DO ANGELS HAVE WINGS?
WE say, Yes; others say, No: and so the subject is fairly open for investigation. Looking at this question outside of the Bible, there is certainly nothing in the nature of things to militate against the idea of angels'
having wings; wings, in themselves considered, would not detract from, but rather add to, the dignity and majesty of angelic beings, so far as we are able to conceive of them. There is therefore no objection to angels'
having wings, unless the Bible itself furnishes such objection. Let us then look at its testimony on this point.
It has been asserted by some, both papers and individuals, who have of late seemed quite interested on
this question, that the Bible furnishes no evidence that angels have wings, but that the ideas in regard to them, so current in the religious world at the present time, have been derived instead from the imagination of artists,
and the representations of picture books.
Such is the position of the "Millennial Harbinger," which in a recent issue vehemently argued against the idea that angels are winged beings; and yet the very paper containing said article, bore over its editorial head, a representation of an angel flying through the midst of heaven, as liberally endowed with wings, as is usual in such illustrations.
It may be that our impressions on this point are derived somewhat, or at any rate are rendered more deep and vivid by the pictures that we almost everywhere meet, of angels with wings. But there is a question
lying back of this; namely, Where did the picture books get their ideas on the subject; for it cannot be supposed that any person, however imaginative, would think of such a thing as adding wings to his representations of
angels, unless he had received the impression from some source higher than his imagination merely, that they were actually in possession of such members.
Where then, again we ask, did he get the impression? The answer is, From the Bible, as the following considerations will show:
Angels are represented in the Bible as flying. But, says one, are not the clouds and other things represented as flying, when we know that there are no wings employed in the case? Yes. But between angels and clouds there is just this difference: When we speak of clouds, &c., flying, we all understand the figure at once, and are in no danger of being misled; but when angels are spoken of as flying, we have no evidence that it is a figure, and if it is, we are in danger of receiving wrong impressions. Unless, therefore, angels have wings, such language used in reference to them is not appropriate. But that no figure is employed, when angels are spoken of as flying, may be determined from this consideration, that living, animate objects are never, in the Bible, represented as flying above the earth, through the midst of heaven, and in the air, unless this is accomplished by means of wings. So when we read of angels flying, it is good proof that they have wings. We are now prepared to read intelligently some testimony of scripture. Isaiah speaking of angels that he saw, says that they did fly. Isa.vi,2. Daniel says, "While I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation." Dan.ix,21. John says, "I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth," &c. Rev.viii,13. Again he says, "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven," &c. No further comment is necessary on this point.
The symbolic representations of the angelic orders were made according to divine direction with wings. Moses, when commanded to make the ark, received instruction as follows: "And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them in the two ends of the mercy-seat; and the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings." Ex.xxv,18,20. According to this direction the cherubim were made. Chap.xxxvii,7-9. When the tabernacle gave place to the temple, in addition to the cherubim on the mercy-seat, there were to large cherubim made, of ten cubits hight, and stationed, one at each end of the ark in the most holy place. These also were furnished with wings. "And he set the cherubim within the inner house; and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubim, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house." 1Kings,vi,27. See also chap.viii,7, and 2Chron.iii,11-13. What were these cherubim? The word cherub, of which cherubim is the plural, is defined by Webster as follows: "In the celestial hierarchy cherubs are represented as spirits next in order to seraphs." What then were these figures which were made upon the ark and in the inner house of the temple, by Moses and Solomon? They were representatives of this order of angelic beings. Why were they made with wings? Simply because the angels themselves have them. No other reason in the wide world can be assigned for so constructing them. Would God, in the most holy place of his earthly temple, and over the mercy seat, the very center of that typical system, and the place where he chose to take up his abode, and manifest his presence, - would he, we say, in such a place have images of cherubim erected and give them wings, while the angels of which they were the symbols had no wings? Believe it who can.
The Bible expressly declares that angels, some of them at least, have wings. Hear Isaiah's testimony: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly." Isa.vi,2. John, in his gospel, chap.xii,40, refers to this language of Isaiah, and says that he spoke it while he had a view of the glory of Christ. We may be sure that Isaiah saw nothing here that was not, or will not be, true in fact. He says of the seraphim plainly and positively that they each had six wings. Seraphim, according to Webster, are angels of the highest order; and if angels of the highest order have wings, there is nothing inconsistent in the idea that lower orders may also have them; this being the case with the next lower order, or cherubim, as we have already seen.
The prophet Ezekiel, also, in his sublime vision by the river of Chebar, bears testimony concerning the wings of the angelic beings. See his language in chap.i,6,9,24; iii,13; x,5,16-21.
In view of this
testimony of the Scriptures, we marvel greatly how any one can affirm that the Bible gives us no evidence that angels have wings.
And would it not be well for those who do thus affirm, to remain a while longer under the rudimentary teaching of the primer and "picture books," before essaying to advance to the higher branches?