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Particulars of Christianity:
303 Bible Cosmology

Humans and Angels: How Similar are We?

Cosmology: Introduction and Definitions
Part 1: The Old Testament - Buildings in Heaven
Bodies in Heaven: Angels and Spirit Bodies
Humans and Angels: How Similar are We?
Hell in the Old Testament
Part 2: From Christ's Death to His Return
Part 3: Christ's Return Through His Millennial Reign
Part 4: The Final Judgment and Eternity
Replaced or Restored: "Restarts" vs. the First Start
Replaced or Restored: Genesis 1 and Angels
Replaced or Restored: Precedent Reveals Restoration (Part 1)
Replaced or Restored: Precedent Reveals Restoration (Part 2)
Replaced or Restored: More on the Creation of Angels (Part 1)
Replaced or Restored: More on the Creation of Angels (Part 2)
Cosmology: Composite Chart
Cosmogony Illustrations

Before we conclude this section, there is one related side issue that we should cover and that is the issue of ontology with regard to men and angels.

Ontology - noun. the study of the nature of existence and being in the abstract.

Ontology is a compound word comprised of two Greek words, "ontos" (meaning "being") and "logos" (meaning "discourse.") In practical terms, ontology is just a fancy philosophical word for the study of "what something is." The focus is what nature something has. In the case of angels and humans, the issue would be to what extent the nature of an angel differs from what it means to be by nature a man.

On genetic level, no species is closer to human beings than the Chimpanzee.

"Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Taxonomy - Genetic analysis suggest that humans and chimps diverged four million to eight million years ago and that at least 98 percent of the human and chimpanzee genomes are identical." - Britannica.com

"Chimpanzee - …the degree to which chimpanzees and humans are genetically close is a subject of dispute, with estimates of the amount of DNA the species share ranging from 94.6% to 99.4%." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

The DNA of the Chimp is more than 95% similar to that of humans. However, biologically speaking, one of the key ways we distinguish between one species and another is whether or not two organisms can interbreed and produce viable offspring. Even with more than 95% genetic similarity, Chimps and humans are still considered two distinct species. Yet in Genesis 6, we find that some angels did, at times, come down and take human wives through whom they produced offspring.

Now some modern day Bible scholars reject this interpretation of Genesis 6 that angels came down and interbred with the daughters of men producing children by them. For some, such an interpretation is too close to the stories we find in pagan mythology. Others reject such an interpretation based upon the grounds that angels and men are too ontologically distinct to be able to interbreed. However, both of these reasons are nothing more than presumptions that prevent sound exegesis. (Exegesis is the technical term, which refers to interpreting a text without constraint from our preexisting biases and beliefs.)

Rejecting an interpretation on the grounds that it may resemble some pagan myths would be quite erroneous. Similarity to pagan myths is not any grounds for directing Bible interpretation. In some cases, men, demons, or wicked angels have attempted #### to counterfeit and mimic the accounts preserved in scripture. Or, we might say that the truths once known by ancient pre-flood and post-flood civilizations were perverted over time to the distorted forms we find in mythology. For instance, there are certainly many pagan myths that deal with gods coming down and having children by human women. If we were to reject interpretations of scripture on these grounds of such vague similarities we would be forced to reject the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Regarding the second objection, the presumption that humans and angels are too distinct ontologically to interbreed, this is nothing more than an exercise in question begging. When we look at Genesis 6, we are examining the question of whether or not humans and angels interbred. Some might say it is a "fact" that humans and angels are too different to interbreed, so therefore that cannot be what Genesis 6 is trying to convey. However, we could just as easily assert the opposite: since Genesis 6 conveys that angels did interbreed with women, humans and angels are quite ontologically similar.

The truth is that we cannot start by simply assuming either of these conclusions. We must consider the evidence and let that evidence determine our conclusion. So far, we have seen many similarities between angels and humans. We have already seen that angels can, at times, physically touch human beings and other objects (Genesis 19:10,16, Acts 12:7, Isaiah 6:6-7, Daniel 8:18, and Matthew 28:2). And we have seen that not only can angels eat human food (Genesis 18:2,7-8,16 and Genesis 19:3), but humans can also eat the food of angels (Psalms 78:23-25). Furthermore, we have also examined Jesus' own words in which he stated that in the resurrection humans will be "as angels" and "equal to the angels" (Matthew 22:29-30, Luke 22:35-36.) With all these similarities, it appears that the difference between humans and angels may be only a temporary matter. After the resurrection, it appears that the difference between humans and angels will disappear completely as resurrected humans receive immortal spirit bodies with which "we shall be like" the resurrected Christ Jesus (1 John 3:2) and "equal to" the angels.

But why should this surprise us? We see angels depicted in scriptures doing things remarkably similar to Jesus Christ after his resurrection. In Genesis 18:2,7-8,16 and 19:3 we find angels eating. In Genesis 19:10,16, Acts 12:7, Isaiah 6:6-7, Daniel 8:18, and Matthew 28:2 we find angels touching human beings and other physical (earthly) items. And in the same way angels are not (usually) visible to us and do not (usually) interact tangibly with things on the earth but instead are able to be visible and tangible from time to time, Jesus was also able to appear suddenly in rooms with locked doors (John 20:19,26.)

