Angels are one of the most fascinating parts of the spiritual realm that God has created. While angels are mentioned numerous times throughout Scripture, much mystery still surrounds these heavenly beings. What do they look like? Do they have wings? Do they glow? Let’s explore what the Bible reveals about the appearance of these messengers of God.
Angels are pure spirit beings created by God to serve Him and carry out His will (Psalm 103:20). As spirits, they do not have physical bodies like humans. However, angels can take on visible forms and appear to people on earth. Scripture contains several examples of angels appearing to individuals.
The Bible does not give exhaustive details about what angels look like, but it does contain some descriptions of the appearances of angels. By examining these biblical accounts, we can gain insight into the characteristics of visible angels:
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Key Takeaways on the Appearance of Angels:
- Angels often appear as men, looking like human males
- They are brilliant, radiant, and shining
- Some angels have faces like lightning and eyes like flames
- Angels often wear white clothing, such as long white robes
- Some angels have wings, with descriptions varying from two to six wings
- Angels sometimes appear surrounded by bright light or glory
- At times angels take on non-human forms, such as a young man at Jesus’ tomb
While knowledge of what angels look like is limited, these characteristics help paint a picture of their glorious heavenly appearances. As magnificent spirits who dwell in God’s presence, visible angels reflect His splendor and majesty.
Now, let’s explore biblical accounts of angelic encounters to understand the fascinating glimpses Scripture provides of what angels look like.
Angels Often Appear as Men
One of the most common descriptions of angels in the Bible is that they appear as men. When taking on human form, angels look like male human beings.
For example, when three angels appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18, they are described as three men (Genesis 18:2). When two angels visited Lot in Sodom, they were called “men” (Genesis 19:1-5). The angel who appeared to Samson’s parents is described as “a man of God” (Judges 13:6).
The book of Hebrews tells us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). This verse implies that the appearance of angels is similar enough to human beings that they can mingle among people undetected.
Perhaps the most detailed description of an angel appearing as a man is the angel Gabriel who appeared to Daniel. Gabriel is described as a “man” wearing linen clothes (Daniel 9:21, Daniel 10:5). When the angel spoke to Daniel, he did so in the voice of a man rather than a thunderous heavenly voice (Daniel 10:9).
So according to Scripture, angels are spirits, but they can take on the visible form of a man when God sends them to deliver revelations or messages to people. Their appearance as men allows them to interact with humans in a personal, relatable way.
Angels Have Radiant Appearances
While angels may appear as men, they are still heavenly beings who dwell in God’s presence. When angels manifest visually to humans, their appearances often reflect their divine origins in amazing ways.
Angels are sometimes described as brilliant, radiant, and shining. After angels rolled away the stone at Jesus’ tomb, Matthew describes their appearance: “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
The description of the angel who appeared to Daniel mirrors the radiance described at Jesus’ tomb: “His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze” (Daniel 10:6).
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she would give birth to Jesus, Luke says, “The angel came to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you’” (Luke 1:28). The word translated as “favored” here also means graced or endowed with grace. This suggests Gabriel had a gracious and glorious appearance when he delivered this good news to Mary.
At Jesus’ tomb, the appearance of the angel who rolled away the stone caused the guards to shake with fear and become like dead men (Matthew 28:4). Clearly, this angel’s brilliant appearance inspired awe and terror.
The radiance of angels fits with other biblical descriptions of the glory of heavenly beings. The seraphim angels Isaiah saw had faces that shown “like blazing fire” (Isaiah 6:2). The transfigured Jesus had a face that “shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2). Angels who have been in God’s presence share in a measure of His majesty and glory.
Some Angels Have Wings
One of the most common images of angels involves wings. While not all angels are described as having wings, some scriptural passages do associate angels with wings:
- Exodus 25:20 describes cherubim angels as having wings that extend over the Ark of the Covenant.
- Seraphim angels are described as having six wings in Isaiah 6.
- In Daniel 9, Gabriel appears to fly swiftly to Daniel, implying the presence of wings.
- Revelation 14:6 describes an angel flying “in midair” to preach the gospel, suggesting the ability to fly.
Some Bible scholars believe that only God’s highest angelic beings like the cherubim and seraphim necessarily have wings. The wings could symbolize God’s swift messengers or convey the exalted positions these angels hold praising God before his throne.
