How did angels appear to people in the Bible? Do angels appear to people today?
The Bible acknowledges the existence of angels and records visits by them to people on earth. Do angels still appear to people today?
Angels appeared to people in the Bible in three ways. First, some angels appeared to people in a recognizable form, even seeming to be human. For example, the angel that announced the virgin birth to Mary appeared in some kind of recognizable form (Luke 1:26-38), as did the angel who appeared to the shepherds and the angelic multitude who praised God (Luke 2:8-15). The angels who appeared to Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18—19 were humans from the men's standpoint.
Second, other angels appeared to people in dreams. This was especially true surrounding the birth of Jesus. An angel appeared to Joseph, the man engaged or betrothed to Mary, in a dream to tell him to take Mary as his wife and that their son would be Jesus, the Messiah (Matthew 1:20-21). An angel also appeared to Joseph in another dream to warn him to flee to Egypt with his family (Matthew 2:13).
Third, some angels appeared to people in visions. This was true of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1 and 10), as well as John's vision in Revelation. These visions were distinct from dreams, as they took place when the individuals were awake. However, these visions were also different from appearances in which angels came to people in a recognizable way, or as humans, and could be seen by others.
When we discuss whether angels appear to people today, we must also be careful to note that both holy angels and fallen angels (called demons) exist. All angel visitation claims fall into one of three categories. First, they can be made up, whether intentionally or sincerely (having a human explanation). Second, an angelic visit could be a deception by an evil spirit. Third, a person may have a true angelic encounter.
True angelic encounters will involve messages or activities that do not contradict God's clear revelation in Scripture. A messenger of God will not give a message that is in conflict with the truth of God since God does not lie (Titus 1:2).
In addition, angelic encounters are rare or uncommon. Even God's apostles and prophets only saw an angel on limited occasions. Anyone who claims to see angels regularly is making claims inconsistent with Scripture.
Within these biblical parameters, it is possible God sometimes communicates with an individual through angels today. In fact, many reports have come from around the world over the years regarding times when unexplained encounters have involved an individual that could best be described as an angel.
Perhaps this is one reason Hebrews 13:2 teaches, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." We cannot plan for angelic encounters or simply seek them. God controls when and if an angel will appear to minister to someone in need. We are called to faithfully serve the Lord regardless, knowing that God works in ways beyond that which we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
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