Can We Speak with Angels?
Welcome back to the Ask Pastor John podcast. Today we have an email from an anonymous listener: “Hello, Pastor John! All through the Bible we see angels speaking to believers. They speak sometimes in person and often in dreams. In that light, the worship pastor at my church recently mentioned to others that he had regular talks with one angel. I don’t see that dynamic so evident in Scripture — of ongoing conversations between believers and angels. It tends to be more of a monologue, mostly. Someone else in my church suggested the worship pastor is likely speaking to a demon!
“In APJ 1618, you addressed the ministry and purpose of angels today, but not how the angels interact with believers today. Do they? Are angels involved in our daily lives to this degree? Should we expect to hear from an angel? And would it even be possible to have an ongoing dialogue with an angel? Could a believer, claiming to talk with angels, actually be talking to a demon?”
Yes, it is possible that a person who claims to be talking to an angel may be talking to a demon. And the reason I say that is because the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” In other words, it’s part of Satan’s very nature that he’s deceptive and would love to distract the saints (at best), and delude them and destroy them (at worst), by drawing off their focus from Christ to angels. It is also possible that a person who claims to be conversing with angels is simply conversing with images or voices in his own head that are not in fact either demons or angels.
Four Reasons for Caution
But my main concern with people who claim to be conversing with an angel is not primarily that they are experiencing demons or hallucinations but that they are being drawn away from Christ and his provision of all that we need in our communication with God and our getting help from God. So, let me give four reasons from the Scriptures for why I think pursuing conversations with angels is a mistake.
Groping for the Supernatural
First, the Old Testament gives repeated warnings against turning away from the revelation of God revealed in Scripture through his appointed prophets to alternative means of communication with the supernatural. For example,
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18:10–12)
Now, I know that angels are not listed in that group, but the question we should be asking is this: “Why is God so resistant to our seeking means of communication with the supernatural other than himself and his appointed means of discerning his will, his ways, and his character through his word by his Spirit?” The question is not simply whether that list in Deuteronomy is exhaustive. The question is, Why is it even there? And there seem to be at least two answers in the Old Testament context for why it’s there.
First, seeking to communicate with the supernatural in these ways puts us in the category of pagan nations who are constantly groping around for some medium by which they can find absolute truth so as to make life worth living. This is considered an abomination by God because of how badly it reflects upon God and his having revealed himself to Israel in his appointed ways, which is the other reason why these mediums are considered an abomination.
They don’t just put us in the category of pagan nations, but they give the impression that God’s not real, or that he’s begrudging in telling us what we need, or that he’s insufficient in himself to provide the truth we need to live by. So, I would say that there is good indication in the Bible that we should be very, very cautious about seeking out ways of communicating with the supernatural that give the impression that God and his provision of Christ and prayer and his word and Spirit are inadequate.
No New Testament Examples
Second, I would point out that in all the epistles of the New Testament, which give us guidance for how the church is to live, there are no instances of ordinary Christians or apostles conversing with angels. Now, I know that doesn’t amount to a prohibition, but it certainly does amount to a caution and to an indication that such conversations are not essential for maturity in Christ. Indeed, they may be a sign of immaturity because it takes certain measure of maturity to benefit fully from the beautiful paths of communication God has provided in his word, in prayer, and by his Spirit.
‘Not Holding Fast to the Head’
Third, listen to Colossians 2:18–19:
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
“When people begin to crave visions and to communicate with angels, something has gone wrong.”
Now, I can imagine that one person might respond to this text and say, “Nobody’s talking, Piper, about worshiping angels — just conversing with them.” Well, right, I know that, but here’s the point of the text: When people begin to crave visions and to communicate with angels, something has gone wrong with the way they are holding fast to the Head, Jesus Christ, and his all-sufficiency in nourishing the body of Christ, holding the body of Christ together, growing the body of Christ.
Paul is concerned not simply with people who are worshiping angels, but they’re replacing Jesus as the Head, esteeming angels more significant than the paths of nourishment and strength and help and encouragement that God has appointed through the Head, Jesus Christ.
God’s Open Throne
The fourth pointer away from conversations with angels, toward God, simply builds on what I just said in number three — namely, that God has provided such a precious, sure, and solid pathway to mercy and grace and help that it is an insult to him to act as though we need paths into the supernatural besides what he has taught in his word.
And I’m thinking here especially of Hebrews 4:14–16, which go like this:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then [in view of this amazing high priest that we have, in view of his amazing capacities to sympathize with us] with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
“It is an insult to God to act as though we need paths into the supernatural besides what he has taught in his word.”
Now, what the writer to the Hebrews is laboring to do here is help us feel the wonder and the solidity and the sufficiency of the way God has made mercy and grace available to us — namely, at the throne of grace (this is God’s throne, not angelic intermediaries), through the finished work of the great high priest, Jesus Christ, in prayer, by faith, with the help of God’s Spirit.
Maturity in Ordinary Means
So, for those reasons, I would strongly discourage anyone from seeking to communicate with angels. I would regard the claim that one does such a thing to be a mark not of maturity but of immaturity in thinking that something more glorious, more satisfying, more amazing, more helpful, could be found through angel conversations than through the glory of God’s word and prayer by the Spirit in the fellowship of God’s church.