However, other Bible students believe many angels do possess wings based on passages like Revelation 14. They contend that wings emphasize the supernatural abilities God has equipped his angels with to fulfill His missions. The wings convey their heavenly origin and nature.
Either perspective allows room for some angels to have magnificent wings that underscore their role as messengers who often need to travel swiftly and frequently between heaven and earth. Their wings could represent the diving resources God gives angels to act as minsters for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14).
Angels Wear White Clothing
Angels are almost always described as wearing white clothing in the Bible:
- The angel at Jesus’ tomb was clothed in a white robe (Matthew 28:3, Mark 16:5).
- Angels at Jesus’ ascension were dressed in white (Acts 1:10).
- The angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel in linen clothing (Daniel 10:5).
- John saw angels dressed in pure white linen (Revelation 15:6).
- The seven angels with the last plagues were clothed in white linen (Revelation 15:6).
White likely symbolizes the holiness and purity of these heavenly beings who dwell in God’s presence. The white clothing contrasts with the sinful world and reflects the righteousness of these messengers and representatives of God.
Angels may also wear radiant white clothing to reflect the glory of God similarly to how Jesus appeared in transfiguration, Moses’ glowing face after encountering God’s presence, and Jesus’ promise that the righteous will shine like the sun in heaven. Regardless of the specific reason, white clothing characterizes the appearances of God’s holy angels.
Angels Appear Surrounded by Light
Not only do angels shine brilliant light from their faces and appear clothed in white, but they are sometimes described as being surrounded by dazzling heavenly light:
- Jesus foretold that the angels would come with him “in the glory of his Father” (Matthew 16:17).
- Luke’s gospel describes the angels at Jesus’ birth as “praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:13-14).
- The angel who freed Peter from prison appeared in brilliant light that filled the cell (Acts 12:7).
- The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds when the angel appeared with news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:9).
This bright glory or heavenly light that accompanies angels when they manifest on earth gives a stunning glimpse of the divine presence and radiance that surrounds these spiritual beings in heaven. The light reflects the fact that they come from God’s presence and bring His divine light with them.
Non-Human Angelic Forms
While angels primarily appear as men, angels can also at times take on other forms both in heaven and on earth:
- The cherubim angels had four faces – that of a lion, ox, eagle and man (Ezekiel 1:5-11).
- Seraphim are described as having six wings covering their body (Isaiah 6:2).
- After Jesus’ resurrection, angels appeared as young men dressed in white at the tomb (Mark 16:5).
- An angel appeared to Jesus as He prayed in Gethsemane to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43).
- Revelation describes angels with unique appearances, like the seven angels with the last plagues (Revelation 15:1).
So while angels typically appear as men when interacting with people on earth, they can take on a wide variety of physical forms to accomplish God’s purposes. Scripture does not reveal the full range of ways angels may appear in heaven and earth. As powerful spirits, God may permit them to take on any appearance that suits His plans.
Glimpsing the Heavenly Appearance of Angels
While the Bible does not provide exhaustive details about the appearances of angels, Scriptural accounts give intriguing clues into what angels look like: shinning radiantly, wearing brilliant white clothing, sometimes having wings, and appearing with divine light and glory.
Clearly, angels are amazing heavenly beings who occasionally interact with people visibly to carry out God’s work on earth. Their glorious appearances reflect that they share in God’s splendor and majesty.
The glimpses of angels in Scripture foreshadow the wonders of heaven that awaits all believers. The apostle Paul tells us: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Knowing that magnificent angels are among the sights we will behold in glory offers a breathtaking preview of heavenly realities. The radiance, light and purity surrounding angels provides a taste of the beauty that we will experience forever in Jesus’ presence.
Angels are curious and fascinating beings that sometimes appear visibly to people as God wills. While the Bible does not exhaustively describe angels, vivid scriptural accounts provide intriguing details on what angels can look like, including:
- Appearing as men
- Having brilliant, radiant appearances
- Being clothed in white garments
- Having wings in some cases
- Appearing surrounded by dazzling heavenly glory and light
By examining these biblical examples, we gain insight into the majesty and splendor of these powerful messengers and servants who dwell with God. Their visible appearances give mere glimpses of the wonders of heaven and God’s divine presence.
As believers, we can rejoice that eternal glories await us beyond what we have heard and seen on this earth. By God’s grace we will someday share in unhindered heavenly realities – including seeing angels openly in all their resplendent beauty as we together worship the Lord Jesus Christ.