Everyone has a guardian angel, right? You know, an invisible heavenly spirit being from God that shadows us throughout this human existence and runs interference during the rough times in our lives. If true, I imagine some of them must have a boring existence, while others (like mine) have a very rough time, trying to straighten out all the errors and problems.
The Bible has a lot to say about angels, but is there anything specific about those whose job is to take care of each of us? Or do we have a misunderstanding about this subject? This article’s study is to determine the answers to these and other questions.
The general term ‘angels’ denotes that they are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14) and quite numerous (Daniel 7:10; Matthew 26:53). They have different ranks and powers (Zechariah 1:19), can appear in human form (Genesis 18:2; Luke 24:4,; Acts 1:10), and are lacking in some heavenly knowledge (Matthew 24:36). Just like you and me, angels are creatures who can make errors (Job 4:18) and can fall into temptation (Matthew 25:41). And, they will fight to hold their own position in battle (Revelation 12:7, 9).1
Angels are messengers. For instance, when the angel Gabriel interprets a vision for the prophet Daniel, scripture says: “When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I tried to understand it. Then someone appeared standing before me, having the appearance of a man, and I heard a human voice by the Ulai,2 calling, ‘Gabriel, help this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, ‘Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end’,” (Daniel 8:15-17, NRSV).3
But angels not only carry messages to people, they also serve God in his heavenly court (Job 1:6), and they make up God’s army.4 “In the book of Kings (2 Kings 6), the Bible describes how God provides an army of angels leading horses and chariots of fire to protect the prophet Elisha and his servant and opens the servant’s eyes so that he can see the angelic army surrounding them.”5
A Special Class of Angel
Guardian Angels, however, are a special class of protective spirit beings. They can protect people (Exodus 14:19-20; Matthew 26:53), provide a variety of human needs (Genesis 21:17-19); Mark 1:13), and deliver people from danger (Acts 5:19). They do not appear to be objects of salvation, but are interested in the salvation of human beings (Luke 15:10).6
“In the [Jewish] cabala,7 there are four ruling princes of the order: Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, Michael.” Included under them are seventy guardian angels of nations, plus unknown others for ministering to individuals, and this was the doctrine of Basil of Caesarea (330-379 AD), Gregory the Great (540-604 AD, and other theologians of the early Church.8
One Palestinian author, Yizhak ben Parnak,9 describes events that take place when humans die. “When a man is dying three angels come to his bedside — the angel of death, the recording angel, and the guardian angel; and these three review his entire life.”10
Some in the early church believed each person has two angels, one good and one evil” which give instructions on how to tell the difference between right and wrong. “Probably the most historically significant early writer on this issue, Origen (184-253 AD), writes in his First Principles that “every human soul is put in subjection to some angel.”11 Today, in comics and cartoons, we have all seen this concept of opposing angels (one with a halo, the other with horns) standing on the character’s shoulder, trying to pull them one way or the other.
According to the ‘Book of Adam and Eve’,12 our first parents had two guardian angels who were of the order of Virtues. And according to Irenaeus (130-202 AD) and other Church fathers, the guardian angel of Earth was Satan, until he rebelled.13
All those ideas are interesting, but actually, there is no scripture in the Old Testament or the New Testament that specifies an angel is assigned to a human being for life. The idea probably originated when it was suggested that the nation of Israel was protected by Michael the archangel (see: Daniel 10:21 and 12:1). From that, the Jewish people accepted a concept that every individual has his own guardian angel and, on occasion, may “assume a visible appearance resembling that of the person whose destiny is committed to him.”14
There is no specific scripture using the term ‘guardian angel’ either, but there are verses implying this concept. For example, one basis for this belief is from the Psalms: “No evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:10-12).
So, whether or not specific angels are assigned to humans for life, scripture is scarce. On the other hand, the Bible does provide substantial evidence that, in certain circumstances, God sends a heavenly guardian to assist us. When a Christian needs help teaching someone about Jesus Christ, a guardian angel may help, but when trying to decide which whiskey is best to serve at a party, probably not.
