Angelology- Chafer’s Systematic Theology
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer
Chapter I – INTRODUCTION TO ANGELOLOGY
The truth that there is an order of celestial beings quite distinct from humanity and from the Godhead who occupy an exalted estate above the present position of fallen man, is the teaching of much Scripture. These celestial beings are mentioned at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament, and out of this extended body of Scripture the student may construct his doctrine of the angels (cf. Gaebelein, Angels of God, p. 12).
The designation angel—whether mal᾽āk of the Old Testament Hebrew or aggelos of the New Testament Greek—means ‘messenger.’ These beings execute the purpose of the One whom they serve. The holy angels are the messengers of their Creator, while the fallen angels are the messengers of Satan—“the god of this world”—whom they elect to serve. Men, too, are sometimes styled messengers, as they seem to be addressed in Rev_1:20, though certain expositors, as well represented by Alford, contend that spirit beings are the messengers of the seven churches of Asia. The term angel is not only generic, in that it is applied to all orders of created spirits, but it is expressive, also, of their office or service.
When considering the angels, as in other doctrines, there is some field for the exercise of reason. Since God is spirit (Joh_4:24), partaking in no way of material elements, it is natural to assume that there are created beings who more closely resemble God than do the mundane creatures who combine both the material and the immaterial. There is a material kingdom, an animal kingdom, and a human kingdom; so, it may be assumed, there is an angelic or spirit kingdom. However, Angelology rests not upon reason or supposition, but upon revelation.
As the universe has been ordered, it has not pleased God to give to man any intercourse with the angels, or any consciousness of their presence; yet the Bible states that angels not only observe the affairs of men, but that good angels minister to man’s well-being (Heb_1:14) and evil angels wage a warfare against that in man which is wrought of God (Eph_6:12). The reality of angelic influence in human affairs is not restricted to a limited portion of human history. The angels are reported to be present from creation and on into the eternity to come. Under a comprehensive fivefold division of God’s finite creatures, as they now exist, the angels comprise two divisions, namely, the holy angels and the fallen angels. To these are added the Gentiles, the Jews, and the Christians. However, all classes of beings, regardless of the order or time of beginning, being originated and constituted as they are, go on in their group distinctions into eternity to come. There is no evidence that other orders of finite beings will be introduced in this age or future ages.
In the Middle Ages, unprofitable and often grotesque speculation so characterized the discussion of the doctrine of the angels that a depreciation of this body of truth is abroad today. Of these discussions Dr. Augustus Strong writes: “The scholastics debated the questions, how many angels could stand at once on the point of a needle (relation of angels to space); whether an angel could be in two places at the same time; how great was the interval between the creation of angels and their fall; whether the sin of the first angel caused the sin of the rest; whether as many retained their integrity as fell; whether our atmosphere is the place of punishment for fallen angels; whether guardian-angels have charge of children from baptism, from birth, or while the infant is yet in the womb of its mother” (Systematic Theology, sixth edition, p. 221). Thus, also, Rossetti in his Shadow of Dante (pp. 14-15) says of Dante: “The fall of the rebel angels he considers to have taken place within twenty seconds of their creation, and to have originated in the pride which made Lucifer unwilling to await the time prefixed by his Maker for enlightening him with perfect knowledge” (cited by Strong, ibid.).
The presence of spirit beings has been recognized in almost all systems of religion. On this fact, Dr. William Cooke makes this comment:
Indeed, in nearly all the systems of religion, ancient or modern, we trace such beings; in the Aeons of the Gnostics, the Demons, the Demi-gods, the Genii, and the Lares, which figure so largely in the theogonies, poems, and general literature of heathen antiquity, we have abundant evidence of almost universal belief in the existence of spiritual intelligences, ranging in different orders between man and his Maker. Here, however, we often find truth draped in fiction, and facts distorted by the wildest fancies of mythology. The doctrine of the heathen, respecting spiritual beings, may be thus briefly stated. They believe the souls of departed heroes and good men were exalted to dignity and happiness; these were called demons, and were supposed to be employed as mediators between the supreme divinity and man. There was, however, another class of demons, who were supposed never to have inhabited mortal bodies at all; and of these, there were two sorts: the good, who were employed as the guardians of good men; and evil ones, who were said to envy human happiness, and sought to hinder their virtue and effect their ruin. In these notions we see a substratum of truth; but in the Scriptures we have the truth itself in its original purity, free from the corruptions of superstition and the licentious imagery of the poet; and truth the more majestic from its unadorned simplicity.
Heathen philosophers and poets often spoke of the ministry of spiritual beings. Socrates often spoke of a good demon attending him, and directing and guiding him by his admonitions. Plato taught that the higher kind of demons, such as had never dwelt in mortal bodies, were appointed guardians unto men. But old Hesiod ascribes a ministering agency to the spirits that had once inhabited mortal bodies during the golden age, and speaks of them as
Aerial spirits, by great Jove design’d
To be on earth the guardians of mankind.
Invisible to mortal eyes they go,
And mark our actions good or bad below;
The immortal spies with watchful care preside,
And twice ten thousand round their charges glide;
They can reward with glory or with gold,
A power they by divine permission hold.
We have here a brief representation of that general sentiment on the offices of these superior beings, which we find so abundantly amplified in the speculations of philosophers, and the dreamy fictions of the poets. But with what steadfast foot we tread when, leaving the flitting theories and amusing dramas of the heathen, we come to the substantial verities of revelation, and in the narrative of simple truth hear what God has said and saints have seen of the angel world.—Christian Theology, 5th edition, pp. 610-11, 21-22