Is There Life Out There?
As a very young man, I found myself intrigued by television and movie accounts of extra-terrestrial life. I was a huge Star Wars, Star Trek and E.T. fan. Many of us have imagined and wondered about the possibility that there might be other (non-human) intelligent, conscious beings in the universe. In fact, the S.E.T.I. Institute (www.seti.org), the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, continues to search the universe for signs of intelligent non-human life.
Well, as it turns out, the Bible does confirm the existence of extra-terrestrial life in the universe. They are called Angelic Beings. The Bible tells us that God created other, non-human creatures and gave them the ability to reason, make choices and live alongside the created order of planet earth, without being bound or limited to our planet. We commonly call these creatures ‘angels’ and ‘demons’.
It Seems Reasonable, Doesn’t It?
Now many people, especially those who do not believe in God, might find the claim for the existence of angelic beings to be a bit, well, “primitive”. After all, don’t those crazy Christians try to attribute all kinds of things to the activity of either angels or demons? Don’t Christians claim that all kinds of physical and mental illnesses are simply the result of demon possession (when we now know the true biological cause of many of these diseases)? And is there really any physical evidence that angels and demons exist in the first place?
It is true that much of what we believe as Christians is a matter of faith and trust, but that doesn’t mean that good sound thinking has not been exercised along the way. Many great thinkers have given much thought to the issue of angelic beings.
Thomas Aquinas (13th century Italian philosopher and theologian)
Thomas Aquinas devoted an entire block of fifteen questions in Part I of his “Summa Theologica” to arguments for the existence of non material angelic beings. I will take GREAT liberty with his argument here for the sake of brevity, but his case for angels and demons went something like this:
- A good God creates beings in his image
- God is an immaterial conscience being, and has created humans as material conscience beings
- Consciousness is not a function of the material body
- Therefore, humans are both material and immaterial beings (we have immaterial, conscious souls)
- In the continuum of beings it is reasonable to assume that some sort of immaterial conscious being exists in between the categories of God and Man:
“…Incorporeal substances rank between God and corporeal creatures. Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold; and thus it is said that angels, compared to God, are material and corporeal, not, however, as if anything corporeal existed in them.”
Johannes Quenstedt (17th century Lutheran professor and theologian)
Quenstedt also made a case for angelic beings in a way that was somewhat similar to Aquinas. He argued that there are no “gaps” in nature, and reasoned that this implied that purely spiritual beings such as angels must exist in the continuum of corporeal to spiritual beings:
- There are purely corporeal beings (stones)
- Partly corporeal and partly spiritual beings (ie. Humans)
- Purely spiritual bein gs (ie. Angels)
Charles Hodge (19th century Princeton theologian)
Hodge made a case for angelic beings based on the varied existence of ‘irrational beings’. His case argued that if irrational beings exist in multiplicity, it is reasonable to assume that ‘rational’ beings must also exist in multiplicity:
- There are more than one kind of irrational beings (ie. Insects and animals)
- There should be more than one kind of rational being (ie. Humans and angelic beings)
“There is every reason to presume that the scale of being among rational creatures is as extensive as that in the animal world.”
Now none of these arguments proves the existence of angelic beings from a naturalistic perspective, but the arguments do demonstrate the ‘reasonable’ existence of such creatures. As Christians, we don’t rely purely on our natural observations, because we know that these are extremely limited (and in addition, we know that we can’t trust our limited reasoning capacity). That’s why we believe that God has given us special revelation in His Word, the Bible.
A Battle is Raging
The Scriptures tell us a lot about the existence of angelic beings. In fact, the Bible tells us that while we might be focused narrowly on the forces of the world that we can SEE, there are actually forces that CANNOT be seen. These immaterial forces are at work all around us, unnoticed because we choose to focus narrowly on the material world:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The Bible tells us that a battle is raging even as we read these words. And it’s not a battle of material flesh and blood. It is an immaterial, spiritual battle of angelic proportion. The Bible makes the case that there are other, non human beings that live right alongside us and are battling for our souls. This unseen angelic world is filled with angels and demons. Let’s take a look at the nature of these beings as we try to understand their nature and power.
The Nature and Power of Angelic Beings
The Bible tells us that God created TWO kinds of sentient, conscious and rational beings. We are not alone in the Universe. The Scriptures tell us that God also created invisible spirits (angelic beings):
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him.
