Angels are generally most closely associated with Christianity, despite their origins in much earlier belief systems and cultures. Nevertheless, the angel has been important to the Christian faith since its conception, and there are almost 300 references to angels in the Bible in some 280 different verses, making it very much a feature of the religion. While the exact nature and status of the angel in Christianity is far from settled, it is appreciated as a critical part of the Bible and the Christian faith. Likewise, angels are present in most other religions and play a part in somewhat more diverse faiths and individual beliefs.
Angels in The Bible
The concept of guardian angels, or angels sent down from heaven to look over the individual and prevent harm, is one that can be found throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament – “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). There are no specifics in the Bible about the hierarchy of angels or how they would function at a practical level. Indeed, there is an assumption (but no real definition) that they would act with a particular individual, and would be assigned the ‘mission’ of protecting that person from sin and deviance.
Angels in Theology
Angels, and in particular guardian angels, were expounded heavily by fifth century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and have developed significantly since then. Naturally the extent of their existence and their purpose has been fiercely argued and debated among academics, with some schools suggesting guardian angels are a reflection of the self, with others proposing more radical, behavior-based links to the spirits.
Angels in Other Religions
Angels are not a purely Christian phenomenon. Almost all other world religions have angels in some form as part of their belief systems, from Islam to Judaism to Hinduism to Bahai. Often the depiction of the angel is one of a messenger or savior sent from God to interact with mankind, and this concept is almost uniformly applied throughout the religions despite other differences in the position played by the angel within those belief systems.
Angels in Society
Whether or not angels are an important feature of religion and faith, they are certainly important to the growing number of individuals worldwide who claim to have experienced their input and guidance. Among those reporting encounters with angels are an eclectic mix of cultures and beliefs, including those previously skeptical about the existence of angels and spirituality generally.