Angels, Deception and a Cry for Biblical Truth
J. Lee Grady
At a growing Brazilian church in Boston, a pastor told his congregation he was having regular conversations with an angel. Weeks later he set a chair on the stage for the heavenly visitor, whom he said was attending Sunday services even though no one could see him. The pastor eventually wrote a book containing messages he had supposedly received from the angel. The man’s teachings became so bizarre that he was eventually removed from his denomination for promoting heresy.
That scenario may seem extreme, but it is one example of widespread emphasis on angels and angelic encounters in the charismatic movement today. In the case of the Brazilian church, the pastor went off the theological deep end and his church became a cult. It remains to be seen what will happen in other sectors of our movement as leaders promote teachings about angels that range from the mildly weird to downright wacky:
- Evangelist Todd Bentley, leader of the Lakeland Revival, stirred up interest in angels when he wrote about Emma, a female angel he said wears a long white dress, floats above the floor and resembles Kathryn Kuhlman. Here a story:
But what does Todd really have to say about Emma? I quote in full the section from the article which Todd wrote in 2003 with the only mentions of Emma:
EMMA, ANGEL OF THE PROPHETIC
Now let me talk about an angelic experience with Emma. Twice Bob Jones asked me about this angel that was in Kansas City in 1980: “Todd, have you ever seen the angel by the name of Emma?” He asked me as if he expected that this angel was appearing to me. Surprised, I said, “Bob, who is Emma?” He told me that Emma was the angel that helped birth and start the whole prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. She was a mothering-type angel that helped nurture the prophetic as it broke out. Within a few weeks of Bob asking me about Emma, I was in a service in Beulah, North Dakota. In the middle of the service I was in conversation with Ivan and another person when in walks Emma. As I stared at the angel with open eyes, the Lord said, “Here’s Emma.” I’m not kidding. She floated a couple of inches off the floor. It was almost like Kathryn Khulman in those old videos when she wore a white dress and looked like she was gliding across the platform. Emma appeared beautiful and young-about 22 years old-but she was old at the same time. She seemed to carry the wisdom, virtue and grace of Proverbs 31 on her life.
She glided into the room, emitting brilliant light and colors. Emma carried these bags and began pulling gold out of them. Then, as she walked up and down the aisles of the church, she began putting gold dust on people. “God, what is happening?” I asked. The Lord answered: “She is releasing the gold, which is both the revelation and the financial breakthrough that I am bringing into this church. I want you to prophecy that Emma showed up in this service-the same angel that appeared in Kansas city-as a sign that I am endorsing and releasing a prophetic spirit in the church.” See, when angels come, they always come for a reason; we need to actually ask God what the purpose is. Within three weeks of that visitation, the church had given me the biggest offering I had ever received to that point in my ministry. Thousands of dollars! Thousands! Even though the entire community consisted of only three thousand people, weeks after I left the church the pastor testified that the church offerings had either doubled or tripled.
During this visitation the pastor’s wife (it was an AOG church) got totally whacked by the Holy Ghost- she began running around barking like a dog or squawking like a chicken as a powerful prophetic spirit came on her. Also, as this prophetic anointing came on her, she started getting phone numbers of complete strangers and calling them up on the telephone and prophesying over them. She would tell them that God gave her their telephone number and then would give them words of knowledge. Complete strangers. Then angels started showing up in the church.
I believe Emma released a financial and prophetic anointing in that place. That was the first angel that I have ever seen in the form of a woman. Some angels I’ve seen seemed like they were neither male nor female. However, Emma appeared as a woman who was like a Deborah, like a mother in Zion. When she came, she began to mentor, nurture and opened up a prophetic well. The people in the church began having trances and visions and the pastor began getting words of knowledge and moving in healing. That congregation also saw more financial breakthrough than they had ever seen before.
- A young evangelist who was preaching in Canada last spring held up a jar with a feather in it and told the congregation it belonged to an angel who visits him. He said the angel was coming to the service to release riches and healing to those who wanted prayer.
