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Don Stewart :: What Do Angels Look Like?

Don Stewart
What do angels look like? Is there any indication in Scripture that they are fair-skinned men who sit on clouds, wear long white robes, and have two large wings? Do we ever find them carrying harps? Though this is the traditional way in which angels have been viewed, there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that this is how they look.

Spirit Beings

Angels are spirit beings. There is no description given in the Bible of what they look like in their true essence. Although angels do not have a physical form like humans, they do have some type of localized form - they occupy some space. Whatever their normal form is like, it is a form adapted to the unseen spiritual realm. Though the Bible does not comment about their usual form, it does says that there are various types of bodies in heaven as well as upon the earth.

Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another (1 Corinthians 15:39-40).

We cannot make any conclusions beyond this.

Usually Not Seen

In most cases, angels are not seen by the people. In their ordinary activities they are not visible. For example, Balaam could not see the angel standing in front of him in the road.

The donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. Thus the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road (Numbers 22:23).

Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened to see the angels around him.

Then Elisha prayed: "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

The "chariots of fire" are a term that refers to angels.

Not Recognized As Angels

That angels have no recognizable form can be seen as follows - many times they appeared to people without even being recognized as angels. They looked no different than ordinary men.

Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, "A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name . . . The angel of the LORD did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD (Judges 13:6,21).

Abraham had angelic visitors that looked human.

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground (Genesis 18:1,2).

Appear As Men

Though angels are sexless creatures, when they appear in Scripture they are always described as looking like men, not women or children. For example, at the tomb of Jesus we are told that angels appeared.

But Mary stood crying outside the tomb. As she cried, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying - one at the head and the other at the feet (John 20:11,12).

Yet Luke describes these angels as appearing in the form of men.

While they were perplexed about this thing, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them (Luke 24:4).

Though angels appeared as men, they were soon recognized by the people as angels.

The two angels that are named in Scripture have names of men - Michael and Gabriel.

Able To Eat

Angels, when they assume a human body, are able to eat. When three angels visited Abraham he prepared food for them.

Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate (Genesis 18:8).

It has been noted that the psalmist wrote of the food of angels.

Humans ate of the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance (Psalm 78:25).

This, however, is not to be taken literally, since angels do not have bodies.

Clothed

When angels appear, they are always clothed- sometimes in white or very bright clothing.

While they were perplexed about this thing, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them (Luke 24:4).

We find no darkness in them whatsoever as they are representing God - who Himself is light.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels appeared wearing white clothes and having the appearance of men.

They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them (Acts 1:10).

Face Of An Angel

The martyr Stephen was said to have the face of an angel when he spoke to the religious rulers.

And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).

The idea behind the phrase, "face of an angel," seems to be that his face was shining.

Reflect Glory Of The Lord

Sometimes the glory of the Lord shone through the angels.

Then the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified (Luke 2:9).

Sometimes Different Looking

Though angels usually appear as normal looking men, there are times when they wear special clothing. Daniel encountered such an angel.

I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude (Daniel 10:5,6).

Never In Subhuman Form

Though angels appear at times in the form of humans, we never find them appearing in subhuman form - they never look like animals, birds, or some other material object. Furthermore, the Bible says that angels have spoken to people out of the cloud and out of the fire, but the angels never identified themselves with either the cloud or the fire.

Identified With Humanity Like Christ

As Christ identified with humanity, by becoming human being, angels, in a similar way as messengers of God, identified with humanity in outward form and language. They, as His messengers, come to humanity in a way that is identifiable.

Wings?

Medieval art made popular the idea that angels had wings. Though Daniel 9:21 and Revelation 14:6 refers to angels as flying, neither of these passages mentions wings. When angels have appeared to humans in the Bible, there is no indication that they had wings. Though wings are never attributed to angels who have appeared to humanity, two types of angelic creatures - the cherubim and seraphim - have wings. Apart from the cherubim guarding the Garden of Eden after the sin of Adam and Eve, there is no other report of their appearance to humans. They are seen in visions, or are representative figures in the Ark of the Covenant, and the temple. Thus the idea that some angelic creatures do have wings does have some biblical validity. It is not certain, however, that any angel who appeared to humans ever was in a form that included wings.

Summary

Angels are spirit-beings whose exact form is never described for us. They have no physical form like humans. When they do appear to humans they appear as men, not women. The concept that they have white skin and play a harp, is not found in the Bible. Two different types of angelic creatures, the cherubim and seraphim, are said to have wings but there are no clear examples of the other angels ever appearing to humans with wings.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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