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In what ways are angels and humans different?

angels humans different

Angels have captured the human imagination since the beginning of time. Perhaps the most intriguing quality of angels is that they sometimes abandon their unseen existence in the spirit realm to take on human resemblance and interact with us. For many reasons, angels fascinate humans. Angels are different from us; they are unique creations of God that, at present, can only be effectively perceived through the lens of Scripture.

The words for “angel” in Hebrew and Greek signify a “messenger,” which designates the office or official function of such a being. Angels were created to be God’s messengers, sent out to serve His purposes. In some ways, angels are like humans. They are superior beings created by God with intelligence, morality, and spirituality. They worship God and carry out His will on earth (Psalm 103:20). Like humans, angels possess limited knowledge (Matthew 24:36), although the Bible indicates that angels have greater knowledge and higher rank than humans (Hebrews 2:7–9; Mark 13:32). One purpose of angels is to serve God’s people (Hebrews 1:14). God commissions angels to protect His people (Psalm 91:11–12), deliver them from danger (2 Kings 19:35), transmit divine messages (Hebrews 2:2), give guidance (Exodus 23:20), and encourage believers (1 Kings 19:5–7).

The Bible reveals a host of ways angels are different from humans. Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14), meaning they do not have a physical body. Humans are set apart from all other created beings because they have both a material body and an immaterial soul or spirit. Since angels are immaterial and incorporeal, they do not experience physical suffering and harm like human beings do, nor do they experience physical death (Luke 20:36).

God is also a Spirit being, but His nature is infinite, while angels are finite spirit beings. The spiritual nature of angels does not prevent them from making their presence known to humans; usually, when they appear to people, angels portray themselves in the form of human men (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). They have appeared to people in visions and dreams (Matthew 1:20; Isaiah 6:1–8) and in a conscious, awakened state (Genesis 19:1–8; Mark 16:5; Luke 2:13).

The Bible often ascribes to angels superhuman characteristics quite different from what ordinary people possess. In various places, certain types of angels are said to have “eyes like flaming torches,” legs “like fiery pillars,” and “six wings” (Daniel 10:5–7; Isaiah 6:2; Revelation 10:1–3; 15:6; 18:1). Angels are “far greater in power and strength” than humans (2 Peter 2:11, NLT; see also 2 Thessalonians 1:7). Angels wage spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12).

The author of Hebrews stresses angels’ swift and subtle nature as they perform God’s will: “He sends his angels like the winds, his servants like flames of fire” (Hebrews 1:7, NLT). In Peter’s dramatic escape from prison, a brightly lit angel appeared out of nowhere, slipped undetected by several guards, released chains, passed through heavy iron gates, and set the apostle free before he knew what had hit him. Just as suddenly, the angel disappeared (Acts 12:6–10).

Unlike humans, who are born with a sin nature (Romans 5:12), all angels were created originally as holy creatures (Jude 1:6; see also Ezekiel 28:15). Some were “the elect angels” who remained faithful to God (1 Timothy. 5:21), while others exercised their free will to rebel against God and sinned (2 Peter 2:4). Christian theology proposes that angels underwent a sort of probationary test in which all had the opportunity to remain in their original state of holiness. The elect—those who successfully passed the test and did not rebel—were confirmed in holiness forever. Those who failed became “unclean spirits” or “demons” (Mark 1:23; Luke 8:2; 11:24) and are now confirmed in their evil, rebellious state.

Angels differ from humans in that they are not the objects of God’s salvation (1 Peter 1:10–12). Although they cannot experience God’s saving grace themselves, angels are intently interested in its application to humans (Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 4:9; Ephesians 3:10). Only humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27) to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). The rebellious angels were not given an opportunity for their sins to be forgiven. Instead, they are awaiting “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Humans, however, can be forgiven of their sins and redeemed by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 10:9–10). Humans were made “a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7, 9). Yet, once saved, resurrected, and glorified, believers will judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).

Angels and humans are decidedly different, though they share some similarities. Angels are not our dearly departed loved ones. They are not people who have died, nor are they glorified humans (Hebrews 12:22–23). Jesus taught that angels do not marry or procreate as humans do (Matthew 22:30). Angels (and not humans) were present when the earth was created, and they shouted joyfully to God (Job 38:4–7). Although angels are special and unique creations of their own, only humans are recipients of God’s redeeming love, as demonstrated through Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

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In what ways are angels and humans different?
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This page last updated: August 3, 2023