We can’t learn much about angels by watching Hollywood films, though a loyal angel can certainly declare: “It’s a wonderful life!” But the Bible does give us several important details about them.
First, they are created beings (Ezekiel 28:15). In both Hebrews 7 and Psalm 8 God’s Word describes mankind as being of a lower order than heavenly angels, so they are an exalted and glorified race. They are clearly spirits, usually invisible to people on earth, although they can choose to make themselves visible as beings of great light and power. The book of Daniel tells how the archangel Gabriel was able to fly through the heavens and come to earth in an act of nearly instantaneous travel.
Their duties include the praise and worship of God – there’s plenty described in Revelation. They rejoice when sinners repent (Luke 15). They rescue God’s men and women who are in trouble: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3), Peter in prison (Acts 12). They serve as guardian angels, protecting us from harm (Psalm 91), and they especially look after children (Matthew 18:10). They bring messages from heaven to groups and individuals (Luke 1, 2).
The Bible doesn’t specify how many angels are under God’s command, except to make it clear that there is a sufficient number for any needed assignment! Rev. 5:11 gives the number as: thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand – which would be one hundred million! It’s worth noting that when God resurrected his own Son from the tomb on Easter Sunday, and knowing there was a Roman squadron of well-armed soldiers, he sent exactly one angel!
A delightful story – ironically from Hollywood – reveals more about these heavenly beings. When CBS asked Martha Williamson to produce an hour-long drama entitled Touched By an Angel, they envisioned stories where people who died were promoted to angel status and then could revisit earth. Martha refused, citing the biblical reality that humans who die don’t somehow turn into angels. “They’re a higher order of beings,” she protested, “created from the beginning of time.”
The studio henchmen then asked if she could write scripts where God gave particular orders that various angels would stubbornly refuse to fulfill. “That will add some great drama,” they suggested. “It’ll be a cop show with wings.” Again, this Bible-literate Hollywood player shook her head. “That’s false too,” she told them. “Angels are always obedient to God; they delight to do his will. That’s the very hallmark of their existence. They live to serve and worship and obey.”
Finally, with a sigh, the CBS brass relented and said, “Okay, make it your way.” The chosen weekly slogan on Touched By an Angel: “God loves you. He cares – and he wants to be part of your life.” CBS angels proceeded to wing their way around the world for nine successful television seasons.