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So how does Augustine answer this question? Who are the angels? Perhaps it would be first helpful to rule out two immoderate approaches to the subject. On the one hand, angels are often perceived as objects of sentimental affection: fair-haired youths with large white wings whose likeness can be found in home gardens everywhere. Or, on the other extreme, the subject of the angels is seen as so abstract that only the most erudite theologians with a lot of extra time on their hands would bother to think about it.

Angels are present at the binding of Isaac Gn. Speaking of the existence of angels, St. For Augustine, the angels are not a feeling or an abstraction but a fact, and he often mentions celestial spirits in his popular homilies.

Indeed, Augustine uses the scriptural appearances of angels as his main resource for answering the question of who the angels are. In many of these stories — including all of those cited above — angels act as messengers of God. If you inquire about the nature of such beings, you find that they are spirits, if you ask what their office is, the answer is that they are angels. In respect of what they are, such creatures are spirits; in respect of what they do, they are angels.

Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.

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Our present day is filled with global distress over financial crises, energy problems, terrorist attacks, and natural calamities. These translate into individual and family concerns not only about homes in which to live and food available to eat but also about the ultimate safety and well-being of our children and the latter-day prophecies about our planet.

But I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself. And so such ministrations will be to the righteous until the end of time. As Mormon said to his son Moroni, who would one day be an angel:. Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

Then] all things shall work together for [our] good, if [we] walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted. They are a time to be believing and remember our covenants. I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me.

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Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind. Maimonides , in his Yad ha-Chazakah : Yesodei ha-Torah , counts ten ranks of angels in the Jewish angelic hierarchy, beginning from the highest:. From the Jewish Encyclopedia , entry "Angelology". Only these two angels are mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible; the rest are from extra-biblical tradition. Later Christians inherited Jewish understandings of angels, which in turn may have been partly inherited from the Egyptians.

Later came identification of individual angelic messengers: Gabriel , Michael , Raphael , and Uriel.


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According to St. Augustine , " 'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel'. By the late 4th century, the Church Fathers agreed that there were different categories of angels, with appropriate missions and activities assigned to them.

There was, however, some disagreement regarding the nature of angels. Some argued that angels had physical bodies, [32] while some maintained that they were entirely spiritual. Some theologians had proposed that angels were not divine but on the level of immaterial beings subordinate to the Trinity.

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The resolution of this Trinitarian dispute included the development of doctrine about angels. The angels are represented throughout the Christian Bible as spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: "You have made him [man] a little less than the angels Christians believe that angels are created beings, based on Psalms —5 ; Colossians : "praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts He commanded and they were created The Council's decree Firmiter credimus issued against the Albigenses declared both that angels were created and that men were created after them.

Thomas Aquinas 13th century relates angels to Aristotle's metaphysics in his Summa contra Gentiles , [35] Summa Theologica , [36] and in De substantiis separatis , [37] a treatise on angelology.


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Although angels have greater knowledge than men, they are not omniscient , as Matthew points out. The New Testament includes many interactions and conversations between angels and humans. For instance, three separate cases of angelic interaction deal with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. In Luke , an angel appears to Zechariah to inform him that he will have a child despite his old age, thus proclaiming the birth of John the Baptist.

Angels then proclaim the birth of Jesus in the Adoration of the shepherds in Luke According to Matthew , after Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, " Pope John Paul II emphasized the role of angels in Catholic teachings in his address titled " Angels Participate In History Of Salvation ", in which he suggested that modern mentality should come to see the importance of angels. According to the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, "The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.

The New Church denominations that arose from the writings of theologian Emanuel Swedenborg have distinct ideas about angels and the spiritual world in which they dwell. Adherents believe that all angels are in human form with a spiritual body, and are not just minds without form. Such a society of angels can appear as one angel as a whole.


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All angels originate from the human race, and there is not one angel in heaven who first did not live in a material body. However each angel will enter a service according to the use that they had performed in their earthly life. While living in one's body an individual has conjunction with heaven through the angels, [51] and with each person, there are at least two evil spirits and two angels.

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The Latter Day Saint movement views angels as the messengers of God. They are sent to mankind to deliver messages, minister to humanity, teach doctrines of salvation, call mankind to repentance, give priesthood keys, save individuals in perilous times, and guide humankind. Latter Day Saints believe that angels either are the spirits of humans who are deceased or who have yet to be born , or are humans who have been resurrected or translated and have physical bodies of flesh and bones, [58] and accordingly Joseph Smith taught that "there are no angels who minister to this earth but those that do belong or have belonged to it.

Smith described his first angelic encounter in the following manner: [63]. While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness.

It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning.

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The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. Most angelic visitations in the early Latter Day Saint movement were witnessed by Smith and Oliver Cowdery , who both said prior to the establishment of the church in they had been visited by the prophet Moroni , John the Baptist , and the apostles Peter , James , and John.

Later, after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple , Smith and Cowdery said they had been visited by Jesus , and subsequently by Moses , Elias, and Elijah. Others who said they received a visit by an angel include the other two of the Three Witnesses : David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Many other Latter Day Saints, both in the early and modern church, have said they had seen angels, although Smith posited that, except in extenuating circumstances such as the restoration , mortals teach mortals, spirits teach spirits, and resurrected beings teach other resurrected beings.

Belief in angels is fundamental to Islam. Unlike their Hebrew counterpart, the term is exclusively used for heavenly spirits of the divine world, but not for human messengers. The Quran refers to both angelic and human messengers as "rasul" instead. The Quran is the principal source for the Islamic concept of angels. In hadith literature, angels are often assigned to only one specific phenomena.

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In Islam, just like in Judaism and Christianity, angels are often represented in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size or wearing heavenly articles. Although believing in angels remain one of Six Articles of Faith in Islam , one can not find a dogmatic angelology in Islamic tradition. Despite this, scholars had discussed the role of angels from specific canonical events, such as the Mi'raj , and Quranic verses.