So far, it seems that, rather than pointing to an unbridgeable ontological gulf between humans and angels, the existing evidence points to a great deal of similarities between humans and angels. Therefore, when we look at Genesis, instead of coming to the text with the presumption that there is an ontological gulf between angels and humans, we must take an open-ended approach to that question.

And in addition to the evidence we already have regarding the similarity of men and angels, the text of Genesis 6 itself informs us how we ought to interpret that account.

Genesis 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Those scholars who oppose that angels interbred with humans have posited that the phrase "sons of God" refers, not to angels, but to righteous human beings, similar to the way the New Testament refers to Christians as sons of God. However, there are several reasons to reject this interpretation. We will start with the text of Genesis 6 itself.

First, we notice that the words "men," "of men," and "man" are used throughout this passage (6 times). We cannot deny the obvious, that these words ("men," "of men," and "man") are used precisely because the chief trait of this group that the author sought to identify was its humanness. However, the second group is labeled differently, using the term "sons of God" instead. Given that the clear function of these labels is to distinguish for readers one group from the other, we must conclude that since the first group is identified in terms of its humanity, the distinction of the second group is that it lacks this trait of the first group. Or, in other words, the terms "men," "of men," and "man" are used to precisely to distinguish this first group as humans from the second group, the "sons of God." This is perhaps clearest in verses 2 and 4 where we see the phrase "sons of God" juxtaposed side by side with the phrase "daughters of men." Thus, it would seem that the use of the phrase "sons of God" in the midst of this passage was a deliberate attempt to distinguish that group from humankind.

Second, if we reread this passage inserting the phrase "men" in place of "sons of God" and the pronouns for that phrase, we can see the significance this distinction carries for this passage.

Genesis 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto [men], 2 That [men] saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and [the men] took them wives of all which [the men] chose...4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when [men] came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to [the men], the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Particularly of note is that verses 1 and 2 would seem to become CAUSALLY backwards. By that interpretation, MEN (plural) began to multiply and daughters were being born unto MEN (plural) in verse 1 BEFORE MEN (plural) began taking wives in verse 2. On the other hand, by interpreting "sons of God" as angels, a distinct entity from humans, this problem is easily solved. By interpreting "sons of God" as non-humans, we see that when MEN began to multiply with their wives, NON-MEN saw the daughters that these MEN and their wives were having and then these NON-MEN took the human daughters for wives themselves and began to have "giants" as children.

Third, only the interpretation that the "sons of God" are angels can explain two facts. First, only if the "sons of God" are angels would that explain why their children were "giants." And second, human men interbreeding with human women would not seem to warrant comment. What is so unusual about that? Not much. In fact, since all of the previous chapter (Genesis 5) details the succession of children from Adam to Noah, particularly the line of righteous men including Seth, Enoch, and Noah, it would make little sense for chapter 6 to begin with an incredibly explicit explanation of that same phenomenon, that godly human males were having children by human females. Instead, chapter 6 seems to be presenting to us new information regarding a matter not presented in chapter 5, that angels also began to interbreed with human women.

Our fourth and final clue comes from the word "giant" itself. The Hebrew word translated into "giant" in verse 4 is the word "Nephilim." Nephilim occurs 3 times and is translated "giant" in all 3 occurrences. The other 2 occurrences are in Numbers 13.

Numbers 13:33 And there we saw the giants [05303], the sons of Anak, which come of the giants [05303]: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Here, in Numbers 13, we see that not only is the Hebrew word "Nephilim" translated "giants" but that the context itself defines why. The "Nephilim" were considered giants because compared to them, the Israelites viewed themselves as small as grasshoppers in the Nephilim's sight.

So, these children that were produced by the "sons of God" and the "daughter of men" were not just mighty, but they were giants in proportion. If the "sons of God" were merely men, this would not explain why their children were giants, however, if the "sons of God" were angels that would certainly explain why their offspring were giants.

But that's not all. The word "Nephilim" is derived from the Hebrew root word "naphal." Naphal literally means, "to fall, lie, be cast down, fail," which is extremely significant as we move to examine the New Testament on this issue.

2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

Peter declares that angels of God sinned and were "cast down" to hell for this sin. A little later on in our study we will move on to examine what we mean by "hell." While Peter doesn't identify what sin these angels were cast down for, it is significant to note that the "casting down" of these angels relates directly to the Hebrew term (Nephilim) for these giant offspring, which comes from a Hebrew root word for "cast down."

Jude also provides a similar account.

Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

While Peter did not mention what sin the angels committed to warrant their being "cast down," this entire passage from Jude is devoted to condemning sexual misconduct. Jude starts with the word "lasciviousness" in verse 4 with regard to ungodly men creeping in among them. The Greek word for lasciviousness is "aselgeia," which means, "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence." So, right from the start, Jude is talking about lustful excesses, which would include sexual lust.