But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
Now while we might like to think that all angelic beings are holy angels, the Bible tells us that some of these creatures are evil:
At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He granted sight to many who were blind.
Scripture tells us that angels and demons are of the same original nature. They are of the same ‘order’. They are spiritual creatures, created by God with the ability to make free will choices. Demons are simply angels who have rebelled against God:
2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
Demons are created angels who made the choice to submit to their own pride, rather than to the will of the God who created them. It appears that angelic beings were created at a specific time in history. The entire group was created at once, and there is no reason to believe that new angelic beings have been created since that time. It also appears that the dark angels fell at a specific point in time, and that no additional angels have fallen. When did this fall occur? One possibility is in the period recorded in Genesis chapter three, between God’s declaration that His creation was “very good” and the fall of man. But regardless of WHEN the demons and the angels parted company, one thing is clear, they both share powers that are in many ways greater than those of humans. That’s why there unseen, immaterial activity is so important and trumps the material activity we see in our visible world. Let’s take a look at the power of Angelic Beings:
They Have Super-Human Knowledge (But Not Omniscience)
Angelic beings are not spatially limited like we are. As a result, they have the ability to exist without physical restraint and, as a result, they know more than we do based on their ability to observe without material limitations. But while they may know more than we do, they still don’t know as much as God:
1 Peter 1:12
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
They Have Super-Human Wisdom (But Not All Wisdom)
Remember that wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom comes from making mistakes and learning from these errors. You gain wisdom from either learning from your own mistakes or the mistakes of others. Angelic beings have the advantage of learning from our mistakes as well. They get to see many more ‘life errors’ than we do, and they live forever, so their collective wisdom grows as they watch the errors that humans make every day. The angels use this wisdom as they help us in the future, but the demons use this wisdom to better target our weaknesses. The Bible demonstrates the fact that angelic beings are ever-present and watch us, even when we are struggling:
1 Corinthians 4:9
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
They Have Super-Human Strength and Power (But Not Omnipotence)
Angelic beings move between the material, physical world and the immaterial spiritual; realm. As a result, they are able to accomplish more than humans can, based on our limited and restricted existence. The Bible describes angelic beings as having great power and strength:
2 Peter 2:11
… yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
But notice something in these two passages. Notice that angels (those angelic beings who still love and serve God) make the choice daily to operate only within the will of God. Demons, of course, are another matter entirely (more on that later). But lest you think that angelic beings are ALL powerful, it’s important to remember that NO created being is more powerful than it’s creator. Angels and demons do NOT have the same power over nature that God has:
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds.
Created to Love God
So why do Angels exist in the first place? Angelic beings were created for much the same reason that humans were created. Angels were created to love God. And those angelic beings who continue to love God are still angels. While some have fallen away and become demons, those who remain are desperately in love with their creator:
They Love to Praise and Glorify Him
This is the attribute of the angelic order that separates angels from demons. Those who still adore God are the angels; those who reject Him are the demons. One evidence that the angels are head over heels in love with God is the fact that there is an entire category of angels whop do nothing but attend to God (Cherubim and Seraphim)
And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
They Love to Be in His Presence
Angels are constantly returning to the presence of God. They seem to love to be there. How do we know this? Well, one evidence is the fact that when we humans get a glimpse of angels, they are often still radiating the ‘glow’ of God’s glory. They are still “white” from being in his presence, in much the same way that Moses was ‘white’ after being face to face with God on the mountain as he received the Ten Commandments:
In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning.
They Love to Carry His Message
Angels are so in love with God that they are also in love with his Law. The Apostle John told us that we demonstrate our love for God when we OBEY his Law (1John 5:3). Angles understand this principle. They love God’s truth and they love to share it with others:
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
They Love What He Loves and Hate What He Hates
Angels so love their creator that they have adopted his will as their own. If God hates something unrighteous, angels also hate it. In fact, they are often seen to execute his judgment:
2 Kings 19:35-36
Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.