Very Important to the Catholic Church
In Christianity, Guardian Angels are most important to the Catholic Church — it is part of their philosophy and tradition. To them the specific “role of the guardian angel is both to guide us to good thoughts, works, and words, and to preserve us from evil.” These heavenly spirits are assigned by God to watch over us throughout our lives and they are known as Holy Guardian Angels.15
As important as these creatures are to them, their exact nature is not defined by the Catholic Church and they are not an article of its faith. It is, as Jerome16 wrote, “the mind of the church.” He further explains “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.”17
The earliest reference to a belief in guardian angels can be found in ‘Jubilees’, one of the most important non-canonical books of the Bible. “And fear thou not on account of Jacob; for the guardian of Jacob is great and powerful and honoured, and praised more than the guardian of Esau” (Jubilees 35:17, R. H. Charles, Ethiopic text translation).18
The concept of angels being guardians of nations played a role in second temple Judaism and therefore was a valid concept in the New Testament theology of the powers of darkness.19 Some Pentecostal researchers stated, “The knowledge that God’s great guardian angels watch over and minister to the redeemed children of the Lord should inspire and encourage every believer.” Understanding that this applies to Satan as well, they went on to add, “believers must also recognize in this area of spiritual warfare the vast host of enemy spirits whose purposes are to thwart all spiritual progress.”20
Not all authors and commentators think guardian angels are important to biblical history or to the gospel of Jesus. Protestant reformer and French theologian, John Calvin (1509-1564), did not see any benefits of a special guardian angel, since there were so many others. “So, guardian angels did not develop much as part of Christian angelology, except within the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.”21
This belief in guardian angels is not unique just to the Judeo-Christian religions. Such doctrine can be traced throughout all antiquity as many pagans, including Babylonians and Assyrians, have monuments testifying to this fact.22
Guardian Angels of the Devil
There are guardian angles even in the literature of Satanic movements. In the early 1900s, English writer, mystic, and magician, Aleister Crowley, founded the religion of Thelema. This is an esoteric and occult spiritual philosophy and religious ideology. “Crowley asserted or believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a spiritual experience that he . . . had in Egypt in 1904.”23
“The term ‘Holy Guardian Angel’ originates in the Catholic Church where a morning prayer is recited which reads, ‘Holy Guardian Angel, whom God has appointed to be my guardian, direct and govern me during this day, Amen’.” The occultist, Crowley, co-opted the term within the philosophy of his religion of Thelema.24 Thelema is a Greek word meaning ‘will’ or ‘intention’ and the religion is being spread worldwide.25
“Aspects of Thelema and Crowley’s thought in general inspired the development of Wicca and, to a certain degree, the rise of Modern Paganism as a whole, as well as chaos magic and some variations of Satanism.”26
Within his own occult religion, Crowley said that one of the important goals is to “consciously connect with one’s Holy Guardian Angel, representative of one’s truest divine nature. . . . Once he has achieved this he must, of course, be left entirely in the hands of that Angel.”27 That sounds to me like surrendering yourself to an angel other than one from God Almighty. I believe following this advice will subject someone to the will and control of Satan or one of his demons.
The Outlaw Bible Student website has several articles on the subject of angels, other than the guardian angel type. These articles tell about good and bad angels, their different jobs, and their place in God’s universe. You will find a list of these studies at the end of this article in References & Notes.28
Guardian Angels in Popular Culture
The term Guardian Angel is used in literature, music, television, motion pictures, artworks, as well as in the occult. It has been adapted in names of churches, schools, and businesses. If old enough, many people will remember the guardian angel (Teen Angel) that appeared in the musical Grease produced during the last half of the twentieth century. This popular show borrows heavily from the sounds of early rock and roll and highlights various youthful social issues of the time.29 A music video from a film version of the 1978 production is selected for this article, because it highlights the Guardian Angel of one of the show’s characters.
The song’s title is ‘Beauty School Dropout’. The character, a girl named Frenchy, had previously dropped out of high school and recently dropped out of beauty school, too. She wants her guardian angel to help get her life back on track. The guardian angel (played by Frankie Avalon), visits her and advises that, because she lacks a good work ethic, she should return to high school and graduate, in order to be successful later in life.30
In the show, it is indicated that Frenchy refuses to take her Guardian Angel’s advice. Isn’t that how things turn out in our own lives, sometimes. Its something to think about, huh? Selected lyrics are below and a link to the video is listed in References & Notes.31
Beauty school dropout
No graduation day for you
Missed your midterms and flunked shampoo
Hangin’ around the corner store
It’s about time you knew the score!
