Q.

Regarding Hebrews 13:2, is it possible that we could at some time have an angel visiting our house and not know it was an angel? Would an angel ever be present for a measurable amount of time, as was the case with Abraham and others? The TV program Touched by an Angel has led people to believe this.

A.
First, we must be careful not get our doctrine from television programs and the like. Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Entertaining strangers in the family of God was especially vital in the era in which Hebrews was written, because hotels and motels didn’t exist as we know them today. But the command also included the local body of Christ, for sure.

Some people have concluded that this verse teaches we might at some time have a thrilling experience in entertaining a person, especially someone in dire need, who might really be a disguised heavenly being that we call an angel. I have heard stories to this effect, with a guest even disappearing in the middle of a conversation or whatever. One story I heard of had to do with a professing believer who was courteously taken by an angel to Heaven and escorted around. Such unproved stories should be disregarded.

While I strongly believe in what the Bible teaches about angels and the many things they do for us even today, I believe they are unseen. They don’t come to visit us as persons in our day of the completed canon of Scripture, as happened in the Old Testament in such lives as Abraham, Jacob, and Joshua. Those experiences can be patterns of hospitality for us. Those men interacted with angels even though they didn’t necessarily know they were angels.

Angels also do not make their visible appearance even as angels, as they sometimes did in the time of Christ and even in the early New Testament church period. There may be exceptions to this truth, but they would be a rarity, and I wouldn’t count on claims to this effect.

Hebrews 13:2 is simply teaching that we should be hospitable. We don’t need to entertain angels; we have messengers of God in the form of pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and believers in general, especially needy ones. (In the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, the pastors of the churches are referred to as angels, or messengers.) Hebrews 13:3, about ministering to prisoners, bears out the need to minister to whomever we can. There is no need for some mysterious, supernatural happening here. When we show love and hospitality to fellow believers, we are pleasing God, and it is as though we are ministering to God or to angels directly. Certainly we should be doing this practical “stuff’ before getting the idea that some “real” angel is going to pop up at our doorstep. Love is very much in touch with down-to-earth reality, as the context of this whole chapter indicates.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (November 2002).
© 2002 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.