What Are Angels?
Angels are divine messengers from God in heaven. The etymology of the word angel is from two
words meaning messenger: the Hebrew word mal'akh and the Greek word angelos. As the word
implies, God sends angels as heavenly emissaries to minister to people on Earth.
“Are [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of
salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)
How do angels minister to people on Earth? The ways seem endless! Scripture stories record
many ways (and instances) that angels minister to mortal men.
Instances of Protection
Daniel 6 recounts the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Jealous of Daniel’s favored status with
King Darius, Daniel’s coworkers concocted a plan to have King Darius sign a law prohibiting
people from praying to anyone besides King Darius. The king signed the law. Daniel continued
praying to the Lord three times a day as he’d always done. According to the law, and much to the
king’s distress, Daniel was put in the lions’ den. The next morning, King Darius called into the
lions’ den, and Daniel responded! Daniel said, “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut
the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me….”
In 2 Kings 19, King Sennacherib’s armies surrounded Jerusalem, threatening destruction unless
Hezekiah yielded to the Assyrian king. Hezekiah pled for the Lord’s protection, and the Lord
sent His angel to Jerusalem. “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out,
and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they
arose early in the morning, behold, [the Assyrians] were all dead corpses.”
Instances of Escape
Matthew 2 tells how Joseph, Mary, and Jesus avoided Herod’s murderous assault on the children
of Bethlehem because an angel warned Joseph to leave Bethlehem with his family. “[T]he angel
of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his
mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the
young child to destroy him.” When it was safe for the holy family to return to Israel, an angel
appeared to Joseph in a dream with that news.
An angel released Peter’s prison bonds in Acts 12. While Peter slept between two soldiers and
with jailers at the prison door, an angel raised Peter up, caused his chains to fall from his hands,
and told Peter to follow him, which Peter did. Peter followed the angel through the city, through
gates that swung open on their own, and then the angel disappeared. “And when Peter was come
to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered
me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.”
Instances of Direction
In Genesis 16, an angel talked to Hagar by a fountain of water in the wilderness where Hagar
fled after an altercation with Sarah. “And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy
mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will
multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and
shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.”
When Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in Luke 1, he also gave Zacharias very specific directions.
“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife
Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and
gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and
shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from
his mother’s womb.”
Instances of Providing Subsistence
In 1 Kings 19 when Queen Jezebel tried to kill him, Elijah fled into the wilderness. He sat down
and asked God to let him die because he felt like a failure. He fell asleep and an angel woke
Elijah and beckoned for him to eat. He ate a meal of cooked meal cake and cool water. And fell
asleep again. “And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said,
Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and
went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.”
John 5 tells of healing waters of Bethesda when an angel “troubled” the waters. “For an angel
went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after
the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.”
Instances of Judgment and Death
Acts 12 records how Herod sat on his throne and accepted the crowd’s adoration, calling him a
god. “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and
he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.”
Angels complete much of the work prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Revelation 9 speaks
specifically to angelic judgment. “By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and
by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.”
Still Other Instances of Angel Ministrations
As heavenly ministers, angels also helped people make and keep covenants to God, prophesied
of future events or births, taught doctrine, called mankind to repentance, and became means of
One of the most poignant angelic ministrations occurred while Jesus suffered in Gethsemane.
Luke 22 recorded that angelic act of comfort and strength. “And [Jesus] was withdrawn from
them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be
willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there
appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.”
Who Are the Archangels Michael and Gabriel?
Michael and Gabriel are both archangels. The word archangel means chief angel and comes
from the Greek word archangelos.
In their capacity as chief angels, Michael and Gabriel have ministered to mankind throughout
For example, both archangels ministered to Daniel. Michael helped Daniel against the Prince of
Persia for 21 days (Daniel 10.) Gabriel taught Daniel the meaning of a vision (Daniel 8.)
During New Testament times, Gabriel appeared to Zacharias (Luke 1:11–19) and Mary (Luke
1:26–38), to herald the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.
The New Testament reported that Michael contended with the devil for Moses’ body (Jude 1:9)
and fought against the dragon during a heavenly conflict (Revelation 12:7.)
What Are Other Examples of Angelic Ministry You Can Think Of?
Angels’ ministry witnesses of God’s love and concern for mankind’s struggles through Earth
What are other examples in the scriptures or in your own life that are instances of angels
ministering to mankind?
Something else to consider …
Have you ever wondered who angels are?
“Angels are messengers from God who are directly concerned with the doings of this earth.
Rather than mythical beings with wings, they are persons, in a spirit state or in
a resurrected state. The Bible Dictionary (Latter-day Saint annotated King James Version of the
Bible) states the following:
These are messengers of the Lord, and are spoken of in the epistle to the Hebrews as
"ministering spirits" (Hebrews 1:14). We learn from latter-day revelation that there are
two classes of heavenly beings who minister for the Lord: those who are spirits and those
who have bodies of flesh and bone. Spirits are those beings who either have not yet
obtained a body of flesh and bone (unembodied), or who have once had a mortal body
and have died, and are awaiting the resurrection (disembodied). Ordinarily the
word angel means those ministering persons who have a body of flesh and bone, being
either resurrected from the dead (re-embodied) or else translated, as were Enoch, Elijah,
etc. (Doctrine and Covenants 129).”
Have you wondered why angels are depicted with wings?
Throughout the scriptures, the Lord often uses symbolic language to visually explain principles
that are had to grasp. He uses a wonderful example of symbolism to help us understand the
powers and purposes of angels.
A modern prophet directly asked the Lord the meaning of eyes and wings on heavenly beings
and the Lord responded that “Their eyes are a representation of light and knowledge, that is, they
are full of knowledge; and their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc”
(Doctrine and Covenants 77). So rather than angels having two, four, or six physical wings, the
Lord uses that symbolic language to describe angelic power and capacity so that we can try to
comprehend their ministry in the work of the Lord’s kingdom.