Well, they couldn’t teach you anything
You think you’re such a looker
But no customer would go to you unless she was a hooker!
You’re not cut out to hold a job
Wipe off that angel face and go back to high school
Copyright © 2021, Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- Easton, M. G., Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature, (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1893), p. 42.
- Ulai: the Hebrew name for a river near the city of Susa. It was known as Eulaus to the Greeks.
“Ulai”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 August 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulai
- Unless otherwise stated, all scripture is from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).
- Cox, Steven L., in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Brand, Chad, et al., (Eds.), (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), p. 66.
- Hopler, Whitney, “The Prophet Elisha and an Army of Angels”, (Learn Religion, 26 July 2018), https://www.learnreligions.com/elisha-and-an-army-of-angels-124107
- Youngblood, Ronald F., et al., (Eds.), Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995).
- Cabala (kabbalah): a medieval and modern system of Jewish theosophy, mysticism, and thaumaturgy [magic/occult knowledge] marked by belief in creation through emanation and a cipher method of interpreting Scripture.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
- Davidson, Gustav, A Dictionary of Angels: including the Fallen Angels, (New York: The Free Press/division of Macmillan, Inc., 1967), pp. 127-128.
- Yizhak ben Parnak: (of uncertain period); author of an apocryphal work (no translated title), which describes the events that take place at the death of a human being.
Singer, Isidore, The Jewish Encyclopedia (see below).
- Singer, Isidore, (Ed.), The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, 12 Volumes, 1901–1906), vol. 12, p. 616.
- Gilhooly, John, “Does Every Christian Have a Guardian Angel?” (The Gospel Coalition, 11 October 2019), https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/every-christian-guardian-angel/
- Book of Adam and Eve: also called The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan and is from the extra biblical Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. It is supposedly a written history of what happened in the days of Adam and Eve after they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
- Gilhooly, John, “Does Every Christian Have a Guardian Angel?” (See above.)
- Vincent, Marvin Richardson, Word Studies in the New Testament, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), vol. 1, p. 510.
- “Who are our Guardian Angels?” (Catholic Online, retrieved 19 October 2021), https://www.catholic.org/saints/angels/guardian.php
- Jerome (342-347): a Latin priest, theologian, and historian. He is best known for his work in translating the Bible into Latin and for his Bible commentaries.
- “Guardian Angel: Treatment of the concept of guardian angels”, (Catholic Answers, retrieved 19 October 2021), https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/guardian-angel
- Charles, R. H., The Book of Jubilees or The Little Genesis: Translation, (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1902), p. 209.
- Heiser, Michael S., Demons: What the Bible Really Says about the Powers of Darkness, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), p. 213.
- Duffield Guy P., and Van Cleave, Nathaniel M., Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Revised & Updated, (Los Angeles, CA: Foursquare Media, 2016), vol. 2, p. 138.
- Staton, Knofel, Angels, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Co, 2005).
- “Thelema”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 October 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelema
- “Guardian angel”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 September 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardian_angel
- Chappell, Vere, “What is Thelema?” (Thelema 101, retrieved 18 October 2021), https://www.thelema101.com/intro
- “Thelema”, (Wikipedia), see above.
- “Guardian angel”, (Wikipedia), see above.
- (1) “Angels—What are They?” https://outlawbiblestudent.org/angels-what-are-they/
(2) “Angels from Heaven or Aliens from Outer Space?” https://outlawbiblestudent.org/angels-from-heaven-or-aliens-from-outer-space/
(3) “Ephesians 6:12: Satan, Fallen Angels, & Demons — the Real Enemies of Our Faith” https://outlawbiblestudent.org/ephesians-612-satan-fallen-angels-demons-the-real-enemies-of-our-faith/
- “Grease (musical)”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 October 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grease_(musical)
- “Beauty School Dropout”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 September 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_School_Dropout
- “Beauty School Dropout”, Artist: Frankie Avalon; Music and songwriters: Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey; Album: Grease (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 14 April 1978), licensed to YouTube by UMG, Polydor Record, others; (used under ‘fair use’ copyright for teaching under Section 107 of Copyright Act of 1976) – MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/FUMAcjz0kiE