Leaders of the prophetic movement often speak of angels that bring healing, wealth or special anointings. Some have described angels as tall as skyscrapers while others say they have seen tiny angels the size of insects. One prophet spoke of angels who are sleeping inside the walls of churches. Another segment of believers claim that the glowing circles of light that often show up on photographs are angels in the form of “orbs.”
With such exotic teachings on the rise, we desperately need some biblical guidelines. If you believe everything you hear these days, angels can be huge, tiny, spherical, male, female, feathered or non-feathered. What’s next? Yipping dog angels? Mermaid angels with fins? Court jester angels with bells on their hats?
Since my earliest days in the charismatic movement I was always taught that the Bible is our guidebook for doctrine and practice, and that the early church’s experience in the Book of Acts should be a pattern for us. This would direct us to assume that if a spiritual experience is not in the Bible, then it should not be considered normative for us today.
When I look at what the New Testament teaches us about angels, and specifically what the book of Acts shows us about them, here’s what I find:
- Angels who looked like men told the early disciples that Jesus would return one day (see Acts 1:11).
- Angels are actively working behind the scenes to minister to the saints, especially to offer protection (see Acts 12:7-11).
- In one case an angel directed Philip where to preach (see Acts 8:26)
Angels sometimes appeared in visions to give instructions, as one did for Cornelius (see Acts 10:3,7,22).
- An angel came to Paul to strengthen him and to assure him that he would preach to Caesar (see Acts 27:23-24).
If we look at Paul’s epistles, we find only a few references to angels—and most are actually warnings to the early church about a wrong emphasis on angels:
- Paul warned the Galatians that false angels can bring deception (see Gal. 1:8).
- Paul warned the Corinthians about “angels of light” that are messengers of Satan (see 2 Cor. 11:14).
- Paul warned the Colossians about misguided people who worship angels and deceive people with their emphasis on mystical experiences that are rooted in their hyperinflated egos (see Col. 2:18).
The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who were considering going back to Old Covenant worship. In the first chapter the author makes it clear that angels have a lower place in God’s economy when compared to Jesus Christ.
Many Bible scholars believe the readers of this epistle were being tempted to go back to an Old Covenant paradigm in which angels played a more significant role. The author of Hebrews warns these believers to focus their attention instead on the Son of God, who is more glorious than angels. We can make some basic assumptions about angels in the New Covenant era:
1. Angels help the church fulfill its mission, and they protect and guide the saints. Every one of us has probably experienced the activity of angels in our lives—often without knowing it because they are usually invisible.
2. Angels sometimes intervene with directive messages. But there is no case in the New Testament church in which an angel gave his name or brought attention to himself.
3. Angels don’t teach or explain doctrine. In our movement today, some leaders have suggested that certain angels (such as “Winds of Change”) have arrived to usher in new movements. Emma has been described as a “nurturing angel” who brings a prophetic movement. But nowhere does the Bible suggest that angels bring moves of God. Jesus commissioned the church to advance the kingdom by preaching the gospel. Angels know this and they are expecting us to do our job.
4. Angels don’t bring healing. The New Testament church was commissioned to bring healing “through the name of Jesus,” and Jesus was always the focus for anyone who was healed miraculously. The story of the Pool of Siloam falls under the Old Covenant system, since this phenomenon occurred before the ministry of Jesus. And when Jesus came to that pool He proved to be a better solution to those who waited for the stirring of the waters.
5. Angels look like people, and in every case in Scripture they appeared to be male. However, in some cases their appearance was frightening because they carry with them the glory of heaven and the fear of God.
6. False angels preach a different gospel. One of the devil’s strategies is to send counterfeit angelic messengers who bring teaching that is contrary to biblical truth.
There are many flaky, weird and foolish concepts being circulated in our movement today that must be corrected. If we don’t hold tightly to Scripture, we might unknowingly give birth to a cult that could bring great damage and division to churches worldwide. It’s time to get back to the Bible!