The Worship of Angels?
“When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’ ” (vv. 8b–9).- Revelation 22:8–9
Continuing our study of what the Bible says about angels, we need to look briefly at an interesting encounter between Joshua and “the commander of the army of the LORD” (Josh. 5:13–15). This commander visited Joshua just before the Israelites conquered the city of Jericho, and we see that Joshua worships the commander without being rebuked (v. 14). Traditionally, many Christians have suggested that this commander of the Lord’s army is none other than the Son of God Himself, appearing to Joshua before His incarnation in order to assure him of the Lord’s presence. That identification is bolstered by the fact that in several other places in Scripture, there are meetings between a being called “angel of the Lord” and individuals in which the person who encounters the angel either worships the angel or identifies the angel as God. For example, an “angel of the Lord” speaks to Hagar in Genesis 16, but Hagar says that it was God who spoke to her. These encounters wherein an angel or angelic being is worshiped or identified as God and the worshiper is not rebuked are explicable only if the angel is the Lord God Almighty.
Why do we say that? Because Scripture is quite clear that no one but God is to be worshiped. Even though angels are supernatural beings, they are not the Creator. They remain created beings, for God created “all things” (Eph. 3:9), and Paul tells us it is a fundamental error to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:24–25). Furthermore, in Scripture we also see instances in which someone tries to worship an angel sent by the Lord and is rebuked by the angel. Today’s passage, for example, describes how John tried to worship the angel who brought him a message and vision from God, but the angel ordered him to worship the Lord alone (Rev. 1:8–9).
No matter how well-intentioned or how nuanced the defense showing acts of worship such as prayer to angels may be, under no circumstances are we to worship anyone else but the triune God. Hebrews 1 belabors the point that as mighty and holy as the angels are, they are still subservient to the Son of God. Just as we worship Him, the angels do too. It is a grave and serious error to treat angels as objects worthy of adoration and worship, and since the Bible commands us to flee idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14), we must take care that we worship only the Lord.
As Protestants, we might not be tempted to pray to angels, but we must be on guard against the idolatrous ideas that may creep into our own thinking. Maybe we start trusting angels, ever so slightly, to preserve us and forget about trusting the Lord. Perhaps we think what God’s Word says about angels is not enough, so we form our beliefs about these creatures based on other sources as well. Let us watch out for these and other forms of idolatry.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 5:21