Debunking 4 Popular Myths About Angels
There are many myths about angels in religion and art. You may be surprised, but what you think you know about angels may be one of those myths!
Human beings have been mystified and intrigued by angels for thousands of years. The idea of invisible beings who can make things happen behind the scenes has been fodder for many stories, works of art and movies. But most of people’s ideas about angels come from fiction—not the Bible.
The Bible reveals many details about real angels. For instance, the Bible reveals they are composed of spirit, not flesh (Hebrews 1:14). They have freedom of choice (Ezekiel 28:15; Revelation 12:3-4). There are different types of angels who have different ranks and roles (Daniel 10:13).
With all that the Bible reveals, however, there are some things about angels that we cannot know. No human knows everything about the angelic realm or the full extent of an angel’s responsibilities and duties. We do know that the angelic realm is very busy, with activities that include fighting battles and assisting humans (Daniel 10:12-14).
There are four things commonly believed about angels that the Bible tells us are not accurate. Far from being innocent misconceptions, these mistaken beliefs actually originate from paganism.
1. Angels in art look nothing like angels in the Bible.
In art, angels are often portrayed as looking like babies or slightly effeminate males with long hair and wings. This is not the biblical description of angels. The Bible shows angels to be spirit beings of great power. The Bible does reveal that some angels have wings, but the winged beings described in the Bible are not anything like what we see in art or movies. The Bible records a particular type of angel, the cherub (plural, “cherubim”), that has four wings and four faces (Ezekiel 1:5-6). Another category of angels, the seraphim, have six wings (Isaiah 6:2). It seems some angels appear just as ordinary men, without any wings at all (Genesis 18 and 19; Hebrews 13:2).
So where did this idea of cute angels with two feathered wings come from? It wasn’t from the Bible.
In Roman mythology, Cupid, the god of love, had two wings and a form that was almost exactly what we see in much angelic art today. Through syncretism (blending one religion with another), this image of a Roman god became how Roman Catholic artists portrayed angels. What many think of when they hear the word angel is not a true angel—but the image of a false god from ancient history.
Since we do not know exactly what angels look like, we should not try to represent angelic beings through artwork. The Bible makes it especially clear that we are not to make images of “anything that is in heaven above” to be part of our worship (Exodus 20:4-5).
In some religions, angels are adored and even prayed to. Not only is this against God’s law, but it is also not what real angels actually want!2. Real angels don’t wear halos.
Some works of art and movies portray angels as majestic beings with halos. But the Bible never describes angels as having halos. The origins of the halo lie elsewhere with another religion.
The halo is a common symbol with the sun gods of ancient paganism. It was common in a variety of cultures for the gods to have a disk of light behind their heads. Something even more common was the shaving of the head to create a hairstyle resembling a halo in order to worship the pagan gods (Leviticus 19:27).
3. Angels are not to be worshipped.
In some religions, angels are adored and even prayed to. Not only is this against God’s law, but it is also not what real (righteous) angels actually want! God’s angels recognize that only God is to be worshipped (Exodus 20:3) and refuse to be worshipped by men (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).
This worship of angels isn’t a new practice. The apostle Paul warned that some in the Colossian church were being deceived by “worship of angels” (Colossians 2:18). While God’s angels will reject such worship, there are other angels who greatly want to be worshipped. These dark spirits (demons) even disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). For more about these angels, read our article on demons.
4. Humans are to become more than angels.
Some believe that after death good people go to heaven and become angels. This belief is also false. Angels predate the creation of human beings (Job 38:4-6). They are a totally different kind of being. (For the biblical answer to what does happen to people after they die, download our free booklet The Last Enemy: What Really Happens After Death?)
The Bible reveals that right now angels are more powerful than humans (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7). As we have already seen, some angels have wings and multiple faces. Sometimes they are even portrayed as having a form similar to animals (Ezekiel 1:10-11; Zechariah 6:1-6). Human beings were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). God’s purpose for human beings is for them to be elevated to a level higher than the angels (Hebrews 2:10; 1 Corinthians 6:3).
The truth about angels
Angels are magnificent beings that God has created to serve Him and to help human beings (Hebrews 1:14). Since they are spirit, they are on a plane that we can’t see or relate to. This mystery has made them the source of much speculation and wonder over the ages.
We must be wary that we don’t perceive angels according to the pagan concepts that have been blended into modern Christianity. God warned thousands of years ago about blending pagan ideas with the truth (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).
Go to the Bible to learn the truth about angels—not the ideas of men!