Angels: Friend or Foe?
By Adam Troudart
55 percent of Americans – non-religious included – believe that a guardian angel has protected them during their life.
This was the result of an extensive 2008 survey conducted by Baylor University Institute and published in Time Magazine. When you look at old religious writings, this result shouldn’t come as a surprise. Belief in guardian angels has been prevalent throughout ancient history.
- Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite developed a Christian hierarchy of tutelary angels in the 5th century.
- The idea that every individual is protected by a spirit sent by God has its roots in Zoroastrianism.
- The idea is echoed in ancient Greek philosophy and appears in the Old Testament as well.
- In Genesis 28-29, angels save Lot’s life before God’s distraction of Sodom and Gomorra.
- In The Book of Daniel, angels are assigned to particular countries, and Gabriel is referred to as “the Prince of the Persian Kingdom.”
- The Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish religious work, talks about holy angels, which God will set to guard all the righteous during the end of times, while He destroys the wicked.
Although the concept of guardian angels is not considered a Christian article of faith, it can be clearly found in the New Testament. Christian scholastic theologians from the 12th century onwards have laid out specific schemes for guardian angels, and in 1997, Pope John Paul II addressed the guardian angels concept twice. Christian mystiques like Maria Valtorta and Saint Gemma Galgani have reported conversations and interactions with guardian angels. There are even Catholic and Orthodox prayers dedicated to guardian angels.
Still, not all angels are perceived as guardian angels. The Hebrew and Christian Bible, followed by the Quran and other religious scripts, have mentioned various types of angels. In Judaism alone there are Seraphim (who sing and praise God), Messengers (such as Gabriel), Fighters (like Michael), Azrael (the angel of death), and Satan (who acts as an adversary). Early Christianity inherited Jewish understanding of angels and later on developed it further, categorizing them according to their missions and activities. As far as Islam is concerned, different angels are described in the Quran and Hadith (sayings and traditions attributed to Muhammad): Jibraaiyl/Jibril/Gabriel (who reveals the Quran to Muhammad), Mikail/Michael (the archangel of mercy), and Zabaniah (who torments sinful persons in Hell).
With so many spiritual beings on contrary missions, celestial wars are inevitable. One such war, which threatens to divide and weaken God’s armies against the impeding forces of The Legions of Darkness, is foreshadowed in the series Passenger. Here Michael, a demoted archangel, roams the earth in human form. Except for immortality and the authority to act as God’s messenger (aka Hit-Man), he is just a foot soldier. He relies on receiving his missions via Passengers, shape-shifting Cherubim and Seraphim who are in the ranks of divine entities closest to God – soon finding himself a pawn in a larger conflict.
Passenger – Episode 1
In his epic poem Paradise Lost, 17th-century English poet John Milton tells the Christian story of the Fall of Man. Prior to tempting Adam and Eve, Satan (a fallen angel) rebels against angels faithful to God and a three-day angelic war over Heaven takes place. Uriel and Gabriel guard the sun and Paradise respectively, Michael leads the battle against Satan and his army, and Raphael warns Adam and Eve of Satan.
Battles between heavenly and earthly forces, however, had been introduced much earlier that Milton’s text. The Book of Revelation (the final book of the New Testament) sees John (the main character) witnessing God’s apocalyptic plan unveiled. While Michael and his angels lead the war in Heaven against the Dragon, most angels play a major role in carrying out God’s destructive plan:
- Seven angels blow the seven trumpets which precede seven earthly disasters.
- A flaming mountain is cast into the sea.
- Part of the sea turns into blood.
- The angels are told to pour out bowls of God’s wrath on the earth, causing further havoc.
The War Scroll, one of the seven original Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947, describes a seven-stage battle between the “Sons of Light” (local community members), led by the “Prince of Light” (Michael, the archangel), and the “Sons of Darkness” (enemies of the community), headed by Belial. The War Scroll goes into great detail, covering military strategy and weaponry, and predicts the victory of the “Sons of Light” after 49 years of confrontation.
The Book of the Watchers, the first section in The Book of Enoch, takes the interaction between angels and humans to a whole new level. Here, the fallen angels mythology is developed based on text from Genesis 6: The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… According to the Book of the Watchers, 200 rebelling angels (or Watchers) left Heaven and came down to earth. Samyaza, their leader, convinced the other 199 angels to take human wives and have children with them. This resulted in a new breed of giants or Nephilim (as they are called in Genesis). These giants ate everything and devoured mankind. Some of the fallen angels (chiefly Azazel) bestowed their divine knowledge onto humans. Subsequently, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel pled God to judge the world’s inhabitants, after which Uriel was sent by God to warn Noah of the coming calamity.
However you see it, the intent, nature, and origin of angels is complex and subject to interpretation. So, to be on the safe side, the next time you come across an angel, take extra care. You may just be playing a small part in a story far beyond human understanding.
Passenger – Episode 2
Passenger – Episode 3
Adam Troudart is a blogger who is obsessed with words, people, and helping people succeed by using words.