically inform us on this point.