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Angels of evil?

"Are they (the angels of God) not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?" (Heb 1:14).
These words suggest that there are no morally evil angels; they all seem to be on God's side.

Then who are the sinful, false adversaries mentioned here and there in the Bible? Very often they are human devils/satans (eg Act 5:3,5; Rev 2:9,13; 3:9; Mat 16:23; Joh 6:70), and it would appear -- for that matter -- that sin and death in the world are ultimately traceable to the actions of humans, specifically Adam and Eve, from the very beginning (Gen 3, of course, and Rom 5 esp):

"Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned... Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come... many died through one man's trespass... For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation... because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man... one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men... by one man's disobedience many were made sinners... sin reigned in death..."
But strictly human devils/satans do not appear to answer all issues satisfactorily. The problem of evil in the world still poses awkward questions. So we turn to other passages...

"I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the LORD, who do all these things" (Isa 45:7). (This is the RSV; for "woe" NIV has "disaster" and KJV has "evil" -- suggesting the various translators were a little uncertain about how to deal with this verse.)

"Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does evil befall a city, unless the LORD has done it?" (Amo 3:6).
Here is a stark truth about the world, with its earthquakes, tornadoes, pestilences, and famines, which people by and large refuse to face up to: that this is God's world and He is fully in control of what happens in it, the "bad" ("evil") as well as the good. May I suggest that a well-balanced philosophy or world view will accept this, the bad, as happening not because the Almighty God, the One God, is slumbering or indifferent, but because He and He alone originates and controls all such things for the fulfillment of His purpose and for the ultimate good of the human race. The "evils" are only "evil" because that is how men with limited understanding see them. With God there is no ultimate "evil". By Divine teaching we see things in their correct perspective, but it still requires personal faith to believe, in opposition to our natural feelings, that a righteous and just and loving God is really responsible for floods, famines, earthquakes, and the like.

But the Bible is full of "evils" brought by the power and wisdom of God:
  1. Jonah's storm and Jonah's gourd;
  2. Egypt's seven years of plenty and then of famine;
  3. Elijah's drought;
  4. The earthquake at Philippi.
So... how does God control all the "evils" which are so much a part of all human experience?

Can God truly be in charge of... can He truly be the Monarch of a universe in which dwells a superhuman Devil/Satan who continues for long ages to be in open rebellion against the authority of God? All human experience seems to declare that this Devil, if he really exists, is winning all along the line; he is more almighty than THE Almighty... but how can this be?

Mark Twain was once asked whom he would most like to meet. He promptly answered, "The Devil... because any person who can absolutely dominate 95% of the world's population... AND the other 5% about half the time... is surely the most impressive Being in all of the universe."

As Calvin (of comic strip fame) asked his playmate Hobbes the tiger: "Do you believe in the Devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" To which a puzzled Hobbes replied: "I'm not sure man needs the help." (The frustrated Calvin's last word: "You just can't talk to animals about these things.")

A second point, so to speak, is to insist that the overall control of God in the "bad" as well as the good, is committed to the administration of angels, "his hosts, his ministers that do his will" (Psa 103:21).

Consider also:

"For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking" (Heb 2:5)... which implies that the present "world", with all the evils which it endures -- plagues, wars, and a thousand other dire calamities -- IS under the control of the angels.

"Let US make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen 1:26). This can't be Jesus as a person... we are surely all agreed on that. Certainly the most satisfying explanation of these words is that in the beginning, man was designed to be physically in the likeness of angels; hence the clear examples in the Bible of angels being mistaken for men (Gen 18:1,2; Jos 5:13; Mark 16:5).

The association of angels with the creation may also be read in such places as Job 38:4-7. Surely in many other places in the Bible which describe God's control over the natural world, this control is really the hands-on work of the angels, His "elohim" (mighty ones).

The concept of good and "evil" in the world of Nature and human experience leads logically and inevitably to the conclusion that the vast unseen array of God's ministers (Jesus spoke of 12 "legions", tens of thousands, of angels!) include both angels of good and angels of "evil".

Now we shall consider these angels of "evil".

  1. "For the LORD will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over [the Hebrew means something like "hover over, to protect": Isa 31:5, sw] the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to slay you" (Exo 12:23). Here, in one verse, there is a protecting angel and a destroying angel, both working God's will.
  2. Evidently this same angel, or another like him, was sent out -- by God! -- against Israel in the wilderness: "Do not grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer" (1Co 10:10).
  3. Psa 78 looks back to the plagues brought on Egypt... blood, lice, flies, frogs, locusts, hail, etc. Then in v 49 we read: "He let loose on them his fierce anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels." (The KJV has "evil angels", and the RV "angels of evil"). Notice that it is not possible to read here "wicked or sinful or morally evil angels", because they were doing God's work against Pharaoh and the land of Egypt.
  4. Acts 12 also has a protecting angel and a destroying angel at work at Passover time again (vv 3,4). Peter, in prison, was freed by an angel (vv 7...), and then Herod his persecutor was struck down by an angel (v 23).
  5. At still another Passover, Jerusalem was protected, and the Assyrian army was destroyed (Isa 37:36; 31:5,8).
  6. In 1Ki 22:19... the downfall of Ahab is described as the result of angelic influence over the false prophets in whom the king trusted.
  7. Perhaps also the "evil spirit FROM THE LORD" which troubled Saul (1Sa 16:14).
  8. The angelic destruction in Jerusalem in the time of David was stopped by the command of the LORD (2Sa 24:16).
These passages at least (and there are a number of others) make a case for a dichotomy of sorts in the legions of God's angels. Some are protecting spirits, guiding and guarding in unseen ways: "angels of good". Others are destroying spirits, punishing and trying men: "angels of evil". But ALL are angels who do the will of God. There are no "wicked, sinful angels of God"; wickedness is a trait exclusively the property of man. As Hobbes said, "I'm not sure man needs the help!"

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