This past week, we learned in Week 1 of the Lesson Plan of Angels of the Realm that very little scripture records angels as having the ability to fly or supports the notion that angels have wings. With that being said, other heavenly creatures like the cherubim, seraphim, and the four living creatures of Revelation are described as having wings. I shared a couple of possibilities in the lesson plan as to the source of our belief that angels have wings. But the question still stands, how do these heavenly beings move? What other mode of transportation might they use?
Philip, the Evangelist was not one of the original twelve apostles that traveled with Jesus but a later convert. The fledgling church was growing quickly and inevitable problems had arisen. One of the problems was the care-taking of Grecian Jewish widows that were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The Twelve gathered and chose Philip to be one of seven men that would assume this responsibility. He was a man “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” (Acts 6:1-7; 21:8)
Philip was proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ in Samaria when he had an encounter with an angel.
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ” Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.” Acts 8:26,27
The Ethiopian was on his way home from worshipping in Jerusalem and was passing the time by reading from the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. The Spirit instructs Philip; “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Philip did as the Spirit directed, helped the eunuch understand what he was reading, and shared the good news about Jesus with him.
“Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” Acts 8:38-40
The Ethiopian eunuch was so busy rejoicing in the Lord that he missed Philip’s departure. Wow! How could he have missed it? Philip was at his side one second and gone the next.
Scripture also records other mentions of unusual departures such as a man believed to be Paul, who was caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), John, who found himself caught up and transported while on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9-18,4:1,2,17:3,21:10), and believers, who will one day find themselves taken into the air.
“According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
God’s Word is better than any science fiction movie, isn’t it? Teleportation is a common means of travel in such movies. Wikipedia defines teleportation as “the theoretical transfer of matter or energy from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them.” Although the Spirit was responsible for the transportation in all but one of these passages, perhaps an angel’s ability to move is in the same way.
The original text written in Greek uses the word, harpazo, for the English words, caught up. The word means to strip, spoil, snatch, or to seize upon with force. The implication is that when the Spirit grabbed you, the movement was instantaneous. Harpazo is also especially used when speaking of the rapture. The Latin translation of the Bible uses the word rapio from which the English word, rapture, is derived.
In the Old Testament, other stories of unusual departures exist like the story of Enoch who walked with God and then walked no more. (Genesis 5:24) The story of Elijah’s journey uses a gentler word in Hebrew that means to ascend. As Elijah and his protege, Elisha were walking and talking together,
“suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more… The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.”” 2 Kings 2:11,12,15,16
Throughout his life, God did mighty deeds in and through his servant, Elijah and when the time came, Elijah was transported to heaven via a whirlwind. The stories that we’ve viewed in the New Testament use the Greek word, pneuma, for Spirit signifying breath or wind. Elijah possibly had a front row seat as a traveler on those winds.
Wings or no wings, the wind of the Spirit, or teleportation, angels move as God commands.
Week 2 Lesson Plan can be found here or under the header tab marked Angels of the Realm.