For this month's column, I would like to explore the topic of distinguishing good angels from bad angels. I will outline some questions I am often asked and respond with answers found in the Bible.
How can one tell if an angel is a good or evil?
"The Creator willed that there should be communication between angels and men, and as the angels are of two kinds, good and bad, the latter try to win us over to their rebellion and the former endeavor to make us their companions in obedience." (The Catholic Encyclopedia)
If you become aware that there may have been an angel in your life, how can you tell if it is of God or the Evil One?
We are warned in 2 Corinthians 11:14, "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." In the New Testament telling the difference between the good and bad angels is called the gift of discernment. (I Corinthians 12:10) Here are some practical guidelines that will help us determine if the message we are receiving is from God. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).
Here are five ways to help you distinguish between good and bad angels:
1. God and His holy angels will never tell you anything that that contradicts what is found in the Bible (Galatians 1:8).
A favorite way Satan and his angels tempt us is to persuade us to disregard God’s instructions. This pattern began in Genesis 3 when the serpent tempted Eve not to listen to God but to eat the forbidden fruit. The basic way to discern between good and evil angels is this: If it is from God, the message will always agree with the clear teachings of the Bible.
To illustrate my point, here is a story: Harold had been deeply hurt by his friend Mark. One night Harold had a very vivid dream of an angel who spoke to him, "Don’t get mad. Get even." In the dream a clever plan unfolded showing Harold a way to hurt Mark far more that Harold had been hurt—and no one would know that Harold had been behind it.
When Harold awoke, the angel in the dream was unforgettable and the message was so clear. But Harold was a Christian, so he asked himself, "Was this a message from God? What does the Bible teach?" That morning he read from 2 Corinthians 2: "You ought to forgive...in order that Satan might not outwit us for we are not unaware of his schemes." Harold realized that it could not have been one of God’s holy angels speaking to him in a dream because the message contradicted the teachings of Scripture.
2. A message from God’s angels will always be in the spirit of Christ.
Harold tested the message, “Don’t get mad, get even” by asking, “what would Jesus do?” When Harold remembered how Jesus often taught the importance of forgiveness, he realized the message “get even” was not from God.
This rule is especially important because today we face many temptations not mentioned in the Bible. For example, it's tempting to misuse the Internet. The evil angel may whisper, “What’s the harm? Everyone is doing it. No one will ever know.” It’s easy to spend a few minutes browsing eBay and end up spending hours surfing for useless objects. And a plan to spend just a few minutes playing an Internet game may hook you in all night long or become an addiction. It’s also possible to gossip or spread lies that will hurt someone, chat with potentially dangerous people, or sneak a peek (or more) at a porn site.
What should we do when we cannot find a clear teaching in the Bible about certain temptations? If an idea creeps into your mind and suggests a temptation is OK simply because the Bible doesn’t say it is wrong, the thought may be whispered by a bad angel.
The Bible teaches us to test every decision by this rule: “Let this mind (or attitude) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...” (Philippians 2:5). In other words, it's important that we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do? How much time would Jesus waste on the Internet? What excuse would Jesus give for visiting a porn site?”
3. A genuine encounter with a good angel will always glorify God, not the angel, and draw attention to God, not the angel.
Angels typically do their work and then disappear. They don’t hang around waiting to be thanked. In fact, the faithful service of the angels is not based solely on their love for you and me. What guides their actions more is their love for God. The angel’s goal is to encourage us to love God more completely, to focus more on God, and to be more centered on God. Angels may awaken our spiritual longing, but they cannot satisfy it. Rather, angels make us hungry for God because only He can nourish and fill us.
4. God’s angels do not grant one person’s selfish wishes to the detriment of others.
Angels are not celestial versions of a Fairy Godmother. They come into our lives to do God’s will. God’s purpose is not to make life easy; it is to make us more like Christ.
5. Prayer should be used to confirm the authenticity of an encounter with an angel. As we pray to God, the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth. We should ask God to help us test the spirits and remember the promise of James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Have a question about angels? Email Bill Webber at firstname.lastname@example.org.*