In a similar manner, if God is desperately in love with something or someone, the angels are ALSO in love with this something or someone. Angels love God so much that they love what God loves! That’s a good thing for us humans, because God happens to love those who have repented and given themselves to Him. This is why the angels also love the saints:
They Love Us Enough to Appear to Us in Our Own Form
Angels are immaterial, spiritual beings. But when they appear to humans, they take on our form! Why would they do this? Perhaps it is because they love us and want to connect with us as created beings. Who knows? One thing IS clear, however. Angels NEVER appear to wicked people. They only appear to the saints; to those who belong to God. This may be yet another evidence that angels love us:
And when he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant. “And they said,” So do, as you have said.”
They Love Us Enough to Announce the Savior
Angels love the fact that we too will be saved and reunited with God in Heaven. Ever notice how angelic appearances clutter the record of Jesus’ birth? Why would that be so? Why is it that angels never appear until God makes his covenant with Abraham? Angels appear in the Biblical record as messengers who announce God’s plan of redemption. They joyously relish in this reality; the reality that we will all be joined someday in Heaven:
And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
They Love Us Enough to Rejoice at Our Conversion
In keeping with this role in announcing the Good News, angels also seem to rejoice whenever any of us decides to repent and place our trust in Christ:
“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
They Love Us Enough to Watch Over Us
Angels care so much about God’s chosen people that they continue to stay in our presence, even when we forget that they are there:
1 Timothy 5:21-22
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.
They Love Us Enough to Surround Us In Protection
Angels stay close to us for a reason. They are part of that spiritual battle that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 6:12-13. The angels are constantly battling for us:
2 Kings 6:15-18
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
They Love Us Enough to Worship Alongside the Church
Angels are always in our presence. This means that they are also in our presence while we are gathered together worshiping God!
1 Corinthians 11:5-11
But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
They Love Us Enough to Take Us Home to God
Finally, it is God’s holy angels that will someday take us back home to Him. The angles love us enough to make sure that God’s chosen will be reunited with God:
Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.
God’s angels give us a glimpse into His very own heart, for when we observe the loving activity of angels, we are actually witnessing the loving nature of God Himself.
But Some Have Rejected Him
While angelic beings were originally were created to love God, some have rejected him entirely. Sound familiar? In many ways the story of angelic beings parallels our own experiences as humans. Demons have rebelled against God in much the same way that many of us have. While angels choose continually to worship and honor their creator, striving to help reunite all of creation with God, demons have rejected God and strive daily to oppose the spiritual understanding and development of humans (Ephesians 6:12). Remember that ANGELS AND DEMONS are of the same nature! They share the same powers that we have already described! So, just as angels act in love toward us in the areas we have already discussed, demons act in opposition to those very same areas!
They Will Appear in Our Own Form
While angels appear to us in the form of humans to demonstrate their empathy and love for us, demons ENTER the body to take on the form of those they are attacking:
When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
They Will Also Announce the Savior
While angels announce the Savior in love and expectation, demons scream his name in fear, provoking fear in those non-believers who may be watching:
Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
They Will Try to Prevent Our Conversion
While angels celebrate our conversion, demons do all they can to prevent our coming to faith and to prevent us from remaining in that position. They often do this by simply attacking our ability to hear the word or to speak in response to the Gospel:
And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”
They Will Also Watch Over Us
While angels are watching over us, demons are also watching, but for a different purpose. Demons are looking carefully for another host to attack:
When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.
They Will Try to Surround Us and Separate Us
While angels seek to surround us in protection, demons are continually trying to separate us from God (fortunately we know they could never overpower the God who created them):
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
They Will Enter the Church
While angels are with us in our places of worship, singing right alongside the saints, demons also try to infiltrate the places of God:
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
They Will Try to Distract Us from God
Finally, while it is God’s holy angels that will someday take us back home to Him, demons are doing all they can to distract us from the God of the universe. In fact, they will try to accomplish this by acting as FALSE GODS to distract the world from the true God who created them:
They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
The Battle Is the Lord’s
In all of this study of angelic beings, one thing should be clear. It is the Christian perspective that there is an invisible reality that surrounds us. There is another immaterial reality that we cannot see; a realm of angels and demons, a realm of battles and victories. While we rather blindly live our lives here on earth, endless activity is occurring at the spiritual level, and we are largely unaware. But as Christians we can have confidence that we have a Father who sent His Spirit to protect all of us who have placed our trust in Him. Jesus asked God the Father for this protection, and God continues to utilize his holy angels to accomplish His Goals:
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.