Thursday, June 8, 2017
“Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:2 TLB).
I went through eighteen English translations and each rendered the Greek word “άγγελος” (aggelos) as “angel” in the above verse. The Greek word is anglicized rather than translated. Vine shows this word is translated in other passages as “messenger.” In Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2, and Luke 7:27, John the Baptists is referred to as an άγγελος, but it is translated as “messenger” rather than anglicized as “angel.” John the Baptist sends several άγγελος to Jesus with a question in Luke 7:24, but it is translated “messengers,” not “angels.” Jesus sends out several άγγελος in Luke 9:52, but they are called “messengers.” James, in referring to Rahab, calls the spies “messengers” rather than άγγελος/angels (James 2:25). So, the Greek word means a human or a divine messenger. Context determines which!
Angels are referred to as “ministering spirits” in Hebrews 1:14. In Luke 24:4 they are referred to as “men” in “shining garments (NKJV).” Luke relates Cornelius’ experience by stating in Acts 10:3 that “an angel of God” appeared to him. Later in verse 22, Peter is told that “a holy angel” appeared to Cornelius. In verse 30, Cornelius tells Peter about “a man . . . in bright clothing” talking with him. In most cases when an angel appeared, humans were told to “fear not.” In most cases, there was a recognition that the person was being visited by a heavenly messenger.
Some read Hebrews 13:2 with guilt. “What if that smelly person was an angel that asked for money and I turned him away”? “If any person walks up and asks for money, should I clean out my billfold because he may be an ‘angel’ in disguise”? “If a person asked for my car, should I give him the keys because he may be an ‘angel’ but I just don’t know it (NASB)? I’ve watched winos work a bus station audience. When they had the price of another bottle of wine they disappeared. When it was empty, they resumed their “begging.” Were those individuals worthy of support because they may be “angels unawares (KJV)”?
Did Jesus feed the 5,000 in John 6:10 because they were “angels unawares”? Did Jesus only heal one man because he was an “angel unawares,” but the others weren’t (John 5:1-15)? Just because a person has a need doesn’t make him or her an “angel unawares.” Just because a person uses Hebrews 13:2 to make you feel guilty for not handing over a ten or twenty-dollar bill, doesn’t mean he is a heavenly messenger!
If the Greek word άγγελος had been translated as “messenger” in Hebrews 13:2, as it is in Matthew 11:10 and other places, would the reader come away with the same guilt feelings? In the first century, the apostles and prophets were “messengers.” They didn’t stay at the Holiday Inn, but received room and board from believers. What if a stranger showed up at your door expecting hospitality, but he was an “angel/messenger” of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7)? Would you welcome him? He would be an angel or messenger! Paul warned, “Prove all things’ hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Shouldn’t one test before hosting? Why should one feel guilty by heeding Paul’s warning? John also warned, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NKJV).
The question to ask is, “Is this person a messenger of God or not”? Why remain ignorant? Test by asking, “Are you an angel?”! If the person fails the biblical test, you and I have no business “entertaining” him.