Some Thoughts on the Purpose of Angels and their Role in Our Spiritual Life

The tradition of Jews and Christians (and also later of Muslims) is that God is the creator of both the material and spiritual world. Angels as well as humans are both part of the same created order. The traditions of these three major religions give an account for how Satan came into existence – he was an angel who rebelled against God, and then led a rebellion of other angels. Satan is not a creator and can not bring demons into existence.  Satan is not Sauron of the Rings Trilogy who can summon into existence orks and goblins nor is Satan a wizard Saruman. Satan is not an evil god or God’s opposite and equal. Satan is a creature belonging to the created order and subject to God’s grace and power.

The theology of Scripture, at least for Christians, says God had a wish for His human creatures, who also failed Him and rebelled against God. God wanted the material world and spiritual world to be united and so God became human so that humans might share in the divine life. The centrality of God’s plan for humanity is in the Quran and other related traditions the very cause of the rebellion of Satan and the other demons. They cannot accept that God ranks the humans above the angels. Fr. John Behr describes St. Irenaeus of Lyons’ understanding of God’s plan and love for humans.

“A further point of interest is that man, although made to be the lord of the earth, was, according to Irenaeus, but newly created, and so appeared as a child in a world specially prepared for his nourishment and growth. The angels were also appointed to be the servants of man.”

The angels are not the focus of creation, but humans are. Angels are created to serve God and to serve humans. This fact, according to some traditions explaining the existence of Satan, is precisely what these rebellious angels could not abide. These rebellious angels refuse to serve or kowtow to mere humans. Additionally, as Irenaeus points out, the first humans were created as children, while the angels were created as fully developed. This is a reason why Satan so resented being asked to serve an immature being.

“But as they [the angels] are eternal, and thus not subject to change or growth within the temporal unfolding of sensible creation, they were already fully developed. The infant man was thus ‘secretly’ established as their lord. Neither in protology nor in eschatology does Irenaeus ever characterize or assimilate man or human life to the angelic: it is man, and the becoming fully human in communion with God in Christ, that is the center of the divine economy and of Irenaeus’s theology.” (John Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, p 43)

The goal of the human life is not to become angels – the angels were created to serve us. The goal of the spiritual life for Orthodox Christians is to become fully human – to become fully realized material beings. There is no dualism in Christian thinking opposing the material to the physical or portraying the spiritual as good and the material world as evil. In fact, Satan and demons belong totally to the spiritual world, not to the physical world. Being totally a spiritual being does not automatically make one good! Our goal is not to become “angelic”, rather it is to be fully in communion with Christ our God.

As our Scriptures teach:

“For to what angel did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’? And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘Who makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’ But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your comrades.’ And, ‘You, Lord, did found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all grow old like a garment, like a mantle you wilt roll them up, and they will be changed. But you art the same, and your years will never end.’ But to what angel has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies a stool for your feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” (Hebrews 1:5-14)

By Fr. Ted Bobosh

Source: https://frted.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/becoming-human-not-angels/