With the Christmas season soon upon us, no doubt many of us will put an angel ornament on a tree. But most of us know that angels in the Bible likely do not look like these baubles, nor do they appear as our media would have us believe.
Angels do not have cherub cheeks, appear as babies, or really like most artist depictions, particularly Renaissance ones of them.
So, what do they look like? Will we know when we see one?
This actually entirely depends on what form they take. Angels, being spiritual beings, can take on different forms. As we see in Scripture, at times they can appear as humans, to the point where we may not even recognize that we’ve served an angel (Hebrews 13:2).
Other times, we get some really bizarre passages, like the one found in Ezekiel 1, where the prophet attempts to describe angels through a series of images, including wheels covered in eyes.
The short answer is we don’t have a definitive description for angels, but we can use Scripture to show how they sometimes appear.
In this article, we’ll explain some of the forms that angels take according to Scripture and why this matters.
What Do Angels Look Like?
We’ll break down a few verses to describe what angels look like, according to the prophets and writers of Scripture.
The donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. Thus the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road (Numbers 22:23).
As explained in this article, they usually do not appear visible to us. When they do, they tend to strike fear into us. We should also note that they fight spiritual battles, and this isn’t the first instance of us seeing an armed angel in Scripture.
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).
I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude (Daniel 10:5-6).
Although the last six chapters of Daniel tend to draw speculation and much debate from the theological community, these verses included, if these verses refer to an angelic being, it’s clear the being has a striking appearance in its true form. They seem to glow like gems or bronze.
And of course, the most bizarre:
In addition to the verses that talk about angels appearing as humans, we can glean from all of Scripture that they have an otherworldly appearance.
One that strikes fear into us. We probably cannot come up with an adequate description for them, since human words do not suffice on supernatural matters.
This does not nearly cover the breadth of angels, or even touches on the nature and appearance of fallen angels. After all, we have several ranks of angels. A cherub will look far different than an archangel. And an angel will look far different than a demon.
But because Scripture offers some bizarre imagery for these beings, we cannot definitely know what one looks like unless we see one ourselves. And something tells me that would be a horrifying experience.
Why Does This Matter?
Why does it matter that we know what angels look like?
First of all, we need to know where the media has erred. If we believe that angels are little babies, then we’re in for a surprise if a real angel shows up to us.
Secondly, we also must recognize that angels appear in different forms. If an angel shows up to us in their full-on wheel-on-eyes form, we’re probably going to pass out.
Finally, we need to understand the role angels play in spiritual matters. They fight battles for us all the time. Angels in Scripture often come armed.
We also should recognize that they are worshipping beings. They always direct the praise back to God. It doesn’t matter how striking their appearance is, they acknowledge who made them in the first place.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Krzysztof Gackowski
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,000 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. Find out more about her at her website.