But Jude continues with several historic examples of sexual misconduct from the Old Testament. First Jude refers to the Israelites, who upon exiting Egypt engaged in fornication, just as 1 Corinthians 10 says.

I Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

Skipping Jude's mention of the angels for the time being, we move on to Jude's third example. Jude's third example is the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who gave "themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh."

So, couched in between these two Old Testament examples of sexual misconduct, Jude mentions these angels who "kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation." From the context, it seems clear that this is not just a random example inserted out of place with no relationship to the rest of the passage. Rather, the placement of this example in the midst of a passage of about sexual misconduct indicates that these angels also committed sexual misconduct, just as Genesis 6 describes. And, since both Jude and Peter speak of these angels being kept in chains in darkness, we must conclude that they are both speaking of the same incident of angels leaving their heavenly abode and coming down to commit fornication with human women.

And Jude continues.

Jude 1:13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. 14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. 16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.

Once again Jude makes a reference to those "wandering stars" who are in the "blackness of darkness" for ever. This time, however, Jude very significantly speaks of Enoch prophesying of this very same group of angels, who again were "walking after their own lusts" (verse 6.) This tells us several things. First, Jude is acquainted with writings that he attributes to Enoch. We know Jude believes that this writing is from the actual patriarch Enoch and not just some pretender because Jude refers to him as the "seventh from Adam." Second, this tells us that Jude considered this writing of Enoch to be a reliable source of information, at least with regard to this subject on which he is quoting Enoch.

What is significant about the Book of Enoch is that Enoch spends a lot of time detailing the account of angels coming down from heaven and having offspring with human wives. Enoch even gives the names of these angels. This tells us that the Jews of Jesus' day, including Jude (who is a brother of Jesus), were acquainted with this interpretation of Genesis. And, the fact that Jude quotes from Enoch here, indicates that he himself interpreted Genesis 6 in accordance with the Book of Enoch. This again provides more evidence that Genesis 6 has always been interpreted as a record of angels having children with human women.

And as we have already shown, even Jesus' own words reflect this.

Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

Luke 20:35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

When questioned about marriage for the resurrected, Jesus states that resurrected humans are like angels and so, they are not given in marriage. By these words, Jesus himself hints that angels were not permitted to marry and that angels who did so disobeyed the will of God and left their status, just as Jude, Jesus' own brother writes, "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation."

Lastly, the Book of Job provides evidence that in an Old Testament setting the phrase "sons of God" was employed as a reference to angels, not men.

Job 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? 9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, 11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

Here, in this passage from Job, God is speaking. God is questioning Job to make a point that Job was not around when God laid the earth's foundations and when God set the boundaries for the sea and the land. This activity is described in Genesis 1:9-13 as occurring on the third day of the creation week. What is most significant is that man was not created until day six of the creation week (Genesis 1:24-31.) Yet, Job 38 tells us that when God laid the foundations of the earth and set the boundaries of the sea on the third day the "sons of God" were their shouting for joy. So, since man was not created until day 6 and consequently men were not around on day 3, then the "sons of God" could not have been humans, but must have been angels.

Also worthy of note is that Job not only refers to the "sons of God" but he also refers to them as "mornings stars." This is very similar to where Jude describes these angles who are imprisoned in darkness as "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 1:6,13.)

In conclusion, it seems clear that the Bible consistently teaches that the difference between humans and angles is only temporary and that humans and angels are currently similar enough not only to eat each other's food, but to interbreed with each other. If we were speaking in biological terms, this would mean that humans and angels are close enough to be considered the same species, more similar to us than even Chimpanzees. And, according to Jesus, when humans are resurrected, that distinction may fade entirely as humans become "as angels" and "equal unto angels" (Matthew 22:29-30, Luke 20:35-36) receiving "spiritual bodies" with which we enter the kingdom of God, according to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:44,50.)

In conclusion, Heaven is not just some clouds floating in the sky. We can see that heaven has a temple, therefore, it has physical structures. We also see that Jesus took his resurrected body into heaven and presented his physical blood there to purify that temple. Furthermore, we have shown that Paul taught there is such thing as a spiritual body and that upon the resurrection, the righteous will receive immortal spirit bodies following the same pattern as Jesus in his resurrection and, thus, humans will become equal (in kind) to the angels. Lastly, we have seen that even wicked humans will be resurrected so that they can participate in the Lake of Fire, which was created for beings of angelic nature. The result of all this is that we have demonstrated thoroughly from the scripture that heaven does have dimensions and structures and even bodies (spirit bodies) in it.

Heaven is not some future time. Heaven is a place that currently exists with its own temple and where God and the angels have resided throughout human history up to this very point in time. Having established in scripture a proper definition for Heaven during the Old Testament prior to the coming of Christ Jesus, we will now move on to discuss a proper definition of hell during the Old Testament as well.

Related Images

(Days of Creation)
(Figures 1-6)

Cosmology Chart