In the book of Hebrews, chapter 1, we learn of Christ's superiority over the angels. This chapter also teaches much about the angels and their purpose in God's plan. In verse 7, we read:
"Of the angels he says, 'Who makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.'" [RSV]
Why are the angels likened to "winds" and "flames of fire"?
R.F. Weymouth, in his New Testament in Modern Speech, offers an interesting footnote to this verse:
"A precarious tenure of existence is here attributed to the angels in contrast to the eternity of the life and reign of the Son of God. It was an ancient Jewish belief that angels sometimes lose their personality and are reduced to impersonal forces of nature."
Do the scriptures support this ancient Jewish belief concerning the angels?
First, let us look at Psalm 104. Hebrews 1:7 is a quote from that psalm, verse 4. Psalm 104 is a nature psalm. Here, the psalmist speaks of the manifold works of the LORD (verse 24); and in this psalm, he mentions the created works of the LORD God: light, the heavens, clouds, wind, angels, foundations of the earth, the deep, springs of water, grass, vegetation, trees, high hills, cliffs, moon, sun, sea, etc. He also speaks of the LORD's providence to man and beast by means of the fruits of nature.
So, we see that the angels are here listed among the LORD's created works -- as one of the many works of nature.
In Exodus 13:21-22, we read:
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people."
Here we read of the LORD's providence to the ancient Israelites in the wilderness. He provided a pillar of cloud and a pillar to fire to guide his people. If we think again of Hebrews 1:7, we can see a connection with the angels mentioned there -- for clouds are both formed and driven by the winds, and a flame of fire becomes a tall pillar of fire at the LORD's command. And in Exodus 14:19-20, we have confirmation that an angel is involved in this manifestation of the LORD's presence:
"And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night."
And in New Testament times, we also learn of a manifestation of God's presence and power by means of wind and fire:
Acts 2:1-4: "Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Thus, we see evidence of "ministering spirits [angels] sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation." [Hebrews 1:14] These ministering spirits are "sent forth" at Christ's command; and, at times, are given authority by Him to exercise control in the realm of nature. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4:
"Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."
[All Bible quotations, unless marked otherwise, are taken from the New King James Version.]
Copyright © 1996 by Deborah Cox
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