Our society has a fascination with the supernatural, and angels receive a lot of attention. We see bumper stickers, jewelry, T-shirts, movies, and tv shows that glorify angels, especially guardian angels. Some people allege having encounters with angelic beings and contend that there are angels among us.
Maybe you have heard the stories: a mysterious man rescues someone in peril, but as soon as the victim is safe, the mystery person vanishes into thin air, to the confusion of the one he helped. A young woman walking alone passes a would-be rapist lurking in the shadows but is not harmed; the foiled attacker later admits he did not bother the girl because of “the two large men walking on either side of her.” A woman is prevented from getting on an elevator by a strange, intense-looking man in white clothes; the elevator doors close, and the elevator immediately plunges down the shaft, killing everyone on board—but the body of the man in white is never found.
Some people swear such stories are true. Others remain skeptical. Some pray to angels and claim to have their requests answered. Still others believe childish imagination and myth are at the root of all angel-talk.
We could interview people all day long about their theories on angels and never arrive at the truth. The exclusive authority on angels is the Bible. Throughout Scripture, we see numerous instances in which angels were an integral part of God’s plan. One verse alludes to the possibility of angels walking among us today: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). The obvious reference is to Abraham, whose angelic visitors appeared to him as mere men (Genesis 18). This verse may or may not confirm that angels are indeed walking among us unawares; “have shown” is past tense, so present-day encounters are not explicitly mentioned.
There are dozens of scriptural examples of angelic encounters, so we know that God can and does use angels to accomplish certain things. What we don’t know for sure is how often angels allow themselves to be seen by people. Here are the basics about angels from the Bible: angels can instruct people (Genesis 16:9), help people (Daniel 6:22), deliver messages to people (Luke 1:35), appear in visions and dreams (Daniel 10:13), protect people (Exodus 23:20), and help carry out God’s plans.
We know that God created angels, and He uses angels in His plan. Angels have a sense of individuality, as some have names (such as Gabriel and Michael) and all have different responsibilities within the angelic hierarchy.
But do they walk among us? If God so chooses to use them in His custom-made plans for us, yes, they absolutely can walk among us doing God’s will. Angels are mentioned in Genesis and in Revelation and witnessed the creation of the world (Job 38:7). God has used His heavenly host from the beginning of time and will still use them at the end of time, according to Scripture. It is quite possible that many people today have met or seen an angel without realizing it.
If angels do walk among us, it is because they are serving a God-ordained purpose. The Bible mentions demons who wander the earth with no purpose other than to destroy (Matthew 12:43). Satan and his demonic force can probably appear physically, much like holy angels can. Satan’s purpose is to deceive and kill. Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
An important note: angels are not to be glorified or worshiped (Colossians 2:18). They are entities who carry out God’s will, and they refer to themselves as “fellow servants” with us (Revelation 22:9).
Regardless of whether we actually experience angelic encounters, the most important thing is that we experience salvation through Jesus Christ. He is beyond all angels and all humans, and He alone is worthy of worship. “You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you” (Nehemiah 9:6).